As we all know, some ladies simply have a thing about coupons. There may be some who are opposed to their use, even their existence, but I (grandpa) have not met one of these ladies. It seems grandma received a coupon via email on the internet from our infamous time-share organization R.C.I. This particular coupon offered a deal too good to be true, as many coupons turn out to be. This was one of those coupons.
As world travelers for 20 years, this particular offer was for a 7-night cruise at an unbelievable rate on Celebrity Cruise Line in a cabin well above steerage. The actual benefit of the coupon was for an extra week of timeshare after the cruise was completed. She was not really sure about the bonus value, but we agreed that January was a slow month in Florida, and we might as well spend a week of it visiting Caribbean ports.
It should be clear that this was one of the first times that grandma had seized the initiative for a world journey based upon a coupon. As committed travelers with Grand Circle for years, each subsequent trip taken provides a percentage discount on future trips within a given time period, another form of come-ahead.
After all the arrangements were complete and the departure date was nearby we arranged to make a leisurely drive from North Florida to the Port of Miami, a distance of almost 300 miles. We booked a motel in Jupiter for the night before the ship’s departure date and left our home in North Florida for the half-day drive. Jupiter is a marvelous little burg just north of Ft. Lauderdale about an hour’s drive on into Miami. So far, so good.
Proceeding at our leisurely pace, the next morning we enjoyed the included breakfast at our Best Western. We had not been on the road long when I said I hoped she had her passport. Her shocking response came almost instantly when she said “I don’t have it”. In her defense, grandma had been under some unusual stress recently secondary to ageing, physical infirmities, and some family issues, but nothing otherwise out of the ordinary.
It was already too late to return to fetch it. We were aware that a son-in-law had traveled on a son’s ticket only a few weeks earlier on a different cruise line. So having no reasonable alternative, we proceeded to the port, dropped off our bags for distribution to the assigned staterooms, and conferred with the usual assortment of clerks in the paper processing lines.
We presented our dilemma initially, which included my own passport, and a perfect copy of the photo and opposite page of grandma’s passport, which was all that we had. The cruise personnel were nicely thoughtful and helpful with our predicament. Without the original passport, the only acceptable alternative was a fax or copy of one’s birth certificate. A birth certificate late on Saturday morning is more problematic than a passport.
Grandma and grandpa were rattling around in panic city, pondering the various options. The only option that was foolproof was to abandon the cruise, which was paid for in advance. All other options, based upon good intentions, offered the possibility that they would not work in some minor detail, further complicating the situation facing us. At about this point a daughter called from New Jersey, and was told that we would have to get back in touch with her, as grandma had forgotten her passport and we were
Making adjustments to these panic driven items, the following list covers the primary issues for which a solution was needed before the ship’s departure at 4:30pm.
1. The son’s lady friend will go from Jacksonville to Palm Coast, fetch the key to our house from the son’s condominium, then go to our house where she will find the passport. Then she will go on to the Daytona Beach FedEx before they close at 3:30pm to transmit the passport to the designated Miami Airport hotel in care of grandma.
2. The daughter made reservations at an airport hotel for two nights and plane reservations for grandma to fly out on Monday.
3. After receiving the passport and the passage of two nights lodging, grandma would then fly to San Juan, Puerto Rico. The ship’s itinerary specified it would remain in San Juan until 11:00pm on the third day of the cruise.
4. As grandma and grandpa had both sent their luggage with 20,000 other bags for distribution onto the ship, the two bags needed to be located, partially repacked, and one bag needed to be returned to grandma ashore for her essential two day stay at the airport hotel. Fortunately both bags arrived at the assigned stateroom on the ship about half an hour before “all aboard”. Grandma was given her stuff for her stay at the airport.
5. As grandpa was riding the ship, he called grandma shortly after sailing. She was tucked safely in the airport hotel, but indicated that the taxi driver had serious trouble finding the right hotel at the airport, and took grandma’s last $50.00 as his cab fare.
6. At this writing the convoluted plans have proceeded without a hitch. With any luck grandma will arrive as scheduled sometime before the ship’s planned departure in San Juan Monday night.
7. For many years these two mature travelers have had a slight difference about whether one should maintain both passports, or whether each should keep his/her own. Grandpa had previously offered to keep both passports, and following this emaciated journey she has agreed that possibly grandpa should be that person. Whether it turns out that way may depend on whether grandma actually arrives in San Juan on time, or whether she must fly on the next day to St. Thomas.
The ultimate cost of grandma’s savings from this coupon in real dollars is yet to be calculated, and probably should not be. Grandma actually purchased travel insurance for this cruise. We don’t know if this policy covers such things as forgetting your own passport.
Grandma arrived exactly as scheduled in time for the early dinner seating with the three other couples. Grandma had been introduced to them all as the person in the empty chair who had forgotten her passport. For the next five days grandpa was allowed to hear the story of grandma’s forgotten passport many times over.
Two final predictions are made with a high degree of certainty. On grandma’s future travels, you can bet her passport will be within reaching distance. As for her willingness to cash-in future coupons, that particular behavior is etched deeply into her brain, and is not about to change, as they say in the media, any time soon.