Notes of a traveller

Alan Dodds – photographer (among other things)

Notes of a traveller

Score: Corvid19 2 – Grand Tour to Europe 0 : Corvid19 wins!

Posted on Saturday, March 21st, 2020 at 1:18 pm

Perth Western Australia


It’s not often that I am tempted to start writing an article before starting out, but this trip is an exception to that rule.

We have been steadily planning and booking for this trip for at least the last six months or so, making this cruise booking here; that hotel booking there; buying train ticket here and so on. Doing it this way helps to spread the costs of such a trip and makes sure that by the time you actually leave most of the trip is paid for.

This trip is no different. Our aim is to spend a month in Berlin catching up with Pippa and Tara and hopefully seeing one of Tara’s new shows. To get there we found ourselves a Costa repositioning cruise starting from the Isle of Reunion and thence travelling via Mauritius, the Seychelles and so on up into the Mediterranean via the Suez canal and make a few more stops around the Greek islands on the way to Venice and then via the south of Spain to Berlin. Looks really good!

And then the Coronavirus happens. All is well until cases started to appear in Italy. In Northern Italy, just near Venice. And so the first casualty of our trip appears.


Oh dear – what to do? First things first, check the travel insurance and read the small print. Sure enough … there in the small print under “We will not pay for” is clearly written

“Claims caused by, or claims arising from, an epidemic, pandemic or outbreak of a contagious disease or any derivative or mutation of such viruses, or the threat or perceived threat of any of these”.

Oh dear! What to do? We can’t cancel the whole trip because, apart from losing all the money, the German family we are exchanging houses with are spending the whole ten weeks of the time in our house and are due to arrive here at any moment so we can’t really abandon the trip at this stage.

Oh dear! What to do? Cancel a few things to start with. Get a refund on one train ticket; cancel a couple of hotel bookings. Can’t cancel the booked flights within europe since they are not flexible so those are down the drain.

Oh dear! What to do? Well how about we get off in Corfu instead of Venice, spend a week there and then go directly to Berlin? Sounds like a plan and a sort of win win. We can get four days in a hotel plus a car for the same price as the one night in Venice we had booked. Ok … not so bad, lets go with that!

Cottesloe beach western australia

Will the beaches in Greece match Cottesloe beach?

Michael drops us off at the international airport in Perth (thanks for your hospitality Michael and Patricia) in plenty of time where we check in quickly and are through to our departure gate in record time. The whole place is like a ghost town and feels very strange. The Coronavirus effect is being felt already.

The departure gate in Perth airport is deserted

The departure gate in Perth airport is deserted


12th March. Day 1 morning

We arrived last night in Mauritius, very travel weary having spent a couple of nights in Perth with good friends on the way. We were supposed to have flown on to Reunion this morning to board the ship, but thank goodness we decided that it was all too much and we would stay here for the day and board the ship in Port Louis instead. We left home on the 8th March but will count this as day 1.

We have booked into a small, rather tired but comfortable enough hotel in Mahebourg on the south of the island and which stands right on the ocean. We arrived late and didn’t have time to see much until the morning when we had time for a short explore before the rain started.

The Coco Villa sits right on the water. The skies are very tropical and a storm is on it's way

The Coco Villa sits right on the water. The skies are very tropical and a storm is on it’s way.
Local fishermen catch bait from their brightly coloured boats.

Local fishermen catch bait from their brightly coloured boats.

A sultry morning on a tropical island

A sultry morning on a tropical island

Mahebourg is a small town on the south east of Mauritius and is very much for the locals. Hotels seem small and tourists are encouraged to go to more popular Blue Bay just down the coast.

We walk the streets of a wet Mahebourg.

We walk the streets of a wet Mahebourg.
The market slowly coming to life

The market slowly coming to life
Need some chairs - or a fan perhaps?

Need some chairs – or a fan perhaps?
Couldn't make out whether these were parked or dumped.

Couldn’t make out whether these were parked or dumped.
Umbrellas go well with riding a bike.

