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"Cruising" Day One



Don't let the amount of time that has elapsed since my last blog entry fool you, I am still alive. There has been a lot of things happening lately, but not many of those things has much to do with motorcoaching. Diane and I have been to the two of our FMCA chapter campouts (more about that later) and I spent most of today working on our coach. I am trying to repair the wet bay heater before I need it again.

In the next couple of days I will post an up to date entry but in the meantime I have something from my old archives you might find interesting. I used to blog (before it was called that) for Cruise Critic dot com. I kept and posted a daily account of our very last cruise. One of those days I posted here sometime ago. Now that FMCA is offering member cruises, maybe you will find my account of our last cruise fun to read. If not..too bad, at least the words, and there are lots of them, will take up some space.

It was originally a ten day, ten part posting and it received a lot of responses, from all around the world as a matter of fact. Here is Day One:

Voyager of the Seas 10-06-2002 to 10-13-2002

Part I Stressing, Packing, Pre-Cruising

This cruise almost did not happen. I booked it on the first day back from our 29th anniversary cruise on the Explorer of the Seas 10-06-2001. On 911, I thought that cruise might not happen, but it did, and in spite of travel tribulations it was great. Diane and I fell in love with the Eagle class ship and had to go back for our 30th wedding anniversary. I booked an ocean view with a Crown and Anchor coupon and received a free upgrade to a stateroom with a balcony. We were told that we would be in cabin 1234. I liked that number, easy to remember, and its location, third cabin forward on the Port side, deck 10. I booked it and did not give it another thought for five months. There were too many other things to think about. A ship load of stress was sailing right at us.

A few days after returning from the Explorer cruise our daughter Jeri informed us that she wanted to move her February wedding to December. Having two months to plan a wedding was bad enough, but to have it during the Christmas season was a tough order to fill. Hotels have parties galore during that time and finding an empty meeting room large enough to hold a wedding was not going to be easy. Not to mention that I was now going to be short almost four months income to help pay for the darn thing. We managed to pull it off. Jeri and her husband had a wonderful wedding, very intimate and very beautiful, thanks to her mother. But boy was it stressful.

Next came Christmas and all the decisions that come with that holiday. We have family scattered all over the place and they all want us to spend time with them. We ended up with my parents and they overbooked so we had to sleep in a two story shed in their backyard that was full of ladybugs, millions of them. We had an interesting night to say the least. We slept on an old couch with a pull out single bed, both of us in the same bed, while the lucky ladybugs slept in the double bed with the nice mattress upstairs. Both Diane and I went home with prophetic back aches.

I am self employed, in the wacky telecommunications business. At the end of December I sold the largest system I have ever sold in eleven years. I sold it to a very high profile company with a lot of important partners; one of the partners makes beer and owns theme parks. It took me three months to install it and tweak it to my satisfaction. I just finished it when our oldest daughter Christine and her two year old son decided that they needed to move back into her old bedroom if you know what I mean.

So, I barely had time to catch my breath from three months of hard work when I found myself with two more mouths to feed and a new job. I was now Derrick the marriage counselor. This was a job that I did not want and did my best to refuse. My wife had to put up with all of us. Stress moved in like a child comes home. From March to June things were very tough.

In May we remodeled our main bathroom. We gutted it and started over. It was a lot of work but we had no choice, the room was falling apart. We and our contractor finished it in early June. Because of scheduling problems and supply problems and labor problems and children problems I missed my parent’s 50th wedding anniversary celebration. I hate to say it but I didn’t care. I was too tired to care.

In late June things got tougher. Diane woke up one morning and had such terrific backside and leg pain that she could not get out of bed. Christine managed to get her to the emergency room. She had a pinched nerve. Duh! Take Tylenol number 3 and Motrin 800, that will fix it, they said. It didn’t. She suffered in silence for two or three weeks until I said it was time to visit a chiropractor. We did, and he informed us that she was in pretty bad shape. She could barely walk, and would require three visits a week for the next few months. It was then that I remembered our cruise. The good doctor said that he would her would have her ship shape and ready to go, on time. I said thank you and wrote him a large check. (Large enough for a cruise)

In August Christine moved into her own apartment. Business had been slow for the past two months, but that was a blessing in disguise considering the fact that I had to spend quite a bit of time grocery shopping and looking after the things that Diane normally did. When you have a seventeen year old boy in the house, you have to buy a lot of food. Often. I wanted to cancel the cruise, Diane said no. In mid August I made the final payment on the cruise and travel insurance. Diane followed her doctor’s advice to the letter; I went back to work and hoped that October first would arrive quietly and we would have some peace until then. That was not to be.

In mid September we found out that Diane’s mother had Alzheimer’s disease. This of course caused another family crisis and led to court orders and guardian hearings and wonderful stuff like that. I wanted to cancel the cruise. Diane said no. Two weeks before departure date, Diane and her brother placed her mother in an assisted living facility.

The day before departure I went with Diane to the Chiropractor’s office. He wanted to show me some new ways to use my elbow so that I could administer some relief to Diane in case she needed it while we were gone. The good doctor ended up putting me on the table after I told him that I was having back pain. Christine’s car had broke down two days before causing her to borrow Diane’s car and the stress was torque-ing me out of shape.

We barley had time to do all the pre cruise dry cleaning, shopping and things like that, but God help us, we pulled it off.

