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  1. Thanks for your kind thoughts in welcoming us home. We heard that Paul passed away several years ago, and we never did see Maria again. Bill & Mary Ann
  2. Report # 138 Our trek home….. March 24, 2020 Tuesday inside airport temperature, whatever that is It’s hard to remember when the day ended, and the next one began. With putting the watches ahead three hours after leaving Perth, and the flight times, it is confusing. Now it was time to go from the domestic terminal in Sydney to the international terminal, which was done by a bus transfer. Once in the spacious terminal, we noticed how empty it was. Like a ghost town, which was more than eerie. We already had our tickets, so all we needed to do was locate a kiosk to do the customs check. Although we had filled out the US Customs form on the previous flight, we did not need it. All we each needed to do was scan our passports, then answer the same questions that were on the form. A photo was taken (the worst we have ever seen), and a stamp was put in the back of the passport. Then we proceeded through the customs agent, and were free to go, bad photo and all. Finally at the gate, we were able to plug in the computer with the use of the adapter. It was a good way to spend the wait time by writing the blog, as things were happening so fast, it was getting hard to keep it all straight. While doing this, Bill went to exchange the last of the Aussie money we had left at a money exchange. The rate had changed quite a bit with the recent drop of the values, and the USD was not worth quite as much as when we bought it. Since the future trips we intend to do will not include Australia, it was senseless to keep any currency. Well back to the flight. Boarding for the giant Qantas airplane (789) was supposed to be 9:35am, but there was a delay, due to the fact that the plane was delayed from LAX. The 10:10am flight start was out the window, and would be further delayed due to the super-cleaning that was being done once it landed. We would guess that it was two hours later, that the flight crew arrived. And there were a lot of them for this size plane. The waiting area was filled with what seemed like hundreds of passengers, and the wheel-chair bound folks were already lining up in the front, as they are allowed to be. Don’t take this wrong, but a few of these people did not belong in wheelchairs. We recognized some of them from the Amsterdam. While waiting at both the Perth and Sydney airports, we noticed some of these folks were running at the last minute to buy food and beverages for their flights. Yes, running…..it was a miracle. Usually, when one of us with the leg brace stands near the front of the line, we are included in the first group boarding, along with the parents with children under five years old. Today, we did not insist on being part of that group, since many of them needed it more. But out of the blue, one of the escorts with a brand new type of transport wheelchair, insisted I ride with her, as she was able to ride by standing on the back of the vehicle. Made her happy that I reluctantly agreed. As it turned out, it was a long walk this time to the plane, and the ride was appreciated. We were on the upper level of business class , and the seats we had were the same “cave” beds as the previous flight. At least we knew how to use the controls for everything. We made ourselves comfortable, then listened to the announcement that the entire toilet system was not working. You have got to be kidding? We did not mind a further delay, but were concerned we would have to de-plane. A good sign came when the stewardess offered us a beverage, one of which was a really nice champagne. We both had two flutes, and now, we decided we were not moving anywhere. Finally, after waiting three hours for this flight to leave, the plane taxied down the runway by 1pm. No doubt about it, we would be late in arriving to LAX, but no sense worrying…..it was what it was, and arriving to the USA would be wonderful for us, even if we missed our last flight by a few hours. We did keep ourselves entertained with the TV and napping a bit between meals and movies. Perhaps we should have been trying to sleep, but this was normally our daytime, and we were wide awake. The flight was 13 hours and 50 minutes, maybe less, and it was also dark outside all of the way. These seats had several settings, which also included a gentle back massage feature, which we keep running most of the time. By the way, the meals, snacks, and beverages were very good and the service was more than excellent. The stewards and stewardesses checked on us constantly when we were awake, offering to do anything to keep us comfortable. Actually, the flight was smooth as silk, which was lucky. By the time we were approaching the coast of California, the sun was coming up. Initially, we were to land by 6am, but it was already close to 8am, and the next flight for us to San Francisco was scheduled to leave at 8:15am. No way we would make that. As it turned out, we found out that our flight as well as two earlier ones, had all been cancelled anyway. We were now going on an American Air Eagle flight home, and the agent kindly re-booked us on a 3pm airplane. So we faced an almost 8 hour layover, which we did not like, but we were so close to home, a few more hours would not kill us. But first, we had to go through the final TSA security check, which we had done on the two previous flights with no problems. The Australian TSA checks do not require us to take off our shoes. But here in Los Angeles, we had to take them off, since we did not earn the pre-check TSA stamps on our tickets. Then, one of our bags was pulled aside for further checking. Why, we still do not know, unless it was busy work for the agent. He proceeded to take each item out, insisting on swabbing some powder products, which passed through previous checks. At least, he did put everything back and was able to pull the zipper closed. Good thing we still had ample time before our flight left. A passenger standing behind me, was going through the same check with his stuff, but he was late for a flight. Jumping up and down did not make the agent move any faster, and probably was not a wise thing to do. Now the good news, was that we were able to use the American Admiral’s Lounge, which surprisingly had not been closed yet due to this virus. The one in Sydney was closed right before we had arrived there, which was understandable. Normally, we have short flights straight through, with no layovers. So having the use of this lounge with the amenities of all types of food and beverages, was a plus. Even better, there was room at the counter where we could plug in the computer and do some emailing. We helped ourselves to some breakfast snacks and coffee. Then later, we had an early lunch of a chicken quesadilla and one turkey club sandwich. They even had chips and salsa, as well as some desserts. We both had a large glass of draft beer as well, calming the nerves. We could have easily relaxed in their comfy chairs, but we feared falling asleep and missing the flight. So within an hour prior to departure, we had to leave the lounge. This terminal required a ride in a shuttle to a different terminal for commuter flights. We had a short wait, then boarded the small plane on the tarmac with about 18 other people. This has to be the first time that both of us slept before the flight took off, and woke up when we got there barely an hour after we left. Since we had no luggage to claim, we exited out the doors at the SFO airport, and were met with the best thing we had seen all day. It was a very large sign with our names printed on it with 12 inch high letters, held by our driver. Brought a smile instantly from both of us, as perhaps the driver was expecting very elderly folks. We’re not quite there yet………… Again, we have to add that this airport was so empty it was surreal. Many of the workers wore masks and gloves, and kept their distance. This will be something we might see when we get home too. The driver got us up to speed with what has been happening in this area. All types of closures, job losses, and fear of the virus was the same here as we heard worldwide. Much more of a revelation now that we are off of the cocoon of the ship, and back into reality. And the traffic going home would have been bumper-to-bumper during this commute time, taking up to three hours to get home. However today, the traffic was light, and the ride was little over an hour….a record speed. Arrived home after 6pm, and were never so happy to be here. We shall do some follow-up reports when we conquer the jetlag. May take a few days, but we will continue the saga with details of the insurance we need to deal with now. Not exactly the way we had wished to end a trip, but we are grateful to be home. Thanks to everyone with your emails which kept us in high spirits as we experienced this fateful trip. It meant a lot getting your thoughtful responses. Bill & Mary Ann
  3. Greeting fellow readers..... We arrived home after 6pm on Tuesday, after an 8 hour lay over in LAX. Just what we needed, right? At least we had use of the American Admiral's Club, which was very nice. We had good food and fast internet while waiting. Working on the next report when we are "un-jet-lagged". Stay tuned..... Bill & Mary Ann PS Yes, it was not 1012, but 2012. That's what happens when one is beyond tired.
