South America cruise cut short
By Gary Cumming
On March 4, Marg and I flew to Santiago, Chile to start a 32-day cruise aboard the Coral Princess that was set to sail around Cape Horn, explore Argentina, Uruguay and Brazil on the eastern coast, and travel through the Caribbean before disembarking in Fort Lauderdale.
Our cruise was the result of much planning and to be a celebration of our 48 years of marriage on March 18. We left the harbor at San Antonio, Chile on March 5 and cruised with about 2,000 others (mostly seniors) and 895 crew and spent the next day at sea giving us a chance to explore the ship and enjoy the entertainment.
Back at that time, we weren’t worried at all about the coronavirus. There had only been one reported case in all of South America. It was a different time.
On March 7, we enjoyed our first port of call, Puerto Montt in Chile, with the weather 20C and sunny. March 8 was back at sea, and on March 9 we enjoyed the sights of Amalia Glacier. The views from our port side cabin balcony were great.
On March 10, we were tendered to Punta Arenas, Chile to tour the city by cab with our new friends, Dennis & Linda Connolly from Maple Ridge, B.C. The next day, we docked at Ushuaia, Argentina, the southernmost city on the continent. We boarded a bus for an excursion to parts further south of the city and into a forest of Redwoods and fauna. One tree was over 1,600 years old at Provincia de Tierra Del Fuego. We also saw lakes and inlets and went to the end of the highway’s southernmost point.
On March 12, we cruised around Cape Horn, seeing the many islands and watching for sea life under partly cloudy skies. We enjoyed the many activities and entertainers onboard and we were never without something to do, including drinks with our new friends and wonderful food.
The following day, we were tendered to Port Stanley, Falkland Islands. Along with Linda & Dennis, we explored the town on foot and had some delicious fish & chips and a beer at a local restaurant. Some fellow cruisers went to see penguins but we had already experienced that elsewhere. We visited memorials of the Argentine-Falklands War.
Day 11 of the cruise, on March 15, things began to change quickly. During the next four days, we were supposed to make stops at Puerto Madryn, Montevideo, and Buenos Aires but we were not allowed to dock. Finally, on March 19, our ship arrived at Buenos Aires but no one could disembark, despite that everyone aboard had our temperatures taken the day with no one having a problem. Then, at 4 a.m., we were awakened with news that the Argentine health officials were on-board and going cabin-to-cabin to take temperatures again. Shortly after, they announced we had passed their inspection and were cleared to depart.
Several people had made their own plans for flights out, while the majority, like us, had Princess handle these arrangements. We were anxious to take off on our 4:15 p.m. scheduled flight from Buenos Aires to San Paulo, Brazil. However, the morning passed without us leaving the ship. For hours, buses and officials circled the pier, but no one was allowed to disembark. Finally, all Argentinians were allowed off, but no one else. Stress was high, as flight times began to diminish. Then, at about 1 p.m., passengers for an Air Canada flight were allowed off. At around 2:00 p.m., Marg and I were allowed off the ship for our Latam Air flight, but we still had to go through an inspection station and an hour-long trip to the airport followed by all the airport checks. Fortunately, our plane was held for a few of us and we boarded for San Paulo. Our B.C. friends were not as lucky, as their flight had left without them and they had to taxi back to the ship without knowing their fate (we have since learned that they remain on the ship, which is taking a two-week cruise directly to Fort Lauderdale).
Once we arrived at San Paulo, Brazil, we rushed to get our connecting flight to Washington D.C. and from there another commuter flight to Toronto. Stratford Airporter brought us home to St. Marys, where we began our two weeks of self-isolation.
We are thankful to all the people along the way who made our trip home possible; there are a multitude to thank. We think about the many who were not as lucky, and we hope they make it soon. Thank you to all our friends and relatives who have worried about us, I think your prayers worked. Special thanks to our good friends Bob and Joan Doupe for stocking our fridge and turning up the heat- you are the best.