Home Cruises True Story: Stranded On A “Healthy” Cruise Ship For 3 Weeks, Food Running Low, Couldn’t Disembark

True Story: Stranded On A “Healthy” Cruise Ship For 3 Weeks, Food Running Low, Couldn’t Disembark

by SharonKurheg

Imagine being on a 47-day cruise since February, before COVID-19 became huge. No one on the ship is sick, and food & fuel are running low, but no place will let you dock & disembark. That’s what happened to our friends. This is their story.

Joe and I have known “Karla” and her husband “Jeff” since the early 1990s. Longtime residents of New England, they had saved for years to go on a cruise of a lifetime that they had dubbed “Jeff’s retirement cruise.”

Their Holland America cruise on the MS Maasdam was scheduled to last 47 days. It started in Sydney in February, 2020. It was supposed to follow a course of, as per Karla, “Sydney, Tasmania, around New Zealand for two weeks and working our way back to the U.S. by way of some South Pacific Islands like Fiji, Tonga and that area, and then down to French Polynesia like Bora Bora, Moorea, Tahiti, etc., then four Hawaiian Islands and ending in San Diego” in early April. WHEW!

After spending a few days in Sydney to get used to the time change, Jeff and Karla boarded the ship. From all accounts, the cruise initially went pretty typically, with no problems on any of its scheduled stops. Karla shared lovely photos from places such as Port Arthur Penal Colony and Bongarong Wildlife Sanctuary in Hobart, the oldest bridge and church in Australia, the world’s steepest street (in Dunedin, New Zealand), the Wellington Cable Car (because if you’re a tourist, you have to do it once, right?), Auckland and Fiji.

Screen Shot 2020-03-22 at 4.39.59 PM

On March 11, 2020, six days after their most recent journal entry, the report of their trip changed course about as much as their ship soon would. That’s when coronavirus began to affect their cruise, while they were somewhere in the middle of the South Pacific.

Karla is the writer of the following journal and it documents much of what they lived through during that difficult time. I’ve always known Karla to be a sweet person who has a tendency to, as the song goes, “always look on the bright side of life” (why she’s stayed friends with me, a cynical New Yorker, for all these years, is beyond me. But I’m grateful she has), and that certainly shines through in this journal.

The following words are her own, albeit with some editing from me for privacy, occasional brevity, and some other things that are as per Karla’s request. The posts are in chronological order of when Karla posted them, but her ability to post them was dependent on when she had internet access.

Times posted are ET. Time where Karla was would vary, depending on where she was (She wasn’t always able to check-in. When she did, I included it).

This is not a short post, by any stretch. So grab a cup of tea and a few cookies. If you intend to read the whole thing at once, you might be here a while. ๐Ÿ˜‰

Comments, as is always the case at YMMV, will be moderated. Negative judgments of my friends’ decisions, or of Holland America, the MS Maasdam or its crew (all of which Karla and Jeff are still very much in support of) will not be approved; this isn’t my post, it’s Karla’s, and I won’t let anyone hurt my friends. I’ve also changed Karla and Jeff’s names and a few other things to protect their privacy; any comment that identifies them in any way will not be approved.

March 11, Wednesday

8:22pm ET

Before we got to Fiji, we were told some islands are not allowing cruise ships to dock due to the press on the virus [Note from Sharon: Tonga, a scheduled stop, was one of those islands]. The Captain called a meeting over the weekend [Sharon: that would have been March 7 or 8] and explained what we may be up against, even though no one is sick. When he took questions, he was attacked with complaints of this being a cruise they saved for years and they are not offering what we were told. Tears, meltdowns, it was sad. Finally the Captain said he is retiring after 40 plus years after this cruise and he had brought his wife for this south Pacific cruise so he’s hurting too. Mood has been tough, but Jeff and I are healthy and taking it as it comes.

8:36pm ET – Avarua, Cook Islands

Definitely a beautiful island. Loving Cook Islands!!!!!! Thank you Cook Islands for letting us get a day off of the ship and with such beauty. I never minded sea days but in this case, it is getting old fast, knowing our future as well.

9:15pm ET

I’m going to head out and back to the ship. The Captain is going to try to get us to Tahiti two days early since we all have to go through a one on one with their government and doctor. Lots of uncertainty as to what all this will mean but a month of cruise to one where with limited things to do on sea days now….. yeah, this will go down as a cruise to remember. Jeff and I are well and holding up MUCH better than many. As many know, my immune system is compromised so we are taking this seriously and doing everything asked of us. But we had a good day on Cook Islands and are going back to the grind. Haha. No idea when I’ll be back on line but everyone stay healthy.

March 12, Thursday

9:02pm ET

The update when we got on ship is that Tahiti closed their borders to ships for 30 days. We were to dock there to let people on and off. Talk about chaos on a ship. We are waiting in the theater for the Captain. We were going to Tahiti for fuel and mostly food so needless to say we have panic here. I have more info and will try to get online but it took me 45 minutes to get connected. The Captain just arrived to talk to us.

11:11pm ET

For now, they are unloading our ship in Cook Islands for people that were supposed to get off in Tahiti. Their travel agents have been busy and so far all these people get is change fees on their airfare (many don’t have cruise insurance, but having the extra thousand for a new flight isn’t making them happy). Finding flights has been hard for them since this island isn’t that big.

The rest of us? We got the joke that it will be our first cruise that everyone will get off weighing less. But they have plenty of beans and corn. Most don’t find this funny but they are trying to make mad passengers laugh.

For us, we are told he will try to get us to San Diego on April 3 but no guarantees we can dock. That is a lot of sea days with our entertainment getting off here, most things closed down on the ship and talk of rationing. Talk of maybe going to Hilo to fly people out with NO HELP so contact this or that. But it will take 8 days to get there and it is a gamble so we may not make it. But not enough food to get us there but hope to get more. The sad part is for the hard working crew. They lose their contracts, get sent home and many in the Philippines and Indonesia need this to feed their families and their spirits are torn to pieces. Too much sadness here.

March 13, Friday

2:56am ET

I’ve had time to process all of this and hearing what is going on for many of you back home lets me know, health wise, I’m better here. The rationing and lack of toilet paper so many are discussing etc, etc. AND knowing we left no food in our freezer or our refrigerator and sounds like we may have trouble getting a new supply, so….. Guess this is the place to be.

