Touched by Dominic

Dominic aboard Sapphire Princess with proudly showing off his custom pizza.

You think you meet a lot of people–a hotel general manager aboard a Princess Cruises’ vessel meets thousands upon thousands of new people every year. Multiply that by my 17 years at sea, and you get the picture. I meet a lot of people!

I’ve met some amazing, accomplished people, some witty folk who always made me laugh and so many others whose kindness made my job a pleasure. But there is one, a slight, dark-haired boy of only eight years, who stands above all in my mind.

His name is Dominic Cumo and he taught me something about being tough in the face of adversity and spreading joy rather than seeking solace. Dominic has ALS—amyotrophic lateral sclerosis or Lou Gehrig’s disease, one of the most daunting diagnoses one could possibly get. It’s rare among adults and almost unheard of among children. Yet Dominic suffers from this terrible disease.

As a hotel GM, I’m aware ahead of time of any special-needs passengers boarding the ship. We knew Dominic, who arrived on the Sapphire Princess in his wheelchair, would need extra assistance. He came with a party of 10 to celebrate a relative’s 70th birthday with a California coastal cruise.

From the minute Dominic boarded the ship, he had the crew in the palm of his small hands. He flashed a huge grin at us, instantly dispelling any apprehension we felt about his needs. He put us at ease. Us! I knew he had a huge heart for such a young guy to welcome us in such a dazzling way.

It also became clear that Dominic would be one of those natural cruisers, who immediately took to life aboard a big ship. His enthusiasm became our enthusiasm.  Yes there was a birthday celebrant in the group, but we’d do anything for charismatic Dominic.

Dominic on the Bridge with his family and Captain Jerman (left) and Melania (right).

Dominic on the Bridge with his family and Captain Jerman (left) and Melania (right).

I set about arranging for him to visit the bridge to meet Captain Ivan Jerman. Our hotel services engineer, Keith McCabe, built a sturdy ramp for Dominic’s wheelchair so he could tour the underbelly of the ship and visit Sapphire’s engine control room. Chief Engineer Giuseppe Leotta insisted on giving that tour himself.

Making Dominic happy was making me happy. I noted that Dominic, like most eight-year-olds, loves pizza. I arranged to have our executive chef help Dominic devise his own custom pizza. He was wide-eyed watching Alfredo’s pizza chef, Laurentiu Petriovici, toss the dough in the air. Then he created his masterpiece…cheese, mushrooms, peppers, red onions and pepperoni…quite the sophisticated palate for such a young boy.

The whole crew was saddened when the cruise was over for he had reminded us of an eternal (and easily forgotten) life lesson. A positive attitude, a joy for life, will do so much to lift your spirits and those of the people around you. Dominic was that proverbial ray of sunshine, a child shouldering the burden of a frightening diagnosis with unbelievable cheerfulness and light.

You probably know how the rest of this goes…his troubles made mine and most anyone else’s pale by comparison. I don’t think Dominic sees himself as troubled and that is the secret to a happy life. I think all of us on the crew who met him were privately reminded to seize the joy and not the sorrows.

As soon as he left, we posted on his Facebook page that we missed Dominic. And maybe our posting prompted his family to book another cruise with us, this time to Hawaii. We are fortunate to have him on board again, not that I need to be reminded of the lessons Dominic taught me for I know that he has forever touched my heart.

Melania is kind of a shopaholic with a passion for Swarovski crystal, clothing and shoes. When not on board she loves to spend time with family and friends relaxing on “her” lake. 

Melania (holding Dominic sign) with her onboard team holding a "Miss you Dominic" sign that they posted to his Facebook page upon his return from the cruise.

Melania (holding Dominic sign) with her onboard team holding a “Miss you Dominic” sign that they posted to his Facebook page upon his return from the cruise.

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  1. Princess Cruises says... January 30, 2013 | 9:35am

    Melania,

    Thank you for sharing your experience with Dominic and reminding us all of his life lessons!

  2. Monty says... January 30, 2013 | 11:07am

    Great story, so happy to here Princess made him so welcome & he surely made all of them the better for meeting him as well …

  3. Mary Chandler says... January 30, 2013 | 11:42am

    I loved the story. I wouldn’t expect anything less of any of your crews. You surely were blessed by this young boy. We are blessed to read about it.

  4. Maggie Searles says... January 30, 2013 | 12:07pm

    That was great news for the crew and the family. Domonic you are special. Princess is my favoret cruise line and they were helpful to me and I just had a walker. Love to the crew and God Blless Domonic

  5. Carol Aufderheide says... January 30, 2013 | 2:30pm

    Life does have ways to teach all of us many lessons. I’m 75 yrs young and learn something new every day. Hope to see you on The Golden Princess cruise in Sept. 2013. My hellos to little Domonic. Carol and husband Robert.

