On my first Princess Cruise vacation in 1986, I was pleasantly surprised to be seated at the captain’s table. My wife, Leta, and I really enjoyed those meals, talking to Captain Colin Campbell about the cruise ship and the places he’d seen and where we planned to go.
The captain took us on a tour of the ship, and on my birthday, along with the rest of the table, he sang “Happy Birthday” to me. The commodore was also on that sailing, and he would occasionally join our seating for dinner. Princess Cruises was a pretty great company in our book.
I’ve always wondered why we were lucky enough to be seated there. Maybe the maitre d’ took a liking to Leta and me because we weren’t demanding a window seat like some of the other guests. We were just so happy to be there.
Needless to say, we’ve been loyal customers of Princess Cruises ever since. Leta and I have sailed with Princess Cruises 49 times and have our 50th booked for later this year.
On our very second cruise, aboard the original Royal Princess, we made an even more memorable attachment. Leta and I were served by a charming Portuguese waiter named Jose Marques. From the moment we met him, standing by the maitre d’ station, smiling and greeting us with a warm welcome, we liked the guy.
Once you get to know the waiters a little bit, they start to tell you jokes, then you start telling jokes and before you know it, you’re friends. That’s how it was with Jose and us. He would do little things, like make origami frogs out of the menu paper that could hop across the table, and he always tipped us off when the prime rib was particularly good.
Over the years, we’d book cruise vacations around his schedule. We were thrilled when Jose graduated from waiter to head waiter, and were disappointed when we learned that he was retiring to Portugal to open a restaurant.
A few years later, Leta and I met another waiter, equally warm and charming, by the name of Carlos. We got to chatting back and forth with him. He mentioned he was from Portugal and we immediately told him about the other great Portuguese waiter that we’d befriended on the ships.
That’s when Carlos said, “You mean my father, Jose?” Initially, we felt surprised but then it made perfect sense that Jose would have a son like Carlos.
Carlos showed us pictures he had of his father the following night, and we got to hear all about how Jose’s restaurant was doing and in later years, about his move into catering.
We sail with Carlos as often as we can, and have seen him graduate from waiter to head waiter, just like his father before him. Leta and I have also befriended his beautiful wife, Rosia, who is a hostess on the ship. They feel like family to us and we try to match our travel plans around their work schedules. Among our cruises we have met many friends, both passengers and crew, and we remain friends today.
Sometimes it gets a little comical. Leta and I will change dining rooms, from the fifth to the sixth deck…depending on where Carlos is assigned. Last year, we took a 29-day Panama Canal cruise from Anchorage to Fort Lauderdalewith Carlos. When we got home, we had an email from Princess featuring another Panama Canal cruise between Los Angeles and Fort Lauderdale on the very same ship.
We decided, let’s go and booked the cruise. When Carlos asked us why we were back so soon, we told him we forgot to say goodbye.
Leta and I may not have been seated at the captain’s table like before, but as long as we are seated at Carlos’s table, we are perfectly happy. It is true, the highlight of cruising are the people that you meet.
Bob currently is moving from Texas to Nevada, and has been retired for more than 25 years, after a career that included five years at the Johnson Space Center. He has a cruise scheduled for September and notes, “Our neighbors keep asking ‘why do you cruise so much?’ and our answer is ‘because we can!’”