You open the mailbox to a brightly colored letter with the following message: “Congratulations! You have won an all-expense paid trip on our newest ship. Get ready…in twelve weeks, you’ll be cruising along, enjoying the endless view.”
You have always wanted to go on a cruise. Always. Winning is beyond unexpected. It is extraordinary. The company even wants to use you in their ad campaign for the new ship. You sign the paperwork and send it off.
Reality sinks in. You need to pack. Find someone to watch the dog. Pack more. Stop the mail. Pack less. Ask your neighbor to cut the grass. Repack. Lose a few pounds and start a tan. Oh, and swimming lessons probably wouldn’t hurt…
For twelve weeks, you prepare, prepare, prepare. Lose three pounds a week, check. Take advanced swimming and water treading classes, check. Get a spray tan Jersey Shore gals would kill for, check. Avoid anyone named Jack or Rose, check.
On the departure date, a limo sleeks to the end of your driveway. The chauffeur piles your suitcases into the trunk…and the back seat. You wonder, at his raised eyebrow, whether perhaps you’ve over-packed. “I have a lot of luggage. Do you think there will be space?” He pauses, then drawls, “Space? Oh, there’s plenty of space.” You relax.
“Ready to cruise with the stars?” Blue eyes twinkling, he opens your door. Startled, you ask, “Stars? There will be stars?” He seems surprised. “There are always many, many stars.” The thought had never occurred to you. Of course famous people take cruises. And of course they would want to be on this state-of-the-art ship.
Oh, wow. Sandra Bullock? Clooney? Channing? Brangelina? Gosling (the cute one, not the fuzzy grey bird)?
Dang it, you should have lost four pounds per week. Too late now. At least the spray tan is only mildly orange. On the bright side, the swimming lessons went well, so if the ship goes down, you can save someone famous and then they’ll be your best friend. Win-win.
The limo purrs along smoothly toward the airport, lulling you into daydreams. This is going to be amazing. Spectacular. Dining on mouthwatering delicacies. Lounging by the pool. Dancing with the stars. Well, okay…it’s more likely you’ll dance among the stars…but it will still be lovely.
The flight is plush. First class snacks are so much better than the pretzels in coach. The flight attendant looks down his pert nose while bringing you a fourth snack pack and drink. Who cares? He’ll never see you again. This vacation is once-in-a-lifetime, and it will be SPECTACULAR.
The plane arrives without incident, but late. Pushing your way through the Hawaiian-shirted, khaki-shorted crowd, you realize that no one here even knows that you are about to embark on the vacation of your life. The secret is exhilarating. Somewhat less thrilling: at the baggage carousel, you find that your luggage took a vacation of its own to Minnesota.
You are met by three (three!) company representatives and are ushered to yet another limo. Since your flight arrived late, you’ll head straight to the ship. Your entourage informs you the lost luggage is no matter; wardrobe for this trip is provided by the company. Unbelievable! How could this get any better?
You step from the limo, ready to hear ships’ horns, clanging anchors and seagulls. Ahhh, the salty smell of…wait. Fuel? Hot asphalt? Focusing slowly as the humidity rolls over you, you take in the high gates. The pavement. The concrete. The…ship.
This vacation is definitely not what you expected.