"We were really not planning on doing another cruise, but Garrison had heard from cruisers over and over," Gustafson said. "So we started to ask ourselves: Can we pull it off?"
Tickets went on sale last May and sold out within 24 hours. The trip, scheduled to sail from Fort Lauderdale, Fla., to the Cayman Islands, promised lots of interaction with Keillor, sketches featuring "Prairie Home" regulars and entertainment from singers and musicians including Heather Masse, Pat Donohue and Maria Jette.
The journey was initially postponed, then canceled. Keillor sent a note to passengers April 20:
"Ever so often, we look at the news and read about a cruise ship wandering the Caribbean, trying to offload the crew, and we think, 'What If' and imagine the Veendam in distress, a week's vacation turning into a story by Kafka," he wrote. "I'm grateful for the decision March 11 to cancel. I trust that you and yours are safe and well. We've heard of friends and friends of friends who've suffered, some have died, and we go onward in mystery, not knowing when normal life will resume or what normal will be. I'm 77 and I recall no precedent."
Some would-be passengers have not taken the news well.
"There is a lot of red tape," Elissa Wolfson told The New York Times. She had spent nearly $5,000 on reservations for herself and her daughter.
Gustafson said roughly 85% of the feedback they've received has been supportive. She shared an email sent earlier this week by Jennifer Terris of Charlotte, N.C.: "We think it is most unfair that other cruisers appear to be most impatient regarding the refund ... The cancellation was certainly no one's fault and this is a very unusual situation. We know you are doing your very best to work this out and everyone needs to just have a little patience!"
There is some good news for "Prairie Home" fans: In addition to finishing his long-awaited memoir, Keillor is using the downtime in his Manhattan apartment to work on a new Lake Wobegon novel. He previously said he wouldn't write any more stories about his fictional town.
He teases that the book will deal with what happens when residents "catch a virus from eating cheese that causes compulsive admission of innermost thoughts and guilty secrets."
He promised advance copies for those who signed up for the cruise. At cost. Plus postage.
(c)2020 Star Tribune (Minneapolis)
Visit the Star Tribune (Minneapolis) at www.startribune.com
Distributed by Tribune Content Agency, LLC.