Snow Or Not, They're Making The Ship

But Other Cruise Passengers Come Back To Lots Of Digging

December 21, 2009|By Andrea K. Walker | Andrea K. Walker,andrea.walker@baltsun.com

Veronica Keith and her daughter Ashley woke up early Sunday morning to shovel their Hyattsville driveway, as they had a Bahamas cruise to make and no record-setting blizzard was going to ruin it.

"I'm one of the lucky ones," said Veronica Keith, a 60-year-old retiree who bought her daughter the cruise, which departed yesterday, as a Christmas gift. "I'm escaping the snow. I wouldn't want to miss this cruise for anything in the world."

Catherine Gonzalez and Teresa Punjwani didn't consider themselves so lucky. Their mostly warm and sunny Bahamas vacation cruise ended Sunday and they were greeted at home by the unwelcome sight of more than 21 inches of snow, remnants of the biggest December snowstorm since 1883.

"I'm a summer person," said Punjwani, 31. "I wanted to stay on the ship. Bring back the warm weather."

"We asked if we could get back in line and reboard," said her mother, Gonzalez, still wearing a straw hat suitable for sunny weather.

The Carnival Pride, which holds 2,200 people, docked at Baltimore's cruise terminal in South Baltimore at 8 a.m. yesterday to unexpected weather conditions. It was the first major snowstorm since the city began offering year-round cruise service this year and the worst it had ever encountered.

Travelers returning home were caught off guard, hearing about the storm on television while they were at sea. Some returned wearing only thin coats, while others found themselves traipsing through snow in sneakers and high heels.

"Oh boy, this is going to be lots of fun, especially in loafers," said Bryan Stokke, 14, who realized he was going to have to help his family dig their car out from thick snow.

Those preparing to board the ship, which was again venturing out to the Bahamas yesterday evening, said news of the impending storm made them fear getting trapped at home and missing their trips. One family made the treacherous 11-hour drive from Canada, not realizing there was a blizzard until they crossed the American border. By then there was no turning back.

Carnival ended up delaying the departure time of the cruise by about three hours to give people more time to arrive.

But Nicole and Joseph Hummel, not knowing about the delay, weren't taking any chances. The couple, who live in Northern Virginia, shoveled out their driveway all day during the blizzard Saturday and got up in the middle of the night to shovel again. When the plows came to clean off their main street, they watched from outside to make sure their driveway didn't get blocked.

They arrived in Baltimore at 9:30 a.m., well before their ship was supposed to depart.

Jeffer and Annie King, both 38, were the couple making their way from Ontario, Canada, with their young son and teenage daughter. The highways were empty of cars and visibility low as they drove through New York state. There were more cars on the road by the time they hit Maryland, but driving was slow. They hit slick patches and swerved many times.

"Yeah, it's crazy," said Jeffer King, thinking about what the family went through for a cruise. He said they never turned back because they had already paid for the trip. Next time, they're thinking about flying.

Crews from the Maryland Port Administration began clearing the lot at the cruise terminal Friday at midnight. They used 10 pieces of equipment, including all-terrain vehicles with plows attached. The goal was to see "blacktop" by the time the ship docked - a goal they met.

But passengers still had to dig out their cars, although port employees were on hand with shovels to help.

As Nicholas and Jordana Taylor cleaned snow off their Toyota Camry, they said they weren't too happy to hear it was snowing back home. The storm even affected the last day of the cruise, with heavy waves and clouds and cool weather. The ship had to skip a stop at Freeport, Bahamas, because of the weather. The Taylors, who live in Arlington, said it's not the white stuff they don't like. It's the work that comes with it.

"It's not the snow, it's digging out," said Jordana Taylor, noting they were going to have to do more shoveling when they got home.

"It's not as bad when you're inside at home," said Nicholas Taylor.

Endeara Sweeney walked off the boat in a straw hat but was soon wrapped up in a scarf and hood with fur, her face barely visible. Sweeney, who went on the cruise with friend Shanita Andrews, said coming back to snow was a "culture shock." She wasn't looking forward to getting home and having to shovel.

"My neighbors are kind enough that sometimes they rake my leaves; maybe they'll surprise me," she said hopefully.

Most passengers were glad they arrived after the storm had ended. Most ships dock at Baltimore on Saturdays, but the port was lucky this one arrived on a Sunday instead, said Maryland Port Administration spokesman Richard Scher.

"It worked out about as well as it could," Scher said.

Not everyone was unhappy about the snow.

The snow was a novelty for some crew members from warmer parts of the world.

Engine technicians Carlos Balino and Wilbert Monge were like little kids throwing snow at each other in the parking lot.

"Let me help you out some," said Balino as he dropped a snowball down Monge's back.

Monge, who is from Peru and lives in Miami, had never seen snow before. Balino watched the snow from the ship and couldn't wait to play in it. The last time he saw snow was in Alaska in 1996.

"It's beautiful," Balino said. "I don't get to see this that often."

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