Posted by Joan on March 18
Marooned at sea and parked off the west coast of Panama. We anchored at about 8:15 this morning. After we clear all the government paperwork we will then be waiting for a time slot to go through the Panama Canal. We’re hoping that will be tomorrow. At this moment we’ve been cleared to disembark in Miami...maybe Sunday or Monday. Fingers crossed that doesn’t change.
In the meantime Oceania is determined to keep us healthy and happy. And now, thanks to my bestie Teresa Vinson Schwab, my home has been fully stocked with food, although no TP, I’m not terrified of getting off this beautiful vessel.
Posted by Joan on March 19
We have a plan!
We’ve received clearance and a time slot for Friday morning (3/20) to transit the canal. This is our consolation prize for not getting to go to Machu Picchu and I’m excited to experience it. It takes eight to nine hours to go through the canal. I plan to park myself in the floor-to-ceiling, air conditioned comfort of the Horizons lounge to watch it all unfold.
After we exit into the Caribbean, we will dock in Miami about 1pm Monday 3/23. Our plan is to overnight at Casa Johnson/Arneson Monday night and fly home from Ft. Lauderdale on Tuesday 3/24. All along we were to get home from the Peru portion of our trip on 3/22 so even though our adventure at sea seems like a long time, we will get home only two days behind schedule.
Right now I have to decide whether to go to the gym to work off some of the great food and drink we’ve been enjoying or begin my life on hold waiting for American Airlines to answer.
Posted by Gary on March 19
This is now day 25 of our 21 day cruise on board the Oceania cruise line ship, the Marina. After being denied port privileges in both Chile and Peru, we are sitting in the Pacific just offshore of Panama City, waiting to enter the Panama Canal. That is now scheduled to happen tomorrow morning, Friday, March 20th, day 26 of our 21-day cruise.
Actually we are not that far behind schedule. Our original itinerary included docking in Lima, Peru and then flying to Cusco, Peru, concluding with a train ride to the Sacred Valley of the lost Inca tribes, and Machu Picchu. Finally, a flight home to Springfield through Miami then Dallas this Sunday. Without a stop in Peru we are trading a visit to Machu Picchu for a ride through the Panama Canal, with port arrival in Miami next Monday, March 23rd, day 29 of our 21-day cruise.
While we are anxious about what awaits us in Miami and back in 417-land, we have been treated like cherished guests aboard Oceania's Marina. No interruption in food service. Laundry, cleaning, entertainment, lectures, on-board games, spa services, pool deck services have all continued thanks to a highly accommodating team which now feels more like family than staff.
Posted by Gary on March 20
Sailing under Panama City's Bridge of the Americas on our way into the canal. Locks, a lake, more locks and into the Caribbean nine hours from now. Dinner on the other side. Never seen this many fellow passengers up so early and so excited. While we're slowly cruising through the Panama Canal on board the Marina, we're enjoying reading about all the positive things our neighbors in 417-land are doing for each other.
Posted by Gary on March 20
We're through the Pacific-side locks, into the Panama canal, and under the Centennial Bridge. Meanwhile fellow passengers are scrambling to make travel plans after we dock in Miami. There are lots of Brits, Canadians, New Zealanders and Aussies on board, not to mention crew from Ukraine, Malaysia, the Philippines and beyond. In the Horizons Lounge, the forward lounge on level 15, the best place to watch the canal crossing on board the Marina, a pop-up meeting led by the Aussies convened today so information could be shared and notes compared. Everybody is looking out for everybody else. Being cooped together has produced some very positive dynamics.
Posted by Joan on March 22
Today, Sunday, March 22, 2020, marks our 11th consecutive day at sea and the 12th day since Gary Whitaker and I have set foot on land. To recap. We began our 21 day cruise in Buenos Aires on February 24. We visited Uruguay, the penguins in the Falkland Island, cruised around Cape Horn and through the Straights of Magellan, visited the southern most city in the world as well as the southern most city on the mainland continent, saw magnificent volcanoes and mountains in the Andes. Then it all came to an abrupt halt when Peru, followed by Chile, closed their ports due to the COVID-19 pandemic. The Marina became a ship with nowhere to go.
If not for the courage of the fearless crew, the Marina would be lost. Our Captain turned the Marina around and headed north with Miami as our destination. That gave us a bonus of transiting the Panama Canal, an engineering marvel that didn’t disappoint. The minute the Marina cleared the breakwater on the east side of the Panama Canal, the Captain put the pedal to the metal, so to speak. We are (north)east bound and down, loaded up and cruising with an ETA on 6 a.m., EDT, Monday, March 24. We have no idea how long it will take to clear the ship and us through Customs. We have a pretty good idea of what we face when we leave the safety of our floating paradise and, quite frankly, I’m dreading it. We will have one final night with Ruth and Rodney before flying home on Tuesday.
As we enjoy our final day of great health, food and wine, a huge shout out to Oceania and the Marina staff. There aren’t enough superlatives in the English language to describe how these people have kept their composure and positive attitudes in making us all feel cared for and entertained. Whatever they pay Cruise Director Paul Baya isn’t nearly enough. The staff has worked 11 straight days without a break. I know they must be exhausted...and scared. When the ship docks in Miami they will go out to sea for a couple of days to do a deep clean of the Marina. Then they will return to Miami where approximately 800 staff members will disembark and try to find a way home. Their future is even more uncertain than ours. At least we will be on home soil. Most of them will not be.
Oceania has been so incredibly generous to us. The food and service has never diminished. The only thing they are charging us for is our drinks. They are even offering a 50% credit for a future cruise. How generous is that? Do you think we would ever cruise with another company? Not a chance.