Getting married at sea may seem wonderfully romantic, but can it be as simple as it seems in the movies? Well, yes and no, according to Carolyn Spencer Brown, editor in chief of the cruise news and reviews Web site Cruise Critic, which has just announced its picks for the best cruise lines for weddings and updated its guide to getting married on a cruise ship.
“It is incredibly easy to arrange a cruise wedding, but it’s not quite as simple as going up to the ship’s captain and asking to be married,” says Spencer Brown.
You can, in fact, still be married by some ships’ captains, but whether or not a captain is allowed to perform the ceremony depends on the country to which a cruise line’s ships are registered. In fact, captains can officiate on only a handful of cruise lines, including Celebrity, Azamara, Princess and P&O.
However, as a compromise, some captains, such as those on Disney ships, will lead wedding ceremonies onboard, but the actual “legal” marriage (and paperwork signing) must occur before the ship sets sail.
So, how easy is it to get married at sea? Compared to the stress and costs associated with a traditional land-based wedding, a cruise marriage can be relatively stress-free and an excellent value—and, of course, your honeymoon is included in the cost.
Continued Spencer Brown, “The price of a full-service wedding package compares very favourably with the same thing on land. Many lines have in-house wedding coordinators, and planning a wedding can be done with just one telephone call to arrange the ceremony, the menu, the cake, the flowers and the music. Some even help obtain wedding licenses. And, it’s easy to let them handle all the extras, such as hair and spa appointments, too.”
P&O Cruises’ Weddings at Sea, for instance, starts from £699 and includes an indoor or outdoor ceremony venue, a ceremony conducted by the ship’s captain, flowers, music, Champagne, a photographer, a wedding coordinator, invitations and thank-you notes. Licensing fees cost an additional £249. Other add-ons—including cake, reception parties and elaborate wedding albums—are available upon request.
Typically, onboard weddings are held in a ship’s chapel (if one exists), a lounge, the library or a boardroom. But, the larger ships can offer unusual venues, such as rock-climbing walls. While the wedding couple must be passengers on the cruise, most lines with full-service packages include an option for landside guests to come onboard for a couple of hours for the event.
And, those couples who have already been married on land need not feel that they have missed the boat, as cruise lines also offer onboard vow-renewal ceremonies—an extra special way to celebrate on an anniversary cruise.
Cruise Critic’s list of best cruise lines for weddings includes a review of offerings from each line, covering key attractions and features; package details and prices; cool quirks (such as Princess Cruises’ webcam service, which broadcasts the ceremony live for family and friends on land) and any caveats like surcharges or licence fees and vow renewal offerings.
Cruise Critic’s picks for the best cruise lines for weddings are:
Celebrity Cruises/Azamara Club Cruises
Disney Cruise Line
Carnival Cruise Lines
Norwegian Cruise Line
Royal Caribbean International