Sunday, March 13, 2011

Cruise One.....Cruise In Review

It is Thursday, March 10, 2011, the fifth day of Sarah’s cancer free celebration cruise, and I am sitting in the main room of the ocean suite Tom, Joe and I are sharing on the Carnival Glory cruise ship. Tom is out on the balcony rehearsing his music for the Chamber Choir concert he will be singing in the day of our return to real life. Joe has made his way into the lovely dressing room attached to the bathroom to get ready for the day. I am playing some music on my computer, and the cleaning crew, led by our wonderful personal steward, Wirat, (pronounced Wee to make it easy for us) will be here soon to clean and tidy our room. Wirat is wonderful! He comes with a sense of humor….lucky for us! (He told us when we say his name to only say one Wee…not two!)

You would think three fairly smart and competent senior citizens could navigate their way around a cruise ship without too much trouble. I guess that was expecting more of us than we could handle. It might not have been too much of a problem if one of us had remembered our room number. All of us knew it was on deck 7, but each one of us remembered different parts of our stateroom number.

As we wandered deck 7, I saw a nice young man and said, “Hi, we need help!” He asked if we needed to be let into our room. I said, “We do, but first we need to know our room number.” (We had our key card, but the room number is not on it for security reasons.) This is where being able to laugh at yourself comes in handy.

He took my key card and found our room for us and with a smile opened our door. It was only a short time later that he saw us come around the corner and called down the hall and said, “Come this way,” and made us all laugh. We have been good friends ever since.

We are docked today in Isla Roatan, Honduras. Sarah, Dave and Alyssa have gone off on a ziplining excursion. They will be gone for about 4 ½ hours. Davey, Derek and Jackson are in their fun kids programs at Camp Carnival and Tom, Joe and I are on duty in case of emergency. The folks at Camp Carnival give the parents cell phones in case they need to be reached. The three of us are hanging out on the ship for the day.

Yesterday, we all went on land in Belize. Interestingly, it wasn’t any one of our favorite days. It was stifling hot and humid and we mostly just saw shops and no real restaurants to sit down and eat. I did enjoy some of the shopping. They had some nice floaty sundresses I wish I had bought, and they had a flea market with some beautiful jewelry and wood carved figures of sea life.

We didn’t dock at the pier in Belize, but were transported on a smaller boat that rocked and rolled over the waves. It was a bumpy ride and I think it qualified as exercise if holding on and bouncing around counts. Looking around the boat you could tell the heat and humidity had taken its toll on everyone.

The day before Belize we stopped at Cozumel, Mexico. We all enjoyed seeing the shops and doing a little shopping, but the favorite part of our time in Cozumel was eating lunch in an open air restaurant. I was glad to see, printed at the bottom of the menu, the water they use is purified and double filtered for safety and our waiter assured us it would be fine.

Two musicians set up their Marimba close by and entertained us. Davey went up and put some money in their pot. Sarah and I each got a Marguerita and following lunch we found some chaise lounges and sat and watched the boats, the little boys played in the sand, we got some nice pictures and then we headed back to the ship.

I have never been on a cruise before. I have heard about them. I am thinking a cruise takes on a life of its own after a while. I think if you settle into the experience, the cruise will lead you. I don’t know if it is like that for everyone. Maybe it is. There is so much to do on a ship. You would never have to leave the ship to have something to do. When I leave our room, I am always glad to get back “home.”

Our stateroom has truly become home for the three of us. It is like we have four rooms. The bathroom, the dressing room, which has a closet and drawers as well as a dressing table and bench, (I have claimed that spot) the main living area which has sleeping accommodations for the three of us, a desk, closet and drawers and, finally our wonderful balcony.

We spend so much time on the balcony, day and night. The sky is always telling its story with the sun and the clouds during the day and the moon and the stars in the darkness of night. The ship makes its rushing noises as we move through the water and, in some ways; the rushing noises become another voice. When we dock they become silent.

It is 2:00 p.m. now, and Tom, Joe and I have had some lunch. On excursion days the regular restaurants are not open until dinnertime, but there is no worry we will starve. Food is available 24 hours a day somewhere on board. Follow your nose and you will find deli sandwiches, pizza, a Mongolian buffet, a plethora of desserts and soft serve ice cream.

We expect Sarah, Dave and Alyssa home soon and I am sure there will be much to tell about their zip lining outing. I, for one, am going to zip right out to the balcony. It feels really good to write a little bit about our week. It makes me feel like my family and friends are with me.

Sarah just called and said they are back safe and sound, that it was………….okay……….not all that great, and I would have hated every minute of it. Her assessment of my feelings is startlingly accurate because my daughter knows me! And, now I can breathe again.

Tomorrow we will hit Grand Cayman and we are all doing the Swim with The Stingrays…Visit Hell…and See The Turtles excursion. It is supposed to be the one thing to do in Grand Cayman. I expect there is a shorter name for this excursion but this is what I call it. A side note from Joe…..Joe just said…..”Except for Joe. I am not swimming with noooooooooooooo stingrays!” I don’t know what could be better than being in the water with hundreds of stingrays rubbing up against your body. At least, that is what I have heard. Truth be told, I have my doubts about it too!

It is 5:15 p.m….still Thursday, March 10.