They spent the day getting as many passengers as they could off by tender WITH their luggage. The Captain said this is a first in all his days of taking passengers and luggage off by tender in the rain. They plan to start at 9:30am tomorrow getting people and luggage off but with quantities all people pack for very long cruises, they have luggage galore on tenders. UGH.

So at dinner tonight they started their rationing. Even though we have food to last til Sunday, we were suppose to get more in Tahiti…. they don’t know how long we need this to last. This poor island has my highest respect (Roatonga, Cook Islands). They are doing all they can to accommodate probably close to 500 plus and this is a small island. So for what happens to the rest of us….. We are here for an adventure and that is what we are getting. I may not be able to get food at home so at least here, we have rationed food. HAHAHA.

So the big question, YES I WOULD take another cruise in the future. Yes, this vacation is rather messed up but I bet that most of you are being inconvenienced with all of this as well. The important thing is we all stay healthy and ride it out the best we can. Wash your hands OFTEN with soap and water and help others that may be struggling. Hugs to all.

3:12am ET – Avura, Cook Islands

OK, we may be stranded temporarily but we have this view off our ship for the next several days (Cook Islands). It has rained a lot today, but hey, I’m in the South Pacific somewhere, healthy, and accepting this adventure. Tonight they said when you get dealt a bunch of lemons make a lemon drop martini. Maybe if enough people drink bucket loads they won’t care about food. hahaha. “One day at a time.”

Cooks

Rarotonga, Cook Islands / PC: Karla

5:46pm ET

That orange tender is the last group of passengers and luggage allowed at Cook Islands so we are bypassing all ports (hate missing Christmas Island, but it is what it is) but we are going straight to Hilo, Hawaii to let the rest of the people off that were supposed to get off in Tahiti. We won’t get there until the 20th, but Jeff is telling me we may want to see if we can just bail in Hilo. Will see how all these sea days unfold AND what goes on in the news back home. But we are off.

OrangeTender

Cook Islands / PC: Karla

Cook Islands is coming in as Jeff and my favorite port so far. Glad we had our day around the island in our convertible before being on this ship for days and days and days. Haha. Sounds like they left off some crew too with none coming back on, so we will see. The adventure continues. What a wild trip. Please stay healthy back home.

March 14, Saturday

5:13am ET

Shortly after my internet ended today, the Captain got on the speaker to read us a letter from headquarters. As many know, our cruise line, with all other U.S. based lines, has shut down for at least a month. All ships still out must go immediately to their next port and all passengers must get off. Our ship is one of Holland America’s last ships that will return since, due to all our canceled ports, we have a week to get there.

We will be getting off in Hilo so Jeff and I have spent the entire evening canceling and rebooking everything from now til April 3. We are supposed to reach Hilo on March 20. Many plan to spend some time in Hawaii but Jeff and I are just going to bail and head back to the mainland. This is bittersweet since, to be honest, we are relieved after all that has been going on but we have had to not show that side here since many are very very sad about this, including the crew. Even our Captain is emotional since this isn’t how he wanted to end his retirement. Our dream cruise didn’t turn out as we had hoped but obviously no fault at all of the cruise line.

The only bad thing for us is it seriously sounded like we were safer from coronavirus out here in the South Pacific than being back home BUT the timing just wasn’t right for this cruise. In no way has it soured me from cruising and Jeff and I were already talking about our replacement cruise once this all settles down. This was a tough time but we still got to see so many great places for the first part of this. We have been told that we don’t know the time we will get back since the Captain is pushing it, so to book flights out the next day. We are going to drive to Kona since we could do a change for Alaskan Airlines from what used to be going home from San Diego and will now be Kona instead. I’m a bit numb with all that has happened but again, will feel better after a good night’s sleep. Thank you to all for your support through the ups and downs. Please stay healthy!!!!!

10:32pm ET

Not as much to report today, but that is a good thing. The Captain said that much of the crew was sent home already (as we knew) and that which is left will stay on the ship cleaning and taking care of it for at least 30 days since it may turn out to be more. But it will stay operational and not in moth balls. Then he said at this time we are still on track for Hilo on the 20th, but when questioned and someone asked how sure we can get there, he said, “as sure as I was we could get to Tahiti,” which, obviously, we didn’t.

We have a group of passengers left that have traveled the world more than I will ever be able to and everyone seems level headed and goes with the flow. Sure glad the not-so-levelheaded ones (and we had lots) demanded to get off once we were told food rationing etc.

So about the food rationing, please no concerns for us. So far, we are doing fine. I often eat a salad for lunch and now you pick items that are….. UNIQUE???? No lettuce, spinach or any kind of greens so they cut up apples and use that for lettuce and they continue to improvise. No more bread baskets at dinner but they will sometimes serve you one of something. Appetizer choices use to be six items and then soups and salads. Now we have only two or three choices and no salad. Dinner use to be 6 choices a night and now we have 3 or 4. Some items are unique and not what you expect with ship board dining since the chefs are showing their talents of what to make with limited resources. To be honest, it is kind of fun to see the oddness they are coming up with. No one is starving and no, we aren’t eating granola bars or whatever some have heard. Will this continue? I can’t say, but I will worry when things happen, not second guess. People that like plain steaks or chicken or pork or seafood may have more trouble since they have to stretch items but when you travel the world, you are used to unique items from different countries, so this is no different. We have a vegetarian at our table for dinner and she is happy with what she has been getting. When she is asked what she is eating, she laughs and says, “I don’t know but it is good.” I have heard of no one not sticking with original dietary restrictions.

Jeff is STILL reading [Sharon: Jeff likes to read] and I chat with others about what they are experiencing. Our entertainment got off the ship and the Cruise Director is trying to make sign up sheets for people with similar interests to get together. Not normal cruising but they really are trying. They have asked if any of the passengers have real talent that can entertain us, so that will be interesting. Jeff and I say our daughters need to be here since they both really do sing and so far we aren’t getting takers on that list. I haven’t checked the list since this morning though. So until we hear from the Captain again, it is just smooth seas and taking one day at a time. Life honestly is safer (health wise) here than back in the States from what I’m hearing, so we are blessed. Stay healthy everyone.

