FORT LAUDERDALE, Fla. – Over 60 percent of travel agents report their cruise wedding business has increased in the last two years. Cruise Lines International Association (CLIA) member lines report increases of as much as 60 percent in the last decade. More and more cruise lines offer shipboard wedding packages, amenities and wedding planning services, including legal marriages performed by ships’ captains virtually anywhere in the world.
Couples have gotten the message that a cruise can be the setting for an ideal
destination wedding — an easily planned, fully-personalized marriage
ceremony, reception and honeymoon all rolled into one convenient package. The
options are boundless: a shipboard wedding on embarkation day followed by a
honeymoon for two; a shoreside wedding on a tropical beach; or a sunset
marriage ceremony at sea with everyone in the wedding party enjoying the
entire cruise are among the many choices.
Whatever the plan — a wedding close in the Caribbean or Bahamas on one of the
newest and largest ships in the CLIA fleet or on an all-suite luxury vessel in
Europe or the South Seas — couples and wedding planners will find outstanding
value at every price level, often with costs significantly less than a similar
land-based wedding and reception. It is even possible to charter an intimate
luxury yacht or elegant river cruise ship and have total control over all the
details, even the itinerary. And, besides weddings, many CLIA lines offer
honeymoon and vow renewal packages, bachelor and bachelorette parties, even
programs for “popping the question” — the ultimate engagement party at sea.
To gauge the significance of the cruise wedding market and its trends, CLIA
recently surveyed those who sell approximately 90 percent of all cruises. More
than three hundred travel agents provided their input on who they are booking
destination weddings at sea for and what their wedding clients are looking
for. Here are the highlights of the findings:
— Almost 40 percent of travel agents have sold shipboard or destination
— Cruise weddings are getting more popular: Travel agents report booking
more day-of-embarkation wedding cruises (18.3 percent); more shipboard
weddings with guests going along for the cruise (22.1 percent) and more
in-port weddings during the cruise (18.3 percent)
— Over 60 percent of agents report their cruise wedding business has
increased in the last two years
— The best reasons to have a cruise wedding? Almost 35 percent of agents
say their clients want to combine a wedding with a honeymoon; over 23
percent said value offered by cruise lines was the top reason
— For romance, nothing beats the Caribbean/Bahamas: Over 80 percent of
agents rank this destination as the overwhelming favorite among cruise
— The typical wedding cruise is a seven-day voyage in the Caribbean and/or The Bahamas, on a large cruise ship with less than ten guests in the group. However, almost 30 percent of agents report booking wedding groups of 10 to 20 guests and over 10 percent book wedding parties of 20 to 30, and some cruise lines have reported wedding parties of as much as 200
— The typical cruise wedding clientele are mid-priced travelers aged 44
or younger who book eight to 10 months ahead
Here is a sampling of how CLIA member lines cater to bridal couples and other
Azamara offers legal, captain-led wedding ceremonies, vow renewals and in-port
wedding programs. Partnering with The Wedding Experience, a variety of
packages feature everything from private receptions in the ship’s specialty
restaurant to cake, Champagne and more. Guests should book in advance to
ensure processing of legal documents and licenses.
CARNIVAL CRUISE LINES
Some 2,300 couples will take advantage of Carnival’s all-inclusive wedding
packages this year, a 50 percent increase from a decade ago. Carnival’s
wedding programs include an official civil ceremony, reception and other
value-added features and can be tailored to the couple’s wishes. Shipboard
ceremonies are available on embarkation day in Carnival’s U.S. ports and many
Caribbean destinations. Vow renewal packages are also available.
Celebrity’s most popular wedding package is the “Nautical Nuptials” program
featuring a captain-led wedding ceremony at sea offered on all Celebrity ships
except Celebrity Xpedition. Other packages available include a “Bridesmaids’
Tea Party,” a “Cigar and Cognac Party,” a “Test the Waters” package and a
“Welcome Reception.” Vow renewal celebrations are also offered.
Costa’s cruise weddings take place while the ship is in port, either onboard
or on land, with the company’s wedding planners taking care of all the
details. Couples may invite guests to join the full cruise or simply spend
wedding day with the bride and groom. Among the choices are a “Caribbean
Island Wedding” in a beach or garden location, or an “Italian Shipboard
Wedding” in keeping with Costa’s romantic heritage.
Crystal offers captain-led wedding vow renewal ceremonies and it is rare that
one of the company’s ships sails without at least one honeymoon couple.
Focusing on helping guests plan and enjoy a completely customized honeymoon
rather than a pre-packaged program, Crystal offers such romantic options as a
candlelight dinner on a suite’s verandah, onboard florists, a portrait studio
and private shore excursions.
