Going Home One Step at a Time

Day 78, Grand Half-World Voyage 2020

Sunday, March 22, 2020; Perth Airport Terminal 4, Perth, Australia

We’re off the Amsterdam and on our way home.

We left the ship this morning about 10 a.m., “running a gauntlet” on the outside promenade deck. The captain, hotel manager and cruise director led the double line, joined by dozens from every department. It was a bittersweet ending to our cruise.

I think I would have been sadder had I not been stressing about actually making it home.

We pulled into Fremantle on time yesterday morning, docking between the Seabourn Sojourn and the Pacific Princess.

A few passengers were scheduled to leave early yesterday afternoon during a narrow departure window set by Borderforce Australia. Cruise Director Hamish made repeated announcements of delays through the afternoon. We worried that we might not be able to disembark in Fremantle at all.

Eventually the captain announced that the Australian authorities had decided that all passengers had to go straight to the airport – do not pass go. Anyone with a flight before 1 p.m. the next day would need to leave that night and wait overnight at the airport. The captain said that senior cruise line officials were lobbying high-level officials in Canberra, Australia’s capital, to reinstate the earlier agreement that would not limit our travel once we left the ship. After all, we had been in Australia for two weeks and at sea for the last eight days.

An hour later, Captain Mercer announced good news for a change. We could proceed to disembark as originally planned, and late in the afternoon the first passengers left.

Meanwhile, we took turns yesterday in our small stateroom packing, both swearing we would never again pack so much. I paid to ship one bag home once the ship arrives in Fort Lauderdale in four to six weeks, and I chose my largest bag because there was no weight limit. I think that bag weights about 80 pounds. I managed to keep the other two just under the Qantas limit of 23 kg (50 pounds) for checked luggage. I usually keep close track of what goes into each bag, but this time it just went in wherever it fit.

After a final happy hour in the Crow’s Nest and a quiet dinner, we put our large bags in the hall, where they would disappear until we claimed them today in the port terminal. I was exhausted and went to bed early, but didn’t sleep well. At some point I woke up, looked at my iPhone map app to see how far we were from the next port and was surprised to see that we were already at the pier. It was only when I got to the Lido for breakfast this morning and looked out the window that I realized we hadn’t moved. Of course we had been docked in Fremantle all night.

We said a number of last goodbyes this morning at breakfast, exchanged social cards with people while vowing to stay in touch and packed the last few things into our carryon bags.

After yesterday’s delays, we didn’t know what to expect this morning, but disembarking went as smoothly as on any other cruise. We waited a while for a taxi, having chosen not to pay $59 each for the shuttle bus (only to find out later that the buses were taking all comers whether they paid or not). On the way to the airport, our driver pointed out the new Costco that just opened, and we saw it had the same long line outside that we hear they have at home now. Once at the Perth airport, we spent much of the day sitting and waiting with all the people we had bid goodbye to just hours earlier.

At of this writing, it’s early evening. We waited five hours initially before we could check our luggage and advance through security. We only had to pay for one overweight bag. That’s about as exciting as the day has been. We are sitting with Barbara and Richard, who are on our flights and will fly on to San Antonio. Of course we’re in the bar near the gate, charging all our electronics and catching up on email and social media. And while writing, I’m enjoying a gin and tonic from a bottle – who knew?

Not everyone has had it so smoothly. We learned that the people booked on Air New Zealand through Auckland have been denied transit, and ended up booked through Tokyo. So we still have our fingers crossed that our flight plans will hold.

At 11 p.m. tonight we depart on our four-hour flight to Sydney, to arrive at 6 a.m. tomorrow (Monday) after the time change. After a seven-hour layover in Sydney we fly for 15 hours to Dallas. I think I’ll go ahead and publish this post now, as many friends have asked me to keep everyone apprised of our progress home. I’ll post again once we arrive to stay at home for who knows how long.