March 15, Sunday

3:43pm ET

We still haven’t heard from the Captain today but it is still only 9:45am here. As I had mentioned, when people started getting off in Cook Islands, we lost our entertainment and speakers, so our Cruise Director called a meeting to see if passengers had a talent they could teach for a session. This is volunteer. So Jeff is happy since we have a German Professor on board that is going to do a technical class on radio astronomy from Hobart to Hilo today. And tomorrow there is a U.S. professor that is going to do an astronomy class that will take us on deck to view the stars and the ship is going to shut down all lights up there. We have others putting together games like Mexican Train and just things that we wouldn’t have had with normal cruising. Besides, most of us are burned out on marine biology which is what we were getting. Nothing wrong with that but they hired too many professors on that topic all overlapping. We were just told now that in ten minutes we are coming up to an island that I can’t pronounce or has anyone heard of and the Captain is going to tell us more about this island when we get there, so guess I better get outside. Hey…. keep in mind we have tons of sea days when losing all our ports so we amuse easily with little things to pass the day.

4:13pm ET

The name of the island in question through the thick accent of the Captain was Tongareva (Penrhyn Island). It is one of the Cook Islands and is populated. Lots of WW II history with an air strip. Jeff loves his maps and since this is what he does so often, I had to take a picture. The Captain ended by saying that this will be all we see for the next 1500 miles. Hahahaha. I tried taking an island picture but the sun glaring in our faces that direction, there wasn’t a chance.

JakeMap

Jeff the map reader / PC: Karla

5:38pm ET

Jeff is finally tired of reading so decided to practice his Cornhole skills. Things we do to pass time with no schedules at sea. Again, it still sounds better than what we would be doing back home, so life is good.

JakeCornhole

Jeff playing Cornhole / PC: Karla

March 16, Monday

1:36am ET

We got our letter from Holland America Headquarters with choices of compensation. I THINK we are happy with it but others still want compensation for the last couple weeks of 8 missing ports but as we know the fine print says it is what it is. So basically they are refunding our 19 days left and cruise credit for future cruise. We had another option that was all cruise credit that turns out to be worth more but not leaning that way. Lots of pieces we need details on but in a nutshell, we personally think HAL is being very fair and generous. And that means all of our future exciting sea days are all free to us. Hahaha. We have had a good time other than ONE day when people got crazy and the Captain gave us not so great news. Jeff called it “putting lipstick on a pig.” BUT outside of the craziness of people when they heard food rationing, we have had great memories.

Wow, we just got more info from the ship just now. Looks like they are paying for all of our changes to get home from Hilo if you don’t have insurance. Those with insurance submit first and they will pick up what isn’t covered. Our table mates will be so happy since they don’t have travel insurance. Kind of odd to find sooooo many don’t buy it and these are seasoned travelers. Yikes! Holland America is trying so hard. Kudos to them!!!!!

5:59pm ET

When your excitement for the day is watching one of the pools slosh around, you know you have a jammed packed day of things to do. Hehe.

Pool

PC: Karla

But the busiest place on the ship right now is the future cruise desk. Everyone is lining up to rebook their replacement cruise, which shows that most have not been soured by this experience.

The other side is concern about what really happens to us. The Captain has been painfully honest in all this (which I appreciate) but some would prefer he candy coat. The truth is he can’t give us any guarantees. Things change by the hour. But with fears of border closings, etc, many have children, grand children or pets that they just want to get home to in times like these. So basically it is a mixed bag of emotions. But no one is getting crazy so we are all going with the flow.

The other issue is our depleted supplies of food on board and the concoctions the chefs are putting together. Jeff and I are fine with it and don’t tell our table mates, but we are having fun with the choices. Yeah, it isn’t typical cruise food but we have been to so many places in the world and eaten some very interesting????? dishes. So we are golden as long as they can keep digging. BUT the best news for Jeff is that they have NOT run out of ice cream so he has been spoiling meals eating that and not a care in the world.

Yes, we were disappointed with how this all worked out but we still saw wonderful places in the world before getting shut down and now have a credit to try again. Again, after so many of your stories back home, we are still better off here than many of you.

OHHHHH….and our next good news, since many are still working on replacement flights and hotels and rental cars to get home, they have given us all free internet for the rest of the cruise. It is slow, but most of the time it works. Stay healthy and keep washing those hands!

March 17, Tuesday

1:21am ET

Our NEWSFLASH: The Captain just barely told us that Hilo, Hawaii has closed their borders so we can’t get in. Not looking good for us at this time. Captain will get back to us tomorrow with what our next option MIGHT be. Obviously we are running out of food so the adventure continues. Time to cancel our flight, car, and hotel in Kona since we were planning to fly out of there. So the 20th is a no go. Will update as we have more.

4:00am ET

The equator did not close the border, so we got across. How cool is that? Later we will have a King Neptune Party and at night they say we are one of the places in the world that can still do a pub crawl for St. Paddy’s Day. But still no idea how to get home. We can’t do much more than laugh at this point but in reality, a major mix of emotions on board.

Equator

Going across the equator / PC: Karla

1:25pm ET

Looks like we will try Honolulu. We are told no change of reservations until we get more info, hopefully later today.

6:06pm ET

As many of you talk of lockdowns and self quarantines, we need you to know that life goes on for those of us on HEALTHY ships. Anyone that has taken a cruise ship across the equator, knows of the King Neptune ceremony that ships do. I’ve been across the equator many times by plane but this is the first from a ship. It was speculated we would miss this due to the lack of crew and turmoil, but our crew went out and gave it their all. We were supposed to get to slime the Captain in the story line but he had a legit excuse of being in a meeting about our docking future.

I put up an article a few minutes ago, of a woman and her child on our cruise that wanted to give the bad side of what is going on here and how she thinks she is helping people, but since I was told by many of you that you either had to subscribe or had other limits, I took it down since the article only frustrated me anyway. She can say her trip is in shambles and paint this as very gloomy experience, but remember, there are always two sides to a story.

I need to stress that the crew we have left on board that didn’t get off at Cook Islands has been the most hard working and optimistic crew I have seen. They too have families at home, worry they have lost their jobs after this and have had to deal with cranky passengers. Holland America has stepped up to the plate in rough circumstances and bending over backwards for us.

Anyway, for now, the cruise goes on as we wait for more details from the Captain about his meeting. We are not all sitting around a ship being sad. We are out to sea and away from what many of you are struggling with. So please, don’t feel badly for us. MOST of us on the ship are going with the flow.

