By Michael Coleman
Tying the knot at sea is as old as cruise travel itself but at no time in the history of modern cruise travel has the opportunity for romance been greater at sea than today.
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.
More and more landlubbers are learning 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 shore side wedding on a tropical beach; or a sunset marriage ceremony at sea with everyone in the wedding party enjoying the cruise which follows.
Whatever the plan — a wedding in the Caribbean or Bahamas on one of the newest and largest ships 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.
Additionally, many cruise lines offer honeymoon and vow renewal packages, bachelor and bachelorette parties, even programs for “popping the question” — the ultimate engagement party at sea.
More than 60 percent of travel agents report their cruise wedding business has increased in the last two years, according to the Cruise Lines International Association (CLIA). North America’s largest cruise industry organization, CLIA represents the interests of 25 member lines and counts 16,000 travel agencies among its membership.
A recent CLIA survey of more than 300 hundred travel agents who sell approximately 90 percent of all cruise travel revealed that weddings at sea were clearly gaining in popularity. Among the survey highlights:
More than 60 percent of agents report their cruise wedding business has increased in the last two years.
Why a cruise wedding? Almost 35 percent of agents say their clients want to combine a wedding with a honeymoon; more than 23 percent said value offered by cruise lines was the top reason.
For romance, nothing beats the Caribbean/Bahamas: More than 80 percent of agents rank this destination as the overwhelming favorite among cruise wedding clientele.
The typical wedding cruise is a seven-day voyage in the Caribbean and/or The Bahamas, on a large cruise ship with less than 10 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.
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).