Coincidental Encounters on a Caribbean Cruise

by Zoe McGillivray-Hackett

Cruising with Angie and Phil on Crown Princess
Cruising with Angie and Phil on Crown Princess

Is Princess Cruises, as stated on the website, really the Consummate Host? From my experience, I can say that the cruise line and its crew truly are unparalleled in the art of making guests feel at home. How else could they have known to assign me to a table with three other couples who came from significant places in my life?

I had flown to Fort Lauderdale from England, expecting to meet plenty of Americans on board our cruise ship, Sun Princess. Instead, my boyfriend (and now-husband), Phil, and I were seated with three couples from the United Kingdom. Each pair had a special place in common with me. This was unexpected, even a little bizarre.

The Caribbean cruise came at a great time as I certainly needed a distraction. The branch bank I worked for had recently closed and I was on a temporary assignment at a newly opened branch in Basingstoke, recruiting and training employees. As I readied the staff for their new jobs, the irony was that I would soon become redundant myself.

Still, Basingstoke is a lovely place. Seated at my table, were residents Mike and Joanne. As my house in Bournville was too far from Basingstoke, the bank was putting me up in an apartment during the week, so I knew the town quite well. We had a lot to talk about.

The second couple at the table, John and Sally Nelson, hailed from Cumbernauld, Scotland. I literally exit the highway in their town and drive past their house on my way to visit my father, who lives in the nearby village of Milton of Campsie.

John is an HR consultant who works with large companies who are planning to downsize. He helps them get rid of people in the nicest possible way. Even though I was facing a similar prospect, we got along well and he provided lots of insight and support.

The third couple, Angie and Phil, lived in Coventry, about a 30-minute drive away from us in Bournville.

Angie and Phil were on their first cruise vacation. As it was my Phil’s first and only my second, we asked the other two couples, more seasoned cruise passengers, lots of questions about what to do on the ship and on shore. That opened up the conversation the first night. By the second night, we’d figured out the personal connections between the places in my life and each set of tablemates and we were on our way to inseparable fun.

That’s the hidden bonus of taking a cruise. Not only are you taking a relaxing vacation, but cruise ships provide all the fun and entertainment and means to meet likeminded. We had some rather feisty shuffleboard competitions on the ship and I fondly recall a beautiful day in Saint Lucia, where Mike, a British Airways pilot who had been there before, served as our personal guide.

Since that cruise in 2007, I have seen John and Sally a few times on my way to visit my father in Scotland. Now that I am long gone from my fill-in position in Basingstoke—I now work for another High Street bank—I don’t see Mike and Joanne so much.

Angie and Phil, though, are constants in our lives. We will meet for dinner on weekends whenever possible. We have become so close, they even came up to Scotland to witness my wedding to Phil.

The four of us are cruise-newbies no more! We’ve taken Island Princess on a Panama Canal cruise together and this September we were on Crown Princess for a Mediterranean cruise. I’m planning another trip up to Scotland for us and now they call me their holiday planner.

But I’ll never forget the Sun Princess cruise where I met these three friendly couples. It still amazes me to think how you can fly halfway around the world, only to meet people who live close to you.

Is it coincidence or could there really be a Consummate Host behind the scenes?

“Holiday planner,” Zoe, and her husband Phil, are already putting together potential itineraries for their next Princess Cruises adventure – for friends Angie and Phil’s 40th anniversary, even though it’s still a few years away.