  4. Hi Linda and Dave, So glad you are on your way home by now. We are sitting at LAX for seven hours, waiting for an afternoon flight that had to be re-booked, since we had a morning flight. The Sydney to LAX flight was delayed for three hours. Will be hard to get used to the time change as it happened so fast to most all of us. Best of luck....you will be fine! Mary Ann & Bill
  5. Report #137 Day Two in Perth, Australia March 23, 2020 Monday Sunny and 90 degrees Part#1 Of 1 63 Pictures Up at the crack of dawn, we went to breakfast at the hotel’s café around 8am. Posted on the door was the new norm called social-distancing, showing a picture of two people standing at arm’s length of 6 feet apart. The same applied to the tables, where we were seating far away from the few guests that were already there. They had a nice buffet set-up, but we decided against it, only because we did not know how many other hands had been in the food. Actually, that has been a concern of ours for years, especially on the ships. Lidos are fine, but only if they do not have self-service. Their meals were ample. One of us ordered the French toast with bacon, and the other had a breakfast sandwich. Orange juice and coffee was self-served. It took a minute to figure out their fancy coffee brewer, and one of us ended up with a cappucchino. That could easily become a bad habit. We also ran into Jeff and his wife once again. They will be flying out on the 24th, but really wished they could get out sooner. We all agreed it was nice to have this country hotel to relax at before we headed into the ant’s nest of big airports and crowds. The friendly waitress informed us that the inside seating of their restaurant would be closed for the remainder of the day, and indefinitely. We would be able to get meals through room service and dine in our rooms or at their outdoor patio area. We could see the disappointment on her face, as she will soon be out of a job. We needed some exercise, so we did what we do best - walk. Crossing the highway, we walked on the side of the street where most of the trees were. We discovered that a tributary of the Swan River had been hidden behind the grove of trees, and there was even a walkway around the shoreline. Of course, we headed down there to discover many birds. Gosh, this was right up our alley, and you know what? Even for the short time we were here, it took our minds off of this terribly unbelievable situation worldwide. Getting away from the busy highway, we found a series of park benches under the canopy of sycamores, acacias, and their ever-so-famous eucalyptus trees. It turned out to be a very sunny day here, but sitting in the shade of the trees was pleasant. Many locals were here strolling with their dogs or kids. And we did see birds like moorhens, magpie larks, pied crows, doves, an ibis, and one cormorant. Last but not least, we saw an Australian pelican giving us a pose for a great photo. Making our way to the end of the walkway, we found a small boat marina and multi-storied apartments and condos. We had back-tracked almost all the way back to the hotel. Even though this hotel was not the Ritz, it was a perfect fit for us. Relaxing at the pool with our feet in the water, we realized that we should change our shuttle ride from 8pm to 7pm, just in case the airport was busy. The “masked” shuttle driver was waiting by 7pm, transporting six of us. It was exactly a 10 minute ride. We had enough time at the airport to locate an adapter to buy, so now we could charge the computer while waiting. And we also had time to find something to eat, since we did not feel like a big meal at the hotel. None of the eat-in restaurants at the airport were open for diners. Only fast food style places were doing business as usual. Only one outlet offered pizza, so naturally we ordered a Margherita to go. Sure tasted good too. We needed to spend the rest of our coins, and they did accept them at the pharmacy for some snacks. Our flight from Perth to Sydney was scheduled to depart at 11pm. But due to delays, we did not board until close to midnight. At least we had booked business class seats, which is something we rarely do. This flight was 4 hours and 10 minutes, but not so painful in the “cave-like” seats that made into a real bed. We were served beverages and a light snack before the lights were turned off. There was a three hour time change by the time we arrived to Sydney, so right before the plane landed, we were served a breakfast. With a good TV, we tended to watch movies, instead of sleeping. Cat-napping was as good as it got. There is more, but we will save the rest for tomorrow’s report. Bill & Mary Ann
  6. Report #136 Kicked off..... March 22, 2020 Sunday Fremantle, Western Territory, Australia Partly sunny & 83 degrees Part #1 Of 1 51 Pictures The final morning of this world cruise was not a happy one. But joining our breakfast buddies was uplifting. This hour or so every morning has turned into a great meeting place where we share everything we know. First session was with Rich and Peg who made hotel and flight bookings ,only to have them be cancelled. When he checked on re-booking, the flight had gone up a lot. Same with the hotel in Fremantle, which is really bad. Dave and Linda, Mike and Nancy, and Leon and Sue had made their own bookings as well, except for one couple, who had purchased their air through HAL. They stressed over the slowness that it took the company to complete their exit plans, but eventually they would get off in Fremantle, spend a night, then fly the following day. As the morning advanced, the rumors were all over the place concerning changing conditions that the Australian government was imposing on foreign travelers, like all of us, to get home wherever that might be. One such story was that if we took the ship’s $59 shuttle bus to the airport, we could be trapped there until our flights left. This was not true. Some folks actually cancelled hotels on that rumor that restrictions were mandated that we could be made to stay inside our hotel rooms in any city. That could mean that we were not allowed to leave our room, and we would have to order room service meals. Again, not true, at least not yet. Our fear, due to another false story, was that if we were trapped at the airport, we would have to spend two days there. More rumors flew that there were no taxis at the airport to take us too our hotel. So with all this uncertainty, we made the final decision to take the chance, with the advice of Jay at the front desk, to keep our bus transfer to the airport, and ignore the stories. The window to debark today was from 8 to 11am, however, our purple tags were called around 9am, and we were the last group to leave for the day. Announcements followed up to proceed immediately to the gangway. The underlying feeling was that the situation could change at any moment, and our exit strategy would be for nothing. By 9:30am, we were completely packed with our hand carry bags, and lined up with so many unhappy folks, that it was depressing. Captain Mercer, many officers, and crew members were standing in a line on deck three as we all filed off on the gangway. There was even music and crew cheering as we left the ship. Truthfully, it seemed to make matters worse. Since we only had hand bags, and did not need to retrieve luggage, we left the terminal with only handing off our Australian landing cards to an official. Since we had cleared the country in Sydney, and never strayed into international waters, we did not have to go through customs again. Once outside, we were torn as to should we go on the bus, or take a taxi? There were four coaches waiting, and only one taxi I sight. No-brainer for us, we took the bus, and glad we did. Friends Mike and Pauline were going on that coach, so it was nice to join them for the 50 minute ride. Pauline joked that this was going to be our “safari” ride to the hotel instead of the real ones we had planned in Africa. One of the biggest complaints we were hearing today was the charge for this coach. Undoubtedly, we will all add this to the expense list for re-imbursement that they promised…maybe. We got to the Perth Airport at 10:40am, where everyone got off the bus. Some had a whole lot of luggage…like everything they had brought with them. And there were no trolleys anywhere to be found. More friends, Don and Jenny, arrived on the next bus. They had a late flight and will roam the airport all day. They have also decided to quit sailing on long cruises. In fact, never again. Believe us, after the stress of this experience, many long time HAL travelers