I’ve always maintained that getting back home is always the best part of any vacation to me. It’s not that I don’t have fun travelling, because I do. It’s more that I enjoy getting back to my place, to my stuff, to my dogs. Perhaps you understand.
This time that feeling was even stronger, though.
This was the third cruise we’ve been on. A different ship this time. The first two were on the Carnival Breeze, which sailed out of Galveston, Texas, at the time. This one was on the Carnival Glory, which was a smaller ship. Perhaps an older ship as well. I haven’t looked it up, but it felt and looked older to me. The Glory sailed out of New Orleans, Louisiana, instead of Galveston.
We went to the same places we went two years ago. Jamaica, the Cayman Islands, and Cozumel. To date, these are the only places we’ve been to on a cruise. They are nice enough, I suppose, but if I ever go on another cruise (which is currently in doubt) I’d like to go to new places.
As before, we travelled with an old friend from Target and her sister. This time, we were joined by one of our friend’s good friends (whom I’d never met) and her daughter, along with the daughter’s fiancée. More people, more fun, right? Eh, not always. Our friend’s friend was a narcissist and a controller, and, not to make snap judgments about people, I found her mostly reprehensible. The ship had to make an unplanned stop at the Caymans on the way to Jamaica so that a passenger who had a medical emergency could be taken for treatment (the planned itinerary was Jamaica/Caymans/Cozumel). This friend-of-a-friend made the comment that she couldn’t understand why the rest of us had to be inconvenienced because of one person. Even if she hadn’t proven herself to be an off-putting person every other minute I was around her, this would have been enough to form my opinion of her. I also didn’t like the way she treated my friend. The daughter and fiancée were all right, though.
I’m getting ahead of myself, though. If I believed in omens (sometimes I do), I would have known how this trip was going to go even before we left home. Sharon and I have been bickering since before we began the drive to New Orleans. In fact, the only time we haven’t was when we weren’t talking to each other. Try to imagine how pleasant that is for an eight-hour drive, followed by seven full days without even a Netflix connection, and then another long journey back. Oh, there were times when we weren’t at each other’s throats (metaphorically speaking), but they were the exception.
Sharon thinks her medications are causing her to become depressed, with accompanying mood swings and displays of paranoia and temper. I’ve reached the point where I hope that’s true, and think we should discuss this with at least one of her doctors. Which, by the way, was something I shouldn’t have vocably agreed with, as it turns out.
Don’t get me wrong. I love my wife dearly. We’ve been together twenty years. If you’ve ever been in a long-term relationship, you can probably relate to what we’ve had to endure this past week. I hate to fight. As a natural born introvert, I’m more likely to retreat to my own thoughts and bite my tongue to keep from saying the wrong things (which was, amazingly, almost everything). My wife, however, is much more extroverted than I am, and likes to put her feelings into words. All of her feelings. And a lot of words. As you may imagine, these personal inclinations are not conducive to a productive argument.
Even though the bickering started at home, it wasn’t helped by the fact that we were caught in a traffic jam on the I-30 bridge for about an hour early in our journey to New Orleans. We hadn’t even gotten across the Arkansas River into Little Rock. It didn’t set the tone of our car ride, but it provided a percussive backbeat.
When we arrived in Westwego, Louisiana, where we spent the night before boarding the ship the following morning, we ran into a Mardi Gras parade. Yes, we were travelling to New Orleans during Mardi Gras, another genius move. I know, you’re probably thinking that this sounds like a magical moment. Sharon and I have run into parades during our travels before. It’s sort of our thing. It’s happened in Eureka Springs, Arkansas. In Idaho Springs, Colorado. Galveston, Texas. Other places I can’t remember. And now, on the outskirts of New Orleans. A nice, colorful, raucous parade that had traffic backed up in every direction. We got to end our trip to board the ship the same way we kicked it off: In a traffic jam.
Considering the circumstances, not magical at all.
