Shipmates Become as Close as Family on a Baltic Cruise

by Lori Pelentay

Lori and Pam, along with their families and friends, celebrated Bob's 80th birthday
Lori and Pam, along with their families and friends, celebrated Bob's 80th birthday

If not for a last-minute shore excursion during a Princess cruise vacation, I would have never met Bob and Charlie, a couple who became like parents to me.

In 1987, while I was working for Princess Cruises at the time, my friend Pamela and I were taking a cruise on Pacific Princess through the Baltic. Spur of the moment, we booked a lunch and folkloric show in St. Petersburg and were seated next to Bob and Cheryl (aka Charlie) Delozier.

Pam and I had a pleasant lunch chatting with this older couple. Who could’ve predicted that this couple would become so precious and central to my life, seeing me through career twists, the death of my grandmother, marriage, the birth of two children, an eventual divorce and beyond?

We enjoyed each other’s company on that shore excursion, so Pam and I hung out with them during the cruise: sight-seeing and having lunch together. At the end of the cruise, they said “If you are ever in Portland, look us up.”

I’m sure many shipmates say that to each other, never really expecting that the other will take them up on it. But Pam suggested that we actually do travel from our homes in Southern California to Portland to spend time with them. And I am so glad we did.

At the time, Pam and I were in our mid-20s, Charlie was about a decade older than us, and Bob was in his 50s. Perhaps because Bob and Charlie never had children of their own, they took on a parental-type of interest in our lives. In time, Bob became my champion, offering unconditional love, wise counsel and never-ending support. Charlie became like a big sister, plenty of fun, but also a rock to lean on.

Over the years, Bob and Charlie would come visit me and my family in Pasadena when their cruises began or ended in Los Angeles. We were able to cruise several times together, climbing the pyramids in Egypt, eating pizza where it all began in Naples, visiting the ruins of Ephesus and walking the steps of Christ in Jerusalem.

Bob and Charlie came to visit me on two of the voyages that I worked on as a logistics coordination officer. One time, while they were onboard, my beloved grandmother passed away. Charlie was there for me with a shoulder to cry on; I don’t know how I would have survived without her help. The next day, they accompanied me to a church in Mykonos, where a priest said mass for us.

By the time I married and had children, our lives were well and truly intertwined. Bob and Charlie danced at my wedding and were Grandpa Bob and Grandma Charlie to my son and daughter. This closeness never bothered my actual parents. They’d met Bob and Charlie, too, and accepted them as part of our extended family.

For 20 years, we shared birthdays, school plays, graduations, and every important milestone of my family’s life. And five years ago, we were there for a final visit to Bob to say our good-byes.

At his funeral, my daughter, Jillian, put together a slide show of his life, featuring many photos taken on one or another Princess cruise vacation. No other cruise line would do for him!

It is still amazing to me that I was “linked by the sea” to a couple that would become so close to me. In Bob, I met my greatest supporter who encouraged me to follow my dreams. In Charlie, I found a dear friend, compassionate comforter and grandma to my children.  To think, this all came to be because I took a last-minute shore excursion!

Lori has been cruising with Princess since 1977. She loved it so much, she worked for Princess, and now owns a travel agency specializing in cruises. Her book, “How to Sell Cruises Step-by-Step ~ A Beginner’s Guide to Becoming A Cruise-Selling Travel Agent” is coming out at the beginning of April.