Saturday, February 7, 2004

2004—Feb. Disney Wonder 4 nt; Not your ordinary 1st Cruise!--Nassau; Half Moon Cay

Feb. 2004 Disney Wonder 4 night cruise:
I guess Dad's and my Florida/Disney trip was doomed from the beginning! On the way to the PDX airport, Dad wrecked his car---which was ultimately totaled by the insurance company. But he had the car towed to a repair shop and continued on to the airport and I flew from St. Louis and met him in Orlando for the beginning of a very different "vacation".

I will say the week at Orange lake Resort (his timeshare) was great. We didn't do the Disney thing this year, instead, we went to Universal Studios and a new favorite place of Dad's, The Holyland Experience. When our week there was up, we headed back to the Orlando airport and dropped off the car. Then spent the night in a hotel with a free shuttle to the airport.

Next morning, we took the shuttle back to the airport and caught our shuttle to the Disney cruise ship in Cape Canaveral. It was about an hour ride, but they had tv monitors throughout the bus with videos of the Disney ships and their cruises. When we got to the port, we made our way through the lines and onto the ship without much trouble.  We chose this short 4 night cruise because neither of us had been on a cruise before and we didn't know if we'd like cruising, so we thought we'd try a short one.  We went with Disney because Dad had Disney stock and a general fondness for Disney.  You might think Disney would mainly by for families, but it was an excellent cruise for just adults, too.  They have plenty of adult only areas, including pool and Jacuzzi area, and monitor those areas so kids do not come in them.  Not that I hate kids---I have a couple, but now I'm older and enjoy a little peace and quiet sometimes!

We boarded the ship around 1:30 and were directed to the Lido deck for lunch. Rooms weren't ready yet, so everyone was sent to lunch. By the time we got to the restaurant the inside seating was full so we sat outside. A cold front had moved in the day before and it was COLD and WINDY. But the food on the Lido buffet was very good.
IMG_4041 (800x531)

After the rooms were ready and our luggage was delivered, we hit the jacuzzi for a little while. Before shove off, the muster drill had to be done, so we cut our jacuzzi enjoyment short and headed back to our room to get ready for the drill. With that done, we headed to the Palo restaurant and registered for dinner there that night. Then we stood on deck and watched as we sailed away.
The cabins on the Disney ships are pretty nice for a cruise ship. I really liked that there was a curtain that pulled all the way across the area where the bed is. Another unique feature of the Disney ships are the fold down couches that make a twin bed. Dad elected to take that bed (closer to the bathroom). Also in the room was a small fridge, coffee table, desk, amble closet, safe, tv with satellite programming, and a bathroom with a shower/tub combination (something not many "cheap" cabins on other ships have). We were in an inside cabin, which I decided i don't care much for because of the lack of windows and light during the day.

At 7:30 we reported to Palo's (their special restaurant with an extra charge for dinner). The service and dinner were very very good. The waiter not only brought us what we ordered, but also samples of other items to try. The whole dining experience took about 3 1/2 hours.

After dinner, we waddled around the boat some more. Eventually came upon the ESPN bar, so we caught the 2nd half of the pro-bowl game. That was the year Bulger was their All-star player and doing well for my home town Rams.

Dad even made friends with Ariel as we wandered around the ship.

Day one was behind us and so far, so good.
Next morning we headed to Tritans restaurant instead of the buffet and had a sit down breakfast. The Disney ships have 3 regular restaurants and in the evening everyone rotates to different restaurants---rather a neat idea. Your table mates and servers remain the same, but the ambience is different. I forget the names of our servers, but here they are in the restaurant, Animations.

Back to breakfast---while we were eating, the ship docked in Nassau. Dad wanted to see Atlantis, so we did the ship's Atlantis excursion.

Our main interest were the eleven exhibit lagoons with over 200 species of beautiful tropical fish including a predator lagoon alive with sharks, barracudas, and stingrays. There was even a 100-foot long clear, underwater viewing tunnel passing through the predator lagoon. The aquariums were well worth seeing. The excursion ended at the casino, but we walked back through the aquariums, then back through town to the ship.

I expected more of a modern city, so was a bit disappointed in Nassau. It was a typical Bahama town--older, rustic, full of beggers. We didn't spend much time in the town itself before we were ready to head back to the ship. (on a later cruise I was back on Nassau and surprised at how much I liked it.  It didn't look at all like I remembered!)
That evening was our dinner at Animations (after the jacuzzi, of course). Dinner was great, our dinner mates were great, the restaurant was great (the walls even change colors while you're eating).
After dinner we attended the play Hercules. It was a cute play. Then we shopped some of the stores on the ship.
That night (11pm), we went to the pre-view of the new Disney movie, Miracle (about the USA hockey team that took 1st in the Olympics). It was really good.
Another late night and good night for sleeping.
Next morning we had breakfast in the buffet restaurant and looked out over our next port---Castaway Cay (Disney's private island).

