When it comes to setting the stage for onboard romance, Princess Cruises has long been more successful than any other line in aptly making this point: If you’re a couple, of whatever age or tenure, and you want a simply swooning experience, book yourself on a Princess cruise.
From the earliest stages of our one-year courtship and seven-year marriage, we’ve experienced all the best heart-driven stuff that Princess can throw at us – sunset dinners on the balcony, lovely gentle movies like “Roman Holiday” and “An Affair to Remember” on the in-cabin telly, rose petals strewn on the bed (admittedly, I don’t really get that one), and the odd romance-oriented self-improvement lecture (that left me cold, frankly; on this trip, I haven’t yet seen anything related on our Grand Princess schedule of events but will probably skip it if I do).
Wandering around Grand Princess today, our first sea day, it was brilliantly sunny and hot, and most folks were outside, broiling on sun loungers in various states of undress. Inside, though, were a sprinkling of passengers who were freshly washed, coiffed, and flowered, and formally (and beautifully dressed).
Turns out that earlier they’d either gotten married or, having been married (one couple told me they’d wed in a registry office 46 years ago but hadn’t had a proper wedding) had decided to renew their vows. They were glowing, walking as if on a two-foot plank of air.
We were among them.
Commemorating our seventh anniversary on this voyage, it occurred to me to ask beforehand, on Cruise Critic’s Princess board, “what’s the best way to celebrate onboard?” I was thinking more along the lines of dining at Sabatini vs. the Crown Grill when a member suggested we renew our vows. With ships registered in Bermuda, which permits captains on Princess to perform weddings, the line’s one of the few with that ability (on other cruise lines you’d need to bring your own officiant or arrange for an in-port wedding and book a celebrant there).
Ding-ding-ding: Yes. The seventh anniversary, whatever the gift symbolism, is an important one (you’ve fought through all the usual learning to live with each other stuff and now are settling in to just enjoying each other as is).
We were assigned a “wedding planner” (a fantastic staffer in the purser’s office who clearly had other job responsibilities but made us feel a top priority). She made sure that a corsage was delivered to our cabin, that the captain was notified to show up (with a written ceremony), that there would be photographs and oh, yes, that there would be music. Thanks to a crew member who downloaded our preferred tunes — Henry Mancini’s “Two for the Road” and “Moon River” — onto his iPod, we had music.
While cruise lines are now starting to twig to the niceties of having lavish wedding chapels, Princess has long seen the point (on many of its ships the wedding chapels are actually outfitted with web cams that can stream video of a ceremony and put it up on the Internet; this is fantastic if not all of your friends and family can attend because they can watch from their computer). And a brand new wedding chapel was one of the enhancements added to the ship during its recent makeover.
On our appointed day, we showed up in the best finery we’d brought with us and Captain Herriott was waiting for us. “Two for the Road” was playing on the stereo and this time I walked up the aisle with my husband. The vows were short, written along the lines of those we’d promised to honor seven years earlier, and were unexpectedly moving.
In the end, this personal ceremony, with just the captain, some marvelous staffers who made the event so seamless, and a couple of dear friends, was – if it’s even possible – more memorable than our original wedding. Planning was certainly less stressful. And this time around, the ceremony wasn’t so much about the dress and the attendants and the party after. The simplicity was powerful in a way we didn’t expect.
And here’s another great thing about a cruise ship ceremony, whether a betrothal or a renewal of vows, that didn’t occur to me before: After a wedding, you pretty much move into honeymoon mode; the glow doesn’t stick around too long. Onboard? As the cruise continues, as we make a detour every night to the Wheelhouse Bar to dance to the Marlene Arden Quartet playing Henry Mancini, pass by Sabatini, the ship’s lavish Italian restaurant (and our dining spot that evening), or say hello to Captain Herriott, we’re reliving the experience.
And especially when, as earlier today, we run into others who are dolled up in finery and submitting to the best part of sentimentality in reliving their own weddings, our marvelous moment lives on.
Check out our feature: 9 Best Cruise LInes for a Wedding (or vow renewal).