“Mmmmm” COOOGGGH! achey, tired Leigh Down awoke Saturday morning 14 March 2020, to the day’s dark cloudy, rainy light.
CAAAAGGH! KUFF-A!, KUFF-A! “’Morning Chonky.”
“Did I wake you, Neen?”
“Nah” CUUUH! he coughed away from her. Once that was over, his hand couldn’t help gravitating onto her nearest fat hip, caressing her there. “How is it that you keep chonking up when neither of us are eating that much?” CUUUH!
“That’s a part of my life story that I didn’t share yesterday, nor am I ready to share today. Maybe not even on this cruise.”
“Awww. Not even with your cruise boyfriend?”
She cast her eyes downward for a good third of a minute. “Part of me very much wants to tell you, but I’d rather save it for when we’re both healthy and feeling better. There’s nothing magic about it, but for right now until the day we’re both healed from this, pretend it’s cruise magic.”
“Like that magician Mikahel the Mysterious who performed last weekend?”
“Wouldn’t know. Did you go to that?”
CUUUH! “No. Just saw it on the day calendar.” His caressing hand roamed up to her belly, “Need some breakfast, to keep this cruise magic happening?”
“Not likely” HAACK! “Need a light breakfast because I’m hungry.”
Their light breakfast thankfully arrived in a timely manner. Given how much coughing they were doing after sipping the nice hot bean-brewed brown beverage Clark made for them and especially how much they did after having bites of their favorite breakfast item of the day, together they decided the beverage needed to be renamed coughy, and the food item coughy cake.
Day 3 of Leigh’s full illness (beyond the loss of taste and smell) and Day 2 of the same for Clark went on very much like the day prior, other than there were no helicopter visits so far, likely due to the inclement weather making them unsafe. Similarly, almost no one bothered walking around the exposed Upper Promenade deck.
This all changed in the early afternoon around 1:30, when another all-ship announcement intruded into their (and everyone else’s) lives.
“Attention cruisers: Please return to your staterooms immediately. The Sapphire Prince is now under Quarantine Level 3: Lockdown. I repeat: The Sapphire Prince is now under Quarantine Level 3: Lockdown. Please return to your staterooms immediately. All public facilities are now closed. Staff and Crew: Q L 3 L procedures are in effect immediately; report to your stations. Captain Cranch will present a ship-wide address with full details and all information at 2 PM sharp, over the ship’s infotainment system, crew and staff systems, and the Royal Prince app.”
As usual, the announcement repeated in the various major languages Royal Prince Cruise Lines supported. Unlike the announcement the day before, the second reading in English once again played through Leigh’s in-stateroom system.
Leigh threw her fattening, heavier leg up onto Clark, pinning him down in place.
“I think we have a good case that we became infected together, or nearly together, thus should quarantine together.”
“I agree” he confirmed with a kiss, which made them both briefly cough. “Want anything we have here in the room, in preparation for the forthcoming official announcement?”
“Just a trip to the bathroom before it starts. You need to go?”
“Not right now; you go ahead.”
He couldn’t help sighing, watching her butt crack dance and buns and hips wobble and sway on her wiggle-wobble way to the bathroom. If he hadn’t had a fever and thus might not be perceiving reality as clearly as usual, he would have sworn that her buns were bigger in addition to her hips.
All cuddled together tired nude and ill like they were about to watch a movie, Leigh and Clark awaited the speech. At his insistence, they left the infotainment system in its standby/off setting, to find out whether it would turn on automatically.
At 2 PM, it did: coming alive with the upper body image of their ship’s captain, as neat and well-dressed as one in that position could be.
Transcript of Captain Cranch’s address:
Good afternoon one and all. Those of you whose videos or other entertainment have been interrupted by this announcement, rest assured that your content is paused at this time. You will be able to continue from the point of interruption or back up or start the program over from the beginning as you choose, once this address is complete.
