A Bad Cruise Vacation Turns Gripes to Gratitude

A Bad Cruise Vacation Turns Gripes to Gratitude

By J. L. Thurston

I gotta tell you, life was getting me down. My ancient house has been slowly falling apart, I can’t put any money into it because my husband suddenly got laid off, my kid is living like Taz from Looney Tunes, and work was a pit in Hell of which there is no escape. I was getting pretty fucking sick of it. So, imagine my relief when my parents gifted my husband, my daughter and I with a cruise ship vacation. 

I spent months just daydreaming about getting out of this dumpy life, if only for a brief reprieve. I wanted to spend a week on the beach, a drink in my hand, saltwater in my hair, and sand stuck in all my cervices with no thoughts of work or home-remodeling fails to haunt me.

Then I went on the worst vacation of my life.

A drive to Miami is as bad as it sounds when all the seats in the car are full and we had to make a pit stop every two or less hours due to food, smokers, and old bladders. And trust me, potty training a toddler on a road trip meant she wanted to try out all the horrifying toilets even with her special road trip diapers.

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Despite the rough road and the serial-killer-themed, possibly bedbug infested, hotel we stayed in after over 24 hours in a car, we were buzzing with excitement when it came time to board the ship. And let me tell you, boarding one of the largest cruise ships in the fleet is as tedious as it sounds. But I wasn’t ready to get my spirits dampened until I found out that we could not eat or drink anything until after we all finished a dull-as-rocks safety meeting.

My blood was boiling, my feet and butt were throbbing and my toddler was wailing.

Day one, not so great. But would the rest of my vacation be the respite I so desperately needed? Oh, boy.

Did you know that on a cruise ship food and drink are not available whenever you want? Also, did you know that when you are on a gargantuan ship it means a three-mile walk just to go from your room to, oh, anywhere? Waiting in line for everything while holding a sweating and screaming toddler isn’t as restful as it may sound. And having her cry through magical excursions that cost more than a mortgage payment nearly caused me to launch myself overboard.

It wasn’t all terrible, don’t let my first world woes turn you off. But getting sea sick constantly and being denied water slides, margaritas, sun-bathing, food variety, all while dealing with my grumpy husband and my parents… It was enough to make me want to cry. Granted, I didn’t pay for the cruise or the gas for the grueling road trip, but it was such a waste nonetheless. I kept wondering to myself while we waited to disembark, Why can’t I just enjoy anything?

Upon my return from the worst vacation of my life, I was surprised to find my outlook had changed a bit. I arrived home late at night, weary from long travels, to find my bed just as I’d left it. My sheets never felt so soft. My cat had missed me. Even the toddler went right to sleep without a fuss. It was a wonderful first night home.

The next day started early. We had unpacking to do, gifts to sort and deliver, laundry to wash and photos to print. On top of that, we had to go grocery shopping. It was a sunny day, and though the sky wasn’t that fathomless blue of the Caribbean, it was a familiar late-winter hue.

We found ourselves driving up to the grocery store with smiles. Acquaintances shouted hellos to us, commented on our tanned skin and we felt welcome. We reunited with family and told tales of our trip, only to find joy in listening to their stories of their everyday lives.

By the end of our second day home, my husband and I sat in our recliners and sipped our regular coffee. We had missed our favorite brand while on vacation. There were no more itineraries, no time limits, no rush. The house was quiet and warm, our throw blankets were soft and familiar, and all of our creature comforts were at our grasp with no waiting and no hassle.

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That’s when I discovered that there’s beauty in the same ol’. I found tranquility in my routine. Being away heightened my appreciation of the little lights that decorate the trees downtown. The way the melting snow throws fog into the air while the sun sets add a hint of mystery to supper. There’s whimsy in the way the dish soap bubbles swirl around in the kitchen sink.

Yeah. I was actually appreciating dish soap bubbles.

A long time ago, I became aware of an ability to appreciate the small things. I think it all started when I realized that my parents worked really hard just to get us kids regular things. So, when they did something special for us, I made sure to show my gratitude even if it was a bit exaggerated. But the older I got, the less I enjoyed regular things. I almost turned into the average bitter adult.

That’s probably the natural way of things, but not anymore.

That shitty cruise was good for me, but not in the way I had expected. I thought I’d return, ready to grudge through the days again, having recharged my batteries. But I returned homesick, ready to embrace the life I was bemoaning.

Refreshed. I feel youthful now I have finally found the joy within my heart to love the life I live.

What a great vacation.

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