Heavy rain – umbrellas go well with riding a bike.

12th March. Day 1 afternoon

In our email came the news that the ship had been unable to board passengers in Reunion. If they had docked there, they would not have been able to dock in Mauritius! Phew! Dodged that bullet anyway!

And it is now officially a PANDEMIC so who knows what will happen next!

13th March. Day 2 morning

We awake after a good nights sleep to the sound of heavy rain which we are told will last all day. Time to splash out on a taxi to drive us across the island to Port Louis, the capital of Mauritius. The heavy rain continues for the whole of the journey and so we see nothing of the island itself before arriving at the port where the Costa Mediterranea is waiting for us.

Embarkation is a strange affair since the main disembarkation/embarkation is tomorrow. We are just a couple of blow-ins who should really have boarded in Reunion. After a while, the immigration person takes our temperature, checks us on board, we get our cruise cards and take our luggage to stateroom 1107 and settle in. We usually enjoy this bit – a chance to unpack everything and stow the suitcases under the bed. We are in our cosy cabin looking out of the window at the continuing rain. It feels like a long journey just to get this far. In the evening the rain eases and we can go up onto the top deck and take in the surrounding port.

Where are the usual embarkation queues

Where are the usual embarkation queues?
Stateroom 1107 - our home for the next month

Stateroom 1107 – our home for the next month – or so we think!
On board at last and the rain has eased.

On board at last and the rain has eased.
Happy to be on board after what seems like a long journey

Happy to be on board after what seems like a long journey
The fancy dining room

The fancy dining room – too expensive for us!
Lots of fuel needed to get to the mediteranean

Lots of fuel needed to get to the mediteranean
Water slide anyone?

Water slide anyone?
Evening turns to night

Evening turns to night

13th March. Day 2 evening

Watching the BBC world news it seems the world is closing up around us. Will we actually get to Europe we ask ourselves? The gossip mill is in full swing and we hear that there will be only 1,100 passengers boarding, out of the 2,600 possible. Should be an uncrowded journey. Many will have cancelled and anyone who arrives with a temperature is turned away.

We have a very pleasant five course meal in the main restaurant and look forward to many more. After a wander around to see where the entertainment is we retire to our cabin for our first night on board.

14th March. Day 3

Looking around the ship in the morning it is good to notice that there are a significant number of other ethnicities on the ship, particularly indian and french african. Should be an interesting trip we say to ourselves.

The ship is very italian and has been fitted out in a very dramatic fashion. We take advantage of the quiet period to wander around and take it all in.

Starting with the lifts the decoration is pretty dramatic

Starting with the lifts the decoration is pretty dramatic
Flying figures in the main, four story atrium

Flying figures in the main, four story atrium
Whimsical sculptures at every turn.

Whimsical sculptures at every turn.
A staircase spirals around a water feature.

A staircase spirals around a water feature.
The Venitians keep an eye on things

The Venitians keep an eye on things (from Jacqui)
They like their dancers (from Jacqui)

They like their dancers (from Jacqui)
Jacqui looking very pleased.

Jacqui looking very pleased.
Alan looking puzzled (from Jacqui)

Alan looking puzzled (from Jacqui)
Trapped in a glass case - let's hope we're not trapped too!

Trapped in a glass case – let’s hope we’re not trapped too!

However, today is the end of the ships current itinerary – a 14 day trip around Madagascar – and so passengers begin to disembark and those who will continue with us begin to embark. By the time the introduction talk from the cruise director takes place in the late afternoon, 90% of passengers on board are english speakers which has resulted in a dramatic change of colour. Or should I say all the colour has been washed away with the majority now older, whiter, grey haired people.

We get the standard introduction from the cruise director, with a presentation about the next few ports. No hint yet of any issues.

15th March. Day 4 morning

This morning has dawned bright and sunny, so after taking the opportunity to take a few shots which actually show sunshine we plan our day.

