My Love of the Sea Began on a Mediterranean Cruise

by Gloria Walsh

Gloria enjoying Alaska aboard Sapphire Princess in 2011
Gloria enjoying Alaska aboard Sapphire Princess in 2011

Larry and I moved to Washington state to be near water. For us, there was nothing better than taking our prized 34-foot Mainship Trawler out and exploring the coastline…the San Juan Islands, British Columbia and beyond. Each outing would inevitably include a stop at one of the marinas along the way. We loved how each one had its own character and cast of characters.

When Larry suddenly passed away, leaving me a widow in my 50s, I reluctantly had to sell our boat. I couldn’t pilot it on my own. In selling it, I was losing another major part of my life. Then I remembered our first Mediterranean cruise aboard Grand Princess, a trip we had taken just a few months before Larry died. With cruising, I would  still be able to experience my love for the open sea and fascinating ports of call.

If there is one thing I accomplish with sharing my story, it’s to encourage people to not fear traveling alone. It has opened up my life again. Now three years since Larry’s death, I continue to dearly miss him, but I know that Larry would have never wanted me to abandon going out to sea.

Six months after his passing, I boarded the the cruise ship, Sapphire Princess, on a Mexico cruise. I needed to go, I needed to be out on the water and break away from the sadness and stress.

Admittedly, the first day or two was painful. Here I was on the sea without Larry. I stayed in my cabin and suffered through the fresh grief. Then I let it go and allowed myself to feel renewed by the sea.

I booked the traditional dining option and met a group of eight people; we got along beautifully. I was buoyed by their friendship, too. Some months later, I took another cruise to Mexico. This time, I was “adopted” by a Korean/American family. I discovered when you travel alone, you discover how welcoming most people are.

I have averaged about two cruise vacations a year since. I love every part of it: loading up my Kindle ahead of time, settling into my balcony suite stateroom and setting off on a new adventure. While a cruise ship is far bigger than the boat I used to pilot, I can still hear the ocean, that distinct and familiar sound of the water lapping against the sides.

As a single traveler, cruise ship shore excursions are great. It feels so natural to tour a destination with a cruise group—you blend in–rather than to travel to that place by yourself. On some cruises I would seek company, but other times I am happy to book a table for one and enjoy a quiet meal with my Kindle or my thoughts. Regardless, the crew always takes magnificent care of me. I think cruising is the perfect way for a woman to travel by herself.

Already, I am looking forward to a Hawaii cruise in April 2013—Larry and I used to go there—and a Western Caribbean cruise in December. I’ve already reserved a California coastal cruise for 2014.

As a widow, I think that taking a cruise is better than owning my own boat, since I don’t have to pay all the associated costs of owning one and I get to enjoy all the excellent care given by the Princess crew. It’s also the best way for me to explore new and old venues, and my bucket list is long.

Cruising has given me something else. It has restored a mainstay of my life, a significant part of me, that I feared had also been taken away by tragedy. And every time I board a cruise ship, I honor my life with Larry and bring him with me in my heart.

Gloria lives in Camano Island, Washington and has enjoyed six Princess cruises, with three more cruises booked in 2013 and 2014!