AROUND THE WORLD IN 80 DAYS? Well, halfway round in 70…Yes the 2020 Regent Seven Seas World Cruise on the lovely Mariner ended somewhat abruptly, but not unexpectedly in Fremantle Western Australia.
As we cruised across the Pacific Ocean it was beginning to dawn on everyone that there was something going on outside of our ‘bubble’ and the main occupation of guests (and crew) turned to a series of ‘what -ifs’! The decision of Samoa and American Samoa to jointly refuse us entry was the commencement of the battle against time and circumstances. (Some say it was a measles outbreak that was the main reason). But Fiji was more accommodating with two stops. We did manage a changeover of guests in Tahiti, but the clouds were beginning to darken and threaten regarding the future course we were to steer. We reached Sydney on the 29th February – but our future path to Asia, via Indonesia and Thailand to Singapore was a ‘no no’. A rerouting was agreed, visiting the various ports of the southern coast of Australia. Many were disappointed, some cancelled and some left. But the date of arrival in Sydney was crucial as it gave us more than 14 days in Australia before we reached Fremantle, allowing us to be considered virus free and allowing disembarkation when the cruise was finally cancelled. The cruise along the south coast was pleasant, with wine tastings in almost every port, and the conversation turned from expectation to speculation….Where were we going after Fremantle? North, or turning left and heading for the Seychelles and South Africa. In preparation for a voiced plan of going south, with no-one allowed to join the ship, I worked on a programme of events and presentations as the only speaker on board and just the production show team. It was a challenging but exciting project. Alas, not to be fulfilled. As indeed neither were the guest play ‘Julius Caesar’ or the Saint Patrick’s Night show ready and waiting for the 17th!
As we approached Esperance the Captain announced ‘Abandon Cruise’….and it was all over. Fremantle would be the last stop. Guests were dismayed…we were happy! Anywhere else would have been a problem but daughter Sonya and husband Jim are in Perth, half an hour down the road – Sanctuary!. The atmosphere on the ship was good, as the size of the problem dawned on people, and we heard of the situation of other cruises around the world – all dressed up and nowhere to go!
And so we left the ship in dribs and drabs, heading for flights or hotels….and we headed off to Maylands for a few days of family business. We were able to view their house alterations, eat out in local restaurants (as we watched the world shutting shop all around us.) We had flights booked for the 25th – but cancellations and border closures made the prospect of repatriation always in doubt. Spain had closed its doors before we left the ship, it was either the UK, and Rochester, or stay in Australia (Sonya had enough jobs for us to do if it came to that!)
We checked the flight schedule regularly to see if we were going, and amid the flurry of cancellations the Qatar fight via Doha to Heathrow remained on the active list! And so we flew away on the 25th, probably the last of the Mariner to ‘get away’. The ship itself was already heading back towards Sydney, Hawaii and eventually Los Angeles….staff and crew still on board but unclear of what the future held. We remain in contact with several of them.
We are safe in Rochester for our 3 weeks of semi- isolation…but we have food and wine!
We listen to the world news and wait to see how this all pans out, with concerns for many aspects for the thin veneer of social cohesion enjoyed by ‘homo sapiens’.
I am booked on a cruise in July, and later in September – but these must be in doubt, as is a speedy return to Spain….but there is a war on, a war against an invisible foe, an indiscriminate enemy that takes no sides and takes no prisoners.

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