Friday, October 28, 2005

incredible journey

When my mother said, “Don’t worry. Wilma’s going to miss most of Florida.” I naively believed her. I prepared all our travel documents for our cruise on the FunShip Fascination to the Bahamas, and got on the plane. What follows is a short account of the mishaps involved with taking a family vacation on a boat south of Florida during hurricane season.

Day 1: Flight to Fort Lauderdale
Delta still serves peanuts. Dry, unsalted, tasteless peanuts.

Day 2: To the Port of Miami
I had it all planned out. We take the shuttle to the commuter rail, the commuter rail to the monorail, the monorail to the bus, and the bus drops us at the ship. Travel time: 1.5 hours. Cost: $6/person. The commuter rail was already thirty minutes late when someone asks the attendent what is going on. “Another train has derailed and spilled stuff on the track.” Thirty minutes later we decide to split the $50 cab to Miami with a Turkish woman going to the University. When the driver doesn’t stop in the middle of the road to let us off directly in front of the monorail stop she starts yelling that he is driving around in circles and she’s not paying. We calm her down, pay the man, and continue on to the port on the sketchy sketchy monorail and the bus.

If you thought security at airports was bad, just take a cruise. Show your documents. Scan your bags. Get your picture taken. Obtain your very own credit/id card for use on the ship. When you get on and off of the ship you scan your card and your picture shows up to verify the card holder is actually you. Speaking of pictures, I had my “complimentary” picture taken at least seven times.

Day 3: Nassau, Bahamas
Remember that movie, “Island of the Blue Lagoon?” Well, I went there, to the island where it was filmed. I swam in the beautiful blue waters, napped on the white beaches, and walked through the jungle on deteriorating cement sidewalks. Apparently, after the filming this island became a hot tourist spot. Today, however, most of the buildings are abandoned and the few tourists who are shuttled here from cruise ships are content to ignore the faded paint in view of the bright blue ocean.

After my mother and brother sustained severe sunburns on the beach(they didn’t want to borrow my sunscreen), we went back to New Providence Island for some market shopping. “Want a necklace, lady? How about a wrap, lady?” I bought a wrap and my mother bought a purse. I was disappointed in Nassau, because it seemed like we just couldn’t find a way passed the tourist traps to what the island was really like.

Day 4: Fun Day At Sea
The FunShip Fascination is a medium class cruise ship. It has two pools, four whirlpools, ten bars, one casino, two dining rooms, three buffet lines, a spa/beauty salon, and several stages for performances. If you came on the cruise to drink or gamble, you are set. In fact, I sat at dinner with a woman and her husband who were saying that they only know how to get from their room to the casino. If you came for a quiet, relaxing time, you can only have it in your tiny room. My family doesn’t do much with extremes. We drink one drink, we spend ten dollars at the casino, and we avoid crowds of drunken people. I wouldn’t say that our Day At Sea was overly fun.

Day 5: Another Fun Day At Sea
According to the schedule, we were supposed to arrive back at the Port of Miami on Monday morning at 8am. Hurricane Wilma changed our schedule. All of the ports and airports in South Florida were closed. The captain took us back out to sea where we could avoid the worst part of the winds and waves accompanying the storm. We weren’t allowed out on the decks because the winds were too strong. I gave in and bought the seven dollar motion sickness pills. Judging from the messes on the stairs and in the hallways, other people should have too. The wait for the internet cafe ($25/30 min) was two hours. The phone system($7/min) was stressed out. Everyone was anxious about their flights home.

The fun came when the captain decided to turn the ship to head for a better location. As he turned, the wind and waves caught the ship and sent it rolling. Chairs, glasses, and people went flying. Slot machines tipped over and took out bolted down tables as they slid across the floor. The ping pong table broke a window. Display cases holding gumballs and candy came off the wall, raining down sweet tarts and gummy-bears. I watched a man hugging a column snag two waiters as they were hurled toward the windows. All the bars reeked of the whiskey and rum coating walls, floors, and counters. I thought it was great fun. My brother took a video.

Day6: And Yet Another Day At Sea
They tentatively said we could land at the Port of Miami at noon. We got close enough to the shore to use our cell phones, and Delta said the Fort Lauderdale airport would be opening at 6pm. At 2pm we learned that we wouldn’t be allowed to dock until the next day, and the airports were not opening. All of Miami-Dade and Broward countries were out of power. Oh, and please ration the water. No showers. They offered everyone on board a back-to-back three day cruise to Freeport, Bahamas for the low low price of $100. Considering the airports might or might not open, many people took the offer. My brother, however, was about ready to jump overboard. I would have been close behind. It’s okay to be locked up on a semi-entertaining boat for three days, but after that things just start to bad. We opted to take our chances on getting the heck off the boat.

Day 7: The Adventure Ends
We docked at 8am. My family was off the boat by 8:30am. Fort Lauderdale airport was still closed, so we went to Miami Airport and begged for a flight home. We got put on standby and made it on the first flight out at 1:10pm. Oh the joys. We were back in Indiana by 5pm.

And that is the story of our four day vacation that became a seven day vacation. And what have we learned?
1. Never take a cruise during hurricane season.
2. Wear sunscreen in the Bahamas, even if you think you “don’t burn.”
3. Always bring something to do, just in case you get stuck at sea.
4. Learn Spanish.

No comments: