This may not be the story you're expecting to read about a cruise. It's not that I didn't go on an eye-opening voyage from Venice to Rome on a very comfortable cruise ship, the Norwegian Jade. But my purpose was more than merely getting aboard for a routine week of sightseeing and good eating along the Adriatic coast. Rather, I went to La Serenissima, "the most serene republic" of Venice, to drop some of my husband's ashes into the Grand Canal near the Rialto Bridge, in the city where he had lived as a very young man.
Let me explain: My British husband of 50 years, Jeffrey Blyth, had worked as a foreign correspondent. Jeffrey started his career at age 16. At 20, he was a reporter for the British Army newspaper Union Jack, which was published for a time in Venice. In the course of his long career, Jeffrey was fortunate enough to visit almost every country in the world, but Venice remained the city he loved best. We went to that city, where he truly began his adult life, at least five times, usually for our anniversary, and had many happy times.
The deed was done fairly easily. No customs official inquired what was in the small stone bottle, wrapped in plastic, tucked into my luggage. No carabiniere noticed a very nervous tourist, standing on a swaying gondola pier very near the house her husband had lived in, murmuring to herself as she dropped a small bottle into the canal. That night, after dinner, as I walked through a quiet campo back to the very elegant Bauer Hotel — a place where we had stayed often and that we both loved — I felt very close to my husband, as if he were next to me and we had both had a good day in this very special place.
The next day I was off on my cruise, for the first time as a solo passenger. My husband and I had been on several cruises together and had always enjoyed them. I was interested to see what being alone at sea would be like; my fear, of course, was that I would be lonely. But I'm certainly in good company. AARP's new travel survey found that among frequent leisure travelers 45 and older, 37 percent have vacationed by themselves — many of them multiple times.
And Booking.com reports that, based on its 2014 survey, 72 percent of American women have embraced solo travel, with almost 1 in 2 of them citing "to get time to myself" as a top reason to vacation alone.
I picked this late-fall voyage partly because the ship would stop almost every day at unusual ports. That turned out to be a very good choice. The late-October weather in Italy and along the Adriatic coast, sunny and in the 60s, was just about perfect for sightseeing. The cities that might have been oppressive and jammed with tourists in the summer heat were uncrowded and welcoming. And because I went on tours most days, I was always busy and never really alone.
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