9:00pm ET

Captain’s next update. We ARE heading to Honolulu. It sounds like even if they close their border, they are giving us permission to dock. Obviously, with the way things have gone, nothing is a given. But this one sounds more promising than some. So we get in on the same day but could be very slow due to screening and customs, etc., etc., etc., so Jeff and I changed our flight out of Honolulu for the next day (the 21st) and we can either stay overnight on the ship or go get a hotel. We will figure that out later since the less things we book, the less we have to cancel AGAIN!

The next thing I want to address is that it appears the news has said they are bringing food to cruise ships by tender. Sadly, that does NOT include us. The ships getting this help are closer to the shore. We are nowhere close to shore in any direction and are still in the middle of the Pacific Ocean, still 3 days away from Hawaii. A tender can not come out this far.

Our other news for Jeff/ice cream fans, the cones or bowls of ice cream are getting VERY small. Sounds like a lot were living on ice cream instead of some of these concoctions. So yeah, that will be dried up before reaching Hawaii. We saw the dinner menu tonight and even Jeff and I are struggling with what we will pick this time. Hahahaha. But if people get hungry enough, they will give something a try. At least it is food and not granola bars.

We did pass Christmas Island earlier, which was supposed to be one of our ports. And no, if you know anything about this island, you know we weren’t getting food from an island with about 1,500 people on the whole island.

So for now, I suppose it is Honolulu or bust. What will I do with my life when all this excitement ends? Oh yes, hope for food on the grocery shelves back home since we left two steaks, a bag or two of veggies and some ice cream. Hahaha.

March 18, Wednesday

5:38pm ET – Pacific Ocean

I need to emphasize that we are NOT stressed on this ship. Yes, there are some, especially the elderly, that are struggling with all the cancellations and having to rebook new flights so often, mainly because some have never even used a computer. Many of us have been trying to help out but since those that booked Hawaiian Airlines out of Hilo will need to CALL and are told the wait on the phone will be 3 or 4 hours, they are getting discouraged. But for Jeff and me, we are just passing one day at a time in our bubble away from sickness. I swear, even with our food rationing, WE are safer than most all of you, so we feel blessed to be here and do not need anyone feeling we are having it so rough no matter what certain cruise passengers on this ship are getting reported in the news. Yes, they can spout off about how our trip was trashed, they want to go home, and the food is limited, blah, blah, blah, but when you are stuck in a situation, you can write all the nasty grams to the press or cruise lines you want or you can be thankful for what you DO have. Luckily most on the ship are seasoned travelers going with the flow. I shudder to think what this ship would be like if our angrier cruisers didn’t bail in Cook Islands.

So boredom has set in for many being stuck at sea for so long, but I swear I need to stress that Jeff and I are not stressed and we are healthy. We are much more concerned about getting back from Hawaii in a possible germ ridden plane. Crowded customs, crowded airports, and plane rides are more concerning that being “stranded at sea” as the press is calling it.

Some have asked what I’m eating with food rationing….. yesterday for lunch I had portobello mushrooms layered with tomato and guacamole. For dinner I had Caprese salad, minus the basil (yeah, lots of tomatoes left) and for my dinner I had a bowl of potato soup with bacon. No, this is not even close to typical cruise food, but if you aren’t picky, you aren’t going to starve and they are doing the best they can with the resources we have left. I’m looking forward to our options today. Most of us ate too much on this cruise before it went haywire before rationing AND basically our time here is free since we have been refunded. Life is good and we are relaxed. Jeff has gone back to reading and I’m chatting with all of you. Stay healthy and keep washing those hands.

March 19, Thursday

1:29am ET

Wow! Our cruise ship was holding out on us???? We were told tonight that it was going to be a formal night. Considering the past menus, we thought it was a joke, but the menu looked almost almost almost normal. They put steak and lobster on the menu but they told us they had no more butter so if you ordered that, the drawn butter was a no go. And it was limited to a small steak and only one lobster tail allowed. Those who cruise a lot know you can have seconds and thirds and on and on normally but since we are rationing….. Then they came around saying that they were giving us complimentary white and red wine or beer with the meal tonight. Holland America is trying so so hard to make our hopeful last days as normal as possible.

Tonight we have a talent show but since it has to go on and we didn’t have enough sign ups, they opened it up to crew as well to entertain us. So this will be fun. And to think at this point, we are cruising free and on their dime. Meals tomorrow will probably be limited again but tonight was a nice surprise.

2:43am ET

Oh dear!!!! No Honolulu either. Waiting on the Captain. The article says we will get refueled and restocked with food so our adventure continues. Some will need prescription meds so will see how this goes.

1:42pm ET

At this point, our Captain has been silent. First time he hasn’t beat the news with information on our ship, so we know nothing other than what the news is reporting.

6:13pm ET

Update: The Captain is still trying to negotiate but no info. He has a conference call at 2 pm our time. Right now it is 12:12 pm here. At 3 pm, he is calling everyone to the theater and will give updates and will follow with questions and answers. So will have more info then.

10:30pm ET

I’m bordering on uncomfortable giving our update. We just got out of our meeting and the Captain started ten minutes early and answered questions for an hour and a half. So we are told the news, the Governor of Hawaii, and whomever else, says we are not allowed off in Honolulu. Our Captain says we are to put our luggage out tonight and we ARE getting off even though Hawaii is not responding anymore. I have no idea how this happens and yes, it causes anxiety, but our plan is to get off tomorrow even though they say no. Tons of questions as you can imagine but I’m going to leave this topic alone. Captain is not happy. Food coming on tomorrow is ONLY enough for the skeleton crew that will be staying on. Prescription meds for the ones that should have been off the ship long ago is not being addressed since they are told to get off tomorrow and get them in Hawaii. So wow, this is definitely a first type of this kind of adventure for me. I feel like I’m in the Twilight Zone and numb. You can’t even imagine. But hey, I have nothing to add so I don’t have info to answer questions, so those of you drinking tonight, have a drink for me and tell me what I’m drinking. RAH RAH!

March 20, Friday

1:19pm ET

We have docked and I’m on Hawaii internet so hopefully it won’t keep disconnecting. Last night I was trying to get a note up and they disconnected the internet at 4:45am for good so I couldn’t get it to go through and it is gone.