Port Louis bathed in sunshine

Port Louis bathed in sunshine
Interesting what difference a change of font makes.

Interesting what difference a change of font makes.
Bit dodgy

Bit dodgy really

We decide to walk into Port Louis and notice the town is literally divided by the main road. On the harbour side the new developments are typical of the western corporate colonisation that is taking over so many places. We take the underpass to the other side of the road to find teaming markets and narrow crowded streets of the old town, alas also overshadowed by the high rise buildings of yet more corporations.

The Waterfront for the upmarket tourists and the corporates

The Waterfront for the upmarket tourists and the corporates
An empty restaurant doesn't bode well

An empty restaurant doesn’t bode well
Across the road into the old part of town

Across the road into the old part of town
Nice street art

Nice street art

15th March. Day 4 afternoon

This afternoon we see on the news that the world is closing down with the threat of the coronavirus, and many of the passengers have now decided to cut and run. Costa has promised 150% cruise vouchers, valid for 12 months, as recompense and many are taking that option. There is no longer any certainty where the ship will be allowed to dock and where we will be going. We really have no choice but to continue since our house is fully occupied. Who will let us in?

Now things really take an interesting turn. The compulsory safety drill is cancelled. You always have to do a safety drill complete with life jackets and so on at the beginning of every cruise. It’s been cancelled.

Rumours fly around the ship. We discover our cruise card isn’t working when we try to buy a fancy coffee as a treat and so we go down to reception to find out what is going on. People are milling around in a very confused way and then someone is saying the cruise has been cancelled. I ask one of the women on the reception deck if this is so and she tells us to pack.

Wow! How about that!

The Magical Mystery Tour is coming to take you away! But where to?

Joining the queue to retrieve our passports we find we are to be “repatriated”. This will involve spending tonight in a hotel and catching flights tomorrow. We asked if we could fly to Berlin instead but were very firmly refused. We have noticed that a number of buses are lining up outside on the dock, and now we know why they are there. We are lucky enough to get on one of the first and are quickly away for the one and a half hour trip along windy roads to the Hotel Riu Creole situated on the Le Morne peninsula on the south west of Mauritus.

Into the bus we go and off to who knows where

Into the bus we go and off to who knows where

It is dark by the time we are on the road and so we arrive late, check into a very damp, but airconditioned room and then partake of the huge buffet in the hotel dining room.

16th March. Day 5.

We have breakfast by the pool and are informed that we must check out at midday. It is not clear what will happen now, and we all just hang around waiting. We can hear the whispers circulating all around. Then a meeting is called in the theatre and names are read out one at a time (all 400 hundred that are left) and bus and flight times are allocated. Amazingly, ours are the first names on the list – bus at 7pm for a flight at 11pm. This means we will be waiting around the hotel for most of the day and we still don’t know what’s happening.

Breakfast by the pool at the Riu resort.

Breakfast by the pool at the Riu resort.
The 400 remaining passengers await their fate

The 400 remaining passengers wait to hear their fate
In the meantime we have a few hours to wash off

In the meantime we have a few hours to wash off

The trip home is horrific. It is one of those long haul journeys which we have really tried to avoid. On the way here we flew to Mauritius directly from Perth, a journey of eight hours. I seems we are to return via Dubai.

It goes like this after waiting around most of the day until 7.00 pm – bus to the airport, one and a half hours; three hours at the airport; eight hours to Dubai; four hours in the airport; onto the plane and one and a half hours on the tarmac while they change a part; thirteen hour flight to Melbourne where we missed our connection; 2 hours in Melbourne; two and a bit hour flight to Brisbane; pick up hire car and drive for one and a half hours home.

Collapse, exhausted with very swollen feet! Our much anticipated nearly three month trip is over in nine days.

The usual throngs of shoppers in Dubai are strangly absent

The usual throngs of shoppers in Dubai are strangly absent
Waiting, waiting and more waiting

Waiting, waiting and more waiting

We were told as we reentered Australia that we now have to spend the next fourteen days in self isolation. Thanks go to daughter Zoe and friend Judy for shopping for supplies so that we can retreat from a world which is increasingly in chaos. The world is literally shutting down. Quite amazing!

