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The many benefits of traveling alone

When Esther Braglia’s sister, Gloria Perrone, died in 2002, Braglia lost not only her sibling but also her traveling companion.

Braglia, 77, of Pembroke Pines, Fla., hesitated about continuing alone. But having enjoyed a lifelong passion for travel - she has been on 40 cruises and numerous land journeys - she did want to go on. Just before she died, Perrone had encouraged Braglia to do so.

“She told me traveling with me was the happiest time of her life, and that she wanted me to travel and continue to enjoy.”

So Braglia, who is a tax preparer - she said she works hard four months a year and plays just as hard the rest - booked a cruise. “I told myself. ‘If I don’t do it now, I’ll never do it.’ Then there I was in a cabin all by myself. I cried a little, but then it was over.”

Since then, Braglia has been traveling alone by land and sea. “I’ve been on Grand Princess, Caribbean Princess, Coral Princess,” she said, enumerating cruise ships she has been on lovingly, almost as a grandmother naming her grandchildren.

A disadvantage of traveling alone, having to pay single supplement surcharges on tours and cruises, does not really affect Braglia, she said, as she used to pay her sister’s fare.

And she enjoys the advantages of cruising, such as the singles get-together the first night.

“If you like, you can participate and meet people. I love that,” Braglia said.

The singles get-together, available on most cruise lines, is a wonderful ice-breaker for solo travelers, said Susan Shark, a travel agent with World Wide Cruises in Fort Lauderdale. So are organized activities like card games and trivia contests.

“Cruising offers travelers a built-in, friendly community to meet fellow passengers,” said John Chernesky, Princess Cruises’ director of passenger programs. With activities such as ceramics painting, computer and photography classes through the line’s ScholarShip@Sea enrichment program to group yoga, “single cruisers are sure to find people with similar interests,” Chernesky said.

But you don’t need a partner to watch the ice carving, go to the napkin-folding class and attend lectures.

“And if you want to be alone, you have the solitude. You can sit outside and read a book,” Braglia said.

Or you can walk around the ship to see the art collections on board – one of her favorite activities during a Caribbean cruise aboard the Costa Mediterranea in January.

Shark recommends solo cruisers opt for a ship that offers a fixed dinner seating, which she did while cruising alone in Canada and New England on the Golden Princess in September 2005. All Princess ships offer both an open seating and a set dinner seating at an assigned table and time.

With the set dinner seating, “you can make friends at your table and go to the show together,” Shark said.

Braglia also always asks for a large table so she meets various people.

“It is a wonderful thing to share dinnertime with them,” Braglia said.

Of her solo land journeys, two of her favorites have been renting an apartment in Torremolinos in Spain’s Costa del Sol and going on a tour of the Holy Land and Egypt with Grand Circle Travel, an operator that specializes in programs for seniors.

“I saw where Jesus was born, where he was arrested, where he died,” Braglia said.

Then she went to the Pyramids, the Sphinx, the Valley of the Kings, the Valley of the Queens and cruised on the Nile River.

“When they heard I was going alone, people told me, ‘You’re crazy,’” Braglia said. But she loved every minute of it.

Humberto and Georgina Cruz are a husband-and-wife writing team who work together in this column. Send questions to AskHumberto@aol.com or

GVCruz@aol.com.