Tuesday, September 13, 2005

The Jinx

A big part of the reason my husband and I moved to Celebration is its proximity to Disney World and Port Canaveral (home of Disney Cruise Line). Better yet, the shoreside office of the cruise line is right at the entrance to town. I can't think of a more appropriate location for fanatics like us, who have cruised on the Magic and Wonder a total of 45 times since 1998.

Beginning with our first Disney Cruise, all those years ago, we also started a tradition of sailing every September. Since hurricane season typically peaks in late Aug./early Sept., the rates are very reasonable. For six years, we saved a bundle and never had a storm negatively impact our trip.

Then, in 2004, our luck ran out. The hurricane trio (Charley, Francis, and Jeanne) wreaked havoc on cruise ship schedules in Florida. The weather was so bad that one of the Disney Wonder's cruises was abruptly extended because it couldn't return to the port. Our sailing on the Wonder was the correct length, but it departed from Fort Lauderdale rather than Port Canaveral (it did manage to return to its home port).

After last year's mess, I reasoned that we would be safe this year. After all, what are the odds that two cruises, exactly one year apart, would both have to be diverted due to a hurricane?

Apparently pretty high! Or, more likely, our luck has run out, and now we've become a jinx.

Tropical Storm Ophelia decided to hang out just past the Florida coast, closing down Port Canaveral. On the Weds. before our cruise, Disney Cruise Line announced that the Wonder would be sailing out of Fort Lauderdale. Once again, we faced a multi-hour drive due to Mother Nature's wrath.

Last year, I wasn't a happy camper. This year, with Hurricane Katrina's vicious attack on Louisiana and Mississippi, a diverted cruise seemed like nothing when compared to people who lost their homes, and even their lives. The worst natural disaster in American history has a way of putting minor problems in perspective.

Also, having been through this routine before, I had learned the best way to handle the transportation. Disney Cruise Line was running buses from Port Canaveral to Port Everglades, but the prospect of nearly four hours crowded on with dozens of cranky, impatient travelers was not very appealing. Instead, we did a one-way car rental from Thrifty, which is located right outside of Celebration. There is a location right near the entrance to the port, so we drove out to Fort Lauderdale, dropped off the car, and took the Thrifty shuttle to the ship.

When the cats and bird saw us packing their luggage, they knew we'd be temporarily abandoning them. Between our cruises and trips to Chicago, they're learned what it means when we load up our bags. Stitch, who normally makes a beeline for any open door, had absolutely no inkling to go outside. "Smart cat," my husband said. "He knows that if he goes out and we accidentally leave him, he's stuck outside for a long weekend!" Poor Stitch had been found abandoned in a field according to the shelter from which we adopted him. Now that he has a comfy home, he doesn't want a rerun of the "stray life."

Bradley, my bird, knows what the luggage means, too. We leave him loose when we're home, but I lock him in his cage while we're gone to keep him safe from feline predators. Problem is, he doesn't want to let me put him into the cage before we go. It took a bit of chasing him around the family room, but finally I managed to contain him.

We picked up our rental car and took the turnpike to I-95 and made the trip in 3 1/2 hours. That got us to the ship a little before 1 p.m., well ahead of the poor devils on the buses.

The cruise turned out to be a wonderful vacation, other than rough seas the first night. My husband and I are not prone to seasickness, but many of our fellow cruisers were praying to the porcelain god that night.

Meanwhile, Ophelia moved off toward North Carolina, so our path was clear to return to Port Canaveral. We hopped a van to Disney World, planning to have a neighbor pick us up at one of the hotels. But the van driver was very nice and offered to take us right to our house once he had dropped off the other passengers. After a stop at the Swan and All-Star Movies, we headed to Celebration. I think we got the poor driver totally lost, as we directed him into the back entrance to town. By the time we reached Duloc Manor, I think he was dizzy from East Village's curvy and confusing streets.

It may have started out dicey, but it turned into another great Disney cruise. My only wonderment is whether the jinx will continue next year. Once again, we're booked for the same week in September, 2006, although it will be a four night cruise next time around. Will we be departed from Fort Lauderdale once again, or will three times be the charm that breaks the curse? Only time will tell.

Learn more about Celebration on my website: www.celebrationinfo.com

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