Enough Love in Alaska to Last a Lifetime

Mary and Hal, happy in love
Mary and Hal, happy in love

As I boarded the cruise ship, Pacific Princess, back in 1986, I was looking for my first big adventure. Well I found it, along with my true love, my husband, Hal. I should have figured—after all, the Pacific Princess’ primetime alter ego was The Love Boat.

I was 34 at the time and had yet to venture far from my Tacoma home. But back then, the local news was full of stories of cruise ships coming to the Seattle piers. And with the exciting Canadian Expo, featuring the King Tut exhibit, coming to nearby Vancouver; my wanderlust was unlocked.
I asked Rosie, my close friend, if she would join me on an eight-day cruise to Vancouver and Alaska. Her husband, David, urged us to go. Even my boyfriend at the time, a colleague I’d been casually dating, encouraged me to get out there and see something of the world.

We booked our cruise nine months in advance, giving us plenty of time to prepare. All through the summer, my travel agent called saying she could get us on an earlier sailing, but Rosie and I were set on going in September. And thank goodness for that, because I would have never met Hal if I took her advice.   

There is always an element of fate in how one meets the love of their life. While I was telling my travel agent, “No, I’ll stick with my original plans,” my future husband, Hal, was living the life of a confirmed bachelor in Los Angeles. Hal and his roommate, Pat, didn’t book their Alaskan cruise until three days before the departure, when they stumbled upon a good cruise deal.

Hal and I first met at breakfast on our first full day of the cruise. Lightening did not strike. I assumed Pat (Patricia) was his girlfriend. Rosie and I were just thrilled to be there, exploring all the fun things to do on the ship, meeting lots of people and anticipating Alaska. We were having a blast. That night, we hung out at the disco and I spent time with Hal, still assuming Pat was his partner.

The next morning, Pat pulled me aside and said she and Hal were just friends, nothing more. Rosie and I kind of laughed about that and went on our way. But we kept running into Hal and Pat.

That night at the disco, Hal and I clicked. We danced for hours and kept the club open till 4 a.m. We would have kept going, but we took mercy on the DJ and went on a romantic, pre-dawn stroll instead.

On the third day, a mere 72 hours after meeting, Hal told me he loved me. Impossible! Here was Hal, a 37 year old confirmed bachelor,  and me, a woman resigned to a lifetime of hearing words that were meant to be encouraging: “Maybe you’ll be the next to meet someone special.” “Just wait, your turn will come.” Weddings and baby showers were getting uncomfortable.

Even though I had shrugged off Hal’s declaration of love, we were inseparable after that. I think I slept a total of 24 hours that week. When the cruise ship returned to Seattle, I assumed Hal would go back to his life in Los Angeles and I’d return to mine in Tacoma.

Rosie knew better. My parents picked us up at the pier and she immediately announced that I had met the man I was going to marry. We all laughed. I couldn’t see that my life had profoundly changed on that cruise.

But the fabled Love Boat had cast its spell. Over the weeks, Hal and I talked on the phone and wrote letters to each other. I had Rosie spurring me on and Hal had his cupid in Pat. Not that we needed their encouragement, for Hal and I married three months later.

We celebrated our 25th wedding anniversary in 2012 and can both say that we love each other more each day. I definitely found adventure when I took my first big trip; enough adventure and love to last a lifetime.

Mary and Hal live in Chandler, Ariz. and have enjoyed 10 cruises since their Love Boat adventure.