Proving that romance is alive and well, Princess Cruises and USA TODAY received more than 6,600 entries for their “Romance on the Ruby” cruise contest, which asked people to share their favorite romantic moment or milestone for a chance to win a getaway aboard Princess’ newest ship, Ruby Princess.  From a pool of 10 finalists, one grand-prize winner was chosen today by Ruby Princess godparents Trista and Ryan Sutter, of the hit television reality series The Bachelorette.

The Sutters selected Susan Custer of Battle Ground, Wash. to receive a seven-day cruise aboard Ruby Princess.  Custer and the other finalists will join the ship for the two-day inaugural celebrations, which include attending the naming ceremony on November 6 and setting sail on a mini cruise.

“We were so touched by the heartfelt entries and by these couples’ years of love and dedication,” said Trista Sutter, “so it was really difficult to choose just one.  But overall, we felt that Susan’s romantic story really captured the theme of the contest.  Ryan and I are looking forward to meeting Susan and her husband, John, to congratulate them in person aboard Ruby Princess.”

The thousands of entries included stories about memorable first meetings, romantic proposals, and unique celebrations of milestone occasions.  Custer’s entry tells the story of how the man who was to become her second husband showed his love for her by surprising her with a new ring that combined stones from her first wedding ring from her late husband with new stones from him.  “He had the jeweler put together a special ring from the two ‘loves’ of my life,” she said.  They look forward to their Ruby Princess sailing as an opportunity to celebrate their upcoming second anniversary.

As the cruise line that has long embodied romance, Princess selected Trista and Ryan as christeners to help celebrate their milestone fifth wedding anniversary during the ship’s naming.  The couple became romance royalty in 2003 as America followed their courtship and witnessed their nationally televised wedding.  To this day they are the only couple from the The Bachelor or The Bachelorette shows to actually get married.

Custer was among the finalists voted as favorites by Princess Cruises’ Department of Romance members who include actor Gavin MacLeod, The Love Boat's "Captain Stubing;" Dr. Ruth Westheimer, the always-provocative couples therapist; Alex Michel, the first Bachelor on ABC’s hit show; Trish McDermott, vice president of love at; and Lisa Light, destination wedding expert and author.

The other finalists include Catherine Conner of Clatskanie, Ore.; Gale deClairmont of The Woodlands, Texas; Sara DeWitt of Herriman, Utah; Alan Horwitz of North Las Vegas, Nev.; Marty Marruffo of Eureka, Calif.; Janis Neill of Ruskin, Fla.; Larry Peppers of Greenville, S.C.; Ann Percy of Weaverville, N.C. and Marlene Sweeney of Hanover Park, Ill.  The winning stories can be found at, part of’s cruising blog edited by Gene Sloan.

“I shared in a lot of romantic moments during my 10 years on The Love Boat, so I had high expectations of the entries,” said Department of Romance member and Princess ambassador, Gavin MacLeod.  “I think the winners chosen truly exemplify ways to keep romance a priority in a relationship.”  MacLeod will also be on hand during the inaugural festivities to personally congratulate the winners.

The new Ruby Princess features a dramatic piazza-style atrium featuring small-bite eateries and an ever-changing array of performing street entertainers, Princess' signature adults-only oasis called The Sanctuary, Sabatini’s Italian restaurant, Crown Grill seafood and steak house, "Movies Under the Stars" giant outdoor movie screen, and Hearts & Minds wedding chapel.  The ship will feature an inaugural season of Western Caribbean cruises roundtrip from Fort Lauderdale, followed by a program of Mediterranean voyages in summer 2009.

Additional information about Princess Cruises is available through a professional travel agent, by calling 1-800-PRINCESS, or by visiting the company's website at