The Perfect Time to Cruise: Choosing to Cruise Even When Life Gets in the Way

| August 27, 2014 | 23 Replies

“What was I thinking when I scheduled this a month ago?” I question myself with my head in my hands. Staring at the web page of a Disney Cruise planning guide, my brain goes numb. There is so much information at my fingertips. It is the type of thing that would normally make the neurotic planner in me start salivating in delight, but right now it is taking everything I have to keep myself from crying.

The last year of my life I have found myself turned on my head. Everything is changing, and it is changing at a frightening pace. Being diagnosed with a challenging disease half a year ago, I’m in the process of re-evaluating it all: how I eat, how I work, and how I spend money. My doctor tells me that stress plays a significant role in suppressing my immune system and inhibiting my ability to recover, and I have definitely been under a severe amount of stress.

The slow death of my 17 year marriage has progressed to the final stages of a rapid divorce. Consequently, my entire social circle has shifted. My financial stability has become less stable as well.  And my once well-defined future has no definition at all as I run headfirst into single parenthood with my three children.

Another game changer for me has been my new job. Within the last month, I have landed the job of my dreams. I was offered a full time position working for a company in the travel industry that gives me the creative freedom I have always wanted. Nonetheless, with my paycheck has come a grand surge of responsibility. Many of my new assignments require me to use my amateur skills in unfamiliar ways, and I have been immersed in a world of new experiences, one of which is embarking on my very first Disney cruise. Obviously, I was elated when I was told I was being sent on this cruise. There was not a second of hesitation when I signed up to go, but now it doesn’t seem like this was such a great idea. It simply isn’t a good time for it. I am well aware that a trip like this is a big deal. Some people prepare and plan out details for this type of thing over the expanse of a year, but here I am with only a very literal hour to spare before I head out to my second job as a waitress.

Numerous life events will culminate within the next few weeks, and they all pull me in different directions. Things like finding and moving into a new home, attending my 20th high school reunion as a divorcee, getting my first passport and traveling out of the country, and temporarily taking on some of my boss’ most public responsibilities. Throughout it all I need to attend to the well-being of my children as their family structure is demolished and rebuilt. It all takes time. It all demands attention. It all has me very scared and reduced to a network of raw nerves. I feel a tear run down my cheek.

My task over the next hour is to select some shore excursions for myself and my kids. “I didn’t even know what a shore excursion was until 2 days ago,” I tell myself. This is a trip of which many only dream, and it feels as if it is being wasted on me as it is lost in the chaos of my life.  How could I have thought this would work?

With my pity party done, I wipe my tears and pull myself back together. It is time to gather the kids and pick our shore excursions. “Hey, kiddos! I need y’all to come sit with me by the computer. We have to pick out some shore excursions for the cruise.”  Miller, my son, asks, “What is a shore excursion?” I explain, “They are different activities that we can sign up to do when we are on the islands.” My teenager, Margeaux, questions, “I thought we were just going to do stuff on the boat like go to the kids’ clubs and swim in the pool. What do you do on the islands?” I reply, “Well, you are going to do all of those things during the time we are on the boat, but we also have the chance to do some fun things off of the boat. Those are the things that we need to pick out and sign up for today.” “Like what?” Margeaux persists. I answer, “I’m not exactly sure because we have to look at the choices, but I think they have things like tours of the islands, riding bikes and snorkeling. I think I remember someone mentioning swimming with sea turtles.”  Elle, my 9 year-old, perks up, “SEA TURTLES!”

Elle settles into the couch a little more with a contemplative look on her face. It is obvious she is forming an opinion and is considering carefully how to present it. I watch her and wait for it to emerge. “Mommy,” she begins, “it is such a good thing we are going on this cruise. Sometimes I get really sad because of our divorce. It makes me want to cry when I think about you and Daddy not living together anymore. It’s just really hard. I try to not think about it too much, but sometimes I can’t help it.  Now that we are going on this cruise, though, I know that we are going to have a lot of fun. We are going to swim in the pool and go on the slide. We get to go in the kids’ clubs and eat good food. And now we might get to swim with sea turtles. It makes me happy to think about those things. It helps me not think so much about our divorce. We couldn’t have picked a better time to do something like this.”

I take a brief moment to reflect on the wise perspective of my youngest kid. She is completely right. Thoroughly preparing for this cruise would have been ideal. It would have been fun and possibly enhanced the trip we are about to take, but it isn’t what matters. Fundamentally, a cruise is about escaping from the burdens of life. It’s about pushing those things to the side for a moment and simply enjoying our experience on this beautiful planet. It’s hard to argue with the fact that my kids and I really need that now. It absolutely is the perfect time to go on this cruise.

“Come here, you smart kid,” I say as I grab her into a big hug.  I poke my fingers into Elle’s ticklish side, and we all giggle. “So are you guys ready to pick out some shore excursions?” I enthusiastically rally. A unanimous “yes” resounds. “OK,” I respond, “Let’s find out about those sea turtles.”

