If I told you that Christmas came early this year and that I’ve just returned from a six-day cruise to the Caribbean, you would probably assume that the CRUISE was the early Christmas gift.An easy assumption, but actually, an incorrect one.
But since I did mention the cruise, let me tell you just a little bit about it — then I’ll share the surprise with you. This was my sixth cruise, but my first cruise without hub-Russ. When he planned his annual guys’ golf trip to Myrtle Beach last spring, I planned a December cruise with the girls: my sister, Nancy, and friends, Linda and Debbie.
We reserved adjoining cabins with windows (alas, no balcony, but happily, no interior room) and began the countdown! We left Friday for Charleston, staying over, close to the port. A huge traffic jam caused us to arrive about an hour late and we were starving! We checked into the motel, noting the Miyabi Restaurant next door, but could see the traffic pattern would be tough to maneuver. The desk clerk advised us to walk there, saying it might be easier than driving. Huh? (And did I mention it was dark and cold?) We didn’t understand. We ended up driving and it’s a good thing. There was nearby construction, dark alleys and busy streets. That was our first calamity. We shared a suite and slept OK, but took turns waking up and saying, “Stop snoring!” At times, it turned out we were talking to ourselves!
The next morning we got up early to greet the shuttle by 10:30 a.m., hoping to beat the crowd. Wrong! Suddenly there was luggage flying and people hollering, but mostly people laughing, and we were on our way. At the port, we hopped on a Lancaster bus about 11 a.m., where the driver promptly told us he was taking us to the airport (he was KIDDING!).
We set sail amongst blue skies, Reggae music and piña coladas, then enjoyed our first meal inside the luxurious dining room. The next six days were pure bliss! A reoccurring conversation was Christmas, though we saw no decorations on the ship. We cruised to Nassau, Freeport and Key West, buying souvenirs, trinkets and a few Christmas gifts. On board, Nancy and Linda gambled in the casino every chance they got. Debbie and I walked around and learned the entire ship, watched a live show and listened to karaoke. We even met the “Cap-o-tan” (Captain) on a behind-the-scenes tour. We loved his sexy Italian voice over the intercom and his now famous, “Ciao! Ciao!” goodnight call. We also sat out on the Lido deck and suntanned, feasted on lobster and prime rib, danced and met great folks: Shawn (a policewoman) and Tommy (a fireman) from Greensboro even helped us move our luggage. Dang! It was heavy!!! Becky and Chester, Theresa and many others come to mind.
About mid-week the Christmas decorations went up on the ship: the banisters were wrapped in garland and lights, and were majestic against the marble floors. We even had a “show of falling snow” and everyone gathered in the atrium, where a pianist played Christmas carols. But again, we four wondered how we were going to have the energy and creativity to decorate at home, especially since Christmas was almost here!
We disembarked on the final day and talked about the contrast compared to embarkation. There’s always a “Welcome aboard!” party atmosphere but never a “We’re going to miss you!” celebration at the end. On the way home, we were mostly somber, and truly sad to see the magic end. All week we had talked about our grandchildren, gift lists, upcoming parties and celebrations, church events, and again, Christmas decorations. I honestly dreaded it. In my house, Russell puts up the tree and the lights and I do the rest. And though I love the Christmas season, each year the decorating becomes more tedious and difficult.
Traveling home, I called Russell and he said he had a surprise for me. I couldn’t imagine what. Best case scenario: Another cruise ticket (I WISH!), or maybe dinner out when I arrived. But when I opened the front door, I SAW the surprise! He and Katie had put up the tree and decorated it and our entire house! I saw lights on the front porch, reindeer placemats, stockings on the fireplace, Christmas pillows and candles, my nutcracker collection, and other assorted goodies.
I’ll never forget how special I felt when I got home and saw that my Christmas gift was literally EVERYWHERE! No matter how much shopping, wrapping or cooking is left to do, the toughest part has already been done, and with great care and love, I might add. Thank you, Russell. And thank you, Katie! Santa Claus it not only COMING to town, he’s already here!