A Sailor-Negotiator's Life for Me

Okay, so I haven't even finished typing the first day of the cruise trip report, the one where we're just hanging out in San Diego, and we've already booked our next cruise.

(Laptop gets set down so I can run another victory lap around the apartment.)

Why is cruising so addicting? I live in Las Vegas - I'm surrounded by cheap food. I'm a teacher - I'm used to extended periods of laziness. (And the school breaks aren't bad either! I keed, I keed. These are dangerous times for inaccurate jokes.) I like critters and computers more than I like sea breezes. And again, I live in Las Vegas - Mexico is never more than a few minutes away.

I don't know, but addictive it is, and we're going to squeeze in another voyage before the school year ends. (Sorry, Disney, there goes your share of this year's summer inheritance. To update the last post, it turns out that Disneyland did indeed have record crowds on Sunday - they even closed the park. I know now that it was the worst day to go, but you know what? I'm a little scarred. And cruising is F-U-N. And still rather cheap at the moment. Let us allow absence to do its proverbial thing to my heart.)

(Also to update the last post, my cough went away as soon as it started. See, it was just a cough.)

We started looking at booking another cruise the same night we came home. Unfortunately, Mike's green card expires in July, and I'm doing training between now and then. We'd sent off the renewal paperwork at the start of the month, and as soon as that's accepted you get an automatic one-year extension while the application to renew the green card is being processed (because processing takes about a year - yikes). However, Mike couldn't travel internationally on an expired green card without the extension letter, and who knew when that letter would arrive?

So, on Tuesday we watched ten lovely balcony "spa" cabins on the Splendor slowly disappear throughout the day. (An an excellent summer price, plus cash back in onboard credit, and never mind that some travel agent must have dumped a block of them for there to be any available, for they are highly desirable.) Argh, the agony.

On Wednesday morning Mike woke up and they were all gone. I even tweeted my pain @CarnivalCruises. (Who were sympathetic in their reply. Aw. But not so much so that, in a bid to drum up even more interest in their social networking, they somehow found a spa cabin for us. And gave it to us for free. And made Simon and Garfunkel our stateroom stewards. And arranged for them to sing to us during evening turndown service. While offering us gingerbread parfaits with fresh raspberries.)

Of course, that afternoon's mail brought Mike's extension letter. ARRRRGH. What a world, what a world. Well, "it wasn't meant to be." And other crap you tell yourself before running to Whole Foods to stock the "sulk pantry."

Then, tonight, I finally stopped researching cruises and enjoyed a completely lazy day playing World of Warcraft. I am a Loremaster of Outlands now, by the way, and if I never see another mummy-wrapped ethereal trader in Netherstorm again, it will be too soon. Now and again, Mike would check cruises, but all we saw were the other balcony rooms disappearing on other sail dates. Now and again, Mike would curse and wail, and I'd just throw myself harder into casting spells or swinging swords or pressing the "next" button on the Kids in the Hall DVDs.

Later, the grief got to me and I had to look for myself, as if staring at column after column of "N/A" was going to help me adjust to a world where there is no endless lemonade on the Pacific Ocean.

I rued the day I ever saw the balcony spa cabin. Especially those lovely balcony spa cabins that were only a speck more expensive than the regular cabins. And not only were they balcony spa cabins, allowing its occupants free and unlimited access to the Thalassotherapy Pool and Thermal Suite (which includes a eucalyptus room!), but they were balcony spa cabins on the Spa Deck - as opposed to the Panorama Deck. The Spa Deck has only 16 rooms on it! And it's on the very top of the ship! I want, I want!

And it was so Not Mine.

We'd sorted out the budget part of it. We'd sorted out the hamster part of it. (Sherman, as I think I already reported, has an ugly tumour around his mouth. Making sure he feels loved and comfortable every day is critical. As is coming to terms with the possibility of sad news greeting us upon our return from international waters, where we have no phone service.)

And we'd sorted out the green card part of it, so all that was left was to actually get a room. But not just any room, because we learned on the first cruise that we are snobby and have certain needs. Mike started talking about giving up hope of cancellations. We could get a regular balcony at the end of summer. I mean, a balcony's our only real dealbreaker. Sure, it would be nice for Mr. and Mrs. Antisocial to be on the intimate Spa Deck with its mere 16 cabins, but would we even use the spa? C'mon now.

But having seen the spa balconies go for mere dollars more than the regular balconies, it was hard to justify paying that same amount for something less exciting.

And yet I picked at the scab. I searched just minutes after Mike's latest round. I clicked the balcony rates. I clicked the special tab that shows you all balcony rates, not just the cheapest.

I gasped.

"Spa balcony. Spa balcony! SPA BALCONY! MIKE!"

I started clicking. One cabin. Only one spa balcony stateroom. That was it, but it was the very one we wanted! On the spa deck! Starboard side! Close to the front! Oh my goodness and oh my gosh.

"How much?"

I hesitated. "Eighty dollars more than what we planned to pay."


"Get it! Get it!"

I started logging in, filling in spaces, my eyes intently darting to confirm everything, hitting the back button a few times because - dang hurry hurry - it didn't fill in my Past Guest Number or get our dining time preference right.

BOOK NOW. ("click")

"Sorry, the category you requested is no longer available. If you picked an alternate selection..." babble-babble-WHAT? NO!

