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Stow Away with Bill & Mary Ann for 181 days on Amsterdam's So. Pacific & 2020 WC

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Safe travels, and good luck with your travel arrangements.

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Still enjoying your reports.  Hope your hosts are getting all arrangements for getting home straightened out for you.  It is getting close to your departure.

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Report #133   Day at Sea   March 19, 2020   Thursday   Partly cloudy & 84 degrees     Part #1 Of 1      12  Pictures

 

Another day brought more changes. More than we wanted actually.  First of all, many of our friends found out today that their flights had been cancelled.  Again, back to the drawing board.  However, it was not that easy to re-book, since the internet problems continued to plague us all.  At least being able to use the telephones at the front desk has been helpful for some, as not everyone onboard has computers or cell phones.

 

We needed to get some smaller denominations for US cash, so we went to the front desk to find a constant line had formed with folks trying to figure out the new letter we had all received concerning the future cruise credit options that have been presented to us.  The letter outlined some of the conditions that apply to the 125% cruise credit.  Everyone we knew assumed that the 100% of the future cruise fare (less the port charges and taxes) would cover the entire trip.  Now what about the extra 25%?  The details were that it will not apply to shipboard credits that we could have used for tours, overland excursions, or even tipping.  Now we are not sure what it can be used for.  Some of our friends have decided to take the 50% cash back, with a 50% future cruise credit.  In their hearts, they feel they will not be back on another grand voyage anytime too soon, if ever.   This is a decision many of us will eventually make due to advanced age, declining health, or simply fear of a repeat of this fiasco.   Unfortunately, this incident has pushed many passengers to the point of making that final decision to quit.  Perhaps they will still go on shorter trips closer to home.  By the way, it took over half an hour just to do the money exchange.

 

While we were there, we picked up the form to fill out for the bus transfer to Perth, about an hour’s drive away from the port of Freemantle.  This was offered by shore excursions for the price of $59 per person.  Even though this will be better than trying to find a taxi, everyone we talked to were not happy that we are being charged for it.  We have to keep reminding ourselves that this is not an “all-inclusive” cruise experience, and we can expect to be nickeled and dimed, as the old saying goes.  At least, we will be closer to the airport  where we are trying to book a hotel, and if it works, the hotel has a complimentary shuttle to the airport.

 

As for us, we have continued to pursue booking a hotel in Perth for two days.  Our email to our travel agency went out late last night, but we have yet to hear from them.  While waiting and watching the computer spin and spin, we continued with some packing and re-arranging to accommodate the new crystal bowls.  As much as we love presents, we sincerely hope these gifts were the final ones.  If for some crazy reason they come up with the rolled suitcases, we will have to say no thanks.

 

Sometime this morning, all of us got a notice that Orlando Ashford, the President of HAL, was giving a speech on channel 34 in our staterooms.  Turning it on, we listened to Orlando give an explanation of exactly what is happening and the reasons they have to stop the cruise right now.  Not only the Amsterdam, but all of the 14 HAL ships.  In fact, every ship in the industry worldwide is being affected.  He really did not add anything new, and neither did Dr. Grant Tarling, the Chief Medical Officer, who also had a follow-up talk concerning the coronavirus.  There was some talk this morning among the guests that there may be a select few that will be staying on the ship due to advanced age or medical difficulties.  Nothing can be confirmed at this point, so it is not worth repeating. 

 

Captain Mercer came on the speakers at 12:20pm, ship wide as well as in the rooms.  He gave his normal nautical info, but then added reasons why we have picked up the speed since this morning.  Doing 20 knots, we expected that something had changed.  We are now trying to get into Freemantle a day earlier, on March 21st.  If the local authorities allow it, we will be able to stay on the ship overnight.  If we will be required to debark, we will be forced to spend the night in Freemantle…..something none of us are prepared for.  Within minutes of ending his dialogue, the Captain came on and pleaded with the guests not to go to either the front desk or the guest relations manager with their questions.  He asked for everyone to please wait until the formal letter came, outlining what he had said.  As much as he tried to hide it, we could detect the dissatisfaction in his voice.  It has been a trying time for every single one of us, and it is not over yet.