will call it quits. After sharing final hugs and handshakes, and yeah, a few tears, we went outside and located a long line of taxi drivers. The first indication we had that the coronavirus has plagued this part of Australia, was when the friendly driver opened the back hatch of his car, and informed us that he was not allowed to touch our bags, and we had to put them in the car ourselves. Then he said we had to ride in the back seats, which we do anyway. Before he took off, he pulled out a can of Australia’s version of Lysol, spraying every vent in the car. He apologized, but we understand completely. He did not wear a mask and gloves. We knew the hotel was located within 10 minutes of the airport, but we could not help but notice our driver proceeded with extreme caution, going 20 mph tops. Worried he was going to charge us way too much, it ended up being the equivalent of $20. Believe us, it was worth every penny, although we were subjected to his ramblings on politics and why this is all happening. This hotel was located in a suburb called Belmont, and not like being in downtown Perth. Frankly, we were in no mood for a Ritz Carlton, and we found this hotel much to our liking. At least we found out that we were not restricted to being locked up in the room, and we were free to walk outside. At the front desk, our reservation was in their system, but we also had to give them our credit card. To our surprise, the agent asked for us to read her the numbers, because she was not allowed to touch the card. Wow, her associate used a Purell tissue to take the card and copy the numbers. They did ask where e have traveled in the last 14 days, which was in Australia. Then we were shown our room on the upper level, complete with a balcony facing the pool. We also added our names to their free shuttle to the airport tomorrow. The room was perfect, and even had a kitchenette with a refrigerator, freezer, microwave, toaster, and an invected set of burners. There was also a sink and cooking utensils. The only thing missing was a safe. There was internet here, of course, but we had one huge problem. We had failed to bring the adapter, having transferred it to the shipped luggage in order to lighten our load. Certainly the hotel concierge would have a loner, but they did not. They did try to give us ones that worked with phones, but not for the computer. They suggested that we might locate one across the road, so that was a good plan. We noticed that there were a few strip malls that included gas stations, casual restaurants, and some small businesses. There were two good choices like a 7-11 and a mini shop at the gas station. But when we looked for the adapter, there were none. Guess we will have to use the computer sparingly, and hope the battery will hold up. The most important thing was being able to track our flight and send a few short emails. There were many cafes and eateries here like Hungry Jacks, Dominos Pizza, and McDonalds. A few of them had customer dining inside, but most of the rest had take-out only. We did pick up some water, sodas, and snacks. The best treat was a package of Tim Tams. Relaxing at the pool, we took the time to write this report, wishing we had room to have packed our swimsuits. The lounges were so comfortable, we did not want to move. It was a hot day, but in the shade, it was OK. Getting a second surge of energy, we decided to take another walk across the street to another mini shop. Still having no luck with the adapter, we bought a few more snacks, and discovered the vendor did not take coins. Gosh, we are beginning to feel like pariahs. Honestly, we are not ill, but these days no one trusts that. It was time for dinner, and guess what? We did not have to dress up. We stayed at the hotel and dined in their Firehouse Restaurant. There were signs showing that we had to be spaced apart, not sitting close together. After we enjoyed a shared salad and two cheeseburgers with fries, we wandered outside for a walk around the pool area. That’s when we spotted a couple from the ship that we remembered from the 1012 world cruise. We chatted with them for a while before retiring for the evening. They had some more stories to share, which we will go into tomorrow. It was a long day, and we expect the same tomorrow. Bill & Mary Ann
  7. Greetings to our wonderful readers! We are currently in a hotel near the Perth airport, planning on flying out this evening at 11pm. As long as nothing gets cancelled, we should be OK. Working on reports, which will follow soon. Stay tuned..... Bill & Mary Ann
  8. Report #135 Fremantle, Western Territory, Australia March 21, 2020 Saturday Partly sunny & 83 degrees Part #1 Of 1 38 Pictures Since we will need to get up early for a busy day tomorrow, we will try to keep this report short and sweet. The Amsterdam slipped into the port of Fremantle this morning between 7 and 8am. The Seabourn Sojourn and Pacific Princess were already docked in the harbor. Watching the activity on the dock, we think that Seabourn was here perhaps yesterday, and had already debarked their guests. There was little activity near their berth, except for a barge that was fueling them. All of the shore side services were dealing with the Princess ship, which was also interrupted on their world cruise, like us. Being that they arrived first, we assumed that customs would deal with them first. But we did want to have breakfast, then came back because we were curious as to what would happen with their passengers. The distance from the cruise terminal and the lower promenade deck was short, so we were able to talk to many people on their way to see the customs officials. What they told many of us was quite disturbing, since they informed us that some of the Princess passengers were allowed to stay onboard and sail back to Los Angeles. Many chose to fly back to their homes from here, but for those who were checked by the ship’s medical staff and were approved to be compromised by flying, had to sign waivers, and could remain onboard. This news spread like wildfire, and now all here are wondering why them, and not some of us? Not sure if we were hearing this correctly, we went online and actually found the official letter that the Princess guests had received outlining their details. It was plain as the noses on our faces that what they reported was totally true. As the Princess custom’s clearance was taking more time than expected, the debarking process for the 200 ( a good guess) or so guests that were leaving today was delayed until 3:30pm. But right before the guests were leaving, Captain Mercer announced that the Australian government had said no guests would be allowed to stay in any hotel in Fremantle or Perth. We would be required to debark the ship and taken directly to the airport, even of our flights were many hours later. Shocked by this news, all of us were stroking out. Then, shortly after this was said, the Captain came back and stated that the government had changed their minds, and the hotel stays would be allowed. You know, we are pretty patient, but this is really pushing us to the edge. In addition, a strong message was printed on the front of the When & Where flyer today. It said that staying in Australia for a long period is not recommended. We are being urged to fly home as soon as possible, since restrictions are unpredictable and constantly changing. No kidding. Captain Mercer could not have emphasized this message more in his speeches. We are listening, and so are many of our friends. Later in the afternoon, after polishing off a nice bottle of Chandon champagne, we relaxed (really relaxed) outside the Ocean Bar, while watching the guests dance the fox trot, waltz, quick step, and even the Texas two-step. Why not? It is a good way to lift the spirits. Then down below on deck four, we witnessed the line of guests going to the front desk. We also had to make a visit there, since the preliminary statements that were sent out this morning were incorrect. The returned port charges were not entered correctly, but our accounts on the Navigator site was the right number, which was just under $1000 per person. A new statement was printed for us, and tomorrow we will get the final one. The remaining credit will be put on our credit card, since it was not spend-it-or-lose-it money. This made a whole lot of passengers happy. Our Aussie friends, Greg and Heo, had left the ship today, so we had Ron, a friend from past cruises, and Ellen, also a good friend to all, shared our table tonight. We tried not to get sentimental, because one of us, Barbie, does not like long and teary goodbyes. After we ate our dessert, she said “bye” and was off and running like she always does. Like all of us, she is really not happy with being “put off the ship” without thought of our real safety in this extreme situation. We truly feel that we will be OK, but Barb says her age is against her. No way……she is the youngest 80 plus year old that we know. We all said goodbye to our excellent waiters, who do not know how long it will take to get them back to Ft. Lauderdale. The crew has been stellar, and helped many of us that really needed the kindness to get through this. On our way out, we wished the several waiters we know the best of luck as they sail back to the USA. They in turn, wished us all a safe trip home. God-willing, all will go well. Will try to continue the blog with follow-up reports when our journey is complete. Please wish us luck! You have been a wonderful audience! Bill & Mary Ann
