My daughter boarded a cruise ship two months ago for a job that takes her on a loop through the Caribbean each week and then back to port in Baltimore.
When tropical storm Sandy started brewing in the southern Atlantic Ocean this week, I followed along with interest and a bit of anxiety.
I couldn’t have imagined the storm – now a hurricane – would affect both of our travel plans, hundreds of miles apart.
My poorly timed trip to New York was remedied by a hasty retreat.
But guess what? When you work on a cruise ship, you stay on the cruise ship.
My daughter shared her miserable week at sea with updates by text message, tweets, Facebook and blog posts.
“We heard Monday that there was a tropical storm brewing, and didn’t think anything of it,” she wrote. “Then Tuesday the captain notified us that our itinerary would change because of the storm. Instead of going to Half Moon Cay we would have a sea day Thursday, and instead of Freeport on Friday we would go to Port Canaveral.”
“Well, then sandy turned into SANDY and Florida was canceled. So we had Wednesday in Grand Turk (a windy/cloudy day) and 6. Freaking. Sea. Days,” she added.
Thursday and Friday at sea were scary.
“My darling roommate said to me Thursday night before bed, “Maybe we should sleep with our lifejackets tonight. It’s pretty bad out.’ For those of you who know me, I tend to have an active imagination so, naturally, I didn’t sleep that night. Every time we hit a wave I thought to myself, ‘This is it, we’re going to tip over!’ I was FREAKED out,” she wrote.
Friday morning, I hopped a plane for a planned long weekend in New York, even though weather forecasts looked a bit ominous.
We landed in New York bright and early Friday with lots of ideas for things to do – Ellis Island, shopping, art museums, good food and maybe a matinee show. I thought we should plan outdoor adventures Friday and Saturday, because it looked like we were in for rain by Sunday.
Watching the Weather Channel during an afternoon break, it became apparent we needed to get the heck out of the city or risk being stuck well into next week. A few phone calls later and we had secured a flight out of New York Sunday morning, with a stop in Washington, D.C., still weather risky, but the best we could do.
We later heard a group of women from Charleston on a girls weekend in New York weren’t so lucky. They ended up renting a car and driving back to West Virginia on Sunday.
I did some tweeting and Facebook postings of my own.
“New York, only I would plan a trip when a freak hurricane is storming this way,” I posted on Facebook Friday.
My daughter, meanwhile, was headed back to Baltimore to arrive on Saturday instead of Sunday so that passengers could make travel arrangements. Still up in the air was whether her ship would take on its next set of guests Sunday.
Friday and Saturday were gorgeous in New York, a little overcast but mild. It was hard to imagine a storm was headed our way. New Yorkers we talked to were nonchalant and in some cases, completely uninformed.
“There’s a storm coming?” a young bartender asked us Saturday night. “I don’t really pay attention to the weather.”
Well, you might want to pay attention to this one.
“We aren’t worried,” a merchant said, adding that since Hurricane Irene didn’t deliver the punch that was predicted, residents just don’t believe the forecasts.
The radar told a consistent story, though.
The airport was bustling Sunday morning – I heard a European couple frantically trying to book a flight while the ticket agent explained if they wanted an international flight they needed to be at Newark, not LaGuardia.
The flight to D.C. was smooth and landed well early. Already, the screens listing flights were starting to blink with “weather” and “cancelled” notifications. A few minutes later, we heard subways and buses were being shut down.
Had we waited for our regularly scheduled Monday night flight, we would have been stuck.
I am much less cavalier about the weather after living without power for six days this past summer in the aftermath of the derecho.
So the first thing I did when we landed in Charleston was to fill up my gas tank, get a couple of bags of ice and hit the grocery store. I have two snow shovels at the ready.
As I write this, my daughter is on her ship, which headed out to the Chesapeake Bay sans guests to anchor and ride out the worst of the storm.
The upside for ship staff is that they get a few days off, even if they are stuck on a rocking ship.
The latest news from her: “If anyone wants to come visit me this weekend we are doing a cruise to nowhere out of Baltimore Friday — Sunday! Very cheap and it’d be the perfect opportunity to visit me and see my ship!”
Monica Orosz is features editor at The Charleston Daily Mail. Follow her on Twitter @MonicaOrosz.