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Category: Disney Cruise Line

  • nickname

    Bless your heart, Jennilynn – you have more than enough on your plate for anybody… but i hope you can take the time to relax a little with your family. You really deserve it and need to do this for yourself and kids :) I Hope you have a wonderful time…

  • Heatherly Lane Sylvia

    Thank you for being so honest and real in this post. I’m sure that there are many others in similar situations that wonder at the wisdom of taking a vacation. I hope that your words and your daughters wisdom help them to make the best choice for their family. We are rooting for you.

  • DIS Fan

    Thank you for being so brave to share your story. Our family is huge believers in the healing power of Disney. To this day, we tell new friends and neighbors about our trip to WDW in 2011 booked hours after finding out about a second miscarriage for our second child. Two weeks later, we found ourselves immersed in the Magic Kingdom, far away from doctors, distractions, and naysayers. A week of pure release and fantasy restored our wellbeing and we gave birth to our second son 11 months later. May you and your family find similar rest and healing aboard DCL.

    • imjenilynn

      What an inspiring story! Love it!

  • Christine

    I absolutely love the honesty of this post! Thank you for putting yourself out there and sharing. I cannot wait to hear all about your adventures on the cruise!

  • Chandra

    Great post. Made me cry. I hope you have an amazing time on your cruise with your kiddos. You are a great addition to the Dis team and I am enjoying getting to know you. You deserve a wonderful trip. Best of luck in the future too. Thank you again for your heartfelt post and reminding us, that family time is really the most important thing after all. <3

    • imjenilynn

      Thank you for joining me in the journey, Chandra.

  • crbrowniegirl

    Loved to read this!!! I am in exactly the same position as her in the divorce/kids/finances/job department and have caught myself in many little pity parties lately and loved reading that I’m not alone and look forward to more posts on some positive stuff…….she can do it!!!

  • PJ

    Thanks for this real life perspective! Going through a similar struggle when trying to decide whether to cancel Podcast Cruise 5.0 or not.

    • imjenilynn

      PJ, I just want to encourage you to continue your original plan to go. It is a great time to take a break from the day to day in order to focus on the bigger issues. I found it helped me put a lot in perspective once I could be still and just look at the ocean. I’m not sure why that is. It just is.

  • sdlong329

    Seriously? You’ve never been on a cruise, don’t know what an excursion is, and now you are a full time travel agent? LOL!

    • imjenilynn

      No, I am not a travel agent. I work in a media type of position that is associated with travel, creating content from the perspective of a first-time cruiser. :)

    • katiejo

      The post does not indicate that she is a travel agent, just that she is working in the travel industry.

  • Mary Campbell Neal

    This was wonderfully written. I can only imagine what a struggle this all is for you. You are doing a wonderful job with the DIS. Having been thru divorce myself and becoming a single parent; my advice is to just love your kids and be honest with them and you will all survive it. When things are getting overwhelming, let the kiddoes know that it is rough for you but you will do your best and you will be amazed at their resilience. Hope you all had a blast on your cruise and were able to “escape” for a while.

    • imjenilynn

      Good words of advice, Mary. I am taking them all to heart.

  • Cindi

    What a touching story. I am soo happy that your new job is your dream job, you got to take this wonderful cruise with your kids, and that it happened when it did. I do hope that there will be a trip report on the podcast when you get back.
    By the way, you did a wonderful job hosting the show in Pete’s absence and you are so organized. I’m very happy you decided to accept the job. You all seem like family on the podcast and are fun to watch.

    • imjenilynn

      Cindi, thank you for the support. The support is exactly how it seems. We all get along very well. I’ve never been more proud to be a part of something before in my life.

  • Jean Ferris

    Thank you for sharing this touching story with us! I hope that the cruise is a magical success for you and your children!!! Sounds like it’s exactly what you all need during this challenging time. You did a great job hosting while Pete was away and I’m looking forward to your next show. Wishing you and your children all the best!

    • imjenilynn

      Thank you, Jean. That means a lot. I do appreciate the words of encouragement.

  • MrXax

    I really enjoyed reading this, JeniLynn.

  • Kristen St.Clair

    Life always seems to throw something at us when we least expect it and almost always we think we are not able to handle it. Thank you so much for sharing this about yourself and sharing a perspective of a single parent. I can’t wait to read even more blogs from you!

  • Amy

    I just found this & was moved by your personal experience. By now, I believe you have already completed your cruise. I hope you & your family had an amazing time together. I also hope you are healing as well. Good luck!

  • Greg

    It’s been a bit, but I sincerely hope that all facets of your life are heading in a positive direction. Thanks for sharing your story and exposing your vulnerability, it takes a strong person to do that. May you and your kids have a Happy Holiday season :)