Newark couple on cruise coming back to a 'different world' | iNFOnews | Thompson-Okanagan's News Source

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Newark couple on cruise coming back to a 'different world'

March 21, 2020 - 6:00 AM

NEWARK, Del. - What was supposed to be the adventure of a lifetime – a four-month cruise around the world – slowly turned into "involuntary insanity" for a Newark couple.

The once-in-a-lifetime vacation for Chris and Sandi Mulligan began in early January, with expectations to visit all the continents. But a little more than month in, the coronavirus outbreak made its impact on passengers of the M.S. Amsterdam.

No one of the Holland America Line-owned cruise ship has the virus, but with ports closing to the travellers, passengers were told they will be disembarking on March 22 when they arrive in Australia. They must then find their own way home.

"We really do not want to come home this soon," Chris Mulligan said. "Things are too crazy. The airports are a mess and we're just going to be part of it next week. Not looking forward to adding to the insanity."

Coronavirus concerns have prompted cruise lines to suspend their operations.

Princess Cruises, a division of Carnival, said last week it won't sail for 60 days, according to USA Today. Two of its ships, the Diamond Princess and Grand Princess, have experienced outbreaks of coronavirus in recent weeks.

More than 700 people aboard the Diamond Princess tested positive, and six of them died. At least two passengers and 19 crew members aboard the Grand Princess also tested positive.

The U.S. State Department and the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention have advised Americans, especially those with underlying health conditions, to avoid cruise travel because of the coronavirus.

Former Food and Drug Administration chief Scott Gottlieb told USA TODAY last week that no one should be taking a cruise right now.

"This is a very sticky pathogen," he said. “It's an awful risk to pack a lot of people on a cruise ship.”


The America, and the world, the Mulligans knew when they left their Newark home on Dec. 28 has changed.

"This virus wasn't even a blip on the radar," Chris Mulligan said.

On that day, the world was learning about an airliner that crashed in Kazakhstan, killing at least 12 people, and that Wawa was facing lawsuits after a data breach.

It wouldn't be for a few more days that the government in Wuhan, China, would confirm that health authorities were treating dozens of cases of a new virus, according to The New York Times.

Days later, researchers in China identified that new virus. At the time, they said there was no evidence it was readily spread by humans. Health officials in China said they were monitoring it to prevent a more severe outbreak.

Chinese state media wouldn't report the first known death from the the virus until Jan. 11. The Mulligans' cruise ship left Florida seven days earlier.

The couple had already visited the islands of Dominica and St. Lucia and were heading to Devil's Island in French Guiana. The only death mourned by Chris Mulligan during this time was that of Rush drummer Neil Peart, who died on Jan 7.

"Damn ..... The drumming/rock world loses another giant," Chris posted on his Facebook timeline four days later.

The Mulligans continued enjoying life aboard the Amsterdam, docking in the Brazilian port city of Belem – the gateway to that country's lower Amazon region.

On Jan. 20, the couple was in Rio de Janeiro and after an "amazing" bus and train ride made it to the base of the Christ statue at Corcovado.

The same day, officials in Japan, South Korea and Thailand reported the virus was spreading in their countries, according to the World Health Organization. The first confirmed case in the United States occurred on Jan. 21 in Washington state, where a man in his 30s developed symptoms after returning from a trip to Wuhan, The New York Times reported.

By then, the couple's ship was on its way to Uruguay, Argentina and even a pass by the Antarctic Peninsula on Jan. 30.

After another trip past South America in mid-February, the ship headed toward the Indian Ocean.

It wouldn't be long before Washington state declared a state of emergency on Feb. 29, hours after a man in his 50s with underlying health problems was identified as the first person in the U.S. to die from coronavirus.

By this time, the world was starting to respond to the disease.

The ports of Singapore, Indonesia and Sri Lanka had closed to the passengers of the Amsterdam, causing the Mulligans' trip to start unraveling.

"We had absolutely no idea that anything like this would happen," Chris Mulligan said.

"We read the news every day, local and world," he said. "All the stuff we were reading about, every place shutting down, we figured we were in the safest place on the planet, a feeling shared by a lot of passengers."

Last week, Holland America Lines made the decision to end the Grand World Voyage early. It was supposed to end May 12.

Passengers were told this week they would be arriving in Fremantle, Australia, where they will disembark on March 22. The couple will take a flight out of Perth – something Chris Mulligan is not looking forward to.

"I have not been on a plane since 1986," Chris Mulligan said. "I'm absolutely terrified of them. I'm much more comfortable with 12,000 feet of water beneath me than 30,000 feet of thin air. Flying from Perth, Australia to Philadelphia is not a favourable option."

The couple expects to be home next week.

"I'm a little nervous about coming home, because we've been on one of the safest places, and now we're getting dumped back into this hotbed of infectious panic," Sandi Mulligan said. "I don't have the fear of flying, but I'm still not thrilled about spending 30-plus hours in the air.

"Yes, I will cruise again, but probably not for a couple of years. And as of right now, I would definitely not do another world cruise."

The Mulligans will be returning to a Delaware under a state of emergency as the number of people confirmed to have the virus grows daily.

Concerns over the virus have also cleared grocery shelves, and fueled sales of firearms, and ammunition. Dine-in is no longer permitted in Delaware bars and restaurants.

"We've gotten notes from friends at home and we're definitely coming back to a totally different world," Chris Mulligan said. “You can bet we'll be following all the recommended guidelines for our safety and that of others. And, like everything else, we'll take it a day at a time and hope for the best.”

News from © The Associated Press, 2020
The Associated Press

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