The view of New York from Cabin 160 as Hurricane Irene approaches.

Guess who was hunkered down in a ship for two days in a New York harbor as Hurricane Irene barreled up the East Coast? The observer and his love having been hustled back from an abbreviated seven-day cruise from Bermuda right into the path of the storm.

Why the captain of the MSS Veendam thought putting 1,400 people in the middle of a possible disaster was a good idea will forever remain a mystery. The only plausible explanation is that 90% of the passengers were people from New York and New Jersey who could drive home Saturday before the storm hit on Sunday.

What about the rest of us? Visions of trudging the mad New York streets with two very large suitcases plagued us all week as we viewed the storm’s progress on Fox and CNN aboard ship. We would be easy prey if the kind of madness that gripped New Orleans prevailed in Manhattan. (Yes, the thought of missing the opening University of Louisville football game was ever present.) We would be less than candid if we didn’t admit that all kinds of wild scenarios were running through our fertile imaginations.

Fortunately for everyone, the storm amounted to little more than a drizzle there and our worst fears were never realized. The next worst fear was a logistical nightmare. We had hoped to get out of town Saturday before the storm. However, Mayor Bloomberg had shut down all mass transportation and closed the airports, requiring us to reschedule flights three times. So we would be confined to the ship until Monday.

On Sunday, however, all passengers who would be debarking on Monday were requested to be on the fifth level within 15 minutes to be reassigned, presumbly to lesser cabins, to make room for passengers going on the next cruise. That turned out to be a six-hour ordeal, ending only after the observer checked the old cabin and told the front desk there was no one in there and nobody coming aboard at 9 p.m. on a Sunday.

Then we were required to get off the ship at 7:30 Monday morning before the airports had opened, with the objective of catching an 8:30 flight that night. On the way to the airport the observer had the idea of stopping by the Laguardia Marriott Inn, storing the bags, hoping the hotel would allow us to hang around for a while.

The first person we saw was Tom Walsh, the general manager. He would be the most gracious person we met on the trip, welcoming us like old friends, inviting us in for the day, encouraging us to use the free Wi-Fi, later comping our dinner, and providing us with free transport to the airport. (Thanks, Tom, we will never forget and, yes, we will stay at your fine hotel the next time we’re in New York, and we’ll encourage all of our friends as well.) What a great way to unwind.

Fourteen restful hours later, we finally caught the flight, which was on time and bound for Lexington, including a few UK fans. We kept our mouths shut at the Bluegrass Airport, however, until our ride arrived. Before closing the car door, however, the observer let loose with a “Go Cards!” We were headed back to the Ville.

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By Charlie Springer

Charlie Springer is a former Louisville editor and sportswriter, a public affairs consultant, a UofL grad and longtime fan.

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