As for our German family who are supposed to be staying in our house, they are probably in more difficulty than us. The government won’t allow them to be in our house while we are in isolation – and anyway, we would never forgive ourselves if we should have the virus and passed it on to them.

On top of that, they are in a strange country and still finding their way around. Two of them leave after the first week in April but the other three have flights booked for the middle of May and may not be able to reschedule them. In the meantime, we have managed to find them some cheapish alternative accommodation for the next couple of weeks and we will do our best to help them after that.

It felt awful asking them to leave our house in which they had expected to stay for ten weeks, but we had no choice with the world going crazy.

And now, borders are even being closed between states in Australia and travel is increasingly limited.

We count ourselves lucky that we were not on the other Costa ship which had already sailed and which can now only dock in Venice. They have been refused entry in every other port.

How will it all end?

May all be well and happy and may this world health crisis pass quickly.



17 responses to “Score: Corvid19 2 – Grand Tour to Europe 0 : Corvid19 wins!”

  1. Robins Number (Australia) Lie’e says:

    hey – finally got to it – Great but loved the live version – with all the exclamations, Hugs n Love

  2. Helen says:

    I’m so glad you are back safe and well. What resilience. Love your photos.

  3. Great story Jacqui and Alan, so sorry you missed your holiday though! How to have an action filled retirement of the unexpected kind. So glad you are back safely.

  4. Hi Jacqui & Alan,
    I’m a little behind in saying thank God you’re home and, hopefully, safe and sound with no nasties to add to what must be a very big disappointment after all your careful planning, especially the Berlin part catching up with Pippa and Tara, hopefully when this subsides you can organise a humdinger of BarBy with a few tinnies with them and wash away this nasty taste.Your words and photos tell the story of your usual enjoyment, the boat decor must have been something else and, if my memory serves me right I believe the cruise ship disaster off Italy was the Costa company.
    As your other corresponding friends above we are trying to keep safe, being looked after by the children ( and they near retiring age!!! ) two weeks in and yes, we are now dreaming, and your pictures certainly help!
    Take good care and keep safe and stick to those palm trees and pool!.
    Lots of love to all,
    Tony & Beryl xx.

  5. Jonathan Hoskin says:

    Dear Jacqui and Alan. Thanks for this great post – we really got the sense of pending uncertainty and cancellation. The pics are wonderful (thank you both).
    Sorry to hear of the tortuous return home – but at least you are safe/
    Through all this your positivity and caring shine through!
    Love and very best
    Jonathan and Pam

  6. mary searle says:

    As always a great read Alan and fabulous photos; particularly of Jacqui.Hopefully you got given a cruise voucher which you will be able to use in the future.
    Brian’s son Alex and Dutch wife Susz had all the bookings for spring at their Boutique Mallorca cancelled but they have managed to set up a voucher system for their visitors who love to go regularly so that the deposit money stays in the Bank to keep them solvent and the visitors will still get holiday some time in the (we hope) not so distant future.

  7. Danielle says:

    Hi Alan and Jacqui,
    Happy to know you’re self isolating at home. After such a trip you must appreciate staying put for a while, having a holiday/retreat at home with pool and more! Thanks for your nice photos Alan. They make me want to buy a proper camera, a light one I could change lens may be. Any recommendation? I’m glad I got to see you both and I hope we’ll have more opportunities in better circumstances. Take care. A big Hug to you both.

