Last winter, my husband and I were faced with the happy
dilemma of planning how to celebrate our 25th wedding anniversary this summer.
Neither of us is a party person, so a big bash was ruled out.
I don't like to fly, so that limited our options. We thought a cruise to somewhere balmy and beautiful would be nice, but worried that a small, cramped cabin might trigger my husband's claustrophobia. We also figured budget restraints would prohibit larger cabin.
Our choices seemed few. We decided to call a professional.
The day after we called for help, Mary Ann, a pleasant and enthusiastic Damascus travel agent, called us with information about the anniversary celebration of our dreams -- a seven-night luxury cruise to Bermuda.
A complimentary bus would take us between Baltimore and New York, which eliminated my fear-of-flying problem. And a special on cabin upgrades allowed us to reserve a room with a big window that would prevent the chance of a claustrophobic crisis.
We were even allowed to use a $100-off coupon we unexpectedly found in a Baltimore-area discount activities book. was kismet.
My husband and I were awed by the services and activities provided by the cruise ship. We slipped easily into living a temporary lifestyle of the rich and famous. Our waiter insisted on putting our napkins in our laps and cutting our lettuce salads.
I really liked having the covers turned down on my bed each evening and the creamy chocolate candy that was placed on my pillow.
In addition to enjoying the luxury of gourmet meals served at all hours, nearly round-the-clock entertainment on ship, the company of fun people and the scenic sites and the not-really-pink-but-still-gorgeous beaches of the subtropical island, we learned another one of life's little lessons.
I missed the first clue that the lesson was coming when I smugly commented that a set of luggage waiting on the New York dock to be loaded on ship had been "decorated" with large red bows. I remember saying to my husband that the bows were evidence of a person with too much time on her hands.
I learned seven days later just how wrong I was.
The night before our "Cinderella" vacation was to end, we -- along with the other 1,398 passengers -- were instructed to carefully label our baggage and set it outside our door, where it would be picked up and delivered to the dock the next day.
After securing the provided labels, we put our four suitcases outside our cabin door.
The next day, we waited with our cruise friends as our ship was cleared with customs and the happy travelers were dismissed -- group by group. Of course, our "No. 1" bus passenger category was one of the last groups to be dismissed.
By the time we rolled off the exit ramp and made our way through the crowd to the baggage area, four lone suitcases remained. Three of the suitcases were ours. The other, which looked similar to our brown suitcase, belonged to a man from another state.
No one knew where our bag was and the buses were ready for departure. We had a brown, simulated-leather Bermuda mystery that has yet to be solved.
Unfortunately, our missing suitcase contained most of my shoes and all of our dirty laundry from the cruise. Each day for many days after the cruise, we would think of one more missing item that we had crammed into the wayward suitcase.
The cruise line is still looking for the bag, but has advised us to turn in a list for reimbursement. I am still in the process of compiling the list and still hoping that our bag (and our stuff) will turn up.
The missing suitcase was the only negative on a very positive cruise experience. I can't help thinking that the couple with the ribboned luggage had no problem with someone taking their bags by mistake, and that was the purpose of the rosy red ties.
And if we are ever fortunate enough to take a second cruise vacation, our luggage will probably turn heads because it will be loudly decorated with neon ribbons and tape!
A summer blood drive will be held from 9 a.m. to 3 p.m. tomorrow the Mount Airy Ward of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, on Route 27 in Mount Airy.
Information: (301) 865-3431.