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Published: March 28th 2020
Monday 23 March – Thursday 26 March - at Sea
I’ve decided to group all these days together, given we were confined to our cabins with not much to tell. We follow a repetitive rhythm of eating, playing cards, watching movies and tv series, browsing the web, responding to email, the odd phone call and an exercise or trivia class on the ship’s activity channel.
I look at the Southern Cross every night, wondering if it will instantly disappear the night we cross the equator from the southern into the northern hemisphere.
We watch for dolphins, whales and flying fish. There are always flying fish, rarely there are dolphins and we’ve not seen any whales in the Pacific.
The news articles say the majority of the illness is in the crew, with some guests affected. I have a theory that we were all healthy up until a new entertainer from the UK boarded the ship in Punta Arenas. That fits the incubation timeframe between him getting on the ship and us being confined to our cabins 8 days later. It also makes sense that more crew than passengers are affected, because the crew all hang out
If that is actually what happened (and we’ll never know), then it’s quite irresponsible of the Captain and Cruise Director to allow someone from a country infected with thousands, to board an otherwise healthy ship in the midst of a sweeping pandemic.
We did eventually cross the equator and I can still see the Southern Cross. We’ve also had 3-second sightings of whales twice since Santiago. Blink and you miss it.
On Wednesday (25th
) we were told that Panama has approved our transit through the Canal. This was excellent news. The bad news was that illness on board had jumped from 40 to 85. It was clearly affected a lot of kitchen staff because the meals were becoming increasingly simple (ie a salad sandwich and Smiths chips).
On Thursday we rendezvoused with The Rotterdam, our sister ship, off the coast of Ecuador. She had sailed from Puerto Vallarta in Mexico to bring additional medical staff and supplies. It has a full compliment of 641 new staff, although no passenger transfer is being considered.
It has surprised us how calm the Pacific has been all week. It’s like glass in the mornings and by lunchtime
there are small ripples that don’t even break into white caps. Sea birds cruise beside and overhead, eventually streamlining their wings and diving like a kamikaze pilot into the water, catching the fish swimming unawares. The swell has been less than 1m. You would be forgiven for thinking we were on a large lake. Friday 27 March - Panama
We celebrated our 20th
wedding anniversary. We were supposed to be in Torres del Paine National Park. Instead, we were under house arrest. It will be remembered for all the wrong reasons.
Thankfully, we are together and if 20 years of marriage has taught me anything, it’s that all things shall pass eventually, and as long as we lean into each other we’ll be able to weather the storm. My marriage is awesome.
Both ships sailed into Panama City harbour in the morning and anchored for the weekend whilst we waited for our passage through the canal. Panama looks nice and we were able to watch the hundreds of merchant ships come and go from our balcony whilst enjoying a balmy 33C. It made for a welcome break from ocean views.
And then we hit the
bottom of the proverbial barrel, where everything hit the fan. Firstly, we heard that the Australian Government has introduced mandatory isolation for all returning travellers, whether they’re healthy of not. Another 2 weeks locked in a little room was almost more than we could bear.
The worst was yet to come. The captain announced that 135 were people suffering illness, with 2 guests confirmed with Covid. And then the kicker - 3 elderly people had died overnight and one died on Wednesday night. I’m not surprised by this news, as a number of guests looked like they already had one foot in the grave when they were healthy. No doubt those who passed were suffering from other health problems prior to the cruise. It was unclear whether they died of Covid or other health problems. Regardless, it is devastating for family and crew alike, who lost a guest under their watch. Our hearts go out to them.
We also became the object of the local press, as a boat load of Panamanian journalists (I just had to use that word – Panamanian!!) with their telephoto lenses and drone, took pictures and waved to passengers throughout the day. I
also waved from the balcony and thought “we’ll be on the news tonight for sure.” Texts from home confirmed our global fame.
News articles also said Panama had rescinded their approval. The Captain hasn’t yet announced it, but if Al Jazeera says we’re denied, then it’s probably true. Looks like we’ll be sailing up the coast of Central America, Mexico and aiming for San Diego.
Due to this new development in our fatality rate, HAL advised they’d be transferring healthy guests to The Rotterdam over the weekend, assuming we pass the temperature check.
As I said, it will be an anniversary to be remembered for all the wrong reasons.
If I wasn’t doing life with Jesus, I’d be feeling pretty fearful, stressed, worried and hopeless right now. There really is no other way to live life than with my Creator in my heart.
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