travel advice from the universe, or possibly just from big machinery

So P. and I are trying to plan a vacation and it’s not going so well in that we’re not sure when we’re going or where or how much we’re spending or what kind of vacation we want. But other than that, it’s nearly booked. We have narrowed it down. We probably want to go somewhere tropical and relaxing. Or cold and adventurous. But definitely not somewhere boring and desolate with bad food.

We were pretty sure that we were going to the big island of Hawaii, because, well, volcanoes are cool. But P. has had to hear me whine about wanting to go to Alaska the entire time he’s known me, so when I showed him an ad for this one particular special, he said, well let’s do that and go to Hawaii next time, and he acted like it’s really what he wanted and not that he was trying to humor me to avoid my whining. He’s sweet like that.

So, I figured I’d check out both options, because if there’s one thing I know, it’s that no one’s ever accused me of doing too little research.

(Once, when I accidentally left P. alone with my mom, she told him about the first time I babysat and how I checked out all these babysitting books from the library and read them all so I could be fully prepared. I have no idea how this topic could have come up. Nor do I know why he thinks it’s so damn funny.)

And once I started checking into that, I decided I’d better check Mexico too, so we could have a less expensive option, and plus, tequila.

The cruise thing was with American Express. Which meant I had to call American Express travel, and I purposely avoid calling them, even though they supposedly have lots of great things to make my life the entertainment mecca I’ve always wanted, because they’re always so frickin’ annoying. But, after waiting on hold and answering five thousand questions, including my card number, address, e-mail address, and whether I preferred aisle or window, I finally got to ask my question. Which obviously, I had completely forgotten as several hours had passed.

And the travel agent had obviously forgotten it also, because I had said I wanted information on Alaskan cruises, but once she got through finding out about the joy of my birth and elementary school penmanship grade (“N” – needs improvement), I asked if she could give me a quote and she said, well, you have to decide where you want to take the cruise first. Uh… right. Let me get right on that.

Her title was “cruise specialist”, but I think maybe you get that title for having been on a cruise once or something. I thought it was an excruciating conversation, but that was before the conversation I had today with a different cruise specialist. I now realize she was brilliant at her job and I should never have let her go. Ever.

I was able to discern that if we wanted to cruise Alaska in the style to which we are accustomed (since it would harm our delicate sensibilities to have to wait in buffet lines or share deck space with actual people) and do all the things that would make the trip truly worthwhile (like see bears and puppies that pull sleds), we’d better be prepared to spend a fair amount of cash.

So, I started exploring option B: Hawaii. Airfare would be pricey, and we could avoid that expense altogether if we did the cruise, and get to spend all of our hard-earned money on the actual vacation. Also, I like to avoid flying whenever possible since crazy person panic attacks aren’t the best way to start a week of relaxation and fun. Generally. But, at the end of the flight, we’d be in Hawaii and could have greater control over our expenses. Er, but what if I picked some awful place for us to stay? What if our entire week sucked in some crappy-ass hotel room with scratchy sheets and a noisy air conditioner that blew dust into our faces all night? On the other hand, if the cruise sucked, we’d be stuck on a boat for a week. With a whole lot of people. And potentially a whole lot of bad food and watered down drinks.

My savior would be option C! Mexico! Airfare is a little less expensive, although there don’t seem to be direct flights, so I would just need extra tequila shots half-way through. No problem. But that wasn’t one of P.’s original suggestions. Does he really want to go there? Again, would I choose a crappy hotel room? Would the tequila tastings be the end of us?

Last night, I tried to pin P. down. Not like that. OK, like that, but that was later. Where did he want to go? How much did he want to spend? He had no answers. But he cooked me dinner, which was his manipulative way of distracting me from his waffling. He wanted to know more about his choices. I offered to show him online but he was much much too lazy to get off the couch. I told him about how in order to do the things we really want in Alaska, we’d have to spend a bit more than we probably wanted to. Well, like what things, he wondered. Like, taking a float plane to hike a glacier!

He laughed and laughed. And laughed. And nearly fell off the couch laughing. I finally interrupted him to ask him if he was done. “I don’t think so.” And he crumpled yet again into fits of laughter. (OK, so I know I said recently that heli-skiing probably was a little too brave for me, but dammit, I’m not going to miss out on climbing a glacier!)

I couldn’t even get to telling him about what I found out about Hawaii and Mexico because he laughed until it was so late, we had to go to bed. Although I’m beginning to wonder if an Alaskan cruise is really what he’s after because at one point he said it sounded like it would be cold.

Today, I tried again. I started wondering about the whole dressing up part of cruising, given that P.’s wardrobe consists of twenty pairs of jeans and three hundred t-shirts. I read up on a cruise line that doesn’t do the formal nights and is fine with jeans in the dining room.

I called American Express again and recounted my life history as is required before partaking in the American Express travel wisdom. I asked about this clothing policy. I stumped her. Completely.

“Well, most cruise lines now have alternative dining rooms if you don’t want to dress up for formal night.”

“But this cruise line claims it’s big advantage is they don’t have formal nights and you can wear jeans in the dining room every night.”

“Oh. Well, I don’t know anything about that.”

So, then I asked about what I really cared about, which is, how’s the food? How does it compare to other cruise lines.

“I’m sure it’s fine.”

That was the word from my “specialist”.

She eventually mentioned that while she had cruised all of the lines, she hadn’t actually been since the 80’s and things may have changed. I gave up and went online.

And get this: the prices changed as I was getting quotes. Well, first, all the various sites simulaneously stopped working. I can only assume that’s because the big machinery in a dusty back room of someone’s basement that tells the Internet how much everything costs was realigning itself before I could make a purchase. I finally got expedia to work. I got a quote. I picked a cabin. When I clicked to confirm, it told me the price had changed. Changed from three seconds ago just when I clicked this button? Apparently yes. By about $600.

So, maybe the universe, or possiby just the big machinery, is telling me that the cruise is not the way. All I know is that I’m going to need a vacation after figuring out our vacation. Somewhere warm and relaxing. Or cold and adventurous. Or maybe just somewhere with a lot of strong alcohol.

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