 

At least the weather had cooled slightly from the past few days of extreme temps and humidity.   It made for much more pleasant walking, although, the seas have become rolling once again.  Not really deep swells, but enough to know we are on a ship.  We have been very careful with stacking the packed suitcases and duffels, as they tend to slip off in rough seas.

 

At 6pm this evening, all of the President’s Club members, new and current, were invited to an inauguration reception in the Explorer’s Lounge.   Captain Mercer, Henk, and Hamish did the honors of “pinning” the newbies, about 20 of them, with the coveted President’s Club gold pins.  Normally, once this ceremony is done, we would have been escorted to the Pinnacle Grill for a truly specially-prepared meal with every table hosted by the top officers, including the Captain.  Because of this ridiculous situation and the lack of time, there was no Pinnacle Grill dinner for the group.  We were also sad that our good friends, Leta and Bill, were not here to get their long-awaited pins.  We pray that they made it home safely from Sydney, and are bunkering down in their Washington state home.  Since they had left all of their belongings, including their computer, on the ship, they have not been able to communicate with anyone. 

 

At 7:30pm, we all met for a farewell dinner in the Pinnace Grill, invited by Susie and Woody in celebration of his birthday.  Karleen, a friend to all of us, joined us as well.  Most all of us ordered the savory grilled lamb chops for our mains.  Of course, we started with the wedge salads with one slice of that excellent clothesline bacon on the side.  Dessert was a chocolate mousse birthday cake, smooth as silk, and sinfully sweet.  A wonderful time was had by all.  By 9:30pm, Greg and Heo departed to watch the final show of the cruise…..Dance, featuring Amsterdam’s entertainers.  We went for a few minutes, but then decided it was more important to check our emails.

 

And guess what we had waiting for us?  Several messages that our flight had been cancelled….something we had feared all day.  If it was not for a phone call from our host at 11pm that they were trying to get ahold of us, we never would have seen the emails.  They had not downloaded on our end.  At least, our travel agency is working on this as we write.  Will this madness ever stop???   Now we are getting really nervous that Australia may not even allow us into their country, and all the plans will be for nothing.  Keeping our fingers crossed.

 

And we did have two more gifts…. blue velvet-lined silver jewelry boxes engraved for the President’s Club members only.  They are quite nice, but will have to be packed deeply in the suitcase.

 

Bill & Mary Ann

 

 

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Oh Bill and Mary Ann, having enjoyed reading of your adventures for years, I am so sorry that you have all this stress and uncertainty as this cruise prematurely ends. Hoping that your flights get well sorted out, and things fall into place for you, and for all on-board.

 

Cannot say that I am impressed with how HAL corporate has handled this. I mean, charging for the bus at a time like this—really??  Rather short-sighted to annoy already upset very good customers.

 

Good luck getting home. Please keep us updated when time and circumstances allow. 

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Posted (edited)

All non Australians on the ship will be required to stay on the ship until they are required to travel to the airport.  Arrangements will be made for them to be taken from the ship to the airport to catch their flights home. 

Edited by Stratheden

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Posted (edited)

We were on the QM2 and went through the same thing this past week.  I can't believe HAL is charging to take passengers to the airport.  Cunard ran free shuttles all day long but here's the thing about the transportation to the airport...

 

THE LUGGAGE IS THE PROBLEM.  People are bringing tons of luggage with them.  Buses went to the airport half full of people because there was not enough room in the luggage hold for any more.

 

HAL can't just go by the # of people signing up to go they have to assume excess baggage!

Edited by Cruise NH

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3 hours ago, Stratheden said:

All non Australians on the ship will be required to stay on the ship until they are required to travel to the airport.  Arrangements will be made for them to be taken from the ship to the airport to catch their flights home. 

How do you know this?  

If people don't have flights, it could be a long wait.  

