Mutiny on the Bounty
Nope, it was not just a movie. Crewman Fletcher Christian really did lead a mutiny against Captain Bligh in 1789. Their hijacked ship, the Bounty, was sunk in a harbor at Pitcairn Island to hide from the British who would certainly hunt them down. Around 50 descendants of these mutineers and a few Tahitians continue to live on this remote island.
UK Foreign Aid Supports this Tiny Island
Over the last six years, the UK has spent the equivalent of $600,000 per island inhabitant supporting the livelihood of about 50 Pitcairn residents. To make matters worse, these islanders pay no UK income tax. Part of the funds are for monitoring and support of an island prison to house six men convicted of child sexual assaults in 2004. Oddly, our cruise ship showed a disturbing documentary movie about the details of this sordid past, just before inviting these same islanders aboard to sell their trinkets.
A Funny Thing Happened on the way to Pitcairn Islands
Next to sea pirates and icebergs, the worst event at sea is an outbreak of the dreaded norovirus. Unfortunately, myself and many others were among those ‘afflicted.’ Here I was on a ship known for wonderful cuisine and I could not eat a bite other than yogurt. At every lunch there was unlimited lobster, crab claws, calamari and of course entire pigs… However, by the time I showed up for lunch, nothing was left by pig ears and snouts.
Let’s Keep the Ship’s Affliction a Secret
I learned from a friend aboard that his elderly dad was very ill and had to go to the doctor’s office. They were waiting for regular office hours, since a visit outside regular hours can add hundreds of dollars to a visit that already costs several hundred bucks to start. Several days later the ship was encouraging ill passengers to visit the doctor on a complimentary basis.
The next morning, passengers were no longer allowed to dispense coffee on their own. The crew did not say why, but a gloved employee now operated the coffee machine, poking the buttons for all passengers. This was the new norm and was also incredibly inefficient. The coffee line steadily grew. The difficulty was explaining to a ship employee, whose primary language is not English, exactly what you want. Just the prior morning, we were able to poke the all too many buttons on the cappuccino machine ourselves. There was much consternation in the coffee line and we did not know why at this point.
Next, the salt and pepper shakers are taken away from all tables. We now had to ask for the paper envelopes of these condiments, still no reason provided. Obviously, the ship is doing all it can to minimize germs being spread by objects people touch repeatedly. In medical terms these germ transmitting objects are called fomites, says my personal nurse.
Next, at dinner, the large and heavy leatherette menu holders were replaced with menus printed on copy paper. The laundry rooms and library were shuttered. At the end of our cruise it appeared all library books were dumped. Place mats disappeared. Passengers could touch no buffet service spoons; employees did all of the serving. Then the dining table and all chairs were washed between each use with strong disinfectant which had to dry for five minutes before allowing the next party to sit. Restroom doors were propped open to eliminate the need to touch the restroom door handle. Employees could be seen constantly washing down walls and handrails. I remained very ill for the next week.
I was incensed that me, healthy and strong ME, was sick as a dog while I could see much more elderly people eating, drinking and having fun.
Let’s Infect the Pitcairn Islanders
Not only is there no deep water port on Pitcairn Island for large ships, there is no place to ferry passengers ashore. Therefore, the cruise ship lets the Islanders navigate their one longboat on the island out to our ship. Navigating this boat cannot be done by one or two men, so those sentenced to prison are let out of jail to man the longboat for the trinket sale. The prisoners are also let out to go fishing, since all the islanders need to eat. One large ship lounge is set up for this craft fair. Islanders bring their many handmade trinkets on board for sale to the passengers. Carved wooden decorations, walking canes, stamps and honey in jars are for sale. All these trinkets are of course being handled by likely sick passengers over and over and passengers are shaking hands with the islanders. The trinkets have now become fomites. How could we not have passed this terrible bug to these people already struggling to survive? There is no plumbing on the Pitcairn Islands.
What a long, steep hike these people must make from the sea to their homes.
The thirty islanders return to their island. How could the dreaded norovirus not sweep through this tiny community?
Not Impressed with Oceania Cruise Line
A virus can break out on any ship, so I do not fault Oceania for that terrible event. However, the embarking process in Lima was the worst we have ever experienced. Oceania elected to not have a representative at the taxi drop-off site organizing this initial chaos. Therefore, immediately upon arrival, a Peruvian dock worker took our luggage from the taxi trunk, moved it 10 feet and demanded payment. We would be in this initial line well over an hour in the sun, no shade.
When we finally got onto the transport buses we were driven to the ship and landed in the lines shown in these photos. It took another two hours of standing in the sun to get aboard the ship. Notice below that the luggage is placed in the shade and the paying passengers stand burning in the very hot Peruvian summer sun. The dock employees are smart enough to stand in the shade, watching the slow moving parade of angry passengers.
After we finally got onboard the ship, we learned cold bottled water is free to everyone, every day. Even sports drinks are free to all. Also, every stateroom has umbrellas for passengers. So why would Oceania allow us to get hot and sunburned when umbrellas and cold water were readily available?
Sometimes, you do NOT get what you pay for.
Sounds like your travels took a bit so interesting turn. Hope you are feeling better. Your amazing writing has not been affected. It seems that Oceania forgot about its customer service at check in. Enjoy the next chapter in your travels. Happy Easter.
We have no experience with Oceania, and based on your review, we will not have any in the future. Thanks, Harold.
Hope you are fully recovered and enjoying the next few stops on your great adventure. Also, we hope your “personal nurse” was not afflicted!
My personal travel nurse came through all these events like the trooper she is and unaffected by the illness.
Common sense ain’t so common it seems. How can the Oceania staff not see there are better ways to do this? ((Facepalm))
I try to let people know the real experiences of travel. It is not always the fun depicted in the beautiful brochures.
Thank you for a candid summary of what to avoid!!! Did You buy honey this time?
They had some nice carved items for sale. We bought nothing and no honey.
Very interesting Harold!
Ugh, norovirus! I am so sorry to hear you were struck. The pictures are terrific. Pitcairn looks beautiful, but I cannot imagine the difficulties in living there.
Sounds like a tourist’s nightmare and I a glad you are feeling better and much the wiser. This company needs to learn from others I assume are better at customer service. Thanks for the blog which is very interesting.
Finally geting caught up on your travels. Stay safe and happy.