Can a cruise vacation save a marriage? When I boarded the cruise ship, Crown Princess, I didn’t see how it could possibly unravel the ball of knots our marriage had become. But my husband, Chip, wanted to take one more shot at reviving our marriage. He booked a Canada & New England cruise in October 2007 to see if sailing away from our day-to-day problems could bring us back together.
I didn’t want to go. I had well and truly given up on marriage, on joy for that matter. And we’d tried this cruise-fix two years before, with divorce papers drawn and us practically steps from the courthouse. While that particular cruise did work some magic on our relationship, we received some bad news from home that threw up more barriers between us.
It wasn’t always so hard. In the beginning, I was an army nurse and Chip was my Sargent in charge. I remember teasing him about his last name, Work. “Work, work, work, work, work,” I’d say as I went about my duties, never imagining that one day it would be mine.
After Chip went through a divorce, we became close. He missed his two children, so I would bring my kids, especially my youngest, around, because I could see how desperately he missed being part of a family. We soon fell in love and got married, but our honeymoon was brief.
I brought three kids to the marriage and Chip two. It’s hard enough to blend families, but being interracial made it tougher, especially for my middle son, who rebelled in the worst way. Being the loyal mom I am, whenever my son got into trouble, I would side with him while Chip would take a tough-love stand. Things deteriorated toward divorce.
We were on that last-ditch cruise to save our marriage when my youngest son, then 17, got into trouble with the law. I was immediately overwhelmed by guilt. Why did I think he’d be okay at home while we tried to save our marriage?
Over the next two years, Chip and I stayed together to form a united front as my son went through the legal system. I became so depressed; I quit working as an RN and would barely leave the house, worried that something bad would happen to one of my children in my absence.
Just like he had two years earlier, Chip booked another cruise vacation as a final effort to reignite our marriage. He picked Princess Cruises’ Canada & New England cruise itinerary and I thought he was crazy. We lived in Connecticut and could drive to most of the destinations in less than a day. But Chip figured that cruise was the right balance of getting away from home, without going so far away I’d feel guilty.
When I boarded the cruise ship, I was miserable with anxiety, but from the time it took to leave the port of New York and sail past the Statue of Liberty, then under the Verrazano Bridge, I started to feel a little tingle of happiness that I was there with Chip.
We had booked massages in the Lotus Spa on the first day. That immediately put us in content and relaxed moods. That night, we dressed up for dinner. The pampering feeling of the spa continued as our waiter took note that we liked our bread served with soft butter. It’s a little thing, but our bread was served with soft butter every meal to come. That made me feel special and I stated realizing that I deserved to feel that way.
As the days unfolded, we took time for fun and exploration. We were charmed by the town of Bar Harbor, Maine and felt a new perspective on life while visiting the Titanic victims’ graveyard in Halifax, Nova Scotia.
On the ship, we enjoyed our time together – whether we were playing bingo or watching a stage production show. We tested our luck in the casino and admired the works in the art gallery. And one by one we tasted the dinner fare at each of the specialty restaurants.
A perfect moment: We sat in deck chairs, overlooking the Atlantic, as crew handed out blankets, cookies and milk. Sharing that simple moment, cared for and comforted by the warm Princess crew, made me realize I needed to drop the resentment and worrying, and put my energy toward creating moments like this – a lifetime of them – for us.
Chip told me on the cruise ship, “There’s no reason for us to fight. I’m not your enemy, you are not mine.” He’d had my back all along. With all my heart, we were in love again.
Five years later, we still are. It’s the little things that make my heart leap. Chip will wink at me in church and I’ll laugh. We’ll hold hands as we walk through the mall. I do things now that I haven’t done since we first married, like cook dinner for him every night.
If we had not taken that cruise, I don’t think we would have ever made it to this beautiful place, this life of love we share.
Jessie and Chip live in Waterbury, Connecticut and have enjoyed one Princess cruise.