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Pepe gets back to cruisin'

Life with Pepe

It has been awhile since I wrote – which was September 2021. An unexpected medical emergency put me in the hospital (and Pepe in a kennel) for several days. After we came home, there was the time-consuming task of adjusting to a new routine, one filled with frequent follow-up visits to the doctor and my body adjusting to the many prescription medications that are now required. Our activity slowed to a life of staying home, resting and recuperating from the surgery.

Our only outings were now limited to doctor appointments and an occasional brief local trip for necessary essentials. Trips scheduled for week-long, monthly cruises through the winter months were canceled. Some cruise lines gave a full refund; others a "future cruise" credit.

By January, I was beginning to feel a bit better. However I was easily exhausted with the slightest activity – even a simple walk to the mailbox was impossible and required using the car. I'm certain that Pepe was bored beyond words. His sole outings were now limited mostly to frequent trips to the garden or lawn areas around the house.

Pepe constantly follows me when I move about the house, always alert to signs that I may be preparing to leave. Those signs include changing out of my sweats and slippers into "street" clothes, putting items in my pockets and the sound of picking up the car keys from the counter. Pepe accompanies me on our shopping trips, however those are short in duration and often he stays in the car while I run necessary errands.

In January we drove to San Pedro, boarding a ship for a few-days cruise along the Baja California coast. We stopped at three ports. However, with the pandemic still taking a major toll in Mexico we remained aboard the ship while in port. Our ship – the NCL Bliss – is a vessel we've sailed on several times. Our tiny cabin, 98 square feet, is designed for solo travelers that need only a place to put their stuff, shower and sleep.

Several people have commented that I'm making a mistake to cruise during this ongoing pandemic. With the COVID virus continuing to mutate, being in the company of others in close contact for several days seems foolish. There is another side to this: all passengers and crew must show proof of full vaccination. A COVID-19 test is required the day before sailing and a rapid antigen test is taken at the pier prior to entering the cruise terminal for boarding. Aboard the ship all passengers, regardless of vaccination status, are required to wear a mask in any public area except when actively eating or drinking. Frankly, I feel safer from COVID aboard a cruise ship than I do in a grocery store.

Our next adventure will be during the last week of this month. We've booked a cruise to the Mexican Riviera on the Carnival Panorama, sailing out of Long Beach. We've sailed on the Panorama twice since the Pandemic which makes getting around on the ship easy for me. Carnival ships are "party boats" with an emphasis on having fun. Most of the passengers are much younger than I and are sailing on a short vacation. Before the pandemic, there were several families with small children on the ships. Now almost all of the passengers are adults.

The ships provide a three-foot square "relief box" filled with wood chips or sod for Pepe. Originally, Pepe refused to use the box and would hold it until we went ashore. On our most recent cruises, he has learned that the relief box is as good as it is going to get. Sometimes he will leap into the box, positioning himself so near the edge that lifting his leg means part of the stream will go outside the designated area. I carry a small towel in my shipboard backpack just in case.

For me, cruising is a great way to get out of the house with very little concern for contracting the COVID virus. The cruise lines are encouraging guests to return to sea by reducing their prices. As a solo cruiser, that discount is a huge incentive to sail. The cruise lines encourage people to use the many bars and specialty restaurants aboard the ship. I find the food selections in the dining rooms and buffets are excellent and are included in the price of the cruise.

I've booked several more week-long, monthly cruises along the Mexican Riviera aboard Royal Caribbean ships sailing out of San Pedro. I've not sailed RC ships in several years and I'm looking forward to how they are now taking care of their guests. I'll write again and let you know how it goes.

Pepe is a small, male Chihuahua mix, eight years old, that accompanies Steve everywhere. Steve has a hearing disability that allows him to have an ADA Certified Service Dog.