Please read The Ordeal of a Lifetime, Part One, Part Two, Part Three, Part Four, and Part Five before reading Part Six. Part Five was part of the Spin Cycle’s Topic of the Week: Minding Your Manners. I’ve missed a few weeks since then. It’s amazing how time gets all away from you, when you work shift work.
In thinking about it, maybe that’s why this cruise was so important to me. See, I never went to a prom. And I’m not going to lie to y’all and say it was because I way too mature for that sort of nonsense, or tell you that I was boycotting it because it was outrageously expensive, or claim to be dedicated to a vegetarian lifestyle, and therefore unable to be in the same room with a tray of ham sandwiches. Nah.
The cold stark truth of the matter is this: No one asked me. And back in the dark ages my high school days it wasn’t socially acceptable for girls to ask boys out. Besides, I was dating a man who was much too old for me, what the hell was my mother thinking? a cool college guy. And he was too old to go to a high school prom with a baby, like me.
But the cruise….ahhhh! would include a “Formal Night.” That was, I learned during my extensive research, a fancy dinner and lots of dancing! It would be like the prom I never got to go to. I figured it was the perfect excuse to shop for a sexy dress, strappy high heeled shoes and matching jewelry. I found the perfect outfit, in slimming classy black, and had it all packed away weeks in advance.
And I wasn’t about to let a little ol’ detail like missin’ a couple of flights keep me from wearing it!
Back when I was 49, I started thinking about going on a cruise. Everyone I knew, it seems, had already done it. And so I approached my husband with the idea, and he didn’t exactly say no was thrilled, so for a full year before my 50th birthday, I was in full scale pre-planning mode. I read everything I could get my hands on about cruising. I joined a discussion forum. I ordered travel books and was up-to-date on all the major cruise line’s ships and itineraries.
One thing I kept reading, over and over again, was something subtle like this:
“The first piece of advice: Get there early. A day early. Plan ahead, particularly if you’re flying during winter seasons (or even summer thunderstorm seasons). If you must fly to the port on the day of embarkation, try to catch the earliest possible flight. At the very least, leave a minimum of a four-hour window between arrival and cruise take-off time.”
And as I read all that, I was thinking, “Yeah, right. Overkill, that’s what that is. They are really making a mountain out of a molehill!”
See, I was convinced that the cruise advice forums and the travel books were all in ca-hoots with the hotels, y’all. It was a big ole plot to get people to spend some more money. I thought it was real clever of them, how they used fear to get folks to book extra nights, in hotels in strange cities.
But Iwasn’t fallin’ for it. No siree. I was smarter than the average cookie. I just knew that nothing would go wrong. We would fly on down to the port, board the ship in plenty of time, and sail away into the sunset. Smooth as silk. With extra cash in our pockets, unlike all the gullible fools that had gotten suckered into spending an extra night.
Little did I know. In reality, the molehill was not just a mountain. It was a nightmare.
First, our early flight, that would have gotten us to the port in the minimum four hour window, got canceled. Then, in spite of inadvertently becoming security risks, we managed to get ourselves booked onto another flight. Then, THAT flight got canceled and it became a free-for-all in the Wilmington airport for a ticket. Our next problem was getting to Raleigh in time to catch still another flight, that would barely get us into the wrong port in time to catch a cab to the right port, all in time to catch the cruise ship, which we had been dangerously close to missing all day.
But then, if y’all read Parts One, Two, Three, Four and Five, you already know all this.
But I’m southern, so bear with me.
The Spin Cycle topic the week before the Molehills topic, was “Mistakes.” Boy-howdy, did I ever mess up by not finishing this story that week. Because….When my husband took me on a cruise, to celebrate my 50th birthday, 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. This is Part Six of the story. It is true, y’all. Every single detail of it.
So where were we? Oh, yeah.
In Part Five of this saga, I had managed to stave off a hissy-fit in the Miami airport, only to begin screaming at pleading with an innocent Jamaicancab driver, who calmly agreed to “do his best” to get us to the Port of Ft. Lauderdale. In 35 minutes.
