In the last few years, cruise lines have begun to crank up the services they offer couples who want to get married onboard. And the good news is that, as a result, planning your wedding can be as simple as planning your honeymoon. Potentially, you need make just one call (many lines have in-house wedding coordinators) and - poof - they arrange the ceremony, the menu, the cake, the flowers, the music. Everything, in fact, but the invitations. Some even help obtain wedding licenses. And it's easy to let them handle all the extras, from tuxedo rental to hair and spa appointments, too. Typically, onboard weddings are held in a ship's chapel (if it exists), a lounge, the library or a boardroom.
An onboard wedding can be a great value, as well. Prices start at about $800 and beyond (the sky's the limit) and this is on top of the cost of the cruise. While the wedding couple must be passengers on the cruise-of-choice, most lines with full-service packages include an option for land-side guests to come on board for a couple of hours.
For the most part, the lines that have embraced full-service weddings tend toward big-ship cruise companies. A few lines (such as Crystal and Cunard) don't allow onboard weddings. Others - and these fall mostly in the high-priced luxury category - such as Seabourn, don't provide any services (if you want to get married, bring your own minister).
Ultimately, it's important to remember that a cruise ship wedding may not be for everyone. If you've always dreamed of picking out each flower yourself, or getting married in your hometown, or in front of 300 people, you may not be happy with this simple approach. And getting married legally while at sea is complicated, so plan to have yours on the ship while it is in port, or even in the port itself.
Still intrigued? Check out our picks for the five best cruise lines for onboard weddings!
Princess is a prime choice because, of all the lines exploring onboard wedding options, it offers the best combination of features, services - and facilities. Princess' "Weddings at Sea" packages - available on Grand-class ships such as Grand Princess, Golden Princess, Star Princess, Diamond Princess and Caribbean Princess, have dedicated wedding chapels.
There are three possible options. The three Princess wedding packages offered include the "Diamond Package" for $2400, their most expensive option. You get a candlelit ceremony with flower arrangements and a string quartet, an orchid bouquet and boutonniere, a photographer (some prints are included), and a ceremony video. Before the wedding, the bride receives a facial and professional hair styling in the onboard salon; after the ceremony, the couple gets champagne with toasting glasses, wedding cake, and a lithograph painting of the ship. The "Emerald" and "Pearl" packages are slightly less expensive and offer simpler flowers, less pricey Champagne, and fewer amenities. Couples can also choose throw a reception on board for up to 80 people; prices begin at $70 per person.
Not only can your ceremony be conducted by the captain - but the line has also installed state-of-the-art technology that allows you to broadcast the ceremony live, via "Web Cam," to home-bound friends and family.
DISNEY CRUISE LINE
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It's a funky and quirky choice (particularly for second-marriage folks with young kids) ... and Disney offers a low-stress, low-hassle wedding package.
"Weddings at Sea" is available for three-, four- and seven-night cruises, and ranges in price from $2,878 to $5,038. That's a per-couple price including category 11 accommodations. Beyond that, the package includes a Florida marriage license, flowers, services of an "officient," a solo musician, champagne toast, two-tier wedding cake and $100 onboard credit. Other value-added elements include assistance by a wedding coordinator and dinner for two at Palo, the alternative restaurant on Disney Magic and Disney Wonder.
Dress steaming is included in the package price. We also love the option to have your wedding at Castaway Cay, Disney Cruise Line's private island, instead of onboard.
Oddly, Disney's wedding package includes no option for wedding guests.
NORWEGIAN CRUISE LINE
Norwegian offers the best range of packages, from a basic budget-conscious option to a full-blown extravaganza. Best ships? Any of NCL's newer "freestyle" vessels - in particular we recommend Norwegian Sun, Norwegian Star and Norwegian Dawn - because they feature a wide range of restaurants and easily available romantic dining for two.
NCL's packages start at $799 (ceremony-only option, eight guests permitted). Other options include "the intimate wedding," which, at $1,449 includes the ceremony, plus 13 additional guests. Beyond that, attendees will cost $24 apiece. Included with these events are hors d'oeuvres, a pianist, flowers and the officiant.
The ultimate deal is the "grand wedding" package and this one, at a cost of $2,399, is held in port (usually port of embarkation) and includes a lunch reception. Beyond the 23 guests included in this rate, others can attend for an extra $39 apiece (and it is not required that they be passengers). None of these rates include accommodations.
Packages are available only at embarkation ports in the U.S., Hawaii and Puerto Rico.
CARNIVAL CRUISE LINE
Carnival offers a "Deluxe Romance" package. Best bet - choose between Carnival Spirit, Pride and Legend because they have onboard chapels. But you can buy the package on any of the ships in the Carnival fleet.
The $1,450 package includes an official civil ceremony with a bouquet for the bride and a boutonniere for the groom. There's a decorated aisle and a photographer (prints are extra), and pre-recorded wedding music. The package also includes a 1.5 hour reception in a lounge for up to 20 people, including an ice carving centerpiece, a cocktail hour with open bar and hot-and-cold hors d'oeuvres, a champagne toast with keepsake flutes, a traditional two-tiered wedding cake with a bell cake topper, and coffee service. A live trio of musicians is an extra $270 per hour for dancing, and a video is $350. When it's over, you and your guests who booked cabins stay on for a honeymoon celebration cruise, and the others disembark. Want to invite more than 20 people? Extra guests are $24 per person.
Plan ahead if possible; the line limits weddings to port days and there's a minimum of three per day.
ROYAL CARIBBEAN INTERNATIONAL
Royal Caribbean's Royal Romance program rivals NCL's in terms of variety - with one extra plus: its coordinators will also arrange ceremonies at various ports of call.
There are three levels in Royal Romance, which is available in selected ports of call, ranging from the U.S. to the Caribbean to Europe. "Duet,", starting at about $1,095 (we're using Florida ports as a guide) is the most basic and includes the ceremony, photography, a photo in silver frame, cake and champagne. The "harmony," from $1,295) package allows for a few more extras (additional photos, breakfast in bed). And "symphony" (from $1,495) has a few more frills, such as a limo ride to the ship. All prices vary based on port locale and not every package is available in all destinations.
Receptions are not included in the price of the ceremony but Royal Caribbean does offer them -there's a formal wedding lunch ($45 per person); a buffet ($25) and simply cake & Champagne ($15). In most cases there's a 25-person minimum.
Arrangement of the aforementioned in-port ceremonies - which run the gamut from simply scenic (a beach in San Juan, Puerto Rico) to funky (a winery in Santorini, Greece) to the exotic (a ceremony atop a glacier in Juneau).
Spontaneous couples who want to plan a Royal Romances wedding less than 30 days from sailing pay an extra $150 late fee. Royal Caribbean charges fees for other services as well; you'll pay $150 for a wedding coordinator if you have an onboard reception and wedding parties of more than 25 guests require an additional wedding coordinator - and another $150. And so on.
Also, for those opting for the in-shore program, beware of the chance of missing that port-of-call due to inclement weather or mechanical issues. And read the fine print: "Please be advised that in the event of strikes, lockouts, riots, weather conditions, change of itineraries, missed ports, mechanical difficulties or other unforeseen circumstances, Royal Caribbean may at any time and without prior notice cancel, advance, postpone or deviate from any scheduled sailing or port of call. Royal Caribbean and Royal Romance shall not be liable for any loss whatsoever incurred by reason of such cancellation, advancement, postponement or deviation."
One exception applies to port deviation due to hurricanes; if the event must be cancelled, couples receive a refund for their wedding/reception.