If you are planning to take a cruise and are easily put off by things, don't read this post!
My husband travels, a lot. In 2006, he was gone over 4 months, but not all at one time. He was gone for 2 days here, a week there, up to 3 weeks there. Usually with a couple weeks at home thrown in between. He also had a pretty stressful job. So, one day, looking a my beloved husband, the light of my life, I noticed that he was getting a wee bit burnt out. We'd always wanted to go on a cruise, so I decided to send the 5 of us on a cruise for his Christmas present.
A few days before Christmas, we pulled the kids out of school early, rushing from Xavier's Christmas play to the airport, and left for Orlando. To give you a hint about this trip, the best thing about it was our flight down there. We had a GREAT flight. We flew Southwest, and our male flight attendant must have been a stand up comedian in his other life, or he wanted to be. He cracked jokes the entire flight. He was actually funny, too!
So, here we are in Orlando, on our first "real" family vacation ever. In the past, we always spent all of our money visiting family. We do go camping at least once a year and that is what we consider our family vacations, which we really, really enjoy. But, this is our first commercial vacation. We've got our luggage and have just realised that the hotel we had booked has to be canceled and we have to make reservations at a new hotel. Fortunately, after much stress and strain on my part (read tears and thoughts that our vacation is ruined- I'm a little dramatic), we get settled into the hotel that is in the airport. Now, this is a really nice hotel. I would recommend it to anyone. It was the Hyatt. (As a side note here, my in-laws took the older kids and their cousin on a cruise in April 2006, and stayed in this hotel. Some of the rooms look out over the atrium of the airport and my in-laws had connecting rooms on that side. My father-in-law looked out to see my then 8 year old son climbing from one balcony to the other! Here is a picture of said balconies. As you can see, he had to climb out around the outside to get to the other balcony. Needless to say, I strongly encourage you NOT to let your children do this!)
The next morning, we got ready nice and early and waited around FOREVER (it seemed) until the bus was ready to take us to our ship. The bus ride wasn't bad, they had movies that they played for the hour we were on our way. When we got to the cruise reception area, it was to find out that their computers were broken. So, the boys played while I stood in line and waited, again, FOREVER (maybe 30 minutes?).
That first afternoon on the ship was a lot of fun. We ate lunch, which was fabulous. We looked at our room. We went swimming after our luggage arrived. I suggest you keep a suit with you so you can enjoy the pool before everyone else gets their suits! When we got our suits, we went to the kiddie pool. It was packed. Dominic (3) did NOT like it. However, there was a splash zone there for little kids. I let him get in that. Shortly thereafter, I was told that that area was for toddlers 2 and under, only. What! So, what is he supposed to do? I got up my gumption and asked the attendant if he would please clear out the pool so that my son could play in it. He said as long as the other parents didn't mind, my son could play in the splash zone. Fortunately, those parents suggesting me talk to the man were the reason I managed to get my gumption up, so Dominic was allowed to play.
Gary and I had reservations for a special adult only restaurant, so we had signed the boys up for the kids' zone for that night. They ate supper at one of the many "fast food" places around the pool, then got ready to go. On our way back to our room, Gabriel (9) started complaining about feeling sick. Once there, he wanted to go to bed. Then, he threw up. Okay, obviously, he isn't going to the kids' zone, now what? We packed the other two off to the play zone and put Gabriel to bed. Now, this is the part that I was really impressed with. We called the restaurant and told them that our son had motion sickness and could we please reschedule. They asked us if we would like our meal in our room. They brought everything we could possibly want, even when we forgot to order dessert. It was a great meal. I was very impressed with their service.
After the meal, we picked up the other two kids and put them to bed. About 11:00, I heard coughing and then, Dominic threw up all over his bed. We called our host and he came and changed all of Dominic's sheets. Then, Dominic did it again at 1:15, and again the host came and changed all of Dominic's sheets. Then, Dominic did it again at 3:00. Again, the host came and changed all of Dominic's sheets, at which point Gary moved to Dominic's bed and Dominic joined me. For the next 5 hours, Dominic threw up ever 15 minutes. After a certain point, he could no longer hold his head up to throw up in the trash can. Since he was mostly producing phlegm and spit, I stopped worrying about it. I had a wash cloth by the bed that I held under his mouth, then threw on the floor and went back to sleep. It was a rough night. In the morning, we arrived in Bermuda. Now, I had been looking forward to Bermuda. I love traveling. We planned to spend the morning shopping and the afternoon at the beach. What could be better? Well, for one, sleep. I took Dominic to the Clinic, where they said he had the flu. Huh? The flu? The only symptom he had was vomiting. He had no other symptom. But, since they diagnosed him with the flu, he was confined to his cabin for 48 hours. Okay, this is a 3 day cruise. The first day was really 1/2 a day and that was already over. So...he was going to have to spend the rest of the cruise quarantined. Since Dominic was only 3 years old, this meant that one of the adults was quarantined, too. Since I had gotten NO sleep the night before, that meant me. Nobody was allowed to leave the ship. Since no one else had shown signs of sickness, they were allowed to leave the cabin. Dominic and I spent most of the day sleeping.
