Creating a Caribbean Connection

by Millie Swale

A View of the Caribbeans
A View of the Caribbeans

I met my husband during an all-girls trip on the cruise ship, Ruby Princess.

What is unusual is that at 83 years of age, I honestly wasn’t looking for a man. I had lost my husband of 57 years eight years previously. As a widow, my life satisfyingly revolved around family, church and charity work.

But Bill danced into the Explorers Lounge and life took a reverse turn. In some ways, I felt like I was back in high school.

It was November of 2009. I was taking a Caribbean cruise with five of my female friends, a few of us widowed like me. We’d gone to the Explorers Lounge to relax, have a drink and maybe even a dance, except there was no unattached man to ask us. Two crew members, wearing formal dress whites, asked if we were having fun.

For some reason, I blurted out, “Absolutely not! There’s no one to dance with.”

So they took me and one of my widowed friends to the dance floor. When we got back to the table, the other girls pointed to a man seated at a table across the room, who had come in while I was dancing. Seeing how feisty I had been that night, they urged me to ask him for a dance.

Imagine, if you will, that 65 years had dissolved and I was transported back to high school. First, I told my friends, no, I didn’t ask strange men to dance. But I noticed how he was nice looking and beautifully dressed. I appreciate it when people make the effort.

My girlfriends kept it up. I gingerly took three steps towards him then whirled back to my seat. I couldn’t do it.

A half hour later, listening to the Bruce Gordon Quartet made me want to dance even more. I finally gathered  the courage to approach Bill.

He immediately accepted my offer and we waltzed for one song and fox-trotted for another. Then Bill came to my table to meet the other girls. He was very nice. We enjoyed a few more dances that evening, and then he took me on the elevator to my floor. I told him I could make it to my cabin by myself. I was having a crash course in the dating life.  

The next day, Bill changed all of his Caribbean shore excursions to be the same as mine. He changed his dinner seating so he could join our table. I was charmed by the attention.

Each night, we danced to Bruce Gordon, now settled into the Wheelhouse Bar. His beautiful repertoire of American standards became the soundtrack to our growing love affair. We bought Bruce’s CDs so we could bring the blissful feelings home with us.

In the midst of this whirlwind romance, I had my closest girlfriends around to advise me. Just like high school, I asked them what they thought of Bill and was reassured when he got high marks from all five of them. Still, they looked out for me.

Every night, after dancing with Bill in the Wheelhouse, I’d return to the stateroom I was sharing with my girlfriend, Joy. When she thought I wasn’t looking, she’d peek at the clock to see what time it was and report back to the others in the morning.

The last day of our cruise vacation, I was going back to Jacksonville and Bill was heading north to Connecticut. But before we even boarded our planes, Bill was on his cell phone, calling me. We decided that he would come back to Florida in just one month to spend Christmas with me.

My family was already shaken that I had met a boyfriend on Ruby Princess. It would get worse, as Bill and I picked out a ring during that visit and planned a public proposal for Christmas Day. In front of all my family, he got down on his knee and asked me to marry him. I could sense some shock among the 20 relatives witnessing our rushed engagement.

By the time we married the following summer, all was well. My daughter was my matron of honor, my grandson gave me away, my great grandson was the ring bearer and my great granddaughter was the flower girl. Bill’s son was his best man.

For our honeymoon, Bill and I went on a European cruise. We went from Southampton around the British Isles and parts of France. It was out of this world. For the first year of our marriage, we played the Bruce Gordon CD every night to relive the magic of our meeting on Ruby Princess.

I still devote my life to family, church and charity. But now, thanks to our meeting on Ruby Princess, I am joined by Bill, who brought love, laughter, romance and dance into mine.

Millie and Bill continue to find romance on the seas. Their last trip was a Caribbean cruise on Royal Princess. In January, they’ll again be dancing away in the Caribbean aboard Crown Princess.