Where Are We Going?

I had a blog post planned for today about living on a cruise ship. I talked about how I didn’t want to take life for granted. How I was not only grateful to be able to spend time with Stuart but also acknowledging that a lot of people pay a lot of money to sail on board and a lot of them wait their lives to see the places I get to see. Recognizing how lucky I am in the moments when I am sitting in the hot tub, swimming in the pool, eating lobster, or ordering room service.

Then this week happened. Writing about how great it is to sail on a ship seems a little untimely in the state of current international affairs. So… here’s what’s going on:

For anyone that follows the news nearly all major cruise lines have discontinued operations for either 30 or 60 days, with cruises cancelled and ships trying to find a place to berth for the coming 30 days. As we are in the midst of a Grand World Voyage that was meant to end in May we can’t just wait for this voyage to end and then not have the new passengers join us – that’s unfortunately not an option. And thus, our Grand World Voyage 2020 is getting cut short by 2 months.

We are currently sailing around Australia. We got to Sydney, Australia on May 6th after leaving New Zealand. Our ship is healthy with no cases of COVID-19 onboard. We had planned to go around the north of Australia and then down a bit of the west coast ending in Fremantle (the port for Perth). The company decided that our passengers will disembark in Fremantle after we had ports in Darwin, Broome, and Exomouth. However, as we are cruising along the day before we are meant to go to Darwin (and I was going to go on an overland tour) Australia decides to close its borders for cruise ships, cancelling our other ports of call in Australia. Australia has said that we will be able to port in Fremantle and disembark passengers. This has answered a number of passenger questions. This is thankful as until earlier today their questions included things such as “when do I get home? If I book an airline ticket when should it be for?”

The company is working to help passengers rebook flights, sort out their travel plans, and arrange for them to get home. The Front Office is a mad house to the point that I broke my rule yesterday and helped them out and will end up doing so again today. (My rule being not helping departments that have turned me down for a job – this is an extraordinary circumstance where common decency for my fellow crew members outweighs my frustrations with employment status.) We are progressively getting more answers day by day. Some days we get an answer and then the next day that answer has changed (thank you Australia for deciding to close your borders!) As we get more answers there is a bit less speculation, but inevitably regardless of the answers they get the passengers are still skeptical.

When news first broke that passengers were going to be going home there was a crew member that instantly said “well, you’re going home – you’re on the passenger manifest.” When I asked whether or not she actually knew that or how she knew that, she said no one had told her that, she was just assuming. It was assumption and speculation for no purpose other than to propagate gossip and to be apart of the “in-the-know” crowd. In this case the consequence was, as childish that it may sound, my feelings were hurt, I was hurt, as she left me confused with no answers, and more questions. (Side note: having your feelings hurt shouldn’t be a childish thing. Feelings can get hurt and that is real. We deal with it differently as adults, but sticks and stones can go fly a kite because words can hurt.)

Now, overall I am in the position where I am able to not overly worry about whether or not I need to fly home until that situation presents itself. We can buy a plane ticket when needed (assuming planes are flying), I am able bodied and in good physical health. Especially after that frustrating moment of rumors I am choosing not to worry myself about this too much. I have preliminary heard that I can stay on board, but until that is actually happening I don’t know that for sure.

The various challenges that are ongoing:

On the passenger side:

  • Passengers are worried about getting home.  With air travel to most of Europe restricted and the potential of US routes getting restricted no one quite knows what air travel home will look like.
  • Passengers with physical challenges that can’t fly (and were planning on disembarking in Florida and driving home or having someone drive them home). How is that going to work?
  • There are passengers on overland tours (where you leave the ship for a few days to explore a region you are in before returning to the ship to continue the cruise). They are apparently flying straight home and their luggage will be packed by their room stewards.  

On the crew side:

  • They don’t know if all crew will stay or if some will be sent home.
  • The crew that were meant to be embarking are now in Darwin. They need to get to Fremantle with the appropriate quarantine and visa requirements.
  • The crew that were meant to be going home have no idea if they can go home or when.
  • There is a crew member on an overland tour as well – how is she going to get back?
  • Do I and other spouses onboard get to stay?

You’ll notice on this whole list the health of the ship wasn’t something that is a question. Knock on wood but we are a healthy ship. We are not quarantined and we are not in a mandatory 14 day waiting period by any government – there is just no where that seems to want to take us in!

Things to reiterate:

  • Our ship does not have COVID-19.
  • We can’t get into ports because cities/countries are closing their borders to all cruise ships and we just happen to be one of those.
  • Our life on board is still just chugging along. Everything on board – food, entertainment, casino, shops, spa, pools – are still operating as usual for sea days to wrap up the end of this voyage until we get to Fremantle.
  • Myself and Stuart are safe, healthy, and well.
  • Yes, I did make us start taking vitamin C every day in addition to a multi-vitamin. A little extra boost to our immune system is not above me for the sake of safety.  

The various challenges Stuart and I are facing and discussing:

  • The US has closed its borders to people incoming from the UK. Once he goes to the UK, or if I go to the UK, we don’t know when we will be able to go back to the US to see my family. Or, if I stay in the US and he goes to the UK we don’t know when we would be able to see each other again. Or, conversely, if we are in the US we don’t know if travel to the UK will be permitted at that point, so we don’t know when we could see his family again. Closing borders between countries might make sense in this situation but it has real repercussions for families living between borders.
  • We don’t know for certain whether or not I can stay onboard. If I have to leave the ship we don’t know when we will see each other again.
  • While his contract wasn’t meant to end until the end of May, a lot of crew are worried about when they will be allowed to leave the ship. Although I heard they are testing a vaccine this week in Seattle which gives us hope, we don’t know how this will play out.
  • Grateful that Stuart’s job is one of the more secured jobs onboard, as even without passengers they need to be able to safely operate the vessel so our income, our livelihood, is still secure.

I don’t want every post in the near future to be about this virus. I was thinking when I go to breakfast this morning that if I sit with people I want to make a rule that we can’t talk about it.  But, right now, this is what is going on.

We’ll see what I come up with to write about on Thursday…

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