“$51? Are you sure that’s right?”
— Yes, the young lady told him.
“Does that include the tax?”
— Yes, she said again.
“Okay,” the man said and pulled a $50 and $1 out of his pocket.
“We had a nice time,” he told her.
— “We hope you join us again,” she said.

Through a stroke of good fortune, Mrs. Matthews and I had the opportunity to take a cruise to Alaska, a part of our great nation we had never visited before.

The gentleman in line ahead of me had paid a flat cruise fare — meals included. The $51 was for “incidentals” — drinks, massage, excursions — whatever. An article recently pointed out that it is almost — almost — cheaper to retire on an ocean liner than it is in a nursing home. I’m not sure that’s entirely true — but I do know they take pretty good care of you on the ship. There is a doctor on board. That can be important.

You can eat whatever you want, whenever you want. This includes ice cream. It may not be a big deal now, but believe me, at some point during your voyage, you will want ice cream. And it’s nice to know it’s always there.

If you can eat whatever you want, there are plenty of activities to work off those extra calories. I watched people playing basketball in 48 degree weather. It’s a good excuse to get more ice cream.

When you arrive at a new destination, you will feel the kind of excitement you felt as a child. It’s hard to put a price on that.

You will find yourself elbow to elbow with people from all over the world. EVERYBODY has a story and if you are the least bit interested, that person is happy to share a story with you. And you will have the chance to share your story as well. Psychologists will tell you, this is a path to good mental health — listening AND sharing.

Maybe this is the message of these notes this time around. Cruising can happen where ever you are. You don’t necessarily have to be on a ship in the middle of the North Pacific to practice cruising. You can walk around the block, head over to the library or your local senior center.

The important thing is to LISTEN AND SHARE. You will be amazed by what your fellow “passengers” have to tell you.

By the way, the fellow with the $51 charge at the end of his voyage — he got his money’s worth.