Travel plans to honour fallen soldiers disrupted by Covid-19

Change of plans . . . John Bone, of Mosgiel, never got to put Dolores Crosses on graves of fallen New Zealand soldiers in an Italian war cemetery (inset) John Bone relaxes with a camel in front of the pyramids in Cairo, Egypt last month. PHOTOS: SHAWN MCAVINUE/SUPPLIED

Mosgiel pensioner John Bone wanted “to kiss the tarmac” when he arrived home on Thursday.

Mr Bone (69) left Dunedin for a two-month solo trip across the World on February 22.

An aim of the trip was to visit the grave of his uncle, George Osmand, in the Cesena War Cemetery in Italy.

Packed in his luggage were 20 Dolores Crosses woven from New Zealand flax.

The plan was to put the crosses on the graves of New Zealand soldiers in the cemetery.

The Dolores Cross Project is a not-for-profit memorial initiative aiming to pay tribute to about 30,000 New Zealand military personnel buried on foreign soil.

The start of his trip went to plan, a stop in Brisbane to visit his daughters, before a stop in Dubai on the way to London.

From there, he travelled on the Eurostar railway to Paris.

From Paris, he caught an overland train to Krakow in Poland and visited a former Nazi concentration camp.

From Poland he flew to Tel Aviv, Israel, and caught a train to Jerusalem and had a paddle in the Dead Sea.

He then travelled to the Egyptian capital, Cairo, and visited the pyramids.

“I really enjoyed Egypt – the people were so friendly.”

From Cairo, he flew to Dubai, to board cruise ship MSC Splendida, joining about 2000 passengers and 900 crew.

The 18-day cruise was meant to include 10 stops but at the first stop was in Oman, a dock-worker told him the ship would be the last to visit because of the Covid-19 pandemic.

“Things started going downhill from there.”

Back on the boat, the ship sailed past the next two stops in Oman.

The crew told passengers the plan had changed and they would be travelling through the Suez Canal to disembark in Crete.

By the time they got to the Mediterranean Sea the ship was not allowed to stop in Crete, Greece or Italy.

The plan was now to stop in France.

“France was never on the agenda.”

Despite the lack of stops, the cruise was excellent and there was plenty to do onboard including “bands and buffets”.

Due to the change in plans, each room on the ship was given 200 Euro ($NZ370) to spend onboard and passengers were given a credit to take the cruise again when the service resumed.

The ship arrived in Marseille, France after 13 nights at sea.

The only complaint he had on the trip was aimed at the Australian Government, which refused to allow the 11 New Zealanders on the ship to fly home via Australia.

“I praise everyone involved except the Australian Government.”

Consequently, the New Zealanders had to fly home via a charter flight to London and then a flight to Auckland via Vancouver, Canada.

He arrived in Auckland on March 28 and was put in self-isolation in a hotel room in the Grand Mercure in Queen St.

On the trip, he had his temperature taken 10 times but had never shown any symptoms of the virus.

On Thursday, he was flown to Dunedin Airport.

“When I got home I wanted to kiss the tarmac.”

His self-isolation period ends tomorrow.

The Dolores Crosses never made it out of his luggage but he still planned to get them on the soldiers’ graves in Italy.

“That’s still going to happen, believe you me.”