Shore Thing

Richard Quinn

AFTER A SHORT BUT rough tender ride, we’re now off the Zaandam and on the Rotterdam, where we are once again quarantined in our cabin, thankfully still with a balcony. We are through the Panama Canal and now near Cuba. Our three-and-a-half week “mystery” cruise is—we hope—drawing to a close.

On March 30, Colombia refused to allow a plane to land on one of its islands near us. The plane carried medical supplies for the Zaandam. Both the Zaandam and the Rotterdam were forced to continue without the supplies. There was no risk to any Colombian, but fear and politics are a powerful combination. Mexico also refused to allow the Zaandam to move a few sick passengers to a local hospital to receive treatment.

As I sit here contemplating the future, I’ve come to realize I am a senior citizen, although I still don’t feel whatever that feels like. Because of our age, my wife and I received priority transfer to the new ship. Our four children have now hatched a plot to take away our passports. Ain’t gonna happen. I still want to see Scandinavia, Iceland, maybe the Far East and more. I’ve had my fill of South America, though.

My money focus has changed from me to our children. One is a real estate agent who has seen his business dry up. Another is a project manager at a larger real estate holding company who has had his pay cut and his 401(k) match suspended. Making sure they don’t suffer irreversible financial damage is my top priority today.

We’re heading toward Port Everglades, where we face an unknown future. Will they let us dock? Will we be quarantined and, if so, where? Holland America is attempting to make flight arrangements, but the details are murky.

This reminds me of my basic training days. It wasn’t what actually happened that was stressful, but the anticipation of the unknown. Once you figured that out, it became easier to deal with. One night we crawled under live machine gun fire with tracers flying overhead. There was a strong incentive to crawl as we were taught. They told us the machine guns were pointed above the highest point on the range. That knowledge wasn’t comforting, unless you observed that the highest point was a pole sticking 10 feet in the air. The perception was worse than the reality.

Another time, we were on an obstacle course. The idea was to get through as fast as possible, while staying inbounds. It was a difficult task, unless you realized the right-side boundary was two feet away from the obstacles, thus providing a clear path if you paid close attention to the rules. Few recruits found the easy path.

Getting through this health and economic crisis also requires clear thinking, avoiding unnecessary obstacles, and playing by the rules but not being paralyzed by them. The total number of virus-affected Americans is scary and will get scarier still. But if you consider it currently represents about 0.07% of the population, you may have a different perspective. Similarly, even after its precipitous drop, the S&P 500 is still above where it was in 2017.

My investments have recovered slightly, my municipal bond funds still generate monthly income and, for now, my individual stocks still pay dividends. But all that is secondary. Since I have no plans to travel again any time soon, my travel savings account can be diverted to help my family, if it proves necessary. Heck, I’m even getting a big refund from the cruise line.

I’ll admit I’m weary from this trip. But I also know we’re among the lucky ones and what awaits us at home may be worse. Still, I’m hoping my next article will be written from my easy chair in New Jersey.

Richard Quinn blogs at Before retiring in 2010, Dick was a compensation and benefits executive. His previous articles include Barely AfloatSeasick and At Sea. Follow Dick on Twitter @QuinnsComments.

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