Have you ever had a gut feeling that something was going to go wrong? I had that feeling right from the start about this cruise. We hadn't planned on doing one this year but our friends and relatives more or less talked us into planning one. As time progressed, each and every one of them backed out. Now there were just my wife and adult son and myself. For cost savings, we allowed him to share our cabin.
I kept an eye out for reasonable airfare and in September, booked our tickets for non-stop flights from Michigan to Orlando. From talking to other fellow cruisers, we found that the best place to stay in Port Canaveral would be the Radisson at the Port. We decided to go in on Thursday and spend a couple of days relaxing before the cruise on Saturday.
The flight was uneventful and we arrived in Orlando at 10:40 am. Art's Shuttle was waiting for us at the luggage claim area and swiftly whisked us away to the Radisson. Little did we know that this was Race week at Daytona and everything was booked solid. We tried to rent a car from Budget but they were all sold out. We called Hertz and they said we could have one for one day but had to return it before 8 am on Saturday. We grabbed it and took our son to see NASA. We spent most of the day there. Son is 24 and he was surprised that he actually liked it.
Saturday morning I got up early and watched the Glory pull into port. We had signed up for the hotel shuttle's first run to the ship. We had to meet in the lobby at 11:15 for the 11:30 run. We ran into a group of five from Michigan and struck up a conversation with them. We ran into them several times after that.
We arrived at the Glory at 11:45 and embarkation was quite fast. We were onboard by 12:15. I did notice as we were boarding that the Skippers Club was full of people and only one person was checking them in. We got on before they did.
We started exploring the ship and went out on our balcony (Panorama Deck Cabin 1064). I looked down and noticed that as they were unloading a delivery truck, they had dropped a whole pallet of champagne and there were busted bottles all over the place. That should have been the first indication that something was not right for this cruise.
The ship got underway before we were back in our cabins with the lifejackets so we hurried up on the Lido Deck to have a drink and celebrate the beginning of a fun week. We found out that John Heald would not be our CD as expected and that Carlo Lombard would replace him. He earned great respect from us before the week was over.
We were assigned the 6:15 seating in the middle dining room. We got there and found that we were at a table for eight. There were two ladies (sisters) already there. One was from New York and the other from Florida. They were a little older than us but real nice to talk to. The other three chairs went empty until mid week.
Nassau was to be our first port. I'm an early riser so I was out on our balcony as we were coming in to port. I noticed that we slowed down quite a ways before we normally would and I couldn't figure out why. My thoughts were that we were ahead of schedule so they were just trying to kill time as they usually do. We decided to just take a cab to the Atlantis Hotel and walk the beaches or lay out in the sun. When we got there, we discovered that the waves were tremendous on the North Shore and there was no way that we were going near the water. We just walked the beaches for a while and then went back to the ship to lay out on the decks.
The ship was supposed to leave at 2 pm and we noticed that we were still in port after that. Finally at 2:30, Carlo came on the PA and announced that the ship encountered propulsion problems as we were entering port. That explains why we slowed down. He said that they had tried to fix the problem while we were there but failed to get it corrected. Because of that, our ports of St. Thomas and St. Maarten had been changed to Freeport and Key West. Because of the change, Carnival was depositing $100 shipboard credit to all of our accounts. Knowing that the cruise line has the option of doing that, we were a little disappointed but wasn't about to let it ruin our cruise. I think we stayed in Nassau for three extra hours. We stayed onboard ship even though we were allowed to get back off.
Freeport is not exactly a place I would return to. Once was enough. A cab ride to the other end of the island found us in the middle of what reminded me of a flea market. We then walked across the street to the beach side and it was packed with people. There was a bar there so we went inside for a drink. If people think the ship's drinks are expensive, they should visit that place. The drinks were $9 each and you didn't get to keep the glass. Back to the ship. On the cab ride back, we unfortunately had a couple that were bound and determined to make us all as miserable as they were. "Carnival had no right to do that to us." "They knew before we ever left Port Canaveral that there was a problem." "We're suing Carnival as soon as we get back." "We'll never cruise with Carnival again." We heard it all. After listening to this for half the ride back, I got fed up and said that if anybody sues Carnival over this, the only one that will make out is there lawyer. There was a round of applause in the cab and all of a sudden, the couple became very quiet, knowing that they were outnumbered. Even though things weren't going the way they were planned, most of us were trying to make the best of it.
