Our Pages

Thursday, July 11, 2013

Diamonds are a Girl’s Best Friend…OR…Ava’s Vaca From Hades and Beyond


This last Christmas, The Scientist and I gave our children a cruise vacation for this summer. My son is in traditional school, while his daughter is in “year-round” school. With the track she was on, the two of them actually only had one week off all summer that matched up.

I’ve been waiting for this vacation for months – MONTHS, I tell you! And as it got closer and closer, I needed it more and more. Before I left, I experienced a horrible case of road rage, I lost checks I needed to put in the bank (only to be found later in the refrigerator, of all the ridiculous places), and my temper was shorter than normal at work (“Excuse me” was shorthand for “Leave me the $#@% alone.”) I needed this vacation like I’ve never needed one before.

A private cabana on a private island, snorkeling in The Bahamas, and my first Royal Caribbean cruise as a “DIAMOND Member”. (That’s right, C-Gayle and JerricaKC…I’m no longer a mere Emerald Member. What riff-raff those people are.) What does “DIAMOND Member” mean, you wonder…? That I’ve spent nearly two months of my life aboard various Royal Caribbean’s vessels, that’s what. Hi, I’m Ava, and I’m addicted to cruising…

But life wasn’t ready to let me board the ship and go along my merry way…No, life wanted to stick it to me first. The day before we flew to Florida, The Scientist and I came home from walking the dog only to realize that my air conditioner wasn’t functioning. In North Carolina. In the middle of the summer. So I called an emergency A/C guy, but he couldn’t come out until the next day…when The Scientist, our children and I were all supposed to be on a flight headed for Miami.

How can this sweet
face have done
something so
awful?!?!
And then…I realized that Lord Catsby had decided to use my suitcase as his own personal litter box. (My theory is that he knows what a suitcase is and wasn’t happy that we were going to be leaving him.) He had no idea that doing so would only make me want to throttle him.

On both counts, however, Catherine Gayle came to rescue. She brought me two suitcases to use for our trip and she even offered to wait for the A/C man the next day. So in case anyone is wondering…she truly is an angel.

But life wasn’t through with me yet. Ha! Life was just warming up. Before I woke the next day, a “friend” came for a “visit” and I suddenly had to pack some Midol, if you know which “friend” I’m referring to. And that particular “friend” can go hang, just in case anyone was wondering. 

Did I mention that I really needed this vacation? But life still had me in her clutches! Oh, we flew to Miami and we even made it to a nice hotel near the port. That night, the four of us even enjoyed a nice leisurely dinner at one of the five restaurants on site. However, we apparently chose the wrong one.  Yep – LIFE.

I was up the ENTIRE night with food poisoning. (Luckily, no one else ate the same dish I did.) I was in excruciating pain, worse than childbirth (but then I’m a believer in “pain free childbirth”- had an epidural and took whatever drugs they wanted to pump me full of. Don’t judge. I have no regrets) Thankfully, The Scientist and my son took a cab to a 24Hour Walgreens at 2:00am to get me some medicine. My heroes! What would I do without them?

Truly, it was one of the longest nights of my life. For a while there, I wasn’t sure if I was even going to make it on the ship the next day. And that made me feel even worse. Neither The Scientist nor his daughter had ever been on a cruise and I was about to ruin their vacation.

So I sucked it up, downed more Imodium and Midol than was probably healthy and boarded the ship as early as possible. Grin and barely bare it, that was my new motto. I suffered through the blasted Muster drill (a tedious chore one must do on every cruise, regardless of the line) in the hot Miami heat. I had to will myself to remain conscious, to not pass out on the Promenade Deck, standing there with the rest of the other 2,000 cruisers.  If anyone spoke to me, I bit their head off. I was in too much pain to be courteous, and pleasant was out of the question. Besides it took me repeating over and over in my mind, "Don't pass out. Don't pass out. Don't pass out," to remain on my feet. Being conversational only distracted me from my purpose.

Don't they look like they're
having fun? 
I spent the rest of that first night in my cabin, sleeping in a fetal position and trying to recover from the blasted food poisoning. To say I wasn’t a ton of fun would have been an understatement. My poor traveling companions. At least there was plenty for them to do, other than sitting around listening to me writhing around in pain.

The next morning, I awoke feeling a little bit better. The four of us boarded a catamaran and snorkeled the waters off Paradise Island in The Bahamas. I wasn’t in the water long, as my stomach was still in a huge Imodium-induced knot, but I did get to see a school of zebra fish and I got to take several pictures of my loved ones who were having a splendid time.

