A couple months back, our daughter and her husband gave Gayle and me a Cozumel cruise our fortieth anniversary. To say we were surprised is as much an understatement as suggesting Noah’s flood was a passing summer shower.

We’d never been on one. I don’t know why. Maybe perhaps we’re pretty much homebodies with a cluster of families and mass of cats that keep us on a predictable and comfortable routine of our own.

This was something new, precipitating tasks beyond with which we were familiar. In other words, our little daily routine, plebian in nature, was blown to smithereens. From that day on, our lives had been altered. Warily, we barged ahead.

Most of the details of the cruise were done online. Technology savvy, I do not possess. Why, I have ‘missed alerts’ on my cell phone that are two years old and don’t know how to get them off.

Fortunately, Susan’s husband, Mike, came to my rescue and got us registered and accounts set up for the cruise. We even printed up the luggage tags. After that, it was left up to me to take care of passports. Both Mike and Amy’s husband, Jason, are handy with computers. Me? I can turn them own and go to Word, and that’s about it.

Securing passports is not hard unless you don’t have all the information on the birth certificate. And naturally, one of ours was missing a couple pieces. In the blank for father’s name on Gayle’s, the hospital put in his line of work, Farmer. That meant we had to drive to Lake Charles and spend the day to pick up a complete certificate for Gayle. Then we came back. At the post office, we raised our hand and swore to just about everything, then forked over about $250 bucks for two passports and attendant fees.

I griped and complained all the way home.

If only I had known what lay ahead!

Then came clothes. Jeez, more time and money, but the adventure that lay ahead served as Sirens calling out to Odysseus and his sailors. Irresistible. So we plunged ahead, telling ourselves this was a once-in-a-lifetime venture. “Damn the torpedoes. Full speed head,” cried Admiral David Farragut at the Battle of Mobile Bay in the Civil War.

So it was with the Conwells. “Damn the hassle, full speed ahead.”

And we barged forward. It was a sort of blind-leading-the-blind project.

With our daughters and grandkids, we made a run to Galveston to find Pier 21 where the ship was moored and set up a tentative, very tentative, plan of action.

On the fateful day, we left early. I had nightmares that we’d break down on the road or the ferries would be sinking and we’d end up on the side of the road watching the Carnival Triumph chug out of port.

I shouldn’t have worried. We had time to spare. After dropping our luggage at the pier, we parked and caught a shuttle back, and got swept up in a maelstrom of passengers going through customs. It was organized chaos, and before we had a chance to stop and look around, we were onboard and sitting at the bar in the mail lobby.

Then the fun–well, if being lost, turned around, and constantly confused is your idea of fun, we were having fun. Not to offend anyone, but after two or three Bud Lights at $5.95 a whack, we didn’t care if we were lost or turned around or not.

The rooms were nice, really nice. We were on the First Deck. Gayle laughingly referred to it as Third Class, but I tell you, if it were Third Class, I’d take Third Class any day.

We got to our room about two o’clock. No luggage, so we toured as many of the twelve decks as we could. Sailing time was four o’clock.

I’ve never seen so many elevators and stairs. A couple times, we got off an elevator only to find stairs on either side. It reminded us of the Great Maze of Crete that housed the Minotaur. Every time we turned around, there was another damned elevator or set of stairs, but like Farragut, we persevered. We finally found our dining room at the stern (notice the nautical slang? Who says I’m slow?) on the Third Deck and our assigned table with a couple from Freeport.

They were wonderful folks, but the food was lousy. The grilled chicken breast was dry; the golf-ball-size Imperial Red Potato was cut in quarters; and the green beans numbered four. Oh, and no rolls. The tea–well, it was tea in name only.

I would have preferred staying at one of the numerous bars drinking Bud Light. Still the meals were part of the deal. We discovered there were several dining areas around the big liner, and all were free. You just stepped into line at the buffet or waited to be seated to order as much of whatever was on the menu.

To be fair, only dinner at that specific dining room was not tasty. Breakfast and lunch were delicious, as were the entrees at all the other dining areas and grills. And it was all you could eat. We sat across from one gentleman who devoured a grapefruit, waffles, and two servings of bacon. They did not skimp on portions either. What was left over would have been a Dumpster diver’s dream come true.

Twenty-four hours a day there was someplace open to quench your thirst or satisfy your hunger.

After dinner that first night, we headed for the bright lights of the casino.

What happened there will have to wait until next time.