(One in a series of occasional look-backs from our 21 trips to Bermuda in almost as many years)
Some of you who are young might not remember that in 1994 a ship called the MV
Horizon aborted a cruise vacation in Bermuda. The culprit was the presence of Legionella bacteria that causes serious respiratory illness and sometimes death. The United States Center for Disease Control inspected the ship and found it in the hot tubs. Representatives wound up sailing with us on this cruise for further precautions and remediation.
Before boarding, they gave everyone the option of sailing or not, issuing written warnings for possible illness in the very young and elderly, including anyone with pre-existing medical conditions. My husband, Fred, and I, chose to sail because the categories did not apply to us and we had already arranged for vacation time from our jobs and coverage for our children back home.
We landed in Bermuda at the Front Street dock. Bermuda was just as enchanting as always when we pulled up and the sight of the pastel storefronts and yellow birds landing on the ship’s railings welcomed us once again. We disembarked and ventured out to Mangrove Bay and had a swim—clothes and all — it was so hot. Somerset Pharmacy with its little sundry items and Country Squire restaurant with its delicious avocado and shrimp salad, beckoned.
No excuse for a shanghaied second honeymoon
Of all our 21 trips so far to our favorite island that feels so personal and like a second home, this Bermuda venture became a stolen moment because the pirate
of disease would soon end it.
The ship informed all its passengers—some 1200 or so of us–that the staff would arrange to house us in hotels while they sailed the ship out to sea and would flush out all the water in the system on board and replace it completely. The staff suggested it would only be overnight. I packed several pairs of underwear and clothing. Something told me….
Once it became clear we were not going back on board for all of our safety, we stayed the rest of the time at the Sonesta Beach Hotel, where we requested and were assigned to relocate, paid for by the cruise ship company. We ate at Lillian’s, the delicious Italian restaurant in the hotel at that time, before the hurricane of 2003 wiped out the original Sonesta Hotel on the south shore. The ship provided meal vouchers as well and we wound up getting drunk.
The next day we went up to the Lighthouse behind the Henry VIII Restaurant on the south shore and climbed up the narrow, winding staircase. The Royal Gazette with the front-page headline, “Mass Evacuation of Horizon” immediately caught my eye, which was sitting on a table and brought the fiasco to life for me that the world already knew. I later found out it made big news back home. The first chance I got, I called home on a pay phone (there were no cell phones back in 1994!) to tell Mom and the kiddies we were OK.
We had to stay close by to the hotel because the ship made announcements to each hotel via constant faxes on status updates. Waiting around in the hotel lobby for those mandates was a bummer. But I kept my chin up because I thought of the civil war taking place at the time in Rwanda and all the refugees fleeing their homes for safety. It forced me to try and keep this experience in perspective. In the scheme of things….
We were sent home after a day or two on land. The ship gave us the choice of flying or taking another departing cruise ship if space was available. We chose the Majesty of the Seas going to Boston instead of New York where we lived. From there we were provided with a bus to take us to NY, all expenses paid for by the original ship’s company.
Unhappy and feeling robbed; this account would have made a great essay for a school assignment on what I did over summer vacation if I was in school!
At the time I tried to find comfort in the words of Keath Fraser, editor of a collection of essays called, Bad Trips. I stumbled upon the book in the library of the Majesty of the Seas on our way home. Fraser, himself a travel writer, says, “A bad journey mirrors its exotic circumference throwing back an image of the writer in extremis who is willing to be tested, mocked and remain remarkably undaunted when it begins to rain on his parade…when the rim of the troddened world denigrates into a ‘via dolorosa’.”
This is my chapter.
Adrift in a sea of lost dreams, we would have to wait until the next summer to recapture paradise.
By Gloria Schramm
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