Remember that cruise I was set to teach on? You know, the one heading to the Caribbean in OCTOBER!!? Hurricane season??? Well we went and had a wonderful time, which I’ll tell you about in a future post. But first, let me tell you about the wild adventure we had on the day of departure. I realize that this is a long story but one that promises all of the excitement and terrror of a best-selling novel (not really).
When we got to Port Canaveral where our ship, Freedom of the Seas (Royal Caribbean), was docked, I noticed all of the palm trees blowing quite strongly, and within minutes of standing in line in the open wind, my mass of hair was one big tangle.
We boarded around 1:30pm after a very organized process of moving thousands of people – how do they do that so well? During our muster (standing on deck learning about emergency procedures) it was getting even windier. There were 2 other ships at port – here’s the Disney Mickey.
Our quilting group was scheduled for the first dinner seating at 6pm. By then, we all looked like that commercial where the woman is walking at a tilt because she needs more fiber in her diet.
We enjoyed meeting our waiters and having a yummy appetizer and main course, although the side-to-side rolling was getting more severe. We were seated near the starboard side windows in a huge dinning room that seats about 2000 guest at a time. There was lightning at a constant pace (every few seconds), and the waves were crashing up against the windows (getting more exciting by the minute). You can watch this short YouTube video from that time.
We’d been mostly rolling to the left, but then we started having even deeper rolls to the right and the stacks of dishes at the wait stations started crashing to the floor, and the service carts the wait staff was using to clear dishes started crashing into tables, dumping their contents on the floor. Waiters were being pushed around, one near us ended up sprawled over a neighboring table.
There was a weird hush as announcements were made over the loudspeakers telling us not to worry, but at the same time, many of the frightened young children were crying out in fear. Many people were having nausea issues (if you get my drift) and some were being wheelchaired out of the dinning room. (To see more YouTube videos, just search Freedom of the Seas, October 9, 2011)
I was giving great thanks to the anti-nausea patch I had worn as well as the Dramamine supplement. And it really was quite exciting – I was never fearful that we would capsize. And besides, even though we’d learned about the small emergency boats during muster – there was no way any of us wanted to be on a small boat in this storm!!!
And if it weren’t for the people who were sick or hurt, it would have been like a wild amusement park ride.
We learned the next day that winds that were supposed to max out around 40 mph had quickly escalated to 109 mph (that’s hurricane force). The huge shift in direction of the rolls was because the captain had taken the ship out of autopilot and was trying to turn the almost 1200 foot long ship (that’s 4 football fields!) into the wind, but that’s apparently a slow process due to the size of the ship and force of the winds. And he later told us that once he got that accomplished, the winds shifted 180 degrees in a matter of seconds. So I imagine they were sweating pretty hard in the steering room (don’t know the proper name for that). If you want to hear the captain explaining what happened, click on this YouTube link.
ANYWAY, it wasn’t safe for us to leave the dinning room as there was broken glass everywhere and lots of liquid on the slick floors outside of the dinning room. While we had been having our adventure in the dinning room, things were as bad elsewhere on the ship. On the Promenade level, where all of the shops are, the entire contents of the liquor shop crashed to the floor, as well as in the various eateries, perfume shop, etc. In the casino, not only had the liquor come crashing down, but so did the slot machines. I heard it was a free-for-all when the quarters spilled out of the slots.
After what seemed like an hour of us holding onto the remaining dishes on our table, wondering what would be next, we were told that the safest place for us would be in our staterooms (bedrooms to you non-cruisers), and to make our way slowly there. Well, that’s all well and good, but we were on the 3rd floor for dinner, and most people had rooms up to level 9 – the elevators were shut down and there was one large staircase at that end of the ship – and the ship was rolling.
So what seemed like thousands of us started the slow trek up the stairs. I noticed a tall older woman (whom I soon learned was named Gwen) having to rest every few steps, and decided to stay with her until she made it to her room. Well, she had just had 2 knee replacements and wasn’t ever planning to take the stairs on this trip. So we let everyone else pass, and slowly but surely we made it up to the 9th floor. I stayed with her in her room until her roommate arrived, and had a very lovely chat. She was on a family reunion with 15 other family members. They do a cruise every year in October (why they chose the Caribbean during hurricane season beats me).
After I was sure she was ok, I headed to my own room. Well – we had a room with a sliding glass door to a balcony, and the wind was so strong that it forced the rain and sea spray through the sliding door. We had rivers streaming across our carpet. Thankfully my roommate had gotten there before me and she had stuffed towels along the balcony door so it was limited to small rivers. Other rooms had floods!
Within another few hours, the rolling became a little calmer, which made it easy to fall asleep, only to be woken up by the phone at 1:10am. It was just the ship’s staff calling to make sure we were both safe in our room!
The next morning, all was calm and we had hot sunny days after that. I’ll write more later about the rest of the cruise, which included fun classes and island visits.
I do have to say that the crew of the ship handled the whole thing wonderfully, and within 2 days the ship looked as it did before the storm – fully stocked, dry and clean (if not a little musty in places). For the remainder of the cruise, carpets in our staterooms were being replaced – they actually carry a huge supply of custom made carpet on the ship for such emergencies. The experience made for a good story, and I feel it brought out the best in most people (the quarter scavengers excluded).
Oh, by the way, the other 2 ships that were supposed to depart when we did, were held at port for 2 days!