Cyclone Freddy — the Storm that Overstays its Welcome

Day 59, Grand World Voyage

Friday, March 3, 2023; La Possession, Réunion.

Today ended with the disappointing news that we won’t stop at Madagascar. The reason: Tropical Cyclone Freddy, one of the longest-lived cyclones in history.

Tropical Cyclone Freddy formed in early February as a “disturbance” in the Timor Sea between Australia and Indonesia. It quickly grew to cyclone status as it crossed the entire Indian Ocean, one of only four known cyclones to do that. It cycled between extreme tropical storm and cyclone for weeks, eventually becoming a category 5-equivalent tropical cyclone.

The storm slammed into Madagascar off the eastern African coast on Feb. 21. After crossing the island, it crossed the Mozambique Channel and weakened upon making landfall on the African continent. Not one to give up, Freddy made a U-turn and reemerged in the Mozambique Channel on March 2, where it is sitting, still causing havoc and drenching Madagascar with a year’s worth of rain.

Capt. Freso announced we will slow down and follow a more southerly course while heading to Maputo, Mozambique, hoping to escape the worst of the storm. He posted a map of our original route (yellow) and new route (red) on our in-cabin televisions.

Meanwhile, the shore excursion staff will cancel all tours and refund passengers. Fortunately, we hadn’t yet paid for our private tour to see lemurs. Most reputable private tour companies refund money if the ship doesn’t make the port.

Our guide Dodi emailed me, “Would it be possible for you please to convince your travel fellows to reorganize a trip to Madagascar by flight/plane (not by cruise ship) and by car inside of Madagascar? It will be a 100% safe trip without cyclones. The best season is from July through to earlier December. Baby lemurs are also born during this season and also bird nesting season.” I’ll add it to my bucket list and pass it along for consideration.

We may not know what lies ahead weather-wise, but today we enjoyed the tropical weather on Réunion Island. The ship’s officers delicately turned the ship around in the small harbor, and Elaine made a time-lapse video of the subsequent “parallel parking” on the dock.

The volcanic island is an overseas department and region of France, so bring out the euros. Our tour went south from Le Port (great name for a port town) to the resort town of Saint-Gilles les Bains. Perhaps the highlight was swimming in the Indian Ocean — inside the shark net, of course.

Clothes in the resort boutiques had that special look that only clothes from France have, in my opinion. I bought a cute sunhat.

We stopped at a small aquarium in the resort town, where I watched a local crew efficiently clearing the vegetation from the small harbor.

Our final stop was a local cemetery built right on the coast. Apparently storms frequently destroy some of the tombs, and the local citizens simply rebuild them.

Among those interred there is a famous local pirate, Olivier Levasseur, nicknamed La Buse, who was rumored to have left a hidden treasure no one has yet found. We thought there was a small treasure on his tomb.