Thank you for your ongoing understanding and cooperation during this unprecedented, challenging time we and indeed all the world are currently undergoing, on account of COVID-19 disease, caused by the virus named SARS-CoV-2, colloquially the novel coronavirus. Quarantines on cruise ships are never undertaken lightly, as even the minimal Level 1 is disruptive to fully enjoying the cruise experience. Initially the hope was that a light touch and minimal disruption via Quarantine Level 1 would prove sufficient to stem the spread of COVID-19 on the Sapphire Prince. The combination of an alarming acceleration in the rates of infection and serious illness from this disease here on this ship along with circumstances I’ll soon address in the outer world demanded invoking Level 2 quarantining yesterday, and as of this afternoon leave me no choice but to instate full lockdown—Quarantine Level 3, our line’s highest level.
Thousands dead from this disease in Wuhan China, with new cases continuing to grow. Nearly one thousand five hundred dead in Italy already, with their infection rate and death rate continuing to grow exponentially. Spain is already over 100; the U.S. already over half that. Experts at the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention assure us that the U.S. rate is set to explode, quite possibly well exceeding the rates in the nation of the disease’s presumed origin. (Stares forcefully directly into camera) There have been eight COVID-19-related deaths as of this moment, here on the Sapphire Prince —this despite everyone’s best efforts. The Coast Guard medivac helicopters you’ve all heard have been evacuating our most critical passengers for superior treatment at either of the two Level 1 trauma hospitals in Portland Oregon. As well they have evacuated our 8 deceased, all of whom were passengers with underlying health conditions, the majority well into their elder years.
There are currently no dead people on this ship. Let us all please work together to keep it that way. To this end, it is imperative for your health and the health of others that everyone on this ship remain quarantined: passengers in their assigned staterooms, off-duty crew and staff in their cabins. On-duty crew and staff members must at all times follow all social isolation, hygiene, and personal protective equipment procedures. Anyone having non-urgent medical issues please use the online system or your stateroom’s telephone to contact the Infirmary. For all cases of urgent or emergency medical issues, please call the Infirmary, who will advise and send an escort or make other arrangements as needed. Medical personnel who happen to be traveling with us are asked to contact the Infirmary to kindly help with this unprecedented urgent situation.
We remain in active, focused negotiations with authorities at the state level for the 3 west coast states we serve and the U.S. Federal government regarding our next port of call. The delay is unfortunate and disappointing. Canada has banned the docking of all cruise ships effective yesterday, so unfortunately they are not an option. Until further notice we must remain at sea in international waters, staying close to the Oregon coast where we’ve been in case further medivac evacuations are necessary. U.S. citizens traveling with us who are able to do so are encouraged to contact their congressional representatives in both houses, urging them to do what they can to speed our next docking. Those who happen to live in Oregon, Washington, or California are additionally urged to also contact their state representatives for their help. Our many travelers from other fine nations elsewhere around the world are urged to contact their embassies in the U.S., to have them add their voice to the call to allow us to dock sooner than later.
What exactly will happen when we next set anchor in our port of call we cannot yet know: there are too many unknowns and too many stakeholders with conflicting goals. It is my preference to get everyone needing medical attention to superior land-based medical facilities as soon as is practicable. I look forward to working with the relevant authorities to allow those who wish to disembark and terminate their cruise the ability to do so. Yet we still know little about COVID-19, and quarantining as for the Princess line’s Diamond Princess may be required of us, for everyone’s health and well-being.
Many if not most of you are or will be unhappy with the loss of the ability to fully experience the cruise for which you signed up and for which you paid. Each of you will receive a full refund of your paid cruise fare, including onboard gratuities, onboard purchased items and services, any associated flights, hotels, and/or land transportation included in your fare. All passengers will receive a future cruise credit equal to your paid cruise fare for this cruise.
All meals and beverages will be provided by room service, ordered as usual through the infotainment system or Royal Prince app. There will be no charges for room service nor Internet usage during the remainder of this truncated cruise.
My utmost gratitude goes out to our dedicated crew and staff. Rest assured: you will be taken care of, in terms of receiving your designated gratuities, normal pay, medical care, and elimination of charges you might normally incur were it not for the mandatory lockdown. I mention this publicly to ensure all on board know that we take care of our cruisers and our own. Further details are available privately to those in our employ through the usual channels.
