Visiting Family Far Away on a Cruise to Australia

Patricia (center) with her nephew Paul and niece Patricia
Patricia (center) with her nephew Paul and niece Patricia

There are two unusual items that go in my suitcase when packing for a cruise vacation ….and I never set sail without them.  Without fail, in my bag goes the Saltire, Scotland’s national flag and the Lion Rampant, my country’s royal banner. My husband, Scott, and I like to display them as we sail in and out of ports. This time, I suspected our flags would carry greater meaning, as we’d be seeing relatives who had recently made the difficult decision to leave home and relocate to Australia.

Truth is, I was worried about my niece, Patricia, who’d moved with her husband and two small children to a town a few hours outside of Brisbane. A chef, Michael’s position was not turning out as planned and everyone was terribly homesick. This pained me as I have a special bond with Patricia. My sister named her after me, and since her death, my connection to Patricia had grown.

Scott and I flew to Sydney with our friends, Janet and Tony, with whom we have taken 26 cruises, to board our cruise ship,Sun Princess. From Sydney, we sailed along the beautiful Australian coastline, enjoying the sunny weather and companionship. Yet, I was anxious to get to Brisbane.

Patricia, along with her brother, Paul, who had also moved there, met us at the dock — sadly, Michael and the children weren’t able to come.  We talked as we walked around the docks, catching up on family news and had lunch at a restaurant overlooking the Coral Sea.  We realized that picking up and moving to a different country had been very hard on Patricia and her family and, in addition to some financial difficulties, they hadn’t yet cultivated a support system of new friends.

After our precious few hours together, Scott and I had to return to the ship, so we tearfully said our good-byes. We headed to our suite stateroom to prepare for departure and gave one last wave to Patricia.  It would be easy for her and Paul to spot us as Scott had draped the Saltire and the Lion Rampant over our balcony railing.

It was then that I experienced the shock of a lifetime. Across the road from the port terminal stood a block of luxury flats and a housing complex. In a return greeting, some residents from these developments had draped their Scottish Saltire flags and Lion Rampants from their balconies and windows. Amazingly, a man stood on his balcony playing the bagpipes. What a wonderful sail-away, one we’d never experienced and surely will never forget!

I searched for Patricia’s face in the crowd and saw that she’d also seen the bagpiper and flags. I realized that she was not alone; there were plenty of other Scottish people in Brisbane, friendly enough to deck their balconies and wave us off. If we had not berthed in Brisbane on Sun Princess, none of us would have known that there were other Scots there to welcome her.

It was a wonderful sign that Patricia and her family would be able to find new friends who can help her settle into their new life in Australia.

Patricia resides in Glasgow, Scotland and has enjoyed four Princess cruises.