The following day, we tendered in Royal Caribbean’s private Bahamian island – Coco Cay. This has traditionally been one of my most favorite destinations. We always get a private cabana and seclude ourselves to one side of the island, away from the majority of the other cruisers (or the riff-raff I mentioned above). That’s right, I’m exclusionary. And this trip was no different. Although I was still wracked with pain, I was able to lie down on the sectional under the cabana most of the day and listen to the breeze and waves crashing up on the shore.
VIEW OF the CABANA
Doesn't it look peaceful?
It is. Trust me! 
VIEW FROM the CABANA The ocean, the sky, the palm
trees! I could stare out at this view for weeks at a time.
WEEKS, I tell you, and never get tired! I just need a cabana boy,
lots to drink, a variety of cheeses, shrimp cocktail, and
mounds of fresh fruit. Oh! and a charger
for my laptop. I could write and write and... 


Even I felt a little better in the cabana.
But who wouldn't with this wonderful
man to keep me company?
Thanks to a dosage of Dulcolax, the Imodium finally left my system sometime in the middle of the night, so I was recovered enough to do the “White Knuckle Thrill Boat Ride” with my son in Key West the next day. It was a blast. Something we’d wanted to do on our first trip to Key West several years ago, but my mother and brother were too chicken to participate back in those days. This time we went by ourselves, and I was very happy to be able to enjoy it with my son.
My son and I are in the front row next to "Doug" the Captain.

Here's my son wearing his recovered
sunken treasure pendant.
We then boarded a Hop-On-Hop-Off bus ride around Key West with The Scientist and his daughter - spotted Mile Marker 0 and the Southernmost point of the Continental United States. (We were closer to Cuba at that point than even mainland Florida).

We finished up Key West at the Mel Fisher Treasure Museum where sunken treasure from the Spanish Galleon the Nuestro Senora de Atocha (which was sunk during a hurricane off the coast of Key West in 1622 and discovered in 1985 by treasure hunter Mel Fisher) is on display. The four of us got matching pendants made from salvaged silver in the gift shop, which we thought was a pretty nice way to end our trip.

The next morning, we woke up as the ship was arriving in port. We were among the first dozen people to disembark as our flight back to North Carolina was fairly early. I am happy to report that the return trip was much less eventful than the outbound. At least for now. And I intend to see that it stays that way.

Are you a cruiser? If so, what is your favorite port? And have you ever had illness or some other unforeseen event derail a well-planned/needed vacation?


35 comments:

  1. Oh, Ava, I am so sorry your cruise started out so horribly and glad you started feeling well enough to enjoy some of it. I've never been on a cruise and it is not something at the top of my list of things to do. Though RT shouldn't be considered a vacation, I usually have so much fun it might as well be. But this time I hurt my back right before leaving and it put a kink in that fun.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Jane! You are totally missing out by not cruising. And status has it's priviledges... There's actually a special "Diamond Members Only" lounge which my son frequented in my absence. The one time I went up there with him, the bartender called him by his first name (think Norm from Cheers) and asked my son if he wanted his "usual". My 15 year old son had a "usual" in the Diamond Lounge. ;)

      Delete
  2. What a terrible experience! I've been lucky and had only one trip ruined. My cat sitter didn't show so I had to drive back 5 hours from northern MI back home. Needless to say, I never used that cat sitter again.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Ack! Maria, that's awful! (Luckily Catherine Gayle was my cat sitter and Lord Catsby enjoyed himself immensely in my absence.) Hopefully you found a better cat sitter in the years since. :)

      Delete
  3. Ava,
    What a horrible way to kick off a vacation. I'm glad things got better and you were able to enjoy some of it. When I went to Hawaii with my mom and aunt a few years ago, I got sick. The last part of the flight, my back was killing me. I thought it was from sitting so long, but I actually had a fever, which I discovered in the middle of the night. My daughter had had strep two weeks earlier, and apparently I caught it. I NEVER catch what my kids have. EVER! Except this one time when I was supposed to be enjoying paradise.

    I couldn't reach anyone at the insurance company on a Saturday to find out who a preferred provider would be. It could have been on another island for all I knew. There was a clinic on site, so I just went there and was started on antibiotics. Of course, my insurance didn't pay because I didn't call them first, only I did call several times and no one ever answered. But you don't want to hear my rant about insurance companies. ;)

    I spent most of my vacation sleeping, but at least part of the time was on the beach under an umbrella. I couldn't even read without falling asleep. But I guess if you HAVE to have step, there's no better place than Hawaii with your mom to take care of you. (We never stop wanting our moms when we're sick, do we? Or is that just me?)

