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Lessons Learned In Cruising

Mary Jo Shannon
Mary Jo Shannon

My husband is convinced a cruise is the perfect way to travel. Everything is paid for in advance, so you can forget about day to day expenses. Your room travels with you, eliminating the problem of searching for hotel accommodations. And the food — well, it’s always available, it’s already paid for, and the quality is unsurpassed. Best of all, you can relax, spared the tension of driving in unfamiliar territory.  For weeks we pored over numerous brochures with their colorful pictures of tropical flowers, Caribbean blue waters, and the luxurious accommodations aboard cruise ships, trying to select our first cruise. We finally decided on a Royal Caribbean cruise in the eastern Caribbean.  It was the spring of 1991, a few years after I retired, and we looked forward with great anticipation to seven days at sea. We would fly from Roanoke to San Juan, where we would board The Song of Norway.  Little did we realize how memorable that cruise would be.

To my dismay, on the Thursday before our Sunday departure, I began to feel ill – headachy, slight fever, — a virus, I hoped, that would be over in a day. But on Friday I felt even worse and passed out at the breakfast table. We decided I had best see the doctor.

He diagnosed a urinary tract infection and wrote me a prescription for an antibiotic, but added, “I’m concerned about the ‘fainting’ episode.  That could be any number of things – some serious. You’ll need an EEG and several other tests.”

I explained we were leaving for a cruise on Sunday and could we do the tests after our return?

“No, “ he said. “You must not leave the country. It’s too risky. I’ll schedule the tests for next week.”

Naturally we were dismayed. Not only had we looked forward to this vacation, but we had paid in full for the cruise. We explained the circumstances to our sympathetic travel agent, but unfortunately, we had not foreseen such a disaster and had not purchased insurance.

“If you cancel, you will lose the entire amount,” she said.

Harry said we would have to think it over.

We did. All day Saturday we argued. First Harry said, “We can’t take the risk.”

Then I said, “The medicine is working; I feel better. Several years ago I fainted when I had a UTI.” “But you were younger then. The situation may be different now.”

“It’s foolish to lose all that money,” I responded. “The doctor is just afraid to give his okay in case something happens.”

Finally, at the close of day, we made up our minds: we were going. I wrote a note to the doctor, absolving him of all responsibility. Harry took it to his office and slid it under the door since office hours were over. Meanwhile, I called the hospital, cancelled all the tests, and began to pack.

We caught our plane early the next morning and soon were sitting in airport in Atlanta, awaiting our connection to San Juan three hours later.  Harry decided to ask if an earlier flight was available. Imagine his shock to learn our trip had been cancelled!

“Don’t know how you got out of Roanoke,” the puzzled airline employee said.

“I told her we would think it over – I didn’t say to cancel,” my distraught husband mumbled.

“Just go to the travel agency and get it straightened out.”

“The agency’s in Roanoke — and it’s closed — it’s Sunday.”

Harry called Royal Caribbean and finally our cruise was reinstated.  The airline employee apologized and put us in first class on a flight to San Juan, earlier than the one for which we were scheduled. At last we reached our destination and boarded our ship, a little weary but relieved that the worst was over.

The next evening, dressed up in our fancy clothes, we set out for the Captain’s party. As we climbed the stairs to the party deck, I struggled to keep my balance in high heels while the ship rolled gently from side to side, carrying our ship swiftly to the next port of call.  Harry asked me to step aside so the gentleman behind us could pass.

The man had obviously already consumed a few, for he responded, “Thash all right – I’m in the shame shape she’s in.”

Our first cruise was memorable, not only for the sun, the sand and the sea, but also for the lessons we learned: always buy insurance, leave the high heels at home, and laugh at embarrassing moments.

By Mary Jo Shannon
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