The Good…The Bad…and the Saving Grace

by | Sep 12, 2016 | Karna Small Bodman | 10 comments

….by Karna Small Bodman

All this week my “Rogue” colleagues have been writing great articles about enjoyable vacations that were inspiring and, in some cases, ones that changed their lives.  We have read about seeing a Hindu Ceremony of Light (Guest blogger, Bryon Robinson), having a romantic interlude with her husband in Vermont (S. Lee Manning) and experiencing an enchanting time with her daughter in Greece (Gayle Lynds).

Gayle’s descriptions reminded me of a vacation that wasn’t completely “enjoyable.” In fact, it turned out to be a bit of a challenge.  It all began when my husband, Dick, and I were invited to join friends to raise money for the National Museum for Women in the Arts in Washington, D.C.  We all signed up for a special charity cruise to Greece, the surrounding islands and a few other stops on board the luxurious Sea Goddess.

We had never been on a cruise (because Dick does have a problem with motion sickness), but we figured that there wouldn’t be much open water, and the weather forecast looked perfect. We all met first in Athens and spent several days seeing many of their fabulous sites.


Along the way we were told stories about how a large Hollywood contingent of producers, directors and stars had recently converged on the area, especially the island of Cephallonia, to shoot a major motion picture about what happened there during WW II when Italy’s conquering army marched in and had to deal with the Nazis, the Communists and the locals all with conflicting alliances, to say nothing of conflicting love affairs.

Greek Isles

The movie was based on a great book that had been written about those ordeals, so, of course, we bought it and then boarded the ship to go on a tour of the nearby islands. So far, so good.

Then it was time for the overnight sail to Sicily. At the beginning we saw incredible views from our state room and then began to dress in our finery to have an elegant dinner coupled with a performance by a famous opera star invited on board as the main entertainment.


On board the Sea Goddess

Just at that moment, the ship began a gentle sway, side to side.  We sat down for a few minutes hoping it would subside.  No such luck.  Pretty soon it was obvious that this was going to go on, perhaps through the night. Dick announced that there was no way he could make the dinner. He had tried all the prescribed “cures” for motion sickness. None ever worked.  Big problem.  I went to find the ship’s doctor who came to administer a special shot that knocked my husband out for the night and left me to wonder how to handle the rest of the trip.  I searched for the Captain and asked him what the forecast was for the rest of the journey.  He said, “Light chop.” I replied, “If light chop is coming, what are we experiencing right now?” He said, “Oh, Madam this is gentle.”  I shook my head and replied, “Then we’re out of here. Can someone on your staff call ahead and get us a hotel room in Sicily?” He agreed to arrange it and said we would arrive there first thing in the morning. 


And so — we jumped ship.  Of course, once on dry land Dick was well enough, and we were able to see a bit of Sicily, spend the night and then decide what to do next.  I discovered that there were several flights a day to Rome, and even though it was the height of the tourist season, I managed to snag a couple of tickets. But we also needed a hotel.

Marriott Hotel in Rome

After much frustration, I finally got a reservation for us at the Marriott. We planned to spend a couple of days there before flying to Zurich, the final city on the original tour where we had airline reservations to head back to Washington. However, when we got to Rome, there was another kind of problem. As soon as we checked into our room, Dick leaned over to grab something out of the mini-bar and put his back out.  Poor dear spent the next two days in bed.  At least he had a good book to read.  By the third day, he said he was good to go — so on to Zurich, the last stop on our “vacation.” 

As we all were boarding our flight to Switzerland, the stewardess rushed up and down the aisles to announce that the ground crews had just gone out on strike, and there was no one to haul the plane away from the gate for take-off.  After a half-hour wait, she said to all of us, “This happens all the time here in Rome. But on my last flight we asked all the able-bodied men to get off and haul the plane out.  Maybe we can do that again.”  Say again? Ask the passengers to go out and work like a chain gang to pull a jetliner out to the runway?  Murmurs in the cabin ranged from “She’s gotta be kidding,” to “Anyone want to volunteer?” But a few minutes later, the pilot announced, “Looks like there is one brave driver who’s bringing his truck over to take us out.” (I always wondered what happened to that guy).


