My hubby and I just returned from our Carnival wedding cruise and Disney honeymoon 2 weeks ago. First off, I must say we had an amazing time and it was perfect! We got married on the Carnival Ecstasy in port on Orange Hill Beach in Nassau. We had 43 sailing guests with ages ranging from 8 months to 88 years old. Our cruise was 5 days and our wedding was on the 4th day. Currently my brain is still running in overdrive since we got back but I’ll try to write as much as I can. I will make this review over a couple posts because I have so much to say
Cruise wedding vs. traditional wedding: We got engaged in November 2010 and started planning a wedding in the mountains of North Carolina. Long story short, the traditional wedding was getting way too expensive. It was also becoming incredibly stressful going through vendors and planning every little detail. I began doing research on other options. Destination weddings looked amazing but I had a few reservations. My biggest concern in looking into destination weddings was my grandparents. They are in their upper 80’s and I knew traveling would be hard for them. I couldn’t imagine a wedding without them. Another concern was prices for family and friends to pay for airfare, hotels, passports, etc. FINALLY, I found information about cruise weddings. I sat my grandparents down and explained everything and they ended up LOVING the idea of a cruise wedding. Phew! Cruises are pretty much all-inclusive, prices are reasonable and people don’t need passports. After looking at different cruiselines, I determined that Carnival fit my criteria. They had the best wedding prices for the most included.
Invitations/STD: We decided on a cruise wedding about a year in advance. While we were in the planning stages (hadn’t booked), we sent out an e-mail to family and friends. This e-mail was basically a heads-up to let everyone know what we were considering. We also wanted to get the vibe of how people felt and get an idea if we’d have anyone who was interested. **Let me know if you’d like a copy, I’ll try and scrounge it up.** Surprisingly, we got a lot of responses. A week or so later we officially booked and could give specific information. We did NOT book through the groups department for many reasons. First of all, Carnival made it incredibly confusing when trying to figure out if booking a group was cheaper or worth it. Secondly, a lot of my guests were wishy/washy at first, and the groups department wanted a certain amount of cabins by a certain time. I took it upon myself to send out all of the booking information. I did make an “event” on Facebook and I also made a wedding website. I ended up playing travel agent for a number of guests. I tried using a specific travel agency (we have a membership) and the lady assigned to help me was awful. I did a lot of research prior to contacting the travel agent and I got the feeling I knew more than she did. However, I HIGHLY suggest using a travel agent. Just find one who KNOWS cruising. Most of the stress in my planning stages was related to family and friends depending on me for everything. As for invitations, I had every intention of sending out “Message in a Bottle” invites to all sailing guests. I bought all of the supplies but as time went on, it ended up being one of the things cut from my list. I still have bottles, corks, sand, etc. if anyone is interested in purchasing these from me.
Flowers: Since you can’t bring real flowers on and off ship, I ordered “real touch” flowers online. I ordered them from bloombridal.com. I spent about $450 for 4 groomsmen boutonnieres, 4 bridesmaid bouquets, 1 bridal bouquet, 3 corsages, and 1 additional boutonniere. You’ll see the bouquets in the pictures. I was pleased with the end product but I just wish they could have been real lol. I did place my order the last week of April and received them September 18th. Royal Ocean Events did include a bouquet at the beach location which you will see in some of pictures on our cake/champagne table. We were actually able to take it back on ship with us but we just couldn’t take it off the day of disembarkation. **Some of you may remember my freak-out post about my flowers. I had originally only had 4 bridesmaids because my MOH had told me she wasn't able to make it. I only ordered 4 bouquets. Later on she informed me that she COULD go (totally awesome!). Once I got my flowers, I then realized ::OH MY:: I only ordered 4 bouquets. Insert freak out moment. I ended up going to a craft store and was able to piece something together for her. So if you notice, hers is a little different. Oh well!**
Photography: Even though the Carnival package includes a photographer, we decided to bring our own. Remember how I said we had booked a previous location in N.C.? Well, we had also already paid half of our photographer. We e-mailed him, arranged a deal and he was set to come with us. I don’t have his pictures back yet but I will post those when I do get them. He wasn’t a family friend…matter of fact I had never met him before the cruise. He blended in wonderfully and we included him in our dining tables and everything else. BLUEKITEPHOTO.COM. During the cruise, I think it was the night before our wedding, the Carnival photographer came up to our dining table and introduced himself. Very awkward but I had to tell him his services were not needed. He then provided us with a form we had to fill out saying we were declining his services and it also asked why. No one made a big deal and I probably cared more than he did. He was very nice about it.
