Hosting My Parent’s Honeymoon through the Panama Canal

by Heather Hutchinson

The reunited family explores Cartagena
The reunited family explores Cartagena

When I called home from my cabin onboard Coral Princess last year, I was never expecting to hear that my parents were planning their wedding. They’d been divorced for 18 years!

I was five when it happened and I could barely remember them ever being together. In their years apart, even though my father lived minutes away, we more than drifted apart. I hadn’t seen him in 10 years.

As estranged as I’d been from my father, my mother and I were as close as could be. We were the two proverbial peas in a pod. Yet, I never saw this coming.

How had their reconnection occurred? The tragic news of a terminally ill, close mutual friend a year earlier had forced them to get back in contact and, of course, to realize how precious life is.
Not only did a remarriage result from this sad event, but it opened the door for me to reconnect with my father, especially during my parents’ honeymoon.

As a Captain’s Circle representative for Princess Cruises, I am away from home for six months at a time. Unbeknownst to me, while I was looking after guests in the Caribbean and Alaska, my parents were going out for dinner half a world away in England.

Initially, it made no sense that my incredibly independent mother, Debbie, would remarry my father. When I asked my dad, Brian, how this happened, he said, “She asked me!” Goes to show what kids know about the lives of their parents.

My parents wanted to marry on 12/12/12, but I convinced them to wait until the 19th, by which time I would have returned to England. It was a beautiful, simple ceremony with many of the same guests attending as their first one. They even used their original wedding bands.

The best part of all was that my parents decided to honeymoon with a Panama Canal cruise on Island Princess, my next ship assignment. It was their first cruise holiday, and it was so cute the way they walked around the ship with wide eyes taking in all the sights and people. For my father and me, it was an opportunity to put aside long years apart and reconnect as father and daughter.

As my position on ship was an office-hours one, I was able to have dinner with them every night. I enjoyed showing them the ropes, what best to order from the vast array on the menu and what show to see after that.

Both my parents got to see me as a successful adult, someone who had built a career with world-travel benefits. I was used to my mother applauding my achievements, so it was even nicer to see Dad so proud of me. Dad kept saying how my grandmother, who had recently passed away, would have been proud of me, too. We all got quite emotional about that.

I had experienced the Panama Canal cruise itinerary many times and knew exactly what shore excursions to book for them. I felt like the parent as I’d remind them of what time to be ready the next morning and what they needed to bring with them.

We made up on all those missed family holidays. We explored the island of Aruba together and paddled around in the turquoise waters at Eagle Beach. We also toured the old walled city of Cartagena by traditional horse and carriage.

The days I couldn’t join them, I’d wait to hear about their forays ashore. To see them both so full of beans after a visit to a Guatemalan coffee plantation made me so happy. They enjoyed peaceful moments, usually whilst I was working, in the comfort of their stateroom balcony. The climate was a nice alternative to the crisp air of England at that time of year.

The friendly cruise staff even coaxed them to the dance floor during the Cruise Classic Rock & Roll night. I took plenty of pictures as I’d never seen them dance together. We also visited the ship’s Platinum Studio. The photographer shot a beautiful picture that captured the love between us all.

Almost a year later, my parents are still lovingly embracing the joys of remarried life.

As for me, how many people can say they got to play host to their parents’ honeymoon? On Island Princess, not only did I get to share with my parents the delights of my job, I had the rare experience to build a relationship with my father, one that we’ll nurture for years to come.

Heather Hutchinson’s next assignment will be on Royal Princess during its Caribbean cruise season. Her parents, Debbie and Brian, plan to join her on board for a February cruise.