We got a note under our door with new key cards saying ours is no good anymore and we will be getting off the ship on the 21st. Today if things go as planned, they are bringing people from immigration on the ship and we will all be called individually to go through that and then we all see the doctor, getting temperatures taken and whatever. We are told that Jeff and my time off the ship will be at 7am tomorrow and we must get on their transportation at that time to go to the airport and not leave it until our flight. With flight cancellations everywhere, this could be a long process. Our flight is 2 something in the afternoon. Our layover is in San Diego about 8 hours.

Many keep saying we should stay on the ship. We WOULD if we could since it is healthier and safer, but it is NOT an option. All cruise lines were shut down about a week ago and stopped going out. Those of us still not back were because we were on much longer cruises than most and far away but we’re still told we HAD to come back and go home. So once you know this and have to get off, you just want to get it over with. Our ship was like being in a bubble since it was healthy. Now we have to venture the opposite in airports and planes. But onward we go.

Will keep you up to date on the process of if people really get off because for now, we are told we have to wait for the immigration and medical teams to screen us. All is good and obviously things could go wrong but for now it looks like they negotiated something to allow us to the airport. Time will tell.

3:05pm ET

Pictures off our ship. We are still waiting on negotiations and even when we get that we have two individual screenings on the ship before they release anyone, so for now, Jeff and I sit in lounge chairs relaxing and watching planes fly by, while most are on the side of the ship, watching the commotion ashore. LOTS of police and lots of rumors of what everyone THINKS they witness, but since all Jeff and I have seen are the abundance of police, I’m not going to pass any rumors of what is going on. Jeff and I just don’t care and would have preferred they just take us to the mainland as originally planned instead of battling it out with Hawaii. But here we sit with it totally out of our control. Our personal concern will be if they don’t let most of these passengers off, there may be riots with the way people are acting but hey, again, speculations so since I have no solid facts, I’m done with this note until we know something.

Screen Shot 2020-03-22 at 7.54.36 PM

Honolulu / PC: Karla

4:11pm ET

OK, too much excitement on the rails so we decided to move from our comfy lounge chairs to the side of the ship. We still have had absolutely no announcements, but right now they are loading in food (lots of Tyson chicken?????) and also refueling us as I write this. So the speculation everyone is trying to make is, how much food is that going on board, enough for a skeleton crew for a month or is it enough for passengers and crew to get us somewhere on the mainland?

Screen Shot 2020-03-22 at 7.53.39 PM

PC: Karla

Again, Jeff and I are fine staying on the ship. It is HEALTHIER, but sadly we are the minority and will head to our cabin if they tell these people they aren’t getting off.

4:27pm ET

Captain just announced we are NOT allowed off. Tons of apologies and now tears. No word on where we can go yet. Will post as we know, but loading more food.

9:03pm ET

Captain time: We need to leave. We are staying here for about 3 more hours, waiting to get all the medications passengers need. Loading more food and dumping garbage but no………negotiations failed. So for now, our plan is to head to San Diego. We should be there either the 25th or 26th and once we get meds and more food, we will know the exact time we can get out of here. We aren’t leaving without prescription meds and more food.

People are not very happy with Hawaii right now, especially the people that LIVE here that are on this ship. More emotional upset for many, BUT the drinking had already started when we were told the first time. Will get a note out when we actually cast off but more sea days for the Maasdam. I sure am having a memorable vacation that I will never forget!!!!! Woo hoo!

11:05pm ET

Been walking the decks to see our progress but keep seeing Diamond Head. Was up there the last trip here but this time it is only to be seen from a distance.

I have said I did not want to pass rumors and I want to stick to facts or emotions I have witnessed, but this rumor sounds pretty solid. It appears like they did let our Hawaiians off so hoping that one is true. I think we had about 9.

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Diamond Head / PC: Karla

March 21, Saturday

2:06am ET

We are off. We were a little late getting all the meds but it was the last thing they had to accomplish, so we are good. We are told now to expect to get to San Diego on the 27th but no time was given. We have not been told to book anything at this time. Usually we are told times not to book before and any restrictions but for now, we are heading toward San Diego. All kinds of speculation can be made as to why we aren’t being told to book airfare, but right now I’m tired and don’t want to think about it anymore.

Also, my daughter has informed me that yes, the rumor was true about the Hawaiians being able to get off but there were only 6 of them, not 9. I’m done posting for a while. “Tomorrow is another day.” It should be much less eventful.

Oh yes, we have REAL cruise food. And people are excited about lettuce and fresh vegetables, which we were totally out of. Pretty impressive to get nice meals again considering all the days since we were supposed to get off in Tahiti have been free for us other than personal expenses. Good night!

March 22, Sunday

7:21am ET

Our humor for the day: Our Cruise Director got on the shipboard P.A. and said, “Good Morning Refugees! We want to thank all of you that CHOSE to remain onboard for our journey to San Diego!” He made a bunch of Hawaiian jokes and did say we have some canceled activities today. The Hawaiian t-shirt contest is canceled. Obviously that was not a real event but the only one I feel comfortable repeating since there were some real shots at the Hawaiian Governor and Tulsi Gabbard, done with humor that people on the ship would understand, but for those not going through this, they may not appreciate them. Most on the ship say we have to laugh or else we cry so the cruise director is making us laugh.

8:59am ET

Not having much to do on this ship with our 7 day journey to who knows where, it gives one much time to think of what others in this world are dealing with. On most cruises you spend time with the crew at dinner or other places but when a situation like this happens, you see a different side of the people, both good and bad.

I want to address the crew on Holland America’s Maasdam right now. They were a top notch crew when things were going normally, which is one thing we love about Holland America’s smaller ships. They call you by name and I still don’t know how they memorize that many names but they have been put through the emotional ringer with this, too. We have gotten on a personal side with so many of them as they share stories of what THEY are dealing with. Our most talked about was our crew member that lost his mother a few days before we reached Hawaii and wanted to go back to Indonesia where he lives, to be with his family at a time like this and go to her funeral. And yet he could not get off in Hawaii when we all got shut out. My heart is breaking and the consistent story with this crew is that this virus has them scared for their families back home and so many of them were told they could go home in Hawaii and that Holland America was giving them full pay. Again, thank you, HAL. But now we are stuck again and they are hearing that if they don’t get home now that they should hunker down where they are because they will be closing borders to their residents. They can’t get off this ship!!!!!!! My heat is breaking. Yes, everyone knows about the poor passengers stuck on a ship but I needed to just speak up that a hard working cruise ship crew have stories to tell and we passengers are crying with them. It hurts. I know that this virus is causing pain to everyone all over the world. Jobs are being lost, people are scared and most people don’t enjoy being locked away in their homes. We all have stories we will be able to tell to future generations that won’t believe we had to live like this. Sometimes we ALL get caught up in what we are dealing with personally and it’s hard to see just how big this really is, so this was my next vent for my therapy session. Venting and talking about our feelings IS therapeutic so thank you all for going on my journey with me.

