When Norwegian Cruise Line joined the growing list of cruise lines to offer on-board weddings and packages earlier this month, it became even more clear that there’s real demand among consumers to tie the knot at sea.
NCL now offers shipboard weddings while the ship is in a port of call, destination ceremonies and at-sea weddings—both symbolic and legal.
The various offerings give couples a uniquely memorable—and affordable—experience for their special day, said Tiffany Bell, a spokeswoman for the Norwegian Wedding Program.
It gives couples what they are looking for: “the ability to have the wedding of their dreams at a fraction of the cost, and one where the details and planning are all handled for them,” Bell said.
More cruise lines onboard
With its new wedding services, NCL joins other major lines including Princess and Disney. The latter offers customizable wedding arrangements ranging from a “secret deck” ceremony to its tropical adventure Fairy Tale Weddings.
The goal is to accommodate couples’ wide variety of tastes, budgets and expectations.
“A wedding with Disney Cruise Line can be anything from a small, intimate ceremony to a large elegant affair,” said Katie Neumann, a spokesperson for Disney Cruise Line.
“Disney Cruise Line does not have packages, as weddings are custom to each couple, who can exchange vows in a ceremony onboard the ship or step ashore for a romantic beach-side ceremony on Disney’s private island paradise, Castaway Cay,” she said.
Disney’s wedding ceremonies are commissionable for travel agents, who receive a 10% commission on travel and weddings when they sell a Disney cruise.
Passion and expertise
Along with commissions, cruise weddings afford agents the opportunity to combine their passion and expertise even more than usual.
“During one of my large family cruises, I had a family with 80 family members sailing,” recalled Janet Devito, a CruiseOne franchise owner in Freehold, N.J who specializes in family and generational cruises.
“One of the cousins who had just been engaged and was looking at the stress and cost of planning a traditional wedding decided to have their wedding during the cruise,” Devito said.
“The most important family members would be there, so it was perfect. And my wedding planning began.”
Like group travel
For others, selling wedding cruises is not dissimilar to selling other group packages.
“It is just another form of a group cruise business,” said Angela DeDomenico, a CruisePlanners franchise owner in Boca Raton, Fla.
“Being able to know the logistics with large groups and being an event planner provides me with the insight to sell cruise wedding packages.”
When it comes to the target clients for cruise weddings, Devito and DeDomenico agreed that the range of clients is broad. Still, clients share a few things in common.
“Any couple would be great from young engaged couples to those renewing their vows to LGBT couples,” DeDomenico said.
She has found, however, that weddings at sea are especially popular with those planning a second marriage because they’re more open to what some would consider an “unconventional” option having opted for the more traditional route the first time around.
Wedding and honeymoon in one
Cruise weddings also give couples the opportunity to combine the wedding and honeymoon in one trip.
“If they are looking to save money and have a wedding-moon celebration, this is the only way to go,” DeDomenico said. “Have a wedding and honeymoon in the same week? Why not!”
Devito said the wide variety of couples she’s booked on cruise weddings share a sense of adventure, a focus on family and the desire to avoid much of stress associated with planning a traditional wedding.
That’s not to say that couples don’t have concerns, she added.
These range from the cost and legality of the wedding to the length of the trip and the privacy of the ceremony, DeVito said. Agents can deal with these by educating clients and assuring them that all their needs will be met.
“I reassure them that the onboard wedding coordinators are professionals and will work with them prior to the sailing,” Devito said. “There are still many choices for the bride and groom to make—flowers, dining, location—and she will help them along the way.”
Ultimately, though it might take place on water, a cruise wedding isn’t all that different to its counterpart on land because no matter what the setting, the bride reigns supreme.
“In all honesty, every bride wants it to be all about the party,” said DeDomenico, With the available promotions and the choice of weddings shore side, at sea or at a the destination, “it’s about a party all week long.”