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Wednesday, June 23, 2021

The couple who fell in love at first sight on a Cunard cruise ship

(CNN) — New 12 months’s Eve 1979. Marianna Pennucci clinked glasses with the person sitting throughout from her. Collectively they toasted the brand new decade, which all of the sudden appeared golden with risk.

Marianna, a 32-year-old New York-based admin assistant, was vacationing aboard the Cunard Countess cruise ship. She’d boarded the gleaming vessel with a good friend, excited to meander across the cobalt waters of the Caribbean, stopping off at idylls together with Barbados and St Lucia.

And whereas the locations had been stunning, the journey had taken an surprising flip and Marianna’s focus wasn’t on the sunsets or the sandy seashores, however on the person sitting in entrance of her, who was grinning, barely worse for put on after a night spent toasting the arrival of 1980.

This was Robert Knowles, a 27-year-old British-born ship’s photographer who’d grown up within the Caribbean and spent a lot of his grownup life taking pictures on cruise ships.

They’d solely recognized one another a number of days, however each Marianna and Robert felt a powerful connection. The one challenge was, she lived and labored in the USA and he lived and labored at sea. Neither of them was sure the connection would outlast the voyage, however they desperately wished it to.

“For those who had stated to me, previous to December of 1979, one thing about love at first sight, which lots of people speak about, I might have stated, ‘Yeah, proper. I am going to imagine that once I see it,'” Marianna tells CNN Journey, recalling the occasions of many years in the past.

“Properly, I noticed it. I skilled it. I believe we had a connection proper from the very starting.”

On board encounter

The Cunard Countess, in a photograph from the Seventies.

Courtesy Cunard historian Michael Gallagher

Marianna boarded the Cunard Countess on the finish of December 1979. She was vacationing with good friend, Candace, and the 2 girls had left New York early that morning.

Becoming a member of the ship in Puerto Rico, they felt drained and a bit matted. When, as they stepped on board, a person with a digital camera waved and requested them to smile for a photograph, Marianna simply laughed.

“Why would I need this explicit second documented?” she remembers considering.

The person with the digital camera was Robert. He’d simply transferred to the Countess from a stint on Cunard’s most well-known ocean liner, the Queen Elizabeth 2.

The Countess supplied a much less regal, considerably funkier, expertise in comparison with the QE2. As Cunard historian Michael Gallagher places it, the ship, which launched in 1976, was “very a lot the casual facet of Cunard.”

“Passengers definitely knew they had been on a Cunard ship due to well-known livery and conventional service related to the corporate however ‘zebra stripes’ dominated the unique Seventies interiors and the onboard environment was extra relaxed,” Gallagher tells CNN Journey.

The design, he provides, was “hailed as progressive and classy.”

Robert’s job was the identical regardless of the vessel. He labored on fee, wandering the ship armed with a Nikon digital camera and rolls of movie, taking as many pictures as he may.

When he labored the embarkation shift, he was normally on obligation with one other crew member.

“With our British banter, we thought it might be straightforward to persuade our weary trying vacationers to offer us great smiles,” he says. “Typically it labored.”

He’d snapped pictures of hundreds of passengers over the previous few years. However from the second she boarded the ship, Marianna stood out to him.

There have been some 800 individuals on board, however they each observed one another amid the crowds of excited friends.

It was on New 12 months’s Eve, at an officer’s occasion, that Robert and Marianna correctly launched themselves.

Even over the noise of music and raucous crew partying, they each felt one thing particular had begun.

“He smiled at me and there was an instantaneous connection,” recollects Marianna.

“For the following 5 days when he had the time we might seize a drink or a couple of minutes to speak.”

Cunard-archive-1970s (2)

The jazzy inside of the Cunard Countess.

Courtesy Cunard historian Michael Gallagher

A port cease at St Thomas within the US Virgin Islands shaped the backdrop for his or her first correct date.

Robert requested Marianna if he’d wish to have lunch together with her in the course of the stopover.

She agreed. They picked up a rented automotive and spent hours chatting collectively over meals at Sparky’s, a pub on the harbor overlooking the water.

Again on board, the couple squeezed in conversations round Robert’s work schedule, which consisted of snapping pictures of onboard occasions just like the Captain’s cocktail hour after which growing the photographs within the on-board darkish room.

The ship photographers additionally accompanied passengers on their port excursions, snapping group pictures and serving to vacationers — within the days earlier than cell telephones — seize their recollections on movie.

The technique amongst crew, says Robert, was to work arduous, but in addition get pleasure from seashore and bar time. It was enjoyable, he says, and he is nonetheless in touch with a lot of his colleagues from his time working at sea.

“Theoretically, I suppose the workers weren’t meant to fraternize with the passengers,” Robert says. “However as a photographer, you had full run of the ship, as a result of that was your job to take footage of the passengers.”

At any time when he may, he’d cease to talk to Marianna. The 2 spent a whole lot of time speaking about household. Each got here from households that had been enthusiastic about cooking — Marianna’s loved the Italian recipes that had been handed down by means of generations, whereas Robert’s favorite meals had been influenced by his childhood rising up in Jamaica.

“I believe we shared the identical objectives and the identical beliefs and the identical household values, which is vital I believe,” says Robert.

A romance minimize brief

Caught up within the enjoyable and pleasure of their surprising encounter, Robert and Marianna tried to push to at least one facet the information that this budding relationship most likely would not have probability to blossom past the cruise.

Because the voyage drew to an in depth in Puerto Rico, the couple’s actual lives began to inch again into body.

Marianna was returning to New York, whereas Robert would stay on the Countess.

“For those who’re ever in New York, please go to,” she informed him as they stated farewell.

“I’ll,” he promised.