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3 hours ago, The Other Tom said:

How do you know this?  

https://www.abc.net.au/news/2020-03-20/wa-coronavirus-cases-jump-as-cruise-ship-lockdown-announced/12075846

"WA Premier Mark McGowan has announced any non-Australians who arrived at WA ports on cruise ships would be prevented from disembarking." ...... ""Those people will be required to stay on the ship until arrangements have been made for them to be privately transported to the airport to fly to their home country."

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21 minutes ago, mrmoviezombie said:

https://www.abc.net.au/news/2020-03-20/wa-coronavirus-cases-jump-as-cruise-ship-lockdown-announced/12075846

"WA Premier Mark McGowan has announced any non-Australians who arrived at WA ports on cruise ships would be prevented from disembarking." ...... ""Those people will be required to stay on the ship until arrangements have been made for them to be privately transported to the airport to fly to their home country."

Thanks.  That really puts pressure on the cruise lines to find flights for their passengers.  I suppose they could let them stay on the ship as they sailed to FLL but HAL has said they wouldn't do that except under extreme circumstances .  So maybe this new ruling by McGowan is an "extreme circumstance".  More to come I'm sure.

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We just disembarked 2 days early  from the South American and Antartica Grand Voyage.     Sorry to hear about all of your difficulties.   
Just a suggestion for your unused onboard credit.     Along with a number of fellow passengers we had the extra monies go as additional gratuities to the crew fund especially since a portion of their income is based on gratuities and now they won’t be receiving any. 
hope you have a safe and non stressful trip home

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26 minutes ago, Underthemoonlight said:

We just disembarked 2 days early  from the South American and Antartica Grand Voyage.     Sorry to hear about all of your difficulties.   
Just a suggestion for your unused onboard credit.     Along with a number of fellow passengers we had the extra monies go as additional gratuities to the crew fund especially since a portion of their income is based on gratuities and now they won’t be receiving any. 
hope you have a safe and non stressful trip home

What a wonderful idea!

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Report # 134   Day at Sea   March 20, 2020   Friday   Partly cloudy & 84 degrees   Part # 1 of 1

 

Today was one of events, planned and unplanned, as well as a day of details.  The first event for us was securing new flight plans, which we figured the third time is a charm.  It took most of the night to complete, but it was all there hiding in spam on the computer, which we found at 4am.

 

Then the next thing we learned with an email from our buddy Barb, was that Australia was closing their country to all foreigners.  Now that can be a huge problem with us docking in Freemantle tomorrow.  One detail revealed to us from the Captain today was that we had cleared customs in Sydney, and we are considered in transit.  Now that  might not be the exact lingo, but it means that we are already within the country’s borders, and should not be turned away.  Fingers crossed…..

 

Other events included sales of all kinds, because the shops, casino, and some other services will be closed once we arrive to Freemantle.  Final trivia took place, which must have been sad, because the folks that play really love the competition.  But the biggest event had to be the combination Indonesia and Philippines Crew Show held in the Mainstage.  As one might expect, it was standing room only with lots of tears.  The crew has been stoic and professional, as well as friendly and even comforting to the guests.  Most of them will be staying on the ship, while many will be sent home.

 

During his PM talk, the Captain delivered his final position and weather conditions, as well as some details on what we can expect tomorrow and the two days to follow.  The luggage tags for Fed Ex and the usual colored tags for luggage to be taken off would be delivered by 6pm.  Finally, we have some directions towards the debarkation process.  A small group will be leaving tomorrow, but not until they are seen by Australian Customs Authorities.  The remainder of us will leave on March 22nd, and perhaps some on the 23rd.   The ship is scheduled to depart Freemantle on March 23rd.  Which direction they will go is still not clear.  The Captain did mention for folks not to flood the front desk reps.  Wonder how that went?

 

Also during the afternoon, we had deliveries of two sets of face masks and rubber gloves, the same type the medical folks use here.  Now this is getting scary, because everything we have witnessed by watching the news, is starting to happen here as far as precautions go.  In addition, we both got a bottle of water, and the current Mariner tile.  And this all came with the message:  How blessed are we to have something that makes saying goodbye so hard. 

