WEDNESDAY, JUNE 6: Almost four decades ago, Rick Bennette and Denise Vidal met for the first time on board the Sea Venture as the cruise liner sailed to Bermuda.
The pair was just 16 at the time but they forged a strong and lasting bond during their brief island holiday.
The young lovers lost touch within a few months of returning to the US and did not speak for nearly 30 years — until a speculative email from Denise rekindled their romance in 2002.
And last month the happy couple returned to Bermuda for the first time since they clapped eyes on each other in 1972 to celebrate their honeymoon.
Speaking to the Sun from their home in Florida Rick said: “Bermuda was where the magic happened.
“We spent a lot of time together while we were on the island and we got to know each other.
“We took a sailing boat out to one of the islands, we walked around Hamilton and visited Elbow Beach.
“We were only young but we just fell in love.”
The teenagers kept in contact when they arrived back in the US exchanging letters, phone calls and music cassettes.
But after a few months Denise suddenly told Rick she would not be writing to him any more.
He said: “I was crushed.
“That was the last I heard from her. I thought about her all the time but she had moved away and there was no way I could get back in touch.
“A few years later I got WABC radio to play our favourite song from the Sea Venture; Shadow of Your Smile by Tony Bennett.
“It always seemed to be on when we were kissing on the ship.
“But I did not hear anything back from Denise so I moved on with life.”
Denise added: “When I came back from Bermuda my mom could see how in love I was with Rick and she thought I was going to run away with him.
“She told me to break it off and I did.
“But Rick was always in my heart and never far from my thoughts.”
Nearly 30 years passed and both Rick and Denise embarked on new relationships and got married.
Then in 2002 Rick received a bizarre email from a Florida government address that simply asked: “Did you ever go to Bermuda on the Sea Venture?”
He said: “I had no idea who it was from at first but then started to think it might be Denise.
“Over the years my marriage ran its course and I had tried to e-mail every Denise Vidal I could find on the internet.
“But I had no luck. I just got a lot of replies from women called Denise who said I had the wrong lady.”
The couple arranged to meet up in Grand Central Station a month later.
Rick arranged for the meeting to be filmed and organized for a violinist to play their favourite Tony Bennett song in the station.
The old days
Denise said: “I thought we would just meet up and talk about the old days in Bermuda.
“I was not looking for a relationship or anything like that.
“But when he called my name in the station it was amazing. I ran towards him and I had not expected to do that.
“We embraced and just hugged each other for about six minutes.
“It was as if it was just supposed to be that way.”
Within a year Rick had moved down to Florida to live with Denise.
They got married on April 24, 2010 but had to put their post wedding celebrations on hold when Denise was diagnosed with breast cancer.
It was not until the end of last month that the couple were able to return to Bermuda for their honeymoon and retrace their first steps together nearly 40 years ago.
They arrived in Hamilton on the Veendam on May 22.
Rick said: “It was magical coming back again.
“To return to the place where I first fell in love with Denise was like falling in love all over again.
“It’s hard to put the feelings into words.
“We would both move to Bermuda tomorrow if we could. It has such an important place in both of our hearts.
“We love its beauty and the pace of life.
“Spending time on the island again reminded me that I did not just fall in love with the girl but the island too.”
Denise added: “Coming back to Bermuda again brought back some incredible memories.
“It was like being young again.
“It does seem like a fairlytale now in many ways and that is what my friends tell me.
“I hope we can come back again next year.”