We have left Isla Roatan and the afternoon was lazy and wonderful. I got into my jammies and shut the curtains and napped in the dark while Tom and Joe respectfully sat on the balcony. I woke in time to see what I might wear to dinner tonight.

The guideline is to look casual nice. I looked, with trepidation, at the clothes I had brought and wondered which ones would fit at this point in the cruise. If there is ever a next cruise I am bringing several sizes of clothes and will wear the small ones first and move up gradually.

Oh, the surprises that are in store for someone as they, not only cruise into new ports, but sail unabashedly into a new size of clothes, all inside seven days! It seems Tom and Joe are unaffected by this phenomenon. But, Tom says that is not the case. He says he and Joe simply brought bigger belts and still have a few notches left. I am somehow comforted by that.

A funny story about old people sharing a room….Tom came in from the balcony and said Joe was wondering why he couldn’t see. After twenty minutes of pondering his lack of eyesight, Joe figured out that he was wearing Tom’s glasses instead of his own. I won’t ask Joe to read the menu tonight. It really is good to be able to laugh at ourselves. I am loving this!

It is time to rock and roll to dinner now, and meet up with Sarah, Dave, Davey, Derek, Jackson and Alyssa. I fully expect to come back “home” with more stories to tell.

Back from dinner now……

You know some stories have action and some just don’t. Both Sarah and Dave agreed they were glad they went zip lining, but it didn’t have the “wow” factor they were looking for. They climbed many, many steps, did quite a bit of walking and it was hot. The little boys were tired at dinner but still want to go back to Camp Carnival to watch a movie.

Tomorrow morning the nine of us will be leaving the boat to do our Grand Cayman excursion. Tonight we will sleep to the gentle movement of the ship. We don’t always feel it. When I do, I think of it as being rocked or cradled.

Good night for now. Sweet dreams.

It is Saturday, March 12th. I am sick. I started getting swollen glands night before yesterday.

By the time we left for Grand Cayman yesterday morning I was running on low energy. As we were getting ready for the Stingray, Hell and Turtle Farm excursion an announcement came over the loudspeaker. There was a question mark about whether or not we would be able to do the excursion due to high winds and rough waters. We had to take a tender (the shuttle boat) from the ship to the pier and it is not always wise to do that. We sailed to a different side of the island though and all was well.

The reviews of the stingray part of the excursion were mixed. Derek thought it was awesome, Sarah and Dave loved it, Jackson spent some good time wrapped up in a towel on Joe’s lap on the boat, Tom enjoyed it, I could have lived without it and Davey thought it was a nightmare.

Essentially, this part of the excursion means you get in the water, which is really wavy and powerful, and the giant stingrays rub up against your body looking for food. Pieces of raw squid are provided for you to feed the stingrays. They advise you on how to do it so their powerful suction does not leave red marks on your hands. They also advise you not to touch their tails as that is where their stingers are. Between the words strong suction and stingers I was happy enough to get in the water to say I had done it, touch one stingray and call it a day.

For a more exciting review, I gratefully refer you to someone else.

Our visit to Hell was short lived. It is a small little town that has some gift shops and a post office so you can send postcards from Hell. There are areas that look like lava beds and that is about it. I took a picture of the lava bed like areas and a description of how it came to be that way.

The highlight of the excursion was the Turtle Farm and lunch. While we sat having a bite to eat Sarah spotted a beautiful peacock. Then we spotted three iguanas. Davey was in absolute heaven and by the time we left there, he said, “This was the best day ever!” So, for one little boy, at least, his day went from a nightmare to a dream made in heaven.

By the time we got back to the ship I was dragging. I stopped at the medical center and got some cough syrup so I could sleep last night. I may stop down there again today to see if they can dispense antibiotics.

Last night at dinner our waiters and waitress sang happy birthday to me. My birthday is March 16th. They brought me a lovely piece of chocolate cake with a candle. It was nice. If there is a halfway decent picture of that you will see me wearing Joe’s sport coat. I was so cold. Davey had put his little clip on tie on my dress and I probably look like I really did just return from hell.

Today is last day of the cruise and it is a ship day. We will hang out and pack up our things except for the things we will keep in our carryon bag. Our bags are collected tonight and we will have an early debarking in the morning in Miami.

Tom, Joe and I fly out of Miami Airport at 12:05 p.m. and will arrive home mid-afternoon. We pick up our car at MSP and Tom will head off to his chamber choir concert and Joe and I will head home.

I have many reflections about this trip.

I have moments that are the meaningful ones.

They don’t have to do with places.

They have to do with people.

They have to do with conversations.

They have to do with the looks on the children’s faces.

They have to do with Davey getting on my lap at dinner and sharing my sherbet with me.

They have to do with Derek’s excitement about the stingray excursion.

They have to do with Jackson reaching out at dinner last night and wanting to hold my hand.

They have to do with Tom, Joe and me enjoying our shared time together in our room, and our time on the balcony watching the water, watching the sky, seeing the moon and the stars.

They have to do with a conversation I had with Sarah yesterday, over the roar of the shuttle that took us out to the stingrays.

This was a celebration cruise. Sarah is cancer free. Sarah is alive. Sarah is still healing. I am still healing.

Yes, I have so many things left to say. Living with cancer and the endless journey you go on takes you places you don’t know exist until you get there.

Sarah…I love you.