And you thought our story had ended!

Today is our last day on the ship. We are docked at Cape Town and have a beautiful view of the city from the ship. No fresh food has been brought on board; I guess they figure we can suck it up for another day!

At breakfast today I talked to a woman that was unable to get a flight home. She is being allowed to stay on the ship until it leaves Cape Town on the 24th but doesn’t know what will happen to her after that. She isn’t able to be in South Africa, the ship is leaving, and she has no way to get home. She is contacting the US Embassy for help.

When we got back to our cabin, I received a message from a friend that Thailand had just changed their entry requirements. Starting March 22nd (we would arrive on the 23rd), all those arriving in Thailand (foreigners and citizens) would be required to present a medical certificate issued within the past 72 hours that verified they were COVID free. There is no way possible for us to obtain said certificate, so we would not be able to board our flight.

We did some research online, hoping to change our itinerary to CPT to DOH (our original first flight leg) and then DOH to Seattle. We found a few flights, but the prices had quadrupled from a couple of days ago. But, at least a flight existed! If we could leave on the 23rd, the cost was half as much, and on the 24th, 1/4 as much.

The best possible scenario would be that we could change the date and second leg of our flight with the airline, but that would require the cruise line being willing to keep us on board until the 24th. We had high hopes since we knew there were others on board until the 24th, but Guest Services said it was too late; they could not change arrangements for us.

So, after spending a lengthy amount of time on hold, I was able to talk to an agent with Qatar Airways, who we were scheduled to fly with. He had a thick accent, so the conversation was challenging. Bottom line was that he could not change the flight. We would have to book a new one. Just at the point where we were ready to book, the call got dropped. Dang!

Back to the internet…we found a flight that would work for us. It will take us nearly two days to reach home, but at least we can GET home. Unlike most airlines, we can’t get a refund from Qatar Airways for the first flight; we will be receiving a voucher for future travel. Doubtful we will be able to use it, but you never know.

I really hope that there is no need for me to continue this story; I hope that we will be home in a few days. We shall see!

Three more days!

Today is the 19th of March; the day our ship will arrive in Cape Town. Amazingly, NCL has still not informed anyone on board that we will arrive 3 days ahead of schedule! But, finally we have some information about what will happen to us.

No announcement was made regarding our situation yesterday. I must admit, I was expecting the captain to tell us either that we would be arriving early but would not be able to disembark, or that we were going to be turned away but would be refueling and restocking (desperately needed at this point). But no, not a single word…

When we left our cabin to go to breakfast this morning, we found a note outside our door that we were required to fly out of the country on March 22nd, and that our flight details must be submitted between 6 am and 10 am. Say what??? Our flight was scheduled for April 1st, but we were informed by the airline yesterday that the flight had been cancelled, so we knew we would not be staying on until that date. However, we did expect to have more than 4 hours to make new arrangements (along with the 2,000 other people in the same boat…so to speak!).

Fortunately, I am married to a man that always plans ahead for every eventuality. I am a planner by nature, but he puts me to shame in that regard. We had already looked into flights home (there weren’t any decent options) so had decided to head back to Chiang Mai, Thailand to cool our heels until we could get home. To be perfectly honest, Seattle might not be the best place to be during the coronavirus pandemic and Chiang Mai doesn’t have a single case. We had already looked up flights and found that Qatar Airways would get us there. The only downside is that overnight, the price of the flight had jumped significantly. I believe this is due to the fact that very few airlines are flying out of Cape Town right now, so many on board are routing through Doha, Qatar, meaning the number of seats dropped precipitously and the price increased dramatically. But, at least we have a way out of the country and now know when we will be leaving!

So, we will be aboard the ship until the 22nd and will fly out that night. In the grand scheme of things, we may have been better off on the ship than at home, given the spread of the virus and restrictions there. Thank you for following along with our saga. My prayers are with all whose lives are being impacted by the pandemic.


Heather was

Living in limbo

Do you remember a couple of days ago when I posted that I would (hopefully) not need to post again about our cruise. I spoke too soon.

Though NCL has not said anything to us yet, I read that the president of South Africa is now banning many foreigners from the country, including those of us from the US as of March 18th. Even if we could reach a port in South Africa in two days, I highly doubt that we would be allow to disembark. And, if that unlikely event did happen, NCL would have to find a way to get us out of the country immediately.

