To trip or not to trip

I hate the last week of March, it has such strong memories and my emotions are quite unpredictable at times.  My wedding anniversary was March 24th, and more pointedly Kevin died on March 29th – two heart rending events that I still mourn.  I know I go a little offside at this time, and so I have booked the week off work to save my peers the agony of having to deal with me, and to save me face since I know I go a little nutty.  The plan, when I booked the time off, was to travel someplace, anyplace just to take my mind off things.

This leads to my current dilemma.  After my last outing (November 2017) on the cruise, I didn’t fare so well.  Got sick day one and actually stayed sick until Christmas. A head cold that morphed into the real-deal flu (despite my flu shot prior to the cruise) and then on to pneumonia.  After this experience, I told my sister, who is my travelling partner, that I had no plans to go anywhere by plane or by ship for a while.  A staycation was what I was going to do in March.  Well a few days of minus 30 degrees Celsius weather had put paid to that.  My sister suspected the extreme chill might change my mind and had sent me a few emails highlighting some sunny warm resorts.  Now I find myself scanning the all inclusives, looking to spend that week someplace warm.

And so it is decision time:  where to go?  I am leaning towards Cuba.  I’ve been there a few times before and am favouring it because of the beautiful beaches and the fairly consistent good weather.  I recall from previous vacations there that the food was not spectacular, and the hotels rate themselves a little more generously than I would (a four star in Cuba is more like a three star in the Dominican and Barbados).  However, it is a direct flight and there are a few good hotel chains located there. I want an all-inclusive where the biggest decision I make in the morning is whether to lay by the pool or out on the beach.  And where nobody cares if the woman in the lounge chair behaves  a little peculiarly – they just figure I may have had a bit too much to drink.

Will I pick up a bug on the plane? Maybe, but at least this time I will have packed a small stash of remedies to see me through!

The Cruise

This was my fourth time cruising.  All three previous cruises had been with Carnival.  The last one had been an unmitigated disaster on Carnival’s behalf and really was off putting.  Rather than let one rather lack lustre cruise line ruin the whole experience, we had decided to try a different cruise line.  We chose Norwegian.

Preferring to cruise out of Miami we were somewhat restricted in our selection, but no matter, we had decided on the Caribbean and selected the ship, the Getaway.  On paper and in brochures it looked lovely.  I was good for one more try at cruising as a vacation mode, having reasoned that Carnival was entry level, Norwegian had to be better.

I was a little concerned initially, Norwegian’s embarkation process was not smooth, it was disorganized.  It turned out that there was an equipment malfunction which made registration of patrons slow.  They weren’t good about communication in this regard, leaving us about ten minutes at the registration desk wondering if our little lady had gone on break.  Once that was sorted out it was upstairs to a waiting area.  Then once our number was called, onto the ship.

It was a pleasant surprise.  The ship is not quite three years old.  It sparkled, the windows were clear, the floors shone.  Clean was the first word to come into my mind.  Carnival’s ships always felt worn and tired without that clean sparkle.  So score one for Norwegian.  We couldn’t go to our cabin yet, so off for a bite to eat.  The buffet was enormous, but to get to it you had to go through a hand sanitizer station.  Mandatory and nice (not that it helped me unfortunately, but it definitely helped everyone else), to go near the food you had to have your hands spritzed. Certain stations were self serve, but others, particularly the ice cream station, were served out by a member of the staff.  No one touched the cones with their bare hands until it was handed to you.  This impressed me.

Then there was the overall layout of the ship – it felt spacious.  There was room between tables in the dining areas and spacious walkways around the ship.  Tons of stuff for kids to do, there was no need for them to be around the adult pool because there were water slides, a kids pool, lots of stuff.  For those not wanting the noise of the main adult pool they offered a quiet retreat one deck above.  I don’t want to sound like a brochure, but I was impressed.

The only problem, and it was annoying, seems to be poor administrative communication from head office.  Here’s how this looked for my group.  My sister had bought two on board credits prior to the cruise.  Two $100USD credits or $200USD.  She had brought her paperwork, she’d purchased the credits well before the cruise date.  They weren’t in her onboard account when she checked in.  We went to the client service desk and were told no problem sometimes it takes a day.  Give it time.  After a couple of days went by it was apparent it wasn’t going to show up.  We went to the service desk armed with the papers.  Apparently during the conversion process, a penny went missing.  Head office advised the ship’s customer service desk that my sister hadn’t bought $200, instead she had bought $199.99, she owed a penny before the funds could be transferred, but they were willing to write it off, and graciously put $200 USD in her onboard account.  Not good.

Second story – again with head office involvement.  My coworker was on the same cruise and it became a bit of a joke as the days passed as to whether or not her room key would be suspended for debts owing.  It had been a schmazel for them as well when registering to board the ship, and the clerk setting them up with their sign and sail cards had neglected to obtain a credit card to put against the account.  No worry they had prepaid everything -gratuities, alcohol package, dining package, stateroom, everything was paid. One would think.  Apparently, while the ship is docked at the port of Miami any alcohol served is subject to another tax that isn’t covered in the alcohol package – about 76 cents per drink.  My coworker had a drink or two.  The tax went on her onboard account, there was no credit card associated with it.  Her room key, which is the sail and sign card would be locked – which meant she couldn’t get into her room.  Anyway by day 3 or 4 I think they had it sorted out.

