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Cruisebride2016 Cruise Wedding Planning Thread

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There is not much out there for cruise brides, so I wanted to create a thread that might be helpful to anyone planning a wedding cruise.

 

How We Met

In 2013, I was interested in a singles Mediterranean cruise, but initially, it was sold out. Luckily, when I checked back a few weeks later, there was availability, so I booked right away. On the other hand, Manny was looking at a trip to Crete, but couldn't find a flight. So, he booked the Mediterranean cruise instead. When we stepped onto Norwegian's Epic in June 2013 with a group of 70 single people, we thought we were just going on vacation and meeting new friends. We talked a few times throughout the week, but the sparks really flew once we danced together during the Hot White Party. We got more than we bargained for when we met each other on this life altering trip!

 

Our Relationship

Since Manny has been living in Ireland and I live in California, our entire relationship has been long distance. Fortunately, we both have a lot of vacation days each year and have been able to see each other about every 6 weeks. We meet in different locations each time, including multiple cruises. Over the past 2 years, we have explored 25 countries together.

 

The Ring

We had started talking about marriage. Manny decided that he would rather me have a ring I loved instead of being surprised. So, he gave me a budget and I got to go shopping. Remember, he is still in Ireland, so he wasn't involved in the shopping process at all. I went to Shane Co. with a girlfriend where I was able to select a band, then choose the center stone. Of course, I checked with Manny and since I had stayed within budget, I got his approval! When Manny came out to California for Thanksgiving, we went together to pick up the final ring.

 

The Proposal

In November 2014, we went to San Francisco to celebrate Thanksgiving. I knew he had the engagement ring, but didn't know when he would be asking. The day after Thanksgiving, we went sightseeing in the city. We wanted to ride the cable car, but a portion of the line was closed due to the tree lighting in Union Square. So, we tried to find another place to get on the cable car. After walking up and down the hills from the Market turntable to the Hyde turntable, Manny gave up on the idea of getting onto the cable car, and got down on one knee and asked me to marry him next to the cable cars at the turntable.

 

 

Deciding on a Cruise

Since Manny and I met on a cruise, it was easy for us to decide we wanted to go on a cruise for our wedding. But, selecting the actual cruise was probably the hardest part of the planning so far. I think it took us a few weeks to make this decision. We preferred to do this portion on our own just by looking at the cruise line websites. There are multiple factors to consider, such as dates, cruise line, itinerary, and ship. Here is some insight into our thought process in which cruise would be the best choice.

 

Types of Cruise Weddings

When it comes to a wedding cruise, you can either do the wedding on the cruise ship or in port.

  • Ship wedding on embarkation day. The benefit of this type of wedding is that guests can come on for only the wedding and don’t have to sail with you. Of course, the guests who aren’t sailing have to get off prior to the ship leaving. This is great for people with guests that could easily drive to the port, but that wasn’t the case for us. Also, most reviews made it sound like it is a very hectic day because the group (especially the bride) doesn’t have much time to get onto the ship and get ready prior to the ceremony. Therefore, we concluded this wouldn’t work for us.
  • Ship wedding at sea. I had always envisioned the wedding on a cliff overlooking the ocean, so I knew the wedding chapel on the ship or even on the deck did not fit my vision.
  • Port wedding. I had searched online for venues with the view I was looking for and I fell in love with Firefly in Jamaica. Therefore, this is where we focused our energy. All our guests will got off the ship in port, then travel to the venue for the ceremony, then return back to the ship later that same day.

 

Date

We got engaged in November 2014 and knew we wanted to have at least 1 year to plan the wedding. Also, we expected to get married in the Caribbean and hurricane season is May to November. We didn’t want to ask our guests to travel during the holiday season in November or December. And, we felt guests might find it difficult to pay for a cruise after the holidays, so ruled out January. Since February and March are busy travel times due to spring breaks, we finally settled on April 2016. We did not care what our actual wedding date is, but if you are set on a date, you will need to be more flexible about the location of the wedding in order to make sure you get married on that date.

