Friday, March 20, 2020

Travel in the time of Coronavirus

We got home from the Bimini trip for the last week of February. We had 4 weeks before our trip to the Maldives. We had booked a 10-day liveaboard dive trip on the Aggressor in the middle of the Indian ocean. Since it is such a long distance, we booked a 2 night stopover in Dubai, just for the experience.
We only had one 'gig' in the meantime. The Sarasota Technology User Group - STUG
We've presented several times over the years at STUG and they always have a large group of at least 100, so we were a little disappointed when it looked like there would only be 30-40 attending. We thought maybe the Coronavirus may have had an impact, even though there were no rules or directives in place yet. As it turned out, they kept trickling in and we ended up with about 80 people. 

We took our RV to Sarasota, since it was an evening meeting, we stayed overnight at an Elks lodge just around the corner from the meeting. We also went out for a beer after the meeting with some of the group from the club. Interesting place, dozens of beer taps on the wall - all craft specialty beers. You get an electronic wristband that unlocks the tap and you pour as little or as much as you want. The quantity is all being tracked thru the wristband. Cool.

So, we're back from that on March 5 and we leave for Dubai on the 23d, about 2 1/2 weeks. I have to get lots of work done on the 2020 edition of my Google Photos book, and we have to do a Button show or two. Lots of work to be done and then pack and go.
or not
The Coronavirus situation quickly deteriorated during those 2 weeks. Our dive club had already left on a trip to Fiji when the travel advisories started flowing in earnest. I understand they have cut the liveaboard time short and cancelled the last week on land. They're trying to get all flights rescheduled and hurry home. (update: they made it back home, here's their story)
Our friends, Alvin and Lisa, who we planned the Maldives trip with are also already en route. They planned a multi-month round-the-world trip and Maldives was somewhere in the middle. This week they are in Egypt diving in the Red Sea when they got word that they would not be allowed to fly out until they quarantined for 2 weeks. So they are staying in  Egypt past their schedule and have had to cancel all the rest of their trip.
We've been keeping a close watch but our destinations of Dubai and Maldives did not show up on any list. I emailed the dive boat and got back the response that the trip was still on and there would be no refunds if we backed out. Unbelievably, Pandemics are not a covered event on trip insurance either. yikes - that's an $8,000 trip - not counting airfare.
What to do?
As events continued to get canceled in the US, and more and more news came out about sickness and deaths from Coronavirus, it seemed ever more clear that we should not travel. Even if all went well for the trip - we may not be able to come home. But, as of March 18, all bookings were still a go. 
March 19 it changed, we got a notice from Emirates that one leg of the flight (Dubai to Ft Lauderdale had been cancelled). I called Chase Travel, who had made the flight and Dubai hotel bookings for us, and after I-kid-you-not FIVE hours on hold, they were successful in cancelling the flights and getting full refunds. I also got an email from the Dive boat that they were offering vouchers for rescheduling the trip within a year.
We have been very healthy. Except for a few days in early January - which I wonder now if that was a light case of Covid-19 since it wasn't really a cold, but it wasn't really the flu either. Jim was sick for 5-6 days, me just a couple. Anyway, we're very healthy now. Our work is all on the computer and remote. We have a wonderful place to live. And, I'm looking forward to the home-stay R&R. And, maybe I'll get more done on my book.
It really is beautiful here. Our neighborhood has no clue that it's the end of the world!
We're getting quite expert at Zoom online meetings

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