Would I travel Norwegian again, sure thing.  But I would be prepared to bring copies of every bit of supporting paper with me relating to what I had prepaid for the cruise since their administrative services are not as professional as one would expect. Would I travel Carnival again – not a hope.  The last trip on Carnival left me feeling like I’d been duped out of my money: substandard room, aging ship, poor onboard service, just disappointing.

 

 

What came first, the cold or the cruise?

So much to write about, but where to start?  Let’s start with the flu shot.  I had a cruise booked from November 12 to 19. Out of Miami, and miraculously none of the four ports we were scheduled to stop at had been decimated by hurricanes, typhoons or other acts of God.  What a lovely thought, kicking off winter going some place warm, but I had to get there first.  That meant exposure, germs, coughing, sneezing, slimey little bacteria lurking to nab an innocent victim.

It was a bit early for the flu shot, but I tracked it down – available at a local clinic.  The clinic was open for seniors and immune compromised individuals.  I spoke to my doctor to get in and get the shot, explaining my travel plans.  Fortunately she agreed with me, I needed the flu shot, my history indicated that I don’t travel well.  Three weeks before my cruise I was in and vaccinated.  Take that, evil germs!

I got the shot on a Friday after work, by that night I was feeling awful.  My shoulder really hurt.  The next morning, full of aches and pains I decided maybe I was one of the unlucky ones to experience a more severe reaction.  Oh, well better the suffering before the cruise than on the cruise.  By the next Monday, I was okay, felt a little under the weather but got through the week.  By the next weekend I felt awful again, body aches and pains, a headache, those normal seasonal things that working in a large office exposes one to.  By the end of the week heading into the cruise I was pumped, felt great.  Ready to go, confident that I had dealt with all the stuff that I now associated with that flu shot.  It was worth it to ensure I was in optimal shape for travelling.

Itinerary:  Friday – drive to Toronto and stay overnight at the airport, Saturday – depart Toronto to Miami where we’d overnight and on Sunday pick up the cruise.  A nice leisurely, stress free, relaxed approach to getting from point A to point B.  Not without risk of germs though, flying has always been the most likely place for me to pick up something.

I was travelling with my sisters – one was healthy, one was germy, also a significant risk for obvious reasons. No fear, I had my flu shot.  I was taking immune boosters, I was going into this trip feeling good, I had this.  Nope.  By Sunday night, the first night of the cruise I started to feel awful. By Tuesday I’d lost my sense of taste and couldn’t breathe.  By Thursday, I had my taste back but had started coughing.  By the time it got to the weekend I was dreaming, or was it hallucinating, about my brass bed and my bathtub. I just wanted to be home.

I always bring some supplies with me when I travel, but nothing touched this.  The ship’s store had no supplies to speak of, and the ports we stopped in had all sorts of available medication – but I didn’t know what I needed.  I had a friend on the same cruise with me.  Thank God!  Not only did she bring stuff, but she brought essential oils to use.  Unfortunately the cough, cold, flu whatever had gripped me too fast but at least I could knock myself out with sinus medication.

So here I sit, at home just writing about this now.  Why, because it didn’t end there.  I managed to go into work the Tuesday after I got back and squeaked out the week.  By last Friday I was in the throes of a high fever, aches and pains, extreme fatigue and nausea.  I decided to stay home Monday and heal, nope got worse.  Yesterday I visit the doctor.  A miracle really, because her office was actually closed, she was doing paperwork, but they squeezed a few people in, and I was one of the lucky ones.  The result – “No point in swabbing you now,” says the doctor, “You’ve had this for a bit.  It sounds like the flu, it’s here in the community, but something else is going on there.  Sinus infection.  And to be safe let’s get a chest X-ray while you’re here.  Yes, you’re contagious until the fever goes away and the cough stops.  Bed rest, I’ll call you when I get the x-ray back.”

Today, she called me about the x-ray.  Pneumonia.  Why not?

About the Cruise

The cruise last month was my third one in the past 12 months.  All three have been with Carnival.  Carnival is considered to be an entry level cruise line or so I am told.  Regardless of where they sit on the spectrum I have to say the food is stellar. Other things not so good.  Communication on board the ship has been an issue.  There’s nothing like travelling with your sister and having a honeymoon cake delivered to your dinner table complete with little chocolate hearts.  Or the towels made into little hearts on the bed.  The cabin steward didn’t believe me when I told her we weren’t a couple, we were sisters.  I got eyebrows raised in disbelief and a sympathetic smile suggesting I wasn’t ready to come out of the closet.

