As a joke, on the 21st February 2020 I put a post on my Facebook page asking if anyone wanted a free cruise. I was absolutely shocked by the number of people who replied ‘yes’, considering that the horror stories about people being quarantined on cruises ships and ports of call refusing them landing, had started to surface.

I don’t think anyone in the world loves cruising more than I do. Or just travelling for that matter. I got my first cruise when I was 14 years old and was so excited about the experience that the first job I applied for on leaving high school was to work on a cruise ship.

Thank God I never got the job, for I learnt later in life that working on these floating hotels is no fun. For the workers seem to work almost 24 hours per day. Also, they live in cramped quarters at the bottom of the ship and have to be nice to all sorts of assholes. Not getting that job was probably my best luck in life, for apart from the horrible conditions under which cruise ship employees work, lots of them pick up dangerous viruses.

But back to quarantines. I am claustrophobic, so being quarantined is a fate worse than death. I have been quarantined twice and thank God it was for short periods of time.

The first time was when I developed a fever after returning to Jamaica from vacation in Guyana. On that trip I did the exciting trek through the forest by minibus over to Brazil. When I went to the doctor after developing a fever shortly after returning home, it created panic with the damn doctor who swore I had developed dengue, malaria or yellow fever, mosquito-borne diseases that were no longer in Jamaica at that time.

That’s when she said I must be quarantined in a hospital — public or private.

I had never heard about the process before so I called a friend who was a GP to find out what would happen if I refused to turn myself in. He soberly advised me that they would send the police to bodily take me in. That was enough for me, so reluctantly I checked into a private hospital and was confined to bed under a mosquito net for three whole boring days. It turned out to be a colossal waste of money as nothing was wrong with me except some ordinary damn flu.

The second time was in 2018 when a group of us went on a cruise of the Canal zone. The night before we arrived in Old Cartagena, Colombia, I had gone to watch the show on-board and had to comment how a man behind me was coughing non stop.

The next day we took a tour of the old city and after we had finished visiting the square, I stood on the sidewalk awaiting my friends when bam! I collapsed on the sidewalk, nearly bashing my head on the raised section. Maybe I was temporarily out, as when I came to, a crowd was standing over me with everyone offering to help. My friends secured my belongings and put me in a taxi back to the boat.

I had not been feeling ill, but when they took my temperature it was 104 degrees. Long story short, I was then quarantined to my room for two days. It was so boring. I did not really want to come off in Limon, Costa Rica as I had visited it quite a few times, neither did I want to come off in Colon as I had also visited that town once and did not like it.

But being confined to my room while everyone else was out having fun was a killer. I later learnt that 40% of the passengers on that ship had gotten the flu and some even had to be airlifted off.

I recall all this as I listen to the horror stories of people being quarantined on cruise ships for up to 14 days during this coronavirus outbreak and I sympathize with them as I think I would die if I was confined to a cabin for such long periods!

I really love taking cruises and was looking forward to doing the river cruise down the Rhine later this year, stopping in Northern and Central Europe on the way, but I think I might just give cruises a break for a while.

For while cruises are fun, quarantine is hell.

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