My spring break trip has been in the works for a few months now. Every detail had been carefully planned so that nothing would get in the way of our week long break. The plan was to leave the night before on Amtrak and arrive in Tampa a few hours before our cruise ship left. We’d be on board by 1:30pm, way before the 4:00pm departure time. Instead, our train was delayed due to a storm in the Northeast, and we didn’t arrive in Tampa until after 3:30pm. We had been in contact with an agent from the cruise line, and the train station was only a few minutes away from the port, so we figured if we hurried, we could still make it. There were seven of us that took the train, and we split into two groups to get ubers.
The first uber took off while the rest of us were still piling our luggage into the trunk of ours, while the driver took his sweet time getting out of the car. When we finally got on the road, he drove like it was his first time in Tampa and he had no clue where he was going. We begged him to drive just a little faster, as we were very late for our cruise, but the man was going 20 mph in a 35 mph zone. The real kicker was when he dropped us off at the wrong location and we took off running, believing that the convention center was where the ship was docked. We requested another driver and got the same man again. By the time we reached the port, they had closed the gates and said it was too late for us to board. Our friends in the first car had made it, and the three of us were left watching the ship sail away.
Those first few minutes after they broke the news to us were wild. We were hysterical. There was screaming, crying, and police officers asking us to get off the pavement and stop screaming. We spent so much time and money planning for this trip, and we couldn’t even board the ship. We lay on the ground for some time, crying on the phone to our parents until an agent from the company came down to explain our options to us. The options were to either fly to Mexico and meet the ship at the first port, or to try and have the reservation changed to another ship at a later date. The agent was concerned about where we were going to sleep for the night until we had a plan, and didn’t leave until we had booked a hotel and got transportation there.
Pulling into the hotel parking lot made us cry a little harder. It seemed more like a motel. When we walked into the lobby to check in, the employee on duty was yelling at a customer over the phone. We called the front desk later to ask for clean towels and sheets and were told, “You paid $_____, what did you expect.”
Within minutes of checking into the motel, we had booked flights to Cancún, where we would take a five hour bus ride to Mahahual, near the port in Costa Maya that the ship was heading to. When we arrived in Mahahual, we’d get a taxi to Hotel Béke, a reasonably priced hotel we (my friend Jasmine) found online. I’d like to note that Jasmine planned everything. If it were up to me, we would’ve been still laying on the sidewalk in Tampa, crying.
We arrived in Cancún, took the ADO bus downtown to the ADO bus station and booked tickets to Mahahual. We had a few hours before the bus arrived, so we dragged our luggage down the street to a quesadilla shop. Back at the station, we met a nice Black couple from the US who had been living in Cancún for the past few years. They sold everything and just moved to Mexico. #Goals.
Our bus ride was uneventful, but very scenic. It was like a much nicer Greyhound bus, with a TV. I feel like we really got to experience Mexico in a way we never would have imagined. The landscape was beautiful and we weren’t really in any of the tourist spots once we left the city. We arrived in Mahahual around 11pm, took a taxi and arrived to the hotel as planned. It had private beach access and two beds, so we didn’t have to sleep on top of each other again. In the morning, we woke up and had breakfast on the beach. It was amazing.
The hotel staff called us a taxi and we left for the port to finally board the ship. When we finally made it on board, the crew were expecting us. They said our friends had been so worried about us and made them wait as long as possible in Tampa, but they couldn’t wait any longer. Our reunion with our friends was loud and emotional. None of us knew if we would actually make it, but we did!
The lesson I learned from this experience is that sometimes plans fail. Miserably. Trains get delayed, uber drivers get lost and drive ridiculously slow, and ships sail away without you being on board. However, the adventures that happen after failed plans can be extremely rewarding. Cancún was never on my list of places to travel to, but now I’ve been there. I never thought I’d take a road trip by bus through Mexico, but I’ve done that. I stayed in a resort in a place I can’t pronounce, walked very quickly away from soldiers with guns marching along the beach at said resort, and had authentic quesadillas in Cancún. Not what I had planned, but completely worth it.
None of this would’ve been possible without the financial support of my Nana, who lent me the money for the flight to Cancún and gave me pocket money before all of this happened. I’d also like to thank Aunty Natasha and my mother for their financial support as well. Shout out to my mother for picking out almost every piece of clothing in my suitcase, because we both know I can’t be trusted to pack clothing that’s not jeans and a t-shirt. Super duper huge shout out to Jasmine for planning everything and getting us to where we needed to be and when we needed to be there. Courtney, thanks for being the sane and calm one among us who didn’t have any public meltdowns. I love us for real ❤
Stay tuned for a blog about the actual cruise, which turned out to be a delightful experience.