I have some advice for all the first time cruisers out there: Plan to arrive at your port of embarkation the day before, book a hotel room, and spend the night. Oh, and buy the trip insurance.
Now, I know what y’all are thinkin’. I thought it, too. “Oh, I’ll just make sure I get an early enough flight, that gets me to the port in plenty of time. And trip insurance? Please. A big waste of money for someone as healthy as me.”
This is for the Spin Cycle topic of the week: Survival. I ignored the advice of every professional travel planner on the planet, did things my own way, and in the process, managed to survive The Ordeal of a lifetime. The story I am about to tell y’all is true. Every single detail of it.
For my 50th birthday, my husband, Jeff, bless his heart, decided to fulfill my lifelong desire to take a cruise. We celebrated my birthday and our seven year wedding anniversary in the same week, on Royal Caribbean’s Jewel of the Sea.
I was so excited about going on this trip, y’all, that I spent about ten months planning for it. I read every book about cruising that I could get my hands on. I researched all the ports we were going to visit. I memorized the menus, by heart, of all the restaurants on the ship. I planned what we were going to wear each day (matching outfits, when possible!) including alternate outfits for bad weather. I had our itinerary typed, and re-typed, and made into a booklet that I carried everywhere with me, in case I thought of a change I needed to make.
I even joined a cruise ship discussion forum, where I spent countless hours getting to know other folks who would be cruising with us. We made plans to meet up on the ship at “Sailaway,” and all of us gals agreed to paint our toenails a matching shade of red (Opi’s Affair in Red Square, to be exact.)
The day before the cruise, I went into packing mode. This required me to try on every single outfit I had planned to wear, including shoes, under garments, pocketbooks, belts, hose or socks and jewelry. Then there was the ironing, the mending, the folding, the organizing everything just so into the suitcase, and going over the check list.
Yes, I had a check list.
I had to remember toothbrushes, toiletry items (including my bottle of Opi’s Affair in Red Square,just in case a toenail got chipped), contact lens case, reading glasses, flash light (you never know), bug repellent, extra socks, something to read, cameras (our regular one, plus several for underwater shots) beach towels, duct tape, clothespins, safety pins, bandaids, medications, bathing suits, sun block, disinfecting spray, golf clubs and shoes, my laptop (to download all the pictures we were going to take) and our smuggled on, plastic bottle of Peach Schnapps.
To name just a few things, y’all.
I ended up with two large suitcases, two carry-ons, a laptop case, a large wardrobe bag, a golf club carrying case, stuffed with two sets of clubs, the bottle of Peach Schnapps, my purse and my itinerary. Well, it was a five day cruise, y’all. A girl’s got to be prepared.
With our outfits for our “traveling” day laid out , we were finally in the bed by 10 pm. We had to be AT the Wilmington airport by 6 am, to allow enough time for security checks and all that crap. Our flight (to Charlotte, NC) was supposed to leave at 7:30 am. We were supposed to have an hour lay over in Charlotte, and then catch a flight to Ft. Lauderdale, Fla. Our arrival time in Ft. Lauderdale was supposed to be around 1 pm, leaving us plenty of time to get to the port, board our ship, have lunch, take a leisurely stroll around the decks, change clothes and be ready for our sailaway party, where we were going to meet my new friends and show off my compare painted red toes.
All before the ship sailed away at 5 pm, sharp. That was the plan, y’all.
Notice how I keep using the phrase, “supposed to“? That’s where The Ordeal starts.
My 21 year old son, Klinton, drove us to the airport and dropped us off. A skycap came right over to help us with our luggage and asked us which flight we were taking. I produced my itinerary, with a flourish, and read him the number.
He frowned. “I’m sorry Ma’am, but that flight has been canceled.”
“Canceled? What do mean canceled? We are going on our first cruise for my 50th birthday!”
“Well, just go inside to the desk and they’ll get you on another flight.”
OK. So we haul all five suitcases, camera bag, laptop case, pocketbook, incredibly heavy golf club bag which was stuffed with two sets of golf clubs, plus our shoes and a bottle of Peach Schnapps, and my itinerary into the airport and up to the line. There were already twelve or so very disgruntled folks ahead of us.
After standing in line for an hour or two, the weary desk clerk found us another flight that was leaving at 9:30 am, to Atlanta, with a longer layover, and then a connecting flight to Ft. Lauderdale, which would put us there around 1:30 pm. Perfect. We’d have to sacrifice lunch on the ship, but we’d still have time for that stroll, y’all.
The desk clerk said, “But, you better hurry, they are starting to board that plane in a few minutes.”
First we had to weigh our bags. Nothing was supposed to be over 50 pounds. Uh oh. The golf club bag was about 6 pounds over. So we frantically took stuff out of that bag and tried to evenly distribute stuff into the other bags, which required weighing and re-weighing everything a few times. After we got that done, we headed over to security.
We swiftly took off our shoes and set them in the little tray. Opened my purse, and my laptop and the camera bag. Handed over out new tickets to security.
The security guy frowned.
“Is there a problem?” I asked, breathlessly. “We are kind of in a hurry, here.”
“Well Ma’am,” he said. “You have been alerted as a security risk. We’re going to have to frisk you both.”
“WHAAT?” I’m was almost shouting, y’all. I couldn’t help it.
“Well Ma’am, you see, because you changed your flight schedule at the last minute, you’re considered an extra security risk.”
“But, but, but….” I think I was speechless, really.
Jeff could sense that I was about to go into overdrive, so he said smoothly, “It’s OK, Babe, let’s just do what they ask, so we can get down to the boarding area in time. I promise, I’ll buy you nice drink as soon as we get on the ship.”
Of course, we had to wait for an extra security person to become available.
Fuming, I allowed them to search me, and they also poked and prodded our things with an instrument that looked like it could be some kind of a torture devise. I was close to having a meltdown, y’all. When it was finally determined that we were, indeed, just a middle aged, middle class married couple, trying to get to Florida to be able to enjoy a little hanky-panky on a cruise ship, and not a couple of cleverly disguised shoe bombers, we were released. We then ran to the waiting area, which was packed to the point of standing room only.
As we were standing there, the loud speaker: “Attention passengers. This airplane is experiencing some minor maintenance problems and our flight is going to be delayed. The Pilot asks that you be patient, as we are working to resolve this problem.”
At that point, my formally cool and soothing husband turned to me and said, in a tight voice, “Call Klinton and tell him he needs to be prepared to come back and get us. Because it’s looking like we may have to miss this cruise.”
To be continued…
Part Two: We Take a Ride With a Dragon