10:11am ET

Hey even the Officers are finding things to do on our ship. Although morale was very low yesterday, everyone slept well after the emotional day and today, people are in wonderful spirits on this ship. Lots of laughter and joking about what is happening here. They have been putting up movies for our nightly entertainment and most I have seen so have passed on them. But tonight is another joint venture movie with HAL and BBC of beautiful scenery and wildlife and tonight is ALASKA. Looking forward to seeing that so we can remember wonderful times of our trip all around Alaska this last summer as family and friends joined up there for the wedding of our daughter and her great choice of husband. Hold tightly to your special memories and know that many things in life can be taken away from us, but no one can take our memories.

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Crew / PC: Karla

March 23, Monday

12:37pm ET

Still just out to sea. No new news at this time.

I did want to say that yes, we were told last night that the Norwegian Jewel is allowed to get off in Hawaii. They actually lucked out?????? because their ship had mechanical problems and cannot be fixed while passengers are onboard, so no, they couldn’t go any further. With that said, it sounds like our Captain missed a great opportunity to break our ship. Obviously kidding and yes, I’m very happy for those passengers and no, we are not bitter. Many say they will never go to Hawaii again but that is their choice. I preferred going to the mainland since I couldn’t get a direct flight to where we live, anyway. Basically, it is what it is and I’m fine with it.

The other one many are sending me is about the Holland America Zaandam. They had been in South America and were on their way back when many passengers and crew became ill with flu-like symptoms and everyone was quarantined until they figure out what is going on. This has to be terrible for them. There are several ships still trying to get back. I don’t have the current count since some have gotten back but those of us still out there are STILL trying to find our date when we return. Still a healthy ship at this time.

7:45pm ET

We try again. The Captain has asked us to make our flights out of San Diego and get the info to them no later than tomorrow. So the dash is on. If we do not live in CA, we must book either the 27th in late afternoon or evening or we can book the 28th for a morning flight. Obviously with flight cancellations, this may be long times in the airport. We are not allowed to go into San Diego or get a hotel even if our flight cancels for a day or two. We must remain in the airport. We also must take the bus from the ship to the airport.

We have opted Alaska Air on the 28th since it is only one of two direct flights which seems safer for us, medically. The more flight changes, the more exposure but also possible cancellations of future legs. Our process will be the same with Immigration coming on board and then each of us individually being called to the doctor before we can clear. So Friday will be another fun and long day waiting our turns but we understand why this process is in place.

No other news at all as we just sail the seas longer and longer. Seas are a bit more rough today but nothing like our crossing from Australia to New Zealand.

March 24, Tuesday

3:39pm ET

No real updates today. We overheard some Officers talking and they said the Captain is trying to get us to San Diego a day early to take care of any red tape so the passengers can disembark as scheduled. We have gotten nothing official yet.

And again, I am over the top amazed and overwhelmed with the family and friends offering so many angles of help. If my friends are any example of the caring and giving people out there in a time of crisis, this world is a lucky place. Distant hugs to you all!!!!

And one more time…. Jeff and I are NOT in a “nightmare” or any other terms like that. We are living an ADVENTURE!

4:01pm ET

It was just confirmed by the Captain that he is picking up speed to get to San Diego on the 26th to get paperwork started and that it will help all of us to make our flights on the 27th and 28th. We obviously still can not leave the ship until our bus is ready to take us to the airport, depending on our flight times. But at least when we get docked, hopefully our own internet will work better, since these disconnects are getting old. But at least it works well enough to get messages out as long as we are patient, so no complaints.

March 25, Wednesday

3:35pm ET

Jeff’s way to pass our days away. Usually he has earphones to listen to music at the same time but reading every waking hour finally got old to him. This is his favorite kind of chair on the ship and is in the library.

JakeSoli

Jeff playing solitaire // PC: Karla

Just got another announcement from the Captain. We have all noticed he was cranking our speed, but he said he is doing it to hopefully get us to the Pilot station for San Diego tomorrow at 2 pm and get us docked at 3 pm. Immigration, doctors, etc will be brought on board at that time and we will each individually start our process to clear. We have been on the ship at least 14 days with no one getting on or off so no talk of additional quarantine unless the doctor feels someone is sick but we aren’t expecting that.

After the inspections and such are complete, the people doing them will get off the ship and we will be locked down. No one on or off until the 27th or 28th which will be by bus only to the airport three hours before our flights. Again they stress, no hotels no matter how long you wait to get a flight and those living anywhere in the San Diego area must go straight home. No info on rules after we get home yet, but it sounds like all of us plan to go home and stay housebound, as all of you are doing.

I think this process would feel more real if this was the first time we were told all this. There is no reason to think we won’t be allowed off in San Diego, but we thought the same in both ports of Hawaii, so who knows. So we are in waiting mode and will go through all the steps and I will continue to give updates as I have them.

March 26, Thursday

12:04pm ET

We are hoping to pick up the pilot to lead us into the harbor in about 2 1/2 hours. We had what hopefully is our last question and answer meetings with the Captain. Sadly the whole crew from the ship has to stay onboard until May 1. The Captain was supposed to finish in San Diego on April 3, but sadly retirement has to wait. Someone asked the question about if his wife will stay with him. He said she is allowed but this has been rough on her too and she wants off in San Diego.

Those that have cruised Holland American will know they keep a crew of people either from Indonesia or Philippines. One of the crew was supposed to go home in Tahiti and he was so excited since his wife was due to have the baby at any time. He got shut down like all of us. Then he heard Hilo and the baby waited to come but that blew up. So he said baby had to wait til Honolulu but you know how that went. He got the word his wife had the baby but NOW the crew can’t leave the ship til May 1. I’m sure this is much the emotion of our U.S. Navy out to sea when their dates to go home keep changing, but it doesn’t make it easy for any of them. They say that Indonesia borders have closed even to residents, so that might be part of it, but we have a very sad crew.

