Celebrating A Lifetime of Travel Memories on a Caribbean Cruise

by Debbi Bellush

Debbi and her parents onboard
Debbi and her parents onboard

When I joined my parents for a cruise aboard Caribbean Princess last year, we celebrated their 64th wedding anniversary – and a lifetime of travel adventures.

Mom and Dad met in graduate school and married in 1947 – and have been traveling ever since, sharing many adventures abroad with my sister and me.

As I was growing up, my family traveled throughout the U.S., Europe (including the USSR on our own, without the then-usual tour group, in 1966), the Middle East and Mexico. We even lived for two years in the Netherlands where Mom and Dad taught at Utrecht University.

They continued traveling on their own when my sister and I left home, going as far away as China, where they joined thousands of students at Tiananmen Square at the beginning of the revolution in 1989.
As Mom and Dad moved into their 80s, I feared I wasn’t spending enough time with them. So I began accompanying them once again on their journeys abroad. Together we explored France, Spain, Italy, Mexico, the Netherlands, Israel, the Czech Republic and England.

After a trip to London in 2010, I realized that it was too difficult for Dad, at 92, to continue trips that required long flights and much walking. He spent a lot of time resting in the hotel while Mom and I went sightseeing. So when he asked me at the end of the trip, as he always did, “Where are we going next?!” I feared there wouldn’t be a next.

But he was so eager to continue traveling despite his limitations. He suggested we take a cruise vacation, an option that I hadn’t considered because we’re not usually “group” travelers.

After much discussion and research, we decided to take a Princess cruise roundtrip from New York, thus avoiding tiring flights. On May 26, 2011, we boarded Caribbean Princess for a nine-day Eastern Caribbean cruise.

From the moment we entered the departure terminal until the day we returned, we were showered with a kindness I have rarely felt from strangers. Every crew member we encountered, and I mean everyone, treated us like royalty. I’m accustomed to helping my parents when we travel; it’s something I enjoy, especially after all they have done for me. This trip, however, was much different; each time I went to open a door, help them at a buffet, find them a chair on deck, a crew member magically appeared and said, “I’ll do that.” I was nearly brought to tears on more than one occasion as I watched the tenderness with which the crew members treated my parents.

Mom and Dad were thrilled with the experience. Dad was in seventh heaven, happily sitting on his balcony, reading, napping, and watching the sea roll by. While I got off the ship at all but one port, Dad stayed on board, preferring to relax. Mom got off with me once and we enjoyed a walk (and shopping spree!) through San Juan’s Old Town.

We celebrated Mom and Dad’s anniversary the last day at sea. I decorated their cabin while they were out for a walk and our cabin steward added lovely door decorations. The boutonniere and corsage I ordered were beautiful. It was a formal night, so everyone was dressed up, making it feel like the entire cruise ship was celebrating with us.

I had snuck down to the restaurant and decorated our table. When we arrived, I found that the wait staff had added lovely flowers. After a group of waiters and the maitre d’ sang to Mom and Dad, guests came over to congratulate them. We were surrounded by people wanting to know their secret to staying married for 64 years! It was such a special evening.

Once again, when we left the ship, Dad turned to me and asked, “So, where to next year?”

When we celebrated Dad’s 94th birthday Thanksgiving weekend, he reminded me that we didn’t yet have solid plans for the next cruise. I promised to finalize things soon, but wondered if it would come to fruition, as Dad’s health was deteriorating.

Dad passed away on December 30. Please don’t be sad. He lived a full and rewarding life. Having been a college professor for 40-plus years, he impacted the lives of hundreds of young people. Despite being a pacifist, he proudly served in WWII, landing on Omaha Beach in France on D-Day and surviving to tell his children and grandchildren about it. He instilled in his children a love for travel, adventure, and learning about and respecting other cultures.

And, I have the wonderful memories of our final trip together, made all the more special by the loving care we received on Caribbean Princess.  This cruise made it possible to keep on traveling with my family and made for a memory I’ll treasure forever.

Debbi lives in El Cerrito, California and has enjoyed one Princess cruise.