We may get home yet


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Published: March 31st 2020
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Monday 30 March – at sea

Whilst we did peek through the curtains last night at the start of the canal, it was difficult to do with an army escort, drone and lit-up-as-a-Christmas-tree tugboat following close behind us. We eventually went to bed at 12.30am.

5.37am and the 1.5m swell rolling from port to starboard indicated we’d exited the canal into the Atlantic, a lot sooner than we’d expected. However, I guess it was 6.30pm yesterday that we were asked to go inside and draw the curtains like the unclean lepers that we are. I guess that is almost 12 hours.

A single silent tear moistened my face on its way down, dampening the pillow under my eye. An opportunity lost. A simple gesture of vision would have cost the Panamanians nothing yet meant the world to us.

Breakfast came, this time with one plate of eggs and hash browns for my veggie meal, and Dwayne’s plate was an entire plate of pork 3 ways – sausages, bacon rashes and spam. Yet another email to Guest Services. For a professional culinary team, they fact they can’t get our dietary requirements correct is shocking. It’s 1 veggie, 1 regular, no pork, no shellfish. How hard is that?

We’re aiming for Fort Lauderdale, but the mayor and port authority have said we’re not welcome, so I doubt we’ll know where we end up until we’re pulling up beside the dock. And it will also be done in darkness so as not to offend the paranoid.

Dinner arrived. 2 veggie. Dwayne is shooting daggers my way. Worst catering team ever.

We had couple of promising wins too.

Firstly, Qantas agreed to refund us for the Santiago-Sydney leg they cancelled, rather than give a credit. Since we had already paid them for the return service, the ACCC rules entitle us to a ull refund if the service is not provided. This didn’t stop Flight Centre from trying to convince me to take a credit, mainly because it was less work for him. I kept pushing him to speak to Qantas and when he did, they said they’d process a refund in the next 12 weeks.

This whole experience has taught me many things, but one of those things is that I will never use an agent or 3rd party for flights again. Rather than have peace of mind that they are working for you, they often just become an extra piece of red tape between you and the carrier.

The second win was that HAL will be organising all passenger flights home. They’ve been forced by the US Coast Guard to provide repatriation plans for all guests, as a condition of entering US waters. I’m elated that whilst our landing is still unknown, our passage home will be assured. No thanks to the Australian Government though.

Tuesday 31 March – at sea

Breakfast arrived with our 2 special vegetarian meals – eggs, bacon and ham. Brilliant.

Lunch arrived with 2 special meals. Spinach lasagna. Same as 2 days ago. Everyone else got Fish and Chips or a burger. I need to go into witness protection from Dwayne.

As lacklustre as our time has been on the Rotterdam, we remember the one good week we had on the Zaandam, and at the end of the day, the Rotterdam did come to assist its sister when everyone else turned their backs. Every day our captain makes a speech about how we are family and that the seafarer family helps each other. These sorts of messages are not for us as guests, but for the staff, who are obviously revolting in their assistance to us. Two crippled ships left to languish at sea.

As the below article points out, everyone who traveled to South America in late Feb and early March, had no WHO or Government warnings about that region.

In fact, I’m extremely outraged by the response of the global community, especially when we discovered that the 4 people that died last week, had been denied medivacs.

https://www.hollandamerica.com/blog/ships/ms-rotterdam/a-humanitarian-crisis-response-to-cruise-ships-stranded-at-sea-tests-our-deepest-human-values/

I feel for HAL being made to pay for all these citizens who are not theirs. They are a private company who owe governments nothing other than taxes. There is no contract for HAL to provide care for a global community in times of crisis. In fact, they have contracts with county medical facilities in Florida and that group are refusing to assist! Had Chile allowed us to disembark from Punta Arenas on the 15th, no one would have been exposed to the virus and everyone would have exited the country before anyone was sick and there certainly would have been no deaths.

And then there is our Australian Government. In 2019/20, they donated $135M in overseas aid to the four corners of the earth to benefit 18 million strangers, but they begrudge spending anything to rescue several thousand of its own scattered aid-paying citizens.

Over the past week, France has repatriated 100,000 citizens and a further 30,000 are expected back in the next few days.

In early March, Germany committed 50 million euros to repatriating its citizens.

Canada brought back 200,000 citizens in the past week, including from Peru.

The UK has chartered repatriation flights. And this is just an example of Governments working for their people. There are others like Portugal, Israel etc doing what they can to get their people home.

In light of what other Governments are doing, Scomo's lack of duty of care is deplorable!! I do not understand how anyone can be ok with this. Our Government rescues distressed sea vessels on a regular basis. The navy and private tankers pick up sinking refugee boats, and they’re not even our citizens!

What has this world come to when those less fortunate are not only told to stay less fortunate, but that it was their fault to begin with. We would NEVER say this to a beneficiary of aid, so why is it acceptable to say it to our own?

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