A smooth-talking widower convinced a 90-year-old nan to join him on a luxury cruise just minutes after meeting her in a pub.
Silver-tongued 91-year-old John Mason happily splashed out £3500 on a luxury Mediterranean cruise for himself and Vera Burrell after the pair started chatting over lunch.
John, from Bishop’s Waltham, Hamps., asked Vera if he could share her table because the pub they were in was packed, and the pair quickly became firm friends.
Vera, from Sudbury, Suffolk, was on a coach holiday to Bournemouth when they stopped at the boozer, in Winchester, for a bite to eat.
Retired engineer John got chatting with Vera about holidays and when she said that she had always wanted to go on a cruise, the great-grandfather-of-two suggested they nip across the road to the travel agent and book.
John said: “It was a spur-of-the-moment decision, but it’s one I definitely didn’t regret.
“You don’t get to my age and start worrying about trivial things like money.”
The pair eventually settled on a 12-day cruise around the Med, and gentlemanly John was more than happy to foot the entire bill.
Vera, in shock at the offer, kept saying “I can’t believe I’m doing this” as they booked their trip on the P&O Azura.
Speaking about it for the first time yesterday (Thurs), John said: “I lost my wife 11 years ago.
“I’ve been going on cruises for more than 40 years ago, but my eyesight has deteriorated so I can’t travel alone, and my long term partner passed away.
“When you get to my age, you can sit around and wait for death or you can live.
“At 91, things don’t happen unless you make them happen.
“I thought I can afford it, so I’m going to do it.”
Although strangers at the start of the trip, the pair bonded and now regularly stay in touch – but Vera declined John’s generous offer of a Winter sun cruise around the Caribbean.
The pair set sail from Portsmouth just two weeks after their chance meeting at the start of October, and they happily shared a cabin – with separate beds.
They were the talk of the cruise and even invited to the Bridge to share the story with the First Officer.
John said: “The First Officer and all the staff were dead shocked when we told the story.
“They sat there stunned in silence.
“It was wonderful.”
He described his companion as “fantastic company” and said they spent most of the cruise relaxing.
John added: “When you’re 90 and 91, you’re happy to sit around and relax.
“The days pass quickly and at our age, we do a lot of sitting down.
“Cruise ships are lovely places to spend time and get to know somebody.
“Vera was fantastic company, we just talked all day. It was quite something.”
He only told his four children what he had done when his bank phoned them to check the transaction – because they thought he was being scammed.
One of them, Sue Metcalfe said they were ‘very surprised’ but ‘completely fine with it’ and didn’t want to stop her elderly father enjoying himself.
She said: “He’s never done a grand gesture like this before.
“But when my Mum was alive they used to go on lots of cruises.
“We were very surprised but had no problem with it.
“They both had a very good time and still talk on the phone.”
Vera, who had only had one glass of wine before agreeing to go on the adventure, said that she had “gone global” since the news broke and she can’t believe how interested people are in her “little story”.
The ship docked at a number of European cities including Lisbon, Porto, Cadiz, Malaga and Gibraltar, and the nonagenarian pair took full advantage of the sights.
She said: “I thoroughly enjoyed myself.
“I’ve never done cruises before and I don’t think I’ll do it again.
“There was a lot of lounging about.
“When you’re 90, time is of the essence, and you can’t do a lot of the onboard activities when you’re my age.
“Going on shore was lovely though.
“I liked Lisbon best. It was so sunny and warm.
“My advice as someone who’s made it to 90 is to seize the day.
“Don’t waste any opportunities.”