A number of years ago, I was the Cruise Editor of a travel trade publication. I was fortunate to be able to cruise on dozens of vessels on just about every cruise line that sailed the open seas and rivers and lakes around the world.

Then I had a 15 year span when I took a ‘real’ job and writing took a back seat to work. I continued to cruise, but found myself becoming increasingly disillusioned with the process and I didn’t know why.

My epiphany moment came a year ago when my husband and I boarded a ship for a 15 night Panama Canal Cruise. While Panama was on our bucket list, we dreaded spending that long on a ship, so we brought lots to keep us busy: My husband decided to finish his second novel and I decided to paint and write a guidebook that had been in my head for years.

We boarded the ship and headed to the upper deck for lunch while we waited for our room to be ready. When we reached the top, I said to my husband, “Wow! These people are really old!” It was then I caught my reflection in a mirror and quickly followed with, “Oh no! I’m one of them!”

Now I don’t know exactly when that happened. I have a pretty good idea how it happened, but that it happened was a life altering experience. Turns out I wasn’t disillusioned because I was bored with cruising. I lost interest because I wasn’t cruising with my own kind! On this cruise, I was with my peeps!

Things really do change after age 50. I was never much of a party animal to begin with, but these days, I really don’t feel like watching a bunch of drunken 20 and 30 somethings do cannonballs in the pool. I don’t want to be seated at a table with a bunch of people I don’t know and don’t want to know. I want the option to dine with my spouse. In all my years of cruising, I never once stepped in the pool. This time, I did. It was wonderful that everyone looked equally hideous in a swimsuit. I even used the slide. I almost never watch the evening entertainment because the first seating is too early and the second seating is too late. Here, it was at 7:00 and 8:30.

I used the fitness center every day. No one looked better than anyone else. We were just older.

Neither of us got much writing done on-board. I think I might have picked up a paintbrush once. But both of us were forever changed. I believe the secrets to having a memorable cruise after age 50 lies in selecting one in excess of seven days and visiting ports not known to attract younger cruisers. I leave it to you to figure out where those ports are located. And since I am spoiled from my cruise editor days, I definitely need a balcony.