  9. Report # 134 Day at Sea March 20, 2020 Friday Partly cloudy & 84 degrees Part # 1 of 1 Today was one of events, planned and unplanned, as well as a day of details. The first event for us was securing new flight plans, which we figured the third time is a charm. It took most of the night to complete, but it was all there hiding in spam on the computer, which we found at 4am. Then the next thing we learned with an email from our buddy Barb, was that Australia was closing their country to all foreigners. Now that can be a huge problem with us docking in Freemantle tomorrow. One detail revealed to us from the Captain today was that we had cleared customs in Sydney, and we are considered in transit. Now that might not be the exact lingo, but it means that we are already within the country’s borders, and should not be turned away. Fingers crossed….. Other events included sales of all kinds, because the shops, casino, and some other services will be closed once we arrive to Freemantle. Final trivia took place, which must have been sad, because the folks that play really love the competition. But the biggest event had to be the combination Indonesia and Philippines Crew Show held in the Mainstage. As one might expect, it was standing room only with lots of tears. The crew has been stoic and professional, as well as friendly and even comforting to the guests. Most of them will be staying on the ship, while many will be sent home. During his PM talk, the Captain delivered his final position and weather conditions, as well as some details on what we can expect tomorrow and the two days to follow. The luggage tags for Fed Ex and the usual colored tags for luggage to be taken off would be delivered by 6pm. Finally, we have some directions towards the debarkation process. A small group will be leaving tomorrow, but not until they are seen by Australian Customs Authorities. The remainder of us will leave on March 22nd, and perhaps some on the 23rd. The ship is scheduled to depart Freemantle on March 23rd. Which direction they will go is still not clear. The Captain did mention for folks not to flood the front desk reps. Wonder how that went? Also during the afternoon, we had deliveries of two sets of face masks and rubber gloves, the same type the medical folks use here. Now this is getting scary, because everything we have witnessed by watching the news, is starting to happen here as far as precautions go. In addition, we both got a bottle of water, and the current Mariner tile. And this all came with the message: How blessed are we to have something that makes saying goodbye so hard. Then in the late afternoon, the most unexpected incident happened, when the Captain announced that a guest was going to be air-lifted to Geraldton. Earlier we had heard the call for the medical staff to go to deck six, and we were certain this was not a drill. Expecting a helicopter and an escort plane to arrive by 6:15pm, we were told to come inside from the outside decks and the verandas. Every outside deck was going to be closed down. The Crow’s Nest, Mainstage, and the spa were cleared of people, and we were told not to take any photos using a flash, even though it was still light outside. We were able to see the helicopter from our room window, and also the action happening on the bow as seen from our TV. Before the chopper got close, we spotted a group of workers taking down half of the flag post on the very front of the bow. The hanging lights had to be dropped too. The patient was lifted into the chopper without it landing. The ship also barely slowed down during this transfer. Lucky for the patient we were so close to shore to be able to make this rescue attempt. What a way to leave the ship. We certainly hope the guest, possibly a lady, will be OK. When we got our luggage package, there were only 2 labels for Fed Ex, even though we had asked for seven of them. We intend to ship every piece of luggage, and not be bothered with dragging anything to the airport. Knowing that there might be at least 500 people in line at the front desk, we made a phone call instead. Later this evening, the extra labels arrived. And yes, there was a continuous line at the front desk, because we watched from our special chairs on deck five. It was more relaxing watching the dancers in the Ocean Bar, who insist on staying positive. It helps. At 7:30pm, we ducked into the show lounge to listen to the first part of the variety show featuring the Shamrock Tenors. They were outstanding. Time for dinner. With a quick change, we realized this would be our final dinner together with the seven of us. Greg and Heo will be leaving tomorrow, eventually heading back to Sydney. So tonight was special. Renee, the manager from the spa and friend to all, also joined us. And Barb had invited one of the assistant cruise directors, Thomas. We were pretty jammed at the table, but it worked out OK. At 8:15pm, there was a Captain’s Farewell Toast, with a parade of the staff and crew through the dining room. Remember the times when this would have included the flaming Baked Alaskas? Those were the days…… We said farewell to our two buddies, but they will be back on next year’s world cruise, which is only 10 months away, God-willing. We will have one more dinner together tomorrow…sad, but inevitable that we all have to go home. This cruise is not going out without a whimper, that is for sure. Bill & Mary Ann
  10. Report #133 Day at Sea March 19, 2020 Thursday Partly cloudy & 84 degrees Part #1 Of 1 12 Pictures Another day brought more changes. More than we wanted actually. First of all, many of our friends found out today that their flights had been cancelled. Again, back to the drawing board. However, it was not that easy to re-book, since the internet problems continued to plague us all. At least being able to use the telephones at the front desk has been helpful for some, as not everyone onboard has computers or cell phones. We needed to get some smaller denominations for US cash, so we went to the front desk to find a constant line had formed with folks trying to figure out the new letter we had all received concerning the future cruise credit options that have been presented to us. The letter outlined some of the conditions that apply to the 125% cruise credit. Everyone we knew assumed that the 100% of the future cruise fare (less the port charges and taxes) would cover the entire trip. Now what about the extra 25%? The details were that it will not apply to shipboard credits that we could have used for tours, overland excursions, or even tipping. Now we are not sure what it can be used for. Some of our friends have decided to take the 50% cash back, with a 50% future cruise credit. In their hearts, they feel they will not be back on another grand voyage anytime too soon, if ever. This is a decision many of us will eventually make due to advanced age, declining health, or simply fear of a repeat of this fiasco. Unfortunately, this incident has pushed many passengers to the point of making that final decision to quit. Perhaps they will still go on shorter trips closer to home. By the way, it took over half an hour just to do the money exchange. While we were there, we picked up the form to fill out for the bus transfer to Perth, about an hour’s drive away from the port of Freemantle. This was offered by shore excursions for the price of $59 per person. Even though this will be better than trying to find a taxi, everyone we talked to were not happy that we are being charged for it. We have to keep reminding ourselves that this is not an “all-inclusive” cruise experience, and we can expect to be nickeled and dimed, as the old saying goes. At least, we will be