I am a native in this world And think in it as a native thinks

Wednesday, December 6, 2023

Schrödinger's Cruise

I continue to be amazed by just how much work is required to create a weekly class, but that's only part of the reason I've had so little focus for posting here, especially in the last several weeks.

After my (mostly) wonderful trip to Peru in June, I decided that I was ready for a splurge, a big adventure, a chance to finally use some of the credits and points and miles I'd accumulated after having to cancel four planned trips in 2020 and not doing much traveling since then.

I almost booked a trip to Antarctica, this time including South Georgia, but it would have required missing the first three classes in the spring semester. Then I saw a reference somewhere to the scene in Lawrence of Arabia where he sees what appears to be a ship sailing through the sand dunes and realizes that it's the Suez Canal. I'd always loved that scene, and I remembered that I had once looked at a cruise that went from the Mediterranean to somewhere in the Middle East, transiting the canal. I don't remember why I decided against it—timing? money? both?—but it inspired me to look for Christmas cruises that went through the Suez Canal, and I found a perfect trip.

It was on a very deluxe cruise line, and a lot more money than I wanted to spend, but it included an overnight option in the Valley of the Kings in Egypt and several stops in Saudi Arabia, and I decided that this would be my sort-of-post-pandemic Big Trip and I booked it. I spent the summer planning, looking at the shore excursions and planning a post-trip stay at the King David hotel in Jerusalem and honestly enjoying all of the logistics and possibilities for the first time since the world shut down.

Then Gaza happened. No post-cruise trip to Jerusalem, obviously, and I wasn't even really disappointed because the horrors of the war just made me grateful that I had the option of staying away. A few weeks later there were changes to the itinerary—first, no Sinai, then no Valley of the Kings. That was a disappointment, but the travel rep said that the canal and Saudi Arabia were still happening, and they added a stop in Ephesus, which although not the Valley of the Kings was a place I'd always wanted to see. But I was getting more and more uneasy about the trip and honestly wished I could just cancel the whole thing.

Now Yemeni rebels have been firing ballistic missiles at ships in the Red Sea, and I check my email ten times a day because surely they have to cancel the cruise now, right? It's not just that it no longer seems remotely safe to be putting myself inside a giant target in a volatile part of the world, it honestly feels obscene to go on a high-priced frolic in the middle of a war.

But as of this morning the cruise is still happening. The rep explained that the ship has to go through the Suez Canal no matter what because it has to get to Asia for the winter cruise season, but if they decide to avoid the Red Sea ports the cruise will probably end in Oman rather than in Jordan, with no Saudi Arabia. This is not a cruise I would ever have signed up for, especially not at this price. And I certainly have the option of staying home, but if I do, I lose all my money. I have travel insurance, but it turns out that cancellations because of “war, invasion, acts of foreign enemies, hostilities between nations (whether declared or not) or civil war” are NOT covered.

It’s so crazy. I never imagined that I would be in a situation where I actually had to worry about a war exclusion in an insurance policy. And so I sit here in New York, trying to focus on all the work I have to do but not knowing if I'm actually going to be flying to Athens the week after next and if I do, what will happen then? It's Schrödinger's Cruise and no one wants to open the box to see if it's going to happen or not.

(The picture is of the very rough Atlantic seas on my 2011 cruise out of Lisbon where they had seasickness bags available in all the public areas of the ship. Smooth sailing compared to this mess.)

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