Then, the next day. We had a suite, so that afforded us an early boarding time. We had checked our luggage, which unburdened us somewhat. While Sharon is ambulatory, her MS has necessitated her using a cane most of the time these days. As you may know, MS can be exacerbated by stress. Travelling and bickering are excellent ingredients for stress, as it turns out, so I had to be by her side whenever she went anywhere during the week. I vowed to be there for her in sickness and in health, and I always will be. However, it’s not the greatest place to be when you’re in the middle of a squabble. All week.
I agreed to participate in whatever excursions we had planned, but all I really wanted to do was spend some time near a bar, in the sunshine, with a good book. I didn’t think that was asking too much. Not much of that happened on this trip. Not only was I joined at the hip with my quarrelsome wife most of the time, the weather didn’t really cooperate, and on the second day I accidentally erased all of the books I had loaded into my Kindle Fire.
I know, right?
Fortunately, I was only book-less for a single day. Turns out my wife had paid for the premium internet plan for both of us for the entire week. She wanted to keep up with all the current goings-on on Facebook, which is important to her. The single use I got out of the whole expensive deal was the ability to go online to Amazon and download my books again. I didn’t figure that out on my own. Our old friend’s sister is an IT person (I think she even teaches classes at one of the Little Rock colleges), and she talked me through it. It was a beautiful moment, being able to use my Kindle again.
Sure, the water at each port was beautiful, and the beaches were wonderful, blah, blah, blah. No comparison. Downloading my books again was my single brightest moment during the trip.
The week itself was more of the same. Strained personal dynamics, not just between me and Sharon, but between the other members of our group as well. Go figure. We ate a lot, drank a lot, went ashore a couple of times, took advantage of various on-board entertainment options, including karaoke.
I brought home a couple of cheap trophies for winning trivia contests. One was for Famous Movie Quotes, which I honestly expected to win since my brain tends to collect such things. That contest still had to go to a tie-breaker, which was the answer to “We all go a little mad sometimes,” to which my otherwise-worthy opponent answered “The Hulk.” I’m not going to insult you by giving you the right answer. The second trivia trophy was for I Love Lucy trivia. I got only 11-of-20 questions correct, and still won. Knowing that Lucy Ricardo’s maiden name was McGillicuddy probably put me over the top. Why I can remember that stupid factoid, I can’t explain.
My old work friend and I also won a Beer Pong competition against seven other teams. No trophy for that one, just a pitcher of beer. Considering we paid seven dollars each to enter the competition, not really much more than bragging rights. Of course, the seven other pairs paid the same amount and got nothing. So, there’s that.
By the way, this was the first time I ever played Beer Pong. I wasn’t a saint when I was young, of course, but our drinking games were Quarters and Thumper. Occasionally, “Hi, Bob.” It’s also the last time I plan to play. I’m going to retire as a Beer Pong champion.
Oh, there were moments of happiness during the week, of course. Today, however, these moments seemed to be overshadowed by all the wretchedness of the week. Plus, did you know that the kids in New Orleans get a week off from school for Mardi Gras? Me neither. Guess where a lot of New Orleans parents decided to take their kids for the week? Yes, you guessed it.
I like kids, I feel I should add. Being trapped on a ship with a bunch of them is, however, not one of my favorite things. It’s why I haven’t gone on a Disney-themed cruise.
You may have gathered that this hasn’t been one of my favorite vacations. I return to work the day after tomorrow, and I don’t feel rested at all. I also have a Gordian knot of anxiety in my shoulders and neck. It will pass, but probably not before my vacation is entirely over.
Meanwhile, I continue to walk on eggshells around my wife. That, too, will pass. Rationally, I know this, but that doesn’t alter how I feel at the moment. If I’m being completely honest with you—and you can believe I am—I feel a little angry that I spent great wads of cash for the experience of this week, including enough to kennel my dogs that would have covered a week at a hotel. Since my wife is disabled, I am the only one of us who works, which suggests that this vacation was at least 60% mine, I’d say.
Well, I’d write it anyway. I’m smart enough to know not to say it.
And she’ll probably never read this, right?
What am I currently looking forward to? Not doing this again.