So, once again, things are completely up in the air for us. Though we certainly are not going hungry, there are shortages of many types of food. Want a salad? Hope you like cabbage! Veggies? Carrots and asparagus only. Yesterday, I only saw asparagus. We have been out of juice for a couple of weeks. The cooks are having to get creative about the dishes they are preparing, with very mixed results.

As more information becomes available, I will update my blog.



And, maybe it will be ending?

Hopefully, this will be the last time there is a need to update you regarding our cruise!

We woke up this morning and found out that Norwegian Cruise Line would be cancelling all cruises through April 11th. As for those of us already on a cruise? “Guests on voyages that are underway will conclude and guests will be disembarked as soon as possible and assisted with travel arrangements.” The big question is: when and where would it be possible for us to disembark?

Naturally, no announcement was made by the captain or anyone else, though most passengers were aware of the issue. The captain did state (around 9 am) that we would be stopping off of the coast of Reunion Island (where we were scheduled to dock tomorrow) in order to do a medical evacuation. We had heard a “code alpha” called at 9:30 last night (medical emergency), so the person needed to be given more intensive medical treatment than was available on board. We would then continue with our sea day, arriving back at Reunion Island tomorrow morning at 7 am. So, I guess we will be floating aimlessly for a day!

In the absence of information, we tried to figure out what might happen next. Would they dock at Reunion Island or Mauritius and try to make arrangements for all of us to get to a major airport from there? The logistics for that seem daunting given that there are 3,000 on board (passengers + crew). Besides, I don’t think either island would want us! So, South Africa would be another option. Again, would they allow us to dock? If not, we would be truly screwed. If we were allowed to dock, would they drop us at the closest port (Richard’s Bay) and transport us to the nearest airport, or what? Another ship in our situation ended up in New Zealand, but New Zealand just announced that they will not allow cruise ships to dock.

I contacted the guesthouse we are staying at in Cape Town to let them know we might be arriving early. I also reached out to Egyptair to see if our flights home could be easily changed. The guesthouse reservation agents don’t work on the weekends, and Egyptair said that since we booked through United, we would have to contact United. I have heard on the news that people are spending hours on hold with United to try to make changes in flights from Europe; I did not hold out any hope that we would have better luck. So, I contacted them on Facebook and am still awaiting an answer.

Finally, at about 11:45 am, the captain made an announcement. We will be docking at Reunion Island tomorrow (not holding my breath on that), but then will be at sea for 6 more days, arriving in Cape Town on March 22nd, as was originally scheduled.

So, the good news is that we will be docking. The bad news is the 6 more sea days. And, though theoretically we are docking tomorrow, realistically, I am resigning myself to being on board. If you have read my previous posts, you will know that Reunion Island residents were throwing rocks at cruise passengers a week or two ago. Hey, it could be an exciting day! If we actually are able to get off the ship, I may be able to write an entry regarding the exciting things we saw while on shore. Wait and see!

And so it continues

And so it continues…


Due to the extended number of sea days, we decided to upgrade to an unlimited internet package. With all of the craziness surrounding the coronavirus pandemic, it is good to able to stay connected with family and friends, in addition to keeping up on the news.

Big changes have been taking place around the ship. The library (such as it is) has been stripped of books and games, as well as the daily crosswords, sudokus, and trivia quizzes. In the buffet, guests are not allowed to touch anything. Plates, silverware, and napkins are handed to us. All food is dished out onto our plates. We can’t even get our own beverages. Condiments have been removed from the tables as well. If you want salt, pepper, ketchup or mustard, you have to have it served to you. In the specialty restaurants, the tables have been stripped bare. After removing linens, candles, and tabletop décor, they resemble a nice Denny’s restaurant rather than an upscale steakhouse. But, the food tastes the same; it is just the atmosphere that is lacking.

We have been at sea now for 8 days. We were supposed to dock at Port Louis, Mauritius tomorrow. Notice the past tense? We were all given medical and travel history forms to fill out for the local authorities, just like for the visit to the Seychelles that did not happen. Unlike the Seychelles, even before the forms were collected, it was announced that we would not be docking in Mauritius tomorrow. This is where it gets weird. We cannot dock there on March 14th, but will be allowed to dock on March 16th. Huh? So, tomorrow is another sea day and we will visit Reunion Island on the 15th (I am not holding my breath as that is the island where rocks were thrown at cruise ship passengers a week or so ago). Then, we will backtrack to Mauritius, spend a day there and then head to South Africa. Since we will be arriving in South Africa at least a day late, we will most likely miss at least the first port or two. Sadly, the first two ports were where we were scheduled to go on game drives. Yes, this was my sole purpose for taking this cruise. I am deeply bummed😢.

