The Perfect Storm: A Vacation Travelogue (Part 7)

Marvin tells us that he’s called the plumber, so at this point there is little to do except wait … and continue to use Marvin’s three hundred towels to mop up the recurring puddle. The next morning we have a lovely late breakfast on the Lido deck and then split up. I head for a quiet spot on the Atlantic deck overlooking a beautiful view of the ocean.

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Unfortunately, staring at all that wild, uncontrolled water keeps reminding me that there is too much uncontrolled water in our stateroom right now. So I use the time to jot down notes about the vacation so far. That book ain’t gonna write itself.

Then again, it kinda is writing itself. I can’t make up shit this good. (I’d say “make up shit this funny,” but it’s not funny yet. Maybe once we’re home. Maybe.)

Speaking of shit, Wayne’s biggest concern is that the water might not be coming from the tub, even though the puddle seems to always end up there. He reminds me that we’re on a moving, rocking cruise ship and that the puddle isn’t necessarily going to stay where it started out.

He has a point.

His concern is that it’s water from the toilet. Which completely freaks him out. But, I raised four kids and changed diapers for years. I’ve been blanketed with pee, poop, and projectile vomiting. A small puddle of toilet water isn’t freaking me out.

What’s freaking me out is that we paid $600 extra for this small puddle of toilet water.

But then again, unknown toilet water is gross. At least the pee, poop, and projectile vomit were all from cute little babies who share my DNA. I rethink Wayne’s concern.

He has a point.

Then again, when he bought the sleeves of Diet Coke and the Ace bandage, he also picked up a little something he never travels without: a large pump bottle of hand sanitizer. He has a thing about germs.

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I never ask him why he doesn’t just buy a travel-size bottle, because to Wayne, this IS a travel-size bottle. In fact, he’s concerned that he might run out. And at this point, I think he might. He’s going through this stuff in a panic, mumbling things I can’t quite hear but that sound like “toilet germs” and “bubonic plague” and “lawsuit” and “refund.” Those last two are becoming a sort of mantra for him. I think he mumbled them in his sleep last night.

So, while I’m taking notes on the Atlantic deck, he’s at the customer service desk on the Promenade deck. Since this is still early in the cruise and tomorrow we will be in port for the first time, all the customer service lines are jammed. People are ironing out stateroom issues and dining room issues and sea sickness issues and shore excursion issues and probably Oedipal issues, too. In fact, half the ship’s passengers are in that line this morning, so I’m grateful he’s willing to take one for the team.

Plus, we both know I’d knuckle under and walk away from that service desk placated with another half dozen VIP Club pins. I have no backbone.

The other half of the ship’s passengers are on the Lido deck getting another soft-serve ice cream cone. That ice cream machine is going to be the death of me yet.

As I’m enjoying the view and scribbling in my notebook, I realize my Birkenstocks are killing me. They’re fairly new, and I hadn’t worn them for any serious length of time before. Now I’m walking 3 or 4 miles just to eat breakfast. Well, more like 6 or 8 miles since I keep heading to the wrong end of the ship.

I finish my notes and then stop in the gift shop to price a pair of softer sandals. No go. We’re a captive audience, so a pair of sandals in the gift shop would mean refinancing our mortgage and putting my grandson up as collateral. I’ll look for sandals when we’re in Cozumel, Mexico, tomorrow.

In the corridor to our stateroom, I see our door is open and I hear noises. I pass a guy in coveralls carrying a toolbox as I head to our room. I use my super-sleuthing brain to deduce that he is the plumber. And he’s leaving.

In our room, I find Wayne chatting amicably with a woman who has opened the safe for him. Marvin is also here, still apologizing, in several languages I don’t know. I nod a lot and smile. The entire metal front of the whirlpool tub is off.

Wayne and I try to discuss our activities for the day, but two more crew members arrive with a loud shop-vac and cleaning supplies. Wayne tells me the plumber will be back. I look at the torn-apart bathroom. Gosh, I hope so.

Tonight is our first formal night for dinner. Carnival calls it “Elegant Night,” but clearly they’ve never seen me in a dress.

I realize Wayne’s brand-new dress shirt needs to be ironed (it’s still in the package), as do several of my cotton capris, so I grab a handful of items and head to one of the laundry rooms.

There’s nothing I’d rather do right now than some ironing. I don’t even iron things when I’m at home. I hate it twice as much when I’m on vacation.

