As Murphy was an optimist, it’s important to remember that lemonade is a refreshing drink as well. Anyhow, while life would e boring without occasional adrenalin rushes, I look at what we are doing this year as sort of a “life style alternative”. While some guys strive for a different girl every day, I’m more than happy with the one I’ve got, but crave a change of scenery each day after a couple of years of isolation. While some depend on a course, I’m more hedonistic and willing to accept the new, regardless of original plan.
When we disembarked in Honolulu to sightsee a bit, we found the crew taking turns getting COVID tests at a portable lab set up on shore. We also heard of a couple who we haven’t had contact with for over a week who turned up positive and are now confined for ten days. While there are some exceptions, most passengers and all crew are adhering to proper masking protocol with high quality masks (mostly KN95).
Our itinerary first gave up Australia and New Zealand, but it has now become clear that China, Japan, India, the Philippines, Indonesia, Taiwan, etc., etc. are also off the table and I’ve been speculating about how the cruise line is going to change the itinerary. So far, we have taken a bit of time to leave California by temporizing in both Los Angeles and San Diego, followed by about a week of bouncing around a variety of Hawaiian islands and, still in our future as I write this, around a week hitting various exotic sounding places in French Polynesia.
A few days later they finally lowered the cabash. With almost all Asian, Oceania and African nations closed because of COVID issues, it was announced that, after leaving French Polynesia, we are making an about-face and heading back to LA. The cruise line is allowing those who wish to disembark and get a prorated refund. The balance of the passengers will get a discount and continue on with a medley consisting of a Mexican cruise, a Panama Canal run, a Caribbean cruise, an Atlantic crossing, a comprehensive Mediterranean cruise, a Baltic cruise and a crossing back to New York City. (While I haven’t done a rigorous check, it seems to be hitting every European country with a seashore except Ukraine, Cyprus and Monaco, as well as throwing in places like Israel, Turkey and Morrocoys). Not as interesting as the original itinerary, but better than sitting around at home and dodging COVID.
Understandably, despite “knowing” that our itinerary was unlikely, there are many who are upset with the change, some of who will take the bail-out options of disembarking when the ship hits Los Angeles or Miami as it heads eastwards.
While the European legs will be the sort of trip where one says “if it’s Tuesday, it must be Belgium”, we are going to have a heck of a bunch of sea-day runs as we head to French Polynesia, r\then all the way to Los Angeles and then on to an Atlantic crossing.
The change was not unexpected (by me, at least), so we are going to stick it out. Currently, we are the only world cruise still heading west. Some, like Holland America’s never sailed. Some have recently turned east, like Regent’s and Viking’s. One that turned east – Crystal – has ceased operating and gone belly up. Of course, I’m pretty sure that our latest itinerary is also subject to change at the whim of the virus, so we’ll see.
The two logistical issues that I can see coming up:
Without Russian visas (the ship is now scheduled to call at St. Petersburg), we will be forced to join scheduled tours (run by either the ship or a Russian agency). We would prefer having our own visas and traveling into St. Petersburg on our own.
Some countries (Israel, for example), are considering defining “fully vaccinated” as having had booster shots. While we have had ours, I suspect there may be many aboard who have not had a third shot – which may complicate landing if the ship does not address the issue somehow.
On the ship’s COVID status:
The crew is being tested weekly and is not allowed ashore. Any found to be COVID positive are quarantined for 10 days. Unless they have called the medical office with symptoms, there has been no COVID testing of passengers. There are at least five passenger cabins under isolation, so it seems that the crew is being infected by passengers rather than the other way around. The ship is providing booster shots to the crew. The passengers will get their first mandatory COVID testing the day before we hit French Polynesia and it will be interesting to see how the numbers turn up.
Well, back to more current stuff. Today was one of those unexpected magical afternoons. Our ship arrived too late for some snorkel boats and was leaving too early for others. We were in the town of Lahaina on Maui and started walking out of town towards the left along Water Street looking for access to a beach. Less than a mile from town, we came across a small sign on a street to the left to Puunoa Place and further down Water Street another to Ala Moana Street.
These led to “Baby Beach”, a long stretch of fine sand with a coral reef forming a large shallow pool. We went in with snorkel and mask to see if we could find some reef fish. We found a few small colorful fish when a massive (larger than a coffee table) sea turtle swooped up. I tried holding on to see if I could hitch a ride, but I couldn’t get a good grip. When I finally walked out of the water, now knowing what to look for, there were more than ten of them in the lagoon.
In the meantime, whales were constantly breaching on the other side of the carol reef. As the ship left the port, it was accompanied by more whales.
On the following day, our tender was accompanied by a large pod of dolphins on our way to and from Kailua-Kona, Hawaii. The going price for 100% Kona coffee beans is about $30 a pound (to tourists, at least). In my opinion, while supply/demand may dictate this price, there are lots of other extraordinary coffees in the world which are available for less cost.
The leading topic of conversation among passengers right now is whether the long-haulers are going to stay aboard considering that the new itinerary is not nearly as exotic as the old one as well as the logistical challenges of some who were going to disembark in, say Bali or Tokyo, and now find themselves heading towards Los Angeles. The news of Crystal’s demise hangs as a bit of sub-rosa additional stress. In our case, I went into this venture sort of assuming something like this was likely and, what the heck, it’s still more interesting than the past couple of years have been (and traveling on land randomly is still far more difficult because of nowadays), so we are going to continue to wander on the ship of fools.