Valentine's Day is a couple of days away – and maybe your thoughts are turning to tying the knot. Why not combine your wedding with a honeymoon cruise, all in one neat package? Getting married at sea is not just a romantic notion, it can be a practical, budget-friendly alternative to all the fuss and stress of a big production at home.
In Australia, weddings are held onboard ships from Carnival Cruise Line, Royal Caribbean, P&O Cruises and Princess Cruises. These lines offer ceremonies that are put together by their in-house co-ordinators and while the packages vary regarding inclusions and cost, they take care of the venue, cake, photographer, flowers, music and sparkling wine for the toast.
Packages allow for lots of individual extras – you might want drinks and canapes served, a string quartet playing, or photo sessions around the ship – it all depends on your budget. P&O Cruises' standard wedding package costs $2500, for a minimum of 16 guests – and by the way, your guests will be travelling with you because shipboard weddings aren't open to non-sailing guests. So think carefully about your guest list!
Ceremonies are usually held in a venue that holds about 30 guests – some ships have chapels, or you could marry in a restaurant, the library – or on Royal Caribbean's Quantum and Ovation of the Seas, even in the North Star capsule overlooking a magnificent ocean or port vista.
To make it legal in Australia and New Zealand, a registered celebrant must conduct the wedding; you can choose your own or ask the ship's ceremony co-ordinator to find one for you. Wedding ceremonies are held in port, so the celebrant can get off the ship afterwards, although Princess also offers shoreside weddings in some Australian ports, which gives you greater flexibility with guest numbers.
If you want to get married on an overseas cruise you'll need to discuss your plans with the line's ceremony co-ordinator and allow plenty of time (a Princess spokeswoman says at least 60 days before sailing) for the co-ordinator to book the wedding and sort out the marriage licence.
On some ships, the captain can legally conduct the wedding at sea – think of the photo ops! – it depends on where the ship is registered. The cruise lines that allow this are Royal Caribbean (registered in the Bahamas), Cunard and Princess (registered in Bermuda), and Azamara Club Cruises and Celebrity Cruises (registered in Malta). As these lines have about 50 ships between them, cruising all over the world, you'll have an amazing choice of destinations for your nautical nuptials.
MEET THE CREW
NAME Steve Marchant, from Canada
POSITION Cruise Director, Tauck's MS Grace and MS Savor
MY JOB I work closely with the captain, chef, hotel manager and crew to achieve the best guest service possible on the ship. I also co-ordinate shore excursions with our expert local guides.
A TYPICAL DAY No day aboard is typical – things are never boring. Guests are always welcome to remain on the ship even when we're docked. We offer fun and educational programs, a selection of dining options and sometimes encourage guests to simply find a lounge chair and enjoy the ride.
FAVOURITE CRUISE MOMENT The highlight of river cruising for me is spending time on the sun deck watching the world pass by.
INSIDER TIPS Guests new to river cruising typically ask about what to wear. Dress on the river tends to be resort casual, but we urge guests to bring one dressier outfit for our gala dinner on board, and for our special meal ashore – usually in a castle, palace or some other amazing venue! Dress is more casual during daily sightseeing, where a pair of comfortable walking shoes is essential.
Just in case you get the urge to splurge, pack a foldaway expandable bag in your luggage that weighs virtually nothing. See a selection of sizes and styles at gogogear.com.au.
Orion sails the South Pacific
Lindblad Expeditions' National Geographic Orion will spend the 2018 spring and summer season, from March to August, sailing a variety of one and two-week itineraries in the South Pacific and French Polynesia. Highlights include snorkelling in a UNESCO Biosphere Reserve and the Pitcairn Islands, navigating the lagoon at Rangiroa (one of the largest atolls in the world), exploring the hidden waterfalls of the Marquesas island group and taking part in cultural activities in Samoa. NG Orion is equipped with Zodiacs, kayaks, paddleboards, snorkelling gear and a glass-bottom boat; it also offers a scuba diving program for up to 24 passengers at one time with two dive masters. Cruises onboard the 102-passenger ship include drinks and gratuities. See au.expeditions.com
Aqua Expeditions' hosted cruises
Following the success of its 2016 hosted voyages, Aqua Expeditions is offering two more four-day hosted cruises in October and November 2017. Company founder and chief executiveFrancesco Galli Zugaro and consulting chef Pedro Miguel Schiaffino will be onboard Aria Amazon on the Peruvian Amazon and Aqua Mekong on the Mekong in Vietnam and Cambodia, in October and November. Passengers can join Galli Zugaro on a biking adventure along the Mekong or kayaking on the Amazon and, over cocktails, learn how he built this boutique company and its beautiful vessels. Or you can take cooking classes and market visits with Schiaffino, , the chef-owner of two of Lima's top restaurants, and discover the secrets of his signature dishes onboard the ship. See aquaexpeditions.com.
Next January 25, Ponant's L'Austral will set sail from Sydney on a 40-night circumnavigation of Australia that will visit some of the most fascinating ports and remote regions in the country. The cruise has been exclusively designed by Cruiseco and Ponant and there will be several overnight off-ship excursions, allowing passengers to spend extended time in select destinations and reboard the ship in the next port of call. Among the many highlights are visits to Tasmania's Freycinet, Tamar Valley and King Island; Kangaroo island and Port Lincoln in SA; Ningaloo Reef, Broome, Talbot Bay and Wyndham in WA; and Darwin and the Yirrkala Aboriginal Settlement in the Northern Territory. A specialist expedition crew will be onboard to share their knowledge about history, wildlife, geology and marine biology.
DEAL OF THE WEEK
MyCruises is offering an exclusive 10-night fly-stay-cruise and Alaskan highlights package on NCL's upcoming ship, Norwegian Bliss, which is set to cruise Alaska from June 2018. MyCruises' package includes a seven-day round-trip cruise from Seattle visiting Ketchikan, Juneau, Sawyer Glacier, Skagway and Victoria, onboard dining and drinks packages, return flights from Australia, three nights' accommodation in Seattle. Fares start from $4990 for itineraries in June, July, August and September 2018; phone 1300 69 2784 or see MyCruises.com.au.
SCENIC Book cruises on Scenic Eclipse's inaugural season at special preview prices, available only until the release of the full brochure in March. For example, the 10-day Taste of Cuba and the Caribbean cruise, from Miami to Cartagena, starts from $8895, with accommodation in a 32-square-metre verandah suite. Departing October 31, 2018; phone 138 128, see scenic.com.au.
SEABOURN's annual Signature Savings Event is on sale until March 14. On select sailings in 2017-18, there are complimentary verandah suite upgrades, shipboard credit of $US1000 a suite for penthouse and premium suites, 50 per cent reduced deposits and additional savings of up to 15 per cent on Combination Cruises.
Guests travelling to Europe can receive a $600 a person round-trip air credit on select 2017 voyages. Phone 13 24 02, see seabourn.com.