While deployed to Afghanistan I learned that I would not be home for long before deploying again.
With that in mind, my wife decided we were going to take a pleasure cruise. We had talked about taking one for years but I was able to dodge, I go on cruises for a living....
After doing a little research I told her to go ahead and pick what she wanted, I didn't care how much we spent.
Being a busy woman, working 50 hours a week while running a home on her own, she took longer than expected to make the cruise reservations. When she finally did, I almost fainted upon getting her email, there wasn't much available in the timeframe we wanted so four tickets for a five day cruise cost a little over five thousand dollars. Admittedly, they were junior sweets on the top deck but I was still surprised she would spend so much. This is a woman who is on her feet 10-12 hours a day and wears shoes six months longer than she should. She did tell me she was sick to her stomach buying the tickets and the seller was not helpful (she went to the MWR tickets desk where they are supposed to sell discount tickets to military members).
The problem is, from the moment she bought the tickets, we were screwed.
If you've taken a cruise since 9-11, you know they have tightened the policies on getting onboard a cruise ship. Pre 911 was a little looser I understand. Now, you have to prove you are a U.S. citizen if you are in fact claiming to be a U.S. citizen taking a closed loop cruise (leaving from a port in the US and returning to that same port). My youngest child was born in Puerto Rico and that commonwealth has invalidated every birth certificate issued prior to 2010. That means we don't have a valid cert for her.
We had read about the PR birth cert issue a year or so ago and then promptly forgot all about it.
We drove to Tampa and tried to board the ship on Christmas Eve, we were excited beyond belief. You can only imagine the ice in my stomach when the first security point stopped us and told us my youngest could not board with her PR birth certificate. I instantly remembered the PR birth cert issue but thought they would make an exception, she did have a valid military dependent ID after all.
We quickly asked for a supervisor and were told the same thing, we could sail, she could not (I don't know HOW I kept my cool at that statement). We asked for the supervisor's supervisor and were turned over to the most senior person on the dock. She told us that she was sorry but there was no way my youngest was getting onboard that ship.
Amazingly, I kept my cool through all of this. In a moment of clarity, I realized the fault in this situation belonged to my wife and me. We had failed to take care of the PR birth certificate. My wife actually sent in a new request a very long time ago but if you've ever dealt with PR, you'll know that efficiency and speed are not the strong suits there.
As it became clear that we were not getting onboard the ship, my wife and kids lost it. Tears were shed as it dawned on them, we were standing on a pier, on Xmas eve, and we were not taking the cruise we had been dreaming about for weeks.
To make matters worse, there was no way the travel insurance we purchased was going to cover this. We actually had layers of insurance, we purchased a policy and the Master Card has a policy; neither one of them would do us any good. I knew that if we didn't make that ship, we were going to lose the five grand but, the inner economist in me instantly categorized it as a sunk cost and I moved on to salvaging the situation. When my wife asked me what we were going to do, without hesitation I told her, "We are going to Disney". She balked, how could we afford that after spending so much on the cruise? I told her to hell with it, the cruise was already paid off (we saved up and paid it off as soon as we used the card to pay for it).
We took a few minutes to compose ourselves, I never lost my cool with the Carnival people, I wanted to show my kids that you don't always have to lose your sh*t in the middle of adversity and I did just that, we actually told the employees "Happy Holidays" without sarcasm, and we discussed options. We decided to head east to Disney and see what happened.
I knew there was a "military only" resort next to Disney, we called them from the road and yes, they had rooms. We reserved a room for three nights and, after getting to the hotel, purchased single day visits to Universal and one day passes to Disney. The first night we were too late to visit anything so we had a nice meal at the resort and the kids decorated the lamp with paper ornaments we all joined in to make.
We visited Universal the next day and, while we enjoyed it, that park was out of control busy. The kids loved the Harry Potter exhibits but the wife and I stayed out of that area, you could only walk a few feet each direction it was so thick.
The next day, we did Magic Kingdom and were reminded why it's such a popular park. I actually watched a piece of trash be picked up less than three minutes after a kid tossed it on the ground. By now, the pain of dashed dreams was fading and we lost ourselves in enjoying the great rides at that park.
All in all, we spent well over two grand on the rooms, tickets, meals and gas. We even stopped on the drive home and spent a day visiting Fort Sumter, and the kids didn't complain.
So, the five grand lost on the cruise plus the two grand plus on the Disney resort etc all added up for one very emotional Christmas.
As we drove to the hotel we were listening to the news about the tornadoes ravaging homes and we reminded ourselves that no matter how bad it gets, as long as you have family and are together, everything will be all right. We recovered from the situation and still had a pretty damn good holiday and although we are slightly less well off financially, we have one hell of a tale to laugh about over the years, I just wish we could have "bought" the tale a little cheaper.
Thanks for "listening" to my plight. I'm still on leave and don't have anyone to spill this to, it feels good to get it out.