There is a drop-down ironing board like you see in vintage comedy movies, and the iron is hanging from a metal hook about a foot over my head. I say a prayer and get it down without poking my eye out or dropping it on my foot.

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Grateful that the ship isn’t wobbling around too badly, I iron the items without burning myself. But, getting the now-hot iron back up on that hook over my head strengthens my prayer life in ways you can’t imagine. The dual mantras of “lawsuit” and “refund” spring to mind. I envision another design engineer getting fired.

I bring my laundry back to the stateroom and hang it all up neatly in one of our $600 unused closets. We haven’t eaten since breakfast, so we head to the Lido deck to grab a quick burger. Wayne orders a $10 drink of the day, a concoction called Ocean Blue Cocktail. It’s bright blue, and he has no clue what’s in it. This doesn’t seem to bother him, though.

This is the same man who was freaked out over some possibly-but-probably-not-toilet water on the floor. Now he’s drinking chemicals from Monsanto, for all we know. Expensive ones, too. But at least they’re blue … the same color as the toilet water, by the way. Once he makes that connection too, he’ll head back to the stateroom to gargle with some of that hand sanitizer.

Back in our stateroom, we find the tub put back together and everyone gone. Wayne calls poor Marvin to say that the bathroom floor was not properly cleaned after the crew workers left. We’re told it was a sink leak, not tub or toilet, but I suspect Wayne isn’t convinced.

I sit on our balcony and read instead of watching yet another crew member clean our bathroom yet again. Wayne tries to nap, but of course the cleaning crew shows up as soon as he starts to nod off.

Later, we head to dinner, all dressed to the nines and without a clue what that even means. We try not to make eye contact with all the photographers on the Promenade deck coaxing people to have their pictures taken in their finery. Pictures they will sell back to you for twenty bucks.

Two young women are having fun with their photographer and posing on the furniture in “cheesecake” shots, hamming it up, and then another photographer without a customer runs into the shots and poses with them. It’s the funniest thing I’ve seen since I got on the ship.

Then again, I lost my phone and we’ve had not-toilet-water all over our bathroom floor for 36 hours. My standards for humor might be a bit off.

In the dining room, the maître d’ asks us our names and our stateroom number. Wayne gleefully announces, “Stateroom 7296. We’re Dixie and Steve!”

The maître d’ doesn’t get the joke. That’s okay, though. I get the joke, and I’m not laughing either. That won’t prevent Wayne from saying this every time we enter the dining room all week long.

We end the day after our lovely dinner with another soft-serve ice cream cone because we’ve walked past the machine on the Lido deck again (accidentally on purpose), with a clean bathroom and a dry floor, and with a cheap rum and Diet Coke. Wayne bemoans the fact that Papa Bert’s Sippin’ Seat doesn’t hold nearly enough rum for a 7-day cruise.

Tomorrow, though, we’ll be in Cozumel. Wayne has a 100% track record for getting cheap Mexican rum back onto the ship from Cozumel.

We’ll see if he can maintain that perfect score. They’re calling for rain all day tomorrow.

Next installment: Jack Sparrow taught him everything he knows about rum smuggling…

The Perfect Storm: A Vacation Travelogue (Part 6)

Sunday evening: We’re back in our stateroom, unpacking now that our luggage has arrived. Marvin has made good on his promise. The whirlpool tub is spotless and we now have about three hundred towels and washcloths. He’ll still give us fresh ones every morning, though. It’s what they do.

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As I’m putting the last of my toiletries in the bathroom, I notice a new puddle in front of the tub. Neither of us has used the tub or shower yet, so this concerns me a little bit. A little bit.

I take a few photos, and I hear Wayne mumbling something about “legal issues.” And “six hundred dollars, my ass.” But I could be mistaken. My hearing’s not what it used to be.

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Wayne notices that the room safe is locked, with no way to unlock it. I hate to do it but we call Marvin to let him know the puddle has reappeared and to ask about the safe. It’s not like we have expensive jewelry or hordes of cash to stash in the safe. Wayne just wants to put our passports in there … plus the rum he smuggled onto the ship in his Papa Bert’s Sippin’ Seat cushion.

dscn1835I see that rum! That camouflage ain’t foolin’ nobody, mister!

Then we head out to dinner and let Marvin deal with the puddle without us staring over his shoulder. Or without Wayne mumbling something about a “refund” or a “lawsuit.”

