“There’s No Place Like Home”

Day 1, Post Grand Half-World Voyage 2020

Tuesday, March 24, 2020; Home, Dallas, Texas

I know I am really home because the laundry isn’t doing itself. There are no small navy bags to stuff, knowing that in less than 24 hours my clothes will come back clean, pressed and hanging.

Still, it is good to be home. I’ve read that some of our fellow passengers who stayed overnight in Perth had trouble making it out, as the state of Western Australia closed its borders. Some report they finally made it out after getting help from the U.S. Embassy. But information is scarce, so I’m not at all sure of the accuracy of that report.

We’ve also heard that Holland America’s Zaandam is sailing north toward Central America with a few dozen passengers and crew suffering from flu-like symptoms, so everyone is quarantined to their staterooms. The MS Rotterdam is sailing south to meet them with additional medical staff, supplies and covid-19 test kits. The Zaandam’s destination is uncertain at this time.

Our travel home went smoothly, I’m thrilled to report. After I published my last blog post, from the Perth airport, we left as scheduled on the red eye for Sydney, and I slept for almost the entire four hours.

During our 7-hour wait in the Sydney international terminal with Barbara and Richard, we could have shopped in designer duty-free shops, but we weren’t tempted. A few stores were closed, and I bet the rest will be by the end of the month as airlines “pause” their international travel.

Most travelers in the terminal did not wear masks, but I saw some making do as they could – painters overalls, thin plastic ponchos, ski goggles and one woman with plastic shopping bags tied around her shoes. They might have been covered, but after ordering from the screen they didn’t wash their hands before eating.

Our friends Nancy and Aileen posted on Facebook that they arrived in Sydney to find that their flight to Los Angeles was canceled, but they finally were rebooked on another flight. I walked the almost half a mile to the other end of the international terminal to see them, only to find they had already boarded. I had a little time to chat with several other Amsterdam passengers before returning, glad that I had gotten the exercise.

Meanwhile, I ran across four crewmembers whose contracts have just ended on their way back to Jakarta. Most of the crew sailed on with the ship.

We had expected that our premium economy seats on Qantas would just give us a few extra inches, but were pleasantly surprised to see they were comparable to domestic first class. Fellow Amsterdam passengers filled the area around us, putting us in what we hope was a healthy bubble. I guess we will learn in a week or two whether we avoided catching the virus while traveling. Most of our flight attendants wore masks, and I don’t blame them.

I set my watch to Central time, enjoyed the late lunch, watched “The Farewell” and eventually dozed off, getting at least six hours sleep during the 15-hour flight. Don’t hate me, but I am one of those people who struggle to stay awake while flying.

The dreaded customs and immigration lines of last week are gone. We were through immigration in about five minutes, with only a couple of questions about where we had been and no health inquiries. Our Uber driver showed up promptly and as we got closer to home I looked to see what if anything had changed. The main differences I noticed were the lack of traffic and empty parking lots. Callie and Cooper weren’t quite ready to jump into my lap, but I was sure glad to see them.

Now it’s two weeks (at least) at home as we adjust to life in the time of coronavirus, as I hear it is called. After giving myself some time to rest up, unpack, do laundry and contemplate the last week or so, I’ll post another update. I’m giving thanks for seeing social media updates all day from friends as they finally arrive at their homes, and I will continue to pray for my many friends, from the Amsterdam, the Zaandam and other cruise ships, who haven’t made it home yet. To close, one more meme stolen from the Internet: