Monday, November 29, 2010

Raw Hot Dog Fever-Finale!!

This one's long, but it's the end and remember that this is also our journal!

I feel like I need to put a reminder in right here.  This is for my journal purposes so this next section might get a little boring because this is what happened to me, no one else was around me for about 75 % of the day on Tuesday.  So, for those of you who are reading this, and you are the type of person who would rather go and lay down on a lounge chair and read a book by a pool (my wife), I am sorry.  But for those of you who don’t like to do that (me), you may want to pay close attention!

Ok, back to the story: A few minutes later the deck erupted in cheering and shouting.  “What’s going on?” I thought.  Then I saw them…our heroes in blue jumpsuits…the United States Coast Guard.  You would have thought we were at some kind of concert, with the women going crazy to see the stars of the show.  Several of the women were jumping up to get their picture taken with our young “saviors”.  It had been one day!  (I think I figured out who the “hoarders” were!) People were starting to go nuts!  I truly believe that some people thought that we would starve to death, or worse! 
Speaking of worse, I have a confession: I did think that the reason the Coast Guard and U.S. and Mexican Navies were surrounding us was to keep us safe from the pirates.  Becky thought that I was crazy, “Why would pirates want to take over a cruise ship?”  Well, maybe the fact that there are a lot of people on board that had a bunch of vacationing money (that was probably never spent!), plus, there was a jewelry shop on board (Duty Free!) with probably hundreds of thousands in merchandise, plus the power that the pirates would get from their peers for overtaking a very big ship!  Yes, I was a little frightened, a little crazy, but frightened.  Now I do not want anybody to think that I let these thoughts consume me by any means, actually maybe that’s why I hung out on the open deck so much…to make sure that I could see the pirates coming!
The crowds are starting to really gather now by the pool on the Lido Deck, good thing we got the front row seats!  After waiting for a while, the Coast Guard, along with some of our ship’s officers were starting to unravel the “CAUTION” tape so that nobody would encroach on the drop zone.  We sat there for about an hour and then there it was in all of its glory!  The helicopter, making its dry run to make sure that everything was good for the drop. 

John (you guessed it) the Cruise Director got on the intercom and said that he was very sorry, but because they care so much for the safety of their guests, he needed to have us leave the area, because it was just too dangerous.  I think that this announcement made more people mad than the announcement that the cruise was officially over.  I couldn’t believe how irritated people got over this.  Not me.  I needed to find a good place to watch it.  Off I went to “my” deck, the open deck under the life boats on deck 3.  I liked to think of it as my deck because I was literally the only one that was ever out there. 

To my luck, the helicopter’s path of travel was straight at me and then right over the top of me!  I was stoked!  And the most exciting part for me is that I had my camera!  Sorry Emily, but I am taking pictures of this!  (I think I already established that I am a nerd, right?)  Not only was the helicopter with all of the supplies hanging from its underside right there, but the U.S. Coast Guard ship was just off the starboard side of the boat for me to take some good pictures…nerd alert!

So, during our wait on the Lido Deck for the helicopter drops, apparently the tugboat had arrived and hooked up to the bow of the Splendor.  As fun and exciting as it was to wait for the helicopter, I got really frustrated when I got down to “my” deck and saw that the tug was already hooked up.  I missed it!  Another photo opportunity had come and gone, and I missed it!  I love to see things that I have never seen (like the Panama Canal and how it works), and watching a tugboat hook up to a gigantic cruise ship would fit that category.  Yes, I was sad.  Of course I lived, but I was sad nonetheless.

Tuesday was really a day of very interesting things happening.  For me a lot of things that I had never seen before were all right there waiting to be witnessed for the first time: an aircraft carrier, a helicopter drop, a tugboat, a Coast Guard ship and helicopter.  These are iconic things in our nation, and I was now a huge part of it!  As crazy as that sounds, I truly feel that way.  I was in heaven for a lot of that Tuesday afternoon.  I also realize that it doesn’t take a lot to keep me entertained.  This day was so exciting for me, so much so that I still considered this cruise a vacation, unlike everyone else in the family that I was there with.  I felt like a little kid again.  I don’t understand how someone could just sit by a pool or on the beach all the time when there are things to be seen.  To each their own I guess.  Had everything gone according to plan, and the ship never had broken down, it would have been just another cruise—a fun cruise no doubt, but this was a vacation that will never be forgotten!

Well, I never saw any pirates, nor did I ever find my wife that entire day!  I did keep running into Gary and Becky, and Jim and Jennefer, and they would always ask me where Emily was.  I always replied, “I don’t know.  I haven’t really been looking for her.  I’m pretty sure that she is reading somewhere.”  Now, I can be honest.  I had been looking for Emily, pretty much all day, not hard, but I had been looking for her!  I went to every area that I thought she would be in, but never once was she where I thought she would be.  I was about 100 % certain that she was reading somewhere on a comfortable lounge chair, but I also knew that she didn’t want to be disturbed by me and all of my exciting pictures, so, had I found her I would have made sure that she knew I wasn’t seeking her out, but I kind of was.  I know, stalker, right?  So, I would make my rounds looking for my wife, unsuccessful, I would go back to deck 3 and find a little study time, then I would make my rounds again.  I got to see a lot of the ship doing this, and I saw a whole bunch of people.  A lot of these people were in their bath robes (provided by Carnival in every stateroom).  This had become the “official” cruise wear on the Splendor, as it was never much higher than 60 degrees, and there was a constant breeze, and nobody brought anything that would keep them warm.

*You can see the bath robes...and how much our boat was rocking by the pool splash.
While looking for my wife, I came across a couple of people that had just been laying in the hallways.  One was an elderly man, and there were a few people around him, I found out that he had slipped on some water that had fallen onto the tile floors from the ceiling.  Yes, there was water dripping from the ceiling!  I was told that it was condensation from the air conditioning not working, but I don’t know if that was a correct assessment or not.  It was really sad to see all of the elderly people on the ship, because they had to use the stairs.  If you have been on a cruise, you know that there are typically a lot of older folks, in scooters, and walkers, etc. and this cruise was no different (well, it was in the fact that there were no elevators!)  So, most everybody aboard ship got a chance or two to help someone take their walker, or scooter down (or up) the stairs for these folks.

This is a great time to mention that for the most part, the passengers on the cruise were very cordial about this whole disaster at sea.  Nobody seemed to be struggling, nobody was screaming at anybody else, it was just a unique experience that we were all in together, and everybody seemed okay under the circumstances.  I could only imagine what it would be like to be on a cruise where it was the opposite!

I remember Tuesday night we had a big family meeting, and we did it in the “Gold Pearl” Dining Room.  As we walked into the room, we were overtaken by a smell of rotting food.  It was such a nasty smell, I can’t even describe it.  I kept looking over at our group, and everyone of us either had our shirt up over our noses or hands covering the noses.  Occasionally someone thought they would be tough enough to remove said shirt or hands from their nose, and every time this happened you would hear them say, “Oh! That smells so bad!  Luckily for us this was one of the only rooms large enough to accommodate all of us reasonably comfortably, now I know why it was vacant!  This was the room that the crew was eating in, and it smelled like even they were doing the same thing as us passengers—hoarding and ditching their food!

It was while we were all here in the “Gold Pearl” that John came back on the intercom and told us a few things.  1) How Carnival was going to “take care of us”, this was the most anticipated announcement all day!  He said that they were going to reimburse the cruise, and also the travel to and from Long Beach (this is when cheers were heard from the entire ship), he also said that they were working really hard on getting everybody home safe and quickly.  2) Due to us having drifted 60 miles, the sea conditions being what they were, and they not wanting to have us deal with customs in Mexico, that they would instead be taking us to San Diego, CA in place of “Enchilada” Mexico!  Again, cheers erupted.  3) Tomorrow (Wednesday) morning we were going to do things differently with the feeding of the starving millions.  Instead of all of us going to the Lido, they would be opening, in addition to the Lido, the “Gold Pearl” and the “Black Pearl”.  Again, cheers!  Gary was very quick to point out that they actually listened to him, I mean why wouldn’t they listen to one of their Gold Status cruise members?  Gary had gone to the Customer Service desk and talked to them about the lines and that tempers were beginning to flare, and they needed to figure out a way to calm everybody down.  I am going to highly doubt that it was from the efforts of only my father-in-law, but he doesn’t know that, and why would I want to rob him of that sense of pride?  4) He also mentioned that because we were going to San Diego in lieu of Ensenada, we would not be getting in until Thursday evening sometime, but he would keep us posted.  They were still working on all of the logistics of all of this, and that he would keep us updated on what their corporate (“the beards in Miami” as he called them) decided to do with us when we got to San Diego. 
*We hung out outside our rooms a lot!

We were all very pleased by these announcements.  I mean just being able to go to some place other than the Lido to eat, was worth taking an extra day to go the States instead of Mexico at this point.  This is pretty much how Tuesday ended, we went back down to our cabin, grabbed our books, and read.  Emily laid down in the little hall on her tummy on the floor with a pillow at the threshold of our cabin door, and I sat in the chair that we we placed in the hall.  This was done this way so that we could actually see what we were reading.  It was about this time that everyone’s cell phone and ipod’s, and ipad’s batteries were dying, as they were using them as lights in their cabin with no way to charge them.

Day 3
Wednesday Nov 10, 2010

It was so hard to sleep on this ship.  Usually on cruises you sleep like a baby, and I think a lot of that has to do with the fact that there is an engine that is constantly humming, with a little vibration, and for some reason that just knocks you right out, and it is easy to sleep until 10 or so.  This cruise was an exception.  No engine=no humming or vibration!  We slept so bad!  We would wake up at 5 or 6 every morning, it was becoming a nuisance.  I got up and stood under the freezing cold trickle from our shower head to wash my body, then I got dressed and ready for the day.  I grabbed my back pack with Chemistry books, and of course the camera! 

We made our way to the “Gold Pearl” for breakfast.  It was amazing…no lines!  That was the first time since we…well nevermind, this was the first time we didn’t have to wait in line on this entire cruise (check-in included)!  We got to the line and noticed that there were wraps, Pop Tarts, juice (thanks to the US Navy)—it was almost like a normal breakfast—then we sat down and realized the wraps had meat in them.  “I didn’t think they could cook meat because the power was out?!?”  It wasn’t cooked, it was hot dogs! Raw hot dogs! Not only that, but they were mixed in with a little mayo, and cheese.  I must have been starving, because it was actually kind of good, I had 2 or 3 of them!  Once Emily knew it was hot dogs, she quickly set it down and said, “That’s disgusting.  I’m not going to eat that!”…so, I did!  It was so nice to finally have something besides a sandwich for breakfast!
While at breakfast, Jim told us a funny story from that night.  Apparently there were these two Japanese women who were right across the hall from Gary and Becky, they were being very loud and obnoxious at around 1 o’clock am, and this lasted I guess for quite a while.  They were talking very loudly to each other and yelling, and as I mentioned before, cruise ships are not known for their thick, sound-proof walls, so this entire conversation was pretty much heard by everyone in this vicinity.  Jim shouted in Japanese to please be quiet, and Gary shouted in Japanese, “Bakka!” which apparently is a very strong swear word in Japanese.  How Gary knew this word?  I don’t know if anyone actually knows, but my guess is that either Jim or Jason taught it to him (my bet is on Jason).  Anyway, immediately the women were quiet, and apologized through their door.  Jim, being the wonderful son-in-law he is, heard Gary shout this word, and went over to the ladies’ room and told them not to pay any attention to the old man who yelled that, he is a bit senile!  The women told Jim that both of their husbands died, and they were terrified of water (they were in a cabin with a window), and the water kept splashing up and hitting their window, which was freaking them out.  They said that they needed to yell at each other to try and make each other fall asleep.  So, they told Jim how sorry they were, and invited Emma and Madison over to show them how to do origami after breakfast in the morning, which was the highlight of the Japanese ladies’ trip (that’s what they told Jim anyway).

*A funny description of our trip from Emma and Madi plus you can see how dark it was at night time!

Sometime during the wee hours of the night, another little tugboat had met up with us, so we were now being hauled at a whopping 7 knots (~8 mph) towards San Diego!  I think that the passengers today were finally realizing that this trip, “the cruise from hell” as some were calling it, was in fact going to end.  They got some decent food in their bellies (raw hot dogs and Pop Tarts), the cruise’s crew members were finally holding little activities in the smaller lounges.  It actually felt like a normal cruise (well, almost). 

