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Cruising for trouble



The phrase "Disney cruise" used to refer to the glances exchanged by the waiter at Pinocchio's Tavern and the guy playing Pinocchio.

Now it's a ship, and a drop-dead gorgeous one, which I couldn't wait to get on. Disney goes to huge lengths to please, and I longed for their private Bahamian island where nothing bad would happen because Disney wouldn't let it. Fire wouldn't dare break out, nor storm impede, unless they wanted their naturally disastrous asses bought out, merged and quietly extinguished.

I boarded the Disney Magic for a two-day, two-night, pre-"inaugural" sail to find my luggage wasn't in our comfortable stateroom as promised. After reporting it, I got on deck in time to hear the horn play "When You Wish Upon a Star" at decibel levels that I'm surprised didn't send older passengers overboard, clutching their hearts, thinking the world had just ended. I described the bag poorly (it was borrowed) but even untagged luggage was finding its owners, so I waited by the pool in denim shorts and a bra, tattoo exposed, beer in one hand, cigarette in the other, looking like the spokesmodel for white trash but determined not to miss out for lack of apropos swimwear. Still, I had a feeling as heavy as an anchor that my luggage didn't make it onboard.

I screw up a lot, so I know screw-ups happen. Many staffers were warm and empathetic, which makes it easier to be stuck in the Atlantic with only the clothes on your back. But then I heard one manager describe the situation to another manager who was being asked to comp me the clothes this foul-up had left me without. She began, "Miss Langley has lost her luggage "

Stop, I said. I didn't lose my luggage. You lost my luggage.

If you ran a tape of the Tour de France in reverse you wouldn't see anyone backpedal like that girl did. This sneaky spin made my eyes narrow and it was hard to widen them again, despite the scenery.

They gave me a generous dollar limit to "spend" on new clothes, but the ship store prices were inflated like a 100-man raft; the cheaper items were "Golden Girls" gear you'd have to be that old and blind to wear.

Then there were the panties. I told the girl I'd need a size 7 and she returned with these grandma drawers the size of pillow cases. "I know," said the poor, embarrassed clerk, "they're the only kind we sell." If I'd hung one of these bloomers over the rail against the wind I could have made the ship turn in circles for hours.

The next day I learned neither the hotel nor the port had been checked to see if the bags ever left. Stress multiplying, I now needed this private island, Castaway Cay.

It was stunning, and its best feature was the adult beach, no kitsch, no kids, just glowing turquoise water and total silence, a lily free of gilt. (Disney owns it but can't honestly claim design credit.) After that, followed by dinner and soothing cocktails aboard ship, I accepted that my bag might be lost forever, and that I had failed to lie about its contents: "My home dialysis kit was in that bag!" (grab sides; groan; fall down). I was tan and tired enough not to care.

Till the next day.

After being awakened at 6 a.m. by announcements, finding $34 in overcharges on my bill, enduring a showing of "Up Periscope" on the luxurious bus back to Orlando and then being asked if I had seen my luggage go on the truck, like that was my job, I lost it (again) at the Polynesian Resort. There, cruise and hotel staff jumped on the case like piranha swimming in caffeinated water. Inside of an hour they found out my bag had never left the port, news I had waited two days to hear. I don't know who was happier, them to see me leave or me to get into my own underwear.

Look. Things happen. Luggage gets lost all the time. I have no doubt these kinks will be worked out and the Disney Cruise Line will succeed breezily. The Disney Magic is, for the company, the ability to make everything they touch turn to gold. But to me, it will always include their mysterious ability to make my luggage disappear.

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