When (working) vacations attack!

Becky Fenger Fenger Pointing

I should have known when the handle broke off my 50-pound suitcase while I was checking in at US Airways on Nov. 11 that this would be a sign of things to come on my working vacation to the Caribbean. Almost a month later, I'm still recovering, because older broads don't bounce back as fast (bouncing being one of the things we struggle with later in life).

As I have written before, about a quarter century ago the great William F. Buckley, Jr. thought it would be groovy to go on an ocean cruise with a cadre of sharp minds and discuss the affairs of the world while breathing sea air and visiting cool ports of call. There have been 23 of these voyages arranged by his magazine, National Review. One old timer recalled that Buckley actually posed one entire question to a learned panelist in Latin.

The line-up for this 2011 cruise didn't disappoint. Imagine sitting around the dinner table with the likes of Ambassador John Bolton, respected Islam scholar Bernard Lewis, historian Victor Davis Hanson, foreign-policy expert Elliott Abrams and terrorism and legal experts Andrew McCarthy and John Yoo. Not to mention the entertainment value of Mark Steyn, Jonah Goldberg and Senator Fred Thompson. Be still my heart.

I shouldn't be on a cruise in the first place, since I have suffered from motion sickness my whole life. The wrist bands helped, as we had a number of rough days at sea this time. Seasoned travelers suspected the cruise line was saving money on fuel by not putting out the stabilizers which, pun intended, are a real drag but help immensely.

As luck would have it, I came down with a respiratory infection that segued quickly into laryngitis and interminable coughing. On the second evening, I left dinner, shaking like a leaf from chills. I crawled into the cabin bed and called for a heating pad, forgetting they wouldn't be allowed due to fire hazards. When I worried I was getting worse and spiking a fever in the middle of the night, I called the desk for a doctor and was told the medical facilities were closed for the night.

Weakly, I pursued a quest for a thermometer, but the nurse on call told me she didn't have one nor access to one. I was informed there would be a $65 charge to come to my room (which I would gladly have paid), but it really was not a viable option since she couldn't write a prescription if I needed one. Only a doctor could do that and he wouldn't be available until 8:30 a.m. Wait. Make that 10 a.m.

I slept with my door unlocked that night, figuring nothing a nefarious passenger could do to me would be worse than how I felt at the time.

Our ship was due to make a stop at Half Moon Cay in the Bahamas a number of days later. By then I felt well enough to get off the ship to say "hi" to the sting rays that I had petted and fed octopus parts to three years earlier. Then comes the announcement from our captain. Another cruise ship, the Ryndam of the Holland American Line, had left Barcelona, Spain, almost two weeks earlier and had an outbreak of a gastrointestinal virus rage throughout the ship. Since she had docked prior to our arrival, we were advised to avoid these people now on the island like the plague, so to speak. The restaurants were sterilizing the area after their visits, but the safest bet was to just stay aboard our ship like captives in Paradise.

I stayed aboard, but didn't escape the Norwalk Virus which hit me like a brick wall the day after arriving back home to my welcoming doggies who didn't mind at all the they could join me in bed for the next nine days. Thanksgiving was a milestone. I was able to keep a glass of water down, but still needed two bags of IV fluids shot into me like a Butterball turkey.
As time boogies on, I will transcribe some of the pearls of wisdom from my seagoing notes. For now, I'm avoiding the subject of oysters.