|A newlywed couple shares a kiss on the Promenade Deck after being married at sea on the Caribbean Princess. (Handout)
Taking the plunge during an ocean voyage has a new meaning as thousands of couples are "tying the knot" or retying it while at sea.
In fact, sea-going destination weddings are the rage as an all-inclusive, hassle-free alternative while others deep into matrimony are renewing their vows.
Some 2,400 couples will marry this year on Carnival's "fun ships" that offer shipboard wedding packages, amenities and planning services.
Holland America Lines also arranges beachfront ceremonies on its idyllic private island, Half Moon Cay, in the Bahamas. The happy couple also enjoys many onboard amenities including a Pinnacle Grill lunch and private wine tastings.
Let's not forget the "Love Boat" line -- Princess Cruises -- that stakes a claim to having pioneered weddings at sea more than a decade ago. Thousands of Princess newlyweds have said their "I dos" while sailing around the world.
The line's Tie the Knot at Sea program offers ceremonies in the Mediterranean, Caribbean, Alaska and other exotic locales. A harbour-side option enables couples to be married off the ship in port.
Cruise lines offer easily planned, fully personalized ceremonies, receptions and honeymoons such as shipboard weddings on embarkation day, shore-side weddings on a tropical beach or a sunset ceremony at sea with everyone in the wedding party cruising along.
"Besides weddings, many lines offer honeymoon and vow-renewal packages, bachelor and bachelorette parties, even programs for popping the question - the ultimate engagement party at sea," said Lanie Fagan of Cruise Lines International Association.
A "typical" wedding cruise is a seven-day voyage in the Caribbean and/or the Bahamas on a large ship with up to 10 guests while some lines report wedding parties of 200, she added.
Here are some of the options for lovers and other romantics:
- Azamara captains lead wedding ceremonies and vow renewals with private receptions in the ship's specialty restaurant, cake, champagne and more.
- Celebrity Nautical Nuptials' package has the captain conducting the ceremony at sea and there's the Bridesmaids' Tea Party, Cigar and Cognac Party, and vow renewals. The Test the Waters package is a pre-wedding consultation and tour of a ship.
- Costa has a Caribbean Island Wedding on the beach or in a garden and the Italian Shipboard Wedding.
- Crystal captains perform ceremonies with customized honeymoon packages including a candlelight verandah dinner, onboard florists, portrait studio and private shore excursions.
- Disney calls on the "Fairy Godmother" to assist guests exchanging vows onboard ships or ashore at beach-side ceremonies on Castaway Cay in the Fairy Tale Wedding package.
- Norwegian has two wedding packages with the ceremony conducted by a local official along with vow renewals and an engagement program for the "ultimate proposal at sea."
- Paul Gauguin creates romantic times for honeymooners and those celebrating an anniversary in the South Seas with a Polynesian blessing ceremony.
- Regent Seven Seas offers customized wedding plans including champagne and caviar along with in-suite canapes every afternoon.
- Royal Caribbean lets couples exchange vows while climbing the ships' rock walls, ice skating or catching the waves on the shipboard Flowrider. Shore-side wedding venues include Alaska glaciers, European castles, rainforests and an Italian vineyard.
- Uniworld Boutique River Cruises allows couples to charter a ship for the wedding of their dreams for up to 160 guests while exploring Europe or the treasures of the Nile in Egypt.
- Windstar invites couples celebrating honeymoons, renewing vows or having a special anniversary to enjoy onboard treats including breakfast in bed, massages and elegant dinners for two at sunset.
If you tie one on at sea:
Here's an example of wedding packages and costs from Carnival. Just for the Bride and Groom packages are from $1,195 US with an official civil ceremony, champagne toast, flowers, wedding cake, music, decorated bridal aisle and photography.
Welcome Aboard packages are $1,635 US and add a reception with one-hour open bar, hot-and-cold hors d'oeuvres, two-tiered wedding cake and coffee. The Deluxe Romance package at $1,795 US makes it a one-and-a-half-hour reception and adds an ice carving.
For web links to the cruise lines and information, go to: www.cruising.org
Jim and Barb Fox can be reached at email@example.com