Berlitz Cruising & Cruise Ships 2017 (Berlitz Cruise Guide) (2016)
Cruising for Romantics
No need to worry about getting to the church on time - you can be married at sea, get engaged, renew your vows, or enjoy a second honeymoon.
Two classic TV shows, The Love Boat (US) and Traumschiff (Germany), boosted the concept of cruising as a romantic vacation, the natural culmination of which would be getting married at sea - the ultimate ‘mobile wedding.’ Such ceremonies have become such big money-earners that, after 171 years, Cunard Line changed the registry of its three ships in 2011 from its traditional home port of Southampton to Hamilton, Bermuda, partly because its British registry didn’t allow it to perform weddings at sea. As a result, couples can now say ‘I do’ aboard Queen Mary 2 in the middle of the North Atlantic; the first such wedding was in May 2012.
Saying ‘I do’ aboard ship
This increasingly popular option includes a honeymoon conveniently in the same location and a ‘wedding planner’ who can sort out all the nitty-gritty details such as arranging flights, hotels, transportation, and packages. For the bride, spa and beauty services are immediately on hand, unlike on land, and you literally can sail into the sunset after the reception.
Check first in your country of domicile whether such a marriage is legal, and ascertain what paperwork and blood tests are needed. It is up to you to prove the validity of such a marriage. The captain could be held legally responsible if he married a couple not entitled to be wed.
It’s relatively easy to get wed aboard almost any cruise ship when it’s alongside in port. Carnival Cruise Lines, Celebrity Cruises, Costa Cruises, Holland America Line, Princess Cruises, and Royal Caribbean International, among others, offer special wedding packages. These include the services of a minister to marry you, wedding cake, Champagne, bridal bouquet and matching boutonnière for the bridal party, a band to perform at the ceremony, and an album of wedding pictures. Note that US citizens and ‘green card’ residents may need to pay sales tax on wedding packages.
Welcome champagne on a Silversea cruise.
Asuka Cruise, Azamara Club Cruises, Celebrity Cruises, Cunard Line, P&O Cruises, Princess Cruises, Royal Caribbean International, and Sea Cloud Cruises offer weddings aboard their ships. The ceremonies can be performed by the captain, who is certified as a notary, when the ships’ registry - Bermuda, Japan, or Malta, for example - recognizes such unions. Japanese citizens can also be married at sea aboard one of the Japan-registered cruise ships such as Asuka II.
Expect to pay about $3,000 (Sea Cloud Cruises, from €1,995), plus about $500 for licensing fees. Harbor-side or shore-side packages vary according to the port.
Even if you don’t get married aboard ship, you could have your wedding reception aboard one. Contact the director of hotel services at the cruise line. The cruise line will go out of its way to help, especially if you follow the reception with a honeymoon cruise - and a cruise, of course, also makes a fine, worry-free honeymoon.
UK-based passengers should know that P&O Cruises hosts a series of cruises called the ‘Red-Letter Anniversary Collection’ for those celebrating 10, 15, 20, 25, 30, 35, 40, 45, 50, 55, or 60 years of marriage. The cruise comes with a complimentary gift, such as a brass carriage clock, leather photograph album, or free car parking at Southampton.
Getting married ashore
An alternative is to have a marriage ceremony in an exotic destination with your reception and honeymoon aboard ship afterwards. For example, you could get married on the beach in Barbados or Hawaii; on a glacier in Juneau, Alaska; in a villa in Rome or Venice; in an authentic Tahitian village; in Central Park, New York; or on Disney’s Castaway Cay in the Bahamas, with Mickey and Minnie at hand. Note that your marriage license must be from the jurisdiction in which you will be married. If you set your heart on a Bermuda beach wedding, for example, the license to marry must be obtained in Bermuda, no matter what your nationality is.
Carnival Cruise Lines’ wedding packages, available both aboard ship on embarkation day or in tropical ports of call, are immensely popular, with more than 2,600 ceremonies performed each year. Carnival’s packages start at $1,355.
Getting engaged aboard ship
For those who aren’t quite ready to tie the knot, Princess Cruises has a special ‘Engagement Under the Stars’ package that allows you to propose to your loved one in a personal video that is then screened just before an evening movie at a large outdoor screen aboard some of the company’s ships. Current cost: $695.
Renewal of vows
Many cruise lines perform ‘renewal of vows’ ceremonies. A cruise is a wonderful setting for reaffirming to one’s partner the strength of commitment. A handful of ships have a small chapel where this ceremony can take place; otherwise, it can be anywhere aboard ship - a most romantic time is at sunrise or sunset on the open deck. The renewal of vows ceremony is conducted by the ship’s captain, using a non-denominational text.
Practical tips for honeymooners
Remember to take a copy of your marriage license or certificate, for immigration (or marriage) purposes, as your passports will not yet have been amended. Since you may well wish to share a large bed with your partner, check with your travel agent and cruise line to make sure the cabin you have booked has such a bed. Better still, book a suite if you can afford to. It’s important to check and double-check to avoid disappointment.
If you plan to combine your honeymoon with getting married along the way - in Hawaii or Bermuda, for example - and need to take your wedding gown aboard, there’s usually space to hang it in the dressing room next to the stage in the main showlounge, especially aboard the large resort ships.
Although some companies, such as Carnival Cruise Lines, Celebrity Cruises, Cunard Line, Holland America Line, P&O Cruises, and Princess Cruises, have complete packages for purchase, which include music, Champagne, hors d’oeuvres, certificate, corsages for the women, and so on, most other companies do not charge - yet.
A honeymoon couple enjoy being pampered on an MSC Cruises ship.
Cruising for honeymooners
There are many advantages in honeymooning at sea: you pack and unpack only once; it is a hassle-free and safe environment; and you get special attention, if you want it. It is easy to budget in advance, as one price often includes airfare, cruise, food, entertainment, several destinations, shore excursions, and pre- and post-cruise hotel stays. Also, some cruise lines offer discounts if you book a future cruise to celebrate an anniversary.
Although no ship as yet provides real bridal suites, many ships have suites with king- or queen-size beds. Some also provide tables for two in the dining room, should you wish to dine together without having to make friends with others. A variety of honeymoon packages are available; these might include Champagne and caviar for breakfast, flowers in the suite or cabin, a complimentary cake, and a private captain’s cocktail party.
Some cruise ships have Sunday departures, so couples can plan a Saturday wedding and reception before traveling to their ship. Pre- and post-cruise hotel accommodation can also be arranged.
Most large resort ships accommodate honeymoon couples well. However, couples averse to crowds might try one of the smaller cruise ships such as those of Regent Seven Seas Cruises, Seabourn, Sea Cloud Cruises, Silversea Cruises, or Windstar Cruises.
And for quiet moments? The deck to the forward part of a ship, near the bridge, is the most dimly lit part and the quietest - except perhaps for some wind noise.