Why Don’t We Cruise to Alaska?

by Nancy Chamberlain-Fox

Shirlee and Christine aboard Coral Princess
Shirlee and Christine aboard Coral Princess

An Alaskan cruise had always been a dream for my husband and me. We planned to make it a gift to ourselves – a retirement cruise. Unfortunately, my husband didn’t live to see retirement. He was killed in an accident at age 50.

I was devastated and joined a grief support group to help me deal with the loss. There I met another widow, Shirlee, who became a close friend and confidant.

As we got to know each other, we were surprised at the similarities between us. Our husbands both died suddenly within days of each other, our wedding anniversaries were a week apart, my husband’s name was Don and her husband’s name was Ron. This helped us through all the “firsts” that can be so difficult in the year following their deaths.

The year went by and Shirlee was getting ready to retire. When I couldn’t understand why the thought of upcoming retirement made her seem melancholy, she confided that she and her husband had been planning to treat themselves to an Alaskan cruise upon retirement. (Another similarity!) ”Now” she said “I guess it will never happen.” I knew just how she felt. So many dreams shattered.

But then inspiration struck and I turned to her and said “Why don’t WE go?” Within a week we were at a travel agency researching our options. We decided to take a two week Alaska land and sea vacation over our wedding anniversaries that were six months away. What a blessing it was to have that to look forward to. We started a countdown. If one of us was having a bad day the other would remind her how many days until Alaska!

Finally the departure day came and we set sail on the cruise ship, Coral Princess. It was everything we were hoping for and more; with so much to do and so much to see. We strolled the decks, lounged by the pools, enjoyed the production shows, took part in the onboard activities and even went on Alaskan shore excursions. The staff was so friendly and helpful.

On what would have been my 33rd anniversary, I saw whales jumping and glaciers calving. The seas were so calm we could be close to shore and really get a feeling of the immensity of the glaciers. The captain commented that this was the closest he had ever been.

Then we went ashore and boarded the train and the wonderment continued. On what would have been Shirlee’s 41st wedding anniversary, we were gazing upon the snow-capped peak of Mt. McKinley. The view was breathtaking. Even the locals were commenting on how clear and blue the sky was around the mountains.

Our room had a view of Denali and that night, it struck us how lucky we had been….the sea had been like glass….the weather had been perfect and now we were sitting in our room with a breathtaking view of mountains just outside our window.

We don’t think it was a coincidence….we think Don and Ron made sure we would have the vacation of our dreams. Now we’re enjoying retirement and planning our next cruise vacation!

Christine lives in Brainerd, Minn. and Shirlee lives in Crosby, Minn. This retirement cruise was the first cruise vacation for both.