 

Then in the late afternoon, the most unexpected incident happened, when the Captain announced that a guest was going to be air-lifted to Geraldton.  Earlier we had heard the call for the medical staff to go to deck six, and we were certain this was not a drill.  Expecting a helicopter and an escort plane to arrive by 6:15pm, we were told to come inside from the outside decks and the verandas.  Every outside deck was going to be closed down.  The Crow’s Nest, Mainstage, and the spa were cleared of people, and we were told not to take any photos using a flash, even though it was still light outside.  We were able to see the helicopter from our room window, and also the action happening on the bow as seen from our TV.  Before the chopper got close, we spotted a group of workers taking down half of the flag post on the very front of the bow.  The hanging lights had to be dropped too. 

 

The patient was lifted into the chopper without it landing.  The ship also barely slowed down during this transfer.  Lucky for the patient we were so close to shore to be able to make this rescue attempt.  What a way to leave the ship.  We certainly hope the guest, possibly a lady, will be OK.    

 

When we got our luggage package, there were only 2 labels for Fed Ex, even though we had asked for seven of them.  We intend to ship every piece of luggage, and not be bothered with dragging anything to the airport.  Knowing that there might be at least 500 people in line at the front desk, we made a phone call instead.  Later this evening, the extra labels arrived.  And yes, there was a continuous line at the front desk, because we watched from our special chairs on deck five.  It was more relaxing watching the dancers in the Ocean Bar, who insist on staying positive.  It helps.   At 7:30pm, we ducked into the show lounge to listen to the first part of the variety show featuring the Shamrock Tenors.  They were outstanding.  

 

Time for dinner.  With a quick change, we realized this would be our final dinner together with the seven of us.  Greg and Heo will be leaving tomorrow, eventually heading back to Sydney. So tonight was special.  Renee,  the manager from the spa and friend to all, also joined us.  And Barb had invited one of the assistant cruise directors, Thomas.  We were pretty jammed at the table, but it worked out OK.  At 8:15pm, there was a Captain’s Farewell Toast, with a parade of the staff and crew through the dining room.  Remember the times when this would have included the flaming Baked Alaskas?  Those were the days……

 

We said farewell to our two buddies, but they will be back on next year’s world cruise, which is only 10 months away, God-willing. We will have one more dinner together tomorrow…sad,  but inevitable that we all have to go home.  This cruise is not going out without a whimper, that is for sure.

 

Bill & Mary Ann

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Thanks for the update and wishing you the best getting to the airport and safe flight back home.

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We are sending our thoughts for a safe travels.   Though your journey

is long, we know how happy you will be to arrive at SFO.   Thanks again

for all the updates.  

 

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Can’t believe they are charging you at all,let alone that amount for your transfer

you can get a taxi from Freemantle to Perth airport for $60, paid that just 3 weeks ago.

Good luck to you and safe flights home 

Cheers Carole

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Prayers to the passenger that had to be air lifted from the ship.

 

Hope you don't have any problems with these flights.  I don't blame you for sending everything home via FedEx -- less to worry about while flying.

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Report #135   Fremantle, Western Territory, Australia   March 21, 2020   Saturday   Partly sunny & 83 degrees     Part #1 Of 1     38  Pictures

 

Since we will need to get up early for a busy day tomorrow, we will try to keep this report short and sweet.  The Amsterdam slipped into the port of Fremantle this morning between 7 and 8am.  The Seabourn Sojourn and Pacific Princess were already docked in the harbor.  Watching the activity on the dock, we think that Seabourn was here perhaps yesterday, and had already debarked their guests.  There was little activity near their berth, except for a barge that was fueling them. 

 

All of the shore side services were dealing with the Princess ship, which was also interrupted on their world cruise, like us. Being that they arrived first, we assumed that customs would deal with them first.  But we did want to have breakfast, then came back because we were curious as to what would happen with their passengers. The distance from the cruise terminal and the lower promenade deck was short, so we were able to talk to many people on their way to see the customs officials.  What they told many of us was quite disturbing, since they informed us that some of the Princess passengers were allowed to stay onboard and sail back to Los Angeles.  Many chose to fly back to their homes from here, but for those who were checked by the ship’s medical staff and were approved to be compromised by flying, had to sign waivers, and could remain onboard.  This news spread like wildfire, and now all here are wondering why them, and not some of us?  Not sure if we were hearing this correctly, we went online and actually found the official letter that the Princess guests had received outlining their details.  It was plain as the noses on our faces that what they reported was totally true.

