When I was 12 years old, my teacher asked the students in my class to choose a country in the world to write a report about. I chose Argentina! Little did I know then that 40 years later, I’d be residing half of the year in that country with a husband I met on a Princess cruise vacation.
I was on the cruise ship, Star Princess, taking an 18-day cruise of South America with my grown daughter Gina. We were walking by the pool when Gina did something she’d never done before. She pointed to a man seated at a table along the pool and said, “Mom, I think he’s perfect for you. Should I ask him if we can sit with him?”
That’s when I broke character and did a 180-degree turn on my usual self and said OK.
While that may not seem like a big thing, it was for me. Since my divorce a few years back, my life was focused on my family and running my family business. I own a tree service company, which I operate with my four children in San Diego.
As I stood on the pool deck, a still-young 55, I had no interest in meeting a new man on a cruise! Come on… I’d gone on the cruise without even bothering to get a manicure and pedicure, and that’s something you need if you are an arborist like me.
My daughter asked him if we could join him and he stood up like a gentleman and said of course. He asked where we were from and upon learning California, immediately ordered a bottle of wine from Sonoma County.
He barely spoke English; I barely spoke Spanish, but we managed to get by. I learned his name was Alberto, although friends called him Coqui, and that he was a tax investigator for the government in his native Argentina.
Coqui was five-years divorced and also traveling with a child, his son, Juan, who was busy in the teen area. We both had three daughters and a son and lead full, rich lives.
We enjoyed the bottle of wine, and Coqui asked me for my room number. He wanted to meet for breakfast at Sabatini’s at 9 a.m. the next day. I really thought nothing of it, so little that I overslept.
At 9:30 a.m., RING, RING, RING! My cabin phone jarred me awake. It was him. I made my apologies and agreed to meet him at the Ceramics at Sea area, which I love, with my daughter. Fifteen minutes later, he’d whisked me away to spend the day with him.
Coqui is tall, dark and handsome, with beautiful blue eyes. We explored the ship together and over the course of the day, I started to fall for him. Day turned to evening, and Gina, as happy as she was for me, thought I had abandoned her. Finally, at midnight, I told him I had to return to my suite.
That’s when he kissed me, and then, to my surprise, he told me he loved me, with all the English he could muster. I felt as if I were floating. Pulling myself back to earth, I decided he was sincere and from that moment on, we spent the rest of the cruise together.
We ate breakfast at Sabatini’s each morning, with our waiter quietly enjoying our deepening relationship. We relied on English/Spanish dictionaries, but we also understood each other on a more profound level. Something magical had happened.
Gina, being the incredible daughter she is, took Coqui’s son under her wing. They went on all the shore excursions I was supposed to take with her and ended up forging a close relationship themselves.
In Buenos Aires, Coqui and Juan took us around the city for the day. Then Gina and I returned to the cruise ship and Coqui returned to his ordinary life in Argentina.
Our goodbye at the cruise port terminal was to be short-lived. He texted me from the cab. We exchanged hundreds of texts, and a month later, I took my daughter Sarah with me to Argentina. We stayed at his beautiful home in the city of Mendoza for a month. I returned again in May and then again in June. Then in 2012, he came to visit me in San Diego where we got married.
In the years since, we’ve logged many miles to visit each other’s countries, having traveled back and forth more than eight times already. We both have our careers and our families, albeit 6,000 miles apart; but manage to share our life happily. We married each other for love……
Luckily we have the time and the resources to travel and spend lots of time together. When he is in California, we travel the coastline, visiting Santa Barbara, Carmel and San Francisco.
My life with him in Mendoza is sublime. I play golf and relax. I enjoy his gorgeous home and he treats me like a queen.
In the drawer of his bedside table he keeps a remembrance of our first meeting, the piece of Princess Cruises note paper, upon which I jotted down my suite number.
Since that day on the deck of Star Princess, when I ventured out of my safe zone, everything has changed. I feel like a younger person, a happier person. I have peace in my heart. I have love.
Melissa and Coqui are currently traveling again aboard Star Princess to celebrate their one year anniversary, and are staying in the same suite where they spent time together on that cruise vacation where they met.