Containers on the pier

Sadly, the Falkland Islands were to be our last port of call.

We had not had any issue with the Corona Virus while on the cruise until the day before we went to The Falklands. We knew that it was rampant in China and had moved into Europe and North America but had heard of nothing in South America. On the day preceding our stop in Stanley, the Captain announced that there were no cases inThe Falklands and so the authorities there wanted everyone, passengers and crew, screened prior to our arrival. This was a long and tedious process but as we were at sea it went reasonably quickly.

The Clinic was based on the lowest deck and we were called to attend according to deck and room number. It started while many of us were at breakfast and created a bit of laughter as, when the first call was made, it was for all on deck 8 with cabins ‘on the port side.’ With most not being mariners people were standing up and facing one way saying that it was on this side then turning around and changing their minds. Suddenly, the announcer came back on speaker and said, “the call is for all even numbered rooms.” Ah, now we knew as some sat down to finsih breakfast and others rushed off to get to the head of the queue. Fortunately, every person passed the test.

After a wonderful day in Stanley we had another day at sea as scheduled. Our next stop was to be Puerto Madryn in Argentina followed 2 days later with a stop in Montevideo Uruguay. During the afternoon the Captain informed us that we would be unable to stop at either of these 2 as they had closed their borders due to Covid-19. What a disappointment. He hoped that they would be allowed to get fuel and other supplies at Montevideo without letting anyone off the ship. The following day we were told that this had been refused and so we continued on to Buenos Aires (BA).

Well, actually,we could not continue immediately. Montevideo is a port on the NW side of the mouth of the Rio de la Plata or River Plate in English and BA is at the source of the river about 290kms inland. The source of the river is actually formed by the confluence of the delta of the Uruguay River and the mouth of the Paraná River. As a pilot from either BA or Montevideo has to be on board ship to navigate the river’s very narrow channel we had to wait at the mouth for a pilot to arrive from BA. He was expected on board at about 8pm but we learnt the next morning that he would only arrive around 8am as the weather the previous night had been unstable. We finally started our journey up stream mid-morning and would only arrive in BA at about 11am 2 daysl later, which we did. We were at sea on a river.

During these 3 days people had been scrabbling to get new flights and to cancel hotel and air bookings as BA was to be the final stop. For the first time I had used an agent when booking this trip and I was so glad that I did. Flights were being cancelled everywhere, including the one we for which were originally scheduled to go from BA to Rio de Janiero via São Paulo, Brazil. That was supposed to be the end of our journey from the start even though the ship’s schedule was to end at Miami going via part of the Bahamas. That was all cancelled.

We arrived in BA harbour on 18 March as originally scheduled having all be screened and found negative for Covid-19 the day before. We were not permitted to leave the ship at all until permission was received from the ‘top’ official, whoever that was. He/she was definitely not in any hurry. We had to wait in our cabins, sorry state rooms as they are called today, as the Argentine Dept of Health decided they wanted to board and rescreen us all. When they had done 2 decks and realised what a task it was they changed their minds. Still no one was allowed off the ship that day so we spent the time watching activity in the harbour, mainly containers being loaded on to and removed from ships by cranes and all done with superb accuracy.

Containers on the pierSome of the containers

River with islandThe pier which divides the part of the river with an island in the background

Buenos Aires CBDPart of the CBD that we were able to see

Next morning at about 09:30, all Argentine passengers and crew were permitted to disembark. The ‘top’ official had yet to pronounce the fate of the rest of us. My wonderful travel agent had managed to book us on a flight to São Paulo at 23:50 on 19 March with which we weren’t too thrilled until an announcement was made at 13:00 that those who had an air ticket to leave BA on 19 March would be allowed to leave the boat and go to the airport. Suddenly, the time was just perfect; our ticket was for the 19th by just 10mins! The official at the door as we left the ship did a double check of our tickets as she first noticed the time. I was quick to point out that it was dated for the 19th. Whew! It was close.

Getting to the airport was also quite a mission. As we disembarked we boarded coaches which would take us to the administration hall of the harbour where we would find our luggage. From there we had to follow a long queue through 2 halls to the bus station outside. There were police everywhere and just 4 coaches to take us all to the airport 45mins away. It was a long wait as was the rest our journey home. I will tell you all about that in the final blog to come.