My boyfriend and I just returned home from one of the most opulent travel experiences we've ever had: a two-week Crystal Cruises sail in the Caribbean.
As if it weren't enough that we took two whole weeks off of work before the holidays to putter around the Caribbean, we indulged ourselves with a Penthouse room, replete with a walk-in closet, Jacuzzi tub, roomy balcony, around the clock room service and a 24/7 butler, yes a real live butler-- the sweetest man who not only pressed our shirts at a moment's notice, arranged our appointments, stocked our room full of our favorite drinks, and hand delivered canapés every afternoon, but became a friend.
One of the few all-inclusive cruise lines, we ate and drank to our hearts delight, soaked in the sounds of the waves crashing against the boat and the live music that could be found in every corner, and slept like babies on the softly rocking ship.
Our every need and desire was met, from our specific meal preferences to our fancy poolside drinks. I was delighted by the personal level of attention and care we received and the way our every request was graciously granted.
But despite the splendor of this top tier level of service, my favorite part of the trip was being a witness to the incredible love of the older couples that comprised the majority of the guests on board.
In our early 30s, my boyfriend and I were outside the average guest age range by approximately 40 or 50 years. We decided to take this time to learn something from our fellow passengers, especially those that were really enjoying the good life together after 40, 50, even 60 years together.
I couldn't help but feel my heart melt a little on my daily morning run when I saw the same couple walking around the deck getting their exercise together, literally hand in hand. Or when I looked around at dinner and watched the effortless and familiar dance of a couple who had spent most of their lives with one another - I admired the way they looked at each other, the way they laughed together, the way they shared dessert.
I loved listening to the stories of how these couples met, who chased who, and how many kids and grandkids formed new branches on their family trees.
Of course, it's not hard to be happy when you're on a fancy Caribbean vacation. But what we were seeing was so much more than getaway bliss -- it was deep love and life-long companionship and friendship.
I couldn't help but ask our new friends their secrets. What made love last like that? What made their marriage work?
I heard all kinds of answers.
"We compliment each other," one said. "We respect each other, and we let things go," another told me.
One of my favorite replies was from a man who celebrated his 79th birthday on board and had been married for decades. "You want to know the secret?" he asked me. "The secret is her," he said as he pointed to his wife.
I looked at my boyfriend. I hope one day he can say the same about me.
This cruise experience was a window into what life can be if you play your cards right--not just the luxury of being treated like royalty while island hopping in the gorgeous Caribbean sea aboard a first class ship, but the laugh-til-you-cry-at-an-inside-joke, look-at-each-other-with-a-twinkle-in-your-eye lasting love. I saw it first hand.
My boyfriend and I spent two weeks savoring every minute of our Crystal cruises vacation--the nightly shows, the delicious meals, the cold towels offered upon our arrival back on to the ship after a hot day at the beach--but also every minute of our time together; building a foundation for that enduring, vibrant, special kind of partnership. He taught me paddle tennis, we swam in the ocean together, and we dreamed up plans to come back on this same spectacular vacation 50 years from now, when we can share our story, just like the ones we'd heard.