And so the trouble began… . When we left Hong Kong we were scheduled to visit Manila in the Philippines. We sailed south all night and all the next day. Still in the South China Sea, the seas were very rough during the day. The dishes were clattering on the tables in the dining room at breakfast. Bill was fine but I had to double my motion sickness medication. People were getting seasick medication at Guest Services. I spent the day lying on the bed trying to sleep and ignore my queasy stomach. I started to feel better at dinnertime as the seas calmed.
In the afternoon everyone had to report to the main stage to have our temperatures taken, a requirement of the Philippines government. Everyone passed and we were all set. We were looking forward to our private excursion the next day which was a tour titled “Manila: Old and New”.
Just as we sat down to dinner, we heard the ship-wide DING DONG chimes which always announced the captain was about to speak. Usually we heard the chimes daily at noon as the captain announced our current location, speed and weather conditions. But this time it was not a weather report. It was bad news. In the days ahead we would come to dread those ding dong chimes!
This time the captain announced the president of the Philippines had denied us admission into the country. The denial was because the ship had docked in Hong Kong and was now “compromised”.
The captain cheerfully announced he had secured a berth for the ship at a new port in Hualien Taiwan and we would enjoy two days there. The ship turned away from the Philippines and headed north towards Hualien.
Once again we sailed all night and day. The next night just before dinner we heard once again the dreaded chimes. The captain announced that Hualien had denied us entry because it was a very small port and they were ill-equipped to handle the necessary screening. We were now sailing to Kaohsiung, Taiwan where the captain had secured a berth for two nights. Originally the cruise was to stay nine hours at this port. At this point Bill and I started calling it “The Cruise to Nowhere”.
The next morning we docked in Kaohsiung, which is Taiwan’s largest port and second largest city. Every passenger had to pass through Immigration and a temperature check. We made it through immigration and headed out to explore Kaohsiung. It was good to be on land again!
We had become acquainted with a very nice couple on the ship and we decided the four of us would explore the area together. We started walking and must have looked a little confused or lost because a lovely family enjoying the nice weather asked if we needed help.
After some discussion they suggested we take a taxi to the Dream Mall. Opened in 2007, it is the largest shopping mall in Taiwan and the 15th largest in East Asia.
Finding no souvenirs, we stopped at the information desk to see if they could exchange our large Taiwan dollars for smaller bills to pay for the taxi. After finishing that business we asked where to get a taxi. One of the workers called a taxi, walked us to the taxi pickup location and told the driver where we wanted to go. Very nice!
We walked around for a couple hours, finding no souvenirs and after stopping in several pharmacies we found no masks or hand sanitizer. We were so glad we had brought both from home. And of course no visit is complete without a stop at McDonald’s in the mall for an Oreo McFlurry. The $55 Taiwan price was equal to $1.83 US.
The next day we had booked an excursion in Kaohsiung to visit a large Buddhist Monastery. About 4:30 A.M. I got up to use the bathroom and noticed a letter had been slipped under our cabin door. A letter arriving in the middle of the night probably wasn’t good news, and it wasn’t. The letter announced that the Taiwan officials had held an emergency meeting and decided we were not going to be allowed off the ship the second day. All excursions were canceled.
At breakfast the dreaded ding dong chimes brought the announcement that we were also not welcome at our next port, Taipei, the capital of Taiwan. The captain said we would continue on to Ishigaki, Japan. At this point we could all see the writing on the wall. A hush fell over the ship. Little did we know how difficult the days ahead would become.
Next up: A ship with no home!