During a recent cruise on the Silver explorer of the Chilean fjords, a fellow guest was transferred to the local medical centre in the beautiful village of Tortel. As the local authorities were concerned that the guest was possibly infected with COVID19, all guests who were ashore were directed to return to the ship immediately. The ship was shortly thereafter granted permission to continue the cruise, with a restriction of no landings until COVID19 test results were known.
Two days later just prior to a scheduled shore excursion, the Captain advised that the result had come back positive for COVID19, and all guests were directed to return to their cabins. For the following 4 days information in respect to our situation was scant, but we were to realise later the need for discrete communications.
Following the confinement to cabins, the chef together with his staff swung into action, and maintained the exceptional service for which Silversea is known. Prior to each meal we received a menu slipped under our door, which was astonishing. A full cooked breakfast was available with most of the accompaniments. Lunch was a three course meal with a two choices for each course. And dinner comprised four courses, with 3 choices for the main course. The quality and presentation of the meals which were delivered to our door was way beyond expectations. Furthermore, if you required any additional items for the complimentary mini bar, they were immediately attended to!
On the morning of day four, the Captain advised that Silversea in conjunction with local authorities had developed a plan to repatriate all guests who were fit to travel. However due to sensitive local issues, we were requested not to communicate any information in respect to the operation. Later that evening guests were transferred by zodiacs to buses on a vehicular ferry that had rendezvoused at sea with the Silver Explorer. Once all passengers had been safely transferred to the ferry it set sail for Puerto Montt.
On arriving at Puerto Montt the scale of operation became apparent. After the buses were placed in formation, the convey proceeded under very heavy police escort and back roads, to the local airport. Upon arriving at the airport the buses proceeded onto the airport tarmac, where one Boeing 787 Dreamliner was waiting to convey 45 American guests to Miami. Those guests immediately boarded their aircraft and were on their way home. The two aircraft for the remaining guests arrived two hours later. One Airbus A320 Neo to convey 40 English, and Europeans to London. And our dedicated aircraft, another B787 Dreamliner, exclusively for 16 Australians direct to Sydney.
Like many Australians who have been overseas during the COVID19 crisis, we expected that we would be stranded and not be able to return home for a long time. The steps taken by Silversea to repatriate their guests were extraordinary, and I believe I can say on behalf of all the guests, we will be forever grateful for the repatriation operation undertaken by Silversea. The cost of the operation to Silversea would easily have exceeded $1,000,000. There was never any mention of guests contributing to the repatriation costs.
Since returning home we have been contacted twice by Silversea following up on our welfare. In the first instance it was personally by the Managing Director for Australia and New Zealand.
Silversea clearly demonstrated their priority for the welfare of their guests, ahead of commercial considerations.