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6 months living on a cruise ship - my first experience with living little

Updated on April 24, 2012
This is the Carnival cruise ship, the Sensation docked in New Orleans after Katrina. We lived on her for 6 months.
This is the Carnival cruise ship, the Sensation docked in New Orleans after Katrina. We lived on her for 6 months.

My first experience with living little - six months on a cruise ship

Living a simple little life has always been a dream of mine but it can be a drastic step to take. It can be so hard to give up stuff, especially when you have a sentimental streak and love useless things simply for their sentimental value. Well, along came Hurricane Katrina in 2005. She effectively took care of the problem of having too many possessions and made sure I didn't have many left.

But Katrina also swept me into the path of the man who would become my fiancé. We quickly bonded as we struggled to rebuild our lives. It was definitely an odd way to start a relationship. There were no fancy dinner and dates where we dressed up and went out. We would put on our worst clothes (we had so few clothes anyway) and go to our former homes to try to salvage anything from the looted, mildewed messes. We became inseparable best friends. Although we had lost almost everything, we had gained each other and so much more as we realized that we were very happy together despite our dire circumstances all around us.

He proposed to me as I lay in a hospital bed after passing out from exhaustion of working in the heat. His proposal was that we take a chance and build a life together. We had known each other for years although we were more acquiescence than close friends. But we knew enough about each other to know that we were good, trustworthy people with hearts that were in the right place. We could move in together aboard one of the cruise ships that were docked in New Orleans to house firefighters, police officers, first responders, homeland security officers and other "essential personnel" who were necessary to the city. The ships provided a safe clean place for the essential workers and their family to stay

As his fiancée, I would be eligible to stay on the ship with him because he was a firefighter. He spent a lot of time working so I would have my privacy. After all, we hadn't even dated and had only seen each other a few times since the hurricane. But these were different times, when conventional relationship were out they were gone with the wind (along with our possessions).

We took it on faith, took that huge leap of faith and went from trusting friends to fiancés. It would be an adventure and an experiment in living a simple little life. We were like modern day pioneers, staking a claim in this new world. But we both knew that the other for about 10 years as casual acquaintances and knew each other to be kindhearted and trustworthy people.

And so began our life together in a tiny cruise ship cabin that was 185 sq. feet. We figured that in such a tiny space that we would quickly learn how to live together or go insane with cabin fever. Our friendship had been platonic before this and we continued that way for a while, took our time, grew even closer and quickly fell completely in love.

We quickly adjusted to our new little home. We both had a sense of humor that helped us to get through the difficulties and struggles of a post Katrina world. We didn't mourn too much of what we had lost to Katrina because we both felt that we had gained so much more because Katrina had brought us together. So many people were so much worse off than us, so who were we to complain? Plus we were too busy building our new life. As a firefighter, he was often working overtime on his regular shift and also doing the gruesome but necessary task of body recoveries.

We were perfectly content with our little life together. Most couples could not survive in such small quarters but we were fine with it. We both were easy going and willing to find a way of doing things that made us both happy. We didn't get annoyed with each other's odd little habits, we found them amusing and endearing and laughed about them. We learned the art of compromise easily. We had two little TVs and would happily sit together each watching their own TV. He had headphones and would happily wear them. I would wear them when I wanted to stay up late watching TV when he wanted to sleep or I would sit and quietly read.

We learned how to divide chores or do them as a team. I would often wash his work clothes in the shower and hang them to dry so he had clean clothes. I refused to let him do any of the housework. He worked overtime and deserved to be waited on hand and foot when he was home. He would come home after work, smelling of smoke and some sweat from the heavy protective gear he wore and I would hug him. He protested that he was all smelly but to me , he smelled like the sweetest thing in the world because he was home safe and the work he did was to provide for us.

The ship only had 8 washers and dryers for 2000 ship residents to share. I would do most of the cleaning of the room while he was off working. The cruise ship was like a small floating city. Meals were served 3 times a day in the large dining room but we chose to make our plates of food and return to our little cocoon of our cabin to eat.

I can't underestimate the importance of these 2 cruise ships for housing essential personnel, who were needed to rebuild the city. It was like a small floating city complete with food restaurants, a red cross store that gave out free supplies such as clothes, personal items, etc. and many other necessities, It allowed the essential personnel to be able to be close to where they were need and to be able to have their families with them in a secure place where they could be with them on their time off.

There was so much loss and devastation in the city and the incredibly hard job these essential personnel were doing, especially the body recoveries that were being conducted for months after the storm. The ability for the workers to have a safe, clean place to be with their families meant so much to them and gave them strength to continue on.

We looked to this experience as an adventure in learning to live together. We had both been married and divorced and had the battles scars to prove it. We had both been on our own for a while but deep down we both knew that the other was a good and decent person with a truly giving heart. We swapped "war stories" of past relationships and laughed over them.

He told me when he proposed “You are the kind of person who might only have $10 to spend and you need to get something for yourself but it you saw something on sale that you knew someone that you loved would just love to have, you would buy that thing for them and be thrilled to do it." He was the same way and we loved spoiling each other in special sweet ways. One of the sweetest things he did was to buy a large tote so I could take a bubble bath. Our cabin only had a shower so he bought me the tote and some bubble bath and it was wonderful and so thoughtful of him.

There was a lot of compromising and negotiating, learning each other’s habits and learning how to live together in harmony. He had to learn to deal with my habit of eating crunchy food out of noisy bags late in the night while he slept. He said it was like sleeping with a rat with the munchies in the room. I learned to sleep with the TV on which was the only way he could sleep. He hated to drive so I would drive and he would be the navigator, telling me which route take. Much of our relationship was based on working together. He loved to cook for me and serve me breakfast or dinner in bed. I loved rubbing his aching back and feet.

We lived on the cruise ship for a total of six months. We had firmly established that we were completely compatible, even in the direst circumstances. Our faith in each other and our bond was stronger than ever. We knew we were in it together for the long haul.

The cruise ship was set to disembark all of the residents by March 2006. We had finally gotten delivery of our FEMA trailer at that time, after waiting 6 months. We were sad to leave our sweet cozy cabin on the ship because we had happy memories there but we were looking forward to our FEMA trailer. At 8 ft. x 32 ft., our FEMA trailer would be quite spacious compared to our beloved 185 sq. ft. cruise ship cabin.

So we packed our bags, said goodbye to the cruise ship employees who had become like family to us and embarked on the next part of our life together in our FEMA trailer. But, as I so often say… that is another story.

Our room look very much like this. We even had twin beds. It was our beloved refuge away from all of the ugliness that Katrina left in her wake.
Our room look very much like this. We even had twin beds. It was our beloved refuge away from all of the ugliness that Katrina left in her wake.


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    • LongTimeMother profile image


      5 years ago from Australia

      I can't wait to see the movie. You're a writer ... so why not start writing it? :)

    • profile image

      Old timer cruise ship crewman 

      5 years ago

      You both were lucky.I spent five years in that company in three of the same class of vessel you were lodged in, and I can tell you that if you considered your cabin a tiny one, then you should see the the crew cabins(40% smaller). Then try the word "cozy" when you do not have a bathroom in your cabin (public restrooms at the end of each corridor).

      No bathtube?No shower in your cabin! How about that? You were lucky

      Thanks to God.


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