Fast forward to Thursday night. Gary is sick. In and out of the bathroom. Same symptoms, but not as bad. He didn't go to the clinic the next day. I remembered to give Gabriel his Dramamine BEFORE the ship left shore that night, so we had no seasickness.
On Friday, we were allowed to leave the ship and go to the beach, since we were on Disney's private island. However, everyone was so tired and weak, we only stayed for an hour (long enough to eat) before we went back to our cabin.
At about 7, we get a call from the kids' zone, Gabriel's not feeling well. We go to get him, and what happens? Gabriel throws up right in the middle of the floor just as I got there. Poor kid. Thinking I didn't give him his seasickness medicine in time, I take him back to our room to relax for a bit. By the time we got there, he was ready to be sick again. Then, Xavier got sick. It was all night. They were in and out of the bathroom all night long. Close to morning, Gabriel stopped throwing up. Xavier, however, was still throwing up when the morning came. Gary carried Xavier to the clinic, where they gave him a shot. He will tell anyone who listens that while a shot in the buttocks hurts a lot, it's better than throwing up!
So, by this point, Dominic is feeling better, Gary is exhausted from taking care of the boys all night long (Thank you, Gary!) and neither Gabriel nor Xavier can walk unsupported. We had to stand in line to go through customs and that was not fun for Gabriel and Xavier. When we got to the airport, we realized that we were about 3 hours early. The cruise lines had recommended that we not get a flight until after noon to accommodate unexpected delays. That is great advice, but we had two boys in wheel chairs who were too weak to open their eyes, a husband that was exhausted, a 3 year old that needed to run, and a mom that just wanted to have everyone home. We paid the change fee to get everyone on an earlier flight that left 20 minutes after we got to the gate. Yay!
We got to Baltimore and realized that, of course, our luggage is NOT coming in on our flight. Not a big deal, we're home. Wait, our keys were in the luggage. What? Who would do a stupid thing like that? An exhausted man who's brain is doing well to walk and talk, that's who! I had a free rental car certificate with me that I had just gotten in the mail before we left. Gary took it and got us a rental car. Now, I say it was free, but since he had to rent a car seat, and since we didn't know when he would be able to return it...
While we waited for Gary to come back with the car, Gabriel and Xavier sat in wheel chairs while Dominic romped. It was December in Baltimore and a bit chilly. We were all in short sleeves without jackets because those were locked in the van. Why? Because I knew that we were going to get right into the car when we got back. Why would we need to take them with us? So, there we were; I was worrying that I was going to miss Gary in his pass around the airport, because it is taking him so long. So, I took all the kids (that means pushing 2 wheelchairs) outside to watch for him. When everyone is nice and cold, I took them back inside, and like any good mother, leave them there while I go back outside to watch for Gary. Unfortunately, I could't watch for Gary and stare through the window at the boys at the same time, so I just went back inside. While we were waiting, 3 people, 2 from the airport and 1 traveler, took it upon themselves to tell me that those wheelchairs were for people who need them, not for children to play in. At this point, I was so stressed, I really wanted to go off on them, but instead I calmly told them that, contrary to their uninformed opinions, my children do need them because they were sick all night and CANNOT walk. So, please, go away. Okay, forget about the good intentioned interferers. Finally, I see Gary walking up. Smart man. Apparently, Baltimore doesn't have rental cars on site, so he had to ride the bus off site, get the car and return. Then, being the highly intelligent man that he is, he parked the car and came to get us. Too bad we hadn't arranged that beforehand! LOL
Well, that's the story. It is the only Christmas I can remember where everyone slept past 9. All I can say is, if you knew us, you would know, that while this was the worst cruise possible, we all really enjoy telling this story. It is probably the best vacation story we will ever have. Which makes it a great cruise!
Was it relaxing? Not really. Was it funny? By the time we got home, it was. Will my husband ever go on a cruise again? Probably not. Which is really too bad, I really miss shipboard life. I miss being out on the ocean, surrounded by water, in the dark, feeling like I'm the only person around... Oh, back to the story.
I still don't think it was the flu. I have a nonexistent immune system. If someone sneezes 3 miles away, I get their cold. Yet, I was holding my son's spit in my hand, and believe me, I had stopped jumping up and washing my hands after a while, and I never got sick. This illness really acted like food poisoning. Since the stuff my husband and kids were eating almost always upsets my glass stomach, I was eating other stuff.... So... It doesn't matter. The lesson here is: Always get the travel insurance. They refunded us the portion of the cruise for myself and Dominic because we were quarantined. If Gary had gotten quarantined, his would have been refunded as well.