I Hope my Friends from the Zaandam Are Okay

With our gym shuttered by COVID-19, my wife Susie and I have plenty of time to walk, talk, and worry. She might say, “I wonder how Gusti is doing.”  And I may respond, “I hope Fern and Panchi are okay.”

They are among our newest friends — crew members on the MS Zaandam, one of the Holland America ships ravaged by the coronavirus.

Susie and I love to cruise. Since our retirements five years ago, we have explored just about every corner of our world from Alaska to Australia.

Our last cruise to Antarctica, with all of its icebergs and penguins, was especially breathtaking. Our exploration of the frozen continent was further enriched when Panchi served up a smile with every cup of coffee, when Fern joined us for a selfie, and when Gusti used his Origami skills to convert a paper menu into a dinosaur.

They made our 22 days on the Zaandam special, and when we all said goodbye in Chile on February 22, we promised to meet again.

Susie and I returned to Naples, and our new Holland America friends set sail for another trip around Cape Horn. Just three weeks later all hell broke loose. 

You know what happened. COVID-19 silently raced through the Zaandam, killing three passengers and a crew member. Dozens of others were sickened, and the crippled Zaandam limped back to Fort Lauderdale — an unwelcome guest and a floating symbol of the collective suffering inflicted by the virus.

Nobody is cruising now. The big ships are docked, cruise lines are losing billions of dollars, and thousands of their employees have been furloughed.

Some cruise lines might not survive. And even veteran cruisers will have to think long and hard as to when, if ever, they return to the seas. It will probably take months — maybe a year — but Susie and I will go back. And when we do, we will look to reunite with our crew pals.

I could really use another cup of coffee, and a smile, from Panchi.

I hope she’s okay.

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