At dinner, Wayne tells me he text-chatted with an Xfinity customer rep about reinstating my phone. The rep cheerfully writes, “Yes! We see there is an order in to reinstate your phone. It’s fine!”

The phone still isn’t working, though, after two days of wrangling with Xfinity, so he ends the online chat with, “I don’t believe you.”

After dinner we go our separate ways. Wayne heads to the casino to ask about the blackjack tournament (which is no surprise to me), and I go the wrong direction back to our stateroom. The dining room is aft, as is our stateroom, but for some dumb reason I walk all the way to the front of the ship before I realize the stateroom numbers are going down, not up. This is not the last time I will do this.

I stop along the route back to take photos of a cool feature of this ship, the Carnival Miracle. The murals around the ship are of famous fictional characters. I find this comforting amid our time of trial.

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The Long John Silver and Captain Nemo murals seem appropriate on a ship, but I’m secretly glad they didn’t use Captain Ahab or any other unfortunate sailors. It’s bad enough they played Titanic on our last cruise. Then again, Robinson Crusoe might not have been the best choice.

I’m delighted to find I’m not the only one admiring the artwork on the ship. Wayne seems smitten with it, too.

dscn1865Um… that’s not how you operate the elevator, mister!

I start using the Hercule Poirot mural as a landmark to find our corridor, which would have been a great idea if there weren’t about a half dozen murals just like it throughout the ship.

With all my meandering around looking for our stateroom, I wish I’d worn my Fitbit. I’d have a gazillion steps in by now and I haven’t even been on the ship 12 hours.

I find the right Hercule Poirot mural, and then the right stateroom, only to find several disconcerting things:

There are two more Carnival VIP pins on the desk. We already have some at home from previous cruises. I’ve brought two of those along in my toiletry bag. Plus, there were already two here in the stateroom when we arrived. Clearly Marvin is trying to ingratiate himself after the towel and bathtub ring debacles. Free drinks would have been a nicer gesture.

I lose count of how many pins we have now, but I’m sure I can start a collection. At least they’re smaller than Precious Moments figurines. And cuter.

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The nightly welcome papers are on the desk, too, but something seems amiss…

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My guess is that Dixie and Steve are the two folks who were originally supposed to inhabit this stateroom … until Saturday, when Carnival called Wayne and coaxed him into the upgrade.

Now I’m curious about what happened to Dixie and Steve. Gosh, I hope they’re all right. Too bad they’re missing this great cruise, with the ring around the tub, no towels, and, well …

The puddle is back.

This is when I start thinking, “I should write another book.”

Next installment: Rub-a-dub dub, it sure ain’t the tub…

The Perfect Storm: A Vacation Travelogue (Part 5)

We’ve been on nearly a half dozen cruises before, so we know the drill. Typically we get our room keys at check-in, then drop off our carry-ons in our stateroom, and then head for the Lido deck to grab lunch at the buffet. Along with 2,000+ other people.

But we’ve paid $600 extra to get perks like VIP check-in, so we’re on the ship earlier than usual. Along with a bajillion other VIPs. We realize once we’re on board that we weren’t given any room keys. Are we supposed to just go have lunch and keep our carry-ons with us? That doesn’t sound like $600 better treatment. Do we go to our stateroom first, which, in our case, is completely at the back corner of the ship? That doesn’t sound like a good idea if we don’t have key cards to get into the room. (Note: A Carnival ship is approximately 3 or 4 miles long, I think, stem to stern. My statistics could be a tad off, but it certainly feels like it’s that far.)

We ask a few other VIP types who are also meandering around clueless. We’ve all done this before, and none of us can remember getting on without key cards. We’re jamming up the elevators here midship, with everyone else heading up to the Lido deck (deck 9). I decide to be smart and flag down someone in a Carnival polo shirt. She doesn’t seem to understand my question but tells us to go have lunch. Another passenger hears this exchange and pulls me aside to tell me that no, we’re supposed to go straight to our staterooms, where we’ll find our key cards.

We continue to wait by the elevators, in a group about 5 people deep, before we give up and decide to try the stateroom first. As we get to the last corridor, a young family is coming out, shaking their heads. They tell us that they weren’t allowed in, and when the door closes behind them, it does have a sign on it saying that no one is allowed in until 1:30. I check my non-phone phone. It is only about 12:00.

But Wayne is a rebel and opens the door and heads down the hallway anyway.

“We’re VIPs!”