After breakfast, Emily went off to go and read or work out or both, and I did my thing of studying and then trying to find her.  Again, I found the rest of the family, but never did I find my wife!  When she wants to, she can disappear…actually, even when she doesn’t want to, it’s amazing!  Again, the Coast Guard, and the Navy were encircling us, making sure the pirates didn’t get us (at least that’s my story)!  There were also a few other visitors as we were getting closer to San Diego, container ships, more Coast Guard escorts, etc.
You could tell that this day of the cruise was definitely the most energetic, and entertaining.  The passengers were all a little happier, the crew was happier (I think that is because they had their structure, and organization back a little, plus they had to get back in their uniforms!)  It had been very chaotic up until Wednesday.  The crew really didn’t know what to do the first couple of days; I don’t think that they prepare very well for this type of emergency! 

The rest of the day was actually quite boring, not much happened, just walking around the boat, and watching people do their thing.  Most everybody was laying down on the lounge chairs reading or just trying to get a little sun, braving the cold weather.  Later that night we heard the beep preceding the announcements, it was John again, it went something like this:

“Ladies and gentlemen, may I have your attention please.  As you know, Carnival is doing all they can to make you happy, and to make sure that you get home safe.  I want to let you know that the ‘beards in Miami’ are working very hard to get your travel plans so every one of you can get back home.  While you are sleeping, we are going to slide under your door your new travel arrangements.  Please do not go to the Customer Service desk to try and find out what your plans are, they do not know.  If you need to change your plans for any reason, we will have three or four telephone lines available on the ship in the morning, or if you can wait until we disembark you can do it at the pier.  Please be patient, but until then, have a good time!” 

That night we (Gary, Becky, Jim and Jenn, Emma and Madi, and Emily and I) were all standing out in the hall just mingling, wondering how in the world we were going to pack in the pitch black.  As we were discussing what a nightmare it would be to do that task, one of the staff members (activities staff, dressed in full Carnival warm-up gear) walked by us.  Gary was very quick to get her attention and have a little chat with her on the ignorance and the horrible way we had been treated.  He also asked her if she could provide a flashlight for all of us so we could pack in the morning.  She said that she would be happy to, but she could only come in and shine the light to make sure we had everything because she had to share her light with everyone else too.  She was very polite, and then she added that if we needed anything else to go and talk to the Service desk.  Who would have thought that this nice comment would have brought my father-in-law into a rage of how incompetent the service desk people had been, and how he had been treated.  “I think that German that works in the office is a Nazi!”  That is pretty dang close to the exact words used by Gary to the nice activities lady.  Needless to say, she was pretty speechless, and the rest of us were trying to tell her that Gary didn’t mean that.  That was one of the more awkward times on the cruise!

I don’t know if it was the Nazi comment or what, but not too much time had passed and we had a lady from the service desk walk by, and we asked her for a few things to see if they would be able to get for us, like staying in San Diego for a couple of days, and to fly out of San Diego if possible.  She said she would try, she just wanted us to write down our info, so we did and she was off to save the next upset customers. 
I need to say, that given the circumstances, we were treated amazingly by the staff of the Splendor.  Can you imagine what it would be like to try and make 3500 people happy during the worst possible vacation ever?  They did a tremendous job!  Of course there were things that we asked for that didn’t happen, but in the end it all turned out just fine!  That being said, it was time to go to bed.  So, we got into our reading positions on the floor and in the hall.  Read a while, then went to sleep.

Day 4
Thursday Nov 11, 2010

For some reason, during this entire trip that cursed internal alarm clock of mine was set to go off right at 5 am, and no matter how many times I would hit the “snooze”, I could never get back to sleep.  Our final morning on the ship was no different, except that during the night we received our flight plans to back home.  So, I turned on the camera (this is what we used for light), and grabbed the paper that was on the floor and read it.  The light I was getting from the camera wasn’t too good so I went out in the hall to make sure that what I read was correct.  That is when I saw Jim.  He was all dressed, and was coming from the direction of the stairs to his room.  He said that he had been on the phone with Carnival to try and get things all worked out.
My plans showed that Emily and I were to leave from San Diego airport on Friday and 1:40 pm, non-stop flight to Atlanta, and Carnival was going to put us up in the Hyatt.  Not too bad, except that Jim said that when he checked his info (on the phone) he said that mine was not what was printed on my paper, but Em and I were going to stay in the Embassy or something like that, but Jim changed that for us to be with them in the Hyatt.  Just then Gary came out of his room to join in the conversation.  He had the same info that I had on my paper.  He was not satisfied.  He wanted to leave on Saturday, which was actually a good idea, why not drag this trip out another day?  Since I was going to be on the same flight with Gary and Becky, and to make it easier on those who were to pick us up, we needed to get on the same flight as him.

