23 March The Journey Home

Our Cruise up until now had been well organized and a lot of fun. We were now in unprecedented circumstances and no one was coping well. To be fair to disembark three thousand people when no country wanted us there was never going to be easy.

We left our luggage at the theatre entrance and were herded inside. We queued to fill in yet another form and received a number 10 stuck onto us.  Then we waited again.

“Will all passengers with number 2 go below” and we waited then number 3 was called then number 4. The guy on the stage who was trying to sort things out was getting stressed. Then it all got just too much for him “Anyone who has a number go below”

So we traipsed out and collected gloves a mask and our luggage, but it seemed we had not had our temperature checked.  We had to go in again it was now total chaos. We had been over two hours and where our luggage was, was a toilet. So I made a quick call, but for some reason that totally defies logic, they had taken this opportunity to clean the ladies.

Once outside the ship we were in some alien hostile world.  We were huddled together on a cold windswept dockside. Across the road was a terminus with two men standing guard.

I was not dressed for this and no one was helping so I crossed into the building, followed by the other passengers who had been standing with me.

We passed through stopping various times to hand over forms and answer questions. At every stop nobody told us what was going on or where we should go next. We wandered around lost until finally we arrived outside again and saw a row of buses. We were not yet free though we had to wait until we had permission to get on.

I put our cases into the boot and got on the bus “Fill from the back and leave a seat between you” we were told.  We had all been dancing together and socializing until an hour ago, even herded together in the theatre. One guy was most put out when told to sit separate from his wife “We were sleeping together last night” He said.

It took us nearly an hour to reach the airport. Once there we again did not know where to go, eventually we found a queue for the plane we were due to get on.  I got to the Check in and Andy was there before us. He got through but when we got there, there was a problem.  At first we got no indication what it was then she said “The gate is closed”. She asked who was in charge and we told her we had just been dumped here. Then she asked how many were for this flight. I turned around and shouted “WHO Is ON Flight 238?” everyone in the queue behind us put their hands up.

We now had all the check in desks occupied and were not going anywhere. Next She said that Viv Was now Ok.  We both said “That is not happening, we fly together or not at all” Then there was more panicking.

Eventually we got a new flight number and headed through flight side. Once there we saw Andy “You’ve missed you plane” Viv said. We pointed him to the information point, which by luck, we happened upon. Until then we too had been lost, there was nobody in the airport giving directions and no notices telling us where we should be.

We managed to get some crisps and a drink in a kiosk but otherwise we were left totally alone, It was like some post apocalyptic world.

Up until now we had been kept separate but here at the gate we could sit together, but as we passed through we were again separated, until we got down onto the tarmac. Then we were herded onto a bus like cattle and driven at speed across to the other side of the airfield. On the plane we were again made to sit separately. If we had got contaminated on the bus, we could now keep it to ourselves.

I found out how useless the face masks are. Unused to wearing one and not of the best quality I was constantly touching it. If I get Corona I know exactly where from.

Some good news Andy is sitting opposite Viv on the plane, we don’t know how but we are happy that he has made it.

We arrive back safely to Heathrow and there is some semblance of sanity here. People are still wearing face masks and keeping their distance, bur things seem to be moving normally. We see Andy again at baggage reclaim and we talk about getting a car. He does not have his licence with him, so I agree to take him home. It will add to our journey time, but I could not just leave him.

At the Enterprise desk there is just a phone and we order a car.  We are not yet into this quarantine thing, and it was only later we realized what a contamination risk the phone was.  We have eaten nothing for hours and at the office Viv fights with the vending machine, eventually getting two chocolate bars. We have a Dacia Duster to drive home in, it brings back memories of the 1980s for me, but this one seems a better car. It never occurs to us that we could have got contaminated by the telephone.

We finally drop Andy off just before midnight in Stafford, and we have trouble opening the boot. No one had thought to tell us how to operate it. We managed to get it open but did not know how. Luckily we had Andy’s bags out getting ours out could be done in daylight if we have a problem. It is more than an hour home from here but Viv has bought a sandwich so we stop off to eat it. The traffic is good, because I think people are not travelling. When we finally arrive home we are greeted by Mary and a very cold house.

I still struggle to open the boot, but somehow it opens and we get our luggage out. It seems I am not the only one to have problems. when I returned the car to Chester the guy there said that one lady had her shopping in the boot for a week and could not get it out.

We called at the local Coop on the way back. I stayed in the car while Viv got some essentials. Many of you will already be familiar with the routine, but to us it was an alien world, one way walking, social distancing and only fifteen in the shop.

Did those so desperate to get off the ship know what they were leaving for? I wonder.

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22 March Rome

After two days in Gerona we have sailed to Rome. We are told that we will disembark here, only time will tell.

