Guest Stories

What do you mean by partially cloudy?

If there is one thing that people worry about on vacation, it’s the weather. With so much time, energy and money invested in a “once in a lifetime” experience, the last thing they want is for the weather to ruin everything, at least what they’d envisioned when looking at the bright and cheery brochure. People want to be in control of their vacation.  They go on advisory sites and read reviews. They call the company.   Although there’s always an exception (some didn’t know where they were going between the first and last port), most guests felt confident in every part of the experience except the weather.  Weather doesn’t care.

It was imperative that I mention the temperature during each morning’s wake up call. Blame it on the long days, the head-spinning responsibilities, the booze — I’d forget to look at the thermometer all the time.   I’d get to that all-important point in my spiel and freeze.  How did I forget again?  No matter how hard I tried to recall all I saw on my walk to the office the scene ended often with a blank thermometer.  To combat this forgetfulness, I decided that in the Caribbean every morning was 72 degrees no matter what.  Belize, Guatemala, and Honduras – 77. Alaska – 43. Southern United States in the springtime – 68.  I’m not sure if I ever really deviated from those numbers. God knows what the temperatures really were.

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When is a person old?

My friend likes to tell a story of a 103 year-old man she traveled with aboard a riverboat on the Danube.  She was helping the passengers pick out bicycles to ride along the river’s winding banks when the man, Mr. Graham, got up on two squeaky wheels and peddled along the water, leaving his fellow passengers in the European dust.  With each turn of the wheels, Mr. Graham shattered everyone’s preconceived notions of what it meant to be elderly.

When he returned, the group asked Mr. Graham when he felt a person was “old.”  At first, he didn’t have an answer.  He scratched his head and stared at his dusty shoes, thinking.  His fellow travelers probably expected a number like 80 or 90, or even 100 (100 is the new 90, by the way) but Mr. Graham thought otherwise.  Eventually, he raised his head to the group.

“I guess when you can’t ride a bike anymore,” he said, with a boyish grin running from hearing aid to hearing aid.

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Postcards Home

I sleepily rolled from the thin mattress of my single bed and stood in the darkness of my cabin – my 70 square-foot home in the hull. The polo shirt I’d worn the day before, a pair of khaki shorts and my boat shoes – my uniform – were in a pile at the foot of the bed, just two feet from the door Jared the deckhand was rapping with his fist.

“Sorry man,” he said, “I know it’s super early, but some lady in the lounge wants to talk to you.”

I put on the wrinkled duds, pinned on the Cruise Director name tag, and trudged up the stairwell to meet her. As I looked out the porthole to the dim Caribbean dawn I thought about how surreal my life had become. The day before I’d worked 15 hours, but from 1 to 2 in the afternoon snorkeled the most beautiful reef I’d ever seen. Queen angelfish nibbled on coral spires as a school of blue tang surrounded me. The day before a seasick guest threw up on my shoe. A month earlier we hiked the mythical Mayan ruins of Guatemala. An eighty year-old guest was with me every step of the way. Then, upon hearing that only 3% of the Mayan empire had been discovered, another guest asked where all the undiscovered ruins were. A few months before that I sat with a thousand classmates in white plastic chairs and listened to the Governor of Virginia talk about the future and potential. Some speech.

I wiped my eyelashes loose from the night and laid a hand on the top of my desk for support.

“Good morning ma’am, how can I help you?”

She moved like a bird, twitchy and alert.

“Are stamps still 37 cents?”

“Yup. Still 37 cents.” I reached into the desk drawer for the stamps we kept on hand for letters and postcards and asked how many she wanted.

“Oh, I don’t want any,” she said. “I was just wondering.”

She turned and walked back to her cabin.

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