A crush at summer camp, a conversation with an airplane seatmate, a dance together at a resort nightclub; people often consider these connections made away from home short-lived and allow them to fizzle out after parting ways. For Madison Barnes and her fiancé Greg, however, a rendezvous on Royal Caribbean International’s former ship, Sovereign of the Seas,was anything but fleeting. Their time onboard led to a serious relationship and an engagement that will become permanent this September when they start their lives together as husband and wife.
“I was 15 and Greg was 17 when we met on our first cruise with our families. Neither of us knew what to expect,” Madison says.
Their fate was sealed by the decision to participate in teen-only programs hosted by Royal Caribbean’s Adventure Ocean Youth Program.
“Greg first approached me to ask me to show him some line dances, and though I was very shy at the time, I immediately developed a crush on him,” Madison says. “I found myself going to all the teen programs to hopefully run into Greg again so we could talk and hang out. I liked the dances best because they were a nice excuse to get close to him.”
After the cruise ended, Madison and Greg kept in touch almost every day via email, and much to the dismay of their families, loved holding up the phone lines (and racking up phone bills).
“As our relationship advanced, so did technology, and in later years, Skype was a savior,” Madison says. “In between work and school schedules and during holidays, we would fly back and forth to visit each other, Greg being from Annapolis, Maryland, and me from Canada.”
After three years of an often-frustrating long-distance relationship, Madison and Greg decided to separate and do their own thing. “Even during this break, however, we kept tabs on each other and checked in from time to time,” Madison says.
Four years later, they were ready to get back together. “Greg flew me down to see him and that was it. I was head over heels all over again,” Madison says.
Now Madison and Greg are engaged and living together in Frederick, Maryland, and will be getting married in a few short months at a lodge overlooking the water in Canada.
“We have not been able to go on another cruise together yet, but we plan to do so in the future to revisit some of the special memories of when we met,” Madison says. “I actually loved the Adventure Ocean program so much that I always said one day I would work there. I wanted to give other kids the chance to make memories that would last forever and to make some lifelong friends. I was able to fulfill this dream of mine last year when I got the chance to be a youth staff on Grandeur of the Seas. It was an amazing experience. The main reason I left was because Greg and I were finally ready to be together (which involved me actually being in the same country as him!)
Madison says maintaining a long distance relationship is certainly not easy, and being openly communicative is key for anyone in a similar situation.
“But Greg always knew what we had was special, and it has definitely been worth every smile, tear, trip, laugh and memory,” she says.
After meeting that serendipitous day, two timid teens each gained a best friend – and now have a partner for life. So, don’t always shrug off something meaningful that develops on vacation. That line dance could be just the beginning.