One hundred nineteen stories were submitted, chronicling lovely experiences that ranged from meeting onboard to proposals, weddings and vow renewals. All of them offered incredibly personal and overwhelmingly heartwarming insights into others' lives. Of course cruising played an important role in each romance.
"We've heard quite a few Princess love stories throughout the years but we've never formally collected them, so we were thrilled to partner with Cruise Critic for this search," said Julie Benson, Princess' vice president of public relations. "We couldn't wait each day to read the new stories that had been posted, and we were so moved by what we read. We want everyone who entered to know how appreciative we are that they shared their most personal and meaningful moments with us."
Gavin MacLeod (star of television's "The Love Boat" and Princess' romance ambassador) and Cruise Critic's Carolyn Spencer Brown (who met her husband on a cruise) were charged with the task of choosing five semifinalists from all the entries; Cruise Critic members can now vote for their favorite. The ultimate winner will receive a free Princess cruise. (Voting starts Wednesday, September 2 and continues through Sunday, September 6; cast your vote here.)
"Cruising really is an escape," says MacLeod. "You can hear how free people become when they get on a ship. And what really surprised me is how many husbands wrote! Which makes me think that cruising really affects men as well as women in a romantic way. That romance is really alive. And that you don't have to be young."
After reading each submission (many more than once), certain trends seemed evident. Among them?
Golden Princess seemed to get more mentions than any other ship when it came to trips that involved some sort of romantic milestone. Caribbean Princess was a close second. Also making appearances were Tahitian Princess and the former Regal Princess, but Princess' larger, Grand-Class ships definitely got more nods than others.
Most of the romantic moments happened onboard – but St. Lucia (for the scenery) and St. Thomas (for the jewelry stores) – were two ports that figured large in some special stories.
The most popular (and most dramatic) venue for an onboard marriage proposal? Princess' signature Champagne waterfall event, which takes place on all ships once every cruise.
Meeting the love of your life on a cruise is a great way to fall in love but what happens when you get home – and your homes are across the country or even on separate continents? Warkenrim, an American pro tennis player whose "Golden Princess" lived in Kazakhstan, is one of several who shares how he successfully managed a long distance relationship.
In many of the stories, onboard crew and staffers' efforts to help out, whether by handling wedding details or helping grooms-to-be create stealth proposals, played a huge part in a memorable experience.
There are so many favorites and we hope you'll read them all. Beyond the semifinalists, here are just a handful of others that caught our hearts:
In My Love Boat Dream, member CRLess and co-conspirators from Cruise Critic's Roll Call plot to surprise his bride-to-be Brenda on Golden Princess. The plan worked, Brenda accepted, and the couple celebrated afterward at the Cruise Critic Roll Call gathering! "Our engagement cruise on the Golden Princess, and the time leading up to it on the Cruise Critic roll calls, will never be forgotten."
What's a Second Wedding Without A Second Honeymoon?
"I have to admit we're not your typical ‘Love Boat' style people," writes jkudzu in Princess Magic. "We were getting ready to celebrate our 30th wedding anniversary, had three grown children and two grandchildren." After an on-land vow renewal ceremony, the couple headed out on their first-ever cruise, an Eastern Caribbean trip on Caribbean Princess.
"What I didn't know was that my husband had a plan for us when we got to St. Thomas," she wrote. This involved buying a new wedding ring – and anyone who wants to learn how to negotiate the best possible price on jewelry should read jkudzu's tactics that, accidental or not, resulted in a great bargain and a special new memory: "With tears in his eyes my husband placed the ring on my finger just as he'd done 30 years before."
Dear Abby for Poetry Buffs
Emmilu's poem, Love Will Find You, is about life and love spanning numerous Princess ships and trips. They met at a jail! It's charming; read to the end for a great piece of advice. Here's how it begins:
"T'was Christmas 1990 in the old county jail
This love story began, it could not fail.
Among the steel bars, the sadness the pain
A joy came to be, with so much to gain…."
A Wedding for Family, Close Friends and Another 2,000 Passengers!
Freespiritgirl's New Princess Family tells the tale of her wedding aboard Golden Princess. A second chance at love, it will inspire you. "I walked over to the mirror and sat down. I stared at the woman in front of me. She had been through a lot in her lifetime. She had experienced a divorce and felt the fear and loneliness of raising three kids alone, but the woman in the mirror was happy and confident. She was ready to start a new life.
"The doors to the chapel opened, and I walked down the aisle in the traditional way. Captain Nick Nash married us, and the rest of the day was spent celebrating. Everywhere we went, we were congratulated. We were truly welcomed into the Princess family. Even though we were only a party of nine, it felt as though the entire ship was celebrating our love."
Lots of Surprises! Love Renewal
"I will never forget how much time and effort my husband put into making this such a romantic event," writes 7uvus in 18 years, 6 kids...the romance lives on! "Life gets so busy with work and kids, but remembering that time on our cruise, always warms my heart and brings a smile to my face!
The cruise had a great build-up. "We had three biological boys, and three adopted children from Haiti and Africa, including our newest son having Cerebral Palsy. After all these years, we decided to purchase an 'engagement ring', along with matching wedding bands. My wonderful husband surprised me two weeks before our cruise, with an official marriage proposal, down on one knee, all the kids in tow, dressed in suits and dresses, holding flowers and chocolates, while I was still in my pajamas."
She said yes.