A Caribbean Cruise in Honor of My Dad

by Carol Fiol

Carol (center) and her family in Grand Turk
Carol (center) and her family in Grand Turk

I am writing this blog in the middle of the night…since my mother got sick, I don’t always sleep so well. Her illness brings to mind my father and the life we shared as a family. So many things cross my mind, but a memory that always makes me smile is when I think about the time I took my children to a bon-voyage party off the pier of Manhattan. It was arranged by my father, who loved parties, and wanted to celebrate my parents’ cruise to Bermuda. They gave us a tour of the spectacular cruise ship--  a site to be seen!

It was in the late 1970s, so my 3-year-old wore a Captain Stubing-style hat and white jacket, after all, it was the primetime hit of the era, while my daughter donned a beautiful dress. We ate canapés and toasted the occasion with sparkling drinks. When we weren’t touring the ship, we were dancing. My parents could hardly peel us off the ship.

From that moment on, it was my father’s dream that we take a family cruise vacation together. Unfortunately,  life got in our way, starting with the loss of my first husband. Then came my accelerated work schedule—as a travel agent, no less—the needs and nurturing of my children, a remarriage to my second husband, Dave, and my parents’ own considerable family responsibilities.

Incredibly, we spent the next 30 years talking about taking that cruise, but never actually taking it. We’d fly down to Florida to see my parents. They’d come up to New Jersey to see us. We had taken cruises, plenty of them, but never together. I’d book trips for them to take with my aunts and uncles and then take my own family cruise vacations or as part of my professional education.

It took dad becoming ill to shock me into focus. I knew I had to fulfill his dream—it was our dream by then—of taking a cruise together. I immediately booked a cruise on the Caribbean Princess for May of 2008 and surprised him with the tickets. Thrilled does not begin to describe his reaction. Dad told everyone he met, “Carol is taking me on a cruise!” I told him, “Dad, this is why you are going to get better.” He was smiling all the time, illness momentarily forgotten. None of us could wait.

Then, six weeks before the cruise, on March 31, my father died.

I had travel insurance and could have cancelled the cruise. But devastated as we were, mom and I decided we should go. Without a doubt, it was what dad would have wanted. So we gathered the family together; she, I, my husband and two children, now in their 30s and out of Captain Stubing hats and frilly dresses; boarded the Caribbean Princess that May, each of us stifling tears as we thought of our missing companion, the very driving force for the cruise.

His presence was with us on every deck, in every public room. No one can convince me that his spirit was not sitting alongside me in the Explorer’s Lounge as the song, “I’ll Be Seeing You,” Dad’s very favorite, played. He was there all right, smiling, humming along to the music, enjoying the family cruise, just like we had dreamed about for all those 30 years.

Carol is from Lake Worth, Florida and she’s enjoyed at least 14 Princess cruises!