Lost in the Caribbean
Christopher Bosker (OV1957) shares the story of his experiences at the start of the Coronovavirus crisis.
The view of the Caribbean from Christopher's cabin
It’s not easy to feel sympathy for anyone who finds themselves faced with the prospect of an unending free cruise on one of Fred Olsens little ships but I can tell you it isn’t that appealing. We were in that position in February and we didn’t like it. As it turned out, we were a good deal better off than our friends but still went through a few experiences that we hadn’t signed up for all thanks to the Coronavirus.
The Eastern Caribbean
It started well enough with a BA flight from Gatwick to Barbados. Going from 6 degrees to 26 is comforting in a not uncomfortable 8 hours. Our 750 guest cruise ship Braemar was waiting to provide the first of many Rum Punch and we settled in for a visit to ten of the many small islands that our forebears fought for. Mostly the usual thing, long beaches with white sand and warm azure seas..oh, and palm trees and rum punch of course.
Best of all for me was English harbour, frequented by Nelson when he wasn’t being nasty to the French or Spaniards. Our booked fortnight passed in a sun soaked mildly alcoholic haze and we berthed in Dominica to catch our plane home. Our baggage had been collected the night before and we were dressed in clothes which would allow survival in a very cold England where we would arrive early next day. We would disembark at noon.
Noon came and went.
At teatime, the Captain announced that we had been refused permission to stop. Two people had a cold which the Dominicans feared was Coronavirus and our ship was not welcome.
Into the unknown
Poor Captain, in charge of a ship full of people who couldn’t get off. And responsible for another ship full of people who wanted to get on.
All he needed to do was find a port we could get off, and where the new passengers could get on, fly them to where we would be and arrange a plane to fly us home .In the meantime,we would free everything on board and they would get free everything at their hotel.
For three days we sailed around without knowing how and when we would get home.
Eventually we got permission from the Dutch, at St Marten.
We finally left the ship in the early afternoon and spent 8 hours waiting to be processed. We were treated like very undesirable lepers and accompanied by police in cars with flashing lights right up to the steps of the plane.
After a stop in the Azores to refuel, we landed at Gatwick and were allowed into the country without any examination at all.
The less fortunate.
Some of our friends elected to carry on, free of charge, for the next leg. Coronavirus was found on board so they, together with all the people who got on when we got off, sailed around for two weeks before the Cubans took pity on them.