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Winner of Frankenstein Travel Award : Woman’s Yucatan Trip Turns Into Nightmare Cruise

United Press International

Natalie Maier thought it would be a dream vacation, but instead her nightmare cruise to the Yucatan was horrific enough to win this year’s Frankenstein Travel Award.

The award is the brainchild of businessman Charles Reilly, who travels about 200 days a year. Reilly has suffered almost every possible embarrassment, indignity and humiliation available to the traveler: His luggage has been lost, his reservations canceled, his shoes eaten by a large animal, and once, in an Atlanta elevator, he was bitten on the leg by a small boy.

The Frankenstein Travel Award allows victims to vent their frustrations and win a prize for the most horrible vacation experience.

“Maier’s account of a nightmare cruise to the Yucatan was the hands-down winner this year,” Reilly says.

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Maier endured a snowstorm, a canceled airline flight, rancid clothes, seasickness, third-degree burns, rainstorms, food sickness, 40-foot ocean swells and a screaming stewardess to become the big winner.

Here is her horrible tale:

Maier’s woes began on an icy day in February as she and two friends were preparing to fly from their home in New Jersey to Miami, where they would board a cruise ship for a tour of three balmy ports in the Caribbean and Yucatan.

On the day before her departure, a blizzard brought 23 inches of snow to New Jersey. It took 13 hours to shovel Maier’s car out of the driveway for the trip to Newark airport.

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Somewhat Rancid

When they got to the airport, they learned their flight had been canceled. They jumped on a flight to Charlotte, N.C., and another from there to Atlanta, where they found a flight to Miami.

A cruise representative met them at the airport, and told them the ship was being held for them. They made it to the ship, but their luggage did not catch up with them for four days. Scruffy and somewhat rancid, they cut a conspicuous figure at the Captain’s Dinner.

The first day at sea, Maier became violently seasick. Unable to eat, sleep or even stand, she collapsed in a deck chair and remained there all day. By the end of the day she had third-degree burns from the sun.

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Next up was picnic day ashore, except it rained. The picnic was held under a shelter, but the dining was somewhat less than elegant since the shelter had been erected adjacent to the toilets.

Then, there was a monsoon during the raft ride back to the boat.

In Cozumel, where the ladies had hoped to buy some clothes, all the shops were closed. Instead, they were driven to a hotel for drinks and a show. The show was uninspired, the drinks were warm, the food was cold and stale. Everyone became ill.

Two days later the ship docked at Grand Cayman Island and everyone rushed ashore to take advantage of the fabulous bargains to be found in the legendary shops. Of course, the shops were closed.

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As an alternative, passengers were bused to a nearby beach for a swim in tropical paradise. However, no one was permitted to go near the water; 17 people had recently been bitten by Portuguese men-of-war.

Everyone was given an exotic lunch of turtleburgers. The tourists were assured the turtles would taste like chicken. They didn’t. They tasted like turtle--old turtle.

At Ocho Rios, Jamaica, passengers were told that if they walked a mile down the beach they would find a hotel that served the world’s most perfect banana daquiri. At the end of the hike, they found no electricity, no blenders, no daquiris. It rained during the walk back.

That night, the final night at sea, no one slept. It was a gala night of champagne and dancing, marking the end of an epic voyage. It was also a night of 40-foot swells pounding the cruise ship. Everyone became ill again.

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During the flight back home, Maier and friends were drained by fatigue and illness. They slept soon after takeoff, but not for long.

No Rest for the Weary

Ten minutes into the flight they were awakened by shrill screams. A stewardess had spilled some hot soup on the legs of a young passenger, sending her into shock. The ensuing commotion lasted the rest of the trip and when the plane landed in Newark police cars and ambulances lined the runway.

It was, says Maier, a fitting nightmare end to a dream vacation trip.

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As the winner of the Frankenstein, Maier gets--what else?--a dream weekend vacation of sightseeing, dining and hospitality in Philadelphia.


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