On the aircraft journey dwelling, Marianna’s thoughts raced as she thought of what she had seemingly gained and misplaced in simply seven days.

She remembers turning to Candace, the good friend who’d been on the cruise together with her.

“I all the time have to go away the great ones behind,” Marianna sighed.

“How come you all the time say that?” she recollects Candace replying. Marianna’s good friend reassured her that it did not need to be that approach.

In spite of everything, Candace had been witness to the connection from the beginning.

“She was very supportive. She thought that he was candy,” says Marianna. “She knew that I favored him, and he or she felt that he would make me completely satisfied.”

A New York reunion

Weeks handed and Marianna settled again into her life in Manhattan. In between work and socializing, she daydreamed in regards to the man she’d met on the cruise.

Robert, in the meantime, had a brand new boss he did not actually get on with. He additionally saved serious about that New 12 months’s Eve voyage, and the promise he’d made to contact Marianna if he ever made it to New York.

February rolled round and Robert determined to go for it. What did he need to lose? He despatched Marianna a telex — an early model of fax that allowed memos to be despatched between workplaces — direct from the Cunard Countess to her Manhattan office.

“I might like to return to New York and stick with you,” it learn. “Perhaps for 2 weeks.”

“It got here proper smack in the course of the workplace, so your entire workplace knew that I used to be having this male customer,” laughs Marianna. “That was awkward.”

However she did not suppose twice and telexed him again instantly.

“By all means,” her response learn.

On February 18, 1980 Robert landed at JFK airport.

Marianna waited at arrivals, her abdomen in knots.

When he appeared, she nearly did not acknowledge him — he appeared heavier than she remembered, nevertheless it shortly transpired this was as a result of he was carrying each shirt he owned, ill-prepared for the icy New York winter.

The primary order of enterprise was getting Robert a good coat.

As the 2 wandered across the shops on Madison Avenue, the straightforward repartee that outlined their on-board encounters was again.

They had been each delighted to see each other.

“It was good, proper from the beginning,” says Marianna.

“It simply felt proper, instantly,” agrees Robert.

They spent the following three weeks collectively exploring Manhattan — sightseeing in the course of the day, and spending evenings on the bars and eating places in Greenwich Village, the neighborhood the place Marianna had a studio condo.

After three weeks, Robert quickly flew to London to get his papers and a few belongings.

He returned to New York on March 19, 1980.

“And he hasn’t left,” laughs Marianna. “We have not been aside since.”

Subsequent steps

Robert was capable of finding work as a photographer within the metropolis. The couple settled into a cheerful, snug routine and Sundays grew to become the focus after their busy work weeks.

“We’d stand up early and stroll the streets,” recollects Marianna. “We went all over the place in New York.”

The understanding they’d each felt about their connection on the cruise was solidified over these weekend wanderings.

“I had made the choice to go to Marianna in NYC and shortly after realized that I had discovered an individual with whom I may spend my life with,” says Robert.

He did not hesitate about transferring to the USA. He’d lived throughout — from his childhood in Jamaica to boarding college years within the UK and his latest time at sea — and he felt extra snug with Marianna than anyplace else.

“Lastly I felt at dwelling,” says Robert.

Inside a yr, they had been married.

Marianna’s household welcomed Robert with open arms, internet hosting the couple for Sunday lunches and providing a house away from dwelling for the British transplant.

“My life within the US was made all of the richer by having a heat and welcoming new household,” says Robert.

Marianna, in the meantime, was unable to fulfill Robert’s household till 1982, as after their marriage ceremony the couple could not go away the nation till Robert’s citizenship was confirmed.

After they ultimately made it to England and he or she met Robert’s mother and father, it was an incredible success.

“I used to be very, very lucky that his household adopted me and welcomed me and with out hesitation,” says Marianna.

The couple lived in New York for the following few years, persevering with to get pleasure from their Manhattan life and summers spent touring.

They welcomed a daughter, Kate, in 1986 and later moved up state to Westchester and extra not too long ago to Pennsylvania.

40 years of marriage

Cunard-cruise-couple (8)

Robert and Marianna at this time.

Courtesy Robert and Marianna Knowles

In April 2021, Robert and Marianna will have a good time their 40-year marriage ceremony anniversary.

New acquaintances nonetheless marvel when the couple inform the story of how they met, whereas the couple are grateful an opportunity encounter led to so a few years of happiness.

“I believe we had been each at a degree in our lives the place we had been slightly lonely. For me, it was the buddies round me had began to get married, and I did not see that for myself to begin with,” says Marianna.

As for Robert, engaged on ships left him with a nomadic life-style that hadn’t lent itself nicely to constructing lasting relationships.

“I felt like a rolling stone in a approach, from early on. So, the possibility to seek out one thing that was concrete and settling was good,” he says.

They’ve traveled rather a lot over time, however regardless of cruise journey enjoying such a outstanding position of their probability encounter, circumstances have by no means fairly aligned to get them again at sea.

The couple all the time favored the thought of crusing on the Cunard Countess once more, however the ship — which left Cunard in 1996 — has lengthy since been decommissioned and dismantled.

Often, Robert and Marianna discover themselves reflecting on the position performed by destiny of their assembly.

Maybe if she hadn’t taken the Cunard cruise, or Robert hadn’t grow to be a ship’s photographer, they’d have by no means crossed paths?

However they’re each additionally conscious probability cannot take all of the credit score. They each took a leap of religion that February in New York. In spite of everything, what if he’d by no means despatched the telex, or she’d by no means invited him to remain within the first place?

“I am so glad I made the selection,” says Robert.

“When it felt snug, we did all we may to maintain it that approach, in order that it might final,” says Marianna.

“Typically you simply need to take an opportunity and see the place it takes you.”

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