“We might have known,” said Joe Barnes. “This is the worst cruise we’ve ever been on. Some idea you had.”
“What do you mean, I had,” said his wife Millie. “This cruise was your idea.”
“That’s not the way I remember it. Oops. Did you feel that?” The ship had given a sizeable lurch.
“We should have known it was going to be bad even before we got on the ship,” said Joe.
“You mean that traffic jam we got stuck in?” On their drive from their Northern California retirement community to the pier in San Francisco their bus had been delayed by a horrendous traffic jam that delayed them by over an hour.
“Yeah. Then when we finally got there they didn’t have any wheelchairs ready.” The Barnes had months before when booking the cruise requested wheelchairs. Millie had had a knee replacement the year before and Joe had had a hip replacement two years ago and neither walked very well. They both used canes.
Joe and Millie were in their cabin, called a stateroom by the cruise line. It was the second day of their cruise, which was from San Francisco to Victoria and the waters had become rough. After dinner they’d gone to the lounge where a piano player they’d liked on a previous cruise was scheduled to play. They’d waited for almost an hour while the ship lurched back and forth. Then someone had come out and told them that the piano player wouldn’t be coming; he was seasick.
“I’ll get out the Dramamine,” said Millie.
“Good idea,” said Joe. “Better than your idea of going on this cruise.”
“It was your idea.”
* * *
The next morning the ship docked at Astoria, Oregon. The Barnes hadn’t been to Astoria before so they’d booked a shore excursion that was supposed to be to a town on the beach. The day was cold and gray with a threat of rain. Their tour bus took them to the beach, where they got out and shivered in the wind. Then they went into the town, where almost all of the shops were closed. The Barnes wandered around for a bit, looking into the windows of the closed shops, then retreated back to the bus. The tour then went to some kind of mall, which had a carousel. A few parents with their kids were going on it. “Want to go for a ride?” asked Joe.
“No, thanks,” said Millie.
After a while they all returned to the bus and drove back to the ship while it began to rain. Once aboard, the Barnes went to what was called the International Café, where they could get lattes. After ten minutes or so Joe managed to get the attention of a waiter, who eventually brought their drinks. “Well, that was a waste of time,” said Joe.
“I’m still cold,” said Millie. “At least we can say we’ve been to Astoria.”
* * *
That night the Barnes went again to the lounge after dinner and this time the pianist was there but he devoted all his attention to a half dozen young people sitting up front who wanted to hear songs Joe and Millie had never heard of and didn’t seem to have any kind of melody. They left early and went up to their cabin. “Another great day,” said Joe.
“Maybe tomorrow will be better,” said Millie.
“Yeah,” said Joe.
* * *
The next morning the ship docked at Seattle. The morning started out, like the day before, cold and gray with a threat of rain. However, after they’d had their breakfast the sun seemed ready to come out. “Let’s see if we can find out where we are,” said Joe, “and maybe we’ll go ashore.” They went to the ship’s information desk and asked but the staff person said he didn’t know anything about Seattle. “Let’s take a chance,” said Joe. “I’d like to get off the ship for a while.” They found the deck where passengers were disembarking and followed the line, showed their IDs, then went carefully down the gangplank. From there it was into a large building, a very large building. They hobbled along with their canes while others passed them, for what seemed like miles. “My knees are hurting,” said Joe. “Mine, too,” said Millie. “I wonder how much longer we have to go.”
They spotted a woman with a badge on her shirt who seemed to be someone official. Joe called out to her, “How much longer until we get out of here?”
The woman said, “You’re about half way there,”
The woman shrugged. “Nothing interesting.”
Joe turned to Millie. “I’m for going back.”
“So am I.”
They walked back, ascended the gangplank, showed their IDs again and were allowed to get back on the ship. They went to the International Café again and procured their lattes. The ship was rocking slightly and outside, as they could see, it had started to rain.
* * *
The Barnes were once again in their cabin and the ship was once again rocking back and forth. It was the last night of the cruise; the next morning they’d be back in San Francisco. They’d just come back from having dinner, not in the regular dining room, but in the steak and seafood restaurant. Joe had been afraid that with the ship rocking so badly their plates would be sliding back and forth and their drinks sloshing on the table. However, all had been okay. Their waiter had told them that the restaurant was amidships and so the steadiest part of the boat. Now they were starting to pack up.
“Put the big suitcase on the bed,” said Millie.
“Okay. At least our dinner was good.”
“Yes, but I’ll be glad to get off. Your idea of going on a cruise wasn’t a great one.”
“I told you, it wasn’t my idea. You’re the one who said we should try it.”
“Hah! Hand me your slacks so I can start packing.”
“Well, I agree. I’ll be glad to get off the ship.”
“We’re going to the lounge on the fifth floor?”
“Yes. That’s for anyone who needs a wheelchair.”
“You’re sure that’s the place?”
“I hope you’re right.”
* * *
They were to be at the lounge early, eight o’clock so they were up before seven, went to the buffet for a quick breakfast, then headed down. The lounge was the right place. It was already crowded with people and wheelchairs and several staff persons were running up and down calling out names. They found two chairs at a table and waited while other passengers’ names were called out and they were put into wheelchairs and taken out. But their names weren’t among those called. After about half an hour Joe tried to flag down one of the men who was directing the wheelchair exodus but was ignored. “We should be getting off,” said Millie. “Don’t we have to be on the bus at nine?”
At this Millie got up and stopped the staff person and said, “We have a bus to catch. We want to get off now.” She stood directly in front of him and this seemed to have some effect because when the next two wheelchairs came they were seated in them. The trip to leave the ship wasn’t an easy one. They had to go through customs and show their IDs. Then they had to get on line to disembark. Then they had to retrieve their suitcases. Finally they were off and onto the pier. A large woman came running up and said that they had indeed missed their bus and Joe was ready to explode. But then she said that two seats had been reserved for them on a second bus.
The bus trip back to their retirement community was not nearly as bad as the one getting down to San Francisco. After about two hours the bus pulled into the parking lot. The Barnes’ neighbor who they’d called when they were approaching the retirement community was there with his car. Their suitcases were all there. In a few moments they were back home. They thanked the neighbor and said they’d call, have lunch with him and his wife, their treat, and tell them all about the cruise.
Millie went to one of their lazy-boy chairs in the living room and sat down. Joe went into the kitchen, found a bottle of wine in the cupboard and filled two glasses. He went into the living room, handed one of the glasses to Millie and sat down in the other lazy-boy chair. “Here’s to the last cruise,” he said.