Life ahoy. Here, an icon of the sea inspires a revitalized life after a life-changing loss.
When your world feels gone, the love of your life lost, is it possible that—by returning to scenes of joyous memories—you can revitalize or remaster your spirits as, say, a ship remasters style and seaworthiness for a livelier course? This sentiment in mind, I lingered on deck as the Queen Mary 2 sailed past New York City. Standing alongside cheery passengers jostling to photograph the last fringe of western land slipping from view, the sense of being alone in a crowd conjured waves of juxtaposing emotions.
Certainly, I was delighted to be sailing aboard the newly remastered vessel. Who wouldn’t be? The romantic cachet of a transatlantic crossing on the regal Queen Mary 2—the world’s iconic ocean liner—transcends that of any ship on the high seas. Yet, my heart felt tinged by sadness as I found myself reminiscing how my late husband, Ken, and I had revelled in the luxury of time together on two previous crossings: first on the Queen Elizabeth 2, last on the then newly launched Queen Mary 2. Now—after having mentally navigated through myriad feelings just to commit to sailing solo for seven days—I hoped this voyage would buoy up my verve for life, inspire mindful healing and allow me to literally cast my sadness out to sea. As the majestic bow pointed to open water, I felt optimism flying on the breeze.
Taking a deep breath, as if to propel myself forward, I left the deck and proceeded to explore the QM2‘s vast interior. Passing passengers who seemed enthralled by the Grand Lobby’s elegant Art Deco details, my eyes gravitated from couples to those walking alone. I found myself wondering about their motivations for sailing: were they on a joyous jaunt, perhaps knocking QM2 off their list of dream experiences? Or were they, like me, sailing to muster inner strength to induce uplifting spirits that would ultimately rebel against sadness? Never mind, I thought positively: it’s my motivation that matters. By retreating to an insular world after Ken’s passing, I’d wrapped myself in a moody mantle of loneliness that I’d rarely allowed even good friends to penetrate. Now I needed to—wanted to!—step out of my personal darkness and re-enter the light.
That afternoon, an architectural tour of the ship inspired my new desire to socialize. Following the guide through a wide indoor promenade lined with artfully sculpted panels, I arrived at a lounge that was so inviting, it shed any fear of being single among couples. Admittedly, though I’ve travelled the world on my own, I had always shied away from bars. Yet, the Champagne Bar—flanked by two pedestals bearing exquisite Lalique vases and decorated with black-and-white paintings of famed passengers—beckoned me to return later to try mingling over flutes of bubbly.
Before dinner, I seated myself on a sofa when an elegant lady joined me. Within minutes, I learned that she has homes in Jamaica and Scotland, and she “always sails Queen Mary 2 between New York and Southampton because it’s more fun and more glamorous than flying … and more economical, too.” Then in her soft Scottish voice, she said, “I noticed you on the architectural tour. Are you sailing alone?” Though I’m typically private with strangers, I surprised myself by opening up. “Yes, I’m a widow. I wanted to repeat this voyage that I enjoyed with my late husband.”
“Ahh, I know what you mean,” she continued, explaining that she was widowed 12 years ago, had “loved the active life” with her husband, and it had “taken time to get over feeling lonely.” We soon realized our similar interests in books, art, jazz and opera and gratefulness for supportive families at home. If spontaneous friendship can be “meant to be,” she exuded the warmth of a kindred spirit and spurred hopefulness for the future. By the end of the cruise, we’d grown quite friendly, and she’d become my lively partner at bridge lessons, though her skill far exceeded mine.
After dinner that evening, walking to my stateroom behind couples holding hands, I couldn’t help noticing how one man’s hand slipped around his partner’s waist and into an embrace. So lovely, so romantically entwined. I reminded myself there’s no dwelling on pangs of loneliness: I was here to mentally sail forward. Alone in my room, I lingered on my balcony, gazing out at the indigo swath of sea and sky. Maybe it was the stars or the starry reflections dancing over the waves or thoughts of my angel above that induced a light-hearted aura. Somehow, by grace of the moment, I realized that I finally felt alive, even content. Inhaling a revitalizing breath of sea air, I left the balcony and tucked into bed.
If You Go www.cunard.com QM2‘s educational and skill-producing options include shows in the world’s only planetarium afloat; drama workshops run by professional actors from Britain’s Royal Academy of Dramatic Arts (RADA), who also perform abridged plays by Shakespeare; lessons in fencing, bridge and watercolour painting; dance lessons; and virtual golf in an environment that simulates a global array of courses including Gleneagles, Banff Springs and Pinehurst. One Aldwych Hotel, London: www.onealdwych.com
Queen Mary 2: By the Numbers