closer to the airport where we are trying to book a hotel, and if it works, the hotel has a complimentary shuttle to the airport. As for us, we have continued to pursue booking a hotel in Perth for two days. Our email to our travel agency went out late last night, but we have yet to hear from them. While waiting and watching the computer spin and spin, we continued with some packing and re-arranging to accommodate the new crystal bowls. As much as we love presents, we sincerely hope these gifts were the final ones. If for some crazy reason they come up with the rolled suitcases, we will have to say no thanks. Sometime this morning, all of us got a notice that Orlando Ashford, the President of HAL, was giving a speech on channel 34 in our staterooms. Turning it on, we listened to Orlando give an explanation of exactly what is happening and the reasons they have to stop the cruise right now. Not only the Amsterdam, but all of the 14 HAL ships. In fact, every ship in the industry worldwide is being affected. He really did not add anything new, and neither did Dr. Grant Tarling, the Chief Medical Officer, who also had a follow-up talk concerning the coronavirus. There was some talk this morning among the guests that there may be a select few that will be staying on the ship due to advanced age or medical difficulties. Nothing can be confirmed at this point, so it is not worth repeating. Captain Mercer came on the speakers at 12:20pm, ship wide as well as in the rooms. He gave his normal nautical info, but then added reasons why we have picked up the speed since this morning. Doing 20 knots, we expected that something had changed. We are now trying to get into Freemantle a day earlier, on March 21st. If the local authorities allow it, we will be able to stay on the ship overnight. If we will be required to debark, we will be forced to spend the night in Freemantle…..something none of us are prepared for. Within minutes of ending his dialogue, the Captain came on and pleaded with the guests not to go to either the front desk or the guest relations manager with their questions. He asked for everyone to please wait until the formal letter came, outlining what he had said. As much as he tried to hide it, we could detect the dissatisfaction in his voice. It has been a trying time for every single one of us, and it is not over yet. At least the weather had cooled slightly from the past few days of extreme temps and humidity. It made for much more pleasant walking, although, the seas have become rolling once again. Not really deep swells, but enough to know we are on a ship. We have been very careful with stacking the packed suitcases and duffels, as they tend to slip off in rough seas. At 6pm this evening, all of the President’s Club members, new and current, were invited to an inauguration reception in the Explorer’s Lounge. Captain Mercer, Henk, and Hamish did the honors of “pinning” the newbies, about 20 of them, with the coveted President’s Club gold pins. Normally, once this ceremony is done, we would have been escorted to the Pinnacle Grill for a truly specially-prepared meal with every table hosted by the top officers, including the Captain. Because of this ridiculous situation and the lack of time, there was no Pinnacle Grill dinner for the group. We were also sad that our good friends, Leta and Bill, were not here to get their long-awaited pins. We pray that they made it home safely from Sydney, and are bunkering down in their Washington state home. Since they had left all of their belongings, including their computer, on the ship, they have not been able to communicate with anyone. At 7:30pm, we all met for a farewell dinner in the Pinnace Grill, invited by Susie and Woody in celebration of his birthday. Karleen, a friend to all of us, joined us as well. Most all of us ordered the savory grilled lamb chops for our mains. Of course, we started with the wedge salads with one slice of that excellent clothesline bacon on the side. Dessert was a chocolate mousse birthday cake, smooth as silk, and sinfully sweet. A wonderful time was had by all. By 9:30pm, Greg and Heo departed to watch the final show of the cruise…..Dance, featuring Amsterdam’s entertainers. We went for a few minutes, but then decided it was more important to check our emails. And guess what we had waiting for us? Several messages that our flight had been cancelled….something we had feared all day. If it was not for a phone call from our host at 11pm that they were trying to get ahold of us, we never would have seen the emails. They had not downloaded on our end. At least, our travel agency is working on this as we write. Will this madness ever stop??? Now we are getting really nervous that Australia may not even allow us into their country, and all the plans will be for nothing. Keeping our fingers crossed. And we did have two more gifts…. blue velvet-lined silver jewelry boxes engraved for the President’s Club members only. They are quite nice, but will have to be packed deeply in the suitcase. Bill & Mary Ann
  11. Report # 132 Day at Sea March 18, 2020 Wednesday Partly cloudy & 84 degrees Part # 1 of 1 Where to begin? The days of unrest and confusion seems to be ongoing as we get closer to the debarkation day of March 22nd. The most crippling thing happened when we lost the reliability of the internet, which was working up until last night. More or less. When so many people are trying to make independent air travel, the more frustrating it became when they repeatedly were cut off of the connection. Late last night, we did try to send an email to book our flight out of Perth, but we did not know whether or not it had sent. And not even when we woke up at 5am to check it. Sure is a test of our patience. However, we are the luckiest people on this ship, because we have the most excellent hosts onboard, who have gone the mile to help all of us. Today we were told by some friends that their hosts informed them that they were also on vacation, and would not have the capability to assist any of their clients with travel arrangements. We know for a fact that our hosts stayed up throughout the night, because of the impossible time difference between here and the states. There is a 15 hour difference from the west coast of Australia to the west coast of the USA. We also are aware that our travel agency staff are also working overtime, and into the late night as well. And our group on the Amsterdam are not their only clients, as they also have people stranded all over the world on other travel-related vacations. And later this afternoon, our hosts slipped a printed confirmation and travel itinerary under our door, so we could have it all in writing. So thoughtful. Knowing that the passengers are stressing even more now, Captain Mercer announced that the folks at HAL shore side (Seattle) are going to assist everyone with their air travel. Not only the folks that booked their air through HAL originally. This was a great relief to many people, especially those who learned early this morning that all Delta flights that were just booked out of Australia were cancelled. Back to the drawing board. And we just noticed that several complimentary phones were made available at the front desk for passengers to call to make plans to go home. The only drawback was that if they called an airline, they could have been put on hold for an hour or more. Around 1pm, a form was sent to the rooms for all to fill out their air arrangements. That way they promised to track everyone’s flights. This will be most helpful, and more so if the internet remains poor. Later in the day, after several people found their computers had jammed up, they were told that we were situated between the satellite footprints. They suggested that by tomorrow, we should be getting a better connection the closer we got to Freemantle. Sure hope they are correct. Actually by the late afternoon, we were able to get a small window where we got some emails and sent a few. There is hope….. The usual activities were happening onboard, except for port and tour talks. We, like everyone else, kept busy with the packing. And just like every year, we always ask ourselves why did we bring so much??? On the plus side, we purchased few souvenirs on this trips, except for a few t-shirts and fabric. The only extra things we had to pack were the gifts that we got onboard. And they seem to be arriving every night lately. There must have been a medallion awards ceremony in the Mainstage this afternoon. Normally, the group of President’s Club members have always been invited. But today, it was only those who were due