Searching for an Imaginary Island at 0°N 0°W, 0°S 0°E

Day 80, Grand World Voyage

Friday, March 24, 2023; Null Island, South Atlantic Ocean.

We had finally arrived. Hundreds of smartphones confirmed it. Latitude 0 degrees. Longitude 0 degrees. But where was that dang island?

Actually, as we all scanned the water’s surface, we weren’t looking for an island, but rather a 12-foot-tall weather buoy named Soul (after the music genre). It wouldn’t be easy to see from the 10th deck of a cruise ship. And most of us gave up when the captain reported they couldn’t find it from the bridge either, and apparently the buoy isn’t transmitting at the moment.

Nonetheless, we declared that we had arrived at this imaginary Null Island. It is the name given to the point where the Equator and the Prime Meridian intersect in the Gulf of Guinea. Few ships pass this way, and our captain deviated slightly from our course from Angola to Ghana to reach this point. Actually, as Eloise’s tracking map shows, we circled, zigged and zagged.

The real feat was when the captain arrived at the precise location and, thanks to our azipods and computer navigation, turned the ship north, declaring the starboard side in the Eastern Hemisphere, the port side in the Western Hemisphere, the bow in the Northern Hemisphere and the stern in the Southern Hemisphere. 0°N 0°E — or 0°S 0°W, it all applies.

We also celebrated our second crossing of the equator today (the first was Jan. 16) with a King Neptune ceremony. It is a tradition that involves a lot of silliness as those who have never before crossed the equator – pollywogs – are initiated by King Neptune, and must kiss a dead fish. In my cruising experience, it is always crew members, not passengers, who are initiated. They don’t usually have to kiss a fish, although one may make an appearance.

They are covered in “slop” – green whipped cream or meringue – and dumped in the pool. Which of course must be drained and cleaned after the ceremony. The crew used the opportunity to repair and re-caulk as needed.

The ceremony always draws a huge crowd. And I will confess here that I didn’t go. (I used Laurie Tillett’s photograph.) If you have seen one King Neptune Ceremony, you can check it off and move on, in my opinion. We did get nice certificates declaring us Emerald Shellbacks.

Today is the third of three consecutive sea days. After a couple of two-sea-day stretches over the next week, we will have only five single sea days until early May when we start across the Atlantic. I have no idea how I will keep up on the blog, much less sketching. Stay tuned.

A few nights ago we joined Tom and Monika (friends from the 2020 World) for a special Moroccan theme dinner in the Pinnacle Grill. I rate it the best meal of the cruise so far. The flavorful food was spicy without being overly hot, and the Pinotage wine a perfect match.

My only complaint was that it was far too much food. Explaining that will take a little background about illness on board.

If Covid has raised its head in the past month, I haven’t heard about it. But on one recent morning, it became obvious a gastrointestinal illness was spreading — confirmed by a letter from the captain. Under the new protocols, staff are serving everything in the Lido Buffet, the salt and pepper shakers and bread baskets have disappeared from the tables (to be served by waiters) and crew members are everywhere cleaning banister railings, chair arms and elevator buttons. Many people self-isolated in their cabins for a day or two.

As it turns out, some of the problem may have originated with food shipments. Henk, the hotel manager, sent a note explaining why some foods (like the spring mix lettuce and spinach) have disappeared. We won’t have new deliveries of fruits and vegetables until we arrive in Europe, when “a cornucopia of fresh produce will be resupplied,” he wrote.

During our Moroccan Dinner, the chef told us the initial intention was to serve the main three-meat course in tagines to share around the table along with three salads. But with the new health protocols, they filled each plate with everything. We never could have eaten it all, but we tried our best.

While the GI outbreak, which is subsiding, has been a topic of discussion around the ship, the well-traveled passengers on this cruise are taking it in stride.

We’ve had some more serious health issues over the past few weeks. One friend and his wife left in Mauritius after he suffered a bleeding issue. When the call for blood donations went out over the public address system, 30 people with the requested blood type immediately volunteered. He recovered in Mauritius and since has flown home. Another passenger departed in Luanda, perhaps from repercussions from the GI outbreak. He will be flying home as well. This isn’t unusual on a long cruise with many passengers who are in their 80s and beyond. We see an ambulance or two on the pier in many ports.

As Sergeant Phil Esterhaus said in Hill Street Blues, “let’s be careful out there.”