Collecting “Bobs” on an Alaskan Cruise

by Pamela Hayes

The Bobs (and Bobettes) now have their own tags
The Bobs (and Bobettes) now have their own tags

Bob and I took our seats for dinner. It was the first night of an Alaska cruise on Sea Princess and Bob’s first time on a Princess cruise ship. He’s a retired fishing boat captain, and had been on three cruise vacations, so I knew he would just love the upscale glamour of Princess.

We were seated with a few other couples at a large oblong table. As is the norm, we went around the table introducing ourselves. My Bob said his name, and then the next man said, “Well, I’m Bob.” Then the next said, “Well, I’m Bob, too.” We laughed so hard–what was the likelihood of having three Bobs at one table?

We could have enjoyed the coincidence and moved on, but the Bob thing unlocked something more. Even though one of the Bobs came from England and the other from Los Altos, close to where my Bob and I live in San Jose, distance or life history was no factor. The Bobs and their respective wives all got along great.

It turned out we were all gregarious people who loved to do the same kinds of things. For the rest of the cruise we dined together, made every show, went dancing and shut down the piano bar nightly. We only wished it would stay open later.  

One year later, we assembled again on Island Princess for a Panama Canal cruise. I couldn’t resist bringing a girlfriend of mine into our group. She just happened to be married to a Bob. Imagine our sea days with all eight of us lined up on deck chairs and Capt. Bob pointing out the sea life.

The “Bob” thing went from coincidence to purpose. As we expanded, we attracted some attention. We acquired name badges because our Princess hostess and waiter joked about how confusing it was to keep up with everyone’s name. Then, we wives got a hold of our own badges, ours saying “Bobette.” Silly but all good fun.

There was a cruise to Europe the following year. We all made that trip, and added a couple, even though his name wasn’t “Bob.” We made him an honorary “Bob” and used his nickname, “Bumps.” Now there were five!

On our fourth cruise to the Caribbean, only two of the original Bobs could come. But lo and behold, who should approach our table and ask if he could sit with us? Why another Bob, of course. As if scripted by Hollywood, we all got along wonderfully with this retired lawyer from Florida and his wife.

Through the years, we’ve kept in touch via email and Skype. I’ve taken on the role of cruise vacation planner, finding opportunities for us to reunite at sea. On our most recent Princess cruise to Alaska again, English Bob (as we came to identify him), brought along a new couple from England, another Bob naturally. This Bob technically prefers the name Rob, but as long as it says Robert on the birth certificate, he’s Bob and he’s in.

Not every Bob can come on every cruise, but we do our best to get together once a year, most recently a group of us returned on a cruise to Alaska. By now, we’ve got custom-made T-shirts and hats for all the Bobs, which makes belonging to our group that much more fun. When fellow passengers see the badges and gear, some ask what our positions are on the ship. “Ship connoisseurs in charge of having fun,” says my Bob.

Over the four and a half years since this started, these relationships have become some of the closest in our lives. The “Bob” thing is a great ice breaker, but I think the longevity of our friendships can be attributed in part to the unique nature of a cruise.

When you board a Princess Cruises ship, not only are you escaping the everyday, you are embracing what you really want to be – carefree, lighthearted, free to enjoy. And that’s a great setting for making new friendships.

It goes without saying, this group of “Bobs” would have never come together on land. Distance and career paths (fishing-boat captain, teacher, agricultural company exec, lawyer, building engineer and construction professional) would have taken care of that.   

As for the wives of Bobs, a few of us happen to be retired teachers, but there’s not a Bobette or Roberta among us.  For the record, we are Pam, Judy, Gwen, Randie, Julie and Lynn. We were brought together by Bob, but held together by friendship.

Pam and Bob reside in San Jose, CA.  In her free time, Pam likes to drive to the ocean, spend time with her grandchildren, and research and plan their future travel destinations on Princess.