As the rich and famous flocked to their yachts on St. Barts this holiday season, many of them did everything they could to prevent the spread of COVID-19 — including tracking the location of crewmembers to make sure they stayed onboard, On The Money has learned.
Yachts provide a fair amount of isolation and privacy for those who can afford it — but that’s only if everyone else on board is also committed to isolating and staying away from possible super-spreader events.
So, amid a surge in Omicron cases, the ultra-rich clamped down on crewmembers’ usual visits to shore. Captains told staff — including chefs, deckhands, and first mates — they had to stay on the boat and share their location on their cell phones, one source who was recently aboard a big boat told On the Money.
Some Russian oligarchs are said to have taken an even harsher position than their American counterparts, the yacht-goer told On the Money, and required crew members to wear ankle bracelets like criminals under house arrest.
But staying away from the posh St. Bart’s nightclubs proved too difficult for some crew members. To avoid surveillance, one trio of staffers left their phones on board when they went ashore in the middle of the night, a source told On The Money.
Their escape was only discovered when the owner of the yacht woke up hungry for a pastrami sandwich at 3 a.m. When he couldn’t find the chef, he asked the captain to find him. But the three crew members — including the chef — had left their phones on board to avoid being tracked ashore. When they found their way onboard after a night of partying, they were forced to quarantine — unpaid — for five days, this person adds.
Yachts have proven a favorite — albeit controversial — escape for the wealthy since lockdowns began in 2020.
At the outbreak of coronavirus in March 2020 billionaire David Geffen — famous for his nearly $600 million superyacht — sparked outrage when he posted an aerial shot of his boat and said he was isolating in the Grenadines.
“I’m hoping everybody is staying safe,” Geffen wrote from his 454-foot boat named Rising Sun.
While billionaires may have learned to be more subtle since then, their concern with avoiding COVID seems to have remained.
Blackstone Group billionaire Stephen Schwarzman, who is known for his lavish birthday bashes, resumed hosting parties in 2021 — albeit with safety measures in place, On The Money has learned.
In November, prior to the Omicron outbreak, Schwarzman invited pals to a soiree in St. Barts. But he didn’t trust the island’s already stringent testing protocol, a source familiar with the matter told On the Money. He flew out a team of his doctors to separately test all the patients.