Travel: A Childhood Fantasy

For as long as I can remember I have fantasized about travel. Not travel for the sole purpose of travel, but more for being anywhere outside of the small state of Rhode Island where I lived. As a child, my parents took my brother and me to close-by places such as Cape Cod and northern New England for weekend trips – all within close driving distance so it was easy to pack up and go. The fantasy continued to grow and then I discovered the TV show ‘The Love Boat.’ This show knocked it out of the park for me with a beautiful ship that seemed monstrous (at least back then it did), exotic locations, and just all around glamour in my eyes – I envied the people onboard the Pacific Princess. I would fantasize about being onboard that ship just taking it all in. Back then, it seemed so far a reach for me to ever be able to take a cruise.

First Trip!

Moving forward, my parents surprised my brother and me with a trip to Disney World in Florida. Wow! As excited as I was, I didn’t quite understand everything that was involved in getting there – I was only 8 years old, after all. The morning we were to leave, it dawned on me we would be flying – yikes! This bothered me for a few reasons: first, it hit me I would be leaving my home – the only home I had ever known – for a whole week, something I’d never done before. Second, I would be leaving my beloved stuffed animals behind, and third, I would be going to a ‘strange’ place. I was excited and nervous at the same time; even a little sad about leaving my stuffed animals behind (I felt they would miss me!) Once I managed to get past those concerns, we were off!

Over the course of the week, we split our time between Orlando and the Tampa area. We spent a couple of days visiting Disney World in Orlando and then drove to the Clearwater Beach area for the rest of the week. Two things shocked me about my first trip to Florida. First, when we arrived in Florida it was ‘Love Bug’ season. These little creatures were everywhere! On our luggage, on the ground, stuck to sides of buildings, you name it, they were probably stuck to it. As we drove on the highway, I recall my dad having to put the wipers on to clear the bug goo as they struck the windshield – yuck! Second, thunder and lightning storms. I have always been afraid of thunder and lightning but nothing prepared me for the storm we encountered when out for dinner one night. Holy-moly! The lightning was like nothing I had ever seen and it scared the daylights out of me.

After leaving Disney, we ended up renting a spacious hotel room right on the beach in Clearwater. It was beautiful and serene. The first day there we visited with my ‘aunt’ and ‘uncle’ (they were actually my parents’ friends) who lived in a bright and airy, yet cozy little house right on the beach. We spent the day playing on the beach, swimming, digging up sand fleas, and overall having a great time. At that time, I was a very fair-skinned little girl with platinum-blonde hair. That day I discovered the Florida sun is crazy-strong and I got the sunburn of my life! My face was redder-than-red and it hurt like crazy; so bad that I recall my face peeled within a day or two. My ‘aunt’ had me put this sticky, yet soothing, gel on my face. As it turned out, aloe really is a healing plant. Once I had this gel on my skin, the pain went away and my skin healed beautifully.

We also visited a beautiful place called The Kapok Tree Inn. My brother and I had our picture taken in the midst of a Banyan tree and it was there I first met a salamander (maybe it was a gecko). Another day we visited Busch Gardens in Tampa Bay and was in awe of the Clydesdale horses – they truly are magnificent animals!

We all enjoyed our days on Clearwater beach, swimming in the Gulf, and just taking it all in but like all good things, our vacation had to come to an end. My mom was a bit sad because she loved everything about Florida. She and my dad spoke of ‘one day’ when they could consider moving here. The next day, we were on an airplane headed home to Rhode Island and I remember being so happy that I would once again be reunited with my beloved stuffed animals. It hadn’t occurred to me at the time that I had just had my first real travel experience.

First Cruise!

In the decades that followed, I traveled on occasion but still fantasized about experiencing The Love Boat. Fast forward to 2016, my then boyfriend decided it would be fun for us to go on a cruise. When we finally decided on the details, I absolutely could not wait for the day to come! We left out of New York and was in a bit of disbelief that my fantasy was finally coming true! We arrived in the city on a bus and hailed a taxi to take us to the Port of Manhattan. As we got closer, I almost could not contain myself. There, before my very eyes, was the ship we would soon sail on. The ship was HUGE (at least to me) – big, white, and majestic – everything I had ever dreamed of. Once given the ok to go aboard, I was filled with so much excitement and when I was about to step from the gangway on land onto the ship’s deck, my thought was “here we go!” A moment later, I was no longer on land and was in total awe of the ship’s atrium and that I was, in fact, on a cruise ship! My fantasy had now become reality. For me, the ship was everything and more. That first experience had my mind in a cloud – I simply couldn’t believe I was on a cruise after all those years fantasizing about the day I would be on a cruise ship. I absolutely loved our balcony stateroom!

Over the week, I experienced many firsts; showing my passport and being outside of the United States, the cruise itself, swimming in the Caribbean Sea, visiting The Bahamas, the stunning clear blue waters, and other moments that will forever stay with me. One particular moment that simply brought this whole fantasy together was when my boyfriend proposed to me the second night of our cruise – wow! You talk about a vacation to remember!

Since then, we married on the beach where we had our first date in our home state of Rhode Island, and have been on more cruises with many more to come. True, there are other ships that will be bigger and more beautiful than that first cruise, but that particular cruise will always hold a very special place in my heart.

– Suzanne