Is that Simon Cowell in Panama?

The friends recently visited Rio's Christ the Redeemer statue on a South America cruise
The friends recently visited Rio's Christ the Redeemer statue on a South America cruise

I’m not a teenager, but I do have a crush. Ever since I saw Simon Cowell on “American Idol,” I’ve adored everything about him—his looks, his wit, his brains, the British accent, how he says it like it is like I do.  

My husband is used to hearing about my Simon Cowell thing and typically laughs it off. But he thought I’d taken it too far when I swore I saw him on a Panama Canal cruise aboard Coral Princess.


We’d had a superb day touring Huatulco, Mexico. When we returned to the cruise ship, Mike and I rested for a bit in our stateroom, before heading to the Bordeaux Dining Room for supper. Like always, we requested a table for two.

As we approached the table, I noticed that another couple was already seated at an adjacent table. I saw the woman first, then, as I took my seat, I saw her partner. My heart skipped a beat.  Simon Cowell, my British Idol, the man with “The X Factor,” was seated next to me in the Bordeaux Dining Room on Coral Princess somewhere off the coast of Mexico!

I scrutinized him. Cropped brown hair, check. Good looking, check. And an accent! Did I hear an accent? Check.

I whispered to Mike, “That’s Simon Cowell!” Continuing to dart glances his way, I ultimately came to realize that it was not him after all, even though the resemblance was more than uncanny.

No shrinking violet, I leaned over to tell this Simon lookalike what I thought. He turned out to be Raymond, a Qantas flight attendant from Australia. Ray, as he prefers to be called, and his wife, Lisa, had a good laugh at my case of mistaken identity, and that’s what broke the ice to what has become a wonderful and lasting friendship for the four of us.  

Over dinner, Ray, Lisa, Mike and I chatted and laughed away. At one point, I took out my camera and shot a few pictures of “Simon.” I also told him it didn’t matter what his name was, he’d always be Simon to me. That made everyone laugh and jokingly call me his stalker.

We closed the dining room down that night and from that day forward, we hung out whenever we could. Coffee and hot chocolate at the International Café, dinner and drinks most nights, adventures, such as the taxi tour we took of Aruba, our friendship settled into place, as if it had always existed.

We were so sad to part ways—Mike and I back to Canada and my Simon and Lisa to Australia. Never was there any doubt that we would stay in touch. And we have been in constant contact, thanks to Facebook, email and Skype.

Whenever we can, we take a cruise vacation together that Lisa and I assiduously plan. In 2011, we took Caribbean Princess along the Atlantic coast on a Canada and New England cruise, showing our friends our part of the world. A year later, it was Grand Princess for a two week Caribbean cruise. This year, we are aboard Grand Princess for a 49-day South America cruise.

Anything could be next. Australia and environs certainly beckon. Mike and I talk about trading some of Canada’s winter snow and ice for Australia’s sun and shrimps on the barbie.

Whenever we’re together, we’re always grateful that we had that chance meeting. It’s hard enough to find lasting friendships with people who live down the street. To meet and develop a bond with a couple from across the world is even rarer.

As for Simon Cowell, I would definitely like to meet the actual one someday. But if I don’t, it doesn’t matter because I have already met the perfect Simon for me. Between the four of us, we have a friendship for the ages.

Lyne resides in Gatineau, Quebec, Canada. She enjoys photography, pushing the ‘Book Now’ button for her next trip (and following up with all the research), an afternoon motorbike with her husband, get-togethers with family and friends, and, finally, she just enjoys the little moments in life.