Could you imagine more stress than sailing off on a cruise in waters threatened by a hurricane? That's exactly what we faced on September third when we traveled from California to Massachusetts to take a cruise with family. Hurricane Earl rambled up the Eastern seaboard with its compass pointing at Cape Cod, while we headed for our cruise ship anchored in Boston.
Prior to our departure, Massachusetts TV news reports followed the storm in detail adding fuel to our flaming anxiety. Headlines splashed across local newspapers announcing Earl's path and pages displayed photos of pleasure craft on cranes being lifted from their slips to safer havens. Soon storm gate closings were announced, the last chance for sailors to take refuge within protected waters.
It became even more difficult to think about piña coladas and snorkeling Bermuda's reefs when Earl was upgraded to a class four storm threatening the Carolinas. Trailing behind it – Fiona. What's next, I wondered, Shrek, Farquaad? I put down the newspaper, looked to my sister and repeated Bruce Willis' line from Die Hard – "Come out to the coast, we'll have a good time." But this is no laughing matter. Earl and the tailgating storms, carry the potential for major catastrophe.
Time To Sail
The morning of our departure, we heard reports that our ship had arrived safely in Boston. Cabin beds were stripped and new stores loaded aboard the vessel, Norwegian Spirit. During our one-hour drive to the cruise terminal we passed gas stations and ogled the long lines of vehicles being fueled up, insuring they wouldn't get stranded should the worse happen. People exited super markets lugging cases of water and enough provisions to carry them through an emergency situation. We didn't let those sights deter our mission and stayed the course on Route 24.
We boarded our cruise ship wondering if we would actually sail or just sit at the dock for a couple of days. The effects of Earl were expected to be severe but the first onboard announcement informed us that Earl has been downgraded from a four to a two. Nonetheless, winds were still too strong to allow safe passage from Boston to Southern waters due to Fiona's demonstration of defiance. With our next update came news that our departure was planned for the following morning when heavy winds would have diminished, allowing us safer and more comfortable travel.
As promised we left Boston at daybreak, now behind schedule. The time lost meant fewer hours on shore in Bermuda. We sailed in a southeasterly path, able to avoid Fiona but not the repercussions from her wake. The ship's pool became off limits as its salty contents slamed from one end to the other with enough force to entertain a surfer. Norwegian Spirit's towering, arch-windowed, dining hall served a mere handful of meals that evening. Most passengers were accessorized with ear patches or wristbands. Those absent couldn't stand the thought of food and their only accessory was a white paper bag necklace.
The first of our two-day sail to Bermuda was clearly rough. Stories spread of passengers needing injections for seasickness. I thanked my ancestry for my hearty sailing gene as I enjoyed Coq Au Vin while taking in views of teal waters that soared high enough to send other passengers to the head.
Out Of Harms Way
Day two offered smoother sailing and more people came out of hiding to enjoy the decks, pools and all the amenities the ship had to offer. On the third day we awoke to find ourselves in beautiful Bermuda. Our stay in port was extended and we got to enjoy much of the pristine environment, almost as scheduled.
In his wisdom, the captain had chartered a challenging, yet safe passage to our destination. With barely more than a friendly handshake we had brushed past Earl, Fiona and the lot. What could have been a disappointing, maybe even dangerous cruise, resulted in a fun vacation with lots of stories to share. Did I mention our Bermuda tour guide named Earl?
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