- A group of 25 Dutch teenagers arrived home in the Netherlands on Sunday after a five-week trans-Atlantic voyage.
- The high-schoolers were on an educational cruise in the Caribbean, but border and port closures in mid-March made it impossible for them to fly home from Cuba as planned.
- So the students, 12 crew members, and three teachers stocked up on warm clothes, food, and other provisions before embarking on a nearly 4,500-nautical-mile journey home.
- The ship docked at the port of Harlingen, where students walked into the arms of relieved parents, all of whom were obeying social distancing guidelines.
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Coronavirus restrictions upended the travel plans of 25 Dutch high school students, forcing them to embark on a five-week voyage across the Atlantic Ocean.
Now, they’ve finally come home.
The group, which included 12 crew members and three teachers, sailed nearly 4,500 nautical miles aboard a 200-foot twin-masted schooner called Wylde Swan, according to the Associated Press.
The ship docked at the port of Harlingen in the northern Netherlands on Sunday, where they were greeted by overjoyed family members and pets, flares, and a smoke grenade.
The teenagers, ranging from 14 to 17 years old, were on an educational cruise of the Caribbean, the Associated Press reported, where they had anticipated sailing for six weeks. However, in mid-March, port and border closures enforced by the world’s governments in response to the pandemic made it impossible for the group to fly from Cuba to Europe as originally planned.
So, they pivoted — stocking up on warm clothes, food, foul-weather gear, and other supplies before beginning the long trip home.
During a pit stop in the Azores, off the coast of Portugal, local authorities stopped the passengers from disembarking, Reuters said.
Floor Hurkmans, 17, told Associated Press that the experience taught her the value of being flexible.
“Everything is changing all the time,” she said. “The arrival time changed like 100 times. Being flexible is really important.”
Anna Maartje agreed.
“You have to learn to adapt, because you don’t really have any choice,” she said in a video interview shared with media outlets. “My first thought was: how am I going to do this with the clothes I have, and is there enough food on board?”
The teens created a “Bucket List” banner and checked off crossing the Atlantic Ocean, swimming in the middle of the ocean, and surviving the Bermuda triangle, the Associated Press reported.
Parents drove their cars to the ship one at a time so they could greet their children while following social distancing guidelines.
Hurkmans’ mother, Renee Scholtemeijer, told the Associated Press that she expects her daughter to miss her adventure when she realizes the impact of the coronavirus on life at home.
“I think that after two days she’ll want to go back on the boat, because life is very boring back at home,” Scholtemeijer told the Associated Press. “There’s nothing to do, she can’t visit friends, so it’s very boring.”
The cruise is organized by Masterskip, which leads five such academic trips for 150 students throughout the year. Its director, Christophe Meijer, told the Associated Press that the company closely supervised all the students, who continued their education on the voyage, to make sure that no one picked up the coronavirus.
“The children learned a lot about adaptivity, also about media attention, but also their normal school work,” he said. “So they are actually far ahead now of their Dutch school colleagues. They have made us very proud.”