It all started back in February.
After our first “pool day” of 2014, Bret took a nap, and I searched for an all-inclusive Caribbean vacation. I narrowed the choices down to two cruises and two resorts and after Bret woke up, we weighed the options, and ultimately picked the 7-day Western Caribbean cruise on Royal Caribbean’s Freedom of the Seas. Best decision ever!
Since that moment, I’d been anticipating May 25, 2014. I’d been looking forward to Caribbean beaches, unlimited pastries and coffee, and endless relaxation and bonding time with Bret. I should preface this by stating that Day 1 was literally the most stressful day of
MY LIFE the cruise, so, know it gets better after this.
Day 1: One of our favorite aspects of the cruise was that we could DRIVE to Port Canaveral from our apartment. No flying required; no hotels needed. While I was stoked about this money-saving option, for weeks leading up to our cruise, I had reoccurring nightmares about missing the ship. Our plan was to leave at 7AM and arrive at 11AM. Boarding was scheduled from 11AM-3PM so that gave us some wiggle room should something catastrophic happen.
Something catastrophic happened.
We left early as planned. I’d called my sister (the experienced cruiser) and she gave me cruising tips like: get up early one day and take photos of the ship before it’s crowded! Always take the stairs instead of the elevator! And, if you’re too full for dessert, get it to go! I talked to my mom, too, and she wished us a happy trip. I was feeling good and stoked about our vacation. At this point, we were on track to arrive at 11:30AM.
As we were entered the halfway point of our trip, though, we blew a tire.
It’s really a blur now, but we pulled over to the side of the road, confirmed the tire was flat, and Bret went to work. I can not over-emphasize how impressed I was with Bret’s behavior. He was SO calm. I was tense, but he just moved around carefully and with a purpose, jacked up the car, situated all of his tools, and started unscrewing the lug nuts. He even had a smile on his face! I helped where I could, but I was floundering. Mostly I remember sputtering useless three word sentences like, “Can I help?” and “What is that?” and “Everything is okay.”
I tried to focus on the positive things (flat tire is on the passenger’s side of car, we have all the tools we need, Bret knows he what he is doing…), but I was frazzled. Mostly, I was worried that something was going to fly off the road and hit us. Fortunately, a roadside assistance service truck from State Farm pulled over to help us. It was like a dream! This guy had more tools and a huge flashy sign telling traffic to move over. I was happy that we were no longer alone on the edge of the highway.
When the State Farm guy asked where we were headed, I told him Port Canveral, and he smiled and said, “You have a cruise to catch!” Then, he told me about a horrible graphic accident that caused him to lose his memory. He doesn’t remember his wedding, honeymoon, or the first two years of their marriage. Perspective.That made our flat tire seem like not a big deal. He helped us get the spare situated, but we noticed the spare wasn’t holding air. He said we should go to a service station, but, unfortunately nothing local would be open on a Sunday.
This is where the real panic set in.
He said something like, “maybe try PepBoys?” and my fingers went to work on my phone. I knew I wanted to search for the closest PepBoys, but my brain wouldn’t work. Navigation? Google? Which PepBoys is closest?! I could barely even see my phone in the sun, and I kept typing the wrong keys. I mistyped “Pep” three times. Meanwhile, my mouth said something weird like,
“Do you think we should just leave our car here and get a cab?”
At this point, Bret was on the phone with the nearest Pep Boys and confirming that they were, in fact, open.
Our State Farm guy pumped the tire full of air and said that should hold us for the EIGHTEEN MINUTES it would take us to get to the next town. Those were the longest 18 minutes of my day. In the car, I locked eyes with the GPS and kept telling Bret, “4.3 miles. 3.8 miles. 3.3 miles.” Oh, I hate even thinking about this.