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Samantha - my mother is an RN. So she got a phone call from me at 2am that first night in the hotel (luckily it was earlier for her on the west coast, but it was still pretty late). And then I even called her from the middle of the ocean (I haven't seen that bill yet) when I couldn't eat/breathe because of my knotted intestines.

      So - no - I've never grown out of wanting my mommy to take care of me.

      I can relate to sleeping on the beach... that day in the cabana was awesome. I forgot I was sick until I had to sit up for something. :)

      Delete
  4. Jodie, enjoyed your vacation blog. Sorry your trip was a "double edged sword". But happy that the four of you were able to spend quality time together. Lord Catsby would have been history with me...

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Thanks, Dad. And you can't say anything about Lord Catsby. You just don't like cats. :) But you spoil your dogs rotten. So you're just as bad as me, just with a different sort of animal. ;)

      Delete
  5. LOL. Poor Ava. I hate being sick when I'm supposed to be on vacation. The one time in my life that I have ever been to Disney World was when I was in high school. It was our spring trip in band one year. Each spring, we traveled somewhere to compete in a band competition, and then we got to hang out for a few days having fun. Usually we went somewhere like Galveston or San Antonio, somewhere in Texas. But every third or fourth year there was a Big Trip. Disney was my Big Trip.

    We took charter buses. From DFW to Orlando, it's close to a 24 hour drive, if you only stop for meals like we did. We all managed to fit on two charters, one filled with mainly the upper classmen and officers, the other with the under classmen and riffraff. I was on the one with the cool kids simply by virtue of being a junior, not for any inherent coolness. Wouldn't you know it, but one of the seniors had bronchitis when we left. He coughed and hacked the whole way there, and by the time we arrived in Orlando, many of the rest of us from that bus were coughing and hacking too. And anyone who knows me well knows that I tend to get bronchitis VERY easily (thank you, asthma). So...yeah...I had bronchitis the entire time we were gone. I still enjoyed Disney, and I still competed with the rest of the coughing, hacking band...but I was miserable. The entire drive home, I did nothing but sleep and cough on the bus, and I was pretty close to having pneumonia once we got back. LOL. FUN TIMES.

    I really need to make a trip to Disney sometime when I'm NOT sick.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Catherine! That's awful. I bet you could talk Jerrica into taking you to Disneyworld sometime. I'm sure Bella could show you all the "must" rides in every park. ;)

      But seriously - I think I'd have had to strangle that senior. Uh, thanks for getting us all sick, $*@#er!

      Delete
    2. OMG! YES! Come on down...Bella's a great tour guide. LOL!

      Delete
    3. HA! I'll have to see when I can make something like that work. :)

      Delete
  6. Ava,
    I can't really say that I have ever been on a cruise but I can say that I've had a vacation from HELL. Not that I was sick or anything, just a series of mishaps that shaped an all together horrendous result.
    So, it all starts off with a trip to Iowa and Minnesota that I do once a year to visit friends and my ex-in-laws. No biggie, really, I've been this trip every year since my divorce. I guess, it gives me something to work toward. Anyways, my mom is nice enough to drop me and my luggage off at the SeaTac Airport. If I only knew would I would go through the next couple hours I would've busted a$$ to catch up to her and get a ride home (haha!). So, I'm waiting for my flight at the terminal, when we (the passengers) are told that our plane had some sort of defect and that they would be securing a different plane for our flight. No big deal, right?! HA! Three hours later, we were finally told that our flight was cancelled and that we would all need to look for different flights to get us to our destinations. Two hours of waiting later, I was able to get a flight to Des Moines Airport at 11-something at NIGHT! I guess, it wouldn't have so bad if it was later in the day that this all happened, but it was 1:00 pm at this point. That's nine hours of waiting in the bloody airport because Little Miss Me didn't have the cab fare to find my way home. And, what's the point when it would take me an hour to get home, stay home for two hours, and then another hour to get back to the airport. Yeah, not happening. All the other passengers ahead and around me were offered meal vouchers and hotel rooms to wile away the hours. Me, the redhead, wasn't offered any of that. So, I sat (not so patiently)at the terminal waiting for my flight to Iowa.
    I got to my destination and the vacation went well. I got to see all of the people that I wanted to see, got to go on some roller coasters, and even got to hang out at the Mall of America (and went on more roller coasters, haha!). Yeah, it was a blast, that is until the flight home...
    So, my flight took off from Des Moines to Chicago's O'Hare Airport. I don't understand why I had to go East to go West, but whatever. So, I race to my terminal and I get there with an hour to spare. Which is amazing, knowing how huge O'Hare is. I had to walk almost two miles to my terminal!!! That wasn't the bad thing. So, we all board the plane, and again, everything is good with the world. Until we see some kid with his upright bass (in its case)board the plane. We should've known by then that something bad was going to happen. The flight was full to begin with. The kid sits down and puts his bass in the seat next to him. Apparently, he had something against putting his beloved instrument in the cargo hold along with all the other awkward/oversized luggage. The flight crew spent TWO hours figuring out what to do. While the rest of us were missing our connecting flights, in Denver, to our final destinations. I finally, many hours later, made it home. Of course, I complained to United and I mentioned all mishaps that happened on my trip. For all my trouble, I did get a free flight the next year. But, still!!!
    PS...You might find two of these posts. I did the first one on my phone and, apparently, it has yet to come across. So, I apologize now for that (now that I think about it, maybe not! Hahaha).