Royal Ocean Events: They were WONDERFUL! They handled all of the details for the beach ceremony. I was in constant contact with them in planning every detail from transportation to the site, the vows, the décor, etc. Their website is royalwed.com and on that site you can find the price list of enhancements and a few pictures. You can also find a ton of forms about their vows, music selections, etc. I think they are based out of Canada and are in communication with the people in the Bahamas. The people I communicated with on the phone/e-mail were not the people I met once I got off the ship for the ceremony.
Carnival Wedding Coordinator: Carnival uses their head dining room hostess as the wedding coordinator. The first night of the cruise she approached our table and introduced herself. She set up a time to meet the following day to discuss any final plans. The day of the meeting we met in the library and this was when we finalized some details. I gave her our first dance CD (we actually bought the CD), I gave her the cake decorations I brought, and I also showed her proof that we already had our wedding license. If we had not already “gotten married” (courthouse a few weeks prior to save on stress), we would have had to bring her our passports, photo ID and Sail & Sign card so that she could prepare the letter saying we’d been in the Bahamas’ water for 24 hours. The coordinator was nice and took care of everything we needed.
Hair/Make-up: The day we boarded I made my way up to the salon to make an appointment to get my hair done. They will open early for brides and we usually have priority. I knew I had to be ready to get off the ship at 10:15 so I made my hair appointment for 7:30. A few of my bridesmaids also made appointments. They also asked if I wanted to come in the next day (our day at sea) for a meeting/trial. I didn’t do the trial but I did meet with the stylist to show her pictures of what I wanted. Take lots of pictures of your style! So on the day of the wedding I showed up with my hair clean and ready to go. I can’t remember how long it took but I had plenty of time to head back upstairs to get ready and do my make-up. Lauren (my stylist) was EXCELLENT!! I couldn’t have been happier with my hair. I provided the white flowers. She put those in along with my veil. I think total, including a $20 tip, it was $70. If you’re looking at pictures, all my bridesmaids except the super skinny long-haired brunette/tan skin got theirs done in the salon. Carnival does not provide make-up due to sanitary concerns so before I left for the cruise I went to Ulta and had a make-up consultation. On a daily basis I wear little to no make-up so I definitely needed some help. So after my consultation I was pretty confident I could apply it myself. No need to pay someone to apply my own make-up. **Side note: We got ready in my grandparents suite. If you have the money or you have a guest with a suite…I suggest going that route. It was SO nice having room to get around and not feel cramped.
Day of the Wedding: All of my guests were told they needed to meet the coordinator at the guest services desk at 9:45. I was told by the coordinator that my guests needed to be there at 10 so I automatically told everyone 9:45. She expressed the importance of EVERYONE being there on time with their photo ID and sail & sign card. We arranged with Royal Ocean Events to have separate transportation for myself and 5 bridesmaids ($55 extra) because I didn’t want my groom or guests seeing us. We hit our first glitch here at this stage. MAKE SURE ALL OF YOUR GUESTS HAVE THEIR PHOTO ID AND SAIL & SIGN CARD…my guests left the ship a few minutes late because my grandma had forgotten her sail & sign card. Once your guests leave the ship they walk to the end of the port where air-conditioned vans/buses wait to transport them. FYI: Depending where the ship docks, it can be a LONG walk. I had a few guests who were caught off guard by this. The Carnival coordinator escorts the guests all the way to the end of the port where ROE transportation awaits with their representative. I wasn’t with my guests but my mom said she got a little frustrated at this point. The Carnival coordinator was apparently rushing my guests, including my 88 year old grandparents who were visibly having trouble with the walk. The walk was really long and not to mention it was 90+ degrees and humid as ever. If you have guests who have any difficulty walking, have them bring a wheelchair. Apparently, my grandparents almost didn’t make it to the vans/buses. Due to all of this, the wedding coordinator was late getting back to the suite to pick us up to escort the bridesmaids and me off the ship. WEAR COMFY SHOES! We were escorted right off the ship and to the van. It was so awesome having everyone in the port congratulate you and hoot and holler at you. By the time we got to the vans…thank goodness for air conditioning because we were all starting to sweat. The ride to Orange Hill Beach (ceremony location) took about 25-30 minutes.