When we landed n Zurich,  I was grateful that Dick felt fine, and we could finally have one last pleasant vacation day when we could see a great city, have a lovely romantic dinner, spend the night, and fly back to the states first thing in the morning. And so it went – that is until we got to the Zurich airport and were told that our flight to DC had been cancelled due to mechanical problems.  I said to the clerk, “Is there ANY flight to ANYWHERE in the states we can get on?” She checked and got us seats on a flight to New York in a couple of hours.

After crossing the Atlantic and landing at Kennedy International, we hopped in a taxi and asked the driver to take us to LaGuardia so we could catch a shuttle to DC.  I grabbed my cell and checked the airlines only to discover that all flights from LaGuardia to Washington had been cancelled due to thunderstorms, and none seemed to know when the next ones would be leaving.  At that point, I made one more call to Amtrak and managed to get the last two seats on the Acela train. (Obviously all the other travelers were trying to do the same thing).  And so we diverted the taxi to Penn Station.

Acela Train NY-DC

Finally arriving home late that night, we were exhausted, but I was thankful we had made it through this “vacation” at all.  And I learned a few lessons on this trip: (1) Only travel with carry-on luggage, which we did. (Thank goodness we never had to check our bags – I’m sure they  would not have kept up with our trek) and (2) In the future, remember the quote from Benjamin Franklin,  “If you fail to plan, you’re planning to fail.”

When we had occasion to see our friends in DC who had completed the cruise, they said, “So, after you left us, how was the rest of your vacation?” To which my dear husband replied, “I actually had a great time. I finally had the chance to read a really good book.  It’s all about when Italy tried to take over that Greek Island, but had to deal with the Nazi occupiers and then the Communist rebels and finally the local folks who didn’t like any of them.” I had to laugh, but then I added, “Yes, that book was the saving grace, so to speak. He’s right about the story.  It’s about love too. A father’s love for his daughter, a man’s love for a woman, and a people’s love for their country.  We never would have read it if we hadn’t taken that trip.” The book was Correlli’s Mandolin (the book, as usual,  was much better than the movie). 

Now the question is: Have you ever taken a vacation that turned out to be “a challenge,”  and what books did you read along the way? Do leave a comment below — we’d love to hear about your experiences.  And thanks for visiting us Rogue Women Writers…..Karna Small Bodman

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  1. Gayle Lynds

    Omg, Karna, I didn't know whether to laugh or to cry. What an "adventure." You were so smart to take only carry-on luggage. I'm glad you arrived home safe, and such great senses of humor you and Dick have. Brava and bravo!

  2. S. Lee Manning

    Karna, the vacation from hell. I never wanted to go on a cruise, for the reasons you've described. Your vacation was such a succession of misadventures that I couldn't stop laughing. It has all the hallmarks of a great comic novel. Thanks for sharing.

  3. Karna Bodman

    Thanks for your comments Gayle and S. Lee. Yes, I did consider using some of those experiences in one of my novels — but discarded the idea because – who would believe it all?

  4. Anonymous

    Wow. Looks like the only thing missing from making it a "perfect" trip would have been for the train to hit a cow on the way back to Washington, and then having some do-gooder saying we couldn't move the cow because it wasn't kosher………..

  5. jean harrington

    A beautifully written story, Karna. Enjoyable throughout; sorry the trip was not.

  6. Unknown

    What an adventure, slipping under the wire at every point. Always say, as long as you have a good book, you're in a good place.

  7. Anonymous

    While travel is intrinsically filled with minor difficulties, yours was one major disruptions after another.
    I was amazed at your flexibility, Dick'e resiliency and your logisical feats. Well Done.
    Loved your true story.
    Loved Corelli's Mandolin & the book was considerably better than the movie.

  8. Chris Goff

    I've always wanted to go on a cruise, but have never had the chance. I'm now doing some rethinking. Thanks for the heads up!

  9. Brittany

    I read this story and wasn't sure whether to laugh or cry….what an experience though!! Well written and honestly kept me wanting to know what happens next..