Tuesday, March 2, 2010
CARIBBEAN EXPERIENCE: MOTHER NATURE'S TRIP
Yesterday, I had a little laugh because of The Victoria Advocate. Dicovering something in the paper that is laughable usually involves the sloppy writing skills or the lack of editing. This time, the choice of story material was the source of my amusement. Nothing was wrong with the story, as such, it's just that I read it and thought, "If they think that is a vacation negatively impacted by weather, boy do I ever have a story to tell." So, here's my vacation story.
My husband and I love to cruise and discover new cultures. In 2008, our daughter and son-in-law were able to join us. Excited phone calls between our households coordinated packing and excursion plans. Walking onto to the Carnival ship and soaking in all the lights, sounds and smells alongside these "cruise newbies" amped up the appreciation factor for both of us. We had never been on this particular ship before, but it didn't take us long to get the lay of the decks.
Dining in the fancy dining room wasn't something either of the two guys would do willingly, but to appease us, they gussied up and tolerated the fancee-smanzee eating experience. My daughter and I enjoyed the ambiance, food and vibrant personalities of the waitstaff. This birthday would be one our daughter wouldn't forget any time soon.
While we sailed peacefully across the placid water, there was a small storm forming out in the ocean. However, on board our ship the Calypso band entertained, dinners were served, towel animals greeted us in the evening and deck chairs were arranged. No sounding of alarms penetrated the security of the ship, until the morning that we were scheduled to visit the Cayman Islands.
Up since early morning, we awaited the tenders to take us into shore. The turtles' sanctuary was to be one of our destinations, along with Hell and the beach. White caps should have served as our warning that the weather was in charge of all of our plans. Because of the danger for small boats in the bay, this port of call was cancelled and off we went back into deeper water. For over a year, our daughter had waited to go to the turtle sanctuary, but Mother Nature denied her that pleasure.
Shrugging off the dissappointment and turning our attention to the next port of call, we arranged a dolphin encounter for our daughter and husband in Cozumel, Mexico. Having the day away from them, my husband and I took time to revisit favorite shopping locales. Drizzle and muggy weather didn't slow our expedition down one bit. Not only did we rediscover the familiar, but we found other interesting niches for unique purchases. Returning to the ship, we learned that the dolphin encounter far exceeded any expectations held by our daughter. Once again, our son-in-law participated and tolerated an experience that made his wife ecstatic. He was a great traveling compaion, who didn't expect anything and appreciated everything.
Electricity buzzed throughout the common areas of the ship, as people continued to check the progress of the little storm, which had matured into a deadly hurricane. Passengers were summoned into the theater for an announcement late in the afternoon. At this point in the week, Ike hadn't decided where to come ashore, so we were safer waiting an extra day in Cozumel's port. We always knew that cruising was an adventure, but an adventure with some control. At this point, we realized that we had no control over anything.
Spending another day in port, gave my husband and me time to regroup mentally. We knew that we were safe, and yet the little hairs on the back of our necks started to itch. If the storm came ashore in Texas, we probably would be looking at complete devastation of our homes, work places, etc. Reminding ourselves that we and our "kids" were safe allowed us to relax a tad. Material things can be replaced, albeit a hassel to do so; it is possible to regroup as long as the loss is material and not personal.
Waiting is always the worse and the next day we were told that we weren't able to return to Galveston, as there was no Galveston left. Plans were still be forming, so as soon as the ship's crew knew anything, we would be advised. Thinking of traveling from another port back home brought uncomfortable possiblities to mind. But never in my mind could I have imagined what we were told at the next meeting. There would be no arrangements provided by Carnival Cruise Lines for our return to our departure port. We would cruise into New Orleans and the rest of the trip home would be at our own expense and it was up to us to make the travel arrangements.
Shock was soon replaced by anger and then panic. Here we had four people to get home, vehicles left at Galveston were probably swept out to sea, and we had traveled with cash only. Through many hours on the phone and a very generous friend (see blog about guardian angel) airfare was arranged to fly from New Orleans to home.
Stumbling off the ship in a daze, we were told by Carnival Cruise personnel that they hoped we had a good trip and please travel with them, again. Filtering my words, I did let them know that this was the first and ONLY time Carnival would be in our plans. When my daughter heard, "Well, she could have been nice about it," she said to the girl, "You don't know my mom, that was nice." Laughing about this encounter brought us to the area in New Orleans where we waited for our luggage and shuttle to the airport. Soothing our stressed-out nerves was the welcome we received from people who understood what being displaced felt like. All the people in New Orleans were kind and welcoming to us and that helped us get through the rest of our day.
Different flights took us from New Orleans into Houston, Texas. By the time my husband and I arrived in Houston, exhaustion was somewhat tempered by the fact that we were so close to home. Relaxing and waiting for our out going flight to home was short lived when we discovered that our co-pilot for our "puddle-jumper" plane hadn't shown up for work and the flight was cancelled. Due to the fall-out of the storm's damage, Houston was now on curfew and we were stuck at the airport until morning.
Freezing temperatures and no place to sleep in the airport made the hours creep by until finally in the early morning we were able to get a call through to our son-in-law who willingly rescued us and drove us home. A few minutes in the car, and we passed out from exhaustion. Walking into our home was the best feeling in the world.
Hot, soothing showers relaxed us enough that we were able to recharge our batteries and begin the process of dealing with the rest of our losses. Vehicles were lost and insurances were battled for replacements. Unexpected trip expenses were repaid to our friend and our travel agent helped us file the necessary paperwork for reinbursiment.
Many losses were not recovered. However, we brought home the best tiny souvenior ever, our grandlove. Even though he was conceived in foreign lands, he is an all American little boy.
I guess that Mother Nature did have the best plan, after all.