After a few sheepish calls of “Wayne, no!” I follow him. Because he is a rebel (and  a VIP), but I am only a sheep (and a VIP). Baaaaa

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Photo by Skitterphoto on Pexels.com

We find our stateroom door wide open, and I scoop up an envelope in our small mailbox in the hallway just outside the door. Inside are two key cards with our names on them. So the fellow traveler was correct about us VIPs, and the Carnival employee was wrong. Lesson learned.

Dropping our carry-ons in the room and taking a quick gander around at what $600 extra has bought us, we decide that it’s time for lunch. Our suitcases won’t be delivered to our staterooms till around dinnertime, so there’s not much else to do but check out the extra features of our upgraded suite and then eat lunch and explore the ship. I’m excited about the extra space. We even have a separate vanity area.

dscn1850Wow, we have a small dance floor in here!

dscn1849I’ve lived in apartments smaller than this suite stateroom.

dscn1848Sofa AND a chair, along with the coffee table. I might never leave the room. Well, okay, maybe I will…

dscn1843Two sinks! He can leave a splashy mess around his, and I won’t have to get the front of my shirt wet when I use a sink after him.

dscn1881Wayne doesn’t know what a vanity area is, so he claims it as a desk. Whatever. There’s a desk in the main stateroom.

dscn1967The balcony, which only I will end up using. Wayne will come onto the balcony once all week, to stand there and look out at the ocean. Once. 

 

I check out the upgraded bathroom in our suite. The double sinks are amazing. But I notice there is only one bath towel and no other hand towels or washcloths. Even though suite stateroom passengers are allowed to board early, I suspect we have come a little too early. My suspicions seem confirmed when I notice a strange yellow ring around the middle of the tub, but I wave it aside and assume it’s a stain because the ship is old (it isn’t), or because the salt water is harsh on the fixtures (hey, dummy, the water coming out of the faucet isn’t salt water—what are you, a mermaid?).

I try not to overthink it, until I notice a small puddle on the floor in front of the tub. Now I’m hoping we did just catch the room steward in mid-cleaning. I grab the lone bath towel and drop it onto the puddle to soak it up.

But hey, I’m finally on vacation, and lunch is calling! Maybe this upgrade was worth it after all.

On our way down the corridor to the elevator, we meet our room steward, Marvin, and tell him about the lack of towels. He looks aghast and realizes we’ve been in the room already. He assures us all will be made right by the time we get back. We think nothing more about it.

Wayne and I get on the elevator nearest our aft stateroom and zip up two decks to the Lido deck … which is now swarming with the unwashed masses, the regular un-VIP passengers, who are now on the ship but who aren’t allowed into their rooms yet and so have all come up here for lunch. And every single one of them is wheeling a carry-on around in the buffet line. So much for all the early perks of the VIP check-in.

But for now, lunch is yummy. Soon we’ll be leaving the port in Tampa and will be headed out to sea.

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Wayne is already doubtful about the wisdom of his expensive upgrade purchase. Within the next 36 hours, I start to agree with him.

Next installment: You get what you pay for … or, you know, maybe you don’t.

The Perfect Storm: A Vacation Travelogue (Part 4)

I’m famished. We’re having dinner at the hotel. We’re the only ones sitting at a table rather than the bar, so we’ll be eating really soon. We watch two other, large parties arrive, be seated, order, and actually receive their food before ours arrives. Apparently I was mistaken.

waterworks-bar-and-grillThis is how empty the restaurant was when we got there for dinner.

Well, this gives us time to catch up on the Keystone Cops version of our vacation so far. (And we’re not even on the ship yet.) I ask if my phone’s going to be reactivated soon, since it’s still not working. Wayne’s not sure, because,  when he’d been on hold with Xfinity for an hour at the airport while waiting for the shuttle, he accidentally bumped his phone and cut off the call. There wasn’t time to start over in the lengthy phone queue. So, still no phone for me. But we’re now together, and we have his phone, and there’s not usually phone service out in the middle of the ocean anyway. I’m not concerned. Yet.

We discuss our stateroom upgrade to a suite. We’ll have more closet space (which we never need). We’ll also have a larger balcony (which only I use), with three deck chairs (there are only two of us), plus a full whirlpool tub (which neither of us is going to use), and VIP check-in so we don’t have to snake through the line with 2,000+ other people. Okay, now you’re speaking my language!

