Weather is still fine. Was entertained by a whale today. The entire ship – both passengers and crew – have tested negative for COVID twice, a week apart. That said, after nine sea-days we are about to start visiting ports again (and a couple more have already been canceled due to COVID issues)
More passengers are bailing (leaving, not pouring water over the side ?) and the ship feels pretty empty (which meant even better service from the fully staffed crew).
After reversing direction, we continue forward (and are beginning to get 23 hour days as we head eastward across time zones).
Wishing you a happy Valentine’s day.
As far as activities in Hawaii and French Polynesia are concerned, much hasn’t changed (except for the presence of near universal masking while inside) except that local prices for excursions, etc. have increased.
Taking a world cruise of 180 days is a form of capitulation for us. It’s not that we haven’t taken a number of cruises of a month or more, but most of them have been interesting routes to get to/from the places we really wanted to spend time seeing. We generally find it far more interesting to stay a week or two in a city or a month or more in an area of the world than to try to cram them into one day stops on cruise ships. But this is a special year because, despite having our cards punched for two years of doing essentially nothing, crossing borders is still a COVID-linked challenge.
I’m figuring that our stop at Miami will be the last chance the cruise line has to cancel the rest of the trip economically, but they have an incentive to continue it, if only to prove to the market that they can provide a safe cruising experience despite all the challenges.
Well, we are in the midst of a nine day stretch of sea days and seeing a bird is a big deal – what more can I say (we saw a whale, so I guess I can say that ?). The ship tries to run an assortment of group activities each day, including playing bridge, watercolor painting and sketching, lectures on various topics, trivia contests, evening entertainment etc., etc.
The ship is opening the bars and, one way or another, offering free booze, wine and beer, for a few hours each evening. In addition, though Oceania line is deservedly famous for its high end food (for example, besides its widely varied regular menu, such delicacies as lobster, grilled jumbo shrimp, baby lamb chops and sushi bar are available every evening), they have put extra effort into providing additional dining experiences. These range from recreating the menu of one of the most popular restaurants on their larger ships as a buffet (“Red Ginger”, an Asian-fusion place), fresh-caught yellow fin tuna (for the first couple of days of the run, at least, then a bit later as sashimi), venison, more elaborate sushi bars and so on.
The cruise started with an outstanding itinerary. Then Australia and New Zealand were cut. Then Asia and Africa were cut and replaced with a Caribbean trip followed by an intensive European itinerary. After two massive itinerary changes for the cruise, attrition is beginning to take its toll of the latest one with COVID related dropping of Ensenada, Grenada and Tobago and, since the memo announcing this sort of didn’t mention any future dates, I suspect these are not the last cuts.
I’ve had to completely re-do my notes for the trip. What I do is print out the pages from my book of the ports/cities we will be visiting and put them in chronological order – filling in the places we haven’t been with research to allow us to structure our visits. Well, nearly everything has changed and it took quite a bit of time to create a replacement set of documents reflecting our new route. In addition, I had to restructure my interactive currency/precious metal spreadsheet for a bunch of new currencies. Fortunately, the ship’s concierge has been very accommodating in printing hundreds of pages of this stuff out on a color printer
I promise I won’t go into COVID statistics or opinions, but the reality is that the success and continuation of the “ship of fools cruise” (as I’ve dubbed it) is dependent on the crew and passengers not becoming overwhelmingly infected. After testing 100% COVID free before stopping in French Polynesia, after bouncing around from island to island for a week, at least three cabins still had the dreaded red food tray stand outside their door (the shipboard equivalent to a cross-bones and skull quarantine sign). On the other hand, the entire ship went through a second COVID testing cycle without any additional infections before our stop at Los Angeles, so the ship is currently COVID-free.
From a functional standpoint, the maintenance of social distancing is largely fictional and, while masking is nearly universally maintained under most circumstances, since social distancing is not maintained during meals or drinking, there are significant lapses there as well.
Unfortunately, that means we are dependent on what’s left of the ship’s entertainment staff and the guest entertainers who have made it aboard. Before we joined, nearly the entire ship entertainment staff of singers and dancers were infected and isolated. One of them ended up with “Long-COVID” and, since, while not contagious, she is no longer able to sing properly, has been sent home. We will be picking up a replacement in Los Angeles who, after testing negative, will remain in isolation for ten days aboard the ship before participating in shows. The guest entertainment is similarly short-handed as two scheduled entertainers tested positive in Tahiti and were refused boarding.
Let’s face it, the easiest way to have no COVID cases aboard is not to allow any COVID cases aboard. The good news is that, presumably because 100% of the passengers and crew have been vaccinated, there have been no serious results of any COVID infection – with the exception of the singer who was sent home. Since a cruise of this length is not only a desirable activity compared to our existence at home, as well as a significant financial investment in lifestyle, being confined to a room for 10 days (or worse) is an incentive to continue to be vigilant.
It turns out that at least 50 passengers will be throwing in the towel and disembarking in Los Angeles and only two new ones will be boarding. Most of the “educational” assistants, such as bridge instructors, art teachers, guest lecturers and so on are disembarking in Barbados and it will be interesting to see if they will be replaced (and disheartening if they are not).
The day before we hit Los Angeles, all passengers received another COVID test (the crew gets one every week and any of the crew who are newly embarked get COVID boosters).
The cruise is clearly not profitable with only around 250 passengers and it will be a test of the cruise line’s resolve to continue past our stop at Miami. While the Caribbean is currently faring poorly when it comes to COVID spread (and I’m wondering which islands on our itinerary might be bypassed), much of Europe currently seems to be more fully vaccinated than the US and recovering more quickly from the Omicron wave, so our premise that what we are doing is safer than staying at home still seems to make sense. Of course, time will tell.