NO NO NO! And what's this message about payment information not showing up, or something? NO TIME! Run, check the cabins again!

I clicked the room-choosing tab. The spa balcony was still there. GIMME.

BOOK NOW. ("click!!!!")

"Sorry, the category you requested is no longer available. If you picked an alternate selection..."
"Sorry, the category you requested is no longer available. If you picked an alternate selection..."

The error message appeared twice. In red.

Charlie Brown never gives up on that football. I clicked the rooms tab again.

Gone. The spa balcony was gone.

Our beautiful, perfect room, at a better date (who wants to cruise at the very end of summer when everything feels like denial?), was gone. Snatched away by someone who would never love it as much as we would. Someone who would never get it extra pillows. Someone who would probably hang wet swimsuits everywhere and drip rum on the duvet.

Pawing at the ground, I called Carnival.

I asked, with all the hope of a Frances Hodgson Burnett character with a Daddy-complex, if our room was truly gone, forever and ever. Maybe the website hiccuped? I mean, we were on the Payment screen! Also? We're good people. The universe can't dick us around like that, can it?

The friendly agent checked. Oh, there was one room that came back into inventory, I was right... but it was gone. There were spa suites, but no spa balconies.

She had the grace not to try an upsell. Those spa suites are a couple of grand. Apiece. On a good day. For that price, I want a time machine and a ballgown and the Churchill Suite on the Queen Mary.

But what she said was interesting, because the website didn't show any spa suites for that sailing, just regular suites. Did she have access to a secret inventory? I didn't want to cruise late in summer, but if she had a spa balcony for a decent price...

She kindly checked. I babbled. It was a living room full of hope as Mike listened from the other end of the sofa.

If you think this is the part where she finds a spa balcony, maybe on a less exciting deck, maybe just a few days before school starts, maybe with an obstructed view, you're wrong.

Or if you think this is where I pull out the whammy and reveal that she had a spa balcony for the very next sailing that popped up as we were on the phone, you're still wrong.

She had nothing. There was nothing. She even checked September. Nothing. She said those rooms go like that, and while we could keep watching and hoping, well...

And so we went on with our lives. It's one thing for something not to be meant to happen. It's another to be taunted. I was on the Payment screen! It should have locked me in!

As if trying to sneak past the Fates, I checked the Carnival site in case... well... maybe the website was wrong. And the agent. I clicked "My Cruises."

"You have no cruises reserved at this time."

Sigh. I checked my Visa account, just to make sure that there were no holds. I wished I'd paid more attention to that error message about payment. Or if there was a hold, I better make sure it was only on there once, even though I clicked "Book Now" twice.

Sure enough, there was a hold. Great. Not a problem, but I never rest easy until my account is accurate. Let's put it this way: I'm more likely to pay off my Visa card weekly than monthly. Also, what if we saw another cruise deal? Sometimes my CC company gets weirded out if there are two large charges from the same place in a short span, and it denies everything until I pick up the phone and confirm. What if another spa balcony cabin magically appears (ha. as if. all is lost.), and my CC decides to get all paranoid and extra-secure and we miss out again?

Bah. I called Carnival again. I felt restless and unresolved.

"Hi, I tried to reserve a specific cabin on the website tonight, but it didn't go through. I guess someone beat me to it, because there was an error message then it was gone when I tried again. I already called you guys a little bit ago to confirm that I didn't get it. Anyway, I'm calling because I noticed that a hold for the cruise amount has been put on my credit card. I was wondering - about how long will it be until that hold is removed?"

She asked for my phone number.
I waited.

She asked for the cruise I wanted.
She asked for the cabin number I wanted.
I waited.

She asked me to confirm some personal details. Our address. Mike's name. My birthday. Mike's birthday.
I waited..

"I show you as having reserved that cabin on that cruise. Paid in full."



Now, imagine her saying whatever, because I wasn't listening; I was trying out different varieties of REALLY?! and SERIOUSLY?! and ARE YOU KIDDING?! and OH WOW OH WOW. And Mike was high-fiving me and I was telling her all about Mike high-fiving me, and Mike was dancing around the room, and I wasn't telling her about that, because she was trying to give me the booking number while I started trying to figure out how we bought a cruise without knowing it.

I mean, golly, what if I hadn't called back? What if I, perhaps preoccupied with becoming Loremaster of Northrend, hadn't checked my Visa account again until next month's statement?

We're going on another cruise! In our special room! Our special room that is probably quite ordinary if not maybe even totally overrated, but it's on the Spa Deck, so who cares?! (No, I don't know why two people who like to keep to themselves are going on a cruise. That's just exactly how addictive cruises are. Wait until you see the trip report; we didn't even do anything on the ship last time.)

And that is my story of how this second cruise came to be. It's almost like Disney magic, as if Mickey is saying, "No hard feelings."

I do have a lingering question in my mind. Did the second agent simply confirm the truth? Or did she upgrade someone so that we could have the room we missed by a few seconds?

According to Carnival's website, we still weren't booked even after I hung up. I had to manually add us with the booking number she provided. No confirmation email came. (Okay, that didn't happen with the last cruise, either.) I never got a payment confirmation screen, like with the first cruise. Instead, I just got those error messages that said the room of choice wasn't available.

But we're going on another cruise. Oh boy, oh boy. There is planning in the air and I'm breathing deep.

Ah, summer.

19 June 2009 |