The only negative I can see (for now), besides the added cost (which is on his credit card, not mine), is that all those travel documents and luggage tags I’d printed for our original stateroom are no good. I check the hotel’s website on my phone (which is still a tiny internet device, at least) and see that they do have a business center. No problem. I’ll simply get the PDF from Wayne onto my laptop and head down there in the morning to print out new documents. I’ve brought a small roll of tape to tape the tags to our suitcases. I’m proud of myself that I’ve thought of everything.

Only I haven’t really thought of everything. Why have I chosen now to stop running worst-case scenarios? They’re everywhere.

With the VIP check-in, we’re allowed to board the ship earlier than the unwashed masses, so we get up early and repack the few things we’ve taken out of our suitcases. I haven’t taken anything out of mine since I cleverly packed the carry-on with things I’d need before getting on the ship. I’m proud of myself that I really have thought of everything. Yeah. Right.

As Wayne’s stuffing things back into his oversized duffel bag, including his massive winter coat since we’re in Florida now, I grab my small laptop and head downstairs to the business center. We’re hoping to make the 11 a.m. shuttle to the port, but it won’t take long to print out two luggage tags and then tape them to the suitcase handles. In theory.

Wayne takes an earlier shuttle an hour and a half before we have to leave, going to a Walgreen’s nearby where he buys two sleeves of Diet Coke to take onto the ship with us, plus an Ace bandage for my wrist. I’ve slept on it wrong and can barely move it. This is going to make dealing with luggage so much more pleasant. (/sarcasm)

I carefully wheel my luggage onto the elevator and head down to the lobby. I find the business center and see there is no one there. What luck! Then I understand why no one is there. A sheet of paper taped to the printer reads: “Printer Out of Order. We hope to have it working soon.” The ironic thing is that the sign was clearly printed with a printer.

Unsure what they mean by “soon,” I dash to the front desk to ask about the printer. No problem, they say. They can print it for me in the office. But they can only do it if I email it to them. They tell me the email address and I scoot off to a chair in the lobby and email it.

Wayne shows up with the soda and the Ace bandage and heads back upstairs for his luggage. I wrap my wrist and then check with the front desk. They haven’t received my email. I’m suddenly glad I have a half million email addresses, and I re-send the attachment from a different email address. Wayne shows up in the lobby with all his luggage just as the front desk tells me they still have not gotten the email. I sit back down and try a third email address, as Wayne is telling me the shuttle has arrived. No pressure, Linda!

img_6930_c171ff6d-2f14-43ba-bbf18c23f593a547_d21b571a-8bd7-4753-9367a9b8fd34c6a7Imagine a bajillion people scurrying around, hoping to get on the shuttle, and me off in the corner with my laptop re-sending the same attachment a bajillion times.

As I’m sending the attachment from a fourth email address—and wondering if my old AOL email address from the 1990s might still work—Wayne tells me he’s called Carnival and that they say it’s no problem to have no luggage tags. We can simply tell the porter at the, uh, port (Where else would a porter be? That’s a rhetorical question, so don’t start commenting with other places a porter might be) what our ship name and new stateroom number are and he can make up tags for us right there.

All this time, Wayne has been begging the shuttle driver to hang on, we’ll be right there.

No pressure, Linda! I’m now shutting down my laptop and trying to stuff it back into the carry-on so the irritated folks already on the shuttle will not lynch us on the way to the port.

I sit on the overcrowded shuttle (about ten or twelve passengers in a short bus, each with a week’s worth of luggage—you do the math, I’m feeling too claustrophobic at the moment), trying to remember my Lamaze breathing techniques to slow my heart rate and lower my blood pressure. I’m pretty sure it’s not working.

The shuttle arrives safely at the port and we all stand up to get off … only to find out the driver has parked in the wrong spot. We all sit back down and watch patiently as she maneuvers the shuttle around and then backs it into a different spot a little farther away from the port. Everything is unloaded and we track down a porter, bribe him—I mean, tip him—heavily, and he makes up two luggage tags for us on the spot.

Now we can relax and enjoy our vacation. We bypass the lengthening line of regular cruise-goers and head for the VIP check-in … along with a million other people. Clearly they have redefined “VIP check-in” since the last time we were blessed with it. We just keep rolling our carry-ons wherever people are pointing, hoping that we’ll eventually see a really big boat and get on it.

brill-day1-2This is what we’d hoped the terminal would look like for VIP check-in…

I keep reminding myself we’re on vacation. The worst is behind us.

Right?

Next installment: Rub-a-dub dub, three rings ’round the tub…