(Note: This post started out as a message board post, so I apologize in advance for any unexplained jargon that may creep in.)
I’m not saying that my job has been overly stressful lately, but if nothing else, there’s certainly been plenty of it to go around. My timecard at work for the past couple of weeks ended up being in excess of 100 hours, including spending most of a Saturday at work a couple of weekends ago (as well as the Saturday before that.) Without getting into too many details, it seems to be one of those situations where it basically just ends up being one thing after another, and where things never seem to quite have time to settle down before something flares up again. In theory, I still have a cubicle that nominally belongs to me at the office, but I’m there so rarely these days that on the rare occasions when I make it down there, mysterious piles of snacks have started randomly showing up when I’m not looking. This odd behavior leads me to wonder some sort of cargo cult has sprung up around my cubicle in my absence (John Frum, as always, could not be reached for comment.) As I’ve mentioned before, even with all the time I ended up taking off work back in April and May, with all the overtime I’ve been working it has eventually managed to even out, and I think at this point I’m even actually several days “ahead” for the year. After spending months dealing with a project like this, the thought of just getting away from it all for a while and taking a nice long trip starts to sound really appealing. And come this December, I intend to do just that.
As usual, since I seem to be stuck in a pretty serious rut when it comes to my vacation plans, I’ll be spending my upcoming vacation at sea, taking a nice long (by my standards anyway) 10-day Caribbean cruise in early December along with one of my friends, and throwing in a couple of extra days in Florida before and after the cruise to make it (almost) a nice even two weeks. This will actually be the first time that I’ve had the opportunity to do a cruise of more than 7-days, (so far, I’ve done three 7-day Caribbean cruises, but most of the cruises I’ve been on so far have been various shorter ones than that up and down the Pacific Coast of between one and five days). For many years I’ve found myself mostly in one of two situations when it comes to time off from work: Either I have plenty of time and no money to do much of anything with it (typically known as “being unemployed”,) or I have had plenty of money on hand but no time to do much of anything (typically known as “being employed and single.”) Although I’ve been able to sneak a few cruises in here and there (mostly joining my parents and other family on some of their various cruises) I just haven’t really had the luxury of being able to take more than a week or so off work at a time. In fact, this time around my original plan was to find a 7-day cruise of some sort in December (there was some talk last year of doing some sort of a family cruise over Christmas this year that never materialized) and I had made plans to book an Eastern Caribbean sailing on the Crown Princess sometime in June. When it came time to actually put down a deposit though, it turned out that for roughly the price of a balcony on the 7-day cruise I was looking at, I could get an interior cabin on a 10-day Southern Caribbean cruise instead getting a much more interesting itinerary out of the deal (not to mention free gratuities thrown in thanks to a promo Princess was running.) Given the choices, I would much rather take three extra days (and three ports I haven’t been to before) even if I have to sail in an interior cabin to do it.
Of course, in many ways booking the trip is the easy part. It’s easy enough to pick out a cruise and put down a deposit on a cabin, but figuring out the logistics of actually getting there and back can be far more tricky indeed. Even though I’m only spending three more days at sea compared to what I had originally planned, the way the schedule works out on this basically requires taking two whole weeks off work, which certainly complicates things. With a 7-day itinerary, one can generally rely on having their embarkation day on a Saturday or Sunday, and if they can finagle convenient flights they can manage to do that while using just five days of vacation time, or if they want a little extra wiggle room they can throw in an extra day or two before boarding. For example, if I’m on a 7-day sailing with a Sunday departure date, I might take a redeye flight on Friday night and arrive early Saturday, spend a night in a hotel (following a day of sleep deprived fun, but that’s another story) and then board the ship the following day, catching a flight back on the afternoon after disembarkation a week later to be back in the office on Monday. A Saturday departure is a bit trickier without either taking an extra day off work to fly in some time on either Thursday night or during the day on Friday, or daring to flaunt the First Rule of Cruising (which, as you quickly learn if you spend any time on the Cruise Critic message boards, is that you should never fly in on the day of the cruise lest you put yourself at risk of missing the boat if anything at all goes wrong with your flights) and take a Friday night redeye flight. Either way, it takes a bit of planning to figure out (and to be perfectly honest I’m not a big fan of cross-country redeye flights anyway if I can help it) but it is doable.
When you add three days to that and start looking at 10-day itineraries or longer, your embarkation day could be basically any day of the week, which pretty much throws all that logic out the window. In this case, I’m fortunate to have one of the “easier” scenarios to deal with, since the cruise I will be on departs on a Monday and comes back the following Thursday. On one hand, the way this is scheduled means that even though the cruise is only ten days long I basically have to take two whole weeks off work to do it. On the other hand, it does allow the “luxury” of a convenient weekend to fly in (without having to do a redeye, something that I certainly approve of) and have an extra day in Fort Lauderdale before boarding the ship, plus another day and a half (or so) to spend after the disembarking before flying out on Friday afternoon (in theory I could fly back on Thursday, but a) the flight schedules really didn’t work out, and b) why bother?) In theory I could even tack on a couple more days to the end of that and fly back on Sunday, but given the fact that the return flights are getting rather close to the Christmas rush, it quickly gets to be too expensive to do that And that’s not even getting into the various hotel, rental car and other arrangements that might need to be made along the way.
For something that’s supposed to be a nice relaxing getaway, it sure doesn’t seem that way while you’re in the process of trying to get it all sorted out, but by the time you get through all of it, make the trip and walk up the gangway to board the ship, I can pretty much guarantee that you’ll have completely forgotten about all of that within ten minutes. And really, when it comes down to it, isn’t that the point?