a medallion. In fact, we heard that Captain Mercer was not available to attend, so each and every one of them were offered the chance to have a photo taken in the atrium outside of the Ocean Bar. Of course, this was exactly where we happened to be sitting today. The photo shop manager asked us politely if we could move our chairs for an hour, so the guests could pose in front of the atrium Astrolabium. Of course, we did, but we did not go far, just moved over 6 feet or so. Not a problem. If today was not busy enough for our hosts, they also had a cocktail party at 6:30pm in the Explorers Lounge. This group numbered over 100, along with several officers that joined us. Even Captain Mercer and Karen took the time to make an appearance. They sure are troopers under the circumstances. During the course of the party, it was announced by the future cruise consultant, Joanne, that the deadline for choosing the options of rebate was extended until June 1st, 2020. Time to think about making the best choice. This evening in the Pinnacle Grill was the Tamarind theme. We had checked out tonight’s menu in the dining room, and decided the Orange Dinner, with mostly Dutch cuisine , was not to our liking. But the Tamarind was, so we called and got reservations at 8pm. Expecting it to be very crowded, we were pleased that it was not. Perhaps most of the folks came early, as is the way things are leaning these days. We thought we had every Tamarind dinner booked in here, but this one must have been added recently. We had the Thai salad, spring rolls, wasabi-crusted steak (over-the-top delicious) with tempura onion rings and asparagus. We had one order of Hainan rice, then desserts of chocolate pudding-like filling in a chocolate cup, and one chocolate-laden fortune cookie with a side of ice cream. For lunch, we had only a little cheese and crackers, so we could enjoy dinner, but we were still full by the time we finished. We love this venue. It was still too early to go to the show of Chantelle Delaney, an international singer, songwriter, and guitarist. Bet she was good. Then back at the room, we found two more gifts. They were blue-streaked lead free crystal bowls from Kosta Boda, a Swedish design, but made in Turkey. We will have to make room for them in a suitcase where they will not break. You know, with all the grumblings we heard today, we also noticed that many people were still laughing and enjoying what is left of this cruise. And that was the message of the pillow card tonight: Without laughter, life on our planet would be intolerable. - Steve Allen – Bill & Mary Ann
  12. Report # 131 Day at Sea March 17, 2020 Tuesday Partly cloudy & 82 degrees Part # 1 of 1 Happy St. Patrick’s Day to all! Even though the predicted weather forecast was partly cloudy & 82 degrees, we did not believe it. Going outside for a morning walk, it was more humid and way hotter than 82 degrees. It’s hard to fathom that when we are surrounded with so much water, that it can be so completely uncomfortable. And the fact that the ship has been maintaining a slower speed of 12 to 14 knots, there is precious little breeze. This would be a great day to stay inside, and do the dirty deed……pack. We were so disappointed that none of us had received that vital letter outlining what the company planned on doing with us, as far as preparing everyone for the time schedule, luggage tags, airline flights, etc. Many of the guests have been having great difficulty trying to get flights out of Perth, and the tension has put many folks on edge, to say the least. Unfortunately, times like these can bring out the best, but also the worst, in people. Just go stand by the front desk, and you’ll hear some pretty bad stuff, we are sorry to report. Those who seek comfort, have gone shopping instead, to spend some of their use-it-or-lost-it shipboard credit. That did include us, as we have not put a dent very much in our account. So many things have not come out of it, such as the $450 we would have had to spend to get visas in three countries in Africa. And all of us are expecting refunded port charges for every port we missed. We estimate this is about 20 ports, give or take a few. These fees were included in our fares, and should be credited back to our accounts. Strangely, there has been no mention of this, but it usually happens a day or two before the end of a cruise. And the shops have put many specials on their products to entice the guests to spend-spend-spend. All of our luggage, four duffels and three suitcases, fit under the bed. So once we had those pulled out, we began to ziplock bag everything. Half of the toiletries were not used, so they were double-bagged. Funny how much time that takes. At least it did not seem like we just did this packing a few months ago. In reality, we had to start this process for the world cruise in late summer. All of the duffels were packed by September, since we left for the 51 day Tales of the South Pacific, which ended on December 18th. So that job was done 6 months ago. At his PM talk, Captain Mercer delivered his usual at sea reports on position and weather. And finally, but late afternoon, detailed letter arrived to our rooms. The message from the Captain began with, it’s been a tough few days, as we all know. Then he went into detail on why we are ending this trip in Freemantle. The biggest concern at the moment is getting us home in a timely manner, before things change to where we cannot make it home, wherever that may be. There are no guarantees with anything at this point. But he made it perfectly clear that no guests will be allowed to stay on this ship, since they do not even know at this point, how or where the ship will proceed. It will depend on many things, like the ability to bunker fuel and supplies along the way. Many ports are closing their doors to all cruise ships. And bottom line, they are not prepared to handle medical emergencies, and if necessary, cannot get guests to medical help onshore. Now it gets into technical areas and liability. HAL has no choice but to repatriate everyone ASAP. We will also have a choice of refunds, which we need to clarify what we actually read. Those who booked HAL Flight Ease, will have their flights rebooked for them. The remainder of guests need to make their own arrangements. Later on, we got forms to fill out for shipping our luggage and including extra pieces. Also we could add the insurance, just like we always do. At least, we will not have to pack our bags off of the ship, which would have been a nightmare in itself. We plan on taking just hand carry-ons, and shipping the rest. At least, we have some direction now, and things should fall into place. We will all feel better when we have booked our air reservations and possible hotel stays in Perth. Nothing else seemed important, except for the fact we are still healthy, and plan to stay that way. On a lighter note, we had a President’s Club cocktail party in the Piano Bar this evening. Most everyone attended, some of whom had already eaten their dinners before the 6:30pm cocktails. We were all greeted by the Captain, Henk, and Hamish as we entered the room. Then we found our tablemates, Susie and Woody, and our best buddy, Barb. Taking a corner booth with some extra chairs, we all had a fine time with more longtime friends. Feels more like extended family, since we have known most of these fine folks for years. The drinks flowed and the “green” canapies followed. The best were the little pups in a blanket. Captain Jonathan and his wife, Karen, joined us for a while, but lingered after the party was over. It was good for him to be able to relax in the company of people he has known ever since he took over as the Master in 2012. None of us envy his job…..not one iota. Retirement for him is looking better and better at this point, he admitted. Dinner was really special this evening, since it was the two of us and Barb, just like we started out on last year’s world cruise. We almost forgot how nice it was to talk continuously for two hours, most times not even concentrating on what we were eating. By the way, the dining room was decorated totally green for St. Pat’s Day, and the waiters wore green-sequined vests and bowties. And goofy green framed glasses. Entertainers were The Shamrock Tenors, a group that recently joined us in Cairns. Actually, they had sat near us at the pool yesterday, and we heard them quietly practicing their harmonizing. Pretty good. We had intended to go listen to them, but Susie and Woody joined us after attending a birthday dinner at another table, so we stayed back and chatted for a while. Back in our room, we had gifts of Seattle’s Best Truffles – 2 boxes of them. They really are good, and they will be enjoyed either here or at home. Another gift, was an hour back on the clocks. Always appreciated. The news around the world has been so bleak, so we might as well enjoy our few days we have left on the ship. Then it will be back to reality when and if we make it home. Bill & Mary Ann
