A Past Comes Calling on a New Zealand Cruise

by Phyllis Hosking

Coast line in Auckland, New Zealand
Coast line in Auckland, New Zealand

There used to be a show on television called “This is Your Life.” The program would feature a different celebrity each week that would be taken a journey through the past with surprise appearances by old friends of significance.

A recent cruise on Dawn Princess felt like being a star of my own episode.

On three different occasions, my husband, Doug, and I met people from our distant past. It was an unbelievable and even eerie experience, made more so because it was our first cruise holiday and we didn’t know what to expect, never imagining something like this.

The first encounter occurred as we were waiting to board the ship at the Melbourne terminal. Doug and I were watching the action as we sat at a café drinking coffee, when this fellow walked past. “I know him,” Doug said. And he called out for him, and off they embarked on a surprise reunion.

My husband hadn’t seen Jack in 22 years, ever since we moved from the same locality. But the pair, who had known each other through the local football club, reconnected immediately. There on the wharf, Jack and Doug caught up on life over the last few decades and whatever had happened to various old friends. Jack and his wife’s stateroom was just past ours, so we were forever bumping into them as Dawn Princess made its way to New Zealand and back.

On the second day of the cruise, it was my turn to revisit the past.

I saw a familiar face from the same small town. It was my old friend, Joy, someone I knew back in the 1960s, when we both had children attending the same kindergarten. We were always friendly and had enjoyed each other’s company over the years that I lived there.

I was reminded of how one conversation with Joy profoundly impacted my life. She had gone back to school and it made me realize that that was something I really wanted for myself. I had never finished high-school, but as my children had grown, Joy’s example gave me the impetus to get my tertiary College, Associate diploma of Social Sciences.

The third encounter was the most moving of all.

It occurred in the later days of the cruise. Doug and I had been having a ball enjoying the great food and seeing all the shows– sometimes we’d see two production shows in one night which would have us running from a venue at one end of the ship to the other.

I was perusing the dining room menu for later that evening when a woman asked if my name was Phyllis. I looked up with surprise when she mentioned the surname of my first husband, who had died 48 years ago. She then said her name was Faye Wright.

You could have knocked me over with a feather as I had not seen her for at least 45 years. We hugged in disbelief then found a place to sit down and embark on the near supernatural journey to the distant past.

I knew Faye and Nathan when my first husband and I lived in the Melbourne suburb of Fawkner. We even lived with them between 1959 and 1960. Faye and Nathan had moved into their newly built home, leaving open a cabin on their property that had been their home during construction.

We moved in that cabin while building our own house. She had a son the same age as my oldest daughter and they used to play together all the time. She was a real friend to me then, so on the cruise ship, we picked up right where we left off. I felt a mixture of astonishment and joy and couldn’t wait totell Doug.

Then, as soon as I could, I sent a text to my daughter, Judy, to tell her who I had just run into. She returned my text with “How spooky. I was thinking of them earlier this week.”

As it turned out, somebody had mentioned the name of a Melbourne suburb where Faye and Nathan had a business, which prompted Judy to wonder whatever happened to the Wrights.

Now that we all know what happened to them, as well as to Jack from the football club and my friend from my young-mum years, Joy, our lives are truly enriched.

It turned out that a cruise to New Zealand on Dawn Princess was much more than a 13-day retreat of relaxation, delicious food and great shows. The world felt cozily friendly and small as the past came back to call.

Phyllis has visited her friend, Faye Wright, since the cruise on Dawn Princess. She and Doug are dreaming about booking their next ocean adventure.