I smoked for 35 years – often as much as two packs a day – but it wasn’t until I boarded a Regal Princess cruise to Alaska that I was finally able to kick the habit for good. A friend of mine had booked the cruise with her husband and other family members. Sadly, her husband passed away before the cruise, so she asked me to go in his place.
Because he lost his life due to smoking-related problems, I decided to honor him on this cruise by quitting smoking. I had been trying unsuccessfully to quit for many years, but I decided the day before the cruise that this would be the right time.
My friend, Alice, and her extended family made wonderful cruise companions, and although they didn’t know it, they made quitting so much easier. They were a fun, lively group who kept me busy throughout the day, and more importantly, well into the night when I was most likely craving cigarettes.
I started noticing changes pretty quickly. The food was wonderful throughout, but I was surprised to find that every day it got better and better. My taste buds were coming alive, so to this day, the food on the cruise was among the best I’ve ever eaten.
One night, I found myself awake and had the worst craving I’ve ever experienced. I quietly dressed and went up on deck. I found the crew busy; making sure the cruise ship was spotless while most people were sleeping. Just as I was about to start asking crew members if they smoked, I realized this was a ridiculous addiction! I willed myself to go back to the cabin and fell asleep. When I woke up in the morning I knew – I finally had it beat.
Immediately after, I found I could enjoy my cruise vacation without distraction. There were so many things to do — Alaska shore excursions, movies, bingo, great shows to see, and of course, enjoying that amazing dining room food and the fantastic helpful servers who brought it to us.
Alaska is definitely a destination that should be on everybody’s travel bucket list, with its pristine wilderness, fresh air and very colorful, fun residents. The trip through Tracy Arm’s Glacier was breathtaking. But it was on a shore excursion in Juneau that I started noticing that not only was I enjoying the clean air, but I was having an easier time breathing it. When I walked up a hill to an observation area without being winded, I knew I was getting better.
I found this sailing so healing that three years later, I returned to Alaska on a another cruise to “pay it forward” with a very brave friend of mine who was battling breast cancer. Remembering how the earlier cruise had helped me to rebuild my health, I treated my friend and her 12-year-old daughter to the same cruise. This time, cruising to Alaska helped both my friend and her daughter renew their bond and heal from the emotional toll the illness had taken on their lives for so long. Thankfully, today my friend is cancer-free.
As for me, I am happy to report that since that first Alaskan cruise, I have now been an ex-smoker for seven years. I’ve since cruised to Alaska a third time to celebrate quitting smoking, and am planning to go again this year. I am thankful to this day for that sailing that helped me finally beat the cigarette cravings and move on to a healthier life.
Robin lives in Paradise, California, and has been on six Princess cruises. She plans yet another Alaska cruise in June.