Ceremony: The ceremony was set to start at 11:00am. On ROE enhancement list we chose the white uncovered chairs, the bamboo archway, flower petals and the violin player. Once my bridesmaids and I arrived, the coordinator had the e-mailed instructions in hand and met up with us. Our guests were already seated and the groomsmen were standing back talking to my mom and my mother-in-law waiting for the signal. Once the coordinator touched base with me, she gave the signal to begin. The violin player was WONDERFUL. It gave me chills and I almost started crying once I heard the music start. ROE provides you with sample vows and a sample order of ceremony that they allow you to edit. We made some changes and added a “Wine Box Ceremony”. Not sure if anyone has heard of this but we loved the idea. A sand ceremony just wasn’t quite our thing but we love wine! So after our vows and in between the exchange of rings, we added this piece. We had a wine box personalized off the internet and brought it with us. You’re supposed to put in a bottle of wine and each of you sit down separately before the wedding and write a love letter to the other. You write about why you feel in love, what you hope for your future, etc. You seal it without letting your spouse read it and you bring it to the ceremony. During the ceremony the officiant explained the meaning and had us place our sealed letters to the other in the box with the wine. We closed and sealed the box and are not supposed to open it until our 5th anniversary. The only way we can open it before that is if we have reached hardships that we are having trouble overcoming. In either instance, we are supposed to sit down together, open the bottle of wine and read our letters that should remind us what brought us together in the first place. I have the wording that the officiant uses if anyone wants it. Our guests loved the idea and the officiant and the coordinator said they had never seen it before. The only problem is that we couldn’t place a bottle of wine in the box until we got back on the cruiseship because of customs and all of the different laws in place. It wasn’t an issue and our guests had no clue that a bottle wasn’t in there. In total our whole ceremony lasted about 15-20 minutes. Afterward, our photographer borrowed us for pictures while our guests relaxed on the beach. After about 20 minutes, we were gathered back to cut the cake and champagne provided by ROE. This cake and champagne is included in their package. Carnival has their separate cake and champagne. I was a little confused about this and didn’t realize it would be part of the ceremony since we were having a reception back on board. We cut the cake and did the champagne more for pictures sake. We ate a tiny piece and then we were allowed to carry it back with us on board. **Here’s a quick time frame: Guests to meet at 10:00, bride + bridesmaids to meet at 10:15, ceremony to start at 11, transportation back set to leave at 12, reception on board to start at 1pm**
Ceremony Décor: Like I said above, we chose a few things off of the enhancement list provided by ROE. I got the wedding fan programs from a vendor off of Etsy. The purple ribbon was added by me and not included from the vendor. They turned out PERFECT and were reasonably priced. They also came in handy because of the heat. The table for the wine box ceremony was an additional enhancement cost.
::PAUSE:: Phew! I have written a LOT. I need a break so I'll write more later about the ceremony, reception, etc.
We are still waiting for our professional photos. So far only our guests have added pictures of the cruise AND wedding so they'll need to be weeded through to find wedding photos. Please e-mail me if you'd like a link to our photos. You'll need a password for our shutterfly page. cmt8185@ yahoo.com