Monday, February 4, 2013

Darwin 2/3/2013

Today’s posting was going to be about the beautiful approach into Darwin and our river boat tour to see the jumping crocodiles. 

Little did I know that there would be other things to write about and a continuation of the segment of the cruise that has come to be known as “how many things can go wrong on one cruise”.

Since leaving Sydney we have waited in Moreton Bay while the remnants of a cyclone passed and had an emergency medical helicopter take a passenger off the ship. The greatest disappointment was that we missed both of the ports that would have allowed us to see the Great Barrier Reef, stopping only in Brisbane (in the rain) and Cooktown, where there was basically nothing to see or do. For the avid football fans there has been ongoing frustration that the expected option of viewing the Super Bowl would not be provided by the ship. For all of us, who have become so dependent on technology, the almost non-existence of an internet connection was a constant problem.

Today though, we experienced the most unbelievable saga of all. Our original itinerary stated that we would be arriving in Darwin at 9 am. Because of previous circumstances and the fact that we were fighting headwinds, we did not arrive until 1:30PM, cutting our time here in half. Upon arrival we all made our way to sign in for our tours, only to be told by the Captain that an announcement made earlier in the day had been the signal for a medical emergency on the ship and sadly, one of the crew had died.  We would learn much later that it was the woman who was the lead singer in the group of onboard entertainers, but at this moment we knew very little.

Many Australian policemen as well as a number of other people from the crime investigation bureau were waiting for our arrival in port. The authorities would not clear the ship and because an investigation was underway, no one was allowed off. There would be further announcements as more information became available.
Our room faced the pier so as we waited on our balcony, we could watch as various cars arrived and more people boarded the ship, as the body was removed from the ship and taken away, as the captain and various ship personnel came down the gangway to talk to people on the pier and as a policeman walked up and down the pier taking pictures of the outside of the ship. This whole time, in the distance we could see that the buses, drivers and guides who were lined up to take us on our tours were also sitting and waiting. We could have been watching a television program, but it was indeed, all too real.
At 4pm an announcement was made that the ship had been cleared only for the passengers. All of the tours had been canceled except for one. Buses would be available to take anyone who desired on a two-hour ride to see the highlights of the city. The shuttle bus into town would still be run, but all of the shops had closed at 3pm. Because of the ongoing investigation, the evening’s entertainment would be replaced by the showing of a movie and no further information could be given about the incident. We were scheduled to leave Darwin at 7pm.

We skipped the tour and headed downstairs to the ship's coffee bar for a snack. From this other side of the ship, the view was entirely different. The residents of Darwin were enjoying this beautiful weekend day on the water.

The tours returned and of course, the rumor mills were in full force. There was much speculation about what had happened but the only thing that was clearly known was that someone from the crew had died. As we all suspected, 7 pm came and went. We were informed that the investigation was still underway and until it was complete, the ship would not be cleared to leave Darwin. Our revised time to leave port was 1:00 pm tomorrow. 

Another announcement came later that all of the tours canceled this afternoon would now be available tomorrow morning and 225 seats had been secured at the local casino to watch the super bowl. Anyone desiring one of these seats or to go on a tour would need to come to the destination services desk to obtain new tickets. Well, you would have thought it was opening day at Harrods’s sale. Grown men and women were running down the stairs and racing each other down the halls.

Our day came to an end on what could have been an entirely different date and place. On the night we left Sydney, Lisa and Charlie struck up a conversation at dinner with the couple sitting next to us. The man explained that he was celebrating his 70th birthday while onboard. We talked for a long while and the couple invited us to join them on the night of the birthday to have cocktails in their room and dinner at the ship’s gourmet restaurant. Tonight was the night of the birthday party.

We dressed in our nicest attire and entered one of the largest cabins on the ship. We were given a tour of the living room, bedroom, large closet, bathroom and indoor alcove that had a large bathtub in the corner, from which one could look out the two floor to ceiling windows. The couple served champagne and canapés and in total there were four couples in attendance. We made our way to the restaurant for what turned out to be a delicious meal and lively conversation. We talked about our families, where we lived, other cruises we had been on and the current situation onboard. We learned that we all split our year among various locations, but the hosts, who were charming and very unassuming, had the most homes and were the only ones to own a private jet. The dinner finished with the traditional birthday cake and singing of happy birthday. It had been a lovely evening, for which we were still not sure why we had been invited, but had thoroughly enjoyed.

The entire day had been surreal, but there was more to come tomorrow.

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