February 14, 2020, Cruising off the North Coast of Australia.
As the elevator door opened, I heard one of the staff say to a colleague who was holding a box of pencils and pads of paper for trivia “I’m not in the mood for this.” She looked embarrassed when saw me enter the elevator. “Don’t worry, neither do I.”
At noon today Captain Mercer announced that because of the COVID-19 virus Holland America is suspending operations and our cruise will end on March 24 in Fremantle, the port for Perth. I understand the decision, with an increasing number of ports denying entry to cruise ships Amsterdam could become the new “Flying Dutchman.” After their experience with the Westerdam I can understand why they are gun shy.
A number of us sent feedback messages to Holland America on their app. Mine pointed out that Perth has lousy international connections and extending the cruise to Melbourne or Sydney may actually save HAL money (Perth to Sydney or Melbourne is like New York to Seattle). It would cost them less to fly us home, they would have a few days less to refund us for and they have staff on contract anyway. My second suggestion is to at least let us use the ship as a hotel for the evenings of March 24 and 25 to allow us time to see Perth, get organized and get home.
Apparently, there were a lot of people making suggestions. We got a memo tonight reading”
“…these have all been forwarded to our corporate office for return replies back to us all. Given the complexity of these questions, we anticipate for the replies to take a day or so, and we ask for your patience in the interim while these answers are being formulated. We will revert duly soonest upon receipt.”
I think this was a rushed response.
Tonight, we also got our souvenir Royal Goedewaagen Grand World Voyage plates. They have the map of the cruise, as planed, on them. They weigh enough that they will probably cost us $100 bucks to fly back to the States from Australia. The card that came with them read.
“Now truly a collector’s item… Commemorates the cruise that almost was.”
So, this cruise ends early and we need to fly home, assuming we can get flights. The internet is not stable enough to log onto the airline webpages. I suspect that everyone else on the ship was trying to do the same thing. We have a few days.
On the positive side the off-ship overland 4-day excursion we booked from Darwin to Broome though the Outback (I wonder if they have bloomin’ onions) is still on. We leave the ship Monday, return to it on Thursday. We’re excited about this opportunity. The only downside is those sea days we will be missing are probably when Holland America will try to solidify arrangements for our return. Well, we are in no rush to get home.
I can’t post without pictures. I took these yesterday as we cruised through channels between the inner and outer Great Barrier Reefs. While we couldn’t see the reefs we saw several coral islands, sandy beaches and shallow parts where the water changed color, all capped by a beautiful sunset.
The next dispatches will probably be from the Outback, then a couple of more from the ship before we spend 41 hours in a tin tube heading back to Alaska.