At the age of 63 it was time to embark on a new journey. As a child I traveled with my family, as a young woman I ventured to a beach resort with some other friends, as a married woman I traveled with my husband and as a single mother to ... Read More
At the age of 63 it was time to embark on a new journey. As a child I traveled with my family, as a young woman I ventured to a beach resort with some other friends, as a married woman I traveled with my husband and as a single mother to visit family members who wintered in Florida. As my son grew up we discovered cruising together, and then shared that joy as a family when I remarried. Although I still share traveling with my grown son and my husband it was time for just me. Many woman wait until they are widowed-not me-no time like the present. I eagerly anticipated being anonymous but at the same time apprehension as I am a very social being and the thought of no meaningful conversation or connection for 2 weeks was a bit creepy, to say the least. What I found was shear exhilaration, liberation, joy, life, laughter and discovery
It was a 13 night transatlantic crossing on Royal Caribbean’s Navigator of the Seas. We began in Ft. Lauderdale, were at sea for 7 consecutive nights, first stop was the Azores, another night at sea, then Port in Lisbon. Portugal and Port the following day in Vigo, Spain, another day at Sea then last day/port Le Havre, France then disembark in Southampton, Great Britain.
This was not just a transatlantic cruise but a journey of independence, a journey of freedom, a journey of self expression, a journey to feel, to experience, to express and to reconnect my former self back to my new self. I must thank my wonderful husband John who planted the seed for this trip, if it hadn’t been for his desire and planning to ride his bicycle solo through Italy and at the right time, I wouldn’t have had this amazing opportunity. It was our plan for me to meet him “across the pond” as I had when he rode solo the “End to End” starting in John of Groats, Scotland and ending in Lands End, Great Britain. That trip was in July 2 years ago, and traveling via British Airways, although my favorite way to fly, is certainly no feat in independence and self expression, although lugging his bicycle suitcase to the train station and transferring trains was a physical feat in itself but not much more. The only thing gained from it was knowing that working out regularly makes a difference,
This solo cruise adventure boils down to one thing, as Cyndi Lauper stated about her 1981 song ‘Girls Just Want To Have Fun' “I want it to be an anthem for women around the world - and I mean all women - and a sustaining message that we are powerful human beings. I made sure that when a woman saw the video, she would see herself represented, whether she was thin or heavy, glamorous or not, and whatever race she was." As for the other wonderful women I met - We were all of that. We were of many shapes, sizes, nationalities, ethnicities, colors, lifestyles and ages but our one common denominator was to embark on an adventure where we were completely unknown, unrestrained and to be solo incc a predominantly couples oriented group. But each of us, regardless of age, had a sense of adventure, openness and acceptance one glass of wine at a time.
A big thank you to the Navigator Cruiser Director who organized a solo sailor 9:30 am meeting for the first 2 mornings. His personality was engaging, truly warm, genuine and welcoming. He quickly determined the solos, singles, and single solos so everyone knew who was who. Jeff made it a point to get to know each of us and not just to lead the group but to make the group the one everyone on the ship wanted to be on. (Yes, we were the in crowd-the cool kids) He coordinated daily lunches for the group where there was more mingling and soon we were recognizing each other on the dance floor, in different venues on the ship and making a shout out when someone was absent from the group get togethers.
I hadn’t been given a set dining time with group table so I decided I would just go to the Windjammer to eat rather than sitting alone in the dining room. That idea was a bit depressing for me because I enjoy getting “cleaned up” for dinner, having a glass of wine and pleasant conversation. So the idea of 13 lonely dinners was a real downer.
Lucky for me, one of the solo group invited me to join his early seating table of 8 on the second evening (first full day at sea). He felt quite lucky that he had such a great group to eat with and he was happy to share. To the dismay of the waiter (as the tables are set up for 8, he made room for me, #9. And the best part was at the end of the dinner, the others voted me in to be with them for the duration of the cruise. I didn’t realize I was being interviewed. This worked out so well that we even went to t the nightly entertainment together as a group, and what a blend of folks we were; 2 sisters originally from the Ukraine who now reside in San Francisco, a married couple who reside in Sebring FL, he is a retired naval commandeering who is now a private boat captain and delivers/transports boats (he stated he has water on the brain), the gentleman from Canada who invited me to sit with them was headed to Scotland to golf (his passion), 2 other male solo travelers who since retiring from their respective careers spend lots of time cruising, and then there was the life of the party an author of romance novels from Wisconsin. She always had a smile on her face no matter where or when you saw her, such a beautiful zest for life. (Her unlimited beverage package didn’t hurt much on that count, I’m sure)
Once dinner was worked out the party began. Where best to make it happen than on the dance floor. Girls, music, flashing lights, smiles, hips moving, bodies swaying, singing along, this is what it is about. On that dance floor there is no age (other than knowing the words to some really old songs), we are transported to bygone years, the beauty is we know spending hours fixing our hair and makeup just right, the perfect outfit and shoes doesn’t matter at all. Comfortable shoes sweat able clothes and we are all set. Not looking to or for anyone, just “Girls Wanna Have Fun”, and yes, a few guys joined us. But only one could hang with the big girls, as he cruised ship to ship only spending a few months a year on land. He knows what life is about as he had retired 12 years earlier. No put ons, come ons, just let’s live life to the fullest one smile, laugh, story, drink and dance at a time. Never meet a stranger!
Get togethers on shore were coordinated, some had already booked excursions and some just looking to explore or rediscover ports visited in the past. Regardless of the day’s activities or events there was always joy, celebration and laughter following. The days always ended with new found kinship in expressing one's self untethered by the questioning or demands of others. Truly liberation from time, age or finances, there was no additional cost to enjoy the company of perfect strangers who became soul mates.
On this adventure I wasn’t a wife, a mother, a business owner or even a recent cancer survivor. I was a Girl who wanted to have fun-and I did. And I am booked for next year. Yes, this isn’t backpacking the Appalachian Trail or traveling Europe alone, and I so admire those who do. When I was an adolescent we were protesting he Vietnam War, just getting full access to birth control and women were going to college for more than their MRS. I think of the song “Vogue” by Madonna where she says ‘Express Yourself’, and in that 13 night adventure I certainly did. Read Less