 

Cruise Line

Even though Manny and I met on Norwegian, our preferred cruise line is Royal, so we focused on Royal cruises. We did also look at Carnival because their cruises were cheaper, but we felt the mature atmosphere of Royal was more fitting for our guests than the party atmosphere of Carnival.

 

Length of Cruise

At first, we thought about a 3 or 4 day cruise so that our guests wouldn’t have to take as much time off. But, once we realized these cruises usually went to 1-2 ports and had 1 day at sea, we thought the guests would feel like the cruise was a waste of time since most of it would be spent on the wedding. Also, since our guests would be flying to the port, they would need 1 day of travel prior and 1 day after. Therefore, they would end up taking off the same amount of time from work for a 6-7 day cruise as a 3-4 day cruise because the longer cruise would include weekend days.

 

Itinerary

There are multiple ways to approach this. I think you have to figure out on which factor is most important to you- ports, price or ship.

·         Ports Visited

I knew that Jamaica was my favorite location, so we started with cruises that went to Jamaica, but did look at other ports also. One big consideration is whether the port is docked or tendered. I had read too many stories and have personally experienced a tendered port being missed due to rough seas, so we didn’t want to take a chance of planning a port wedding in a location that was tendered.

·         Embarkation port

For a Caribbean cruise that went to Jamaica, we could sail out of Galveston (Texas), Port Canaveral (Florida), or Fort Lauderdale (Florida). We realized that both Galveston and Port Canaveral were at least 1 hour away from the airport, which would add the challenge of transportation from the airport to the port. We felt it would be easiest to sail from Fort Lauderdale since the airport is very close to the port.

 

Ship

Since we had it narrowed down to a Royal Caribbean cruise that left from Fort Lauderdale and sailed to Jamaica, we had 3 ships to choose from- Navigator of the Seas, Allure of the Seas, and Oasis of the Seas.

 

Final Decision

Since Allure and Oasis are some of the newest ships, the price was much higher. We thought the higher price might limit whether some of our guests would be able to join us. Also, the cruises on Allure and Oasis were 7 days, whereas the Navigator was a 6 day cruise. The 6 day cruise allows guests to travel on Saturday and get on the cruise on Sunday, then fly home either the same day as disembarkation (Saturday) or stay one more night before flying home on Sunday. We felt the shorter and cheaper cruise would be the best option for our guests.

 

Things We Learned

Now that we are actually planning the wedding, one of the negative aspects of our cruise is that we are docked in Jamaica from 7am to 4pm. This means that I will have to be up very early in order to get ready in time. Not every factor can be perfect, so I think making the entire trip better for the guests is more important than me being inconvenienced for a short time.

 

Also, some countries, such as Jamaica, do not observe daylight savings. From November to March, they are the same time as Eastern time, but from April to October they are 1 hour behind. Many cruise ships stay on Eastern time (“ship time”) during this time of the year, instead of switching to the time in each port (“local time”). Unfortunately, this depends on the captain of the ship. Therefore, it makes it difficult to make plans on the island because we are not 100% sure of the time we will be arriving and leaving.

 

Booking the Cruise/Group Booking Benefits

Since we expected to meet the minimum for a group booking of 16 guests, we elected to have a travel agent set-up a group booking for us.

 

Manny and I wanted to lock-in a rate to know guests would not pay higher than that price, so we paid a $200 refundable deposit per room. You can hold as many rooms as you would like. We will get our money back once all the guest deposits are paid or unbooked rooms are released, which will be in December. If the price of the cruise is lower than our group rate at the time a guest is booking, they will get the lower rate. Or, if the price drops after guests have booked, we can contact the travel agent and she is able to reprice those rooms (and we have already done this a few times). Therefore, our group price just guarantees the max price.

 

Our guests are contacting the travel agent directly. She is able to answer any of their questions and is booking their cruise. Once they are confirmed, she informs me so that I can keep track of who is coming.

 

For each 16 full paying guests, we will earn money (called tour conductor credits). So far, it looks like we will be getting about $600 per 16 guests. You can use this to pay toward someone’s cabin, keep it as onboard credit yourself, or disperse it amongst the guests. The details of how this is figured out are confusing, so I won’t go into the specifics at this time. I can explain if anyone has questions and will probably better understand once we get our final head count.

