There was a reason I waited until a week before the cruise to tell my husband I was going on an Alaskan cruise with someone I barely knew.
My daughter and friends had already hinted that I was too trusting to even consider doing such a thing, but they know I’m a little crazy. My husband, Dickie, would be blunter.
When I finally told him about my plans to go to Vancouver to board Coral Princess with Nancy, a woman I had only spent a few hours with, in total, on a cruise vacation the year before, he immediately questioned my judgment.
“You can’t do that. You don’t know her!” he said.
“And she doesn’t know me,” I replied.
Both Nancy and I were taking a leap of faith, not a lapse of judgment, that two near strangers would enjoy traveling together on a cruise.
I’d met Nancy in 2012 waiting for the zip-line in Antigua during a shore excursion on an Emerald Princess Caribbean cruise. I was traveling with a group of girlfriends from my home in Lexington, Kentucky, and Nancy was doing the same with a group of friends from her part of the United States – Kansas.
The zip-lining was fun. Then, our two groups played cards together and we joined them to visit St. John’s. We had a great time, laughing and talking. I had taken a bunch of photos, so I got email addresses and sent them out from home. That was about it.
After sending the photos, I didn’t keep up with Nancy. But I did end up becoming phone friends with one of the other ladies from her group, Shay.
I have always wanted to cruise to Alaska and none of my Kentucky friends wanted to go anywhere cold. Shay had already been on an Alaska cruise, but Nancy, she said, would go. We jumped in and booked the trip for over Labor Day.
I kept the news to myself for more than three months. I didn’t want my judgment questioned. I knew Dickie would never go. He is more of a homebody. He likes to fish…in Kentucky. Dickie took me to the airport and I boarded the plane for Denver, where I was to meet Nancy.
Luckily, Nancy recognized me, as I might have missed her (she’d lost a bit of weight since I last saw her). We flew to Seattle where we stayed with Shay’s brother-in-law the night before we boarded our cruise ship, Coral Princess. (Another leap of faith!)
When we entered our stateroom, it was clear that Nancy and I had different personalities. She is an unpacker, while I had packed my case with my clothes in vacuum-sealed bags. My plan was to keep the bags on the shelf and only pull clothes out of them as needed.
We took the Anytime Dining option, which was new for Nancy, and she said we had the best waiters she had ever had. She was right. Alexander and James were the best! They put us in the corner, which is where we needed to be, since Nancy and I got along so well, we were laughing all the time.
We made friends with a nice couple, Dave and Janie, and their group of traveling partners, who joined our table for most meals. When Dave caught a salmon and brought it back to the ship, the Princess chefs prepared it for our dinner. Yum, it was good!
I’m the type who will order three desserts at dinner, while Nancy never skips a salad. That was an ongoing joke for us. I still recall how the Pavlova dessert I had at lunch was one of the best I’ve ever eaten.
Another running source of humor was our seeming inability to find our cabin. Walking down the hall, we’d be laughing and laughing as Nancy would pass our cabin one day and then the next, I’d walk right by it. It got to where our steward, Morvin, would hear us coming down the hall and stand by our door to usher us in, which of course made us laugh even more.
We clocked a few lifetime experiences on this cruise, including a sea plane ride to Misty Fjords, which I would do again in a heartbeat. Mendenhall Glacier was breathtaking. The vistas along the White Pass Scenic Railway were also beautiful, so Nancy and I stayed out on the train car’s open rear platform the whole way to make sure we didn’t miss a thing.
Alaska had surpassed my imagination and Coral Princess was certainly the way to go – even if I was with a “stranger” I had known for less than a week. Now, I can say I’ve known Nancy for two weeks and that we’ve seen parts of the Caribbean, Alaska and the Western U.S. together. We are still in touch and would travel together again in a heartbeat.
That’s what travel means to me. I get to meet new people and because I’m willing to take that leap, it paid off with adventures for a lifetime.
Kay’s rules for adventure include: If a random opportunity comes by, go for it. When the cruise ship stops at a port, you have to get off. And, it’s okay to order more than one dessert. On her wish list is a cruise with someone she knows very well, her daughter, Krista.