I got back last Saturday from what was supposed to be the Writers’ Cruise.

From that opening sentence, you obviously can tell that it didn’t happen exactly as advertised.

Let me start from the beginning:

About 8-10 months ago, a member of RomVets, a group of romance writers who served or are currently serving in the military, came up with the idea of a writers’ cruise. She is also a quilt teacher and has done quilting cruises, so this seemed to be a great idea. She posed the question on our loop as to who wanted to go.

Four wonderful writers – myself, Susan Charnley, Terry Blain, and Lori Avocato – said we’d love to do this, so a travel agent took over to make all the arrangements.

For awhile, we didn’t hear anything, but once in a while, we’d get a little update. Susan had taken on the task of being go-between for the writers and the travel agent, and she did a fabulous job of keeping us up to date.

The plan was that we would each do two workshops, but the rest of the four day cruise would be free to mingle with the attendees and just enjoying the cruise.

The first problem we ran into had to do with selling books. As writers, we all assumed we’d be able to sign and sell books on the cruise. Some of us are epublished, which makes it a little tough for traditional booksellers to get our books for a number of reasons that come down to economics. However, we were assured that someone from the flagship office of Borders would be on board with us and would be able to get all of our books.

Then we discovered that either (1) the cruise company wouldn’t allow the bookseller on board (either there wasn’t a cabin or the company didn’t want books sold – I’m not sure of the real story) or (2) the bookseller’s higher-ups didn’t want someone cruising for four days instead of being in the office.

So, the next step was to see about setting up a website where our books could be sold before and after the cruise and we were going to have vouchers to give out to the attendees. Or something like that. I never was really clear on how that was going to work, but I figured I’d find out when we got closer to the cruise date.

Well, a month before we were supposed to leave on the cruise, we all got emails from the travel agent telling us that the website (which had no way for visitors to register for the trip, by the way) was taken down and we should take down any pages on our own sites. I was a little worried about this, but was reassured that we were still going but that no one had signed up.

Well, for the next few weeks we were trying to figure out what was going on, and on the Thursday before we were supposed to leave we found out that we might not be going on the ship we’d first believed. Apparently, for some reason still not clear to me, we weren’t actually confirmed on the ship until the last minute.

On Friday (remember I’m leaving home on Saturday!), Lori decided that she wasn’t going on the trip because she had other personal and professional things to attend to. Terry wasn’t sure she was going but Susan and I said we were heading down to Orlando on Saturday.

Personally, I needed some time away from things for myself. Friday afternoon, my husband took the Boy out to play and I sat down for a few minutes to relax and I decided whatever happened, I was okay with it. Then he came back in and said, “Whatever happens, we won’t lose the house.”

I stared at him and said, “I wasn’t stressed about all this. I am now.”

What he meant was that we’d be okay financially if I had to turn around and buy a plane ticket home Saturday night.

So, Saturday morning, I met Susan at the Orlando airport and we headed to the Embassy Suites where she had a room reservation. The travel agent was paying for everything now, so things were okay.

I had planned to go to Mass at 5 pm Saturday thinking we were leaving Sunday for the cruise ship, but Susan said at this point it didn’t look like we were, so I decided I’d wait and go to Mass Sunday morning. It was already about four when we got to the hotel anyway. Susan told me she saw signs for a Catholic chapel at the airport so I could take the shuttle there and back.

Terry arrived around six or so, and Susan filled her in on the plans. Terry had been to RWA’s National Conference, so she decided that if we weren’t cruising, she would rather just go home. We all had dinner together and she contacted the travel agent and said she wanted to go home the next day.

I headed out the next morning back to the airport but discovered that the chapel was behind security so only ticketed passengers could go to Mass. I had called the hotel a week before and knew that the closest church was Blessed Trinity, so I got a cab to take me there.

Well, the driver misheard the address and then proceeded to get lost. I got the 8 am mass at 8:18 and it cost me $30. I was a little worried about how I was going to get home, but I decided that God would help me and if worse came to worse, I could call Susan at the hotel and ask her to call a cab for me as I had no phone numbers!

The priest asked visitors to stand up after Mass and introduce themselves. I did and said I was from Louisiana. As I was shaking his hand afterward, I told him I would need his help to get a cab back to the hotel. He asked a man to call a cab for me, and this man and his wife said, “Oh, she’s the woman from Louisiana? We’ll take her to the hotel.”

Turns out the woman had graduated from LSU and they were happy to drive me back. They also gave me their names, address and phone number in case I needed anything else while in Orlando. Later this week, they will be sent a copy of my book as a thank you gift.

Well, Terry, Susan and I had breakfast together then Terry headed back to the hotel. Susan and I got to know each other pretty well as we waited to hear from the travel agent to find out what we were doing next. When she called, Susan told her that she could save some money, and send us to Disney World.

See, the plan now was to get us on a ship on Monday, which would mean that my plane ticket home on Thursday would be worthless and she’d have to buy us tickets on Friday. If we went to Disney, we could go home on Thursday as planned.

Well, she said she was getting us on a Royal Caribbean ship, so we got our stuff together and got on a shuttle that took us to Port Canaveral. We had a room in a wonderful Radisson hotel, and once we figured the layout out, we had a great time. We walked around, had dinner at the restaurant and started talking about an anthology of novellas about traveling plans that go awry.

Monday morning, after my sleeping on a Select Comfort bed for the first time, we found out that we wouldn’t be getting on that ship after all. Our names didn’t make the manifest in time, even though she got them to the office in time. So, now we were going to Disney World.

Now the story gets better.

We stayed in the Yacht Club resort Monday, Tuesday and Wednesday nights and had Park Hopper tickets for Tuesday and Wednesday. The staff was wonderful and we felt like royalty. Regardless of the social stand Disney has taken on some life issues (like their support of Planned Parenthood), I can’t deny they know what they’re doing. Customer service second to none and everyone who works there is unfailing friendly and helpful. Like when I lost my room key and park pass (all on one card), no one every blinked when I told them. It was all handled in less than five minutes and I got a new card. (I found the old one as I was packing to leave – I’d put it in an obscure pocket of my bag “so I wouldn’t lose it.”)

We had a great time in the parks because we had no kids begging to do everything or buy everything. We each had specific things we needed to do to say we’d been to Disney, and the rest of the time we just relaxed, wrote, or napped.

Our last night, Susan treated us to a fabulous meal at the Yachtman Steakhouse. It was expensive but so good. She said it was a business dinner and we did work out some kinks in the novellas we’re each going to write when we finish current projects.

Thursday evening when it was time for my plane to leave, it was about an hour late leaving Orlando and landed in Atlanta 25 minutes after the last flight to Baton Rouge took off, so I had to stay over in Atlanta, with no toiletries or clean clothes because my bags stayed at the airport to get on the BR plane. I finally got home around 11 am Friday morning and was so tired and glad to be home, I cried when my husband hugged me.

Now, I’m excited about writing again. I’m working on the edits to Sword & Illusion, hoping to be done with that by the end of August, and I have a superhero chick lit I’m pre-writing. Susan is a great traveling companion and she’s got wonderful story ideas. I can’t wait to read her fairy tales!