The Four Voyagers
Francine L. Baldwin-Billingslea
Maryann, Sharon, Merita and I grew up together, went to the same schools, worked on the same jobs and retired within months of each other. After the thrill of retiring finally wore off, we found that our lives basically centered on our homes, families and babysitting. We found ourselves being quite bored and too available. We wanted to do something for ourselves, so we decided to plan a much needed vacation just for us old girls. We wanted to lie under a bright island sun, be served and pampered, rest, relax and shop till we dropped. After going to several travel agencies, we all agreed that a cruise offered all that we were looking for. Full of exhilaration, we went shopping to buy trendy clothing and fashionable bathing suits that would hide our flabs and drabs, and when our vacation time came, we were more than ready to go.
We flew to Miami to board the ship that would take us to Key West, Nassau, and St. Thomas. We were so excited, we had never vacationed together or without our husbands and we were laughing, giggling, and acting like a bunch of high school girls. As we boarded the ship, the photographer took a picture of us hugging, smiling, and waving, about to enter into the vacation of a life time. We rushed into our cabin, changed into our bathing suits and went poolside to have a few drinks, relax, and check out the sights. We were also glad that we brought our cover-ups; we were probably a sight within ourselves. But oh yes, this was great, absolutely fabulous, and exactly what the doctor would have ordered!
That evening, we dressed in casual attire and went into the dining area to be served. Then Maryann and Merita went to one of the ship´s many clubs, while Sharon and I went to the casino. Back in the cabin, we sat up talking, laughing, calling ourselves the four voyagers, and making plans for our next vacation until the sun came up. We were having so much fun together; we wondered why we had waited so long to have this girls´ retreat. Later that day, we finished unpacking and as the ship cruised, we familiarized ourselves with our surroundings, ducked in and out of the shops, had full body massages and were pampered. We were all quite tired, and since we were to dock in Key West the following day, we decided to call it an early night so we could be well rested for a day of island fun. As we dozed off to sleep, we were suddenly awakened by the sounds of Merita’s snoring. Who knew she snored like that? It was loud, intense, had a rhythm and was just plain awful! We’d wake her up and it would stop for a while, but it seemed to get worse once she fell back into a deep sleep. We were left to toss, turn, huff and puff, while Merita comfortably slept and kept us wide awake. The next morning she’d jump up fully rested, shower, sing as she dressed and call us a bunch of lazy divas as we tried to get a few winks in before starting our day. Little did we know that this was to be the nightly and daily routine.
Key West was beautiful, and although the three of us were quite tired, we had a blast! As we headed back to the ship, Maryann started complaining about having a bubbling stomach and gas, which we already knew the latter. That night we were kept awake by Merita’s snoring and Maryann flushing the toilet every ten minutes because of diarrhea, which happened to occur several times during our trip. Since we couldn’t sleep, Sharon and I would get up and go down to the casino, although the slots seemed to be against me, I felt lucky and was determined I was going to win, so I kept feeding the money-hungry, one arm-bandit twenty after twenty, until it took all the cash I had. Finally, I rose from the machine I had been playing for the last two or more hours and went to the ATM. While I was there I realized I brought the wrong card and couldn’t get the amount I thought I could, when all of a sudden, I heard bells ringing and loud excited screams. I grabbed my money and went to look; there, sitting at my machine, was one happy $5,000 jack-pot winner! I weakly leaned against the machine while I cussed, cried, and swore that I’ll never gamble again.
Since I had been to Nassau several times, when we docked, I decided to stay on the ship. This was an opportunity to get some much needed rest and the fact that I lost the bulk of my money in the casino was also a contributing factor for staying aboard. Fully rested, I showered, dressed in an expensive white short set, my straw hat and sunglasses, got something to eat, and settled comfortably into a lounge chair on deck with a good book and a costly Bloody Mary. Still quite disgusted about the night before, I decided to put it all behind me and enjoy this very necessary and pleasurable “Me-time” along with the rest of the cruise the best that I could. As I raised my glass to sip my drink, a bunch of kids came running by, and forcefully knocked me over. I landed face down with the lounge chair on top of me, as I angrily pushed the chair aside and ignored the stares, whispers and giggles; I picked up my smashed up hat, broken sun glasses and stood to my feet. The front of my suit was bright red, my knee was badly bruised and the taste of blood let me know that my lip was busted. Fuming, I headed towards my cabin to shower, change and work on my wounds, but found that I had left my key inside and was locked out. When my cabin mates returned and I told them what happened, Sharon said, “So, that’s the reason for your limp and busted lip!” They started laughing so hard, I had no choice but to painfully join in.
As we traveled on to St. Thomas, we hit some rough waters, the ship constantly rocked back and forth and from side to side as my friends and I unsteadily made our way to the midnight buffet. Sharon, who had been complaining of nausea all evening, suddenly fell against the table, knocking over bowls of food and a tall tier of finger sandwiches, drawing all the attention to us before she projectile vomited, spoiling everyone’s appetite and embarrassing the heck out of us. Helping her back to the cabin, I happily thought, only three more days left to this hellish, sleepless, moneyless, stinking nightmare. However, feeling lucky and determined to win my money back, I limped to the casino and lost the rest of it.
As we cruised back to Miami, the four of us lay quietly side by side lounging on the deck in our old-fashion one piece bathing suits, (which we didn’t realize were old-fashioned until we saw all the others), taking in the clean ocean air and the sights. We’d look over at Merita in disgust as she had the nerve to complain in-between her dozes and snores that she couldn’t sleep because of her sunburn and kept asking us why we left her asleep on deck the day before. We had our reasons. We were also quite repulsed by the smells that kept coming from Maryann’s direction, while being in constant fear that Sharon would empty her stomach out at any given moment, and I knew that all three of them were snickering at my lip that had doubled in size, especially whenever I limped away from them.
Flying back home, Merita’s head rested against the window as she loudly snored. Maryann kept one of the bathrooms occupied while the flight attendant kept knocking on the door asking if she was alright. Sharon sat extremely quietly, still looking a little green around the gills, and if I had any money, I would’ve treated myself to a much needed drink as I secretly swore I would never gamble again.
We had fun although it wasn’t quite the dream vacation that we all had in mind, but it did turn out to be a very memorable experience.
Just recently, as we sat going through some of the pictures, we were bent over laughing as we noticed that our poses, smiles and looks went from hugging each other to being stand-offish, sick, tired, beat-up and irritated looking.
Merita told us that, in spite of it all, she really enjoyed herself with us lazy divas, the fresh ocean air and how well she slept, and suggested that we should plan another cruise or vacation together. Maryann talked about how good the food was, although it gave her gas, as if we didn’t know, and Sharon said thoughts about the food and the ship still made her nauseous. I didn’t say anything; as they were talking; my mind was brimming over with excuses ready to roll off the lip, which by the way, could have used a stitch or two. And when the three of them looked at me and simultaneously busted out laughing, I knew it was because of my lip, bruised up knee, limp, or all three, and their contagious laughter once again made me join in, although it still hurt when I smiled.
Personally, as much as I love and enjoy being with my life-long friends, I’d rather stick to our day outings, but if they choose to go on another cruise or vacation together, I wish them well and I’ll be more than happy to stay home, be bored, available, and baby-sit their grandchildren.