Editor’s Note: Here is the latest dispatch from Vicki Shurly, Director of Peninsula Community Library, 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 before the COVID-19 virus pandemic spread across the globe. The ship has been turned away from several ports, including, possibly, their latest option, Hawaii.
Previous Installments: Part 1; Part 2; Part 3; Part 4. Read on for Part 5 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.
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Also … Vicki said to be sure and thank everyone for their comments, prayers and well wishes for her and Bob. Thank you! They are very much appreciated as they continue to navigate their way back home.
We crossed the equator back into the northern hemisphere today. The air is a lovely warm and less humid. The azure and sometimes turquoise sea is moderately wavy.
Running on one propeller with the added excitement of white caps makes for a rock and roll dance upon the deck. I like the way it feels, but it is frightening to some as it reminds them that the ship has a mechanical issue. Once in a while, someone will lose their balance and careen into another person or rail. Mostly, we laugh about it.
People either stand at the rail quietly gazing out in contemplation or gather in small groups sharing news and thoughts about what the future holds – in our little village on the sea and out in the world. We were told officially that the Holland America ship, the Maasdam, was allowed to refuel in Honolulu, but then sent on its way to San Diego after sick passengers were taken off.
The Propeller Issue – a Blessing in Disguise?
We hope our fate is different, as we are amazingly healthy and there is the propeller issue. Amusingly, passengers actually went to check on it this morning. They wanted to assure themselves that it was still malfunctioning – a possible “pass go card” to disembarkation, along with our good health. You cannot, of course, actually see the huge propellers, merely the wake they leave behind in the ocean.
There is an odd combination of humor and melancholy aboard. We try to smile at each other often. Humor is easy to find. So many refer to “Groundhog Day” – the Bill Murray movie. What am I going to do today? Probably the same thing in the same order as I did yesterday!
“A Viral War A-Raging”
The Australian pop singer and classical pianist came together to give a somewhat impromptu concert. They had never played together. They included pieces from Streisand to Bach, joking that if not for the situation, they probably would have never crossed paths.
They even included a song that a passenger wrote to the tune of Roger Whittaker’s “The Last Farewell.” I don’t remember all the words but it started out, “We hear there is a viral war a-raging.” It went on to describe our journey, the wonderful crew that has taken such good care of us, and the stress of finding our way home.
There were some humorous things, too. It was a bit corny, I suppose, but even the concert pianist laughed and cried, as did the audience. It received a standing ovation. We come from all corners of the earth, but this is a mutually shared experience that is difficult to describe to the outside world.
Food Could Become an Issue
Most of us are aware that food could become an issue if we are not allowed to restock in Honolulu and are sent on our way. A crew member shared – and generally, they say they know no more than we do – that they are restricted to one protein item per day. There is still food, but offerings now tend to be mixes of things, and many fresh items have disappeared.
If one asks for tea for more than one person, you will most likely get a pot of water and one tea bag. Some people press, but most are understanding. We had breakfast with a man from Illinois, two Australian ladies, and a lady from Canada, and we shared a plate of toast with a tiny pat of butter. Their breakfasts were served, but mine never came. That’s okay – we have enough!
Still in the Dark About Hawaii
We are still in the dark about Hawaii. The Australians have a plan, not official or confirmed, but more a hopeful wish. This is what one of them told me: Six buses could meet them at the ship, hurry them to a plane chartered by their government, and have them back in Sydney in nine and a half hours! We are thinking creatively if nothing else!
The reality is that nothing will be that easy. Once we leave the ship, Norwegian no longer has a responsibility for us. I am sure that they and their insurer, in spite of the incredible care they have taken of us, are anxious to have us off their hands on this now fare-free adventure. We will be on our own, and some will have it harder than others.
A young man from Botswana told us that there is little hope that he will return home any time soon. He flew to Sydney via Spain, which is closed to him now. We shall see what happens when we reach Honolulu.
We cross into U.S. territorial waters tomorrow (Editor’s Note: Today – Sunday, March 22) at 2 p.m. Customs and Border Control will enter the ship once we reach port in Honolulu at 4:30 p.m. U.S. citizens will be subject to inspection at one end of the ship, and non U.S. citizens at the other. We are hopeful!
Editor’s Note, March 22, 2020, 4 p.m. ET: According to this story published on Hawaii News Now this morning, all passengers will disembark the Norwegian Jewel and fly home from there. Let’s hope that’s how it goes! Here is a letter received by Norwegian Jewel guests dated today which spells out the immigration protocols…