The time has come for another recap of a cruise vacation. This one in particular was more of an adventure due to situations out of our control, but the whole time, we made good of it.
Over a year ago, my brother and I began to consider options for how we we going to celebrate our mom’s (then) approaching retirement. She had raised us as a single mother after divorce from our father in 1990. We really had much to owe her.
Planning started off with Europe in mind. First up to bat, a Mediterranean cruise. Lines were compared across the board. Royal Caribbean, Carnival, MSC, Norwegian, Costa, and even Holland America. I placed a 24 hour hold on a MSC cruise, but nixed the plans. Costs and time-off became not just an issue for myself, but my brother and his girlfriend. It was asking too much.
Next up was an initial booking on Celebrity Summit out of San Juan, Puerto Rico in December 2015. The ports were awesome and flights could be done same-day for a lot less than Europe. I was going to share an Aqua Class aft balcony with Mom and my brother and his girlfriend would be directly across the hall in an interior cabin. Perks were great for Aqua Class! Eventually it became clear that this was still stretching it a little and my ambition was still aiming a little too high.
The final choice became Royal Caribbean International’s Navigator of the Seas 6 day cruise out of Fort Lauderdale on January 17th, 2016. The itinerary I had done 3 years prior on Independence of the Seas. Ports were Grand Cayman, Jamaica, and Haiti, with sea days prior and after. It was easy for everyone. Affordable and time-off was easy as it was Sunday to Saturday. Because it was just “easier” I pulled the trigger on a Grand Suite. All 4 of us would be okay sharing a cabin for 6 days, right?
Naturally a gift like this would need to be a surprise. Before we settled on anything, I had to get an idea from Mom on when she would finally intend to retire. The date remained fluid for a long time before she chose her actual last day. The hardest part though was keeping it a secret. I had a cruise planned for November 1st which was the day after her last day at work. She had intended to join me with her own cabin, but I insisted that she not and instead focus on saving on projects for her house. Eventually, a time came when I did have to divulge information or hint that something might be coming. Mom is planner by nature and insisting that she not plan something is a tall order. Doing so could not be done without giving some reason. This would relieve some of the stress, but deepen the mystery of what was going on. A catch-22 of sorts.
I knew how I wanted to present the gift from the start. In a (miniature) treasure chest. I sought one out online. I purchased fake gold coins to fill it, along with some Royal Caribbean swag. One item in particular was an old royal name tag in which I added “I’m Retired” to. She could wear it on embarkation.
On her birthday we all met with her for dinner. We presented her with the chest, wrapped in brown paper and with the treasure map rolled neatly. Her excited, though subdued grew as she opened the box to find the contents. Inside were two cards. The first one telling her of the suite we had booked. The second, an invitation to join me on cruises to Bermuda, the Mediterranean, and more of the Caribbean (already booked cruises). She was thrilled! Not just with the cruise we had chosen for her, but with the option of visiting Europe for a Med sailing. With the cat(s) out of the bag, the planning commenced, as did the countdown!