Cruzin’ N Boozin’ – Day 3/4 – A Successfully Executed Contingency Plan

After hearing the bad news that our cruise was cancelled, we were, naturally, very disappointed. Stella and I look forward to our vacation cruises almost from the time the last one is over. Stella researches all the options, we discuss possible itineraries, and we set about planning and preparing, usually over a year in advance. It really is our time together and as we age, we want to enjoy our golden years while we’re still relatively healthy and young. This is a missed opportunity for us that we will never get back.

That being said, there was little time for us to go around feeling sorry for ourselves. At least not right now. Even though we had plane reservations, there was still lots that could go wrong, and what with the rapidly deteriorating travel situation getting back to the US, we really needed to catch a few breaks. So, we decided to relax and recover as best as we could on Sunday so that we would be ready for our long journey home on Monday. Door-to-door, the trip was going to be 24-25 hours, and that’s if everything went as planned, which was by no means a guarantee.

Instead of being too adventurous, we just stuck around the hotel on Sunday touring the grounds. I got caught up on the blog, we tried to sleep a lot, had a few drinks with lunch, then an early dinner to catch a few more hours of sleep until our 1:00 AM wake-up call. The hotel was very nice, and in fact the food was truly one of the best restaurants we had been to. As in better than what I can (or am willing to) make.

The Santiago Sheraton. Really nice hotel.

Lunch in the lounge. May as well have some fun!

Dinner before our flight. This hotel has one of the best restaurants that I’ve been to.

1:00 AM came early. In fact, I was so restless that I woke up at midnight and went ahead and got a head start so we could both shower and finish packing back up. We kept our (now useless) cruise documents in case we needed them later to sort out the refund/compensation situation after the dust settles, and with heavy heart, we packed those away. We met the taxi to take us to the airport and we were there about 2 hours earlier than we probably needed to be, but the traffic was light and it was a good risk mitigation step that was paid for in sleep hours, which we weren’t going to get much use of anyway, so it was a good investment.

Santiago airport at 3:00 AM. Pretty architecture.

We went on an airline that I never heard of: COPA (Compañía Panameña de Aviación). It’s the official Panamanian airline based in Panama City, Panama, and it literally connects all of the Americas – North, Central, and South. They fly only 737’s the fleet is very new, the aircrafts were clean, the service was good, and they were on time. It was founded back in 1947 by some Pan Am execs, and it’s a pretty big operation, on par with other airlines like United, Lufthansa, etc.. It sure outlasted Pan Am!

We had 3 legs on our trip: Santiago, Chile to Panama City, Panama, to Orlando Florida, to San Diego. The layovers were adequate, but we literally walked off each plane and went right into boarding the next, so not really any down time at the airports. The total in-flight time was about 16 hours, and while we tried to get some sleep, that was only in fits and starts. Exactly what one would expect during long flights.

Starting our journey home…

We did catch some breaks on the aircraft. None of the flights were totally packed, so we were able to weasel our way into getting an aisle and window seat with an empty middle so we could stretch out a little and maybe sleep a little better. The other great news was that there were zero weather delays and no mechanical problems. All three flights went like clockwork. Yaay!

If there was one anxious moment, it was the connection in Orlando. We had to go through immigration and customs, and their international terminal is a little wanky and it was difficult for us to figure out where to go. At first, I couldn’t figure out the gate for our next flight and there was nobody at the information desk and the arrival/departure screens only listed flights at the international terminal. Then, I remembered that I had the Flight Aware app on my phone, so I was able to look up the gate. Alas we had to get on a tram and then trek to the opposite side of the airport. Compounding this was the fact that we had to go back through TSA screening, and due to the air travel fiasco caused by the administration’s lack of planning and poor crisis management, we had a 45 minute wait getting through security screening. Looking at the bright side, Orlando was not one of the 13 airports that were designated for travelers flying in from Europe that needed extra health screening. These airports became “chokepoints” of the grandest kind with waits up to 3 hours, causing missed connections, and causing potentially infected people to congregate for hours at a time en-masse, only to be dispersed as potential vectors around the country. Glad I was not part of that mess!

Crowd at Orlando TSA security checkpoint. Yikes!

Yet, the delay almost made us miss our connection! They were getting ready to close the doors when we ran up, out of breath. Good thing they didn’t take our temperature at that point!

We returned to San Diego safe and sound, and thus far, are thankfully asymptomatic. We’re going to stay at home and find out what the quarantine recommendations are and, if we are subject to those, we will do so. We’re also going to have to keep our heads about us and get caught up to speed with developments and act accordingly.

Home Sweet Home!

I’ve given some thought to how one should approach an existential crisis such as the one we’re currently undergoing, and I’ve come up with some ideas:

  1. Don’t panic. Be confident in your ability to weather the situation and don’t succumb to a “herd” mentality. Don’t go out and buy a bunch of toilet paper. That does nothing to contain the virus. Think about how to do without. No toilet paper? Use a washcloth and throw it in the washing machine. Out of hand sanitizer? Learn how to wash your hands properly with soap and water. It’s much more effective than hand sanitizer anyway, and way cheaper. Out of disinfectant spray? Improvise with bleach and water. Out of bread? Learn how to bake it. Use your skills and/or learn new ones to make do. This is going to be a rough few months (at least) but the likelihood of us running out of water, electricity, and food is pretty low, and if you’re fortunate enough to have shelter, that’s really all you need.
  2. Think ahead. Plan as best you can to socially isolate yourself and prepare yourself for the possibility of catching the virus and getting sick.
  3. Stay informed. Listen to the news and web sources to get the best information that you can from multiple sources and make thoughtful decisions based on that information. There’s lots of good info about how the virus is spread, data based predictions about what the various scenarios are, and how our actions as individuals can influence the outcome. “The consistency of the data tells the truth”.
  4. Be compassionate. There are lots of people who will suffer. Many have limited choices and resources if they can’t go to work, either due to quarantine or furlough. Consider getting involved in relief efforts either through direct action, or through donations. We need to help each other out and take care of each other.
  5. Be optimistic and keep your sense of humor. These will be trying times, but we as a people have been through these crises before, and we will not only survive, but we will come out stronger and the better for it. Life is not fair. It does not matter what circumstances you find yourself in. What matters is how you respond. Have faith.

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