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Jessie ~ Wow! I think you're incredibly fortuante that United did anything at all. (They are currently ranked as THE worst airline in the country, so consider yourself lucky!)

      I'm glad everything in Iowa went well once you finally got there! (And how cool you get along with your ex-in-laws... I try to avoid mine - I mean they raised that blankety blank blank I was married to. LOL)

      But honestly, air travel is the worst anymore. I'm so over it and don't even get me started on TSA and their hand swabs! I'm sorry you had horrible flights both directions. That totally sucks... but a free ticket is a great consolation prize.

      Delete
    2. Ava -
      Yeah, I was extremely fortunate. I, now, go through a different airline (thank GOD!) for all my travelling needs but that particular trip was dooms day ready to happen. My redheaded Irish temper was so close to snapping LOL!

      When it comes to my ex-in-laws, for seven years they were the only family I had (my family refused to talk to me), so I had a hard time giving them up. It wasn't their fault that their son was a douche bag, right?!

      Don't get me started on the TSA either. I have horror stories about the way I have been treated. One time could be considered to be attempted homicide lol. I guess that's what I get for having a latex allergy..!

      Actually, I think the greatest of the TSA stories happened on the trip that I just wrote about. Its always my luck that my ticket gets "volunteered" to get the full body treatment with the TSA. I know,joy! To make things worse, I love wearing sandals through the checkpoint because they are so much easier to get on and off. Well, I tend to forget that they have RUBBER mats on the floor. So, I ask the officer if I could keep my shoes on because my allergy. He said no but he was nice enough to get me some foot condoms (if you don't know what those are, they are the slippers that you can put over your shoes). So, I get to the other side and the lady who was going to do the search came towards me with a pair of LATEX gloves on her hands. I told her that if she was going to touch me with those, she better be calling an ambulance right away. She looked at me as if I was crazy, I mean, wouldn't you? So I explained my allergy to her. She pulled off the gloves and brought out a pair of RUBBER gloves. I looked at her and said "Do you not understand that one of the main ingredients in RUBBER is LATEX and that it will kill me?" She looked at me again and asked, "would cotton gloves work?" Do I have to say "Here's your sign?" Good grief! Anyways, I have too many stories to tell and I could go on forever. So, maybe I should just stop and let you chat it up with your other followers.

      Delete
    3. Oh - Jessie! My fellow TSA hating, red-haired twin I never knew I had... If we start in on stories, we'll never stop. I did once threaten to go through naked if if that would speed up the process. They didn't find me amusing...which was fair as I didn't find them amusing either.

      But seriously... they swab my hands for explosives EVERY single time. I have an explosive temper, people, but that's where it ends. Cut it out with the swabs already! (You know, unless you want to see my temper first hand. LOL)

      Delete
  7. But think what stories you can tell now! I love cruising. My two most eventful: on one, I twisted my knee getting out of the cab at the terminal to embark and spent the whole cruise pumped on painkillers (on the plus side, I got to visit twice with the ship's doctor in the floating "clinic"), and in the most eventful, as the ship passed through the Panama Canal, the US Marines invaded Panama. We sat on the deck with cocktail forks at the ready, watching tanks and helicopters zoom by. Of course we didn't know what had happened until afterward, and learned out families back home had freaked out. It was forever ago, when the Noriega regime was being brought down!

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. OMG! Suzanne! The Panama Canal story is awesome!! I can just picture everyone on the deck with cocktail forks at the ready. Seriously... I'll be giggling about image the rest of the day. :)

      Delete
  8. Oh, Ava! You poor, poor dear! I can't imagine how awful that was!!

