My wife Judy and I have been married 25 years this August (2011). Our Silver Anniversary! While planning how we might celebrate, we both decided a cruise would be the thing to do. We’ve never been on one, although we have a number of family and friends who have. They rave about it. So we took the plunge and scheduled a cruise with Carnival. Nothing overly glamorous—leave from New York City and cruise to the Canadian Maritimes. Make a stop at St. John, New Brunswick, and a second stop at Halifax, Nova Scotia. With a day or so spent getting there and another day back, the entire trip would take five days in total. We would get to see some of Canada, gorge ourselves on delicious food and watch live shows and listen to live music along the way. Perfect! Or so I thought.
As the date of departure drew close—August 27—Hurricane Irene also drew close. The media certainly overhyped the hurricane as the “storm of our lifetime” for the northeastern coast of the U.S. I compulsively checked the Carnival site throughout the week before the appointed day. Nothing listed—no delays, no cancellations—nothing about our cruise until two days prior when it became clear the itinerary would change. We’ll stop at Halifax first, then St. John, because Hurricane Irene would come very close to, if not hit, St. John. “No problem,” I thought. “Carnival must have meteorologists on staff who will know how this is going to play out.” Denial is a very strong emotion.
The day before we set sail, on Friday, August 26, we received a notice from Carnival that we should arrive early at the cruise terminal in New York—they moved up the departure time from 5 pm to 3 pm. So it was clear the cruise would actually take place. I wasn’t too worried, but I kept thinking, “That storm is 500 miles across, and the swirling bands are already reaching up to New Jersey and perhaps even off the coast of New York.” But denial is a strong emotion. No way were we going to forfeit the money we paid and not turn up! If Carnival canceled, we could get a refund. Otherwise, we would be out the money if we didn’t go. In retrospect, I would have gladly given up that money.
Saturday arrived and we left for New York, a three and a half hour journey from our home in the Binghamton, NY area. I won’t bore you with details of arriving and embarking—it’s a lot like boarding a large jetliner with long lines and security checkpoints. Once we were on the ship and in our room, we were so excited! The room, on deck 8, was large and well appointed. We had our very own balcony, something I paid quite a bit extra for.
We snapped pictures from the balcony of our room, looking right up some of the streets of midtown Manhattan as we waited to leave. As I snapped those pictures and gazed at Manhattan, I couldn’t help but notice the gray clouds hovering across the city, obscuring some of top floors of the tallest buildings. A light rain had started to fall. But denial is a strong emotion. What I was looking at, and frankly could not accept, was the beginning effects of Irene—right there in New York before we had even left port.
The ship finally departed around 3:20 pm and we cruised gently down the Hudson River, past spectacular views of buildings. I love New York and seeing it from the river is one of the best ways to see it. We floated past the Statue of Liberty. And then we were called to our posts for a mandatory safety lecture—so we would know how to use our life preservers and which life raft to hop aboard should it become necessary.