Our First Cruise – Cruising in a Hurricane!

Before I get into our current Sisters Adventures, I thought I would do a little reminiscing on how we came to love cruising the ocean blue. Ships and far off places were introduced to me by my dad, Jack. He was a custom broker in Boston. He often was going to the port to pick up paperwork from a container ship or going with custom inspectors to inspect incoming cargo. It was here that I first fell in love with ships. They were container ships and I learned about the process of importing rugs, furniture, lace, fabric and other items into the United States. I was fascinated about where these items came from and the countries and the customs and people of these far off places. He talked about taking me on one of these freighter ships on a trip.

And then Carnival Cruise Lines brought its first ships into the port of Boston. He saw these wonderful ocean liners and decided we were going on them. Our introduction to the ocean cruise ship was on a trip on the Carnival Mardi Gras from Boston to Bermuda. Bermuda was someplace we were familiar with because it was where we would go for a short vacation when our parents could afford it.Dad thought that this was a wonderful opportunity and he convinced mom to agree to this trip.We excitedly anticipated our very first cruise.

I had two friends and my sister had a friend who wanted to go and so we booked a quad cabin that was a small room with two sets of bunks. My parents booked a cabin for themselves and my sister.  All five of us girls actually stayed in our quad cabin with a cot in the middle between the bunks.

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We set sail in September from Boston. The memories that are strong are just pieces of the time we spent on the ship. The feeling of being on the ocean and my connection to it as well as to the friends I was with and the people we met are what has remained strongly imbedded in my being.

We left Boston on slightly rough seas. As the night progressed the seas got more turbulent. By morning I knew we were in for a wild ride. The ships staff were battening down the hatches. Decks were cleared. Doors were locked. We were informed by the Captain that we were in for rough seas as a hurricane had developed in the Atlantic Ocean. The ship was lunging and lurching. Walking down the halls straight was impossible.

I was excited! This was a wonderful opportunity to actually experience a hurricane. The Captain, officers and staff were on high alert. Yet I knew that none of them were afraid or worried. They went on about their duties with diligence. Safety of the ship and passengers was their high priority. Their confidence that all would be fine and that the ship would ride out the storm assured me that I had nothing to fear. So I went on enjoying myself, the cruise ship and even the storm.

I can’t day the same for many of the other passengers. The officers and staff encouraged the passengers to stay in the main larger areas of the ship, maintain food in their stomachs at all times and to only drink enough water to stay hydrated and not to drink too much otherwise. Many passengers didn’t follow the advice. They went to their cabins and were sick and unhappy. Many complained about not being able to enjoy the cruise.

I don’t remember anyone in our group having any difficulties or being sick. We enjoyed ourselves. One of my favorite things to do was to go out into the glassed in Promenade and watch the waves going up over the ship and feel the ship going down under and then back up again and lurching side to side. I also would go up to the room where the navigator was where they were tracking the storm and steering course and ask questions and watched the storm’s path and listen to the officers deciding the ship’s direction. It was here, either going in or coming out, that I would cross paths with my father. Another of our common interests.

 

We had five teenage girls in our cabin. Our cabin was situated aft off a small corridor off the main port side hallway. There was one other cabin at the end of the corridor. One evening as we were getting ready for dinner, my friend Rose said, “We have to find out who is in the cabin so we can find out if we are disturbing them.” So she opened the cabin door and left it open.

We heard someone coming down the hall. Rose jumped out of the room, and startled the women. Rose introduced herself and told her we were sorry if we had been making too much noise or bothering her. She said she didn’t know if anyone was in that cabin because she hadn’t seen or heard anything. She looked inside the cabin and exclaimed. “You aren’t all staying in this little cabin?”

“Yes.”

“Oh, my!” she said, “You are welcome to use my bathroom it must be hard for all of you to get ready in here.”

Her name was Hilda and we became fast friends. Not only did we stay in touch with her, we would visit her at her spending many weekends at her house. Rose and I even went on another cruise with her and my great Aunt Dot.

As much as the ship’s captain and officers did their best to avoid the hurricane it was impossible. The hurricane zigged and we zagged and the hurricane zagged and we zigged. It was a game of sorts but a serious one. As we approached Bermuda we were out of the circulation of the storm but it was still meandering about. We were finally allowed out on to the decks. The ship was being guided by helicopters, a navy ship and even a submarine!

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The ship did not pull into port but laid anchor in the harbor. The ship offered the option of returning back to Boston by air. Many of those who were sick or were unhappy did. The captain informed us that if we chose to leave the ship to explore Bermuda we risked getting left behind. If the hurricane turned again and headed towards Bermuda he would immediately pull up anchor and head back out into open seas. If he did there would be a representative from the cruise line at the port to help make arrangements to fly back to Boston.

We had friends staying in Bermuda, at the hotel we always stayed at and so we took the risk. We tendered off the ship and went to the Sonesta Hotel to spend the day. We spent the day sunbathing, swimming and snorkeling having a wonderful day with our friends. Every once in a while my mom would say go see if the ship is still out there. So us kids would climb the nearby cliff and walk out to the point and look. Each time the Mardi Gras was still sitting there in the harbor.

At the end of the day, we returned to the ship. The seas on the way home were not the seas of the hurricane but were still rough. The ship was no longer full of passengers. Those of us who remained had the trip of a lifetime. The shows were spectacular! The food was amazing from breakfast to the mid-night buffet. The music and dancing the night away.

 

The Captain provide us with a map that detailed both the path of the hurricane and our path as a souvenir. Many of the passengers never wanted to take another cruise again. Instead it excited us and ignited a passion for the ocean and cruise liners in us that endures strong today. And so after a hiatus of raising children, Susan and I have returned to the sea and to the Cruising Adventures we have held in our hearts for all these years.

It is not only a love for each of us individually but it is our connection to each other and our family. And for me especially it is where I carry my dad’s love for me in my heart and soul. The ocean is home and family and me.

Susan and I began our cruise adventures on the very first Carnival Ship, the Mardi Gras and then cruised on the Carnival Ship itself. Several years later we sailed on our first maiden voyage of the Carnival Festival. Later this year we will be cruising on the newest Carnival Cruise Ship the Carnival Vista.