I will post again in a few days to let you know what the latest itinerary changes are.

With all of that being said, I fully realize that we are very lucky to be on a cruise when so many around the world are sick and suffering. My prayers are with those that are affected by the coronavirus. Thankfully, no one on the ship has it, or things would be much, much worse.



When will we ever dock? Thanks, no thanks coronavirus!

Today, we were supposed to dock in Le Digue in the Seychelles islands. Originally, we would’ve already visited Madagascar, but were notified of an itinerary change a few days before this leg of the cruise began. Instead, we would visit Le Digue, a small island  in the Seychelles where there are plenty of opportunities to visit the beach, but not much else. Very few taxis exist, so the cost to get to the beach is 30 Euros (so 60 round trip).

Two days ago, everyone on the ship had to fill out a health questionnaire for Seychelles immigration  that also included questions about where we had visited in the past 28 days. When we turned them in, we had to have our temperatures checked by the ship’s physician. When we docked at Le Digue , early on March 10th, immigration officials would plow through the forms and let us know who could and who could not get off the ship. Clayton and I, like many of the passengers on board, had embarked in Italy, a hotbed of coronavirus activity, and so weren’t too sure we would pass muster.

In the end, it did not matter. At around 9 pm on the 9th of March, the captain came over the ship’s loudspeaker to let us know that the officials in the Seychelles were denying us the opportunity to dock, other than to refuel and pick up new crew members. We would not be stopping at Le Digue at all, adding another sea day to our already sea day-loaded itinerary. We would dock just long enough on the 10th to refuel. And, our stops in Mauritius and Reunion Island are also up in the air. NCL is talking to the officials in those countries. The Sun Princess was just denied docking in both locations, so I cannot possibly imagine they would allow us to dock.

That leaves our 3 port stops in South Africa. Since we are supposed to disembark in Cape Town, I profoundly hope that we can dock there!

So, of the 20 days on this cruise, we have docked in Abu Dhabi, Fujairah, and Muscat (which we have visited 2 to 3 times each previously); we may dock in Richard’s Bay, Port Elizabeth, and Mossel Bay, South Africa (TBD), and will have been at sea 13 days! Not exactly what we had planned, but at least the toilet is now working (most of the time). We have only had 3 non-toilet days on this leg.

When we entered the buffet this morning for breakfast, we found that new procedures had been put in place overnight – no more serving yourself so much as a cup of coffee. Instead, the buffet was bustling with servers that would dish up your food for you. We got there early since we are early risers, so there were no issues. I am curious how things went when the crowds showed up. For lunch, we ate at a restaurant rather than the buffet. The menus had been replaced with sheets of paper, which were then disposed of after we used them. The captain’s announcements at noon included a reminder that if you were having any gastrointestinal issues that you could be screened at the medical center for free. Cruise ships rarely do anything for free, so I am wondering if there are norovirus cases on board. I don’t think norovirus would prevent entry to the ports that have been cancelled (coronavirus fears is to blame for that), but would explain the extra hygiene efforts.

We shall see how things progress over the next few days. I will post an update as new information becomes available.

The end of one cruise and the start of the next!

We just finished the 17-day first leg of our cruise. I am not posting about every port. We are finding that the ports we have visited before are not quite as fascinating as they were the first time. So, if you want to read about them, I am reposting links to my previous posts.

It took the entire 17 days for NCL to fix our toilet! Truly difficult to believe. We ended up with the phone number for the head of housekeeping and called him every time the toilet didn’t work (which was most of the time). I think he got so sick of hearing from me that he made sure that darned thing got taken care of! Anyhow, life on board is much more pleasant now.

We are currently in Fujairah, UAE on the second leg of the cruise. We head back to Muscat tomorrow and then head down the east coast of Africa. We just read a day ago that Reunion Island, one of our planned stops, had rioting when a Princess ship docked there. Locals threw rocks at the vans carrying passengers on their excursions. They were afraid of coronavirus being introduced onto their island. We have been hearing plenty on the news about Covid-19. The irony is that the biggest outbreak in the USA is very close to where we live. I think we would be in more danger there than here!

