Reuniting in Cairo

by Barbara Ann Hetrick

Sharon and Barbara Ann get in the spirit on an Easter cruise
Sharon and Barbara Ann get in the spirit on an Easter cruise

I am a widow who doesn’t mind traveling alone.

That simple fact has made all the difference in how I live my life. Packing my bags for a cruise vacation, I am as ready for adventure as any 20 year old. Driving to the port of Fort Lauderdale, I cannot wait to board my Princess cruise ship and venture toward the horizon.

When Bobby, my husband, died, I left Pennsylvania for Florida. I soon realized that people don’t come and knock on your door. You have to get up and make an effort. I joined a bereavement group and red-hat society. I’ll also do things on a whim, like try sky diving, anything to get out of the house.

Making that extra effort to be involved is my philosophy at sea, too. I start by reading the Patter the night before and circling all the things I’m going to do the following day. While I’m usually the first to start a conversation, it was the other way around when I met a very special lady from California, Sharon Warner.

We were on an Amalfi shore excursion when she noticed how I was struggling to take photographs on the crowded lower deck. From the upper deck, Sharon called down and said she and her husband, Don, would make room for me to take my pictures.

After the catamaran trip, that was it. We re-boarded Ruby Princess and I didn’t see them for the rest of the cruise.

One year later, I was in the Explorers Lounge of Star Princess waiting for my bus to be announced for an overnight trip to Cairo. A gentleman approached me and told me, “Good morning, my wife Sharon says hello.” It took me a few seconds to remember, but once I did, I joined them for much of the Cairo visit. This time we became friends!

Back on Star Princess, we continued to spend time together. We went to several great shows but the highlight was playing the trivia game at Crooners Bar. We won with a perfect score.

We kept in touch after that. When I told Sharon that I had booked a birthday cruise to the Western Caribbean on Crown Princess, she said she would like to join me. She flew from Florida and we sailed from there.

Our travels continued. That summer, I flew to San Francisco where we boarded Sea Princess for an Alaska cruise in honor of Sharon’s birthday. Last year, we met again on Ruby Princess for the Entertainer of the Year cruise.

I’ve made a lot of friends on Princess Cruise ships, but Sharon is truly special. She was a nurse, and you can tell because she notices how people are doing, as she did when we met on the catamaran. We are truly linked by the sea.

Even though we are a few years apart in age, I think my attitude about life bridges any generational gaps we might have had.

As a widow, I go by certain philosophies:  It’s not the destination that’s important but the journey…The world is a book and those that do not travel read only one page…Never let your memories make you forget your dreams.

These ways have opened me to a life filled with dear friends, travel and adventure.

Barbara Ann’s next adventure will be a Pacific Princess transatlantic cruise. Next year, she is looking forward to exploring Royal Princess during a Caribbean cruise. She’ll be bringing along a neighbor who has spent two years watching Barbara Ann have all the fun and is now ready to follow her example.