Now that the dust has settled, it's time to share my cruise bride experiences. I loved my wedding and have such fond memories, but honestly, knowing what I know now, I wouldn't choose to do a cruise wedding again.
The nitty gritty:
Cruise: April 9 2014 Royal Caribbean of the Seas
Wedding: April 12, Poop Deck, Nassau
Guests: 50 on the boat, 62 total
Wedding Planner: Annamae Fox
Photographers: The R2 Studio
Travel Agent: Wendy Hicks
The Cruise - 0/5 stars
We picked RCCL and this particular cruise because my husband's grandparents love RCCL, and because this particular cruse satisfied our "must leave from miami, be < 5 days, and cost < $500 pp" requirements.
We did NOT go with RCCL's wedding department after hearing horror stories, but still tried to plan some things through their group department, thinking that would be better. huge mistake. Their group department was terrible, and something was wrong with everything.
We booked, through the group department, a sign in table for our group, an open bar cocktail party, and a conference room (we had a scavenger hunt, and the conf. room was our start/end).
I could probably write 5 pages of everything that went wrong with the RCCL, but, sparing you the gory details, our events went so badly that after talking to customer service, they opened a case with corporate and eventually gave us a refund.
If anyone is interested, I can share the whole story, but bottom line, DO NOT plan any events through Royal Caribbean. Even if you think "oh, but I just want a table to distribute my OOT bags. They can't screw that up.", don't do it. They can.
The Wedding - 5/5 stars
I am so immensely grateful that we went with Annamae Fox for the wedding.
The wedding was perfect. 100% perfect. Location, food, decorations, music, everything was amazing.
I was really nervous after having so many problems with the cruise that the wedding was going to also be a disaster. Everything went right. The guests got on busses to the venue, and people were telling us about how amazing the driver was, and how he had these great stories for every building they passed by. The poop deck was perfect. It was secluded, and our guests got to play on the beach and enjoy the tropical drinks. The food was OUTSTANDING. The cake was so tasty.
Anna kept everything going smoothly, and I got to actually enjoy the whole day and hang out with my guests. She kept things running on time, and kept me stress-free, happy, and fed
The Photographers - 10/5 stars
By far, I had been most nervous about finding photographers. Who in their right mind would sign up to photograph a whole destination wedding? Not just the wedding, but a whole cruise, and an engagement session? In a different country no less? If anyone was crazy enough to consider it, I was sure it was going to cost an arm and a leg.
I shared my concerns with my friend, who said "oh, my former-wedding-photographers-now-best-friends love this sort of stuff. You should call them"
I sheepishly emailed Robin & Renee, The R2 Studio, and within 5 minutes, I got a call. It was Robin.
"This sounds awesome! We'd love to!"
My jaw hit the floor.
At the end of the whole wedding, we had an engagement shoot, photos from every day of the cruise (including the scavenger hunt), a trash the dress shoot (on coco-cay the day before), photos from the whole wedding day, and vogue photos on the boat afterwards. All in all, we got over 1200 photos, not counting the engagement shoot photos (they flew out to CA a few months before to do those).
They are not only amazing photographers, but also amazing friends They gave us so many priceless memories. I'll let their photos speak for themselves.
Final thoughts, what details really worked
- Scavenger Hunt on the cruise. Everyone had a TON of fun, and it got all of our guests talking. Best ice breaker ever. We bought our questions from here: http://www.mymystery...shschuindo.html (As sketchy as the website is, I promise it's worth it).
- Hair & Makeup -- RCCL couldn't tell us if they could do hair and makeup until we were on the boat (again, RCCL was awful). Hair ended up being a non-issue. They opened the spa for us at 7am on saturday, and everyone got all dolled up while drinking champagne. Makeup we had to do ourselves, but everyone had already had lessons from sephora.
- Bingo cards. We made bridal bingo cards and Anna gave them out while we were taking family photos. Everyone jumped to play, and there wasn't that awkward-cocktail-hour problem, since everyone was rushing around trying to meet people to satisfy the cards
- OOT bags -- Everyone loved them, and we put a lot of detail into it. Totally worth it, even if it was difficult
- Travel agent -- Wendy was immensely kind and helpful coordinating the whole thing, and helped keep the heat on RCCL to make things right afterwards. I don't know what we'd do with out her, and say you should definitely use a travel agent to coordinate guests (so you don't have to!)
In the end, it was great having everyone in one place and seeing all our guests for several days, but I feel like we could have gotten that with an all-inclusive resort, and saved ourselves the cruise headache.