Last week I went on a cruise. Without my kids! It was a Disney cruise, with 700 other Disney fans. We met Bob Gurr, Charlie Ridgway and Jodi Benson who were all there for us! Bob and Charlie are Disney Legends, and Jodi is the voice of Ariel in “The Little Mermaid”. Meeting them, along with everything else we did, was amazing.
But for a little while it wasn’t clear whether I would get to do any of those things.
Like many others on this cruise, I had been planning and looking forward to it for a year and a half. Countdown Tickers were made, plans were fashioned, shopping lists made and items purchased. I was leaving my kids home, so I needed to arrange for their care while I was away, along with wrapping up stuff at work, seeing that my animals were taken care of, accelerating holiday shopping and other activities due to the time away and more. Not unlike most of the fellow travelers!
I arrived in Orlando on Saturday, and met up with friends on the Boardwalk. We visited, had dinner at the Poly and then took the Monorail to the Grand Floridian to see the decorations. We walked back to the Poly along the beach and laughed and looked forward to the cruise. It was a great night (foreshadowing).
We got back to the room about 10 pm and we were re-organizing our luggage. Suddenly my blood ran cold as a sick realization dawned on me. I had left my passport at home. I knew just where it was: safe and secure in the fireproof safe I keep all our important documents in. In the hustle and bustle I just never even gave it a thought.
I did the only thing I could think of. I emailed the podcaster I listen to who had arranged this trip from my phone at 10 pm, desperate for options. My mind was already racing with alternative plans, but I was hoping against hope John had a magic button someplace.
Amazingly, John emailed me back within something like 5 minutes. He hoped I had my birth certificate with me (I didn’t), and explained that since he was leaving very early the next day to have meetings with his team he wouldn’t be able to help directly, but copied Kelsie, another Dreams agent, in on the email hoping she could help. I gave them both my cell phone number and went to bed, but not to sleep.
The next morning Kelsie called me and gave me the fax number for the port. My friend at home should fax a copy of my passport to the port, and Disney would make a determination. Apparently, because I’ve cruised with Disney several times before, they were OK with it, but Homeland Security would be the wildcard.
The port fax number was busy. For nearly 3 hours. I spent the entire morning on the phone with Kelsie, my friend at home and talking with the friends who were with me as we tried to come to terms with what would happen to me. My friend at home sent me a photo of my passport which I forwarded to Kelsie, but she couldn’t read the passport number. When my friend texted me, on the 11th try at faxing, that it was going through, our car erupted into cheers. When Kelsie called to tell me it was too dark for the port to read it I felt like weeping.
Kelsie called me again just as we were getting off the ramp to the port. She said, “Are you sitting down?” My heart clenched as I said, “Yesssss.” I went weak when she said, “They’re going to make a one-time exception and let you board.” Oh, Thank you, Thank you, Thank you!!!!! I said to my friends more than once that I was so happy to have booked this trip through Dreams rather than on my own, since, even if I don’t end up going on the cruise, at least I had someone to call. Just knowing there was someone on my side meant so much to me.
The cruise itself was unbelievable. Not only was I incredibly thankful just to be on the ship, but the experiences Dreams and the Podcast team arranged were incredible. I’d love to pick my favorite, but it’s like picking your favorite child.
We joked all cruise about whether I’d be able to leave the ship on Thursday. Walking through the Customs line I almost felt like an impostor as they would constantly point out which line was for US citizens. When it was my turn to present myself to the customs agent I displayed my customs declaration and a photocopy of my passport.
“What’s this?” the customs agent asked.
“A copy of my passport,” I answered.
“Where’s your passport?” he asked.
“At home,” I said.
“Any particular reason it’s at home?”
“No, I just forgot,” I said somewhat sheepishly.
“You forgot.” “Not good.” He looked at me for a long moment. “That’s very dangerous,” he said sternly. Then he patted me on the shoulder and said, “Welcome home.”
Fortunately for me, my horror story had a happy ending. This is in no small part to John, Kelsie and I’m sure various Disney cast members at the port, not to mention a brusque customs agent with a soft spot. This is my love note to them. But anyone else in a similar situation may not be so lucky, and for this reason I’d just like to offer this PSA for any future cruisers, “Don’t forget your damn passport!”