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Published: March 23rd 2020
Sunday 15 March – Punta Arenas harbour
We woke at 6.45am in order to be ready for cruising glacier alley at 7.30am, where it was planned that we’d pass 5 glaciers before 9am. I opened the curtains, saw a plethora of lights on the shore and my first thought was “Glacier Alley is a lot more populated than I expected.”
At this point, my hubby used a couple of choice swear words as he read out a statement that had been popped under our door during the night. It said “ As we were sailing down to Glacier Alley late last night, we were informed that Chile would be following Argentina in closing its ports at 8am due to Covid. We decided to turn the ship around and we anchored in Punta Arenas harbour at 2.30am so that all guests can disembark and make their way home.” This was disappointing because we would miss out on seeing glaciers and fjords, but at least we could still go to Torres del Paine before heading home.
At 8am, things went from bad to worse. The Captain made an announcement saying that whilst we had beaten the deadline, the port authorities
said the deadline had actually been midnight and therefore we had missed it and would not be allowed to dock. Given we had only been in port at 6pm the day before, the Captain has hopeful that the port authorities would allow us to disembark. A decision from Chile was promised at 2pm.
2pm came and went, and the Captain finally made an announcement at 6pm saying Chile wanted to run temperature checks in the morning, at which point we might be allowed to leave, so everyone should start amending their flights to leave after 1pm Monday. This had everyone in a panic attack, because buying $5000 non-refundable tickets was risky, but if we didn’t have amended tickets, we couldn’t leave the ship. Everyone started bombarding the internet looking for ways to get home. Dwayne and I sat up until 1am looking at options, even flying via Panama City, but the availability and cost was changing every half hour.
We were most worried about finding someone to mind our cat, as our Danish friends also needed to return home and we had visions of poor Toto starving to death in our apartment.
Fatigue set in and we
decided to go to bed with nothing booked, thinking we’d look at it after the health checks were cleared. After all, what are the chances that out of 2000 people, not one person would have a raised temperature?
We did the only thing we could do. We prayed and asked God to solve the problem. We trust His care for us, and that a blockage often means a different solution is on the way. We asked Him to find a way home not just for us, but for all the people on board our ship.
Total km walked – 8.7 Monday 16 March – Punta Arenas harbour
We spoke to an Australian couple this morning who paid $5000 to fly out tomorrow, and for a moment we felt stupid for not staying up last night and organising something. However, we consoled ourselves with the fact that we only had to wait a couple of hours until we knew the outcome of the temperature checks.
We also contacted my brother and parents with an SOS for Toto, and they jumped to the fore on standby.
The captain affirmed that they were still working closely with
local port authorities, Chilean government, and that the British and US governments were also applying pressure. We lined up when our deck was called and had our temperature checked at the first station. 36.4C and 36.3C saw us in the clear. We continued to the second station with our affidavit for the Chilean government, handed in our health declaration at the third station and collected our passports at the last station. The end was in sight.
By 4pm there was no announcement and our Aussie friends were getting a tad nervous that we hadn’t docked yet.
At 5pm the Captain made an announcement that everyone had been checked and not one person had a raised temperature. Incredible! Unfortunately, Chile had advised that despite no confirmed Covid cases on board, we would need to remain anchored in quarantine for 14 days…”
Our hearts sank and a feeling of nausea swept over us. We were the Diamond Princess v2.
He continued, ”Given that they have also closed their airports and air space with no flights in or out, I am certainly not going to sit here for 14 days and then offload you into a town that has
no flight options and not enough accommodation for everyone. So, we are going to leave in an hour, sail through the fjords of Chile up to Valparaiso where we’ll take on fuel and supplies. From there we’ll keep sailing north whilst our team in Seattle try to find a port that will accept us. I’m sorry that you’ll miss the Magellan Strait, Glacier Alley and Cape Horn, but we appreciate your patience and understanding in these trying times.”
Our spirits soared! We are not sitting in a harbour for 14 days. Our captain is awesome. We are heading for destination unknown. What an adventure.
THANK YOU JESUS!!!
Total km walked – 7.3 Tuesday, 17 March – Chilean Fjords
We got up early to appreciate the majestic fjords of Chile. We only had until 6pm to enjoy the view before returning to sea, and we intended to use every minute.
