Simone Kimpton recently went on a cruise on the Pacific Sun, which turned out to be the same ship she worked on in the 1980s as the MS Jubilee.
Simone Kimpton recently went on a cruise on the Pacific Sun, which turned out to be the same ship she worked on in the 1980s as the MS Jubilee. Cade Mooney

What are the odds?

STREAMERS colour the air. Helicopters buzz and fire boats surround the ship.

Flashes and clicks light up the scene.

Media is everywhere.

It is Independence Day, 1986, and New York is welcoming the world's biggest cruise ship to its shores.

On board MS Jubilee, the ship's crew is lapping up the attention.

Among the young, spirited group is Englishwoman, Simone Kimpton, 22, a newly assigned croupier in the ship's casino.

Like MS Jubilee, Simone is sailing on her maiden voyage.

Fast forward 26 years and the now Sunshine Coast resident has stepped back on to a ship - this time as a passenger.

Simone and her husband have booked a voyage on P&O's Pacific Sun as a surprise 70th birthday present for her mother-and-law.

But as it turns out, the May cruise leaves Simone in more shock than the birthday girl.

The Maroochydore resident said she only realised she was making a date with her past the night before boarding.

"I was just looking in detail at Pacific Sun's features and deck plans when I noticed most of the bar names were familiar," Simone said.

"But I thought they must just trot these names out every few ships and it wasn't until Googling both liners that I discovered they were the same one."

Because of her working life at sea, Simone was unlikely to book a cruise ship holiday.

"It was that serendipity thing," she said, looking back.

"We didn't really care where we were going, so it could have been any of the ships.

"It just turned out to be the right date and price."

Simone said the reincarnated MS Jubilee had been unrecognisable at first, due to the rebranding which had taken place when the ship became part of the P&O fleet in 2004.

"They had changed the paint colour and taken off the whale tail, which was symbolic of Carnival ships," she said.

However, once she stepped on to the promenade deck, the

memories started flooding back and her emotions began to show.

"It was just so shocking because it was so long ago," she said

"In my mind, it was 15 years ago - it really was like stepping back in time."

Simone said she had been hired as part of the crew back then, thanks to her grandfather having been a chauffeur for the head of the cruise line.

She worked as a croupier in the casino on MS Jubilee for just over two years before a broken ankle forced her to resign.

Simone described her time on board as a "cruisy" experience which had been a defining point in her life. She still keeps in contact with friends she made during that time.

"I loved every second and still dream about it regularly," she said.

"And I'm actually seeing my first roommate back in England this week."

Simone said that although the decor and uniforms had remained essentially the same, significant changes had occurred over the two decades.

Upon entering the casino, for example, Simone was surprised by the number of poker machines and consequent reduction in staff numbers.

But that was not the major difference she noticed overall.

"In the '80s, there were very few females working on the ship," she recalled.

"Now there are women working in many more roles.

"It used to only be the dancers, the hairdressers, the beauty shop jobs and the casino staff and we were kept very separate from the others, whereas now it's a mix."

Simone said experiencing the cruise liner from a passenger's perspective had been enlightening.

"When I was working, I didn't spend that much time up in the passenger area," she said.

"We could eat at the buffets and were occasionally allowed on deck but I wasn't aware of how busy it was outside because you were just in the one room for 12 hours a day.

"And I finally got to dance at the disco."

Simone said that although no longer MS Jubilee, Pacific Sun had stayed true to ship's original slogan as "the fun ship".

"It was fun then and it was fun now," she said.

"I would recommend anyone to go on a cruise."

The cruise liner will depart on her final cruise from Brisbane on July 1 before becoming a floating casino in China.

Simone was sentimental about the liner's departure.

"It was my first ship and my home for two years," she said.

"I'm sad to see it off because it means there'll be no chance that I'll run into it again."

>> To read more lifestyle stories

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