My utmost gratitude goes out as well to all of you voyaging with us, for squarely facing the disappointment, fear, and unknowns along with those of us who work here. None of us wanted any of this disruption to happen. Myself and our whole team have striven to minimize disruption, discomfort, and unpleasantries of all sorts, and will continue to do everything within our power to make this the best possible experience under these extremely trying circumstances. Each of you hearing me speak now can help out by doing your part to abide by all quarantine guidelines, giving as and when you are able, caring for yourself and each other with whom you’re traveling, in-person for those of you sharing the same stateroom.
With so much going on I may not be able to update you with an address such as this as often as may be desirable. Rest assured that our team will keep the on-ship website updated at all times with the very latest information, as soon as it is verified and fact-checked. This information is available to you any time, 24 hours a day, in your language.
Thank you for your attention and cooperation. May health, science, reason, and Providence be with us all.
The captain’s image faded to a silent still screen with basic information on connecting to replays of the speech and the information page mentioned at the speech’s conclusion. After displaying for 40 seconds, the system in Leigh’s stateroom shut itself back off as it had been, as others around the ship reverted to their pre-announcement state.
Throughout the whole speech, Leigh and Clark remained cuddled together nude in bed, arms around each other, staying warm with an extra blanket covering their upper bodies.
“Wonder what it takes to change a stateroom assignment?”
“Given everything they’re dealing with, I’m thinking verifying room assignments is low on their priority list, as long as no one’s out in the halls who doesn’t work for them” Clark answered. “Shouldn’t much matter to them whether I’m in here with you or in the stateroom for which I paid.” Cc-Huuh! “How’re ya feeling?”
“Wavering: aches coming and going, tiredness waxing and waning. Cough annoying” Ckkk! “What about you?”
“Basic blah yuck, not really changing much. So far really no different than a cold without sinus congestion, or a flu without vomiting. Definitely not asymptomatic, but I think I can ride this one out.”
“As long as it doesn’t get worse.”
“Think positive. (kiss) What’s your pleasure?”
“Near-term pleasure? What do you want to do now?”
“Take advantage of the dark rainy weather and sleep, or at least rest.”
“Sounds good to me!”
The sudden loud DeedleEeedleEeedleEeedleEeedleEeedle, DeedleEeedleEeedleEeedleEeedleEeedle from the hardwired bedside telephone Leigh didn’t even know her stateroom had woke both her and Clark suddenly from their deeper-than-expected sleep.
“Uuuaaaggh” she groaned. “Who even has this number?”
“Sapphire Prince staffers and crew, I betcha.”
“Should I answer it?”
“Up to you. It’s your stateroom.”
“Ms. Down? This is Jini from Reception. Is there anyone else currently with you in your stateroom?”
“Yes there is.”
“Who, please? We’re trying to account for all passengers, not all of whom are responding to our direct calls to them.”
“Mr. Clark Barr, B A R R.”
“Only Mr. Barr and yourself?”
“Correct. We’ve become a romantic item, and I want us to stay this way for the duration of this cruise.”
“So you wish that Mr. Barr remains with you throughout lockdown?”
“May I speak with him, please?”
“Sure. Hold on.”
Instinctively from decades past, her motor memory knew to cover the mouthpiece. “It’s Jini from Reception, wanting to discuss your whereabouts.”
“How thoughtful of her” he snickered, coughing loudly thereafter. Nevertheless, he accepted the handset handoff.
“Mr. Barr? This is Jini from Reception.”
“Hi Jini. What’s up?”
“Is it true that you wish to remain with Ms. Down in her stateroom for the remainder of lockdown?”
“Correct, other than at some point I’ll be wanting to return to mine to gather some belongings I’ll need for the long-term here.” Hack!
“Perchance are you ill, sir?”
“Yes, and so is Ms. Down, with the same sort of flu-like illness.”
“Difficulty breathing, either of you?”
Now it was his turn to cover the mouthpiece, “You having any breathing issues?”
“No, neither of us are having breathing difficulties.”
“Do you have a medical-grade face mask?”
“Under the circumstances we are very willing to allow you to move into Ms. Down’s stateroom with her consent which she’s already given me, especially since after decontaminating your stateroom we will be able to reassign it to medical personnel who may soon be boarding, else staff or crew to help them isolate. Is it possible for you to move out of your stateroom and into Ms. Down’s sometime today?”