 

Each cruise also has group amenity points (GAP). I know you get these if you book through a travel agent, but not sure if you would get them if you created a group directly through the cruise line. The number of credits depends on the sailing, so some have no points and others may have 8. It seems 4 is the average. Travel agents are able to get this information ahead of time, so it could help in determining which cruise would provide more points. These points can be used to give your guests a bottle of wine per stateroom, cocktail hour, onboard credit, etc. For example, our cruise has 6 points, so we are hoping to pay for a dinner at a specialty restaurant (4 points) and give $25 onboard credit per stateroom (2 points). Travel agents don’t have to give you all the points, so it would be something to discuss in the beginning before signing a contract.

 

Now that the cruise was booked, it was time to move on to planning the actual wedding, but I will leave that for another post J

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Yay! Another thread to read! I love your story! So cute! Sometimes life just does things that there is no explanation for and you just have to roll with it. Making a long distance relationship work for 2 years is no easy feat so congrats to both of you! I love cruising although we're Carnival cruisers. I don't have sea legs though so I live on dramamine the whole time but i'm ok with it. I love being on board!

 

Looking forward to reading more!! This will definitely help any future cruise brides to be that find the site!

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Awe love your story!! Congrats to you both. Your ring is absolutely gorgeous. Love the band!!

 

I've never been on a cruise myself as I'm scared to get dizzy! But you are tempting me to try! My co worker just got married on a cruise ship I do believe it was in Jamaica as well. I'll ask her :)

 

Can't wait for more.

 

 

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I love our story also. After the cruise, my advice to single people was to do what you enjoy (cruising for me) and you might find someone with similar interests. A long distance relationship has been challenging, but we have made it work by talking pretty much every day and seeing each other regularly. Spoiler alert...he will moving to California in less than 2 months, so I am so excited!!!

 

@acw271011- Thank you! I have cruised Carnival before and enjoyed it. We just felt it wasn't the best fit for our wedding :) If you have trouble with seasickness, you should look into getting scopalamine patches beforehand so that you don't have to worry about taking dramamine. Luckily, out of all the nights I have cruised, there has only been 1 night where the motion got to me.

 

@calgarybride2015- I still love my ring, so he made a good decision to let me pick it out! Thank you!! Cruising is so much fun! I love that I can take my luggage on the ship, then unpack and not have to worry about moving it again until the end of the trip. And, we are able to visit multiple locations within a short period of time. Instead of spending time in an airport, train, or car, we are partying away while the captain takes us to the next location :) You can always try a short cruise to test it out and see if you like it. I recommend getting a room that is as close to the middle (both front/back and up/down) to decrease the motion in your room.

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First off, congratulations on your engagement! I love your story and am so glad you two were able to make your long distance relationship work. We were on the Epic last year, we're Norwegian cruisers. My family loves cruises so we've been to three so far. I've heard a lot of great things about Royal Caribbean and excite to learn more about cruise weddings. Can't wait to hear more about your plans

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What a great post! That will be really helpful for other brides interested in a cruise wedding!

 

Love the story of how you met and how you are "going back to the scene of the crime" for the wedding. We are doing the same thing - we met at a destination wedding in Mexico. We are also getting married in April next year and basically for the same reasons as you in terms of eliminating other months. Except I also have a lot of work travel in November and we both have work events in February that would be hard to plan around.

 

Looking forward to your updates. It's nice to hear about a different DW experience.

 

 

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@Wafflesmom- A long distance relationship has been quite challenging, but at least it gave us a reason to travel :) We enjoyed Epic, especially when we were single because they have the studios that are perfect for single travelers.

 

@vancouverpetunia- When we started talking about marriage, I began my research and came across cruise weddings. I was immediately interested, but wasn't sure what he would think. Not much later, he was talking about things he was looking at and mentioned a cruise wedding. So, I admitted that I was looking at the same thing and we were both excited that we came to an agreement on a starting point for the wedding. It is great that you guys are also coming full circle also!