At 8.30am, when Dwayne and I were out on the dress circle of the bow, the islands were quite close to the ship and there were two markers at port and starboard side, that we went right through the middle of. We later discovered through
the Captain that these markers signify the shallowest point of the Sarmiento channel. At high tide, which was 8.30am, the keel was a mere 2m from the bottom.
2 meters, people - that’s crazy close!!
The fjords are dotted with thousands of islands – some large in diameter with high rocky hills, others low and small. All of them are lusciously green. There are trees clinging to rocks at the waterline and these trees exist for 25-50m above the waterline, where they recede and are replaced with mossy grass on exposed rock. The islands remind me of Newfoundland or pictures I’ve seen of Scotland. Some say it’s similar to the inside passage up to Alaska. Every island is different and individual. The mountains on the starboard side were topped with snow and glaciers, since they form the watery border of the Torres del Paine NP. I think we even spotted the famous spikes that TdP is famous for.
The weather was 10C, overcast and blowing a gale – up to 60mph in gusts. I was wearing 4 layers with snow skins, woollen mid-layer, fleece jacket and windshell. I had my ski socks, neck warmer and beanie on
as well. I was toasty but hundreds weren’t, especially the people in shorts and thongs. This allowed us to stay outside for hours and enjoy the flawed beauty of an unforgiving climate and weathered landscape.
We were sad to leave the fjords, but thankful for the small mercies that we are receiving each day. We are, after all, on a floating hotel. How bad can it be?!
Total km walked – 7.3 Wednesday 18 March – at sea
We entered the Pacific ocean and experienced our highest swells since the night we left BA. It was only 4m but it meant another night of flying vs sleeping uphill. Still, it didn’t stop us from sleeping 10 hours. I’m loving the fact that sunrise is at 7.55am.
We tried to cancel our Latam flights on 24 March to Patagonia for the umpteenth time (at least 20 tries), but we still can’t get on to either Latam or Agoda, who we originally booked through. We’ve tried the phone app, website, phone and email. They’ve not responded in any medium. It’s worth $300 so I really hope we can cancel them before we’re due to fly on Tuesday,
otherwise we’ll be treated as a ‘no show’ and won’t get anything back.
Everyone keeps sending us stories about what the governments are up to, but we have wifi so we’re well versed on the daily changes and as refugees, there’s absolutely nothing we can do in relation to government calls. If they want us to come home – then come get us because we certainly can’t make our own way back.
It was gala dinner night again, so I joined a table with 5 other British people. They weren’t super friendly, except one lady who is a solo traveller.
The weather has warmed to 15C and the clouds are starting to thin out.
Total km walked – 7.4 Thursday 19 March – at sea
The swell had returned to less than 1m, so we were back in calm waters for the foreseeable future.
We’d started to lose track of the days because every day is a day at sea. We shared daily jokes about our predicament and the Cruise Director even starts his morning announcements with “Good morning everyone. Well today is another day at sea…”. He held a travel trivia game
at 10.30am this morning and every question/photo was on South America. Someone from the audience asked “Have we been there?” and everyone had a laugh. He responded with “No cruise ships go to La Paz.”
We also discovered that everyone had been given USD 100pp of onboard credit to spend on beverages, laundry, souvenirs etc. It’s thoughtful of them.
The Captain announced at 9am that we had been cleared to anchor at Valparaiso, Chile, to collect 3 weeks worth of fuel, supplies and necessary medication. They won’t let us dock so all the supplies need to be transferred by tender boats. I don’t understand this decision. The Chile government could let us dock, put one guy in a moon suit in a forklift, and driven the pallets onto the ship in several hours. Now, many hands are going to have to work the transfers, cranes and pallets onto the ship whilst we’re at sea for a good 24 hours of work. Does this not increase their risk of getting Covid because more people are exposed? The way I see it, they are more likely to be infecting us and not the other way around, given we are a
bubble of good health.
He also announced that Peru, Ecuador and Colombia have refused our entry. The company is in discussions with Panama and Mexico. They’re also talking to all the embassies – Australia, NZ, France, Germany, US, Canada and more – on how to repatriate us home. We may not even need to source airfares when we eventually land. The longer this goes on, the more stranded we become. The more stranded we become, the more our governments will hopefully get involved in organising a bulk repatriation.
