THURSDAY, MARCH 31
The sky is still dark as I lift the baby from her crib, so sound asleep that her arms fall limp into the air beside her. I change her and clothe her, and still she doesn’t stir, so I sit and rock her, more for my comfort than hers. I smell her skin, rubbing my nose in the light, thin strands of hair that crown her head, holding her tight to my chest, thinking how small she is and how big she is getting and how it feels like I don’t really need a break when she’s like this. But I remember that I do need a break and that as soon as my husband gets out of the shower, we’ll be leaving.
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We drive away, the excitement and the anxiety mixing with my motion sickness to produce a rare, fine cocktail of nausea. I remember similar trips—waking up at the crack of dawn, traveling to some place new, feeling that special thrill of skipping school—but I’m not a teenage girl anymore, I’m a mom abandoning her babe for a few days of pleasure. I pop a Dramamine and start working on my research paper, banking homework time now so that I’m not drowning when we get back to the mainland.
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Eight hours later, we’re boarding the ship—The Brilliance of the Seas (Inaugural Voyage 1994). The porter takes our bags and asks how we liked his service. My husband tells him we don’t have any cash, which was, embarrassingly enough, true, but his shampoo still ended up spilt all over his suitcase, making half of his wardrobe unwearable.
The level of security compared to the airport startles me. This is the first time I’ve ever left the country and I don’t need a passport. All they ask to see is my credit card for the onboard account. We roam around the ship, discovering a myriad of activities to do on board: putt-putt golf, gambling in the casino, shopping at high-end stores, eating and drinking (6 restaurants & at least 4 more bars), live theatre, a tiny cinema, swimming (3 pools & 3 hot tubs), arcade games, a basketball court, rock climbing, exercising in the fitness center, and indulging in spa treatments (sauna, acupuncture, massage, facials, etc.).
We end up in our room, finding to our surprise that my dad paid extra for a private balcony. We drop our carry-ons off and head to the café for some of their legendary free food. It seems like everyone else had the same idea and we shuffle around, ending up at a table in the corner eating pizza. The captain makes an announcement over the intercom that everyone should “report to your designated muster stations marked on your key cards” and, like a poorly oiled machine, the entire population mobilizes. We stand on the ship deck, sweat dripping off us, waiting for everyone to be accounted for and witness a short life jacket demonstration. The lead singer of the Journey cover band entertains us all with his plethora of nautical knowledge in the meantime. Then, like a herd of cattle, we are shepherded back to the air-conditioned confines of the ship’s interior.
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My husband stands on our balcony for a good 30 minutes, watching the ship get out to sea, so slow that at first it seemed as though the land was moving past us. He beckons for me to join him, but after an anticlimactic 5 minutes, I itch to return to the lumpy bed and open my book—the one I’ve been neglecting for Frankenstein.
To be continued…