Real Life

REAL LIFE: All aboard the love boat! How an ordinary cruise turned into ‘I do’

They have been together ever since.
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A chance meeting nearly 30 years after first meeting and then parting has finally led Michelle and Paul Veal up the aisle and aboard the love boat!

Talking to Woman’s Day from their home on the Gold Coast, the couple are glowing with post-wedded bliss. It’s been just over a week since they married on a four-day trip from Brisbane to Airlie Beach on P&O Cruises’ Pacific Encounter.

“We had an absolute ball,” Michelle, 51, says, smiling at the memory.

The lovebirds were surrounded by 40 of their closest family and friends – most of whom had never been on a cruise before – as they said “I do”.

“It was a bit of a windy day, so we were brought down onto the beautiful Oasis deck, which overlooks the back of the ship,” Michelle smiles.

“Looking out at that beautiful water – it’s stunning – you couldn’t ask for a better backdrop.

“We had a beautiful arch and cake, and all the flowers – P&O went above and beyond. Everyone wanted to stay on longer!”

Family and friends were happy to celebrate on board!

(Image: Supplied)

It’s been a long journey to wedded bliss for the pair, who first met in 1992 onboard P&O’s Fairstar, where Melbourne-born Michelle was working as a resident entertainer.

It was her job to encourage passengers to participate in the nightly shows, and that’s when she first saw Paul.

“Michelle was roaming the deck looking for people to do the passenger show. She kept coming up to me but in the end, her charm won me over,” says Paul.

“She is a beautiful lady with a beautiful smile – I couldn’t say no.”

Soon after performing, it was time for Paul to depart the cruise and return home to the Gold Coast. On his last night, they had their picture taken together at the passenger thank-you party.

It became a photo Paul kept close by for decades.

The 1992 photo of the pair that Paul kept for years.

(Image: Supplied)

“We definitely had chemistry. We just kind of clicked. Being my first cruise, everything was new to me too, and I was meeting lots of people. But I always remembered Paul,” says Michelle.

The pair continued with their separate lives, getting married and having children. Between them they have three sons and two daughters, now all in their late teens and early 20s.

It wasn’t till Michelle moved up to the Sunshine State in 2001 that fate began to play its part when she started shopping at the local supermarket where Paul worked as a butcher.

“Michelle has beautiful curly hair with blue eyes and a big smile. I thought, ‘Gee, I know that face from somewhere,'” says Paul.

“I woke up one night and realised! I asked her next time if she worked on the Fairstar, and if her name was Michelle, and showed her the photo of us.”

Paul and Michelle were the first couple to be married aboard the Pacific Encounter.

(Image: Supplied)

It took another six years for their paths to cross again after he became her children’s karate instructor. They began dating in 2018 after Paul’s first marriage ended.

“Crossing paths again was quite amazing. It’s like it was meant to be,” says Michelle.

“We hit it off [talking] about our pasts and how we had crossed paths so many times.

“When Paul came back to my house for the first time and my kids were there, they were like, ‘Oooh, Paul the karate teacher!’

“They knew him personally more than I did, so they already had that rapport and respect for Paul, which was very nice.”

‘Crossing paths again was amazing. It’s like it was meant to be’

(Image: Suppled)

In another twist, Michelle’s mum and dad – Susan and Geoff Wedge – also met on a P&O cruise ship as passenger and staff member in the 1960s. It was the last cruise ship Geoff worked on.

They married a year later and continued to cruise regularly over the years, even celebrating their 50th wedding anniversary three years ago on the Golden Princess.

“It was very special to have them on the cruise. It brought back a lot of memories for them,” says Michelle, a dance school owner.

Michelle and Paul are already planning their next cruise to celebrate their one-year anniversary, this time around Australia.

“We’d like to do it every year if we can,” she says. “It’s such a special thing for us to have that valuable time together.”

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