Steve and I returned to the U.S. on a 13-night transatlantic cruise from Barcelona, Spain to Ft. Lauderdale, Florida. I pretty much loved every minute, as I could happily live on a cruise ship indefinitely. The ship was gorgeous, the service was great, the food and drinks were pretty good, the views, sunrises and sunsets were awesome and the relaxation was real. I read five books from the ship’s library, usually while chilling on a lounge chair near the outdoor or indoor pool, or up on one of the many decks. We saw shows, watched  movies, listened to some live music, walked the decks and met some very nice people. I went swimming and hot tubbing and got a pedicure. It was delightful. We only left the ship twice, once in Valencia, Spain and once in the Azores. The weather was surprisingly warm, considering we were in the Atlantic Ocean in November.

While Steve enjoyed much about the cruise, there was one adverse event that affected his overall experience. If you know him at all, you know he is a gadget guy who loves using tech for reading, music, movies, games, surfing the net and so forth. We knew the ship’s WiFi was likely to be spotty and slow, which it totally was. In preparation for being out at sea for two weeks, including seven straight days without seeing any land or having any cellular service, he downloaded lots of movies and shows to his iPad. On the first day of the cruise, said iPad went to the White Screen of Death. It was unfixable and has badly undermined my plot to convince Steve to take an even longer cruise in the future.

Not surprisingly, we were among the younger people on the cruise. I’d say the average age of the passengers was somewhere between 70 and 75. With some notable exceptions, it was not pretty. We were both a little freaked out observing so many people in one place with so many obvious health issues, disabilities, mobility limitations, old lady hair and makeup, geezer attire, obesity and general frailty. On the one hand, hurray for these folks for going on a fabulous cruise; on the other hand, we we were confronted with a truly disconcerting glimpse of our future if we do not get in better shape.

I must mention the exception that proved the rule. We met Ruth Taber, a 94-year old mother, travel writer, food writer, advocate for elders and recent widow after over 60 years of marriage to an OB/GYN. She lives in El Paso, Texas, is about 4’8″ tall and walks with a cane. She was on the cruise, on assignment from an editor somewhere, writing about solo cruising, which is increasingly popular. We not only saw her on the ship, we bumped into her in a store in Ponta Delgado in the Azores; she was out doing some shopping. Talk about living your best life. I’m keeping an eye out for her article about the cruise to appear online somewhere.

I Googled Ruth when we got home and discovered that she had gotten a master’s in public health from Yale in 1954. She then went to work in New York and her job was to publicize the new polio vaccine. She was having trouble getting teens vaccinated, so she called Colonel Tom Parker and asked if Elvis Presley would get the shot when he came to NYC to be on The Ed Sullivan Show in 1956. He agreed, and a photo of him getting the polio shot appeared in newspapers all over the U.S., boosting vaccine uptake immensely. I cannot even imagine how many people Ruth has helped during her public health, writing and advocacy careers. The woman is clearly a force of nature, and a wonderful example of how to age with class.

(The woman in the photo above was Ruth’s boss, the NYC health commissioner at the time.)