TWENTY-one years ago, Paula Gowland made a fateful last-minute decision to pack up her life in two days and take an eight-month contract working on a cruise ship.
This year, she celebrates her 20th anniversary of marriage to husband John, a fellow staffer on that boat.
John was the head of security on the Fairstar while Paula was a purser, responsible for handling passengers' money and for socialising with them when not behind a desk.
"I can remember seeing him sitting in uniform drinking a beer in what was called the Sharp End Bar, and thinking: 'Where did he come from?'" Paula said.
Their courtship was relatively short - they celebrated their engagement at a Fijian port within months of meeting, and by the end of 1995 were married in Sydney.
The couple has many fond memories of the time aboard the Fairstar.
"Every cruise you met some amazing people from all over the world," Paula said. "There were some passengers who had been on 24 or 25 cruises and we recognised some return customers even in the eight months we were on board.
"It was just so much fun."
John and Paula, who moved with their family to the Sunshine Coast in 2007, are now hoping to celebrate their 20th anniversary with a cruise through the waters where their romance started.
The big difference this time around is that they will bring their children Jessica, 19, Ashlee, 14, and Ethan, 8.
"We really need a family holiday and we feel like we need to revisit that time," Paula said.
"The kids don't know much about our time on the Fairstar, but they like looking at the photos we have from then.
"One thing we really remember from back then was the kids' club - the kids on board just had a ball."
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