Su Lum: Slumming | AspenTimes.com

Su Lum: Slumming

Su Lum
The Aspen Times
Aspen, CO Colorado

In 2003, I went on a seven-night Holland America cruise to the Caribbean, which, despite my rampant dreads, turned out to be absolutely delightful in every way. In 2005, I went on a 16-night celebrity cruise to the Panama Canal, which, despite my eager anticipation, was something of a nightmare.

The Holland America ship was new; the Celebrity ship was slated for rehab. I got sick before I even boarded the second ship, and my back went out en route to it, so I was a miserable mariner well before I threw up on my way to the life-boat drill or discovered that I had the mattress from hell.

On the first cruise I ate like an oinker – gourmet all the way and all the time. On the second cruise I lost 12 pounds and didn’t make it to the grand dining room until the fourth day. The fare did not compare well to Holland America’s.

The biggest difference was in my rooms. On the first cruise, my room was at the very back of the boat with an enormous deck (holding two chaise lounges, two tables and two chairs) overlooking the wake, the entire ocean below and the universe above. I fell in love with my deck (and MY ocean, MY sky).

On the second cruise I was in the middle of the boat in a much smaller room (with the awful mattress) and a cramped little balcony where two people could sit face to face with their knees touching. I was sitting out there one afternoon when we pulled alongside a Holland America ship so close that I could look down upon a deck identical to mine on the first cruise, and it was all I could do to keep from jumping overboard to get to it.

So it is with some trepidation that I responded to a Holland America e-mail announcing cut-rate prices and, as you read this, am aboard the Eurodam, their brand new ship, on a similar but not identical seven-night route, in the same kind of far-aft big-decked room.

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Trying to replicate a perfect experience is always begging for trouble, but I haven’t been anywhere for four years and am in a dither of preparation and anticipation. I am traveling with my friend Hilary Burgess, who has never cruised and is equally excited.

Due to new federal regulations, I can now fly, for the first time in 10 years, from Aspen to Denver with my Sequal Eclipse oxygen concentrator. This is an enormous boon, eliminating the Aspen-Denver drive, exhausted before I get started. And I can fly from Denver-Ft. Lauderdale, whereas oxygen restrictions in the past put me in Miami facing a long midnight cab ride. Yes!

On the other hand, this is my first air travel with the Sequal – will the batteries hold? Will the airlines (this is all very new to them) give me grief? Will there be delays on the tarmac?

We have already had a few scares: Hilary lost her passport but found it; somewhere along the line we got an e-mail that our booking had been canceled, but it wasn’t; when Hilary called to reconfirm everything one of the several airlines involved (Continental) wanted a last-minute oxygen permission form from my doctor.

Lists and more lists, trying not to forget anything you might really need over those seven days, like meds they won’t be selling in the gift shop on board – feeling like the White Rabbit, “I’m late, I’m late, I’m late.”

Then get on the first plane and it’s all out of your hands. Up, up and away, hope for the best, turn off the light behind you.