I remember when my Mom and Dad were supposed to go on a cruise with Aunt Dottie and Uncle Joe when I was a young kid living in SF. Mom was looking forward to it. Dad wasn’t honest about it. You see, Dad was afraid of flying but could not tell anyone about it. I had never thought my Dad was afraid of anything. I thought he was fearless in his burly 6’1” frame. But flying was not his thing.
My Aunt and Uncle went on that cruise by themselves and I am not sure what Dad’s excuse was at the time. I know he would never confess it was because of his fear of flying. Understandably, Mom was disappointed.
Years passed and there were no exotic vacations for them, just fishing/camping trips, hardly glamorous. I always said that if there ever was a way, I would make sure Mom got to see some of the big world out there. Marrying Bill made those dreams come true for all of us because Bill loves to travel.
Less than a year after Bill and I got married, we went on our first cruise with about 26 members of our square dance club to the Eastern Caribbean and we took Bill’s adoptive Mother, Jeannette, with us. Mom and Dad were asked to come along, but declined the invite.
Bill and I still chuckle when we think of that trip. Mom Jeannette just could not understand that we would miss the “galley tour” and other shipboard activities. Bill and I had other more romantic ideas in mind, but Mom overlooked, or just plain forgot, what it was like to enjoy some wonderful afternoon delight.
We had a ball until the weather got awful and the captain told us our route would be diverted to avoid the storm at one of our destinations. A day later, an elderly passenger became deathly ill and we had to go into the storm to get close to a hospital. It was storming so much that after clearing the deck for a helicopter landing, it was decided an evacuation could not occur on deck so the passenger had to be airlifted off our ship, swinging with the wind in a large basket.
Once that was done, we were still in the storm and the body of water was so rough, that while we were dancing in the lounge that evening we could not even keep up with the rolling of the ship. It made dancing well pretty impossible. This really scared me. I was prepared for sea sickness with my ear patch, but I was not prepared for this.
All I thought about were the movies I had seen like “Unsinkable Molly Brown,” “The Titanic,” and the “Poseidon Adventure.” I envisioned us in the black of night being escorted into the little boats with our men left on the ship until all the women and children were offloaded. I could not sleep all night. It was a very very long night. Even though I was still pretty much a newlywed, I did not want to think of my life without the love of my life. Once I saw the light of day, I felt safe, but I was very much exhausted from the stress and from the lack of sleep.
Once the storm was over, the trip was really a lot of fun. We saw some beautiful places we knew we would some day return to. After that cruise, I think we were hooked on cruising.
In another blog, I wrote about how my Dad would never get on an airplane because of his fear of flying. Bill and I told Dad that we would take them to Europe with us for vacation and pay for their airline tickets if Dad would get on a plane and go to Italy with us. Dad immediately got over his fear of flying, although I must admit, he had to have a few stiff ones once he got on board to help ease that fear. Since that time, we made a several trips to Europe together.
Our second planned cruise was a repositioning cruise out of SF to British Columbia, Canada, and by now Dad was a seasoned traveler. We wanted to see how Dad would like cruising which was a far cry from his days in the Navy. Mom already had her bags packed. Aunt Dottie and Uncle Joe came with us and we dubbed ourselves the “Cruise Buddies” from that time on because for the next many years, we went on lots of cruises together.
On this cruise, we stopped at Puget Sound, and went on a tour of the locks before re-boarding the ship for BC. Can you imagine our luck when we were told at our hotel in Vancouver BC that if we wanted to leave in the morning we would have to be out of the hotel by 7 AM because they were going to implode a building across the street that morning?
As a person in the construction industry, Bill was in seventh heaven. He did not want to budge. This was a once-in-a-lifetime experience for someone who has torn down houses with bulldozing equipment more than once. We had room service breakfast in Uncle Joe and Aunt Dottie’s room because theirs had the best view of this 17-story building. It was so exciting. I thought I would wet myself because I was worried the building would fall onto ours, which it didn’t. I did get some interesting photos but I was shaking as I took the photos. It was “now you see it and now you don’t.” First you saw a cloud of dust and then it was gone. Surprisingly, there was no damage to surrounding properties which included a church. There were lots of protesters lining the streets, but the old building came down with no problems. After spending a few days in Vancouver, we flew home to SF on what they lovingly call a “puddle jumper.”
Aside from the Canadian cruise, the Cruise Buddies always went on the Princess Cruise Lines to Alaska, Panama Canal, Eastern Caribbean, and Western Caribbean. The 10-day Mexican cruise was taken without Aunt Dottie and Uncle Joe as Aunt Dottie was afraid she would get tourista.
We were the envy sometimes of the other passengers with our Bingo wins. We would each put in the same amount for bingo cards and then when we won, it would be split three ways. It was fun.
The year we went to the Western Caribbean, Auntie Lil and Uncle John (celebrating their 50th anniversary) as well as friends, Jan and Rod, joined us. Life on board ship is fabulous. Meals are great and shipboard activities and shows are always such fun. It is so much more fun when you go with someone.
We only had one bad experience while the Cruise Buddies traveled together and that was when one of our suitcases carrying our formal wear decided to take another trip and did not catch up with us until we were in Montego Bay, Jamaica, after formal night with the Captain. Insurance helped me get a nice beaded jacket to wear over my basic black dress for that night. Bill only had slacks, a formal shirt, tie and cummerbund in another suitcase that he was able to use, but no dinner jacket. The ship tried to see if there was a waiter who took the same size jacket, but they did not have one big enough to fit him. We made the most of it anyway. Bill just went jacketless.
Several other passengers were missing their luggage too. A couple who also had their bags misplaced wondered if the ship would be liable for expenses if she ended up pregnant, since the suitcase containing her birth control pills was the one misplaced.
Mom, Dad, Bill, and I took four other trips to Europe over the years up until the time Dad lost most of his eyesight. For ten years we took Mom and Dad on vacations with us and we all got along so well and always had lots of fun. After that, we went with friends on timeshare exchanges to Manzanillo and Puerto Vallarta, Mexico, and another trip to Europe where we rented a house in the south of France in a cute little village of Tourtour with friends on our trip to Paris.
After Mom and Dad passed away as well as Uncle Joe and Aunt Dottie, we had to find new shipmates. Bill and I went on a cruise with some friends to the Southern Caribbean too and enjoyed the art auctions aboard ship. This is the first time we ever attended an art auction and we have reminders of that trip each day as we look at the beautiful art hanging in our home that we purchased on that cruise.
The advice I would give anyone wanting to travel is do it when you are young. Don’t wait until you are old, knees shot, hips hurting, can’t walk, or can’t see. Some people wait until they are so old that they die on the trip. Live life and see the beauty in the world that God has created.
And have fun with your parents while they are here. You will miss them terribly when they are gone. I thank God that we spent the time we did with my parents and my Aunts and Uncles and I would give anything to have that time back again.