We follow a routine most days, with a few variations to mix it up. Today we fasted in the morning for breakfast and did a 3.2km walk around the promenade deck. We did another 3.2km in the afternoon before dinner, and went to the 7.30pm Cellist show.
We sleep, we eat, we sunbathe and swim, we are entertained and waited on hand and foot. Family and friends ask how we’re coping mentally with the stress, and I guess this life could be hard to slum if you were Bill Gates. For us though, it’s a case of “what stress?”. Our problems on previous trips have been far graver than
this one. Friday 20 March – Valparaiso
We anchored in Valparaiso overnight and received the good news that the Chilean government had agreed to give us the 800 tonnes of fuel we’d requested, as well as 500 pallets of food. That will do us for another 3 weeks.
We watched the “bunkering” process as the fuel tanker pulled up on the port side, whilst the food barge pulled up on the starboard side. The fuel took 8 hours, the food barge took well over 12 hours to crane it all on board.
We walked the deck several times.
I signed up to sing in the guest talent show on Wednesday. I had originally decided to sing “On My Own” from Les Miserables, but after much tossing and turning at the Holy Spirit's prompting, I decided that if He provided a pianist for me, I'd sing "Your Grace Still Amazes Me." When I went to sign up, I asked the Director if one of the ship musicians could accompany me. She said they were off limits and I’d have to find my own pianist. I thought I was off the hook, but there was a gentleman
standing near me who said he played piano and could help me out. He gave me his business card – a professional pianist and jazz entertainer. I guess God wants me to bring sunshine to these times of fear.
Total km walked – 6.5 Sabbath 21 March – Valparaiso
At breakfast, Davinia asked if we’d like to spend the morning with them doing the weekly lesson study, so we met them at 11am and ended up talking about everything from CoVid to family to work and all matter of things in between. We compared notes on church work, disagreed on several points related to how church runs and exchanged ideas.
We were so engrossed in the discussion that we had to stop abruptly at 1.55pm and run upstairs to grab some salad, and then we continued until 5pm. We enjoyed the conversation and their company so much that we lost track of time.
It was a blessed day with fellow believers.
Funny/not funny story – Derek and Davinia ran out of deodorant yesterday and the small convenience store had also run out, so they were told to go to the perfume counter at the
duty free shop. As the shop assistant handed a mini 3-pack to them, she said “that will be $62”. And they paid it – A$110 for 3 mini deodorants!!
The Captain announced at 5pm that plan A is to sail to Fort Lauderdale for a 31 March arrival, going through the Panama Canal on 27 March. At this, applause erupted around the deck. For Dwayne and I, we’ll be celebrating our wedding anniversary physically in the Panama Canal. Very memorable!
If Panama change their mind in the next five days, plan B is Puerto Vallarta in Mexico and Plan C is San Diego. We’ll see what happens between now and Panama.
Total km walked – 8.2 Sunday 22 March – Somewhere in the Pacific
The sea today was as smooth as glass. Not a swell or ripple in sight. For a minute we thought we were on a vast lake.
Had a great morning with a line dancing class at 11am, followed by lunch with our Cherrybrook friends, Uta and Werner.
At 2pm we went from elation to despair. Several crew and guests had presented with respiratory symptoms. We were all being quarantined to our cabins immediately for the foreseeable future. Luckily, we booked a balcony but still, to be locked down with a set menu for each room service meal, which means we can’t pick what we want to eat and we can’t even exercise, is a real downer. What if the set menu is pork or seafood and the veggie option is brussel sprout bake? What if we want a salad? Too bad.
Still, there a hundred things worse than luxury quarantine. We’re not being trafficked in a shipping container, nor foraging in landfill for food or metal scraps, cutting rocks into smaller rocks for 20 cents a day, or eating field rats because we are too poor for food. Jesus knows when and where we’re ending up, so it’s above my pay grade to worry.
We ended the day with a beautiful sunset over the Pacific and we bid farewell to a family of 5 sea birds, who had been our hovering escorts for nearly 12 hours of sailing. Somehow they knew we needed the comfort and company.
Total km walked – 2
Tot: 0.082s; Tpl: 0.02s; cc: 8; qc: 23; dbt: 0.007s; 1; m:saturn w:www (188.8.131.52); sld: 1;
; mem: 1.2mb