Our first stop at Castaway cay was the family snorkel trail. We spent about 1-2 hours snorkeling around there before quitting and getting lunch on the beach at Cookies Bar B Q. Again the food was outstanding.

Of course, where you have Disney property, you have Disney stores, so we did a little shopping while on the island, too.

By afternoon, the family beach had gotten quite full. But we had signed up for a snorkel excursion, so the crowds didn't bother us.

All started well with the excursion. They took us out to a reef and we had life preservers. With the shallow reef, life preservers, and the tour guides that were supposedly keeping an eye on everyone, I was over confident in Dad's safety. He had snorkeled many times before and although he wasn't a strong swimmer and didn't pay too much attention to his surroundings, he did seem to enjoy himself and do ok. So I started venturing off a bit and coming back to check on him every few minutes. On one of my ventures, the excursion boat's horn sounded and they were frantically waving everyone back on board. My first thought was that a shark was sighted and I was back to the boat in a flash. Unfortunately it wasn't sharks! Dad was on the deck of the boat---totally unresponsive and breathing very fast---even had his eyes open, but fixed. I was scared unimaginably. One of the passengers was a nurse and she did keep check of his vitals until a medic on a jet ski met us on our way back in. Dad did come to enough to talk with me a bit, but kept saying he was tired. I was constantly talking to him to keep him awake. The medic said he was tired because he wasn't getting enough oxygen to his brain---but also said he wasn't deprived enough to cause damage.
I was surprised to later learn that when he started taking in water, he actually was able to finish inflating his life preserver by blowing it up (he had it partially inflated originally). Then he swam on his back to the ship. There he had a "death grip" on the anchor rope. Passengers pulled him on board---leaving rope burn on his arm--and he collapsed on the deck. But none of the employees ever noticed him in distress.
Here's the before photo.

