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ABOARD THE CELEBRITY ECLIPSE, IN SOUTH PACIFIC OCEAN, WEST OF CHILE, MARCH 21 -- I just witnessed a show of solidarity the likes of which I have not seen since perhaps Sept. 11, 2001.

At 1:30 p.m at our location at sea, my fellow passengers and I, along with all crew members and ship officers, stopped to applaud for one solid minute the courage and dedication of all the doctors and nurses throughout the world who are in the front lines of a pandemic of yet unknown proportions.

The applause was thunderous, full of energy and humility and I dare say everyone was clapping and also praying for humanity from the safety of our vessel.

Only time will reveal the toll COVID-19 will take across the globe. In nine days' time, we too will be more acutely aware of what the world is experiencing -- quarantines, crippling economies, shortages, closures, sickness and death.

In the meanwhile, time has appeared to stand still for us.

Here we are not sick or quarantined to our cabins. The cruise activities continue, the bands play, the food is served and the drinks are plentiful, the Wi-Fi is working and all is complimentary. Celebrity Cruises sure knows how to treat all the guests aboard the only cruise ship in their fleet still at sea after the company temporarily ceased operations on March 14.

At that time, we were at the port of San Antonio, Chile, and were denied disembarkation. It took a while for the country to even accept its own citizens who were on board and wishing to go home.

After a few days, a compromise was struck. We were directed to the port of Valparaíso where the Chilean passengers were allowed to disembark by tenders. The other international travelers scheduled to disembark were denied entry into the country, though. The ship would be resupplied with fuel and food but not dock, so the process took several days to accomplish with tiny barges.

And now we are on our way north traveling at about 21 knots heading to California where we expect to dock in San Diego on March 30.

Cruising to the United States was my original plan -- 29 days on ship sailing from Buenos Aires, Argentina, around Cape Horn, through the Magellan Straits and north on the west coast of South America making stops at exotic destinations in nearly every country along the way until arriving in San Diego.

My voyage continues but there are no more port calls except for a brief stop in Manta, Ecuador, in a few days. There we will get more supplies and sorely needed medicines for those guests who were not expected to be on board. Nothing more!

And then, what? I try not to think about it because any plan I could possibly cobble together is unlikely to survive contact with reality when we get there.

I'm acutely aware that April Fools Day is on the calendar shortly after our tentative scheduled arrival. The irony of it does not escape me.

The hundreds of dolphins swimming alongside the starboard side of our ship remind me of the vastness of the ocean and how minuscule I am.

But I have chosen to remain positive and to keep everything in perspective.

I have managed to learn and to remember how to say "thank you" in 10 new languages so I can express my gratitude to all the crew members who are working hard to make my voyage comfortable.

I walk around with a smile hoping that it becomes contagious. I want to spread smiles and hugs, albeit in a socially-distant way, to everyone I encounter. So far, my strategy appears to be working!

So now I turn my attention to my loved ones on terra firma, my neighbors and colleagues and send greetings and my best and sincerest wishes that you are safe, smiling and hopeful that we will get through this ordeal with God's mercy and blessings.

Josie Fernandez is the retired superintendent of Hot Springs National Park.

Editorial on 03/24/2020

Print Headline: Hope, too, can be a contagious thing

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