(12:50 p.m. EDT) -- "I probably won't enter the contest. I shouldn't try to win. Because that just seems greedy. I have already won. I have won everything that any person can ever hope to win. However, it sure would be nice to go on another cruise...."
Cruise Critic member design25 ended her real-life love story, The Contest, with these words -- and now she will get her wish as the grand prize winner in our first-ever Search for Real-Life Love Stories contest, jointly hosted by Princess Cruises! Tracey Pettit of Rocklin, California, has won a seven-day Princess cruise to the Caribbean. Her winning story chronicled a holiday cruise aboard Regal Princess in the Mexican Riviera, on which she met a "tall man with broad shoulders and bedroom eyes" -- the man she would eventually marry.
Last month, we put out a call for the best real-life Princess love stories. The romantics quickly came out of the woodwork, submitting more than 100 swoon-worthy tales that made us smile, laugh and even cry -- tales of chance meetings and planned proposals, weddings, honeymoons and vow renewals.
The top five stories were selected by Gavin MacLeod of "The Love Boat" fame, Princess' romance ambassador, and Cruise Critic Editor in Chief Carolyn Spencer Brown. People were then invited to vote for their favorite story from the five finalists. Pettit's heartwarming entry took top honors in a close race; all finalists will receive a copy of "The Love Boat" on DVD, signed by Gavin MacLeod. If you want to know what MacLeod, Spencer Brown and Princess execs thought about the contest submissions, check out their impressions here.
Pettit -- a newcomer to Cruise Critic -- happened upon the contest when it was already well underway. She tells us that because the stories submitted were all so touching, she really did consider not entering, a major theme throughout her winning work. "I read three of the entries and then started to get self-conscious, so I stopped reading!"
It was actually Pettit's mother-in-law, an avid Cruise Critic fan, who told her about the contest and turned her on to the site. "She's constantly looking at deals and reading the articles and now, I'm reading up on family cruising because that's something we've been talking about. She keeps joking that I should take her on the cruise!"
However, kids and in-laws will have to wait, as Pettit plans to take her husband on the winning cruise -- alone. "My husband's parents live in Ft. Lauderdale so we'd be able to leave our kids with them [if we sail from there] ... It's almost exactly 10 years since we met, and we're getting to celebrate that on the cruise! In a way, it's our 10th anniversary."
Read Pettit's winning story, The Contest, here. Then, be sure to grab a box of Kleenex for dozens more by the four other finalists and other Cruise Critic members.
--by Melissa Paloti, Managing Editor
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Cruise Critic, Princess Choose Real-Life Romance Contest Winner
September 29, 2009