I went on a cruise with the younger of my two daughters from January 14 to Jan 23 in 2017. It was a Royal Caribbean 9 Night Southeast Coast & Bahamas Cruise on the Grandeur of the Seas. We had a great time in a “Junior Suite” with two bedrooms, two bathrooms, a living room, and a balcony.
Both of my children are wonderful travel companions, helpful, amusing, just fun to be around. They are young, strong, and funny as hell. My older daughter and I have been to Disney World several times. My younger daughter and I decided to go on a second Royal Caribbean cruise, this time a 12 Night Southern Caribbean Cruise on a similar ship, the Enchantment of the Seas. We were scheduled to travel in early 2021. I wanted to see the Southern Cross and other new things and enjoy time with one of my children. I was really looking forward to this cruise, but in early 2020, COVID-19 hit.
“On 31 December 2019, the World Health Organization (WHO) was formally notified about a cluster of cases of pneumonia in Wuhan City, home to 11 million people and the cultural and economic hub of central China. By 5 January, 59 cases were known and none had been fatal. Ten days later, WHO was aware of 282 confirmed cases, of which four were in Japan, South Korea and Thailand. There had been six deaths in Wuhan, 51 people were severely ill and 12 were in a critical condition. The virus responsible was isolated on 7 January.” (COVID-19: a brief history and treatments in development; Steve Chaplin)
The response of my country was weak – an unqualified leader did little to defend us against a deadly disease that has killed over a million people in the United States, so far. We knew that there was a lethal disease coming out of Wuhan City in China and that president forced the evacuation of all US citizens out of the Wuhan area onto one plane, sick and well crammed together in an airborne cylinder, not quarantined upon their entry to the US. They brought the disease back and the first outbreak from this source was in Washington State.
By February, a Westerdam cruise vessel was being denied entry at many ports of call. The cruise industry was in free fall. Royal Caribbean was canceling cruises as their departure dates came up. Soon the whole cruise industry appeared to be dead in the water. But our particular cruise had not been canceled by November 2020, when our final payment was due. We had made a sizable down payment for a very fancy suite (okay the cheapest fancy suite on the ship) and that money was not refundable if they didn’t cancel the cruise, which they did not, even though it was clearly evident that it would be. As the drop-dead date (lose the invested money or pay the total due) drew closer I was on the phone with Royal Caribbean more and more frequently. Finally, they agreed to reschedule the cruise to spring of 2022 for free, instead charging the an additional $300 fee for rescheduling. Eventually, they did cancel the 2021 cruise, but too late for me to get out of the investment.
So later in 2021, November rolled around and again we were expected to pay the total amount due for the 2022 cruise. At this point, some of our ports of call were refusing cruise passengers. Using this evidence, I was again able to rebook the cruise, this time for February of 2023.
During those years, lot happened in our lives. Things changed. My younger daughter met Taylor-Rey and fell in love. They moved in together and then got married, changing their last names to J’Vera. In October of 2022, they welcomed to the planet a new soul who inhabits the body of River Jacques J’Vera. A more adorable person does not exist; I think the laughing Buddha was reincarnated as their baby. So basically, my younger daughter was not going to be taking a cruise with me. She has bigger fish to fry.
Also during this time, my financial situation suffered a major crisis. We became “unhoused,” forced to camp for six weeks. If you want a general idea of what camping is like on the East Coast, you can read about that elsewhere on this website, on my blog here* andhere**; also, a poem*** and a short story**** were produced, both called “Tick Fever”. It was a nightmare, but I survived and now live in a cheap basement apartment in Baltimore. I love our home here. I love Baltimore. I love my life. But I digress.
I had to downsize my expectations about the cruise. I wasn’t going to be able to give them any more money, and I was never going to get back the money I had already given them.
So throughout 2022, I negotiated with Royal Caribbean. I didn’t have a financial partner for a very expensive room anymore. I downsized to an indoor cabin, trying to get the cost down to the amount I had already paid. Then, as my financial situation stabilized and my credit rating started to rise up again, Mike and I decided to put a few hundred dollars into upgrading my room from an inside cabin (sounds claustrophobic, doesn’t it?) to one with a window. We now head some headspace to cover the other costs of the cruise; for example they charge you $16 a day for tips and I had not pre-paid that. ($16 times 12 is $192, in case you were wondering.) We budgeted for more tipping and a few souvenirs. We invested in some excursions – five islands, five excursions.
We invested in the medical/trip insurance from the day we booked the 2021 trip but we also upgraded my journey to “Key Pass” which meant I got priority boarding and departure, along with some other perks. That was an excellent investment because I have not been able to carry heavy bags since I was in grad school and I ain’t getting any younger. I also got a welcome lunch and a departure breakfast. That priority departure made it SO much better – when Mike arrived to pick me up as was at the very front of the dock/boarding area with no competition for a porter and no one queued up to pick up passengers. But I’m getting ahead of my story . . . back to pre-departure preparations . . . Then I had to concern myself with traveling alone. This was a big issue for me, because I rely on Mike (or my traveling companion AKA one of my children) to help me with luggage and logistical matters. I planned for many months how to handle things alone. Mike and I determined that it would be useful for us to spend some time alone seeing what that was like. How functional could we be on our own? How lonely would we be? Does absence really make the heart go fonder? If I wanted to go, Mike wanted me to go – to have a respite free of ordinary responsibilities. He said I deserved to have a relaxing vacation as a reward for all my industry and patience. I agreed.
I wrote some goals for the cruise:
see the Southern Cross for the first time
breath sea air
learn about Apple Watches
learn to eat well
personal growth as an individual
Mike is supportive of any new goals I create
The older of my two daughters came to help me pack on the day before I left. She turned the paper luggage tags I had printed out into sturdy tags using carton sealing tape. She attached to all my luggage – and there was a lot of it.
She and I have traveled together many times. She doesn’t want to cruise but she did review my packing list and made some adjustments. I took ALL of her advice. I have a rule in my life: if I have no serious objection, I just do what Roxanne wants. I think everyone should do that, i.e. you should all just do what ever Roxanne wants, unless, of course, you don’t want to. Her advice was invaluable in getting me ready. Mike, of course, had many suggestions as well – he thought of several things I had overlooked.
After all that help, I felt well prepared for any obvious need or inconvenience on the cruise. I was very relaxed about the whole thing.