Victory at Milne Bay – Then and Now

Day 28, South Pacific, Australia and New Zealand Cruise

Sunday, Oct. 30, 2022; Alotau, Papua New Guinea, Coral Sea.

There I was, dreamily sitting under the bright blue canopy of a boat, enjoying the stiff breeze as we swept along through the whitecaps past sandy beaches under swaying palms. Children yelled and waved as they ran along, trying to keep up with our progress.

But it wasn’t a dream! It was my reality this morning, as I finally tested negative for covid and burst free from isolation in my stateroom.

Today’s port is Alotau, the main town on Milne Bay, in far southeast Papua New Guinea. Before I got covid I had booked a boat tour to see the area in which the Australians, aided by Americans and the local residents, delivered Japan its first World War II land loss, in mid 1942.

There is not much evidence left of the battles, but our guide painted an interesting picture of the jungle warfare. “You were not only fighting the enemy, but the terrain, the elements and the unknown,” he said. The forces were thigh deep in mud. It rained continually, so the troops from Australia could never use the tents they brought. Many suffered from malaria, and they encountered crocodiles, snakes and leeches.

With its victory, the win at Milne Bay delivered “a spark of hope” that led the troops through the following years, our guide said.

Having missed the two Fiji ports of Dravuni Island and Lautoka, as well as an overnight with two days at Noumea, New Calidonia, I had my fingers crossed that I could finally go ashore. And even though I was feeling fine physically for the last few days, the cruise line’s medical protocol required that I have a negative covid test in order to leave isolation.

I had used one of the covid tests I brought from home last night and tested negative. I just needed the test administered by the medical department to agree. And I needed to be one of the first people tested, and to receive the results quickly. (Yesterday, it took more than two hours to get the results of the 20-minute test. I don’t think the medical team understands how stressful it is to wait.)

So with the help of the medical staff, today I was tested at 9 a.m., received my negative result by 9:15, and was ready to join my tour at 10.

The last few days of isolation weren’t easy. I no longer had any symptoms and felt fine. There was nothing on the room service or dining room menus that appealed. HGTV was repeating episodes, and I could only take so much of Guy Fieri’s Diners, Drive-ins and Dives on the Food Network. I was sulking and tired of trying to entertain myself. In my somewhat “dark mood of despair,” as I named it, I had no interest in painting, reading or writing.

The highlights of my days were getting my morning latte and the two buckets of ice my room steward Mara delivered morning and night. And especially reading all the comments and well wishes on this blog and on social media.

When I returned to my stateroom this afternoon, I found in my mailbox my golden “Certificate of Recovery,” which declares me free of covid despite a potential positive test.

One more piece of good news. I lost two pounds during my nine days of isolation! Tonight I will celebrate with a special Rudi’s Sel de Mar meal in the Pinnacle Grill. It requires a $49 upcharge, but I will get a 25 percent discount.