12/19/2011 08:03 am ET | Updated Feb 18, 2012

Making Friends On A Mediterranean Cruise

"Make new friends; keep the old; one is silver and the other is gold."

These are the words to a song I learned as a child one summer at camp, but I've never forgotten them because I think they are wise ones. Friends are there for you in rough weather, friends may be the very ones who introduce you to your husband or wife, friends allow you to share life's experiences making them more real and, most importantly, friends are fun.

So imagine my surprise at making new friends for life aboard my Seabourn cruise these last few weeks, a byproduct I hardly expected as I arose to my breakfast in bed each morning before the day's tour, which I would select from a menu of options. I must have had the same taste in tours because I found myself on these small intimate tours of anywhere from 6 to 16 people in places like Tuscany, Sicily, Malta, Corsica and other Mediterranean destinations that were wonderfully bonding.

The history and facts about each country and city were fascinating. Climbing around Mt. Etna, which was not erupting while we were there, was wonderful, as was tasting a volcanic liquor. (Or so said the label in the restaurant where we stopped to warm ourselves with coffee or liquor, or refresh ourselves with some freshly-squeezed orange juice, compliments of the house.) The more economic trouble the country was in, the more generous were the gifts and services. Italy and Greece were especially generous and wonderful, and I cannot say enough about their hospitality and warmth. Both are sensational countries to visit in every way!

I had never been to Sicily, so to experience the fresh foods and desserts with fellow shipmates and bond with them in the process was a real treat. There were Roger and Wendy from outside of London, who have horses and dogs and pet geese who think that they are part of the family and perch themselves on the porch and even knock on the door with their bills. Roger is bigger than Wendy times two. The three of us were caught in an unexpected rain storm in Malta at which time our umbrellas were turned inside out. We were soaked through and through, our packages fell apart and into the streets and we never laughed harder. We, of course, bonded for life! Malta is a gorgeous country and the most impressive and dignified when you sail into it. Fleeing out of it in a rainstorm is anything but.

Many couples travel with one or more other couples because I think it can add to the fun. I know Seabourn has some cruises that are sold out even in 2013. They really do a remarkable job in every aspect of the cruise, in large part because their employee-to-guest ratio is one to one -- and at any given time, you usually feel as though you have 10 employees to yourself.

At dinner with newfound friends, you are more than looked after. You are fussed over by a staff that knows your name. Everyone on the ship knows your name. How do they do that week in and week out? They also seem to have ESP in that they seem to anticipate your needs before you even know that you have one.

I was brought a box of chocolates before I even had the eventual chocolate craving one night! How did they do that? There was a lot of magic going on and not just in the club where the first rate entertainment was non-stop. One woman, Pat, had a husband who didn't dance, so she danced with all the husbands who did. And Kary's, the on-board gift shop, sold pretty purses for $10.

Then there were Canadians Debra and John, married for six years, combining grown children who they were still putting through school -- and who took every opportunity to shop before, during and after the daily informational tours. John would see something to buy for Debra, buy it, then present it to her later. Talk about how something magical is done: He gave the ship's magician a run for his money. This couple truly adored one another and showed it at every turn.

It was the cruise of a lifetime, which I will be writing about in greater detail. As we covered countries and continents, I had the chance to observe long-term relationships because out of the 180 guests on board, 176 were in a coupled relationship. Sometimes opposites attracted and sometimes people were very much alike, but always there was a sense of tolerance and space with a large dose of patience and understanding that seemed to go along with it.

A truly exceptional Chicago couple was Edward and Dorothy because of their charitable work in the world. They lived modestly so that they could support charities. They were humble and self-effacing with hearts of gold. Good people like this are hard to find. And when we went shopping together, they were honest about what was elegant or not because I always look for styles that say "elegance." And it is hard for people to tell you the truth. Most everyone says, "That looks fabulous," leaving you in a quandary as to whether they were just being polite. These folks were real in every way.

A Seabourn cruise is an investment in your adult education and you can see the world from an educational, entertaining and relaxing standpoint. You will learn a ton, be treated like royalty and make lifelong friends you will cherish. And you can always squeeze some shopping in.

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