After the end of a long marriage, dating was like entering a different universe. Married at 19 and divorced 28 years later, I had never been on my own before.
To tell the truth, I was kind of excited to find out what it was like to stand on my own two feet. So it was with a bright sense of optimism that I sampled some of the options available for single people, including online dating and a singles’ cruise vacation.
By the time I entered my tenth year as a divorcee, no one special had emerged. I decided that I would be single and loving it for the rest of my life.
I still considered my forays into the dating scene successful as they had introduced me to a network of likeminded people. Because of dating websites, I had someone to see a movie with on a Saturday night, which is harder than you’d think in this busy, married world. Thanks to the singles’ cruise I took with a girlfriend, I could now say I had friends scattered across the U.S. and the world. That’s a satisfying feeling.
I signed up for a second singles’ cruise in 2008, this one aboard the cruise ship, Ruby Princess. I was going to go with a girlfriend for a week of harmless flirtation and friendship in the Caribbean and Mexico. There were no “Love Boat” clips playing in my head.
And then I met Dan, and my plans for the single life abruptly changed.
The singles’ cruise on Ruby Princess was put together by a tour operator specializing in themed vacations. The company had a formula for getting people together that started with opening up an online chat room for the passengers to mingle before the cruise, to staging a bon-voyage party the night before the cruise, to providing on-board hosts, who kept the party going..
Scrolling through the list of passengers in the chat room, I noticed Dan’s profile picture. He had Photoshopped a black bar across his face, which made me curious. I double clicked on his name, thinking it would open up more details on this mysterious man, instead I’d sent him an invitation for a private chat.
Dan and I connected and we didn’t stop talking. In the weeks before the cruise, we’d wage nightly two-hour marathon calls, with Dan in Chicago and me in Detroit.
The coincidences were many. We had both been divorced for more than 10 years. Both of us had decided another marriage was not an option. Weirdly, both of us were supposed to travel with local friends, and both of us had seen our friends back out. And when these friends changed their minds again, and decided to come, both of us said no. By then we preferred to go solo.
At the Fort Lauderdale meet-and-greet the night before the cruise, I took a seat at the bar, anxious to finally see Dan. Some familiar faces from an earlier cruise were there, so I had pals around me. I was having fun getting to know new people. But where was Dan? I kept glancing around the bar.
Finally, he revealed himself, alongside Ian, a man I’d met on a previous cruise. He had stood back because I had too many people around me. Without a bar obscuring him, I saw a handsome man…but, thanks to our phone calls, I was already attracted to the person he was inside.
Two days into the cruise, Dan and I were in a hot tub. Both of us were wearing the blue wristbands those on the singles’ cruise wore to identify themselves to each other. Dan said, “I don’t know about you, but I like you a lot. I don’t feel like I am single.” He took off his blue wristband. “You don’t have to,” he said, “but I am not single anymore.”
I placed my wrist band alongside his on the deck of the hot tub and the rest, as they say, is history.
We spent the remaining days of the cruise together, enjoying the beaches of Cozumel, the fun atmosphere of Ocho Rios, the peaceful Sanctuary pool deck and the Wheelhouse Bar, our favorite after dinner spot on Ruby Princess.
Back on land, we took it slow, seeing each other on weekends in our respective Chicago and Detroit. Two years later, we married, with Dan choosing to base his sales position in Detroit, so I could stay close to my sons.
We held our pre-wedding party at the same bar in Fort Lauderdale, where we first met. Our honeymoon was with Princess and in the two anniversaries we have shared since, we’ve celebrated them aboard a Princess cruise ship. Why mess with a good thing?
My advice to anyone considering a singles cruise is to take it, even if you’re traveling alone. You’re going to have fun and will meet wonderful friends, both male and female, who you will keep in touch with long after the ship has docked.
And sometimes, when you aren’t looking, you will find the love of your life.
Donna currently lives in Detroit, Michigan with hubby, Dan, where she recently received her certification to teach yoga. She also teaches management classes for a university. In their spare time, Dan and Donna love to golf, bowl, dance, and spend quality time together. Dan loves to cook and Donna loves to eat, so they do make the perfect couple! They’re looking forward to their third anniversary cruise to the Caribbean on the Crown Princess in December.