Meanwhile we have all the daily activities to attend. There is less of the animation team as they are attending to people getting them off the ship.

The animation team have organized another party night in Rhapsody. We were still having fun in Round the clock but decided to go down there.  There was a different feel to the night.  I suppose it was me but I never recognized any of the people on the dance floor and we did not get up much. There was no space to sit either we sat behind the glass panel and I was struggling to get through my G&T.

I asked Ars for a chocolate but The Amarillo had closed early and I could not have it.  A Scots guy said he had some packets and brought me some Ars then brought me two cups and some hot water. Nice that people are so kind and Angela brought me some Rennies. But somehow this evening fell a bit flat. Eddie was definitely the worse for wear and we all went to bed a bit early.

The following morning we had our breakfast  and waited around. The animation team were all busy, and it was looking more and more like we would be leaving.

We socialized in the Rhapsody bar, drank coffees and our new drink “Pink Panther” a non alcoholic cocktail. The group we usually sit with here has been broken up there are two sisters who are still here but the two couples who sat with them have been sent home, or at least no longer on the boat.

I checked around midday and our cabin has been made up. Does this mean we are to stay another night? Our bags are packed ready to leave at a moments notice, but I have my doubts we will be leaving.

Then mid afternoon there is a call “All Passengers from cabins **** go to the Theatre” They called so many cabin numbers including the next one to ours, but we were still here. Later there was another Call “All remaining English speaking Passengers go to the Theatre”

I guess this was it.

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19 March Gerona

We have sailed to Gerona and understand that some will be disembarking today.

Despite the letter we got, all the dance events in the day have gone ahead. Viv did not rouse until almost eleven as we were told that the animation team events would not be on. I had got up and had my breakfast and was in The Rhapsody when they did the latino class. I was happy to partner another lady and afterwards I went to the cabin. Viv was up by now and having some breakfast. She was not best pleased when I told her about the class.

The afternoon classes were also on, it was all a bit of a mystery. Two other friends had missed some classes and we got them to join in as well later.

We keep getting called down to Ricks Bar to fill yet more forms in. Mainly telling the Italian Authorities we do not have Corona Virus.

At the restaurant I learned that the couple who sat with us were about to leave. Now these two had been on to The BBC and had also tried to get off at Marseilles. I found out later that all the Argentines were also getting off here. Well they seemed happy about it, I was not so sure.

I found out afterwards that they had been on a bus for six hours and then left in the airport. It looks to me like they were getting rid of the troublemakers, because after they had gone all the entertainment was back on. Our next stop was to be Rome, but we would be sailing in comfort.

The music was back again that night, but my alcohol intake was down, you can only drink so much gin I find. Still we watched Gerona disappear as we partied again into the night.

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17 March Marseilles

We continued to steam on after the canaries, we don’t stop and we have no idea where we are until we reach Marseilles. The  fun however continues but the natives are getting restless. I am at a loss to see what their problem is as most of us are not scheduled to leave the ship for another three or four days. We are safe, no virus aboard, we are entertained, we have food to spare and alcohol likewise.

There is talk of disembarkation here, but time will tell. Then we are told that only the French will be allowed to leave. This is the point things get ugly. We are stuck here two days.

On our first night a fight broke out. I saw a guy flinging his arms about going from table to table. Next he collared agroup on their way out, it looked ugly but then group just left him. Later he was again in Rhapsody causing trouble and the next thing there are three guys on top of him. Viv thought it quite funny; men in their sixties and seventies brawling like school boys. We learned the next day that the Argentines had tried to hold the French hostage.

They just do not get it; there is nothing anyone on the ship can do.  So we just party on.

On the second night in Marseilles we join the Londoners in Round the Clock, having ignored all the calls to meetings. There is no live band playing in any of the bars.  The couple who play here have arrived and are setting up, but then stop and sit down. I go over to ask what is happening and they get very defensive. Apparently they have been told not to play by the cruise director. They were obviously as unhappy with this as we were, so there was no point having a go at them.

Our table were not about to have our fun stopped, somebody arrived with a bluetooth speaker and a smartphone with internet access. Viv was by now knocking back the Tia Maria and we were dancing around the tables, challenging the waiters and experimenting with anything that they had behind the bar. My new drink is Lemoncello and Tia Maria mixed.

This may be a boat of three thousand people but at least eight of us were not about to let events or the captain keep us down.  I think by now we were outnumbered by staff in this bar and even if they could not drink with us we were determined that they would enjoy themselves as well. They danced with us and sang along even excepting a challenge to do an exercise with the tray.

Again I missed my chocolate, so tonight I had stomach trouble. Nothing at all to do with all the drink, you understand, although Viv would not believe it.

