What a difference a day makes!
One moment I am sailing around the world with wonderful friends – old and new – and the next moment I am in the Sheraton Rio hotel overlooking its own private beach and the beach at LeBlon. Beautiful setting in which to wind down after a few hectic days.
After my last post where they said we could get off in Cape Town, our halfway point or carry on with the cruise, I was leaning toward getting off in Cape Town. Then Oceania was able to reinstate the Nepal/Bhutan/Kathmandu overland trip leaving from India instead of Myanmar and returning to the ship five days later in Sri Lanka. From there the itinerary would take us south to Australia and New Zealand and then back to the states via French Polynesia and Hawaii. Once Kathmandu was reinstated, that made up my mind. I was staying!!
At this point we were still on the west side of South America and I was loving the places we were visiting -Peru, Chile, and then on to Argentina, Uruguay, Brazil. We were able to do our overland to Machu Picchu – amazing couple of days and I will blog about it even though I am back home. It was an amazing experience.
We missed the Falklands because of high winds and weather and carried on up the east coast of South America. The rumors on board were rampant. What were we doing? Where were we going? Cruise ships were stuck at sea all over the place and not able to dock. India had closed it ports. Then Sri Lanka had closed, and finally as the world seemed to be shutting down, Oceania was given her orders from head office to take all ships and passengers to their nearest ports and disembark. That was either unlucky or lucky Friday March 13. Our port was Rio De Janeiro and I think it was lucky because had we been at sea any longer we may not have been able to dock anywhere or get back home so easily.
I would like to say here what a fabulous job Oceania’s Insignia, her officers and crew did to keep us all healthy on board. We were in red zone mode and everything, including us, was being wiped down, spritzed with disinfectant before entering any dining area, encouraged to wash wash wash and disinfect our hands, and don’t touch our faces. And even though the crew was working overtime, they were still smiling and lovely to be with. We did not have one case of the virus on board and that is probably why we were allowed to disembark in Rio. There were passengers on board who were not happy. They were saying they must have known we were going to quit in Rio, and didn’t tell us! But I think it was as much a surprise for our ship’s officers as it was for us. One hundred new crew members boarded in Rio from all parts of the world. If Oceania had known, I am sure they would not have incurred the expense of bringing all these people on board, only to have to send them back home again. Crew was shocked. You could see it in their faces. For many this is a way to make decent money to take home to their families and now it was over for them also. I for one commend Insignia for keeping us healthy and happy in a situation which was not of their making.
All passengers had two days to pack, disembark and everyone was making plans to get back home. On Sunday March 15, five of us – Brian & Barb O’Dell, Kathy & Gord Feldmann and myself and about 20 bags, checked into the Sheraton Rio. Kathy did the booking and chose the club floor for us where you get breakfast, dinner and drinks – as much as you want and we did have our share of caipirinhas!!! It’s the local drink made with sugar cane. Our justification, as if we needed one, was they were probably killing the virus. They have a lovely swimming pool and a private beach, which was great because nothing was open now in Rio – no shopping, very few restaurants, all touristy places including Sugar Loaf and Christ the Redeemer and all beaches were closed.
So we all re-organized our suitcases. Luggage Forward does not operate out of Brazil, so I now had the two large suitcases that were shipped from my condo in Toronto before Christmas to deal with, along with the suitcase and carry-on I travelled to Miami with back at the beginning of January.
My biggest surprise though was the number of men, women & children at the airport in Rio with masks and rubber gloves. We have been in this cocoon called Insignia, and yes we heard the reports of what was happening on the outside, but I was unprepared for what I saw.
First of all I didn’t have a mask or gloves. So I was trying not to breathe deeply. Hard when you are pushing 1000 pounds (exageration it just felt like that) of suitcases. It was also difficult to stay out of close proximity with others. It was crowded. So for the first time I was a little worried about this whole virus thing. Oceania had said they would reimburse us for any costs incurred in getting our suitcases home. I was flying with an airline I had never heard of before called GOL – a local line, and they were great. God bless them.
From Sao Paulo, I had the red eye special with Air Canada direct to Toronto and arrived at 5 am. Coming through customs, we were only asked if we had a cold, cough or fever and if the answer was no, given a paper with instruction on what to do to stay healthy and told to exit. No one took my temperature. I don’t know what happened to anyone who said yes. But I’m thinking they could have at least given us a roll of toilet paper!!!
My son Rob did a shopping for me just before I got back, so I have enough food to last. And yes I have toilet paper!!! Who knew? And why are people hoarding toilet paper? Someone did a Mensa type question that said if you bought the large package of toilet paper from Costco with x number of rolls, and with x number of sheets per roll. How many times would you have to go to the bathroom before you ran out? It was something like 182 times per day. Great to have a good sense of humor at times like this.
Along with my stock of food, there was a bottle of wine from a neighbor saying “welcome home”, and two jars of honey from my property manager. We have bee hives on the roof of our condo and those little bumble bees are producing. Also my friend Nola in Oakville is quarantined and she says every evening she has her “quarantini” and that keeps her happy. Hmmm, food (or drink) for thought.
And as for me, yes I am disappointed our world cruise ended. I am missing all the wonderful people I was sailing with and there were tears as we parted company on the ship. But I am super happy to be back in my little home, quarantine or not, and I have more than enough ‘stuff’, not to mention few blogs to catch up on, to do here to keep me busy for at least two weeks and no excuses!!!! My wish is that everyone, passengers, crew and officers all got back home safe and sound and without incident and most important healthy!! There will be other cruises!