Off The Itinerary

“Ulllllggh!” Leigh groaned, upon awakening to the new day’s cloudy, diffuse daylight.

“That’s about how I feel” the tired voice of her just-waking cruise boyfriend responded. “Aches, fever, no energy. How about you?”

“Same things here. I don’t even have enough energy to be angry.”

“Angry about what?”

Hack! “Sorry. About not feeling up to sex.”

“I don’t feel like it either.”

“That’s good, because I won’t feel like I’m letting you down, and terrible, because it’s one fewer cruise romp we get to have before our voyage of ill is over.”

“Is it not possible to get together for sex outside of this cruise?” Eh-HUH Eh-HUH

“500-some miles between us qualifies as a long-distance romance in my book.”

“Where exactly do you live in San Diego?”

“Clairemont, C-L-A-I-R-E mont.”

“We’re about 50 miles closer than your estimate.” Ccchhh “Where’re you going?”

“To make tea, to hopefully soothe our throats, so we don’t”—ACCH!—“cough so much.”

He weakly smiled, enjoying the sight of the rear of his bottomless cruise girlfriend bobbling away, “Wiggle Wobble Shimmer tea?”

“I don’t know that I’ve got any shimmer in me”—Hack!—“with this illness” she told him, looking over her shoulder. “But until near the end of the cruise and I get back into the gym”—Khhh!—“the wiggle wobble’s always there.”

Remaining in Leigh’s stateroom proved no especial hardship, especially given how ill each of them felt. Once ordered, breakfast arrived within 3/4s of an hour, still flavorless to them otherwise OK. Best of all, they were able to eat it nude and cuddling in/on bed, with very light, restful making out amenable to ill passionate new lovers.

Almost exactly at high noon, the speakers in the stateroom’s A/V system spontaneously came to life for an announcement, which they could also hear echoing outside over the P.A. system:

Attention cruisers: effective immediately we have advanced to Quarantine Level 2. In addition to continuing all existing requirements of Level 1, Quarantine Level 2 requires all passengers, crew members, and staff to wear facial protection at all times when outside one’s stateroom or cabin. All non-essential public services and amenities including the Sapphire Stage and Sea Screen theaters, all club and dance venues, Card Shark’s Card and Game Room, retail stores, and buffet and specialty restaurants are closed until further notice. Home Comfort and Dish’s restaurants on the Grand Promenade deck remain open at this time. Seating in both restaurants is highly limited and advanced reservations are required. Room service is recommended as a better option. Cruisers in good health showing no COVID-19 symptoms may move around the ship wearing facial protection and maintaining social distance from others. Limited sun bathing on the Sun and Lido Decks remains available at this time, by advanced reservation and with proper social distancing. Social distancing and facial protection will be monitored by Security. Violators may be confined to their staterooms.

Portland is refusing to let us dock at this time. Captain Cranch and crew remain in active negotiation with the port and other relevant authorities. The most current updates and additional information as well as the reservation and room service functions are available from your stateroom’s infotainment system and the Royal Prince app. Thank you for your understanding and cooperation, and for sailing with us on the Sapphire Prince.


“Intense, isn’t it?” Leigh agreed.

“Actually what I’m thinking about is how their system is smart enough to know that you’re an English speaker, so your speakers in here went off when the English announcement ended, yet I can still hear the P.A. system outside repeating the information in the other languages.”

She turned and gave him a potent look of disbelief. “You are weird, Neener.”


“Suddenly we can’t dock in Portland, and all that’s on your mind are the finer points of their announcement system?!”

Eh-HEHHH… Eh-HEHHH “Don’t know about you, but the way I feel, doesn’t much matter when or even if we dock in Portland.”


Second Deck Officer Niles Mayhew and First Deck and current Navigating Officer Ellen Glenn glanced towards one another, each quieting their nervous deep sighs. A consummate professional and seasoned cruise ship captain, Captain Cranch kept a level head under difficult circumstances, never in their experience losing his cool. Seeing his left eye occasionally twitch and an ever-so-slight tremble in his hands that neither crew member had ever seen before worried them.

“The morgue is full to capacity. Do you propose medivacing the deceased after those in critical condition?… What then? You expect me to violate common sense and every health regulation in existence and stow the additional bodies in the galley refrigerators?”

Tension on the Bridge, whilst low relative to other areas of the ship, was increasing.

