Editor’s Note: Here is the latest dispatch from Vicki Shurly, Director of Peninsula Community Library, who has been on the Norwegian Jewel cruise ship in the Pacific Ocean with her husband Bob – a dream trip on which they embarked in February before the COVID-19 virus pandemic spread across the globe. The ship was turned away from several ports across the ocean, but the tide has finally turned and the OMPers are on their way home!
Previous Installments: Part 1; Part 2; Part 3; Part 4; Part 5, Part 6, Part 7. Read on for Part 8 of their story, and feel free to leave encouraging thoughts and comments for Bob and Vicki in the comments section at the bottom of this story. Vicki wanted to be sure and thank everyone for all their prayers and well wishes as they navigate their way home.
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We are actually in the air, destination Los Angeles! The alarm on my phone went off at 3 a.m. this morning. No need to pack, as we had already sent our luggage off two nights before. I know Norwegian would have fetched it back last night had we really wanted it. However, with fresh underwear and our toothbrushes kept out, what else could we need?
We looked around our stateroom for hopefully the last time, grabbed our back packs and headed for the Crystal Atrium, where the Norwegian staff had set out coffee, tea, juice and pastries. It was a rather quiet group for 130 or so people. I suppose some of us weren’t quite willing to let ourselves believe that this time, it was going to happen.
Health Checks and Buses
Just after 4 a.m., the cruise director announced that officials were in place for health checks and that the buses had arrived. For the very first time since March 11 (when we last disembarked as ordinary tourists in Fiji), we walked off the ship into the terminal.
There were officials, of course, but they were friendly. They smiled! A smile, I have realized, makes a world of difference without the need to say a single word. Our temperatures were taken. We were asked if we had had any coughing or congestion in the past few weeks. We were asked our final destination. Home, I told him, but quickly added Traverse City, Michigan. He grinned, wished me aloha and safe travels.
As we boarded the bus, we were given a box lunch. Courtesy of the Norwegian Cruise Line crew, we were told. Soon, we were on our way with police escort front and back to the airport, flashers going. We were not taken to the airport terminal – the governor’s promise to the people of Hawaii was that we would be kept separated. And we were. The buses pulled up to a hanger. Each bus load of us – there were three – got off and identified our checked luggage which was loaded back onto the bus.
Then we waited in line again to have our carry-ons hand searched and for a body scan for anything not allowed on the plane. The clip on my bra set the buzzer off on the hand scanner, but the female TSA official knew exactly what it was. That has never happened before!
Feeling Like a Refugee, But Most Grateful
Back on the bus, the driver took us directly to the plane that would return us to the mainland. As we boarded from the tarmac, we were handed a second boxed lunch and a bottle of water compliments of Sun Country Airlines. In a way, I was feeling like a refugee, but I was most grateful. The older man in front of me wearing a brace would not let his wife or any passenger help with their luggage or their four box lunches until a security man stepped in and got him, baggage and food up the steep stairs.
There were many police officials surrounding the entry, both at the security check in the hanger and at the plane, but no one was unkind, many smiled and a few wished us well. As we waited in the que for clearance to take off, we noticed an Air Force fighter jet waiting behind us. I am sure it was just a coincidence, but it was honestly not beyond our imaginations to think it was there to make sure we took off! And we did!
Masks, Hand Sanitizer & COVID-19 Worries
We are starting a different journey. And while so many people were afraid of us, we are the ones now who are fearful. We have come out of a little bubble of a closed world that for whatever reason remained entirely virus free. We sailed before the pandemic. We were in the middle of the South Pacific when the rest of the world seemed suddenly immersed in a work of science fiction that was all too real. The disease was not with us on the ship, but will be all around us as we return home. We will need to avoid it in every nook and cranny wherein it lurks to get home safely.
We are on a chartered plane at the moment with fellow passengers. When we step off in L.A., we will know the worry and concern that all of you have had all these weeks. We will put on our masks, use our antibacterial wipes and hand sanitizer. A few people even thought to ask the ship’s crew for disposable gloves. Hopefully, we all make it home as healthy as we were when we left the Norwegian Jewel this morning.
Some people snapped a photo of the ship as the plane soared above. It is not beyond comprehension that some Jewel travelers will pick up the virus along the way, especially those returning to Spain, Italy, Germany and New York City. The very real possibility exists that a few or more will not make it through this scourge off the ship at all. Still, home is where we all want to be. Some passengers should already be there. It is just a few more hours for others, tomorrow perhaps for the rest of us!
Back on the Mainland
Arrived at LAX safely. We are back on the mainland! We were able to book a flight to Chicago at 11:20 p.m. and will be in Chicago in the morning. The lady at the counter felt so sorry for us – she had seen the news about the Jewel – that she waived the baggage fees with a welcome home.
We are still two-thirds of a country away from home, but we are getting there! Our masks are on and bacterial wipes and hand sanitizer are at the ready! We are not too worried about being around people here at the L.A. airport! No one is here. And if you have ever been through this airport, you know it is NEVER anything less than chaotic! Almost there!
A NOTE FROM JANE: I started Old Mission Gazette in 2015 because I felt a calling to provide the Old Mission Peninsula community with local news. After decades of writing for newspapers like the New York Times and Los Angeles Times, and magazines like Family Circle and Ladies' Home Journal, I really just wanted to write about my own community where I grew up on a cherry farm and raised my own family. So of course, I started my own newspaper. Because the Gazette is mainly reader-supported, I hope you'll consider tossing a few bucks my way if I mention your event, your business, your organization or your news item, or if you simply love reading about what's happening on the Old Mission Peninsula. Check out the donation page here. Thank you so much for your support. -jb