Our final port stops will be in South Africa, where we will spend an additional 10 days.

Here are a couple of new posts:

Muscat, Oman

Abu Dhabi, UAE

And a few old ones, from port stops on this cruise that we have visited before:

Petra, the Rose City

Muscat, Oman

Dubai City Tour

Fujairah, UAE

We’re Cruisin’!

We are docked in Aqaba, Jordan today, but are not getting off the ship. Instead, I will take advantage of having internet and try to get caught up before we are at sea for the next 5 days! The itinerary for the cruise is one we have done before, so we are not touring every port. After we reach Dubai, we will be on a “new to us” cruise, so will be exploring new places.

Here is what we have experienced so far:

This is not starting well. . .


Cruising the Suez Canal

Luxor, Egypt

Waiting for the cruise to begin

I am writing this post while in Civitavecchia, Italy. Soon, we will be starting our next cruise adventure on the NCL Spirit.

Originally, we signed up for back to back cruises. The first would leave from Civitavecchia on February 10th and would essentially mirror the cruise we took in 2016 through the Middle East, ending in Dubai. The second would start in Dubai and travel down the coast of Africa to Cape Town. Total cruise days? 41!

Unbeknownst to us, the Spirit was getting a major refurbishment right before the first leg of our cruise. We had cruised on the Spirit in 2015 and loved the ship, so were pretty happy that we would be sailing on her again; practically a new ship after her spiffing up!

A few months ago, we received notification from NCL that the cruise would be delayed for a day. The cruise line would either pay for our hotel for a night and provide a free transfer from Rome to the port, or give us $300 on board credit (OBC). This was a no-brainer for us; show me the money! We could stay an extra night in Civitavecchia and get ourselves from the airport to the cruise port for much less than $300. We would miss one port, but a new one was added, so no big deal.

A few days before we were set to leave Thailand, we received another notification from NCL. Apparently, there were labor issues in France (where the ship was being refurbished) and the cruise was going to be delayed by 3 more days. This was a bigger deal – 4 ports were removed from the itinerary and now we had to fill 3 more days in Italy. Our compensation would be a 25% refund on the cruise, and 25% towards a future cruise. The dates for the remaining ports were almost all changed, which meant changing pre-arranged tours. Fortunately, that was possible in most of the ports. One exception was Haifa, Israel. The tour company was not willing to accommodate our new date, and would keep 75% of the prepaid amount due to the late notification. Grrr!!! We will be in Haifa 2 and a half days. One of those days is now completely free. I have not been able to find a new tour at this late date, so we may end up taking the train to Jaffa. I was really looking forward to our Masada tour, but it is not going to happen. We will still be able to tour Jerusalem, and I am know that we will thoroughly enjoy it (even though we have toured there before!).

We took the train in to Rome for the day. We have been a couple of times before, so I a, not going to write about it. We just rode the HOHO bus around. I took a few pictures of the Colosseum. We saw so many Smart cars! These baby sized cars are perfect for Rome given that the parking there is abysmal. I love how they park them sideways. I have NO idea how the cars parked around them can get out!!!

Our ship has arrived in port, but is not ready for embarkation for a few more days. So, we relax in our apartment in Civitavecchia while we wait. A few minor bumps in the road related to the cruise, but life is good! We board the ship tomorrow.


As seen in Civitavecchia – a joint dispenser!😱

Here a Wat, There a Wat, Everywhere a Wat, Wat!

You may wonder at the title of my post, unless you have been to Chiang Mai. It was amazing with all of the walking we did how many temples we ran across! Many are found within the old city walls, but we also randomly ran into temples on little side streets everywhere we went. It is hard to believe, but a month has passed since we arrived in Chiang Mai! If you are curious why I have not been posting much, it is because our goal for this trip was a bit different than usual – we wanted to see whether or not we would want to come back to spend our winters in the city, not to be tourists.

The month flew by! We walked all over town (the old city) and all over the outskirts of town. We averaged around 7 miles per day, always avoiding the hottest part of the day by walking in the morning and evening, when the temperature is most comfortable.

If you want to read our impressions of the city after spending a month there, click here: Impressions of Chiang Mai

And, if you want to read about the touristy things we did, here are links:

Mae Ping River Cruise 2020

Tiger Kingdom

Chiang Mai Zoo

Lanna Smile Thai Cooking School