From Icy Cold to Balmy Caribbean

by Debbie Parson

Debbie and Ron aboard Emerald Princess
Debbie and Ron aboard Emerald Princess

It began, innocently enough, as a light snow, transforming the landscape around our rural Kentucky home into a transcendent holiday card. Then came eight days of intermittent freezing rain, more snow and finally, a brutal pummeling of skin-searing, sub-zero, 20-mile-per-hour wind gusts hurling around more snow and freezing rain.

Central Kentucky relented to the pure force of nature. Ice as thick as three inches formed, power lines fell across the region. Tree limbs snapped. Power outages affected 750,000 homes. The governor swiftly signed a disaster declaration.

If my husband, Ron, didn’t work as a supervisor for the regional electric utility, we’d have been rubbing our hands in glee about our upcoming Caribbean cruise on Emerald Princess. But precisely because of his job, managing the crews that would fix those lines and restore civility, our longed-for vacation was in as much jeopardy as our roof was from a falling tree limb.

For the next two weeks, I barely saw Ron. There were nights he’d catch a few hours of sleep on the couch at work. Others he’d come home around midnight and be out by 5 a.m., leaving a pile of clothes on the floor as evidence.

I kept the home front. We lost power for three days, but coming from a utility family, we were fore-armed with a generator and wood-burning stove. My parents lost power for nine days, so I’d look after them, check in on Ron’s parents, go to work at the library and check in with our son.

Ron would call when he could and we’d worry if the crisis would settle in time for us to go on our cruise. Truth be told, I started to freak out. I tried to force optimism by packing our bags anyway.

Meanwhile, Ron used the promise of the cruise to give him stamina to push through his exhaustion and complete the remaining workload. He dreamed about that golf shore excursion I’d booked in St. Kitts, while I kept imagining the catamaran ride off Barbados.

Once the power lines were up and electricity fully restored, we still weren’t in the clear – he was still responsible for reviewing the repair work and completing the paperwork that went along with that. We kept our (very cold) fingers crossed.

Then, a scant few days before our cruise vacation, the decision was made: Ron was cleared.. We were giddy on that flight to Fort Lauderdale and all but floated up Emerald Princess’ gangway, gloriously bathed in 80-degree warmth.

Once we settled in aboard the cruise ship, I pulled up a deck chair and Ron commenced with his own repair work. He literally spent two days catching up on his sleep and eating good meals. Few people could’ve deserved that vacation more than Ron, and our 10 days of Caribbean sunshine exceeded our expectations. We had never appreciated warmth and relaxation so much!

I’ve always been proud of my beloved soul mate, but never more than when I saw the sacrifice and dedication he showed during the ice storm of 2009. Without a doubt, this cruise was even more special because of those icy, work-filled days and nights, when we wondered if we’d ever make it at all.

Debbie is from Campbellsville, Kentucky and she’s enjoyed five cruises with Princess. She’s looking forward to another cruise in November!