Of the 2.3 million couples in the U.S. tying the knot each year, some 11 percent of those couples will take their honeymoon somewhere on the open waters. According to CLIA, a large percentage of those cruising honeymooners are having their wedding at sea as well. In fact, the number is so large that Princess Cruises, the original “Love Boat,” has introduced a marriage module for agents who want to specialize in cruising through its Princess Academy.
Earlier this year, Princess Academy launched the Tie the Knot program to help travel agents become wedding experts and plan dream ceremonies at sea for their clients. It is part of the company’s comprehensive online training program, which was started in 2006.
Possibly the most comprehensive online training program in the cruise industry, Princess Academy presents more than 30 course modules centering on product and sales training. Among the most popular courses are Dining Options, Onboard Experience andDestinations. It’s designed to help agents build their business by becoming experts on a wide range of topics as they earn their “stripes” and progress through four levels of mastery: First Officer, Staff Captain, Captain and finally Commodore. They also earn valuable rewards, including onboard perks, and become eligible for a graduation cruise.
This new nuptials-centric course gives agents the knowledge to become the Princess wedding expert in their office and help clients choose from among the line’s customizable wedding packages.
Princess is one of the few cruise companies to have a weddings at sea program. It started in 1998 on the line’s larger vessels with formal wedding chapels, but is now also available aboard Sun Princess, Dawn Princess, Sea Princess, Regal Princess, Pacific Princessand Tahitian Princess. The ships have all been reflagged to a Bermuda registry, an authority making each marriage legally certified.
“Weddings at sea have been a popular feature aboard Princess ships since we pioneered the concept more than a decade ago,” says Jan Swartz, Princess’ executive v.p. of sales, marketing and customer service. “This topic has been one of our most requested atPrincess Academy, and the course has been designed to give agents valuable insight on how to help their clients plan a Princess wedding, and also gain new customers by booking the wedding guests. Our wedding program not only gives couples the opportunity to be married by the captain, but also customize the wedding of their dreams.”
“More than 1,000 marriage ceremonies were performed aboard a Princess ship last year, possibly because it requires much less work and much less cost than a land-based wedding,” says Princess spokesperson Karen Candy. “Princess has dedicated wedding chapels on board many of its vessels and provides customizable packages for brides and grooms. And, a wedding with Princess is significantly cheaper than a wedding within a land-based vacation. It’s a great way to tie the wedding and honeymoon together. It also can mean large group bookings and more revenue for agents.”
In addition to the basics, the course gives agents sales tips and background on all of Princess’ romantic onboard activities, including the renewal of vows program, honeymoon and anniversary packages, and even the dramatic Engagement Under the Stars option where proposals are shown on the ship’s big screen.
“Because the wedding certificate comes from Bermuda, it usually takes about a month to secure all of the paperwork,” says Candy. So, while couples can’t elope on a Princess cruise, they can get engaged with our Engagement Under the Stars surprise proposal package.”
Princess offers three comprehensive wedding packages that can be enhanced and customized. The Tie the Knot at Sea package has a base price of $1,800 plus a $450 license fee and includes use of the onboard wedding chapel, a candlelit ceremony officiated by the captain, use of a wedding coordinator, live music, two floral arrangements, rose bouquet for the bride, groom’s boutonniere, the services of a photographer, wedding cake, champagne and two keepsake flutes. The Tie the Knot Harborside package ranges from $1,300 to $2,000, plus licensing fees up to $500 depending on the port, and includes priority check-in and boarding for the couple and guests, onboard wedding ceremony performed by a non-denominational officiant, wedding coordinator, recorded music, silk floral arrangements, bouquet and boutonniere, photographer, wedding cake, champagne, and a keepsake certificate. The Tie the Knot Ashore package runs $1,800 to $2,200, plus licensing fees and can be arranged as a beach or garden ceremony, with transportation for the couple, officiant, wedding coordinator, bouquet and boutonniere, photographer, cake for two, champagne, and a keepsake certificate.