We are home safe. I write this after our return. So do not be concerned if you see me about.

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15th March Things are not looking good

Our daily routine carries on. All our entertainment continues and somehow they can still supply fresh food. The rumor mill has started though. We already knew we would not be able to meet our friends in Santa Cruz, they have an unbreakable appointment.Now Though it looks like we will be unable to land at all.

There has been an Hotel locked down due to Carona virus and someone I know is staying close by. As far as I know it has not affected him otherwise, but we are in a black hole here and get no news, even the BBC world news has been denied us of late.

Nothing yet affects the fun on board though, so we carry on and await news. Later in the day we learn that Spain has locked down all ports and we will be unable to land in The Canaries or Malaga. How this will effect our landing in Barcelona we have yet to find out but things are looking doubtful.

Through a drunken haze we hear the ships engines thrown into reverse around midnight. We are still told nothing but believe that we are stopping for food and fuel. Again we do not know where we are, but as we are due in Santa Cruz in the morning, I suspect we are somewhere off Tenerife.

We have a party group assembled in the round the clock. Drunken tales of the 70s and 80s are the order of the day punctuated by trips to the dance floor when we hear something we like.

Missed the chocolate tonight, ah well, have to have another G&T then.

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March 11th Bautismo del Mar

Today is a special day after our breakfast it is party time.  As mid day approaches everyone is up on deck 9 for the party.  There are some children dressed up and they are escorting Neptune as he comes to baptize us with the sea. It is just one massive party, There is a lot of dancing and loud music, then Neptune stands on a stage throwing water over everyone.

We are celebrating crossing the equator. The sea is totally calm and the sun is overhead. With the sun live music we are in an idyllic situation.

We are travelling through the doldrums and the sea state certainly agrees. I am put in mind of The Ancient Mariner when we see an albatross above the ship. It stays with us for some time appearing to maintain flight with little or no effort. I think it must be getting some lift from the heat we generate, and just like the mariners of old I am saddened when we loose sight of it.

Later we receive a certificate from the captain saying we had crossed the equator. Viv joins me tonight in the restaurant and we head once more to Rhapsody bar. Then we move on to the Round the Clock again where there is yet another party night. This time it is a latin theme. We manage the dance moves better as we have been to the group class, but by midnight I am struggling.

Before the party is over I drag Viv to the Amarillo for a hot chocolate. Amarillo closes at half past midnight and I need that drink to settle my stomach. I am having trouble with it at the moment, not sure if it is a bit of motion sickness, too much food, or all thhe alcohol. Still the dark cabin, rocking motion and the alcohol means I get a good nights sleep while on here. My step counter is recording an average 16,000 steps each day mainly up and down stairs, so that may also help.

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March 10th Back into the Blue Yonder

So we return to the shipboard routine.

Viv is up early for the stretch class, then we breakfast. After breakfast we have our dance class on Deck 9.  More Kizomba and then relaxing reading and more exploring. There is a lot to see on board and today I find that ther is a Scuderia Bar on deck 12. As you would expect it has a motor racing theme and there are simulators just inside. I relax here for a while until it is time to go down to Rhapsody on deck 5 again for another dance class.

Viv is not keen on the My Way restaurant so I go alone.  Not wanting to be Billy no mates I wait outside until Julia and Dave arrive. Then we settle down to another six course meal. After being fully sated and entertained, I leave them for the Round the clock to meet up with Viv again.

We manage to get to Rhapsody in time for Three tango tunes. Later we return to Round the clock where they have a 70s themed party night. The group do a great job on the tunes and the animation team lead us in some great dance routines. As someone who was there I can state we did not dance like that, but we had a great time. We dance the night away and finish with a Hot chocolate in Amarillo again.

Tomorrow we will go to the group dancing class so that we can follow the routines.

A reminder that this is all written after the event. We are home now, so do not be surprised if you see us.

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March 9th Maceo

Again we wake to another view of the Brazilian coast.  It looks a bit more industrial here. Plenty of time for breakfast before we leave though.

It seems here you need a bus to get to the town, so I have bought tickets from Costa for their bus. We leave the boat and are ushered into a queue under a gazebo. Out of the other side and there was the bus. When we got out of the gazebo the bus was full. This meant we were  first in the queue for the next bus. Unfortunately it also meant we were stood in the sun.

We were told to wait under the shade, but unfortunately it was hard as those already there did not want to relinquish there places. So we stood in the hot sun for fifteen minutes. We were close to heat stroke by the time the bus finally reappeared. The guy behind me was saying that Costa come here every year so this many people coming off a bus should not be a surprise.

We were dropped in town behid a market that we were told to walk through. I had nearly 300 real and Viv’s dance trainers had fallen apart so our mission today was to find some new trainers.