  6. Vicky says... January 30, 2013 | 2:50pm

    Thank you for sharing Dominis story what a shame we all can’t remember to embrace life the way he does. We can relate to the service that Dominic an his parents received as we were just as fortunate to receive the most exceptional on our Panama Canal cruise considering my husband has traveled all over the world and we both felt like the crew was there just for us and we talked with many other travelers and they felt the same. We enjoyed our trip and are anticipating our next cruise hopefully to Alaska. We wish to thank the captain and crew of the Coral Princess on the Panama Canal cruise on the 15th of December for giving this couple the cruise experience of a life time they were magnificant!!! Princess cruise lines should be very proud to have these fine people as their employees thanks again Princess Cruise lines.

  7. Heather McGrath says... January 30, 2013 | 3:11pm

    What a heartwarming story of little Dominic.
    Having cruised on mostly Princess cruises, the standard of care and love you bestowed on Dominic, is so typical of the compassion Princess staff show to all passengers. I have seen, on many occasions, the “extra mile ” your crew are more than happy to go to, when the need is there.

    Congratulations PRINCESS staff, and keep smiling Dominic, because then, everyone else smiles with you.

  8. Joselito Laudencia says... January 30, 2013 | 4:14pm

    What a great story! Dominic is currently on my cruise (Sapphire from Los Angeles to Hawaii and back). I haven’t personally talked to him but I’ve watched the Sapphire Princess crew approach him with such warmth and friendliness, and he smiles and talks joyously in return. What a surprise and blessing to see this story and his picture in print while I’m cruising. Thanks, Princess!

    • Dominic Cumo says... February 4, 2013 | 12:32pm

      Thank you so much for all the wonderful comments. I absolutely had the most awesome time on my cruise. the officers and the crew on board the Sapphire Princess and the crew at the San Pedro pier made me feel so special. You can see all my pictures from the cruise on my facebook. please become my friend. And above all I want to thank Ms Melania for making me special to her. I love you so much Miss Melania, and hope to cruise with you again soon.

      • Melania says... February 5, 2013 | 2:38pm

        Dominic you always manage to make me cry and laugh at the same time!
        Even though you are hugging all the girls and making me jealous I love you very much.
        Can’t wait to see you again!

      • John Mitchell says... February 9, 2013 | 12:05pm

        Lyrics from Isn’t He Lovely (I know it’s she) I never thought that we could be, making one as lovely as HE”
        I had several brief encounters with this Angel, He has captured my heart and when I was with him he had my soul.
        Being Old (I am) I learned so much from Dominic, I learned that each day is an opportunity to move toward the man I should be.

  9. Nancy Shane says... January 30, 2013 | 6:50pm

    An inspirational story yet not surprising. Princess staff are always helpful and caring. Looking forward to our next adventure in 2014.

  10. Laurie Matusow says... January 31, 2013 | 7:20pm

    Dear Melania,

    Your story was so heartfelt. Dominic seemed to be a very happy boy and I hope one day, they will find a cure for him! Glad to see he enjoyed the cruise too. PS – I met you on board the Golden Princess to Hawaii over the Xmas holidays – you came to our Cruise Critic get together!

  11. libby mills says... February 1, 2013 | 11:02am

    god bless you dominic and I hope you have many more cruises love you darling what a happy looking little boy xxxxxx

  12. Sandra Harle says... February 3, 2013 | 6:01pm

    As I read the story about Dominic tears began to form, it really touched me quite deeply. Princess Cruises – proud to sail with you.

  13. Jessica Ramirez says... February 4, 2013 | 12:56pm

    Dominic is one amazing little guy!!! He inspired my family, my boyfriend and myself when we were on the cruise to Mexico. My father and him conected very closely due to both having ALS… My father has passed away not to long ago but has left with a strong fight and a great loving life. Dominic thank your for inspiring my family and myself with your amazing smile and joyful life!!! Love you Mr Handsome!

  14. James says... February 22, 2013 | 9:32pm

    I had the privilege of meeting Dom the dominator on the Sapphire Jan 19th RT LA-Hawaii. He is an amazingly high spirited young man. We talked about his dog Kipper and my dog Daisy. He was in the pop choir and the Asst Cruise Dir Callie was wonderful to Dom. I smiled every time I saw him and he gave me an attitude of gratitude when I compared my chronic back pain to what he has gone thru and goes thru daily. He was/is an inspiration to those who suffer from pain. I also admired his mom (Shawnny sp?) and dad for being such loving parents. I observed how loving they always are to him and even watched his dad proudly watch Dom sign and give him signals to wave the flag. I cried with happiness for a family that really shares unconditional love. .

  15. Laura Sparks says... March 22, 2013 | 3:20pm

    I love all the stories we have traveled on several cruises with princess as well as other lines and like princess best. it does not surprise me the crew was so taken with dominic.aloha-with tears in my eyes

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