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In A Sea Of Worry: Dallas Resident, On Cruise Near Falkland Islands, Hopes To Come Home

Retired Dallas accountant Bruce Toplek had only good thoughts when he booked a trip overseas months ago.

He left Dallas March 10 to board a small cruise ship in Argentina. The boat departed on Friday the 13th. 

“But even then I still felt pretty good because South America has very few cases,” he said by phone.

“And then within three days the whole world closed.”

As Toplek’s been on board, the coronavirus has spread around the world and dominated the news.

Toplek says there are 86 passengers on the cruise -- mostly from the United Kingdom -- and 77 crew members. The boat sits off the coast of the Falkland Islands near the capital city of Stanley.

“Everything’s just as if we were on the cruise, except we’re not getting off the boat,” he said. “We have free access to all the public spaces. The dining room’s open.”

The real difference? They’re like the safe island in a sea of worry.

Toplek says the passengers are fine. And they want to stay that way in order to get off the boat for a charter flight to the U.K.

Everyone’s temperature is taken every day. So far, so good.

“Don’t close the borders to U.S. citizens for a couple more weeks please,” he said. “The U.K. is a nice place to visit but I don’t think I want to be there for another six weeks. “

Toplek understands those who may question his judgement for heading on an overseas trip.

“Some ... may say ‘well, you idiot, you should have stayed home,’” he said. “But at the time, things were not looking quite as bad. ... In one week, we went from 'everybody can do everything' to 'don’t go anywhere, stay home.'"

Toplek and the other passengers hope they can get off the ship, and head for home March 24.

Bill Zeeble has been a full-time reporter at KERA since 1992, covering everything from medicine to the Mavericks and education to environmental issues.