Okay, okay, okay. I give up. In response to several requests, inlcuding one from a community leader, here's the first installment. I include an edited version of what I put in the other thread. Over the next several days, I'll post more.
But I warn you. I don't write these things. They basically write themselves. I just conjugate a few verbs and decline a few pronouns, which I subsequently edit. I started writing the thing in Notepad but exceeded the maximum size for that application. So I cut and pasted it to a word document. In the latter application, between booking and dessert after the first meal, it occupies 14 pages. Someone said look at it as if I'm writing a book. Indeed, that may well be the case. Here goes
The Obsession: A First Cruise Story
by The Seahunks
I have been a maritime geek my whole life but it took a long, long time to go on my first cruise. When the money was there, time was not. When time was there, money was not. By the time both time and money were in sufficient measure to consider cruising, I made a disturbing discovery. My wife of two years was not only afraid of the mode, it made her deathly ill. The discovery was made during a tentative, pre-cruise offshore fishing trip. Had she not gotten seasick, I would have suggested a cruise vacation. So cruising was put on hold indefinitely, except for short excursions, lasting at most a few hours.
Imagine my surprise last April, eleven years after the distressing, but quite stunning, Technicolor epiphany. Her High School class was planning a cruising reunion. In the course of discussing their cruising experience, they managed to sell her on the idea. I had avoided the suggestion for years. Shock of shocks, she booked!
I remember well the day. She called me from her office to tell me she had made the down payment.
"Get on the web and search Carnival Sensation. Let me know what you find out."
That was all the information she had at that point, besides the date--February 8. A quick entry on dogpile got me pages of information. I called her back.
"Carnival is the cruise line. Sensation is the name of the ship. She’s eight hundred fifty five feet long, 104 feet wide. Ten decks, complete with saunas, pools, innumerable bars and lounges, one deck is practically all casino. Starting in August, she'll sail out of Tampa."
"It's a sailboat?" she asked.
"No. Sail is a generic term for going out to sea. She's powered like a train, diesel-electric."
"The diesel engines turn generators. The generators feed electricity to some huge motors.
The motors..." I was giving her much more information than she wanted. She stopped me short.
"Does it have those things that prevent seasickness?"
"Someone at the class website said it had something that keeps it from rocking."
"Oh, roll stabilizers. Yeah, I think all modern ships have those."
"Okay. Maybe it won't be so bad then."
"I'm sure it won't. Most people who've been on cruises have told me that you don't even feel the waves unless they're really big."
"If we're going to have big waves, don't tell me!"
I had already avoided telling her the ship was 27 feet shorter than Titanic.
"I'll check what kind of weather to expect for that part of the sea in February."
She repeated, slowly for emphasis "If...we're...going...to...have...big...waves. .."
"All right, I won't tell you, then."
"Okay. I appreciate it."
So began my 10 months of anticipation. When I wasn't at work, I was online reading, nay, devouring, every morsel of information I could find about the ship. It wasn't just photos and deck plans. There were maps and online brochures about our pending ports of call. They were interesting, even tantalizing.
But my obsession was the ship, itself. I just couldn't find out enough about her. It was love before first sight! Sensation became for me not just THE ship, she was MY ship.
I read innumerable reviews about her. I found that I couldn't tolerate negative reviews, attributing critiques of her to the intellectual limitations of the authors. I completely dismissed some reviews merely on the basis of misspellings. Other reviews I dismissed on the attitude of the writer. Over time, the only credible reviews I found were all positive. Such was my bias.
I even researched the shipping lanes of Tampa Bay. I went as far as buying a handheld GPS, software, and computer interfaces so I could see the details of our departure route. It was all in the software, down to the buoys that marked the channels. I even planned to take the GPS on the cruise with me so I could know the exact moment I made my first foray into the tropics.
Living as far as we do from the port, there was also the road trip to plan. The GPS and its software even came in handy for planning the route. Within a month of booking the cruise, we had all the hotel reservations we would need.
When traveling to Florida, I always take the eastern route down I-77 to I-26; I-26 to I-95; I-95 into the Sunshine State. Most of the trip is through scenic countryside and mountains, only sparsely interrupted by malls. I call it the male route. Point A to point B, fewer shops equals fewer stops.
