From A Shipboard Romance to an Anniversary at Sea

Frieda and Jim in Hawaii

Our three children have never tired of hearing about how I met their mother so many years ago. I would delight in telling them about how something as happenstance as a fluttering kerchief on a deck of the SS United States could bring their parents together.

When we reached the magnificent milestone of our 50th wedding anniversary, they presented us with their gift … a little toy ship. I admit, I thought, “Well, that’s kind of small.” Maybe my stories weren’t that interesting after all.

Then, they told us what the real gift was. My wife, Frieda, and I were shocked and delighted to hear they’d booked us on a two-week cruise to Hawaii aboard Golden Princess. It was the perfect gift as it captured how we met, symbolized our golden anniversary and referenced the golden years of ocean crossings, which played such a big role in our younger years.

In the 1950s, I was serving on board the SS United States as a deck steward. It was an exciting life for a young man, traveling 20 round trips a year, between New York, Le Havre and Southampton. I was on the SS United States when it broke the world record for fastest transatlantic crossing, and I met many of the big names of the day, from Eleanor Roosevelt to John Wayne, on board.

I remember well how windy the north Atlantic can be. Ladies wore kerchiefs on their heads when out on deck. One day, I was walking along the boat deck, when suddenly a ladies’ kerchief came flying down, landing at my feet. Naturally, I picked it up and looked to the deck above. There stood a pretty, young lady motioning to me that the kerchief belonged to her.

I returned the kerchief and we chatted for a while. She was traveling with her mother. They made a habit of enjoying the sun from their deck chairs. I found an excuse to talk to this young lady every day and discovered her mother was the only passenger who could sleep in the deck chair, with one eye open, looking at me.

After we arrived in the United States, Frieda went home to Boston, and I continued going back and forth across the Atlantic. But I never forgot her. Every leave, I’d go up from New York to visit her in Boston.

Ten months after we met, I asked for her hand in marriage and left the sea for a life ashore. Three children and a couple of moves later, we now live in Southern California and tell our grandchildren about how we met.

By the time of our 50th anniversary cruise, Frieda and I had not been on a ship in decades. It was fascinating for me to see how ocean travel had changed. For one, we traveled to Hawaii at a leisurely pace of 20 knots, unlike the speedier Atlantic crossings of my time.

Everything on Golden Princess was bigger, brighter and more magnificent than what I recalled about ocean liners. There was so much to do.

It was the perfect place for an anniversary.  The crew certainly made it festive with a balloon and congratulatory note on our stateroom door. Thanks to my previous life at sea (I sent the captain a DVD about the historic ship), we were also privileged enough to be invited to the bridge to meet the captain and his team.

We enjoyed so many of the shipboard activities that make life at sea today such a joy. We met many of our fellow passengers and found a variety of ways to socialize around the ship. Frieda found a nice group of people to join for a game of bridge. And each afternoon, we’d gather with a group we’d met for tea.

Even though we first met on a very traditional vessel, we found that we were happy to have changed our dining arrangements from traditional dining to the anytime option. I wasn’t sure I’d like the informality of that at first, but we ended up loving trying all the different restaurants and meeting new people at every meal.

I’d gotten lucky in love 50 years ago but on this ocean voyage, I got lucky playing the slots in the casino. I won $1,400 my first day, which I promptly gave to my wife. And that, gentlemen, is my hint for a happy marriage.

Frieda and I have now celebrated 55 years together. I still like to tell people about how such a random occurrence as a gust of wind and a floating kerchief brought us together and made possible our happy marriage and the generations of family that have come since.

We will always have fond memories of our ocean voyages, from the day we met on the SS United States to the happy celebration of 50 years aboard Golden Princess.

Jim and Frieda live in Valencia, California.  Their anniversary cruise was their first Princess sailing.

11 comments

11 Comments Post a Comment

  1. Princess Cruises says... November 28, 2012 | 3:26pm

    Jim and Frieda,
    We love your story of meeting at sea, and are so happy you could celebrate your golden anniversary back at sea! Thank you for sharing your story!

    • Elaine Cox says... November 28, 2012 | 10:37pm

      My husband and I met on the P & O ship Oronsay in 1965. He was an officer and I was returning to N.Z. He also left the sea life which he loved and moved to N.Z. However, we love cruising and are Elite members of Princess.

  2. Norma Green says... November 28, 2012 | 4:47pm

    What a wonderful story! You and your wife have raised such thoughtful and caring children to equate your anniversary with your story and the gift of the cruise. Congratulations on your anniversary! My husband and I have enjoyed several cruises after our daughter and son-in-law persuaded us to take our first cruise and cruises have become our favorite vacation. My husband loves them because he doesn’t have to drive and can relax on deck. So many things to see and do! Keep sailing!

  3. suzette keehnel says... November 28, 2012 | 5:44pm

    What a wonderful story. Cruises are so wonderful. I’ve been on 2 the virgen Islands up to Barbados 1994 & Mexican Riviera I took my daughter after she finished chemo from cancer 5yrs ago

  4. Julia says... November 28, 2012 | 7:36pm

    What a lovely story, brought a tear to my eye. How very sweet and what a great man you are :o ))

  5. Arlene says... November 28, 2012 | 9:12pm

    God bless you both and your family! Thank you for sharing your beautiful love story! :)

  6. Bernd from Germany says... November 29, 2012 | 4:27pm

    This is sooo wonderful (!) – I get an impression how you have spent your time a while ago – on the sea with all those nice and lovely days on the sea…… :-)
    Especially as this might have not so very available long time ago. And that you got a little dollar amount for Frieda – how lovely!
    God bless you……. You are so wonderful (!)

  7. Debby says... November 30, 2012 | 5:29pm

    JIm and Frieda,
    We loved your story. We had already heard parts of it, but this is special. We just celebrated our 50 th anniversary this week – so you are far ahead. We’ll be in touch soon.
    Best regards, Debby & Alfred

  8. Jeff Chaffee says... December 5, 2012 | 11:51pm

    If I’m not mistaken there was a youtube video of you guys on a cruise to the West Indies aboard the United States taken in 1964. Great video of you and the ship..congrats on your anniversary..

    • Jim Green says... December 7, 2012 | 11:22am

      The cruise on the S.S. United States, 7 years after I left the employ of the U.S. Lines was my gift to my wife on the birth of our daughter, Heidi. Thanks for remmbering our video.

  9. dave johnson says... March 10, 2013 | 10:45pm

    My daughter talk us into cruising 5 yrs ago. Since I have MS I get around on a electric scooter and the long decks and the scooter make for a enjoyable time. I’m never sure if a land vacation would allow me total unrestricted freedom & access like a cruise does. I intend to do back/backs for as long as my health allows it. Ive been on 7 so far.