I never imagined I’d be one of those people who loves to cruise. I love parking myself in a city and exploring all its little crevices. Yet over the past four years, I’ve found myself cruising at least twice a year.
As my Mom’s dementia worsened, my stress level increased. Planning a vacation became more distressing instead of de-stressing. So, I booked a solo cruise on Norwegian cruise line and jumped on board without knowing a soul. I figured even if I didn’t meet anyone, just having a chance to chill would be a good change.
Norwegian has a strong solo program. That matters to me. That first night, I met a handful of people, four of whom I still call friends, three of whom I’ve cruised with again. There was a room full of solo travelers, everyone looking to meet someone to share a meal with or sit next to on an excursion. It was a wonderful experience.
Since then, on each subsequent cruise, I’ve met new people and made new friends. It’s amazing what happens when people no longer have a wi-fi signal. It’s one of the key benefits of cruising; the opportunity to converse with people. People who spend most of the year, starved for actual human interaction, get a week to talk face to face.
On sea days, I saunter over to the dining room and ask for a sharing table. Invariably, I am seated with new people and we spend hours chatting about everything and nothing. This past cruise, I met an aunt and niece combo who were supposed to sail on the Costa Concordia in January 2012, but were stranded in Barcelona when it sank. Another time, I spent two and a half hours chatting with “Panama Jim” a guy with more than 130 cruises under his belt who claims he can teach people how to get low priced cruises. His girlfriend, a former NYC ballet dancer, had fascinating stories to tell about the dance corps visit to Russia in the eighties.
I talk to people on excursions, at the bars and in the elevators. I met one man who shared stories about his life in the leather culture and another man who told me stories of his Rockwell-esque life in Cottage Grove. I met a woman who shared the story of her arrest as a teenager in New Zealand for protesting apartheid and who has to declare the arrest every time she goes home to Australia. Everyone has a story.
I learn from all of them. And I love having the opportunity to hear their stories. It may be my single favorite thing about cruising.
In real life, we devalue actual face to face conversations. Instead we spend too much time staring into screens when we should be staring into each other eyes. I’m not declaring a ban on phones, just suggesting a cutback. Think about how great it would be if instead of staring into the glass, you actually looked at someone and listened to what they have to share. Life is too short not to connect. Try it today.