We were met at the excursion dock by a golf cart with a stretcher and were whisked off to the ship's infirmary. They went to pump his stomach which was very distended. The tube made him throw up---aspirating into his lungs first. The Drs weren't too concerned about that since it was salt water and he was being treated for that. Dad did manage to throw up about 2 gallons of salt water. Then they explained they were going to put him on a breathing machine to slow his breathing down and not tax his heart so much. They also said a helicopter would be coming for him in about 45 minutes and would be taking him to one of the Bahama Islands. While they intubated him, I was sent to my room to pack up and change. Shortly after getting back to the infirmary I was told no helicopter was coming---it would take too long, that that they would shove off as scheduled and dock in Freeport. I questioned them about the facilities there---having been to Freeport. Soon the nurse came back and said he would be going to Freeport, then flown to Miami or Ft. Lauderdale. Much relieved, I continued to sit with Dad. He had been drugged back into unconsciousness with tubes down his throat and nose and ivs everywhere. Finally they came and said a tug boat was meeting us (at sea) and taking us to Freeport where an ambulance would take us to a waiting lear jet ambulance.  There happened to be 1 extra seat in the ambulance, so I was able to fly with them and there was even room for our luggage behind my seat.  Also during all this time I was questioned several ltimes as to what happened and I was even called and told that I needed to charge his $4000 medical fees for treatment on board before we could leave the ship (they tried to charge it to his credit card, but he was using a new one with a $1000 limit). I was also allowed to make a couple frantic calls to Ken's answering phone at work. (the first time I called I was pretty hysterical, so they let me call back when I was a little calmer).
Finally they said a Dr. in Ft. Lauderdale accepted him as a patient and we waited for the tug to come. When the tug was there and we hopped from deck 1 to the tug---Dad in a bucket stretcher and totally out. It was about a 1/2 hour ride to Freeport. The jet was suppose to be waiting for us, but it wasn't there and they didn't know where it was. So we sat there waiting for word on the jet. Finally it arrived and we were loaded into an ambulance and transported to the airport. A respitory therapist and male nurse were there as well as 2 pilots. Apparently the delay was finding the 2 pilots and Dr. and nurse all required for medical air emergencies. They took over and were quick and skillful with their work---obviously having done this many times before unfortunately. Of course we still had to clear customs, but I had the passp0rts and filled out the forms on the plane and tug. An ambulance was waiting for us at the airport and soon we were on our way to North Ridge Medical Center in Ft. Lauderdale. We got there shortly after midnight---about 9 hours after Dad's accident! While I filled out yet more paperwork, they took dad up to ICU. They also gave me a list of hotels to call--but all were filled up! It was Daytona 500 weekend. The head ICU nurse offered me an empty room in the ICU that night and I took it. But I couldn't sleep with all the beebs going off and wondering if it was from Dad's machine.
Morning finally came and they let me sit in his room. He was still coming off the drugs and looked terrible. He did wake from time to time, but they would come and put him back out (apparently it's uncomfortable being intubated so they liked to keep him out during that time). Disney travel called to see if they could help find me a hotel. They did find a Super 8 and I took it. After waiting an hour for my shuttle each way, I was glad when the hospital's customer relations person looked me up in dad's room and asked if she could assist me in finding a hotel room closer to the hospital. She found a room in the full nearby Hampton Inn for a hospital discount, so I jumped at taking it, but couldn't get in until the next day. Dad continued to come out of the drugs for short spell before they'd put him back to sleep. He took it all in really good stride---as he always did! By evening, he was awake more and trying to spell things in the air with his fingers---air writing. He had no idea where he was or how he got there, so was surprised to hear about the tug boat and lear jet.
That night I went to have dinner in the hospital cafe---the cusomer rep had given me about 8 $5 coupons. The cafe food was actually pretty good. The night in the Super 8 was noisy, but I was so tired it didn't matter. I was glad for the move the next morning, though. The hospital even provided a free taxi for me.
Next morning Dad looked a lot better---more alert. Probably could have come off the intibater, but the respitory Dr. wanted to leave him on it another day. He said with "near drownings" (or as Dad liked to call it "attempted drowning"), there's so much salt left in the lungs that it draws more water into the lungs. That evening, as Dad was air-writing, a new nurse handed me a paper with the alphabet on it. Sure made it easier! I wonder why none of the other nurses offered it!? Or why I didn't think of it!?
Curt (Dad's friend from Atlanta, Georgia), showed up that day. It was really nice having a familiar face around. He even treated me to dinner 2 nights and i treated him to the cafe. He also got a hospital discount room at the Hampton (told them Dad was his brother). He truelly made himself part of my family!
Next morning they took the tube out. Dad's heart then started having periods of rapid heartbeat waves (not A-fib, though). He didn't notice them, but it still worried me. They moved him to CCU and started giving him heart medicine. That night they changed the meds and it went back to normal. When Curt and I went to see him after breakfast, he was gone----off to a regular room. There's where he started referring to the hospital as North Ridge Medical Center and Resort. He was feeling good, but they wanted to keep an eye on him for awhile more. His "roomy" was also feeling pretty good. He had gone in for a physical, then they decided he needed a triply by-pass and wouldn't let him out before the surgery. So between Dad, Curt, and Don (the roomy), they had lots of war stories (all three retirees from the military) and life stories (all the same generation). His wife even ate dinner with Curt and me one night. Those 2 nights the 3 guys and I even played cribbage 'til 10 or so at night. The nurses seemed amused and kept reminding us that it was a hospital and there were sick people there---then they'd shut our door and let us stay. Don was even quite relieved to be able to ask Curt several questions about bi-pass surgery since he had it about 4 month previously.
Finally, on Sat., the Dr. asked if Dad would like to leave on Sun. So I spent several hours on my cell phone working out the arrangements for us to get home. Disney again tried, but could only come up with airfares over $1500. So I called AmericanAirlines directly and was able to pay the $100@ change fees and rebooked us. But the earliest they could book us was for the following Wed.. BEing our original tickets, we had to fly out of Orlando and be booked in the same fare code. I found a car rental and Curt took me to pick it up. Hampton was kicking him out that day, so he made me a deal that if I go to have sushi with him that night, he'd stay another night in a Best Western. How could I resist?! After dinner we went back to the hospital to visit and play more cribbage.

The next morning Dad was finally released. We went straight to the Hampton, where I'd secured another couple nights, and Dad wanted to hit the jacuzzi. We even went to Walmart where Dad picked up another cribbage set for Don and we went back and visited with him another 3 hours that night.
The next day, Dad and I took off to Key Largo and the Everglades. I was a bit disappointed in Key Largo. But we didn't have much time there. I was impressed with the Everglades. Lots of birds, fish and alligators. it was a nice day, no mosquitos, and nice wooden trails. We got back into town in time to visit with Don awhile more--until they brought him a new roommate.
Next morning---we drove off to Orlando. We spent the night in the airport Hyatt so that we could be at the airport by 4:45 the next morning. (I also had to make sure Dad's medical release had made it to the airlines so they wouldn't deny him boarding). We flew to Dallas, Texas, together, then parted ways.
It was a tough week! It wasn't my first medical emergency on a trip (Angie in England), and it wasn't to be my last! Never thought it would take 9 hours to go from cruise ship to hospital. Never thought about the hassles of getting hotels, car rentals, flights changed---not to mention customs, insurance matter, accident reports. Never considered trip insurance---although Dad's insurance covered him 100%, thanks to his military career and Medicare. What a way to end a first cruise for either of us!

I did email Disney Cruise line to see if they heard about this accident on one of their ship sponsored excursions and they told me to send a letter in writing.  I did and much to my surprise, they sent us a voucher for BOGOF Disney cruise.  So Dad and I did our 2nd cruise in 2005.  This time for 7 nights on the Disney Wonder.  To check out our "do over cruise", click here: 2005 Disney cruise

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