Leaving our Nest for a Coastal Cruise

by Rosalia Mattern

My husband, Todd, and I were suffering from an acute case of empty-nest syndrome. Our children, Angela and Bobby, had done what children do—they’d grown up and moved on with their lives.

Our friends said, “You are still young. Go explore the world and have fun.” But we couldn’t. Depression was creeping in as our once-bustling home became eerily quiet. Our previously over-burdened schedules now reflected endless free time on barren calendar pages.

A quarter of a century of our lives had revolved around the raising of Angela and Bobby. Now, we didn’t know what to do with ourselves. Todd and I watched a lot of TV and sometimes, we just sat and stared at each other. We were afraid to do the things we used to love most with the kids —like taking a Princess cruise—because we thought it’d be too painful.

It’s hard to believe, but Todd and I spent more than a year stuck in this rut. We might have stayed there, if it hadn’t been for a little seed from the past. We were notified that a deposit we had put down toward a future Princess cruise vacation would soon expire. We thought about letting it go, but instead decided to see if we could handle taking a cruise without our kids.

We booked a coastal cruise on Sapphire Princess for September 2012. We had never taken a cruise without Angela and Bobby. Starting with weekend cruises when they were in elementary school, we had culminated with amazing bucket-list cruises to Mexico, Alaska and Hawaii when they were in high school and college. Wouldn’t we miss all the running around, heavy schedule of shore excursions and horsing around in the pool?

I’m happy to report we snapped out of it as soon as we stepped on the cruise ship. It’s exciting to be on a ship and that got us through the first few hours. Then, we found our own pace–a more relaxing one–and a different kind of cruise vacation unfolded.

We focused on what we wanted to do. After all the cruises we’d taken, I didn’t realize that my favorite place on board was the Atrium, and specifically the International Café. I went there every morning and lingered over coffee with Todd. Alfredo’s for pizza was another one of my new favorites.

We still took shore excursions, but did different things. At a stop in Catalina, we went zip lining, just the two of us, without worrying about the cost. In Santa Barbara, I went to the mission, which was something the kids would never have wanted to do. It was fun and I learned so much. On our way back, spur of the moment, we visited a few breweries. Having that feeling of freedom and flexibility was different.

Each morning, we woke up with no real plans, no big worries. The days unfolded comfortably. As time passed, Todd and I enjoyed the trip more and more, realizing we can do this without the children. We can be happy just the two of us.

One night summed it up. At the last minute, we decided not to go to the show. Instead, we got two glasses of champagne and walked around the deck, watching the sun set. We lingered over conversation and soaked up the beauty all around.

In the end, we did miss some of the fun associated with the kids, but we gained a lot, too. On the one hand, we discovered shipboard trivia games and nightly shows (our kids were more into karaoke and night clubs). There was a whole new side to Princess Cruises and we loved it!

More so, that cruise marked the beginning of our second half of life. Todd and I are still in our 40s. There are so many new things for us to do. Now, we can’t wait to take our next cruise vacation. Will it be the 14-day Panama Canal cruise passage or the 28-day Tahiti & Hawaii cruise? Maybe it will be both. Now our nest will be empty because we won’t be in it. We’ll be enjoying everything else life has to offer.

Rosalia and Todd live in Orange County, California.  They have sailed on five Princess cruises.

Rosalia and Todd
Rosalia and Todd