  13. Report # 130 Day at Sea March 16, 2020 Monday Partly cloudy & 78 degrees Part # 1 of 1 If there was ever a day where things went bad, well, today was one of them. One of us is an early riser, who often turns on the computer first thing. What a surprise to see on some websites we read that this cruise was scheduled to end in Freemantle on March 22nd, not the 24th, as we had been told. Where had that information come from, we wanted to know? The stories from other friends at breakfast confirmed what we had read, even though we had not been told by the Captain here. In fact, that announcement was not made until 11:20am, and it came with other details we did not expect. Now this has not been put into writing yet, but every guest, with possibly a few exceptions, will have to debark in Freemantle on March 22nd. The few exceptions are those who can produce medical documents stating they cannot fly due to medical problems. Only those who purchased their air through HAL will have their flights booked for them by the people on the ship. Independent bookings were our responsibility, but we would receive a credit of up to $1250 per person for the air arrangements. Those who qualified for free shipping of their luggage will have those pieces sent home via Fed Ex or DHL from Florida. Suites and verandas have unlimited shipping, and the remainder of us up to an F category are allowed two pieces each. Every extra piece we send will be charged to our accounts, the same as if we were leaving from Ft. Lauderdale. Those who have no luggage allowance, will have to pay for all of the shipping costs. Needless to say, this did not go down well with the guests, who assumed all of us would get complimentary shipping, due to the circumstances. Then the Captain followed up with credits being given for this interruption of the cruise. It went something like this…..50% back of the cruise fare, with a 50% future cruise credit. OR, a 125% refund on a future cruise. Now is this for the portion we have missed, or is it for the entire voyage? Nobody knows. And so far this evening, a letter has not been delivered with any details. We did get a form for reimbursement charges we incur during our trips home. We will all need to save every receipt, and send copies to HAL, and hope for some reimbursement. Then we will have to figure out if our trip insurance will cover any of this when we get back home. We have never had to deal with any claims, and are not certain what will be covered, if anything under these most unusual circumstances. The biggest concern is the length of the flights involved for those of us who live in North America. As far as we know, the majority of guests are from the USA and Canada. There is not one person that is not upset with this dilemma. Well, we are happy for the Aussies onboard, like our tablemates Greg and Heo, who will have the shortest flight of all…..about 4 to 5 hours to get home to Sydney. Our excellent hosts did call us and offered to help with the arrangements, or relay the message to our travel agent for help. This all went down while Seattle time was close to 11pm on a Sunday evening. So we do not expect communications until tomorrow. It is hard, but we will have to be patient. We have probably said this before, but when we walked out of our house January 1st, we never could have envisioned such an outcome. Until we get something in writing, we decided to wait to start the packing. And since the weather was beautiful outside, we relaxed at the back pool, cooling off in it as well. Captain Mercer had to come on the speakers two more times during the afternoon. One time was to tell the folks not to crowd the front desk, and give the hotel director and customer relations manager a break, so they could go to lunch. They probably were ready to fly to the moon if they could. The next message was not to line up at the medical center to register reasons for not flying. You know, if they had a well thought out plan for us, none of this would be happening. Being left in limbo is not acceptable. There had been a planned complimentary sail away in the Lido Pool area had we actually gone to Darwin, which we did not. In fact, there will be no more ports on this trip, and we are on a slow boat to Freemantle. So in lieu of the free for all party, there were complimentary Happy Hours instead. Just out of curiosity, we did go to the Ocean Bar, take our favorite seats, and watched the crowd grow with “Happy Hour” drinkers. There were many of them. The Crow’s Nest and the Seaview Bar were also included in this endeavor. It was repeated once again at 6:30pm for one hour. During the lull at the first dinner time, we took advantage of the slower pace at the front desk, and picked up our passports, and asked if the “use it or lose it” credit on our shipboard account would be refunded. The answer was no. We would have to spend it onboard, the same as always. The gifted credit from our travel agency, as well as refunded port charges is ours to keep…either in cash the day before we leave, or directly credited back to our credit card. This evening was a special one for one of our tablemates, since it was his birthday. Woody and Susie was all set to have the special meal of empire chicken served, which was requested yesterday. However, it did not happen, and we still do not know why. Then we were all set for the upside down pineapple cake they requested, and that did not happen. Someone had royally messed up, so eventually a small individual cake arrived with a large group of waiters to sing the birthday song. Right before the cake came, Greg and Heo gifted us all with a box of Tim Tams, which was so sweet. As Barb was passing them, she clipped her glass of wine, and christened Woody with it. Can anything else go wrong??? Good thing he was not wearing white. The dining room manager tried to make excuses, but that only made things worse. Like we said, this had to be one of the most trying days ever. Instead of going to the last of the flutist’s show, we took a slow walk on the promenade deck. It was still warm and humid, even at 10pm at night. And by the way, the clocks went back one half hour tonight, probably the last one on this screwy world cruise. And we had gifts again….two Steiff penguins to add to our stuffed animal collection at home. We sure needed the smile it produced when we saw them sitting on the bed. Hope tomorrow is a better day……And by the way, on a positive note, the plants in our window garden are blooming. How about that? Bill & Mary Ann
  14. Report # 129 Day at Sea March 15, 2020 Sunday Sunny & 83 degrees Part # 1 of 1 Another day at sea, and another day closer to Darwin. Or are we? That was the question of the day at breakfast this morning. At that time, we happened to talk to a couple who had recently booked a 4 day 3 night overland from Darwin to Broome, in order to tour Kakadu National Park, cruise a billabong, and tour the area of Broome. It was not cheap with a price of $2300 per person, but this couple figured it would be a good way to see some part of the country they had never toured. However, the rumors that there was a possibility that once they left the ship, perhaps something would develop to prevent them from re-boarding. With that in mind, they went to the shore excursion folks only to learn that the tour was totally non-refundable, and if they cancelled, they would lose all of that money. By the way, this is their normal policy, but right now, nothing is normal. So now they are in a quandary as to what to do, and would have to weigh the pros and cons of going or not going. Well, later in the day, another curve ball was swung our way. Captain Mercer came on with his PM talk and said there were talks happening with the corporate offices in Seattle as well as in Australia, and we may have an answer to our dilemma. We would have to wait until later in the day, or even longer, since it is the weekend here and in Seattle. And now that New Zealand closed their ports to all cruise ships, can the same thing happen in Australia? Well, guess what? That is exactly what happened. Barb came back to visit with us for a while, before heading off to trivia. After that, she joined the regular group