Ah, Carnival.  Lots of fodder to write about there.  The honeymoon mix up was only one of several things, but that’s to be expected I guess when you have 3000 guests in a confined space.  But on the cruise trying to get  cup of hot tea with milk became a personal challenge.  On one occasion a gentleman from an adjacent table, after watching me request the tea multiple times over a period of 20 minutes, finally ordered it for me from the same server. Guess what, it arrived in, oh, three minutes at most.  This wasn’t unique to one trip – I had the same problem for two out of three, hot tea apparently confounds them, as perhaps do women travelling alone.

I really don’t have anything to compare Carnival ‘s service to at this point, but I will by this time next year.  We have already booked a cruise with Norwegian for November of this year.  I think the intent is to always kick off the winter with a cruise (November) which is around the time of my sister’s birthday, and then kick out the winter blues with a cruise in February. Once I have put a little more distance from Kevin’s death in March 2015, I hope to find a way to go away that month too.  Our anniversary was the 24th and he died on the 29th.  It seems like a good idea to run away from reality that week.

Anyway, it will be interesting to compare the two cruise lines.  My understanding is that the staff to guest ratio is slightly better with Norwegian.  They also have a unique offering amongst all the lines – cabins for singles.  In a secure area, some with balconies – but geared to and priced for people travelling alone.  I haven’t booked one of these cabins since I am travelling with the sis, but who knows what the future holds, so it will be good to check it out. A bunch of us are planning on going – the more the merrier.

Invariably though I find I have a little weep when I am travelling.  It was Kevin’s passion to travel.  I doubt he would have had any interest in travelling by cruise ship, they are just too restrictive.  Even the food wouldn’t have been enough.  But it suits me fine, I am not the most adventurous and there’s plenty to do aboard the boat.  And there are lots of cruise lines.  I’ll just keep going as long as I have someone to travel with.

Invisible Attack

I left for my vacation healthy as can be.  The week leading up to my flight I was supplementing with Vitamin C and taking Reishi drops in water.  All designed to protect the immune system and send me off on my trip in tip top form.  When I had packed for the trip I made the conscious decision not to take along all my supplements with me. I packed my usual ‘pill’ form supplements, but I didn’t pack any liquid ones.  I rationalized that I was in good shape, so likely could fend off anything that came my way.  I didn’t take the liquid Reishi — mistake.

When I boarded the plane on Tuesday I sat beside a man who was suffering, as he said, “from a dry throat.  Don’t worry, it’s just that I’m dry.”  He coughed for the entire three and a half hour flight.  Behind me there was a guy who had a persistent cough, but it sounded more like a smoker’s hack, and across from me one seat up, was a man who was busy blowing his nose, sneezing and generally looking feverish.  By a half hour into the flight I was completely neurotic – no doubt in my mind, nothing could stand up to these germs.  I started breathing through my tee-shirt, pulling it up over my nose to filter the air.  This position, however, is not sustainable for any length of time.

We landed in Miami and headed to our hotel.  I pumped some water, and mentally kicked myself for not bringing my Reishi drops – they work, at least for me they do.  I still felt okay, but knew that I had been subjected to a germ attack on the plane; I really needed to bolster my defenses.  The next morning I felt okay, but kept pumping lemon water to get my Vitamin C intake up.  A day later we boarded the ship – still doing okay, not sick yet.  One of the first activities once aboard is the muster drill – mandatory attendance – what to do in the event of an emergency.  Our station was in the library.  What luck, we got to sit with a woman who was in full blown head cold mode.  She hacked and sneezed and wheezed and blew.  She was considerate though, she didn’t sit with her friends, she didn’t want to make them sick, she sat with me and my sister.

It was inevitable by this stage.  I could almost hear my body groan with defeat.  The next morning I woke up with a very sore throat, stuffy nose and a bad attitude.  The exposure was just too much, and I didn’t have my Reishi!  I spent the next three days blowing my nose, snitching packets of honey and making lemon and honey hot drinks.

So it could have been the germs (highly likely), it could have been the fact that I finally relaxed (been stressed out for many, many months), it could have been that I did not get the flu shot this year,  it likely was a combination of the three.  All I know is that from the time Kevin got ill, until the day before I boarded the plane, I have been diligent in taking my supplements.  During that time I did not have a head cold or the flu, nothing.  Of course, while Kevin was alive I didn’t have the option, his immune system was completely compromised; germs were the enemy.   We took lots of supplements then.  I could never match his pill intake, it was enormous: painkillers, antacids, vitamins, blood thinners – it was crazy.  The vitamins and supplements that he took I took, and I never was sick during the whole eight months he was battling cancer.   During his illness I disinfected the house, the car, anything he came into contact with, constantly.  I screened visitors and some I turned away.  Those that entered, well, I still have at least a year’s worth of hand sanitizer in my cupboard.  It worked, for what it’s worth; neither he nor I came down with a cold or the flu.

Here I am back from the cruise, still coughing and sneezing.  I’ve started back on my Reishi and back on my alkaline drink in the morning.  My new twist is the hot toddy.  Ummm – it’s the only good thing about having a cold.