It's safe to say that Jenny McCarthy, 67, and her husband Dennis, 75, are cruising aficionados.
The couple, from McCrae in Victoria, have spent more than 117 days at sea with Carnival Cruise Line – in other words, almost four months in total.
In fact onboard the Carnival Legend in 2014 that Dennis got down on one knee and asked Jenny to marry him. And they'd only been together for 18 years!
They couple also celebrated their honeymoon onboard the Carnival Legend, so it holds many happy memories for them. With the ship returning to Australia in just a few weeks’ time following her dry dock and Northern Hemisphere summer season in Alaska, we asked Jenny to take a cruise down memory lane with us...
When and where did you and Dennis meet?
"We've been together for 21 years and married for three years. Dennis is a Virgo, a star sign that is notorious for taking a long time to make important romantic decisions! We actually met in Coles Supermarket in Greensborough in 1997. We have three sons (I have two and Dennis has one), and six grandchildren between us."
Had you been on cruises before you got together, or is this something you started doing as a couple?
"I had been on a cruise of the Pacific Islands way, way back in the dark ages of 1972 and always wanted to go on more. Dennis had never been on a cruise and was adamant he wouldn’t like it. So in 2010, as his retirement gift, I bought him his first cruise – the Pacific Islands for two (Fiji, Vanuatu, Mystery Island, Isle of Pines, etc). Dennis was 66 and I was 58. He went with me reluctantly... and fell in love with the whole concept of cruising as a way to holiday. Some of our family and friends say we view cruising as a lifestyle as I can’t get Dennis off cruise ships now! Not that I mind."
Why cruising? What do you love most about it?
"We absolutely love the ease of travelling that cruising affords. You embark the ship and unpack once; everything is done for you so you feel totally special and spoilt; you travel to the next destination while you sleep in a comfortable bed or have fun onboard. There is no standing for ages in airport queues, no dragging your luggage from destination to destination, no jet lag. Cruising is the epitome of the saying 'it’s the journey, not just the destination'."
Favourite place(s) you've been so far?
"Close to home we love the Pacific Islands and New Zealand. Further afield, we love the Caribbean Islands, the Panama Canal, the Mediterranean (Italy, Greece, Spain, Morocco, etc.), the Baltic Sea (Scandinavia and Russia) and Antarctica."
What one place that you’ve never been to is at the top of your bucket list?
"We would love to cruise around the fjords of Norway and Iceland to witness the Northern Lights."
What’s the most memorable moment you’ve ever experienced during your days at sea?
"Definitely it was in 2014 when Dennis proposed to me on board the Carnival Legend. He had secretly bought the ring in the Cayman Islands (one of our ports of call), organised the ships photographer to be at our dinner table that evening, and got down on one knee in Truffles Restaurant to ask me to marry him – finally, after being together for 18 years! We were married in 2015 and thought it only fitting to honeymoon on the Carnival Legend. We flew to Vancouver, Canada and boarded the ship there and then cruised around the Hawaiian Islands for 10 days. We then stayed on board and did back-to-back cruises – a 20-day trans-Pacific cruise from Honolulu to Tahiti, Bora Bora, Moorea and Vanuatu, finally docking in Sydney. A truly wonderful and memorable honeymoon!"
Given that it’s been the setting for some of your most romantic life moments, what are the most romantic spots on the ship/activities you can book?
"We love walking around outside on the decks in the evening after dinner, especially when we are somewhere hot and balmy. You look out at the waves gently shimmering in the moonlight, the stars seem to shine brighter and the moon always seems bigger! Dennis and I also always book a couples’ massage at the Day Spa and float back to our cabin in a wonderful state of euphoric calmness!"
And your other favourite things to do that aren’t so “romantic”?!
"The onboard activities are many and varied. We love watching the big live cabaret shows in the main theatre, dancing to live bands in the bars, playing trivia, learning new recipes and cooking techniques from the chefs at the cooking classes and catching up on our reading in the library/board games room."
What’s your favourite thing to eat on the whole ship?
"We love Carnival Cruises' signature dessert, chocolate melting cake. It is so incredible and addictive that I obtained the recipe from the chef and make it at home for family and friends. Delicious!"
What’s the one thing you always pack for your times on board that would surprise people?
"Apart from a sense of fun (but that wouldn’t surprise anyone who knows us), we honestly don’t need to pack much at all as everything is catered for on board the ship. We do take evening clothes for the 'elegant nights' and some people take special costumes for the theme nights.
Have you formed any great friendships with fellow cruisers, and do you ever bump into people that you met on previous voyages?
"We have formed long-lasting friendships with several couples we met while cruising. We travelled to Europe and stayed in Vienna with friends we met on a Mediterranean cruise; we stay in contact with a couple from Virginia, USA and a couple who are US Marshals in Miami, USA. And we met a couple from Melbourne on our honeymoon cruise and catch up with them regularly for lunch."
Do you collect any travel souvenirs? What’s the best one you’ve ever picked up?
"Like everyone else we have a few fridge magnets and snow globes – but we like to buy a good piece of clothing from different places we visit. While they're not the usual tourist t-shirts, we relive our trip whenever we wear them. Probably the best ‘souvenir’ I have picked up was my engagement ring!"
What are some really helpful things to know about cruising, that you don't normally realise until you've cruised a few times?
"The position of your cabin is crucial to a successful cruise. Most novice cruisers don’t know to check if their balcony cabin has a totally unobstructed sea view or ensure their cabin is not directly under the Lido deck to minimise night-time noise. Also, having a cabin that is mid-ship will minimise the movement or rocking of the ship if it encounters rough seas."
Do you have your next cruise booked already? When are where are you going?
"We cruise at least once every year. At this stage we're looking at cruises out of and around Asia for 2019."
What’s the best tip you’d give to someone cruising for the first time?
"Get involved in as many onboard activities as you can, be it dancing lessons, trivia contests, golf competitions, cooking lessons, etc. The options are wide and varied, plus you also meet lots of wonderful new friends and have loads of fun. And always book for “Anytime Dining” in the restaurant for dinner. Then ask to sit at a large table for 10 in the restaurant – this way you get to meet new people every night and have some incredible dinner conversations! Also if you can afford it, book a cabin with a balcony. This will not only maximise your view, it also gives you the option of spending lazy afternoons lounging on the outdoor furniture on your balcony with a book and a glass of wine. If you really want to ‘veg out’ just sitting on your balcony staring at the ever-changing waves is mesmerising."