    I tend to get or catch upper respiratory crap as I'm heading to a trip or as soon as we get there. Vegas was pretty bad -- I could barely talk for the painful lumps in my throat -- and I don't have to tell you that I was somewhat miserable on our cruise with Catherine Gayle this past January. And I had *just* gotten over a stomach bug that B and I had caught at Disney a couple weeks earlier. Ugh.

    I'm always grateful for vacations that end up being sick-free. lol.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Hmm... How do we schedule sick-free vacations? Is there some karma deity we can make sacrifices to as we book travel? Seriously! :)

      Delete
  9. I've never been on a cruise. But I'm dying to take. Cruise in Alaska. I've heard it's beautiful.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Julie - That's where my son wants to go next, with his DIAMOND status. ;) We'll have to look at times together! That would be so much fun!!

      Delete
    2. Alaska is GORGEOUS. I lived there, so I can promise you that much. :)

      Delete
    3. Does that mean you're "In" for an Alaskan cruise with Julie and me?

      Delete
    4. After the vertigo I had after my first and only cruise, I'm nervous about ever cruising again. It might not ever be an issue again...but it might.

      Delete
  10. Oh Ava!!! I don't even know what to say! And here I thought I was the only one with crap luck! I've been on a number of cruises; the Disney one and for our honeymoon we took a back to back cruise: a 9 and 10 day. I wore the patch so long it started distorting my vision. Oh and there was the time I got the Norwalk virus during those massive cruise outbreaks in the late 90s! I digress...favorite cruise line is Carnival but my favorite port is the Royal Caribbean private island in Haiti! The water there.... Sigh

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Labadee? That's one place I haven't been. I'm dying to go though. I'm all about private islands. Do they do the same private cabana at that location? Do you know? I can't wait to find out!!

      Delete
  11. Yes! Labadee!!! I LOVE it! and you know...I don't know if they had private cabana's. I spent so much of my time in the water. Ah, to be young again!

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. They do *not* make a big deal about their private cabanas. If you don't know they're there, you don't know they're there. Very secretive. I'll have to check out Labadee. :)

      Delete
  12. Poor little one! What a nasty thing to have happen to you. Yes, I am a cruiser and love the Caribbean most of all. St. Thomas and St. Martin are nice ports with good shopping. I have not been sick on any of the cruises, however, I did come down with a very bad flu after I got home from a trip that kept me flat on my back for a week. Since one hears so much about people passing stomach bugs on cruises, I had my doctor prescribe some nausea suppositories just in case we did get sick. Thank goodness they were not needed. ;-)

    Hope you don’t let this bad experience keep you from cruising again. It’s always a fabulous vacation!

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Connie ~ I love St. Thomas and St. Maarten too! We've always had a great time on both islands in the past.

      Not to fear, I won't let this get in the way of me cruising in the future... I won't ever eat at a certain Italian restaurant in Miami again - but my illness wasn't from the cruise. And now that I'm a Diamond Member...Well, I'll have to go back. As soon as possible. :)

      I haven't ever thought about seeing my doctor before a trip, just in case; but I may have to consider that next time. :)

      Delete
  13. Ava!
    I'm afraid to tell you how much this post made me giggle! NOT because I don't sympathize--I totally do. I'm just so glad it wasn't me. ;} I would never, for any reason, get on a cruise ship. I'm terrified of the water so your post is as close as I'm willing to get!

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Andris - the water was the least of my worries. LOL!

      Delete
  14. Um, I got food poisoning on my honeymoon in Mexico. Stupid me, I thought that the invincibility to germs I acquired growing up in Thailand would also work for Mexico. It does not. Mexico has its own set of germs, and you have to be invincible to those, too, apparently. So I totally sympathize. (Hint: never eat from street vendors the first day you are in Mexico. Or probably any day until your body adjusts to the Mexican germs).

    By the way, did you know that foreigners sometimes ALSO get a version of Montezuma's Revenge, Bangkok Belly, whatever you want to call it, when they come to America? Yes, we have germs, too.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. LOL. Sabrina - You are the ONLY person I know who would eat from street vendors in Mexico. ;)

      And I did know about people getting sick here because they're not accustomed to our germs. It took The Scientist a while to adjust to American food, which he thinks of AS poison most of the time. I'll say "What do you want to eat?" And he'll say, "Food... Not chemicals disguised as food that you Americans eat. I mean actual FOOD." I hate to admit that he has a point. ;)

      Delete