“We are in the midst of a worldwide medical crisis triggered by a heretofore unknown coronavirus variant, most of humanity pulling together to work through the unknowns and get through this, and you are telling me that you will not even allow a brief technical port call for resupply and health exigencies?… It may become your problem should our situation continue its exponential growth and those of us here at Royal Prince share with the world your obstinate refusal to render even minimal aid urgently needed by town-sized ocean liner in distress.… Good day, sir.”

All the color drained out of the Deck Officers’ faces, seeing their Captain struggling to retain his composure. Officer Glenn dared to ask, “What now, Captain?”

“Stay the course back towards Portland, targeting the edge of international waters nearest Tillamook Bay. What cannot be more reasonably accomplished in the Port of Portland shall be handled by alternative means.”

Thwock Thwock Thwock Thwock Thwock Thwock Thwock Thwock Thwock Thwock Thwock Thwock Thwock

The choppy thrumming of the U.S. Coast Guard’s Eurocopter MH-65 Dolphin rotors alerted everyone on board the Sapphire Prince (who didn’t already know) that something major was going on.

“See anything?” Leigh asked Clark from the comfort of their/her bed, as he peered out the window.

“Not even” he replied, opening the sliding door.

You can’t go out there nude!” Hack Cuuuuh! Cuuuuh!

“Says who?”

“Common sense plus your cruise girlfriend! Besides which, you’d need a mask to go out if you weren’t contagious, and we’re both contagious.”

“What’s anyone going to do if I violate those rules?” he grinned. “Confine me to my stateroom?”

Not waiting for an answer to his rhetorical question(s), Clark already had the door open and was heading outside onto Leigh’s balconette. The far louder Thwock Thwock Thwock Thwock Thwock Thwock Thwock soon as he opened the door precluded further conversation.

{You better not infect anyone} Leigh thought as she watched him, annoyed at his obstinance. {Nor bring back anything worse. Nor get yourself confined to your stateroom instead of this one!}

Thwock Thwock Thwock Thwock Thwock Thwock Thwock Thwock Thwock Thwock Thwock Thwock Thwock Thwock

Once again, her nude cruise boyfriend was back inside her stateroom. “And?”

“Directly above the ship, I’m figuring. Can’t see anything from your balconette.”

“Thank you for not going out onto the actual promenade decking.”

“I’m not that much of a limit-pusher!”

{Could’ve fooled me.} “Medical evacuation, you think?” Hack

“Gotta be, given what we’re going through and what all we’ve seen and heard this voyage.” KHHHhhh KHHHhhh “I’ll go get some more tea going.”



cuu-HHUUH!… cuu-HHUUH!


By no means were all coughs coming from Leigh’s stateroom. These particular coughing and wheezing sounds emanated from surrounding staterooms on the Upper Promenade deck. Some louder ones even made it down from the Vista deck, or up from the Grand Promenade deck, from folks who probably ought not to have been moving about in the public spaces on that deck.

Leigh and Clark shared weary, ill glances, too tired and yucky feeling to manage more than 1/8th. smiles. If it wasn’t the Coast Guard medivac helicopter, recently having completed its 4th. of who-knows-how-many trips, filling their lives with noise and vibrations, or the incessant dry coughs and labored breathing, the noise and vibrations of a seemingly endless parade of spaced-apart deck walkers with nothing better to do than tromp around the Upper Promenade deck kept them safely from rest in any way pacific, notwithstanding the capitalized ocean of that name upon which they currently floated.

She did manage to make it to a half smile for a little while, as he gently circularly caressed her Buddha belly.

“Maybe we should take this opportunity where going places, sex, and any sort of deep rest are all off the table to get to know one another better” he suggested. “What do you think?”

“What do you have in mind?”

“I’d love to know anything you care to share about your life.”

“It’s really not that exciting.”

Her comment eked a grin out of him. “It’s been my experience that people who say that tend to have the most interesting lives of anyone I know.”

“You’d better ask questions to get me started.”

“OK. Where were you born? Who are your parents and what are or were they like? What was your childhood like?”

“OK OK OK—that’s more than enough to get started!”

It was as good a way to spend a sick day together as any, most of the time successfully distracting them from the noisy activity going on all around them. Once the conversation got going, it flowed naturally, for hours and hours, well into the evening. Along with tea and water, they weren’t even coughing all that much.