Reuniting Families on a Transatlantic Cruise

Sommelier offering wine tasting
Sommelier offering wine tasting

Just as a scoop of gelato enhances a wafer cone, the reuniting of two sides of a family can be very sweet…especially when it’s least expected.

I thought the family of my Italian grandmother, the Marcantonios, was slowly dying out due to the lack of a male child to carry on the name. But a random question from a passenger on Caribbean Princess led to my discovering a lost branch of Marcantonio cousins who were thriving.

Incredibly—or tellingly—both sides of the family had ties to the ice cream business.

I was attending a meet-and-greet at Skywalker’s Lounge in April of this year. Caribbean Princess was making a transatlantic crossing from Fort Lauderdale and we had a full cruise ship. A guest, who wasn’t part of the function, approached me to ask if we would be scheduling a tour of the ship as he’d missed the first one.

Since he didn’t know his stateroom number, I asked for his surname. As he spelled out Marcantonio, I stopped him. I’d heard the name before.

My formidable maternal grandmother, Marietta Palombo Marcantonio, grew up in Ayr, Scotland, the daughter of an immigrant from Picinisco, Italy.

Grandma’s family operated ice-cream shops and restaurants there, bringing a taste of sunshine to the western coast of Scotland. She went on to marry a Scottish man, and her daughter, my mother, did the same. Later, my family immigrated to Canada. But annual visits from my grandmother would bring Italian cooking and character to our household. She was unforgettable.

Meanwhile, in London, there immigrated another branch of the Marcantonio family, which established a successful ice-cream cone factory. From this branch, came Louis Marcantonio, the passenger standing before me on Caribbean Princess.

When Louis, who goes by Marc, spelled out his name, we both marveled at meeting another Marcantonio. Even though our families both hailed from Picinisco, we couldn’t say if or how we were related.

I told Marc, who was traveling with his wife, Loree, and his sister, Rena, that I would print out a family tree for us to go over. My second cousin Laurence Marcantonio had painstakingly assembled it, but I hadn’t really gone over it that closely.

During the cruise, Marc and I joked about being related whenever we saw each other. I introduced him, Loree and his sister to the hotel general manager and the captain as my long-lost cousins. When we finally sat down to review the family tree in the Wheelhouse Bar, we were eager to find the family link, but we couldn’t find a connection.

I said I’d contact Laurence and see what else he could find. Marc, Loree and Rena promised to do a little digging after the cruise vacation with relatives they were visiting in London. Sure enough, we found the match.

Marc’s grandfather, Luigi Marcantonio, the one who founded the ice-cream cone factory, was listed on the family tree. Missing was Marc’s father and all the Marcantonios that had since come forth.

My great grandfather had immigrated to Edinburgh, then Perth and finally to Ayr, Scotland, with his young family, and started a chain of ice cream shops and restaurants. He turned out to be the full cousin of Luigi, Marc’s grandfather, who started the ice-cream cone factory near London — since their fathers were brothers.

Just like ice cream goes with a cone, so do the Marcantonios of London and Ayr.

This connection has prompted a flurry of activity with photos and email testimonials flying back and forth from every corner of the family. A neglected Marcantonio family Facebook page has enjoyed a bustling revival.

Some of us are making plans to visit in real life. Laurence, who still lives in Ayr, is planning to visit Marc and Loree at their home in Vancouver. Meanwhile, I’m making plans to meet Laurence later this summer when Caribbean Princess cruises to Edinburgh.

It’s astonishing to think how none of this would have happened had Marc, Rena and Loree not booked Caribbean Princess, happened to walk by the mixer and chosen me, among hundreds of crew, to ask about a tour. A series of random coincidences aboard the cruise ship crossed generations and migrations and reunited two sides of the Marcantonio family.

My grandmother would be beaming!

When not at sea, Karen enjoys spending time with her family in Ontario, Canada. She also enjoys taking road trips and shopping!