When we finally made it to PepBoys I was relieved, but NO ONE could move fast enough for my sanity. The mechanic was nice and sympathetic and promised to get us back on the road as soon as possible. The guy at the front desk wanted to chat. That would have been much healthier way to pass the time, but I was trapped in my erratic worries. I felt miserable. I felt like pacing. But, don’t worry, I just sat still and tapped my foot like a crazy person. Meanwhile, Bret took this picture.
I texted my sister who kept me calm. (Aren’t sisters the BEST?! Mine is). She reminded me that we still had plenty of time. I talked to an 89-year-old man who lost his wife a few years ago. All he said was that he really missed her. Again, perspective. We are in a happy, healthy phase in our life and if for some reason this vacation didn’t work out the way we planned, we still had each other.
Fortunately, they had some tires in stock. Bret had to decide which to buy, because when he asked me, I was incapable of forming logical sentences. I’m pretty sure I said something like, “Well it’s one tire…” which means nothing. Fifteen minutes later, they got the tire on and they also fixed our spare tire just in case. Of course, then they wanted to talk about a must-do restaurant in the Florida Keys…(?) Next time, guys.
Our new ETA was 12:50PM, but we hit traffic. I felt like crying, but I held it together. I kept thinking all-I-want-is-to-get-on-that-boat. We pulled across the bridge and in view of the port shortly after 1:00PM, and I felt instantly better. The parking ticket station was broken, people were confused, and cars were blocking each other as everyone tried to drive in different directions. We couldn’t figure out where to park, but at this point, I was calm. I thought, “We’re here. We’re going to make it. What does it matter if it takes us 15 minutes to park?” …and Bret moved into freak out mode, “WHAT IS GOING ON?! WHAT IS WRONG WITH YOU PEOPLE?! MOVE YOUR CAR!” I don’t remember exactly what he said, but I’m sure it was something like that.
The actual entrance to the ship was super well organized. Everyone was in a fantastic mood. I told the woman checking my ID about the our flat tire, and she said next time to just call her! I felt so much better, and by 1:45PM, we were on the ship with an hour to spare! I sent my mom this picture to let her know that, yes, I was safe and happy to be on board even though I had been sweating and covered in grease for the past 4 hours. Look at my cute waterproof SeaPass holder!
Do I look frantic? Well, I still was, a little. Boy was I happy to lay on that bed for a few minutes.
We had lunch by the window and – you guys – Bret declared right then and there that he loved cruising. Unlimited buffet with a pretty view of the water? He was hooked. We had a really nice lunch: potatoes, eggplant and mushrooms for Bret, and salad and tuna for me.
After lunch I felt a bit better. We walked around and explored the ship’s promenade, found our muster station, attended the First Time Cruisers meeting, returned to our room, got our luggage, and then headed down to a muster station for the real drill which was HOT but painless. At this point, I was telling myself, NOW YOU REALLY SHOULD FEEL RELAXED, but I still didn’t – not quite.
We sat on our balcony, changed for dinner, and were escorted to a cute little window table for two. Dinner was delicious! I ordered seafood spaghetti and Bret had steak and a baked potato. I loved that there were no prices or extra charges – everything was included with the vacation we’d already paid for.
After dinner we relaxed in the room a bit and ordered ROOM SERVICE from our TV: two mixed drinks and some fruit. We ate on our balcony. And, gosh, that glass balcony was just perfection.
And then we decided to do some more ship exploring. I was happy to be outside in the cool dusk up on the deck, but I think at this point I was just plain exhausted. I remember feeling like we walked up and down so many stairs. We had a great walk around the full-size outdoor track, though, and we saw the movie playing on the big screen on the pool deck below us. Bret finally got his first piece of pizza from Sorrento.
When we went back to the room a couple hours later, all I wanted was a relaxing shower, but the shower was awful and sprayed directly in my face. I couldn’t breathe! (Bret later showed me how to adjust the shower head so it would not spray me in the face. It’s detachable).
Even though our driving experience was rough, I was excited to be on the ship. And if I didn’t need a vacation before, I did now. I know you’re probably not sold on a cruise after this post, but I promise, every day after this one was MUCH better.