Internet is still horrid but hoping about the time we pick up the pilot we might be able to get shore internet. So many of us have unfinished business with all we need to be doing. Front desk has been on overload more than any ship I have ever sailed.

2:44pm ET

Coming in to San Diego. We have the harbor pilot on board and will be docking soon. Then the fun begins?????? And yeah, REAL internet that WORKS!!!!!

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San Diego // PC: Karla

5:51pm ET

The crew for The Westerdam is docked here and are yelling and cheering as we come in. Then singing to us and horns are blowing. WOW! Pretty emotional. We are sounding horns back and cheering back at them. Sure hope this goes well. Haha. Once we dock, immigration et all will be coming on ship and we all have numbers to start our string of booths set up all over the ship.

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MS Westerdam // PC: Karla

We got this far in Honolulu too. We were set up the same way so this is deja vu. We sat and waited from morning till afternoon to be told it wasn’t really happening, but no, we didn’t have cheering when we entered Honolulu but then we got there when most of us were still asleep. So until the first person is called, we still wait.

6:31pm ET

It is show time. Immigration has just started calling.

7:27pm ET

That was TOO easy. Jeff and I were in group #2 and they estimate they will be calling for about three hours to get everyone through. They had more tables set up in our theater than I’ve ever seen.

Question:. Do you have anything to declare? No. Did you purchase any alcohol or cigarettes to bring home? No. Quick look at passports and then, Thank you very much. Not even a temperature taken. Someone asked the Captain as we were heading out, “is that all and do we have more at the airport?” Captain said that was it and we are done. The doctors to be sent? They didn’t send ANY doctors to our ship because we have been quarantined for OVER 14 days with no one coming on or off. He said no one has been sick the whole time. Sooooooo, after all this build up, it was just TOO easy. They could have at least taken our temperatures after I took my full doses of Tylenol and Ibuprofen an hour before we expected to be called [Note from Sharon: Karla has had an ongoing problem with an infected tooth].

I suppose we wait for another announcement after everyone on the ship has been through and get our next instructions. But things look good. People in front of us said their flight had been canceled and the person they were talking to said they just got the note theirs was too, but so far, Jeff and I are still listed as going on the morning of Saturday the 28th. We cannot leave the ship until the bus gets our group at 6am that morning to go to the airport. Seems kind of surreal.

11:02pm ET

Tonight in San Diego it was pouring but when it stopped, it felt like I should go out on deck and take pictures of the San Diego Harbor. Such a beautiful city.

SD

San Diego Harbor // PC: Karla

March 27, Friday

9:20am ET

Disney Wonder just pulled in this morning. It feels strange seeing a cruise ship come in with absolutely no passengers looking off the ship. Looks like a ghost town on that ship, but sadly, that is what it is all about now.

People are starting their flights home today. Last night Jeff and I debated changing flights to today but hearing we had to be up for the 4:30am bus vs. the 6am bus for tomorrow for the same time flight, we decided to just unwind today on an even more quiet ship.

True relaxing today and I hadn’t realized just how stressed and tense we all were until we got that “all clear” announcement. At 8am, they started calling off people that live in California. That makes it feel real and so now we watch the harbor city and wait til 6am tomorrow to get our first taste of the new world.

8:04pm ET

We took our last walk around outside just before sunset, so took a few pictures of the views after dinner. The last picture was on our sign up desk. When we were to make our own entertainment, passengers volunteered to teach a class or give a talk on something unique or interesting in their lives and then you could sign up and they would let you know when or where. But there were also people just having fun with it as was seen in this sign up sheet. Tomorrow we get to put our feet on land. Won’t be long now. Good night!

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PC: Karla

Saturday, March 28

8:31am ET

We just barely stepped on land. Woo hoo! Off to catch the bus to the airport that is leaving at 6am Pacific time.

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Jeff after disembarking // PC: Karla

11:02am ET

We are at the airport. It is so quiet here which is nice, but eerie. We were the only ones going through security at the time and now we are sitting and waiting for our flight. Boarding time in less than an hour and we were told we had the whole row to ourselves on the plane. Nothing canceled on the board, but I know on the ship, people were talking about cancellations or changed flights BEFORE they got to the airport, so at this time, it looks like if you got this far you are OK unless they cancel last minute. No food, snacks, or hot beverages will be given on the plane. Our plane just landed so at least if we are delayed, it won’t be for missing the plane. All looks good so far.

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San Diego Airport // PC: Karla

12:06pm ET

Guess they are going to fly the plane pretty empty. Closest people are 7 rows away from us. They are telling us about special filters and how this plane was cleaned with hospital strength disinfectants. They are going to leave early. Twenty minutes early since we have everyone. Have to shut down.

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On the plane! // PC: Karla

4:13pm ET

We have landed.

Screen Shot 2020-03-28 at 4.24.30 PM

4:42pm ET

Never been zipped through an airport so quickly. MCO is a ghost town and we got off the plane, took the monorail to baggage, and it was already there waiting for us. We THINK we counted 17 passengers on our plane but even if we missed one or two, that flight took a loss getting us across the country. Thank you, Alaska Air. Will be curious to hear how others did from the ship. Jeff is walking down to get our rental car and then we will swab it down with disinfectant wipes and then Google Maps says it is 2 hours and 50 minutes to get to where our place is. I can’t believe that no one is here other than agents at the counter for rental cars.

8:26pm ET

Running late but didn’t forget to tell you we made it. We are in line for take out but just a few minutes from home so it won’t be long.

Car

In the car // PC: Karla

8:38pm ET

We. Are. HOME!!!! When we got back, the people that watched our place were outside and we talked (6 feet apart) all about everything going on while we gone but finally decided we will catch up tomorrow. “Shari” and “Steve” stocked us up with all the essentials to get us started. Bread, milk, yogurt, bananas, paper towels, toilet paper and much more but most especially, ICE CREAM for Jeff. So they not only take care of our place, they gave us a great head start.