Key West we again just headed out on our own. The ship's captain had made arrangements to dock right in town instead of the usual naval pier. All we had to do was walk off the ship. We spent the day wandering and made it to the Zero Mile Marker. Wife took a picture of son and I sitting next to it. We stopped at Sloppy Joe's for a drink, then went to Boar's Head (or something like that) for lunch. Both were interesting places to say the least. Then back to the ship.
When we got back onboard, I realized that I hadn't taken a picture of the atrium from the top down. I went out and took a shot of it and it was too dark to see. We have a digital camera and I'm not very familiar with it. I tried to lighten up the picture and before I knew it, I had erased the card. Fortunately there weren't that many on it but unfortunately I had erased the one of my son and I at the mile marker and the sunset at Key West. I hate that camera. Wife and I have both wiped out pictures with it accidentally. Dinner that night found the other three guests at the table. One elderly gentleman in jeans and a polo shirt with a baseball cap on. His two travel mates were very young girls. They had missed their flights and finally caught up with the ship in Nassau. Unfortunately their luggage never did get there. One of the girls got up and disappeared before the meal was delivered. When the meals came, the other girl ask to have them boxed and she disappeared with both meals. The gentleman started complaining that they were supposed to be his companions and they were leaving him to himself. We never did figure out that situation and really didn't want to.
Throughout this cruise, most of the people onboard were happy to just be on vacation. We found that there were some that were very upset and were doing their best to ruin everyone else's cruise too. Most people just moved away from the complainers because there was no sense in even talking with them. They were set in their minds that they were going to get more so more power to them. The rest of us were content with what we were given and tried to make the best of it.
We signed up for the Super Club just to see what it was like. We signed up for Friday night at our usual dining time. They recommended that gentlemen wear a jacket. I had only brought my tux and son only his suit so we all dressed up. What a shocker when we got there and found that the rest of the people there were dressed in resort casual. As we were leaving, a younger group came in and the guys had suits on so we didn't feel too overdressed. In all honesty, we were not impressed with it. They were always bringing out little experiments that the chef had cooked up. I always figured that I had enough up-bringing to make it in the world but when a waitress puts a bent spoon on my plate with a bunch of grass on it and expects me to ooh and ahh over it, I'm sorry. I not only did not know what it was, I didn't know how to eat it without looking stupid. As for the meal, we had surf and turf and it was a huge proportion but nothing spectacular. Bottom line for us...been there, done that, won't go again. Passing by Miami, the ship slowed down and a boat met us with the needed part to fix the ship.
The next morning we pulled into Port Canaveral on time. They called our luggage tags during breakfast so we hurried and finished. Downstairs at the pier was a madhouse. The luggage comes out on a belt like it does at the airports. Instead of people taking a piece off and moving it back, they would pull it off and keep it next to them. Few people were able to get up to the belt because of this. We had six pieces and could only find five. Finally I glanced over a ways and discovered that our missing piece was sitting on the floor. Someone had removed it from the belt and discovered that it wasn't theirs so they just left it there rather than putting it back on the belt.
We had rented a car for the next week as we were staying in Florida to just drive around and look for places that we might like to visit in the future. Hertz had told us that they would pick us up at the pier and take us to their lot. We met the van and were off. We had also booked another night at the Radisson. We took a drive to Cocoa Beach and walked out on the pier and saw the Glory leaving again. They must have gotten her fixed.
Sunday morning we got up to rain, rain, rain. We headed out and made it as far as Tampa and decided to stop there. We got a room at the Double Tree Suites and found that hotel rooms were getting real hard to get in Florida. Between the races and March Madness, the whole state was booked for something. Monday morning we decided to drive to New Port Richey where I have an aunt that lives during the winter months. We find her and visit until we figured we'd better hit the road before traffic got too bad which is all the time in Florida.
