And not just because of the pandemic
On March 7th, we disembarked in Miami from a seven-day cruise. On March 8th, we got word that my mother was not well. She died that evening.
We started driving and reached home three days later. Visitations at the funeral home were scheduled for Friday; by then, we’d been home two days. That same morning, all Canadians who had been out of the country, including in the United States, were being urged to self-quarantine for a period of 2 weeks.
We made the difficult decision to not take part in the visitations. (I can’t think of another example where one is expected to line up and accept hugs and handshakes from 100 people, some of whom you barely know. ) We did attend the funeral but sat in the choir loft, far away from family and friends.
(Note: we don’t have any symptoms and the cruise we were on hasn’t reported anyone with the virus. Our self-isolation is out of concern for others and because we believe erring on the side of caution is the right thing to do.)
The funeral was more accurately a celebration of my mom’s life. She had lived an amazing 98 years and 4 months.
It would be easy to make this post about mom, an amazing woman, or about my grief, which is real, but I’m not going to do that. Mom wouldn’t want it. In the last few years, she often told my siblings and me that she didn’t want us to be sad when she died. She had enjoyed an amazingly long life and wanted us to celebrate it when it ended.
Because Randy and I have traveled for extended periods regularly over the last twenty years, I don’t think I need to explain how many times we have each said goodbye to our aging parents as if it might be the last time. Nothing was different when we took off for this trip in January. As always, mom wished us a safe trip and said, “Have fun and send me a postcard.”
But how did we end up on a cruise ship at this crazy time in history?
When we booked the cruise, the Corona Virus had affected only one continent – Asia. And we weren’t going to be anywhere near that part of the world, so no need for concern, right?
The day before our cruise left we learned of the first few cases reported in Europe and that a ship had been denied entry at several Caribbean ports of call because a crew member was sick – perhaps with Covid-19, perhaps something else.
So we boarded on February 29, thinking that was the worst-case scenario – missing some ports of call. The ship itself offers plenty of entertainment. Plus, luckily, we’d bought the drinks package!
We realized last year, when we went on our first-ever cruise, that the airfare (from Toronto) cost nearly as much as the cruise itself. Embarking on a cruise out of Florida when we are already down there would save us over $1200. With that in mind, we had been watching for several weeks to find the cruise we wanted.
We’d learned a few things from last year’s cruise and were anxious to put them to use.
This ship, the Norwegian Escape, was much larger than the one we were on last year – with many more options, venues, entertainment, and activities.
We avoided the extra-fee a la carte restaurants. Why go to them when the food in all four full-service restaurants that are included in the cruise package exceed our expectations? Menus change daily, you can order as many courses as you want, (even double up on entrees or replace it with something else if not happy). We found both the food and especially the service to be excellent. There’s also a 24-hour-per-day buffet (although we didn’t eat there at all).
Ports of call: Roatan, Belize, Costa Maya, Cozumel
We missed the Costa Maya stop, not because of virus concerns, but the seas were too rough to dock that day. We chose this cruise in part for the ports – all of them are known for excellent snorkeling – often accessible from shore. We brought our own snorkeling equipment and hired a taxi to take us to the reef and back. This worked well and was much cheaper than any of the snorkeling excursions offered by the cruise line.
What we’d do differently next time:
I’m sure the cruise industry (and hopefully we) will survive the current pandemic and this won’t be our last cruise. Yes, we would try to take advantage of tying a cruise into an RV trip again. But we won’t book if there’s a new viral outbreak – even it’s just on the other side of the world as this one was when we booked. Even more important than a last-minute deal on rates, this may now be the most important reason for booking only a week or two in advance.
Next time, we’ll choose a cruise departing from a smaller port. Tampa or Port Canaveral if we’re in Florida. Driving in Miami isn’t much fun on the best days and parking is expensive, especially for RVs. We paid the regular car rate of $22 per night in the port parking lot, which was really our only reasonable option. An RV longer than ours (19 feet) will cost double.
We were glad that we had planned ahead and lined up this sweet Boondockers Welcome host location as our stop on the day we left the ship. It was comforting to be here (with friends) when that call with the sad news about mom came from home.
The next postcard I planned to send mom was to highlight the fun of the cruise. I guess I won’t be sending it now. Instead, I’m dedicating this – what has turned out to be the final blog post of this trip – to her.
Mom, maybe in your new “forever” home you’ll appreciate a blog post more than a postcard anyway. After all, this will be hosted on “the cloud” – which I imagine will be easier for you to access now than it used to be.
In closing, Randy and I are very grateful to be home to weather these very uncertain times. Grateful, too, that we managed to get almost 2/3 or our trip in before we had to end it. But what I’m most grateful for is a mom who was with us for such a long time, maintaining a cheerful, optimistic view of life until the end. By her example, we will do the same to get us through this crisis.
- Total days on the road this trip: 42
- Total camping costs to date: $60.00