Wednesday 25 March 2020

Like Christmas, except worse (but also, better)

Here is Silversea's Silver Muse, loitering out in the Hauraki Gulf. She's been hanging around in Auckland for over a week - I was due to have lunch on board last Tuesday, though of course it was cancelled - but she finally mooched off last night, dawdling away towards Panama, where she's not due to arrive for another three and a half weeks. I nearly said there's no-one on board, but of course there is: no passengers guests, but the crew is still there, probably doing boring deep cleans and suchlike but hopefully also able to enjoy the ship's facilities for once, and keeping morale up.

I emailed our favourite wine waitress, Miriam, who's been on three of our Silversea cruises and who we last saw when we sailed on Muse over Christmas to Sydney. She told us then that she was looking forward to going home to Peru this month on leave, but now the country is in lockdown and she doesn't know when she can get back. She didn't even know in the email where they would be going in the meantime; but was immensely grateful to have wifi.

Imagine what it's like for all those cruise ship crews all over the world, trapped on board. So many of them! And most of them understandably worried about contracting Covid-19, as so many of their passengers have, especially on the Princess line ships. Hard to imagine people ever wanting to go aboard those again. I'm not even sure I fancy Silversea now - no matter how earnest, and genuine, the reassurances, having had so many examples of what perfect Petri dishes cruise ships are for stuff like this, it's impossible to ignore the possibilities.
Not that cruising, or travel of any sort, is on the cards for anybody for quite some time. New Zealand has had a state of emergency declared today and is heading tonight into a minimum of four weeks' lockdown, and after a flurry of dismayingly idiotic panic-buying at supermarkets and liquor stores, things have already gone pretty quiet out there on the streets. In town, that is - even just this morning, there was a noticeable uptick in the numbers of people out walking the tracks, roads and beaches.

We are all, like Miriam, hugely relieved to have the internet to sustain us while indoors; and those of us whose news addiction has become chronic are well served by both official news organisations, and social media. It's the intimate details supplied by last one that's made it seem a bit like Christmas - but better, because everyone is involved in preparing for, and surviving, the same event, not just Christian-derived cultures. It's amazing to think how, right around the world, everyone is simultaneously facing the same threats, challenges, irritations and boredom. As our politicians keep telling us, we're all in this together, and that's quite a comforting thought. For once, we're all on the same page, so watching the news and seeing how the pandemic is playing out in Indonesia, say, or Italy or India, it's so much easier to empathise.

In fact, it's pretty much the same feeling of connection that you get when you've actually been to those places - something I regularly harp on about here - so do a Pollyanna and fondle that thought. While you stay at home, with your fingers crossed.

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