If you’re not plugged into the wedding cruise market, you’re missing out on a lucrative business. Take it from president and CEO of Cruise Lines International Association (CLIA), Christine Duffy:
“With interest in at-sea nuptials at an all-time high, it’s a great opportunity for travel agents to tap into this market—this can mean big business and make the difference between a good year and a great year. Booking weddings at sea for your clients should be a strategic endeavor—agents should be emotionally connected to their clients, work closely with cruise line wedding planning departments to ensure a successful event, attend local bridal shows to find business, and should position themselves in the local marketplace as someone who sells weddings as these newlyweds usually become loyal repeat clients.”
Cruise lines across the board offer a slew of wedding and honeymoon services. Here’s a sprinkling of those offerings.
carnival cruise lines
“Carnival Cruise Lines’ weddings provide an elegant, cost-effective and hassle-free way for couples to begin their lives together. Not only are the prices affordable, but the wide variety of dining, bar and venue choices make a Carnival wedding truly special and memorable for everyone,” says Carol Lyman, manager, Carnival weddings.
On average, Carnival hosts about 2,600 ceremonies a year, and that number could increase now that the cruise line completely revamped its wedding program offering upgraded amenities from the floral arrangements to new multi-tiered wedding cake options—coconut cream, red velvet, and chocolate ganache—baked on board.
The Just You & Me package (max eight guests and starting at $1,355) includes the wedding ceremony, bouquet and boutonniere, the tiered wedding cake, Champagne toast, photography services, decorated aisle and officiant. If a party of eight is just too small for the couple, there is the Time to Celebrate…Big! package (20 guests; $1,975) that includes all amenities from the Just You & Me package, but adds a 1.5-hour reception, open bar, hors d’oeuvres, and a custom-designed ice carving.
Wedding ceremonies can be held both on and off the ship. Recently, Carnival added Grand Turk and Freeport to the list of ports of call where couples can tie the knot; other Caribbean locales include Barbados, Grand Cayman, St. Thomas, and Half Moon Cay in the Bahamas. carnival.com or goccl.com
Each year, more than 300 couples exchange vows on board a Celebrity cruise ship. Celebrity offers couples all-inclusive wedding packages, coordinated by the line’s specialist vendor, The Wedding Experience; they also organize in-port weddings and vow renewal packages. Engaged couples can tie the knot on board a ship or while docked in ports like Aruba, Cozumel, Cabo San Lucas, Civitavecchia in Rome, Hawaii, Alaska, Santorini and Seattle.
On the Celebrity Reflection, weddings and receptions can be held at the ship’s conference center, a 2,853-sq.-ft. venue that can accommodate up to 220 guests. Expect prime catering from the ship’s James Beard-awarded chef cooking up pre-set appetizers, entrees, soups/salads and dessert menus for the wedding guests. If the guest list doesn’t reach triple digits, a quaint alternative is the half-acre Lawn Club (with real grass) located on the upper deck of the Solstice-class ships.
Receptions can also be held at the specialty restaurants on all Millennium-class ships; a minimum of 25 guests is allowed for private functions with either a set menu or buffet.
For honeymooners, or couples celebrating an anniversary, there’s the Classic Romance package with turndown service of rose petals sprinkled on the bed, chocolate-dipped strawberries and a bottle of Domaine Chandon Napa sparkling wine. The package is priced at $50. Celebrity’s Premium Romance package ($225) invites couples to relax in plush robes and slippers; enjoy a mimosa breakfast for two in bed; dinner for two; and a bottle of Perrier Jouet champagne to toast to the future.
celebritycruises.com or cruisingpower.com
holland america line
“Through our ship services department, we will connect with a travel agent and the customer to determine the extent of needs and wishes and then connect with our wedding planner to facilitate the details. Our goal is to make this as easy as possible. It’s a big event with lots to do and worry about so if we can make the journey a little less stressful that’s our goal,” says Erik Elvejord, director of public relations, Holland America Line.
Wedding cruise packages are available on each ship in Holland America Line’s fleet. Rates vary from $795 for a simple ceremony sailing for two on North America and Caribbean itineraries, and $3,870 for European sailings. Packages include a personalized ceremony; wedding coordinator services; cake; Champagne; a photo album; and a keepsake wedding certificate. Additional services from photography to music, receptions and pampering appointments can be added to the package. And group bookings bring added incentives for coupes that say “I do” with Holland. If eight, or more, staterooms are booked, the couple gets a free upgrade and a complimentary wedding cake for up to 16 guests. Guests too benefit with a Pinnacle Grill lunch, chocolate-dipped strawberries per stateroom, a bottle of Pierre Larousse Brut sparkling wine and a private 1-hour wine tasting per guest.
MSC Cruises recently announced at the annual Cruise3Sixty press conference in Miami that come August, on board the MSC Divina—which will head to the Mediterranean in April 2015—couples can have a legal wedding shipboard or ashore while docked in Miami, Cozumel, Grand Cayman, San Juan, St. Maarten or Falmouth, Jamaica.
“The wedding and honeymoon market is a tremendous opportunity for our valued travel agent partners and now they have the beauty and romance of the Mediterranean spirit provided by MSC Cruises to offer their clients,” says Ken Muskat, executive v.p. of sales, PR and guest services, MSC Cruises USA. “From dramatic Swarovski crystal staircases to panoramic ocean views from the stylish Galaxy restaurant and nightclub, MSC Divina hosts an assortment of stunning backdrops for couples to create their dream wedding.”
Along with these specific port-side ceremonies, MSC offers symbolic wedding ceremonies for couples that want to have a celebration at sea. Packages range from Silver to Gold and Platinum starting with the bare bone amenities like a wedding cake, bouquet for the bride and matching boutonniere for the groom, and 24/7 access to the onboard wedding planner; the Platinum package adds photography and a deluxe in-cabin breakfast for the newlyweds the morning after. msccruises.com or msccruisesagent.com/index
“We believe Windstar’s ‘private yacht style’ creates a truly intimate experience. Windstar continues to focus on small ships with less than 300 passengers—this means less people on board, access to places larger ships cannot go, exceptional personal service and unique experiences on shore. This naturally makes for a very romantic product,” says Joe Duckett, Windstar’s v.p. of marketing and sales.
Honeymooners will swoon on a Windstar Cruises sailing yacht: the sound of the billowing sails, a romantic sunset, and only a few hundred passengers (from 148 to 310 guests) on board—it’s the perfect recipe for romance.
Noted as “The World’s Most Romantic Cruise Line” for six years by Porthole Cruise Magazine, Windstar’s itineraries and staterooms are made for guests celebrating an anniversary, vow renewal, wedding or honeymoon.
A top honeymoon destination for Windstar is Tahiti where guests sail from one picturesque island to another for some snorkeling and exploring the island’s rainforests. In Bora Bora, Windstar offers a romance package that includes a night in a secluded overwater bungalow, a private beachside dinner for two, and breakfast the next morning delivered by canoe and served on the bungalow’s private deck.
windstarcruises.com or agentcenter.windstarcruises.com ●