If there was ever a ride to rival “Mr. Toad’s Wild Ride”, this was it. That cab driver was not fooling around, y’all. He was intent on keeping his promise. He drove like a man on a mission.
A “give your poor passengers in the backseat a nervous breakdown” kind of mission.
As the taxi wove in and out of traffic, passing everything else on the road like the first Cape Canaveral rocket launch, I managed to sneak a peek at the speedometer. It said 97 miles per hour. I clutched my purse and my laptop and closed my eyes. And I silently prayed.
“Dear Jesus, please just let us get there alive. I swear I don’t care anymore if we make it to the cruise. I really don’t care (much) about wearing that new dress (or the cute little black sandals with the darling rhinestone accents). You know what’s best for us, Dear Jesus, and I trust you. Must be, there’s a real good reason why we’ve had so much trouble on this trip, so just please don’t let us perish in this here cab. Amen.”
My husband and I were holding hands. My knuckles were white from squeezing his fingers so hard. The two of us exchanged a look. We knew we were going to die.
But miracles still happen, I reckon, because we pulled into the Port of Ft.Lauderdale at 3:55 PM. My heart was about to stop, and I had the weak trembles. But we had made it.
The cab driver drove us right up to the ship. Only it was the wrong one. The big letters painted on the side of it plainly read “CARNIVAL.” And we were booked on a Royal Caribbean cruise.
He turned and flashed a brilliant smile at us, as if driving 97 mile an hour was an everyday occurrence. “Port of Fort Lauderdale, in thirty minutes, Ma’am,” he announced.
“No, no, no!” I barely managed to get out, as if I was talking in slow motion.
My husband set him straight. “We are going to need to find The Jewel of the Seas. It’s a Royal Caribbean ship.”
We looked around. There were four ships at the dock. A Carnival, a Norwegian, a Princess and a Disney.
It was almost four o’clock; the time after which, we had been told by several people, the ship would not allow us to board. We were so close. Had we come so far, only to miss it?
For a moment, the cab driver looked confused. His brow furrowed. Suddenly, he whipped the cab around and we were headed back to the main gate. “We will go back and ask directions to this ship,” he said calmly.
There was a little road, that we had missed, that took us to another dock. And there, in all her splendor, sat the lovely Jewel of the Seas.
I had tears in my eyes. I wanted to hug the cab driver. But there was no time for me to get sentimental. The baggage handlers were swarming all over us the minute we stopped.
“Are you sailing on the Jewel?” one of them asked.
No sooner had we said yes, then seven or eight men and women in Royal Caribbean uniforms were grabbing our camera bag, laptop case, a carry on, four suitcases and incredibly heavy golf club bag which was stuffed with two sets of golf clubs, plus our shoes and a bottle of Peach Schnapps and throwing it all onto a baggage transport cart.
All the while they were frantically waving toward the check in area. “Hurry, hurry, hurry!” they told us. “You need to hurry! Have your tickets and passports ready!”
I had my pocket book and my precious itinerary, which contained our tickets and passports. We took off, running. As we entered the huge check-in room, which was completely devoid of people, there was a lone woman standing behind one of many booths. We rushed over to her, panicked that we were a few minutes late. I immediately started spouting gibberish about canceled flights and wild cab rides, while waving my tickets feverishly in her face.
She looked amused. Then smiled. A beautiful smile. “Relax!” she said. “You made it!”
About an hour later, we were standing on the deck of the ship, having that much anticipated “froo froo” drink, during what is known as “the Sailaway”. Sailaway is a party that the cruise line throws, as the ship sails out of the port, to get you all liquored up and in the mood to spend some more money start the cruise on a festive note.
Well, after the ordeal we survived to get there, it took more than a few drinks and a couple of days before we even started to relax. I would love go on another cruise, y’all. But, next time, I think we’ll plan on spending a week in Fort Lauderdale before the cruise….just in case.