Skip and I are doing everything we can to check items off our "bucket list". We recently boarded the Coral Princess to sail from Ft. Lauderdale, FL to Vancouver, BC by way of the Panama Canal.The ship holds 1970 people and 900 crew.
We travelled with Skip’s brother, Andy, and his wife, Nancy, our friends, David and Susan Underwood, and former colleague and cruise travel agent, Herschel Rosen.
We flew from Toronto on May 3 and stayed at the Ramada Fort Lauderdale Cruise port/ Airport Hotel. We selected it because there was free shuttle service from the airport to the hotel on the 3rd and free shuttle service to the cruise ship on the 4th. The motel was pretty basic but had all the amenities we required and a very nice tropical pool area.
We boarded at about 1:30pm and went straight to our stateroom to get settled in.
Our stateroom was very spacious and comfortable. The twin beds were pushed together to make a king.We also had a balcony - a must on a cruise like this. We could order breakfast by room service and eat it out on the balcony - very handy when sailing by major sight-seeing attractions at 6am.
We also had lots of closet and cupboard space and a handy safe for our valuables.
This is my 7th 'big ship' cruise but only my first time having a balcony. It was lovely being able to have fresh air in the stateroom and also watching the scenery go by whilst we were underway.
We set sail for Aruba an hour late - at about 6pm. The route to Aruba is 1084 nautical miles/1247miles/2008 kilometres. We spent 2 full days at sea, landing in Oranjestad, Aruba on the Saturday the 7th of May. Aside from Skip’s motion sickness he contracted a gastrointestinal infection. He was unwell starting on Day 2 of the cruise and thought he felt well enough to disembark in Aruba for our scheduled tour. Once off the ship and in the terminal it became evident that Skip was unfit to take the excursion when he got up to walk and almost passed out. We got him back on the ship and reported directly to the Medical Centre on the ship. He was seen quickly and noted he had extremely low blood pressure, caused by dehydration from the previous days’ gastrointestinal activity and not enough intake of fluids. His blood pressure was very low. They hooked him up to an IV and pumped a litre of saline into him, after which he felt quite a bit better. It was at that time we learned that there were several other passengers who were experiencing the same symptoms. Skip was told to stay in our stateroom until 24 hours had passed after his last ‘episode’. For the Centre of Disease Control, he had to fill out a form outlining everything he had eaten the 4 previous days. The very cute South African doctor, Marius Goosen, MD, told us they thought there might be a connection to one of the Ft. Lauderdale hotels people stayed in before the cruise but it wasn’t ours. The captain made a public announcement about the GI breakout and asked passengers to be extremely fastidious about hand-washing before and after eating. Also, in the self-serve buffet, staff were posted at every food station and required to serve us our buffet items rather than us touching the tongs and serving spoons. Princess took the infection seriously and we appreciated their frequent updates on the situation.
After visiting the medical centre, I got Skip back into the stateroom and proceeded down the gangway to explore the main drag of Oranjestad on my own.
There were lots of jewelry and souvenir stores. I found an Internet café and paid $3.50 for 30 min. of Internet time - much more reasonable than the slow, satellite Internet service on the ship they charge $0.75/min and a flat $3.75 per e-mail.
Back in the stateroom, Skip ordered room service for every meal. At one point, when he had been ordered to eat from the ‘Light and Healthy’ (translation BLAND) menu, he tried to order room service from the regular menu and was informed by the person taking the order that he could only order from the ‘Light and Healthy’ menu. When he called to have the tray taken away, a staff member would show up wearing gloves with a red ‘bio-hazard’ bag and antiseptic spray. He would open the bag, spray inside, insert the used tray and utensils, close the bag, seal it and spray the exterior of the bag. During this time, other staff were sent in to ‘sanitize’ the room. They had masks on in addition to the latex gloves.
Of course, all this was reported to me while I carried on with my normal activities. Skip also missed the excursion in Cartagena as the tour was ending just before the end of his voluntary quarantine period - which I referred to as his ‘period of confinement’.
In Cartagena, I went on the mangrove and city tour with the other two couples. We drove to the beach where there was a river estuary lined with mangroves.
In the old city, we drove around and did a short walking tour. One of the interesting houses we saw was where Sir Francis Drake stayed one time he was in town (the yellow house below) and the old fortress which is laid out the same way as many others we had seen around North America.
The San Felipe Fortress was built in the 1600s. In 1984, Cartagena's colonial walled city and fortress were designated a UNESCO World Heritage Site.
Simón Bolívar played a key role in Latin America's successful struggle for independence from the Spanish empire, and is today considered one of the most influential politicians in South American history. There are statues to him in almost every South American city.
Once back at the ship, Skip was freed from his quarantine at 1:30pm and we all went for a celebratory lunch.
to be continued...