Only once have I taken the female route (locally, aka the Disney route) that actually passes through Tampa, I-75, and that was enough. I had taken that trip in June, when weather was decent, and the traffic completely counteracted any anticipated convenience of the routing. At every other exit, it seemed, there was a mall. And at every mall were 4 or 5 cars that had to immediately cross every lane of traffic because, I suspected, the wife in each car had seen an ad for one store or another. No way would I drive that route in the dead of winter, when weather becomes an additional hazard. In all my winter trips down I-77 I had never seen a storm along the route, while I-75 always seemed socked in by fog, ice, blizzards, or chain reaction pileups. Getting to the port via Jacksonville would mean a few additional miles, but they would only serve as pre-cruise appetizers.
I programmed the GPS with the intended route, time flagging various points along the way. The flags would give us an idea of how accurate the mapping program was. We planned to spread the road trip over two days, arriving in Tampa the day before we sailed. At some point on arrival day, we would drive to the cruise terminal to avoid getting lost amid the excitement of embarkation. We also planned to have dinner that night at the home one of my wife's classmates who lived in Tampa.
Within a week of our departure date, we decided to change to our route. We would leave a day earlier, spend the night in Charleston, WV and get an early jump on our original departure date. In addition, we would follow a US route for the first leg, rather than Interstate all the way. I reprogrammed and re-flagged the original route.
After too many months of anticipation, and research, D-day finally arrived. We would sail on Saturday but that was miles away.
On Tuesday night, we took a last look at what we had packed. We re-zipped and re-latched all 4 suitcases, and loaded them into the Jeep. On Wednesday morning, we arose early. Chris would work half a day. I would drive her to work, then run to the bank and take care of other pre-cruise errands. I noticed she was already wearing her Transderm patch as I dropped her off in front of her office.
The symptoms of my maritime geekiness have always found their way into expression, even in my advanced adulthood. For example, I always name my cars. The first, a rust-bucket, I named "Proud Mary." The second I named "Southern Cross." When I could finally afford a new car, I named it "Cana Virgo," the Gray Virgin, since that was her color and I was her first owner. My current car was the only exception to the string, because I didn’t know what to call it. This trip provided the name. Since the Jeep was carrying us to a ship, I named it the “Blue Launch.”
I guess I would be too normal if my geekiness stopped at naming cars. But, oh no, it has to go farther. When I drive on long trips, for example, I don’t make turns, I change course. And then, there’s the ritual: Every time I begin a coast bound trip, as I stick the key in the ignition, I quote Ishmael in Moby Dick. "I account it high time to get to sea as soon as I can."
My wife has gotten quite used to those salty quirks over the years. She smiles indulgently as I start the car every time we go to the beach, or to Charleston, or to Savannah. But, since this trip was going well beyond our customary destinations, I delayed the mantra. It would wait until we were driving to the terminal on embarkation day.
I picked up Chris at noon. As she fastened her seatbelt, I started the engine and reached down to the GPS. I pulled up the routes menu and selected the route most recently added to our itinerary, 02_05_2003. And our trip began. At the end of the drive, a few days hence, I’d be meeting my other woman. The little calculator-sized box down next to the gearshift would show me how to find her.
It was a beautiful day for driving, cold and gusty, but clouds were sparse. After driving 45 miles down US 23, the GPS signaled our first turn. A few miles before, we had entered the rolling hills that form the northern piedmont of the Appalachians. A few
miles east of us, we could see Mt. Logan. Ancestral buckeyes had thought so much of that peak that it’s incorporated as the major of theme of Ohio’s official seal.
“Stand by for new course,” I said aloud as we approached the entrance to US 35.
“Steady as she goes,” as I felt a slight buffet from the wind. The freeway ended and the road became a smooth two-lane highway. Through the bare-branched trees on either side of us, we could see frozen waterfalls, glistening in the midday sun. Sixty miles of mini-glaciers. We were leaving them behind for the promise of coconut palms and coral.
We crossed the Ohio River 15 minutes ahead of schedule. Then it was 30 miles along the Kanawha, occasionally passing large tows of coal. By the time we reached our first hotel, the new route had saved us 45 minutes. We ate dinner at a local restaurant with some friends who live in the area. Then it was early to bed, the earlier to rise. And the miles and the evening were the first day.