We walked through this door that was marked “Employees Only”, that was right next to the Customer Service desk.  I was thinking to myself the whole time, “I hope that the German is not working!  I don’t think Gary could deal with a “Nazi” at 5 in the morning!”  Luckily for Gary the German was not in, and we went right to the phones and called the number.  However, the phone that I picked up was not working, so I just sat there next to Gary while he made the arrangements for us.  He did get us on a flight on Saturday, for 1:40 non stop for San Diego, and we were staying in the Hyatt for 2 nights!  I was actually very excited about this arrangement.

While Gary was on the phone, there was another couple in there trying to do the same thing we were doing.  One difference though, they were supposed to be travelling on the Carnival Splendor the following week as well!  That’s right, 2 weeks on the same boat, to the exact same places!  I couldn’t do it.  Anyway, needless to say, they were not happy campers.  They told me that they were going to go after Carnival.  I honestly can’t fathom why people would do such a thing.  If there is some mechanical issues on a plane, it gets fixed and people don’t sue.  There was a mechanical issue on a boat, and people are already talking suing!  Granted the problem was a little bit bigger on the ship, and it happened while we were in the middle of the ocean, with pirates all around us!  Maybe it wasn’t such a bad idea to sue!

After all of the arrangements were finally set in stone (it was now about 6 am), I went outside to see what was happening.  To my surprise there was a tugboat that looked like it was tied up to us.  The captain of the tugboat was out on his deck (which was about 10 feet lower than my deck #3 location, where he was talking to some of the passengers.  I remember them asking the captain of this tugboat if we were on the news, his reply—“Oh yeah!”  “Just the local news?” they asked him.  “No, this is pretty much world news!”  Wow, it wasn’t until just then that I realized I was famous!!!  I thought to myself that I would be getting interviewed left and right when I got off the ship.  News choppers would be flying around us, and I would make sure that I was outside so that I would be seen!  I had to get Emily so she could come be famous with me!

I went back down to my stateroom, where Emily was actually awake (well, she was not sleeping in a pitch black room) and told her the great news that we were going to be famous because of what the tugboat captain said.  “Why would this be a huge story?”  she asked.  “I don’t know, maybe because pirates could have attacked us!” I replied.  To this she put me in my place by saying, “You’re so dumb!”

Well there was no point in trying to fall back to sleep now, with my dreams being crushed! So, we grabbed the camera and went out to see what we could see on the deck for a few minutes before going to grab a bite to eat in the “Gold Pearl”.  It was such a beautiful morning!  Happy Birthday Becky!  What a way to celebrate your special day, Pop Tarts for breakfast!  We could finally see land too, that was a plus!  Our tugboats had done their job—though the hard part was coming up in a couple of hours for them.  We made it to the “Gold Pearl” and got our serving of some kind of raw hot dog something or other mixed with some kind of bread and cheese, and our Pop-Tarts and juice.  We sat down and noticed that there was a tugboat directly behind us, right below where we were eating.  It appeared as if this tugboat was “ramming” us!  It would hit us, back off a few yards and then hit us again and again.

The remainder of the morning was spent between the starboard and port side of the Splendor on deck #3 (the majority of the time on starboard side since that is where the boats carrying the news people were!)  The Naval Complex of Coronado was on the starboard side.  There were hundreds of fighter jets, and three or four aircraft carriers here, it was awesome!  This is the base that the USS Ronald Reagan is stationed, and also the submarines that were apparently around us too!  I didn’t find out about submarines surrounding us until we got to shore.  It was just an amazing scene, US Coast Guard choppers flying around us, news choppers, lots of US Coast Guard boats and ships, the personal boats being used as platforms for camera crews—I guess we were pretty big news!

