Thoughts from Quarantine

I sometimes worry that I could become a hermit … as long as I had the Internet, my books, my wife, some good wine, a little rum and my dogs … oh yes, and my spa was working.  In normal times, when the country isn’t locked down, I’m happy to stay on my little farm and avoid going to town as much as possible.  That doesn’t mean I don’t enjoy getting away, traveling and seeing the world, but I’m comfortable being home and being alone.  I know that some folks by nature are energized when they are in a group of people, but I am one of those with the opposite response: groups of people drain my energy.   It’s not that I’m not good being in front of people and interacting with them.  Lots of my ship board reviews say I’m good.  I know I’m not the only one.  I’ve met folks who are great in public as entertainers, speakers, whatever, but in private they are private.

So for me at least being confined to our little farm in Panama, while it has some inconvenineces, has not been bad.

A lot of time when I’m home I am working on lectures and port talks for upcoming cruise assignments.  I had planned this to be a pretty busy year with some destinations that were new to me, so I had dilligently worked ahead to have everything in order by the time I started.  Now, the first four trips have been cancelled because of the coronavirus cruise shutdowns.  But, I’ve gotten two additional trips for the same itineraries, which  hopefully will go on as planned.  These two are with American Cruise Line on the Columbia/Snake Rivers, so a lot depends on if Washington and Oregon get their act together and the coronavirus levels off and declines.

I do realize, and hope the cruise lines realize as well, that things have now changed forever.  Pre 9/11 you could race from the curb to the airline gate just before your flight was leaving.  Now we all accept the security routine.  Cruise lines are going to have to radically change their way of doing business if they are to survive.  Take the common cabin key card.  Everyone gets one.  As you board the ship you hand it to the security guy who puts it in his camera, takes your picture for on the card, and hands the card back to you.  Everyone boarding hands their plastic card to the guy, who touches them all before handing them back to the new guest.  Bingo!!  We’re off to a good virus-spreading start.

Cabin Key Card

Emergency drill.  Again you’ve got to have the cabin key card to get accounted for if you want a seat in the lifeboat.  Again, hand the card to the crew member in charge of your boat.  Card gets scanned and handed back to you.  So now everyone in your lifeboat has something in common, like it or not!

Buying a drink before dinner … again the card, handled now by the bar waiter.  In the dining room, ordering wine … again the same card passed around.

Disembarking at the first port … you must have the card to scan off the ship.  To speed things up the guys with the scanner usually take your card to quickly scan it rather than have you fumbling, holding up the line, to scan it yourself.

And that’s just the cabin key-card!

[Carnival/Holland America Princess has been trying out a new keyless program where you will get a “medalion” that you wear that is recognized by a vessel-wide system that recognises you, opens your stateroom door, tells the bar tender your drink preferences, automatically charges purcheses to you account and bills them to your credit card.  When I last worked Princess they were busily wiring the ship for this program.  This of course is brought to you by the folks who can’t deliver reliable Internet to your cabin and who, in the case of Holland America, had their data system breached.]

Watching from Panama, the US seems to have a very laissez faire attitude toward the pandemic, certainly in contrast to Panama.  Panama decided the way to limit both the damage, inconvenience, death and destruction of the pandemic was to go all in with a governmental policy locking down the country.  The US by contrast seems content to let every local juristiction make decisions without any consistent policy.  Panama locked down the country.  In the US you can freely go from state to state and county to county sharing the virus with your neighbors.  Sure go ahead and walk your dog, jog in the park, walk in nearly deserted streets, just maintain your distance, and, by-the-way, the President of the US assures everyone that it will all be over by Easter.

Yes, it seems a bit dragonian to say, as Panama has said, that being confined at home means you can’t walk the dog.  The health department has issued instructions for pet owners to provide places in their homes, or high rise apartments, for their pets to relieve themselves.  OK, these are tough times.  Fortunately we have 4 acres and lots of room for our dogs to run around and take care of business.  But for many people, especially those in the city …  Panama says that when the beaches are closed, they are closed, and you don’t have the right to take a solitary walk on a deserted beach.  The idea here is that for the good of all, and particularly those most at risk, you follow the program as a responsible citizen who cares about their neighbors.  Those who don’t comply are being arrested and fined, and those who flagrantly violate or in the cities decide to loot, are going to be put in jail.  [And nothing can be worse than being in a Panamanian jail, unless you are a former President of the Republic, politician, or former Supreme Court Judge, in which case you get nicer than normal prison accomodation.]

Panama’s idea is that if everyone gets onboard now and makes the sacrifice, the impact, death and damage will be less, and the length of inconvenience will be considerably less.