On Friday, October the fourth, at 5:30 in the morning, Christine, Diane and I left for the Norfolk airport. We had five bags (three of them mine), plus a camera bag, a makeup bag, not mine, and a purse, also not mine. I tend to pack too much. This trip was no exception. Diane and I like to dress up every night on the cruise. I was hoping that Southwest would not hit us with overweight charges. Diane told me not to pack my cedar shoe trees (four pairs), just stuff your shoes with a pair of socks or tissue paper. I thought that was a good idea and then did not follow her advice. Those trees added six pounds. I packed a tux (for two nights), a black suit, a grey suit, a blue suit, and a grey plaid suit. I wore them all. I packed two too many shirts and ties because I was too tired to make up my mind the night before. I could not sleep at all and found myself on the Cruise Critic boards writing another installment to our first cruise memoir.

About ten minutes out Diane realized that she had forgotten to put her rings on after pouring finger nail polish remover from a large bottle into a travel size bottle. She said she didn’t like the idea of going on an anniversary cruise without her wedding ring. I informed her that there would be no cruise if we returned for her rings. Christine said here take mine, it doesn’t mean that much to me anyway. Diane borrowed Christine’s big stone and put it on. It was a bit large but it would have to do.

We arrived at the airport and unloaded; because the line was very long we ignored curb service check in, strapped all our bags together and pulled the train into the station. There was no line at the Southwest counter. We checked in and took our checked bags to the explosive screening station. I was surprised to see that it was a member of our church working there. He saw me and told us to let him handle our bags. He wiped them down thoroughly and they passed and He said have a great cruise and off we went to our gate. For security reasons I don’t think I should mention any TSA officer’s name, plus I can’t remember it.

We pulled our carryons to the top of the escalator and headed over to the coffee shop for a cup of high test and a bran muffin. While standing in line I noticed a young lady carrying a sleeping bag. She had just arrived from Diego Garcia, an island just below the equator south of India. In 1998 I made a trip there. We talked for awhile and she informed me the place was hopping, I knew that was a sure sign of war. The war in Afghanistan started on the last cruise maybe we would attack Iraq during this one.

We drank our coffee and ate our muffins and headed for the security gate. We went though and I set off the alarm. The guard asked me if I was wearing Rockports and I said yes. He informed me that they have steel shanks in them and would need to be X-rayed. Okay. I took them off, he wanded me down, I put my shoes back on and we continued. Southwest has open seating. You board in groups A, B, C. We were in B. We were called and headed down the jet way and onto the plane. Half the passengers were kids under the age of six. At least it seemed that way. Everyone was headed to Disney World. We were the only ones going on to Fort Lauderdale. It was one noisy flight. Plus there was a little boy kicking the back of Diane’s seat all the way down and a boy in front of her bouncing her tray. After one good kick to Diane’s back, I was sure she was going to climb over the seat and slap the boy’s mother. (The mother was fast asleep) Fortunately I was able to restrain her. Needless to say we were both glad to land in Orlando.

We sat around for awhile and I read my book “The Lovely Bones”. It’s the story of a girl who is brutally murdered and goes to Heaven and observes her family and her Father’s attempts to solve her murder. It is a very strange and at the same time wonderful book. Diane was reading Nora Roberts “Honest Illusions”.

On the way to the gate Diane complained about her new Reeboks that I had bought her. One of our pre cruise rituals is to buy new sneaks. I bought hers for her this time and I was careful to get the right size, but somehow one shoe was way too large and tightening the lasses did not seem to help. There was nothing we could do about it at the moment.

We finally boarded the plan for Fort Lauderdale and about forty minutes later found ourselves making a big wide turn to the left on our final approach. I noticed a lot of large homes on small lots next to what looked like swamps to me. I guess that must be waterfront property.

We finally landed and made our way off the plane and down to baggage claim. We waited no time at all. My two bags were the first ones to come out together and Diane’s followed about a minute later. Two bags together how often does that happen? We strapped everything together and headed our baggage train out the door marked ground transportation and found the Tri-County Express counter. There we ordered a car for 45 dollars for up to five passengers. The driver looked at all our luggage and wanted to know where everybody else was. I told him it was just the two of us. He shook his head and started to load up. One suitcase had to ride up front with him. We informed him that we were headed for the Wyndham Hotel on Collins in Miami Beach. He knew exactly where to go. Our driver was from Spain and complained that Florida weather was too hot. He was in the country on a long visit with his grandmother who had recently lost her husband. He was looking forward to heading back to the Spanish Coast. On the way we passed another car stopped on the side on the road next to a police car. The taxi seemed to be bursting with luggage. I don’t know why it was stopped, maybe it was overloaded.

We arrived at the Wyndham in about twenty minutes I guess. The valets immediately grabbed our bags and hauled them upstairs to the very beautiful lobby. I paid the driver with a c note, which he broke and then I tipped him.

We entered the hotel, and liked it right away. We were supposed to be in the Eden Roc but remodeling forced RCC to move us to the Wyndham. I did not mind at all. I checked in and then Joe, the bellhop, loaded our bags on a cart and took us up to room 1222. Not 1234 but close. Joe has been a bell hop at the Wyndham for thirty years. He showed us the room, it was very pleasant with its sea blue and green checked bedspreads and blue and white vertical stripped curtains. He told us about the restaurants, and said he would be available when we left for our cruise on Sunday. He is a very nice man. I tipped him, shut the door, turned down the AC and headed for the window. On the left was the beach, beautiful blue water just beyond a huge twin towered condo. On the right was downtown Miami. I could see a Carnival ship, an NCL ship and a Royal Caribbean Ship. It was now about 12:00 noon. I started to relax. I looked at Diane; she moved over and put her arms around me. I said I think that I am hungry. She said, let’s see if the mattress is any good and then lunch. I said that sounds like a plan.



Part II

South Beach, Swatches, Kids, and Embarkation


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