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The cruise

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By Ken Begley

What was I thinking?

It’s been my experience in life that you can’t make a silk purse out of a pig’s ear.  No, if you start with a pig’s ear, you’re pretty much going to end up with a pig’s ear. That’s just the way it is.

I decided to surprise Cindy with a second honeymoon in celebration of our 20th wedding anniversary.  I planned everything out myself, which is pretty scary when you think about it.  She sure was surprised when I sprang this anniversary present on her this January.  She was especially surprised as our 20th was last March.

Anyway, I’m just a man, and you know we have our faults.  So get over it.

I came up with the idea when a friend at work told me how she got a cheap cruise for her and her husband on the “Vacations to Go” Web site leaving Mobile, Ala.   I checked it out and found one for two on a four-night, fiveday cruise to two Mexican ports on islands off the Yucatan.   It cost a total of $760 dollars. Mobile is close enough (600 miles) that we could drive there and avoid using any air travel.  Also, once we got on the ship, everything was paid for, and the food courts were open 24 hours a day.  It’s a middle-aged man’s dream.

It looked like a can’t miss proposition.  That’s how most disasters start.

The drive down wasn’t bad, and the weather was great.

I got us a nice room for the night at an “economical” motel.  The cruise ship would leave the next day.

About 2 a.m., one of the local patrons took great “umbrage” with his cohort while returning from a local drinking establishment.  They were in the hallway outside our room.  The language became heated, and apparently they decided to settle the difference in opinion with fisticuffs.

Cindy and I were awakened, and being the man, I immediately leaped out of bed and headed for the door.

Cindy looked on with great concern and said, “Kenny, don’t go out there!” To which I looked back at Cindy and replied with calm reassurance, “Are you nuts?  I’m making sure the door is locked.  After all, that’s why the motel security guard makes those big bucks to protect us.”

We headed out of the motel early the next morning, eager to be on our trip.  We tried to be quiet in deference to the other patrons.  That’s the kind of people we are -  considerate of others.  It was not always easy, either, as we stepped over that security guard still left in the hall.

The great Port of Mobile is the very model of modern transportation.  That is, if the year is 1940, and the model is an intercity bus terminal.  

We arrived with great fanfare among the other 2,500 “cruisers” waiting for our ship to come in.  Unfortunately, just as in life itself, your ship doesn’t always “come-in” as planned.  

The ship was held up due to bad weather.

We, therefore, made ourselves comfortable in the commodious plastic chairs of comfort that lined the waiting area while enjoying canned beverages.  

We waited for 12 hours.

Yep, apparently they call the cruise line “Carnival” because it’s such a “circus” trying to get on board.

The “cruisers” began to get more upset than teacher Mrs. JoAnn Ellery did when those kids put the University of Kentucky supporter banners on her door at St. Dominic.  (Mrs. Ellery is a diehard University of Louisville fan.)

Then I heard someone call out to the Port Security Force:  “Marshall, marshall, they’re hanging a Carnival cruise director down that hallway.”   It was being lead by the “Little Sisters of Hoboken” convent who were on the rampage.

Finally, the waters calmed enough and our ship slammed into port at 9:30 p.m. that night.  I wouldn’t call it docking.  No, slammed is a more appropriate word.

By the time the former passengers left and we got on board, it was after midnight.

The ship headed out to sea at 3:30 a.m.

I knew it headed out to sea because of the way the ship rocked and rocked, back and forth, back and forth.  

I got up early the next morning to get some of that free food as I staggered out into the passageways.

When I got back to the hall outside our room I thought I had caught Cindy cheating on me.

I heard her calling calling out “Ralph, Ralph” in a loud voice.

I kicked opened the door to see her head stuck down a garbage can while hollering for Ralph. Only, it really wasn’t “Ralph” she was calling.

Seasickness is such a terrible thing,  but it made me feel young again as I held back her hair.

Later on, just to make her not feel so bad, I pretended to be seasick myself.

The cruise line decided that due to leaving the port some 14 hours late that they would, at no additional cost to us, only visit one port instead of two.  Wasn’t that thoughtful of them?

I then read the fine print on my cruise contract and found out that even if they don’t stop at any port, you’re not going to get any money back.  The port we missed had Mayan ruins that I really wanted to see.  Oh, well, maybe in another 30 years we’ll be back.

We stopped at the port of Cozumel, Mexico, after two days at sea.  I ordered up a special tour of the island for Cindy and me.  After paying $100, along with another group of suckers, I mean cruisers, we went on our tour on a bus.  I learned from the tour that Cozemel has nothing worth seeing on the island itself.  Unfortunately it took us four hours to determine this.  

They brought us out to the east point of the island.  It was famous for being the east point of the island.  Then they brought us to the tequila distillery.  It was famous for selling tequila.  We went to another place that had exhibits of some sort and lots of things that were for sale.  Frankly, I had won better things knocking over milk bottles with a baseball at the county fair.

We got back to downtown Cozumel that is famous for selling things.  It was here that the drivers then asked for tips.  One thing did surprise me.  I could buy everything I saw down there cheaper and better in Wal-Mart.

We headed back to the states.

The ship got back to the lovely Port of Mobile to, amazingly enough, bad weather.  

We were packed like sardines trying to offload the ship for two and half hours while we waited for the weather to cooperate.  

The debarking of the ship transpired without quite as much organization as the embarking of the ship. We got a late start back to Kentucky on I-65 as a result.  

My plan to drive straight back home that day was stopped by tornado watches and warnings by the time we hit Nashville.  We had to stop for the night in a driving rain and howling winds.

By the time we got home the next day, my patience had worn thin and I was in a thoroughly bad mood for a couple of days.  My second honeymoon was a total disaster.

Yet, Cindy was remarkably calm and content the whole time.

Then she said something that amazed me.

She said, “I was just glad we had that time together and it was just us.  Weren‘t you?”

My wife.

I think I’ll keep her.

But I’m going to do it different next time, when we’re on our 50th wedding anniversary.

Writer’s note:  Some parts of the above story were exaggerations and out right lies. But the last six lines weren’t.