that likes to attend the Sunday Brunch, which may be the last chance to do that. She said later that it was well-attended today. Nice to have a brief period to talk about something else. After spending a pleasant day at the Seaview Pool, we came inside to be told that Australia had just issued a statement saying they also closed their ports to all cruise ships beginning at midnight. We think there is going to be a “Mutiny on the Amsterdam”, as many groups formed everywhere we went the rest of the day, discussing the various possibilities of what they thought HAL should do. More folks are printing letters to plead with the company to at least get us back closer to the United States, even if it is the west coast. The flights home from there would be a lot more convenient for the physically challenged and older guests, and there are a whole lot of these folks on this cruise. Then at 4:20pm, Captain Mercer came on the speakers once again, but pretty much said the same thing we already knew. Now we will not be stopping in Darwin. And maybe none of the ports of Exmouth, Broome, Geraldton, or Freemantle. Secretly, we think that HAL is still planning on debarking us in Freemantle (Perth) on March 24th. Several other ships are there as we write, and are sending their guests home from there. But we may have missed that window already. The only other communication we all got was a message explaining that some of the ship’s activities and events may change at the last minute. Frankly, many people we know feel that this cruise is virtually over, and are more concerned about staying healthy and getting home, than being worried about trivia or any other activity. Speaking for us, we do not need to be entertained constantly. And that is obvious when we see so many folks relaxing on the lounges all day long on the promenade deck. And there is nothing wrong with getting that fresh sea air, is there? Dinnertime had some nice choices on the menu. Starters were a cheese soufflé, tortellini soup, and steak tartare. Mains were prime rib and sweet and sour breaded shrimp. We ordered one of each, and shared with each other. Bread and butter is now being served by our waiter, although we still pass a large platter of fresh veggies every night. We also have the crispy bread sticks as well as lavage, the thin triangles of cracker-like bread. Dessert for us were one panna cotta and a fresh fruit plate, always a winner. The entertainer this evening was the harpist/singer Alana Conway, the Aussie with much talent. Her performance was stellar once again. Now we wonder what news will come tomorrow? We do have to add that the president of our travel agency issued a letter via the hosts onboard, encouraging all of us with their continued support from their end. They will work with each and every one of us to help us through this dilemma. Tonight we all agreed that someday we will all talk about what an experience this has turned out to be. Hopefully, never to be repeated. Bill & Mary Ann PS Thanks for the explanation of “going troppo” in Australia. Makes perfect sense to us as the heat and humidity would make one crazy.
  15. Report # 128 Day at Sea - The Great Barrier Reef & Far North Region March 14, 2020 Saturday Partly sunny & 78 degrees Part # 1 of 1 What a difference a day makes. And that is a really loaded statement. As most everyone already is aware, it was announced at high noon by Captain Mercer that this world cruise will be ending in Freemantle (Perth), Australia on March 24th. Well, so much for all of the anxious speculation that has circulating among the guests. Can’t say we were surprised, as the situation with the coronavirus has been escalating at a rapid speed this last week. Once Princess Cruise Lines suspended their ships sailings, we expected it was a matter of time that Holland America Line would follow suit. The unfortunate aspect of this sudden announcement relayed to us from the corporate offices in Seattle was not well thought out, in our opinion, because the hundreds of pertinent questions we all have were not readily addressed. Apparently the news leaked well ahead of the ship’s personnel to provide a plan for all of us concerned guests. Now we sit waiting, many biting their nails, trying to figure out the details. The most immediate question involves air travel, and where do we start to make plans on flying back to the United States. Those who booked air with HAL will be re-directed. The majority of us that did independent air will have to figure it out ourselves. At this very moment, we will have nine days left to get this right, unless the majority of the passengers , who happen to be from North America (USA and Canada), will be successful in pleading with the company to get us back on this ship to the west coast of the USA. We heard through the grapevine that a petition has been drafted to do just that. Or, perhaps we are dreaming that any of us have control of this unprecedented situation. Once the company’s plan is revealed, we shall inform all of you. Our breakfast duo waiters, Gan and Danu, mentioned that they were advised that their contracts will extend to mid-June, instead of ending May 12th. This would keep them on during the planned dry docking in the Caribbean. But as the day advanced, and we got the message of the end of this cruise, it was suggested that perhaps this ship will not go for the 30 million dollar retrofit. It seems nothing is set in stone at this point. Since it was so nice out back, we decided to relax at the Seaview Pool, enjoying the sun while it was out. Walking the promenade deck earlier, we found it was very humid, but back here, we had a most wonderful breeze. Barb even joined us to discuss the disturbing message from the Captain. We are all concerned on how we will get home in a timely manner. We did get our final delivery of sodas for our President’s Club amenity. The flowers we ordered are not up to snuff, so the delivery will be delayed until after Darwin. Probably should cancel it and get vitamin water instead. Later in the afternoon, one of us took the time to email family and friends of the recent changes in our itinerary, while the other took a walk, running into friends that had major concerns. While on his way back, he happened to run into the hotel director, Henk, who invited him into his office to discuss the situation. He did admit that it was unfortunate that we have no info yet, but he did add not to begin packing as of yet. He said wait a day. A tiny bit of encouragement is better than nothing we guess. Later in the afternoon, we all got a written message from Henk to hang in there, and give the corporate employees a chance to focus on supporting the guests impacted by these changes. Obviously, the guests are up in arms and need answers as soon as possible. His message ended by saying they share our concerns and will continue to do their utmost to ensure the safety and well-being of all on board. The drama continued at dinner, of course. This evening’s theme was under the sea, a gala event. Too bad the air-conditioning was not working well, as the fellows all endured the humidity wearing the tux or suit jackets. We did have a host, Kristen, the marketing manager on board. We have known her for three years now, and she is very easy to engage. Young too. The only thing she could add concerning our wish to continue sailing towards the west coast of America, was that we were not provisioned to do so at this point. So this guest petition may not amount to a hill of beans. Anyway, we both ordered the shrimp cocktail, while escargots and caviar were the alternates. Entrees for us were halibut fish and chips, excellent choices according to Greg and Heo, who had the duck, which earned a “just OK”. Desserts were a choice of soufflé, key lime pie, or carrot cake. We chose the last two, and shared with each other. It was a toss-up as to which was better. Kristen added the wine (or Coke), and everyone was happy with that. “On Tour” was the theme for the Amsterdam’s singers and dancers this evening. They put such energy into these shows, it really delights the guests. And we really need a lot of that right now……delightment. Gifts awaited us in our rooms. They were two Grand World Voyage plates commemorating “The Cruise That Almost Was”. How appropriate. At least someone has a sense of humor, and we can guess who it is…..our hotel director? And the clocks went back ½ hour tonight, which will happen one more time after leaving Darwin in two days. Wonder what other surprises are awaiting us tomorrow? Bill & Mary Ann
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