Practicing Cruise Control

Published 12:00 am Wednesday, March 10, 2004

Family Ties – Mary Ann Fitzmorris

Over the Mardi Gras holiday the Fitzmorris family took a cruise. A cruise to nowhere. It was not billed as a cruise to nowhere, it just turned out that way.

In the course of the week, it was sometimes hard to figure out where the ship was going, but many passengers had definite theories about where the cruise was from. About mid-week, one guy used a black marker to alter his happy group-themed tee shirt. It read: “The cruise from Hell.”

Events that were un-forseen, unavoidable, and unfortunately tragic conspired to thwart the trip in ways that became comical – for those who chose to keep a sense of humor. But what could be expected of something that began so disastrously?

We received a call from our travel agent the evening before we were to leave, advising us of the accident which closed the river. Our departure was on standby.

The following morning she called again to tell us to proceed as scheduled.

We arrived at the cruise terminal which was designed to move lots of passengers through. It was not meant for lots of people to set a spell. A very long spell.

Shortly before noon our group was moved to the back door, presumably to board a bus to take us to the ship. After standing in that line for about an hour, our travel agent approached with a mischievous smile and led us to a bus. We should have been suspicious since we were the only ones leaving the terminal.

After sitting comfortably for thirty minutes, the driver explained that our travel agent tried to circumvent the unhappy fate which awaited everyone else, but the Coast Guard wouldn’t allow us to leave.

Then he was quiet. He stared at us uncomfortably. We stared back. Finally,

I tried to help him, since he looked a little scared. “So, we need to get off the bus?” I asked.

“Yes,” he said carefully.

We went back into the terminal with everyone else. Nothing had changed except that other people were now in our seats. Buses were scheduled to leave at 2:00, then 5:00, then 9:00. With each disappointment, the crowd grew more desperate. There was trouble getting buses because of Mardi Gras.

Drivers were caught in traffic. School buses showed up. By late evening I would have jumped on a scooter if one had come.

At 10:00 p.m. we left on the second bus. I feared an angry mob would materialize by the wee hours of the morning. The following day people who arrived on the boat at 6:00 a.m. confirmed my suspicions about what can happen to large hoards of frustrated people.

The ship finally sailed a day late, immediately presenting another disappointment. The boat rocked far more than I’d noticed on two previous cruises. A boy told me that of his sixteen cruises, this one was second roughest: right behind a cruise near a hurricane.

I was eager to get off the boat. We dumped the first port of call because of our late start. I awoke gleeful the morning of our second port of call.

As I danced down the hall singing about getting off the ship, the cruise director announced that rough seas would prevent us from our scheduled stop. Then he offered us more bingo and reminded us that we were on vacation. I’m surprised no one threw him overboard.

As that announcement was made, my son and I noticed the emergency lights were lit in the hallway. They were probably testing them, just in case, we giggled.

Another day at sea gave my daughter a chance to eat more ice cream cones.

Near gale winds blew an ice cream cone onto her favorite shirt, requiring an emergency trip to the laundry. It was the high point of my day.

The following day we finally did get to one island. It was paradise.

The next day the cruise ended. As we waited to disembark I chatted with some of the crew members who were Eastern Euro-pean. They believed that the cruise was “destiny.”

“You mean cursed?” I asked.

“Yes,” was their universal reply.

We chatted about how bizarre it all was. One of them summed it up positively. He smiled and said,

“No one died!”

Now there’s a slogan we probably won’t see on any travel brochures.