Editor’s Note: Here is the latest dispatch from Vicki Shurly, who is on the Norwegian Jewel cruise ship in the Pacific Ocean with her husband Bob – a dream trip on which they embarked in February. The ship has been turned away from several ports, but there now appears to be a plan in place. Click here for previous dispatches, including re-fueling in American Samoa and an announcement of where they’re headed. Read on for the latest…
Happy St Patrick’s Day! We have left American Samoa fully fueled. When we arrived late yesterday afternoon, the sun was shining and there was actually a cool breeze. It seemed that everyone was on a deck, at a rail longing to see land, which we haven’t seen in what seems forever.
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The harbor outside of Pago Pago in American Samoa is beautiful – high, uninhabited, dark green mountains, small business and residential areas near the shore, a coral reef and sandy beaches. Many U.S. citizens took a photo of the American flag on a nearby building. Very few workers were in the shipyard ashore. Some passengers waved. They did not get a wave back. One lady on the ship yelled out, “Hey, we are disease free!”
Anxious To Re-Connect With the Real World – Whatever That May Be
I think we are all anxious to reconnect with the real world. Yet, most of us realize that the real world we left is not the real world we are going back to. That was apparent immediately. Police cars guarded entrances to the shipyard gate. Mobile bright lights shone on the ship all night. We were forbidden from what the captain called “shore leave,” as though we were in the military.
Still, we all enjoyed walks around the ship and incredible views. We spent time watching the open air buses and cars, a sight from which we have been far removed. We marveled at the sea turtles, fish, urchins and very large bats that flew above before twilight. The local government need not have worried about anyone jumping ship. Where are you going to go in an island world, especially from a harbor with more jelly fish than I have ever seen? We all enjoyed the sea life, especially those turtles coming right up to the ship. They, at least, welcomed us.
We pulled out this morning, and as we did, the police cars left. The portable lamps were gone. They were there for us. I suppose we have become the cruise ship people – like refugees on the ocean blue. At least we still have all the amenities of the ship. The crew of Norwegian Cruise Line’s Jewel are taking great care of us all.
Headed to Honolulu – But Don’t Make Flight Arrangements
What is happening? Where are we going to end up? Those are still the questions. We are headed to Honolulu. We were told not to make flight arrangements, which makes everyone laugh. We have arranged and cancelled flights from so many ports now. To some of us, it is a message about how fast things are changing at the moment, in a world we don’t seem to be a part of.
People comment that the world may not even know we are out here, although we know that is not true. There is some sense that because we are disease free, we are not an issue. So we have five days at sea ahead, and will, as we are told at least now, arrive in Honolulu on March 22. Immigration officials will come aboard to verify that we are disease free. Then, hopefully, we will be free to go home.
Worries About Getting Home
Bob and I worry a great deal about those on the ship who are not American. They need to get home, too. There have been small informational gatherings of people from some of these countries. Our Australian friends have received letters from their government. They do not seem reassured. We hope that once we reach Hawaii – if we are allowed in Hawaii – our government or theirs takes care them, too, and gets them home to their loved ones.
We had dinner with a Canadian couple yesterday who worry they cannot get home through the U.S. and an American couple who flew to Sydney from Toronto and worry about being allowed into Canada where they left their car in the car park.
Life Aboard Ship – Our Own Little World
More passengers are out on the decks now – even at sea. We are all tired of the news reports. We are walking, running, taking photos, swimming. One lady runs every day on the short track to fight stress. We joke about how far away the next meal is since that is the big thing to look forward to. There IS plenty of food since the ship had been scheduled to go on before chaos erupted. The pantries and now the fuel tanks are full. That is, as long as we don’t float out here forever.
There are children on the ship of several nationalities. They unknowingly create joy for everyone when they skip by. I am sure they bring to mind children and grandchildren at home. The Australian pianist at last night’s program commented, “This was supposed to be my last concert on the ship, but I can promise you it is not.” She and the popular Australian singer Nikki Bennett are talking about performing for us together, as they are stuck on the ship, as well.
We ARE our own little world here. The anxiety comes from being so far from loved ones in a crisis. We all want to be home. There is just so much uncertainly in when and how.