“I’ll get dressed and do it right now, gladly.”
Leigh felt all wiggly wobbly seeing his smile and wink directed at her during his most recent sentence.
“Actually Mr. Barr, please wait for us to deliver a face mask and set of gloves for you to wear along with a hall pass ribbon to you at your current location. As part of quarantine and especially if you are having symptoms which might possibly be the disease, we ask that you wear the gloves and mask at all times from before exiting Ms. Down’s stateroom until you return there for the final time, and please pin the ribbon onto the corner of either of your shoulders to make it easy for Security to see from a distance. OK so far?”
“Yes. I wait for someone to deliver the mask, gloves, and ribbon. I wear all of them as you just specified from before leaving this stateroom until my last return, which I think I can manage in one trip but might take two. Is that it?”
“Almost. Once you’re all done with your assigned stateroom and all your possessions are out of it, please leave the key card on the bed and close the door. Once you’re back where you currently are with Ms. Down, please call me back and let me know that you’re finished with your stateroom and are releasing it back to us.”
“What number do I call?”
“Using the in-room phone as you are now, just press R for Reception, a.k.a. the 7 key one time. That’s it!; the system will put you through to me.”
“Sounds good. I’m looking forward to this.”
“Glad we can help bring what joy we can to this uniquely challenging cruise experience. Someone will be up very soon with the materials, which they’ll leave outside the door and knock. ’Kay ’kay?”
“All good. Thanks!”
“Bye for now.”
Leigh and Clark both felt a little better, seeing their lover’s smile and knowing that soon he’d be all moved in with her, no longer concerned about what might be happening with his belongings over in his nearly-abandoned stateroom.
“Let’s save the kisses for after I’m all moved in. Can you believe that Jini dropped her voice and nearly whispered ‘the disease’, as though saying it aloud at normal volume or heaven forbid its actual name might bring shame upon the family or something?”
“Eight people dead from this thing on this ship alone is nothing to sneeze at.”
“Actually sneezing would prolly be an indication that it’s a cold or something else rather than COVID-19.”
“Each of us has occasionally sneezed in here over the last several days, and each of us has several classic symptoms of COVID-19, from what we’ve looked up.”
“Alright alright.” KHHHH! “Let me get all moved in here then let’s focus on healing each other from this thing with love, rest, tea, water, sleep, and whatever else we can manage that is likely to help.”
“Thanks Jini. Stay well.… You too. Bye.”
Despite both still feeling ill, Clark Barr and Leigh Down were all loving grins, wrapping their arms around each other as they lay sitting up in in their cosy “cloud” bed, sharing a brief kiss before their next cough.
“Oh dear. We’re stuck in quarantine together, so we have to stay together” he teased, caressing her sexually and kissing her again.
“I’m going to want to have sex with you if you keep doing that. Mmmmm!”
“Sounds good to me!”
“Careful, Neener: you’ll consummate our cruise marriage” she wickedly teased back, grinning impishly.
“Oh is that how it is?”
“Well then we need a ceremony. Do you, Leigh ‘Chonky’ Down, take me, Clark ‘Neener’ Barr as your duration-of-cruise husband, to love, cherish, and live with, in sickness for now and later in health, for as long as we remain on this cruise?”
“I do!” She decided with this ceremony she would kiss him immediately after her “I do”, and did so, leaving him dazed. Proud of how deeply her kiss dazzled him, she gave him a minute to recover.
“Do you, Clark ‘Neener’ Barr, take me, Leigh ‘Chonky’ Down as your duration-of-cruise wife, to love in every way, cherish, and live with, presently in sickness and later in health, for as long as we remain on this cruise?”
“I assuredly do.”
His kiss felt like a stealth passion attack: all-out, searing, take-no-prisoners. The sort of lusty kiss that most officiants at an actual marriage would ask be toned down and saved for the honeymoon.
In the immediate aftermath of ravagement Leigh managed to say, “By no power vested in me by anyone, I now pronounce us cruise husband and cruise wife.” Tossing back the blankets and spreading her chonky legs wide she concluded, “You may now fuck your cruise wife.”
He was ready; she was very ready. It very much happened, without any coughing.