When passengers boarded the MS Zaandam in March 2020, they were preparing for the holiday of a lifetime. Within days they would be confined to their rooms on a liner that no country would let dock. How long would their ordeal last?
On the five-hour drive to the docks of Buenos Aires, Claudia Osiani thought hard: do I board the cruise ship or cancel my birthday voyage? With her husband, Juan, she discussed the recent spate of deadly virus outbreaks on cruise ships in Japan and California. “This cruise is different; it will be packed with locals,” Juan reassured her, and it made them feel safer. He had sacrificed so much to provide Claudia with this fantasy of a 14-day voyage through the wilds of South America, and she loved him too much to let on that she was petrified at the thought of embarking.
It was early March 2020, and the first wave of the Covid-19 virus was spreading not only in Wuhan, China, but Italy and Spain. In the UK, cases totalled 273; in Argentina there were fewer than a dozen and it felt like a northern hemisphere issue. “We’re going so far south,” Claudia told Juan in the car. “It’s going to be a bunch of Argentinians on that ship, maybe some Chileans.”
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