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Adversity at Sea, 2 ports cancelled and on-board health issues.

The photo is one of a pilot who preferred to be taken off the ship by helicopter, rather than by Pilot boat, in strong weather.

We had arrived Maputo Mozambique late due to adverse winds and faster than normal ocean currents working against the ship. After departing from Mozambique towards Madagascar, both the winds and currents intensified. As a result, the captain announced with a heavy voice that we had lost too much time and that our stop in Nosy Be, Madagascar was cancelled, we were heading directly to our next stop Dar El Salaam. Based on the captain’s calculations, maintaining our course would have landed us in Nosy Be 90 minutes before sunset. Given that it is a port requiring tendering to get ashore, it rendered impractical a visit there.

As one might imagine, a contingent of ships passengers were not happy, and some were vocal about it. A number of them had noticed, on the ship’s moving map, that we were travelling at 13.5 Knots for a long period of time. The Captain explained to us that the current was over 4 knots against us. It was also revealed that our ship’s top speed is 17 or 18 knots, which explains a speed of 13.5 knots in a 4 knot counter current. This was a surprise to me, as most cruise ships we have travelled on cruised in the area of 26, 22 and 24 knots. I suppose the Insignia, our current ship, has a older hull design and engine-propeller configuration.

The Captain also announced that our stop in Penang, Malaysia, towards the end of our cruise, was also cancelled. The reason given was the timing of the tides in and out of harbour in Yangoon, Myanmar, formerly Burma. The ship’s itinerary was planned over 2 years ago, the captain explained, and the tides, which are required to navigate out of the port, had changed to the point that our departure form Yangoon will be forcedly delayed with our stop in Penang being the casualty.

We also learnt, in terms of possibly encountering the plague on Madagascar, that the World Health Organization has lifted its travel advisory about 8 week ago, and in any event Nosy Be, meaning “Big Island” in a local language, as an island, offers some separation from any contagious situation on the main island.

Health On Board

We also had a health issue on board, with 13 cases of gastrointestinal infection reported. All this began after we departed Cape Town, and apparently only to passengers who boarded in Cape Town. But it was interesting in a way, because as more and more people on ship reported sick, the ships health procedures changed. Apparently, these procedures are dictated by the US Centre for Disease Control, and various measures are implemented when .5%, 1% and 1.5% of passengers get sick. With 13 passengers sick, we exceeded the 1.5% threshold. The measures include strict washing of hands with sanitizer before and after every meal, salt and pepper shakers are removed from the tables, ditto for placemats and dishes (thankfully, dishes appeared once food has been ordered!), bathroom doors were left ajar with door stoppers so you did not touch handles, chairs and hand railings throughout the ship were washed almost continuously, even all walls were washed regularly. It probably doubled the work for the staff. I felt for them. The measure I like the most is playing cards were quarantined for 2 weeks; yes, after playing bridge or poker, the cards are re-boxed and placed in a sealed bag, which is dated, and stored away in a secure location, not to be re-opened for 2 weeks.

The ships health risk level has now been diminished, the ship is apparently heathy again, items such as plates, placemats, salt and pepper shakers have re-appeared. In case you were wondering, Suzanne and I were fine, we felt no effects.

Poor cards though, some won’t see daylight for another 10 days.