It was such an amazing feeling to be pulling up next to the pier!  Watching the tugboats get in position to gently nudge us in to our final stopping place was incredible!  You could see the tugboat captains (all four of them) ready at all times to make the slightest adjustment in speed, or direction.  The people that were on the dock that were at the ready to help tie the monster cruise ship off were teasing us with the flashlights that they had attached to their fluorescent vests, making everybody aboard the Splendor chuckle a little (under our breath, we were cussing them out for teasing us!)  When we looked to the front of the pier, at the road, there were all of the cameras!  Hundreds of them!  It was like a scene from a movie.
We were finally in our resting place, and the pier crew was getting the gangplanks hooked up to the ship, right below where we were standing.  Standing next to these gangplanks anxiously waiting to hop on board was the CEO of Carnival, Gerald R. Cahill.  He boarded the moment the gangplank was touching the ship, I don’t think it was even attached at this point.  While he was boarding, our buddy John was saying that we should be disembarking in about an hour.  The pier workers needed to get ready and so did the Splendor crew for trying to get the 3500 passengers off in an orderly fashion.  The previous night we were given disembarking numbers, we were given #7 (of 32, I think).  So, we were to be among the first ones off the ship.  John told us that as soon as we got off, we were to head over to the buses that were going to take us to our hotels. 
As John was talking, Emily and I decided that it was probably a good time to go and start packing so that we didn’t miss our disembarkment number.  John then handed the intercom over to Mr. Gerry Cahill.  “I want to first of all apologize that this happened on your vacation, and I want to apologize for the fire…”  I didn’t hear much after that, “Fire?  What is he talking about?”  Apparently our gut instincts on Monday were right!  There was a fire, one with flames!  We later found out that said fire took three hours to put out! Three hours!  No wonder we were such big news!  It crushed my heart, but apparently pirates weren’t even that big of a deal!  Whatever, I still think it was because of pirates that we got the US Coast Guard and Navy, and the Mexican Navy!

Well, there really isn’t much left to tell, other than disembarkment number 7 was called, we pulled all of our luggage, plus a few extra Diet Coke’s that we hoarded, went down the flight of stairs to Deck 1, walked the gangplank, boarded the bus headed to the Grand Hyatt of San Diego where we would spend the rest of our trip.  We got to the Hyatt and lo and behold…another line!  “Oh great…here we go again!!!”
**This next video's really long but it was really quite neat to take part in the docking procedure and see people excited to see us!


Johnson said...

Good job on the thorough story. I read every word. I am sure pirates would have attacked the ship without military intervention.

Jen said...

This was fun to read, Jake! Thanks for all the great details. I hope that you and Emily felt totally compensated. . . raw hot dogs, hmmm.

Chad and Carole said...

I'm glad this tale had a happy ending...right? After the line at the hotel you guys had a good time, right? Well, I hope so! I did see the news and laughed as soon as I found out you guys were on it. Gary's a hoot! Wow. I'd always want him on my side. Loved the read!

Grant and Shalie Morgan said...

WOW, what a trip! Sorry I just got done reading through all of it. I'm so sorry it wasn't pirates, but at least it was a real fire and that is something to talk about :)I'm glad it's over and I'm glad you guys had such good attitudes about it. That is sad about the Japanese ladies, you should have just switched them rooms and got a room with a window! Em, I don't think I could eat a hot dog wrap either, pop tarts sound delicious though.
Glad you made it back safe and sound and that you wrote it all down!

Annica said...

Haha, the pirates made me laugh.

Chad and Carole said...

By the about the Heninger Family Reunion today in the Deseret News. You're not the only one in the fam that was thinking pirates...

Debbie/Mom said...

Wow!!! What an experience!!! I'm so glad you wrote it down for all your posterity to read and to laugh about...and you too!!! Emily, are you laughing yet???? What about Gary? I agree with Shalie about the Japanese ladies...that was pretty sad! Jake you are very witty and I enjoyed reading about your must get your writing talents from your dad, and Grandpa Hutchings...except I don't think you exaggerated or embellished ONE THING!!! Dad and I laughed and laughed....but I'm glad we were not there, and just got to experience it through you and your amazing pictures and videos!!! Too bad about the pirates not showing up...they would have made the story even MORE exciting...MAYBE, they were out there, and the coast guard did scare them off!!! You never know!!!! Good Job! Glad you're home safe and sound!!!!

Ryan and Andrea said...

What a neat story, Jake! You should create a book!! What positive thinking, too. I can't even imagine, but at least you had fun & made it a vacation!!