Apr 15, 2021
Below Deck & COVID: What We Learned
Important Things We Learned From Below Deck’s COVID Response
Below Deck and its spin offs Below Deck: Mediterranean and Below Deck: Sailing Yacht are incredibly popular reality TV shows produced by Bravo. They follow a yacht captain and crew as they complete a number of yacht charters throughout the yacht charter season. It’s full of humor, over exaggerated drama, and some genuinely endearing moments. Like many TV productions, Below Deck was affected by COVID-19. Here’s what we learned about Below Deck’s COVID response.
Below Deck Season 8 Ends Early
Much of season eight of the original Below Deck series takes place during the pandemic and has been dubbed the COVID season.1 In fact, the season ended early, wrapping up filming in mid-March, due to growing concerns over COVID-19. In the season 8 finale, viewers got to see the Captain Lee Rosbach inform the crew of M/Y Seanna that the final two groups of charter guests had cancelled their appearances and that the vessel’s charter season was over.
"It was a very surreal feeling. We went down there [to Antigua] in early February. We just thought this would pass, and being down there, we were in a bubble. I think by the time we wrapped up in mid-March, there was only one case." – Lauren Simms, Executive Producer & Showrunner of Below Deck 2
Below Deck: Sailing Yacht Deals With a COVID Scare
Season 2 of Below Deck: Sailing Yacht was almost shut down when a guest started feeling ill and developed a 101-degree fever. It was an unexpected COVID scare because the production had created a bubble. Precautions were taken to prevent the spread of COVID onboard the yacht such as crew members were not allowed to leave the yacht in between charters, while guests were tested and quarantines before coming onboard.
Captain Glenn Shepard handled the situation calmly and organized for a doctor to come onboard with a COVID test. Still he was stressed by the sudden sickness.
"We've done everything we can – very strict protocols in place and obviously being very safe for the guests and crew is the most important thing. Here we are starting off, and we think 'okay this is going to work!' Then, all of a sudden that happens. If at any point, [the test] comes back positive, what does that mean because you have asymptomatic transmission? It could be the end of our season just like that. It's a very scary thing. We kinda knew it was a possibility but I think we were taken off guard by the fact that it happened.” – Captain Glenn Shephard, Parsifal III 3
Thankfully, the guest tested negative for COVID-19 and left the yacht for onshore treatment. The season was able to continue filming free of positive COVID-19 cases. These unexpected charter cancellations and COVID scares were and continue to be common experiences for crewed yachts all over the globe. The pandemic has forced shows like Below Deck to put the “real” in reality TV!
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- Wendy Syfret, The Guardian – I turned to reality TV to escape during the pandemic – until reality caught up
- Laura Rosenfield, Bravo Media – BELOW DECK PRODUCER TAKES YOU INSIDE THAT SHOCKING SEASON 8 FINALE
- Laura Rosenfield, Bravo Media – Captain Lee Reveals How He Found Out Below Deck Season 8 Would Be Ending Immediately