What a vacuum cleaner named Henry taught me about cruising and life
This is a story about a cruise gone wrong and why one of my favorite parts of any Royal Caribbean voyage is a vacuum cleaner named Henry.
Long before cruising was my job, my first sailing was a three-night Bahamas voyage from Miami for college spring break on Royal Caribbean's former Majesty of the Seas. A friend and I decided to go at the last minute, booked the sailing on Expedia and paid less for it than we did for our flights to get there.
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I was young and dumb, and I made so many travel mistakes on that cruise. I booked a flight for the day of embarkation and arrived at the airport late. The only essentials I put in my personal-item tote were my camera, my wallet and a single bathing suit with a tank top and shorts.
What I did pack that I shouldn't have was a too-big bottle of shampoo. It was obscenely expensive hair product for a college student, so I opted not to throw it away. That meant I had to return to the counter to check my bag and go back through security, which nearly caused me to miss my flight. (To this day, I have shin splints from dashing to the gate barefoot, flip-flops in hand.)
Fast-forward to the other end of that flight when my checked luggage didn't show up on the carousel. In my haste to check my bag, I didn't bother to verify the tag that the careless US Airways attendant attached to my bag. (It was someone else's, and it sent my suitcase to Fort Lauderdale instead of Miami.) Back then, I knew nothing about travel insurance, so I had only the outfit I was wearing and the bathing suit to hold me over for three days. Thank goodness I was too broke to have booked a longer sailing.
By the time we boarded, naive 22-year-old me still had hope that someone would find my bag before departure. I foolishly bought a soft drink package, which was an economic disaster for someone who drinks roughly two sodas per voyage, and I posed for photos in the atrium with my friend, wearing the same outfit that would be my uniform for the entirety of the trip.
When it was clear that my luggage wasn't going to show up, I sulked. Looking back, I should just have been happy I was traveling, but all my favorite outfits were packed, and I was genuinely worried I'd never see them again.
The next morning, as I shimmied out of the oversized Royal Caribbean T-shirt the line had given me to sleep in, pulled on my bathing suit and prepared to wash my underwear in the sink so they could dry while I was ashore, there was a knock on the door. It was our room steward checking to see if we had disembarked for the day so he could clean our room.
We made small talk briefly while my friend finished getting ready, and then I saw it: a bright blue vacuum cleaner. And it was smiling at me. My mood instantly lifted. I started laughing, and I couldn't stop.
"What is that?" I asked.
"Oh, that's Henry," the steward said. "He helps me clean."
I took out my camera and snapped a couple of photos before asking the steward to take one of me with Henry.
Throughout that sailing, no matter how annoyed I was at the situation, Henry managed to shift my mood when I'd see him waiting patiently in the hallway or peeking out from the entrance to a stateroom.
My affinity for the little guy is so strong that it has turned into a joke among my cruise friends. For secret Santa one year, one of them even gifted me a miniature Henry keyboard vacuum that sits on my desk. (Yes, it comes with tiny attachments, and yes, it really works.)
Perhaps you're wondering why I've taken an entire article to tell you about cleaning equipment -- and I don't blame you. Simply, it's perspective.
That cruise was in my top three worst trips of all time, but something as simple as Henry managed to help me turn it around and appreciate where I was in the moment. Ultimately, for a number of reasons, I enjoyed the trip enough to return years later to work in the industry, and now I purposefully look for Henry every time I sail with Royal Caribbean.
It isn't just Royal Caribbean that uses Henrys, though. They're super popular in the UK, where they're manufactured, and I've seen them in office buildings, hiding in corners at high-end stores and even on ferries. Over the past 15 years, I have amassed a sizeable collection of Henry photos throughout my travels. They live in a dedicated Henry folder that brightens my day whenever things don't go to plan.
So, the next time you're traveling and feeling like everything is going wrong, look for the little things that will remind you you're still out there seeing the world, one Henry at a time.