DISNEY CRUISE LINE
Guests on Disney Cruise Line can exchange vows onboard the ship or step ashore
for a romantic beach-side ceremony on the line’s private island paradise,
Castaway Cay. With a magical Fairy-Godmother functioning as wedding planner,
Disney’s Fairy Tale Weddings handles all the details, including floral
arrangements, elegant cakes and Champagne toasts. For many couples, Disney is
also the ultimate honeymoon experience.
HOLLAND AMERICA LINE
Holland America offers a Wedding Package as part of its Group Advantage
Program (GAP). The wedding couple enjoys a free stateroom upgrade and a
commemorative wedding cake with at least eight staterooms booked and the
entire group enjoys numerous amenities, including a Pinnacle Grill lunch,
private wine tastings, and chocolate-covered strawberries and Chase Limogere
Brut in their staterooms.
MSC offers a variety of amenity packages to enhance cruise honeymoons and
other romantic occasions. These range from a bottle of Asti Spumante and a
special fruit basket or a bottle of Ferrari Perle and cold canapes, to a
“Romantic Sunrise” — Champagne in commemorative flutes, orange juice and
pastries — to a “Romantic Sunset” — Champagne in commemorative flutes and
NORWEGIAN CRUISE LINE
Norwegian offers two wedding packages — “Onboard Aisles” and “On Shore
Aisles” — available in ports in the U.S., Canada, Europe, the Caribbean,
Mexico and Bermuda. Both include a ceremony conducted by a local official plus
all the features of a wedding, from music to wedding cake and sparkling wine.
Norwegian also offers vow renewal packages and an “Engagement Aisles” program
for the ultimate proposal at sea.
PAUL GAUGUIN CRUISES
French Polynesia in the South Seas is the setting for “A Lifetime of Memories”
as the staff of Paul Gauguin create an unforgettably romantic event for
honeymooners or those celebrating an anniversary. Among the features are a
celebratory bottle of Champagne, a Polynesian blessing ceremony performed by
Les Gauguines, an exclusive pillow gift and a photo portrait.
Princess pioneered weddings at sea more than a decade ago, and since then ship
captains have married thousands of couples while sailing in locations around
the globe. The unique “Tie the Knot at Sea” program offers ceremonies in the
Mediterranean, Caribbean, Alaska and other exotic locales, which couples can
customize with live music, flowers and reception options. In addition, a
harborside option enables couples to be married in port, and ashore weddings
are available in a variety of scenic ports.
REGENT SEVEN SEAS CRUISES
Guests wishing to make customized wedding plans in conjunction with a Regent
Seven Seas cruise may use the services of Royal Ocean Events, which can handle
all the details and requests. A honeymooner package features a letter of
congratulations from the captain, Veuve Clicquot Champagne and caviar,
in-suite canapes every afternoon, a miniature wedding cake and Leonidas
chocolates and more.
ROYAL CARIBBEAN INTERNATIONAL
In addition to a “Royal Romance” package featuring a one-hour wedding ceremony
onboard ship or on shore on embarkation day, couples on Royal Caribbean can
exchange vows while climbing the ships’ rock walls or ice-skating or even
catching the waves on the shipboard Flowrider. Shoreside wedding venues
include the glaciers of Alaska, European castles, rainforests and an Italian
SEADREAM YACHT CLUB
SeaDream offers two wedding vow renewal ceremonies — one designed for couples
only, the other for as many as 12 guests — and both conducted by the yacht’s
captain. Iced Champagne and canapes, a cake and flowers add special touches to
the elegance of an elegant luxury yacht experience. SeaDream points out four
couples who have completed the legal process at home, the shipboard vow
renewal ceremony can serve as a wedding.
UNIWORLD BOUTIQUE RIVER CRUISES
Offering an intimate and elegant atmosphere, Uniworld’s boutique hotel-style
ships provide the ideal situation for couples to charter the vessel and create
the wedding of their dreams. Uniworld can accommodate 82 to 160 guests,
depending on the ship, and offers flexibility to customize itineraries and
inclusions. Short of this, Uniworld river cruise itineraries are perfectly
suited for honeymooners whether they want to explore Europe or even the
treasures of the Nile in Egypt.
Windstar invites couples celebrating honeymoons, renewing wedding vows or
honoring a special anniversary to discover romance at sea. Chilled Champagne,
chocolate-dipped seasonal fruit, breakfast in bed, “Time for Two” massages and
elegant dinners for two at sunset are among the amenities featured on the line
that has been named “Most Romantic Cruise Line” by Porthole Magazine.