I’m in a fog from traveling and need to get unpacked but I’m sure I’ll be able to make more sense after a good night’s sleep. We will have to return the rental car tomorrow, but then we are hunkering down here and hope to stay safe. But yes, we have had our travels so here we will sit and not go anywhere through this. But what a great place to hide out!

Sunday, March 29

ย 12:43pm ET

So here we are. Back to what is the new normal???

I’ve had a chance to reflect on this whole journey and yes, it was terribly disappointing to have planned for our big “dream cruise” and not be able to see the parts of the world we missed due to closed borders. But I am one that prefers to focus on the positive.

We got to Sydney and got to see two different couples that live in Australia that we wouldn’t have seen. We got to do two weeks in New Zealand which was wonderful, with gorgeous scenery and even got to meet up with NH friends as our paths crossed while they were RVing through New Zealand. And as a bonus, we still visited three very different Fiji islands before borders started closing up and finally we were told cruise lines were shutting down, so get back home to the closest open port.

Little did we know that would take over two weeks. Yes, we had some hardships on the ship. I know many of you were sending me links to the bad sides of people giving interviews from our ship but I need to say that not all of us were miserable and most of us made the best of it. BUT sadly, the news media only wants the bad stories since it gets people reading their news. If I told them we were fine, it would not have been printed.

There are always two sides to a story. With that said, there were too many passengers and crew that had real serious reasons for wanting off the ship and fast. I know I touched on some of the stories over this journey, but you couldn’t help but get caught up in other people’s pain they were going through so yes, that put us all on an emotional roller coaster. Also the fact we were rationing food and even when we got food in Hawaii, it was for the crew since they thought all of us were getting off and they eat very differently.

But for Jeff and me, we cheered secretly when we kept getting blocked from ports because health wise, we were SAFER there. Perhaps bored, but yes, we managed. We just had to keep our cheers to ourselves for the people wanting and needing to get off. It was a travel ADVENTURE we will never forget. Not the one we planned on but we were able to be a part of breaking some records on this ship for the longest amount of time being out to sea with no ports. We bonded with so many people in ways you don’t always share on a “normal cruise”. But we are home.

After our adventure, we really are glad to be back and yes, even knowing we have to SQ (self quarantine). It just feels good to be back.

Many of you have asked what our plans are for us and our RV. No, we do not plan to leave and go out exploring. Many campgrounds have closed and SQ does not mean driving “our house” around or going back to normal. Like all of you, this sadly is the new normal for now and our friends that watched our RV have not kicked us out…. the total opposite in fact, so for now we sit and do what all of you are doing. Maybe I’ll finally have time to go through my closets and weed out what I don’t need or reorganize my cabinets. The list goes on, doesn’t it? So we are fine, tucked away in Florida until we ALL are able to move in life.

Sooooooooooo many of you stepped up to the plate to help us out while we were lost at sea and I have to realize now how blessed I am to have the best friends and family in the world!!!!! Stay healthy and remember that life is an adventure…. good and bad, but focusing on the good will help your outlook through life. Distant hugs to all!

*** A bajillion thanks to “Karla” and “Jeff” for sharing their story with us!

#stayhealthy #stayathome #washyourhands

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This post first appeared on Your Mileage May Vary

8 comments

Drew April 3, 2020 - 4:18 am

Fascinating read. I’m glad they got home safely and, as a Hawaii resident, I’m glad the ship didn’t disembark here!

Reply
SharonKurheg April 3, 2020 - 11:31 am

Curious….why are you glad they didn’t disembark in HI?

It’s possible to coordinate it easily enough so they don’t take up your resources, just like they did when San Diego finally allowed them to leave the ship. Had they been allowed to disembark in Hilo, it would have cut their time stuck on the ship in half. Had Honolulu let them, it would have been a week less.

Even Florida allowed 2 “sick” ships to disembark yesterday. Those who lived in FL were allowed to leave. Healthy passengers were going to be driven to the airport before they planes took off. They were able to find beds for the few who needed hospitalizations. And those who were symptomatic have to stay on board until they’re better.

All it takes is coordinating. And Karla & Jeff’s ship didn’t even have any sick people on it. I’m very sorry that Hawaii didn’t have it in their collective hearts to let the ship disembark in Hilo.

Reply
AlohaDaveKennedy April 3, 2020 - 8:07 am

Glad to see this account posted as I was aboard the Norwegian Spirit, another healthy ship denied entry into more than half of our ports and spending 17 days at sea off of Africa. Although both crews performed admirably, it seems HAL Management was more communicative than NCL Management.

Reply
3sistersabroad April 3, 2020 - 1:38 pm

It was great finally reading a good story about the cruise. I have stopped watching the news as they keep focusing on the bad news and making it seem even worse. Yes it would have been hard with so many sea days but they were all well and safe. Its such a shame that a lot of larger ports like Hawaii wouldn’t let the passengers off. I do feel for the crew also. Im so glad they finally got home. Thanks go to HAL for making what some said was a disaster to at least comfortable for most. Thank you for sharing their account here.

Reply
Dora Cochran April 3, 2020 - 3:58 pm

Great story! I love their upbeat attitude. LOVE the glass full view versus the empty glass. Wish more people were like this

Reply
sue schadel April 3, 2020 - 7:20 pm

I also agree this was a great story and I felt like I was on this adventure with them…..Thank You Jeff and Karla

Reply
Ing April 3, 2020 - 9:00 pm

Was on the Crystal Symphony that left San Diego Jan 13 hop scotching across Pacific for 33 days before ending in Hong Kong mid-Feb. By late January, after leaving Guam, all countries refused us docking privileges. 15 days of sea days. Debarkation which was to be Hong Hong was switched to Taipei which was switched to Hanoi which was switched to Singapore. Our Captain started temp checks 2x daily on Feb 1st, 100% healthy. Asia was taking Covid seriously. Must have had hundreds of temp checks while at SIN airport, every business had a temp zapper, some places wanted ID along with checking our foreheads. Parting gifts from Crystal: masks, wipes, gloves, 100% refund on cruise. Flew home SIN-NRT-BOS. JAL crew gave out masks. When we landed it Boston, not a hand wipe or sanitizing pump to be found. Are you kidding me? And here we are…with the virus not even starting to hit the fan, yet.

Reply
Wendy April 3, 2020 - 11:59 pm

San Diego native here. Glad to read this story. Kudos to Karla’s outlook on life!

Reply

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