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Navigating Changed Circumstances: A Challenging Cruise

The “Best Laid Plans”

On Sunday morning, October 7th, I texted a friend and mentioned that my husband and I were excitedly getting ready for a 30-day, 40th-anniversary cruise that included the Holy Land. “Probably not,” she responded, “considering today’s news from that part of the world.” Within 48 hours, the cruise line announced that all our Middle East stops—in Egypt, Israel, Jordan, Saudi Arabia, and Oman—had been canceled “for our safety.” They later said the ship would go through the Suez Canal and on through the Red and Arabian Seas to the disembarkation port of Dubai, including ten consecutive days at sea. Our families were concerned (as were we), but no refunds, except prepaid excursion fees, and no other compensation, upgrades, credits, or transfers to other cruises were offered to us, so we didn’t cancel and thought we’d just relax, work out, use the spa, and read on all those sea days.

A Tough Decision Had to Be Made After We Were On Board

Once aboard, we heard of attacks on commercial ships in the Red Sea. It was an emotionally hard choice of whether to stay on our long-awaited voyage or to get off and sadness over losing all the warm-weather Holy Land and Middle East spots we were most eager to visit. We proposed to get off at Cyprus, the last stop before the Suez Canal, because my husband’s brother was near the end of his life, and my parents are 94 and 100. We needed to be able to get to where they live at any time. In the Spring, we’d purchased trip insurance, but it didn’t cover acts of war or terrorism. Now the ship wasn’t going to be able to stop anywhere to let us off, even in an emergency, until docking in Dubai on December 19th. 

List of Circumstances Not Going According to Our Hopes, Plans, or Expectations

  • Seven days at ports of call in the Middle East were canceled in October.
  • Our stop in Sicily was canceled the morning of our scheduled docking due to rough seas. Some Greek Islands were added to make up for the lost ports of call, but then Santorini was canceled due to a non-operative cable car, and Mykonos was canceled at the last moment due to 4′ swells.
  • I got seriously ill and had to miss a couple of days of excursions and spent three days sleeping most of the day; my symptoms lingered over two weeks.
  • A doctor on the ship put me on a strict dietary regimen that excluded gluten, dairy, nuts,  raw vegetables, sugar, and anything processed — which basically made the joy of dining a serious challenge rather than the delight it was for most passengers.
  • My husband’s brother passed peacefully in his wife’s arms while we were on the ship, sooner than anticipated.
  • Internet and cellular service on board were abysmal, so we spent days trying to rebook flights and hotels for after leaving the ship rather than going through the Suez Canal and Middle East seas.
  • The cruise line’s daily news flyer filtered out news about Red Seas missile attacks thwarted by the U.S. military. The number of passengers dwindled from 1150 at the start of the voyage to about 465 when we disembarked in Cyprus, and the talk among the passengers was largely about the Red Sea situation and the cruise lines’ lack of helpful and consistent communication about the situation.

Flexibility, Wondering, and Learning from Whatever the Circumstances Are

Clearly, you can make careful, wonderful plans with high expectations, but all the circumstances may change drastically, and you then have to make decisions. You need to assess What Is.

You may wonder, like me, whether you missed something in your planning! Proverbs 16:9 (NIV) says, “In their hearts humans plan their course, but the LORD establishes their steps.” Proverbs 19:21 (NLT) says, “You can make many plans, but the LORD’s purpose will prevail.” Although those verses can make you question whether you failed in your earlier discernment, later, they can bolster your trust, along with Romans 8:28 (NIV), because “we know that in all things God works for the good of those who love Him, who have been called according to His purpose.”

Blessedly, one’s circumstances don’t have to be ideal, nor must personal expectations be met, in order to learn and to experience peace and joy.

Getting off at Cyprus, we saw three Greek warships near our ship. That, plus further news of missiles in the Red Sea, were confirmation of our decision to disembark. So, we had peace of mind, which I also had through my prayers and daily readings. My husband and I had enjoyed amazing togetherness—24 hours a day in a small stateroom or out and about for over three weeks. He cared for me through my sickness, and I appreciated every ounce of his loving attention and wise counsel. 

I’ve previously struggled on and off with inadequate sleep, but I slept soundly and sufficiently during this vacation. What a joy!

We saw God’s hand in the peaceful passing of my brother-in-law and the faith and compassionate love of friends and family in their outpourings of sympathy and sharing of fun family stories. 

Reflections and Memories

We had opportunities to review our priorities and to set intentions for our lives going forward. We got to read, rest, and relax! Even with all the challenges, this will be a vacation we’ll always remember for all we saw, experienced, and learned — including our reunion with loved ones in Barcelona before boarding the ship, the Rafa Nadal Tennis Academy and Museum, the market and a fabulous guide and food in Marseille, ancient Ephesus, Sparta, Rhodes, Athens’ Acropolis and the Parthenon, Istanbul and the Bosphorus leading to the Black Sea, and seeing the vestiges of the intertwined histories of Turkey, Greece, and Italy. And we saw Christmas decorations everywhere! Plus, Dubai.

Christine and Toby at BurjKhalifa 148

3 Questions to Ask When Circumstances Seem Overwhelming or Disappointing

  1. Ask yourself whether you’re powerless over the big situation. If so, admit it and figure out what you might be able to control. I like this Serenity Prayer approach.
  2. Ask how your heart feels and what (if anything) opposes that, and give great weight to your heart. For example, our hearts wanted to give our families and ourselves peace of mind, which outweighed financial regrets and sadness over unmet expectations, and eliminated the fear of getting stuck, hurt, or killed on the Red Sea this year! The fruits of the Spirit always trump fear!
  3. Ask how you can make the best of the situation — brainstorm a few elements that can be salvaged or lessons that could be learned.

In our case, we flew from Cyprus to Dubai since that’s where our pre-planned flight home had originated. Visiting Dubai had been a key factor in choosing this cruise. It felt safe and was an amazing experience, from swimming in the Persian Gulf to seeing the emirate from atop the tallest building in the world. The wealth there is, of course, mind-blowing. It was quite astounding seeing so many cultures peacefully coexisting in a young, ultramodern city. I loved hearing the call to prayer in the morning, at lunch, midafternoon, at dinnertime, and in the evening. I used it as a reminder for myself to pray The Lord’s Prayer those five times a day.

Bottom Line: Rather than Focusing on What Doesn’t Work, Consider New Possibilities

Reflect on what worked, what you learned, and how you handled the challenges you faced. You may take away new resolve, renewed energy, and unexpected experiences that will play an important role in your life going forward. Thank God that all things can and do work out for good for Jesus’ friends!

This was a long post, so thanks for sticking with me. Please feel free to comment, ask questions, or share this post, and to visit my website, www.RadiantJoy.us, and/or sign up for my monthly newsletter and my monthly podcast email.

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6 thoughts on “Navigating Changed Circumstances: A Challenging Cruise”

  1. Diane Lisciandro

    “Hearts wanted peace of mind.” A beautiful, insightful message as we make our way through Advent. Maranatha, come Lord Jesus. “Come to me, all you who are weary and heavy burdened and I will give you rest.”

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