A Fateful Encounter in Puerto Vallarta Before Cell Phones

by Julie Fortin

Julie with her family
Julie with her family

I eagerly boarded our cruise ship, Pacific Princess, with a group of friends in December 1985. It was The Love Boat era, and how I loved watching that show. Would romance and adventure be in store for me, too?

At the time, I was only 19 and taking my first trip without my parents, traveling with my best friend on a cruise vacation put together by a group she belonged to, a regional Young Republicans Club. At first glance, my girlfriend and I realized our group looked to be the youngest on the ship. We were momentarily dismayed, thinking our odds for fun and romance had just fallen. Then we saw the handsome, young Italians working in the dining room and knew our fortunes had changed.

What is it about a foreign accent? These guys only had to say our names or a simple hello and our jaws would drop. Each was handsome to a fault and their elegant mannerisms oozed charm.

When Pacific Princess docked for a day in Puerto Vallarta, my girlfriend and I met Salvatore and a friend of his. Salvatore was interested in my friend so they went for a walk on the beach. I was alone with the friend. That turned out to be a lucky break!  He introduced himself as Alessandro, “Alex” to close friends. That’s how we came to spend the day together on the beach. I enjoyed myself but really thought little more about it.

I saw him a few more times before the cruise was over. But I was so young. He was six years older and far more serious than me.

We said our good-byes as I left the ship in San Diego with my group and checked into a hotel across the street from the cruise line terminal. I was exhausted from seven days full of all-day fun and late-night partying.

I was resting in the room when my girlfriend called to say Alex was in the lobby, using the pay phone to call his family in Italy. I admit I felt too tired to go down and say hello, but fortunately I went anyway. Today we marvel at the thought that if cell phones were prevalent in the 1980s, we wouldn’t have crossed paths again.

We spent a little time together in San Diego and exchanged addresses and phone numbers before he re-boarded the ship. Two weeks after I returned to my home in Colorado, I received a call from Alessandro in Hawaii. I was surprised to hear from him, but we kept talking from there.

Back at school, I noticed I had changed. The university boys started to seem a little immature to me compared to Alessandro. When spring break came around, I met him in San Diego. I convinced my parents I wanted to visit a college there, but the real reason was to see Alessandro. That was when I fell in love.

Within months, Alessandro moved to Colorado and on Valentine’s Day, a little over a year after we met, we were married on the beach in Santa Monica. My best friend from the cruise and one of the other crew members was the maid of honor and best man at our wedding.

Twenty-six years later, we still live in Colorado and share a beautiful daughter, Alessia, who is 12.

I am eternally thankful to fate for bringing us together on the Pacific Princess…and to the lack of cell phones. If not for that, we’d have never had that second chance to connect.

Julie and Alessandro currently live in Littleton, CO. Alessandro continues to work in the restaurant/hospitality industry. They still keep in touch with some of the crew from Pacific Princess and love to tell the story about how they met on “The Love Boat.” They hope one day to take their daughter on a Princess cruise to bring their story full circle.