 

As the Princess custom’s clearance was taking more time than expected, the debarking process for the 200 ( a good guess) or so guests that were leaving today was delayed until 3:30pm.  But right before the guests were leaving, Captain Mercer announced that the Australian government had said no guests would be allowed to stay in any hotel in Fremantle or Perth.  We would be required to debark the ship and taken directly to the airport, even of our flights were many hours later.  Shocked by this news, all of us were stroking out.  Then, shortly after this was said, the Captain came back and stated that the government had changed their minds, and the hotel stays would be allowed.  

 

You know, we are pretty patient, but this is really pushing us to the edge.  In addition, a strong message was printed on the front of the When & Where flyer today.  It said that staying in Australia for a long period is not recommended.  We are being urged to fly home as soon as possible, since restrictions are unpredictable and constantly changing.   No kidding.  Captain Mercer could not have emphasized this message more in his speeches.   We are listening, and so are many of our friends.

 

Later in the afternoon, after polishing off a nice bottle of Chandon champagne, we relaxed (really relaxed) outside the Ocean Bar, while watching the guests dance the fox trot, waltz, quick step, and even the Texas two-step.  Why not?  It is a good way to lift the spirits.  Then down below on deck four, we witnessed the line of guests going to the front desk.  We also had to make a visit there, since the preliminary statements that were sent out this morning were incorrect.  The returned port charges were not entered correctly, but our accounts on the Navigator site was the right number, which was just under $1000 per person.  A new statement was printed for us, and tomorrow we will get the final one.  The remaining credit will be put on our credit card, since it was not spend-it-or-lose-it money.  This made a whole lot of passengers happy.

 

Our Aussie friends, Greg and Heo, had left the ship today, so we had Ron, a friend from past cruises, and Ellen, also a good friend to all, shared our table tonight.  We tried not to get sentimental, because one of us, Barbie, does not like long and teary goodbyes.   After we ate our dessert, she said “bye” and was off and running like she always does.  Like all of us, she is really not happy with being “put off the ship” without thought of our real safety in this extreme situation.  We truly feel that we will be OK, but Barb says her age is against her.  No way……she is the youngest 80 plus year old that we know.

 

We all said goodbye to our excellent waiters, who do not know how long it will take to get them back to Ft. Lauderdale.  The crew has been stellar, and helped many of us that really needed the kindness to get through this.  On our way out, we wished the several waiters we know the best of luck as they sail back to the USA.  They in turn, wished us all a safe trip home.  God-willing, all will go well.

 

Will try to continue the blog with follow-up reports when our journey is complete.  Please wish us luck!  You have been a wonderful audience!

 

Bill & Mary Ann

 

 

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Safe travels, MaryAnn and Bill! I wish we could get together when you get home but that won’t be happening for a while. 😢 We have enjoyed your blog so much. We are very sorry that this wonderful cruise was cut short. 
 

When my sister returned from Sydney on Wednesday, SFO immigration was very quick without crowds. Hoping it is the same for you!

 

Cheers, Denise and Howie too

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Cunard (QM2) allowed passengers to stay on too.  Can't understand what is going on with HAL.  I talked to some of the folks on QM2 that were staying, they had genuine reasons.  

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20 hours ago, Cruise NH said:

Cunard (QM2) allowed passengers to stay on too.  Can't understand what is going on with HAL.  I talked to some of the folks on QM2 that were staying, they had genuine reasons.  

Remember that the Cunard passangers are not home yet. Things are changing every day and there is no way to know whether Cunard or HAL have made the right decision.

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Wishing you smooth flights home.   Hope someone has stocked your kitchen ready for your return.  If not, I hope you find what you want on the supermarket shelves.  

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