After walking through the market we arrived at the beach front. I could see no likely buildings, so we walked to the left. There was nothing to be seen so we turned around and walked the other way. Again we could see nothing, so we turned inland. after a couple of rights we arrived at where the bus had dropped us. It all looked a bit poor and definitely not retail heaven.

We continued along the road and reached a point where we had to make a decision. Viv looked up the road inland and said “What does equipo deportivo mean?”. Sounds like sports equipment to me, maybe it is balls and weights and things, but it is the best we have seen. So we turned inland and investigated the sign.  Well they had a good range of shoes, and a very nice orange pair in Vivs size only 290real. Well looks like they were meant to be, so we bought them.

So with a happy Viv I headed back to the beach. The first place we stopped was shut so we carried on. Found a place with WiFi and ordered two Corona.  (I feel a joke coming on here, but as yet the virus was not at all an issue.) They do things different here, we got two bottles and two glasses. They opened one bottle and poured some into the glasses. The bottles were then put into an ice bucket.

I connected onto their Wifi and got a good signal, but it was not connected to the internet. As this was costing me the last of my Real I would not get another chance. After this we would be six days at sea.

Finding the bus back was easy. It was at the stop and people were getting on. It looks like it was not just us who were getting bored with Maceo. Still it made getting back a lot easier than the journey out.  The beach views were beautiful, and I am sure that this place is idyllic, but a flying visit was not enough to give it it’s best.

When we got back on the boat we collapsed  into bed. The heat had drained us. When we surfaced it was too late for our evening meal so we went to the buffet (Hence forth known as The Mosh Pit). I do not like standing in a queue with a plate it is too much like a works canteen. I have done my share and think it is time I was waited on. So this may become an issue as Viv prefers this.

More dancing again tonight. We spend a lot more time in Round the Clock tonight the band is good and there are fewer people here.

A reminder that this is all written after the event. We are home now, so do not be surprised if you see us.

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8th March Salvador Bahia

We woke to the sight of the Brazilian coast again. We went for breakfast ready for the day ahead. I have now discovered Fruits of the forest Yogurt. A couple of pastries and coffees and I was good to go.

We could see into the town from the top deck, so we decided to just go for it. There is a shuttle bus to the terminus so we took the bus and walked through the terminus. Inside there were a few shops, In one of them they were selling Havianas (flip flops) and they had some on sale half price. The pattern is out of date apparently, but as Viv says it only wears off and you cannot see it when you are wearing them.

We walked towards the town, but there was no way through. There is a lift you must take and a huge queue. We were left with little choice in the end. Turns out that there were two queues, one for people who had money and one for those without. We now had some change so took the queue to the turnstile. This turned out to be a mistake, the people not paying got through a lot faster.  The cost was minimal about 3p I think but had I known I would have joined the stupid foreigner queue and not the even more stupid those who can pay queue.

At the top there were some spectacular views and we could see the ship from a view point. Into the town we finally found a cafe with internet, Even though the WiFi connection was good there was no internet. I managed a couple of whatsapp messages but nothing else. While there drinking coffee we saw Dave (from our table) standing outside a shop, with that lost look that men have when they are out shopping with their wives. He never saw us though.

It was all very pretty, but poor. They had drafted in hundreds of local police to protect the cruisers, but it all looked quite tranquil to me. In the end there was nothing to spend our money on, so we left for the boat.

It was then back to getting ready for the evening ahead. More dancing in Rhapsody bar and Round the Clock. As we go from one to the other every time the group changes, we have to pass through the casino and Amarillo. Always there in Amarillo is Rs always cheerful and smiling. So we finish our evening with him and a hot chocolate.

A reminder that this is all written after the event. We are home now, so do not be surprised if you see us.

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7th March Another day at sea

We are already getting into a shipboard routine. Viv is up early to do her stretch class and we meet in buffet for breakfast.

We explored the ship and came back onto deck 9.  They serve a lunch of sorts on the open area, you can still use the buffet, but this is just fast food. So I had a bag of chips and a hot dog and we sat in the sun reading.

After our afternoon dance class we went for a sleep, all this enjoying ourselves is hard work. Then it is showers and down to deck 4 for our evening meal. We are joined tonight by Dave and Julia from Cardiff, looks like they have put the Welsh table here. There is another Welsh couple on board but maybe they do not have the Brindiamo Package. The Brindiamo package means we get Wine at our meal so they can just leave bottles on our table. If there was someone without, then obviously they can not join a table with free wine.

More dancing in Rhapsody tonight, and we can also practice a bit of Bachata and Cha Cha we have learned in the day.

A reminder that this is all written after the event. We are home now, so do not be surprised if you see us.

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