  8. Andrew Stewart says:

    Its a crazy time!
    But glad you are back at home safe and sound.
    I need to make a decision too. Here in Oxford everything is going online so I might as well be at home. Trouble is someone is renting my place until July so not sure what to do. Also with borders closing everywhere not sure if I will even be able to go anywhere!
    One day at a time for now.
    Great to hear about your (non) trip anyway!
    Big hugs,

  9. Olly says:

    Glad you made it back safely. Sorry we weren’t able to meet up in Málaga but obviously best not. The Spanish state of emergency seems to be pretty well organised. The centre of town is very quiet. We are allowed out individually to walk the dog and buy food, medicines etc. It’s very difficult for the children most of whom live in flats with no access to a garden.
    Have a good relax. Love Olly & Corrinne

  10. Christina McGuinness says:

    Goodness dear Alan and Jacqui…was just wondering, when ‘notes of a not traveller arrived!’.
    “Expect the unexpected” always a reminder from Rinpoche eh! Remember Tibet?
    Both sound as though you took it with calm and a lot of questions…you must have seen some very upset oldies.
    I really am so sorry as it sounded like the most marvellous journey…especially catching up with Pippa…I wonder if they will come home or maybe they can’t as the gates are shut. Just hope Germany is in a healthier position than Italy.
    It is indeed ‘interesting times’. Us mob will learn a lot about ourselves…and it doesn’t look pretty at the moment…we will see. I think we will see big compassionate changes in society.
    On that note am so very happy you are both home…and knowing you both will find plenty to do/think about on your 14 day retreat.
    Cheers, love, keep well and happy, Chris & Richard XX!

  11. Lynn says:

    What an experience you have had. Things happing so quickly in the world it’s hard to keep up with it! Glad you are both safe at home. Keep safe and wishing for happier times. Xx

  12. Irene Mews says:

    Hi Jacqui and Alan, so sad you didn’t have the dream holiday. On the bright side welcome home, what a relief to make it back safely if in an unchosen way. You could look on it as a mini adventure, which you wrote of with panache and coupled with some great photos. A friend arrived home from Paro after an uncertain five day wait after their Indian visas were cancelled and they were on standby for a flight via Singapore. Now safely home and in isolation.
    I hope you have the opportunity to take this amazing holiday next year. Take care, stay safe. Irene 😘

  13. Cathy Howe says:

    Hi Alan. Crazy days! We can relate to your situation. Kim and I were half way through our first ever overseas trip that he had carefully planned for 6 months or more, and we pulled the plug just half a day before the government recommended everyone to come home ASAP – or you might not be able to. We got home yesterday, now in our 14 days of isolation, and are glad to be here.
    If I was your German family I would go home before they find that they can’t. The world reaction to the virus is just unprecedented and scary and who knows where we will end up from here.

  14. Andrea Griffiths-Ghosh says:

    Loved your story and the photos. Although I kept thinking ‘Oh no, don’t go to Berlin!’ What a journey you’ve had. I’m glad you’re now back in your own home. Interesting times indeed. I for one am enjoying self imposed isolation. It has come at a time when I really needed the grounding of stillness, nature and Home. Am enjoying the light hearted chatter I have with the chickens! Stay safe and well, you, your family and loved ones. Xx

  15. Scott and Elsa says:

    I read this to Elsa she says “ it was very interesting and likes the big slide on the boat “
    Thankful you are both home safe and well and can relax and enjoy your peaceful surroundings.

  16. Regina Synnot says:

    Dear Alan and Jacqui. So glad you made it home to QLd and can relax in your own space…with pool and palms to make up for the loss.have transferred my flight t o Germany as well and it was quite sad not to be able to see the family in May.we shall have a lovely mahli and Bodhi birthday party and look after ourselves well.then we shall be off to do the travelling a bit later.there will be many books to read and stuff to do around the house.i am doing it already on a smaller scale but still have 6 shifts a fortnight at work.saving up for next travels.big hug.regina

  17. Brian East says:

    Your handling of your difficulties on your trip are to be praised. You seem to have been remarkably calm about all of the troubles. But then you would be! We are facing awkward times ahead. I’ve just cancelled the annual walking event in the Highlands – was due to be the last one and people have responded accordingly. I will have to work out when I can get back up there to chat to Sue – she is scattered around the local church with a lovely view.

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