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Sorry it has been almost 2 months since I have added any updates. My addition today won't bring us up to my current status, but it will bring us closer. I'll try to post more sooner than 2 months :)

 

Venue

Unfortunately, my travel agent wasn’t familiar with venues in Jamaica, so I had to do my own research. One problem is that we only need the venue for a few hours since we are getting off a cruise. Some of the venues I found either required you to stay at the resort in order to have a ceremony or you had to pay for the entire day, which was too expensive. I contacted a few different wedding coordinators in Jamaica in January 2015 for an April 2016 wedding. One coordinator told me to contact them again once the wedding was less than a year away and another didn’t respond. I ended up going with Tropical Weddings Jamaica, which has gotten wonderful reviews on this website! Almarie was very quick to respond to emails, which I appreciate. My fiancé and I ended up going to Jamaica in February 2015 and looked at 3 venues-Ocho Rios Oceanfront Terrace Deck, Ocho Rios Beachfront Garden Gazebo, and Grande Oceanfront. They were all great options, but the Grande Oceanfront is exactly what I had always envisioned for my wedding day!

 

Wedding Website

Once we had booked the cruise and the venue, we created a wedding website. We had this ready before we sent out invitations because we wanted to direct everyone to the website with all the details. We didn’t need it to be anything special, just wanted it to be able to get across the information we needed. We used mywedding.com and have been happy with it. We made it private and provided the guests with a password.

 

Save the Date/Invitations

We chose to save some money and use our save the dates as the invitations because all of our guests were already aware of the wedding, so we just needed to give them the dates and the link to the wedding website. Our travel agent provided us with 100 free save the dates, which were postcards, so we used these. We bought envelopes so that the postcard wouldn’t get damaged in the mail. We mailed these out in April 2015. I have attached a picture of the front of the save the date. On the back, we had the dates for the cruise and the website address and password.

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Well, I don't have my planning thread up to date for where I am in the planning process, but I have had recent drama, so I am going to skip to current issues.

 

We have been working with a travel agent to book our wedding cruise for April 2016 and have 31 people booked. Luckily, a few months ago there was a really good deal through the cruise line that was lower than our group rate (and fortunately the travel agent was able to get that rate directly through Royal), so most of our guests booked during this promotion. Our cabin release date was December 4th (yesterday). This means that for guests to get our group rate, they needed to book by that date. Otherwise, any rooms we had on hold that did not have a deposit and names would be released back to the cruiseline. And, if anyone else wants to book after this date, it will be at the current rate offered by Royal, which is higher than our group rate.

 

Well, the drama is that I had sent an email (our usual form of communication) to my travel agent on Monday (Nov 30th) to verify our bookings and transfer a booking for someone who had booked directly through Royal. Usually, she responds within 24 hours, but this time she didn't. I lost track of time and didn't notice she hadn't respond until Thursday evening, so I sent another email. When I hadn't heard from her by noon on Friday (our release date), I finally took the time to call the travel agency. I entered her extension and someone else answered the phone. She informed me that my travel agent was no longer with the company and they were in the process of distributing her work. I was shocked and disappointed because I was worried the fact they dropped the ball and didn't inform me sooner would negatively impact us. Oh, and the other problem is that the travel agency is located on the East Coast of the US and I am on the West Coast (i.e 3 hour time difference) and I called during my lunch time, which was 3-4pm East Coast time and they leave the office at 5pm. Therefore, the person I talked to had very little time to contact the cruiseline and take care of the last requests that I had. She called my back while I was working and couldn't answer so she left a voicemail saying that she had completed all my requests and that she would send me an email with the details. Oddly, I never got an email. I tried calling her back shortly after she left the voicemail to ask a few more questions but she didn't answer, so I left a message and never got a phone call back.

 

Now, our cabin release date has passed and I am left not knowing exactly where our booking stands. Like I said, luckily most people had booked early, so we don't have a bunch of guests scrambling to get a booking at the deadline date, but it is still frustrating to have no one assigned to help me at the time of my deadline.

 

I just needed to vent a bit, so thanks for being here for me to vent!!

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