If This Suitcase Could Talk …

Day 222, Staying at Home

Friday, Oct. 30, 2020; Fort Smith, Arkansas

After weeks of anxiety and angst on my part, my suitcase and I reunited after 218 days apart.

I left it aboard the ms Amsterdam on March 22 in Fremantle, Australia, to return to Dallas via Sydney, just as international air travel shut down. I left my suitcase in the company of about 2.700 others to sail around South Africa and on to Fort Lauderdale, where FedEx would deliver them, probably in late April or early May. Or so we thought.

Instead, my suitcase sailed from Australia to South Africa to Indonesia to the Philippines back to Indonesia to Singapore to Vietnam to Hong Kong to China to South Korea through the Panama Canal to Texas to Alabama to Florida and then on a delivery truck to Texas.

Waiting to disembark crew near Jakarta, Indonesia, in late April.
About to join dozens of cruise ships (cluster of blue dots) near Manila, Philippines.

The miracle of technology (along with a few key pieces of data provided by our now-retired Captain Jonathan) allowed our group of world cruisers to follow the circuitous journey of our luggage aboard the Amsterdam and later the Gulf Bridge container ship.

I was mostly patient during the delay. I didn’t need the warm clothes I had worn in Antarctica or the fancy dresses and heels from shipboard gala dinners. It would have been nice to have my watercolor paints, but it only took money to replace them as needed.

That patience finally wore thin after my suitcase sat in a Florida warehouse for a month. Clearing customs took a week or so, and Holland America emailed plans to ship my bag by Sept. 30. At the end of September, I actually got my FedEx tracking number. But the status was stuck on “pending” as the cruise company hadn’t yet turned my bag over to the shipping company. I began to wonder if Holland America had only one person left to match hundreds and hundreds of bags and boxes with FedEx shipping tags.

Luggage began to shake free in late October, and I watched jealously as fellow cruisers posted photos of their bags and contents. Finally on Oct. 23 FedEx reported my bag was in hand and on its way. As it would be, by then I had moved on to stay with my sister Eloise in Fort Smith.

In the early afternoon on Monday, my sister Elaine sent her photographic chronicle of the bag’s arrival.

Did I wait until my return to Dallas in mid November? Hell, no. I grabbed my toothbrush and clean underwear, filled my travel coffee mug and hit the road.

Some of my fellow cruisers planned to quarantine their luggage for a few days and then spray it with insecticide before opening it in their garages. Once in Dallas, I figured my bag had been quarantined long enough, so I threw the cover open.

What did I discover? No surprises. Everything seemed to be just as I left it. My gala dresses were a bit wrinkled, but I think some time hanging will take care of that. I ran a load of laundry – pants and tops that I hadn’t missed at all. I had forgotten I bought a couple of t-shirts.

My two small jars of Pitcairn Island Honey had leaked slightly, but just into the zip-top bag that enclosed them. The glass bottles of Lote 8 olive oil from our excursion in Uruguay were fine.

While packing to leave the ship, I hadn’t made an inventory of what I was leaving behind. When Holland America asked us later for a list for customs, I mostly guessed (“clothes, paints, souvenirs”). Best to be vague, I thought.

Now I photographed as I unpacked. I had forgotten about some of the “pillow gifts” left for us on gala nights and the Super Bowl and Mardi Gras accessories.

There was my platter with the planned route. (Omitting Antarctica and misspelling “Sidney” ended up being the least of the inaccuracies of our aborted trip.) Finding the tile labeled “ms Rotterdam & ms Amsterdam” was bittersweet, as Holland America sold both ships last summer.

I had forgotten that I bought some quilting fabric in New Zealand – obviously before I realized I gave up quilting a few years ago.

As I repacked things I won’t need until my next long cruise, I regretted that it probably wouldn’t be until early 2022 for Holland America’s next world cruise. I’m waiting to see how the industry and world recover from the pandemic before possibly booking a circumnavigation of Africa next fall. Personally I don’t have much interest in wearing a facemask on a ship or limiting my shore explorations to organized tours. More importantly, I won’t be getting on any ship until I’ve had a coronavirus vaccine.

Current plan for Holland America’s 2022 World Cruise. Subject to change, I’m sure.

Twenty-four hours after leaving I was back in Arkansas. Crazy, I know, to drive home just for a reunion with my suitcase. But it’s the last remnant of our interrupted 2020 World Cruise. What an adventure!