Tuesday we had planned on meeting a lady that I have been communicating with over the cruise message boards for years. We had never met before and she lives in Lakeland so we decided to meet at the Cracker Barrel for lunch at noon. We met in the parking lot and went inside and sat down right in front of the window. My back started hurting to the point that I couldn't get comfortable. My son was saying something and all of a sudden I realized that I couldn't hear him. Then it happened. I passed out. The next thing I knew, they were shaking me and asking me if I was OK. I was so hot and couldn't get any air. My son walked me outside and a waitress brought out a glass of orange juice. Then the manager came out and said that he was sorry it was so hot in there and would move us.
We went back in and my wife said that she was taking me to a hospital because something was wrong. As much as that word scares me, I knew she was right and didn't resist. They finished their meals and mine didn't even get touched. I drank my coke and that was it. Fortunately for us, the lady we had just met knew where the Lakeland Regional Medical Center was. We were only a few blocks from it.
As soon as they called my name and took down the info, they rushed me into the examining room of the ER. By then, my back was hurting worse than I've ever experienced before. A doctor checked me out and my blood pressure was sky rocketing. They kept pumping blood pressure medicine and morphine in me to bring it down to run tests but it wouldn't drop. He ask if I had stomach pain too which I didn't think I had until he pressed on it. I did. He said that it looked like an abdominal aortic aneurysm.
They gave me an ultra sound and then sent me for a cat scan. Sure enough, my one inch diameter aorta was now a whopping three inches. The surgeon came in and explained that without surgery, I had a zero chance. With surgery, I had a fifty-fifty chance of survival. He said that it would go well unless it ruptured when he got in there. If that happened, there was nothing they could do for me. I signed the papers.
Three hours later, I came to with a thirteen inch incision, five stitches and forty-three staples down my chest. It was a success. On Saturday, I was released. We were very fortunate that LaQuinta Inn and Suites had an opening and also a program where they reduce the room fees for people with medical emergencies in their families. We got the room for $43 a night for two weeks. They were wonderful and I highly recommend them to anyone.
Now for the kicker. The lady that we had met and stayed with my wife and son through all of this, had to take her husband into the same hospital that night for chest pains. He wound up having a quadruple by-pass surgery. He also came through it with flying colors.
The surgeon had told me on discharge to call his office for the following Tuesday to have the staples removed on the 15th. I called his office and they told me that I was scheduled to have them removed on the 22nd because he was on vacation the week of the 15th. He had told me to tell them that I wouldn't take no for an answer so I told them that. They said they would call me back. When they did, they said that his assistant would take them out on the 22nd.
There was this beautiful hotel with a heated pool and hot tub and I couldn't go near them. I couldn't get the incision wet. So we just laid out in the sun every day and got killer tans. My staples were removed on the 15th and they gave me a return to work release. We stopped at a restaurant for breakfast on the way back to the hotel and I took the release out of my shirt pocket to read. It had somebody else's name on it other than mine. Back to the doctor's office we went.
At the hotel, I called the airline to get a flight. We had round-trip tickets and my wife had called them after the surgery and they left them open ended. We had two choices...Because of spring breaks and all the other activities happening, we could either leave on the 17th or the 24th. At first I said the 24th, then after thinking about it, we changed it to the 17th. We had had enough restaurant food and hotel sleeping. The whole hotel staff wished us good luck and said that they would miss us because they were getting so use to us being there. They were all a great bunch.
Wednesday we decided to meet the lady again for lunch and this time do it right. Half way through the meal, she stopped and said "Let's do a check...is everybody still alright?" It was cloudy and humid and just had the feel that storms were brewing. When we returned to the hotel, we found out that there was tornado watches for most of the state. It rained several times during the late afternoon and evening.
We got up to more rain on Thursday so we headed out to Orlando as soon as we got the car packed. At the airport after turning the car in, we ate breakfast and milled around until our flight at 11:30. We arrived in Michigan ahead of time, just a little before 2. The first thing I did when I walked into the door was get down on my knees and kiss my Lazy Boy. What a welcome sight after trying to watch TV in a hotel room laying crossways on a bed. Comfort at long last.
What had been planned as a two week vacation turned into exactly a month. I look back on what happened and all I can say is that someone was looking out for me. To the ones that complained that Carnival wasn't giving them enough, I just smile. I'm alive. So is the husband of the lady we met. A missed port is nothing. Life is too short and can be taken away too quick to worry about insignificant things. We are looking forward to our next cruise. This won't slow us down a bit. Only make us enjoy them more.