Background Information, Packing Tips and Checking In
We initially booked an embarkation wedding in June 2011, but for a number of reasons decided to change it to an at-sea wedding. At sea-weddings are booked with CCL as vow renewals and you must be married before the ship leaves. This wasn’t a problem for us, as we were one of the first same-sex couples married in MD on New Years Day.
We began planning this shindig in summer of 2011, booked in September 2011, toured the ship January 2012 and cruised a year later. We were initially set to have 30ish people sailing, but in the end 17 booked and 13 (12 adults and one child) ended up boarding the ship—so this was a very intimate wedding. We had 3 guests fly and 2 drive in from out-of-town. Given, that this is Baltimore in January, we kindly asked that they arrive the day before and they kindly agreed. I think this is also a good place to mention that we also packed [and left in the van] a box of lawn and leaf bags, a snow shovel and container of rock salt. We once cruised in 2 feet of snow and weather has been strange this season.
We helped to subsidize the cost of the cruise for our parents and siblings—but in the end four of them didn’t board the ship with us. It was mostly for life-got-in-the-way reasons that cruise insurance wouldn’t have covered. Two weeks before sailing, we were able to do some cabin switching in order to ensure that we had access to the empty cabin (it became the wedding closet) and the Early Saver OBC that we had been applying for on their behalf.
With four people not coming, we knew that we wouldn’t have many hands to help carry on wedding items, so to prepare in advance we decided to pack wedding items in two heavy cardboard boxes. One box had all of the OOT bag items and the other contained the crinolines, silk flowers and thumbprint tree. We then printed several luggage tags and plastered them allover the boxes. We also made the insanely genius decision to purchase a folding garment rack from Bed, Bath & Beyond. Once it went through the X-ray we were able to put it up (took less than a minute) and hang the [very heavy] gowns as we snaked through the check-in lines because we didn’t have priority boarding. I think between all of us there must have been at least 20 suitcases—my brother’s truck and Mum’s van were packed!
The majority of our guests had never sailed before, so to make it easy for them we took care of the paperwork and any Early Saver price-drops that appeared. They gave us their birth certificates or passport information and we handed them plastic cover sheets with a packet of papers at the terminal including their citizenship documents, boarding pass, Camp Carnival paperwork and a bottle of wine.
As part of setting up everyone’s FunPass, we also set up their money accounts as Cash Accounts. If they wanted to change it they took care of it at check-in.
We arrived at approximately 11:30 and couldn’t even see the ship because the fog was so thick. My niece thought it was a ghost ship and couldn’t identify it as a Carnival ship until we were much closer and she could see the whale tail.
We were one of the first cars in the parking lot and once all of the luggage was unloaded everyone had their documents, we were able to start checking-in. My mother is Platinum, so she was able to take my niece to check-in through the VIP line. The rest of us were left to get through security on our own. Getting through took a bit of time because there were so many of us—and Mom forgot to grab her bottle of wine. We had 9 adults and ten bottles of wine at check-in. Even though we had the gowns with us and other wedding accoutrement, security still demanded that my Mom leave my 4-year-old niece and come claim her bottle. I was prepared to just check it and pick it up the last day of the cruise, but my brother had already started to head over to VIP to grab her. Once we set the wedding rack up and everyone got their computers and tablets tucked away, we began the check-in process. We were the first in our party to check-in and once we were done, the lady who directs people where to sit (there are not boarding zones in Baltimore) kindly allowed us to stand and wait for the rest of our group so we could be seated and board together. Check-in was pretty easy for the most part; it just took some time getting everyone checked in and their preferred charging method set-up. We were aboard by 12:55 and after unloading our wedding gowns in our "closet” and requesting our balconies be opened [we booked four together]; our group reunited for lunch.
TIP: If you have a tablet, it might be worthwhile to download a file app so you can sync any wedding docs to the tablet instead of dealing with binders or even a full-size computer. My iPad fit comfortably into my Vera Bradley Hipster and stayed with me for the majority of the cruise. It had important emails that I saved as PDFs, the photography price-list, our contracts and also served as my eReader. I also went through all of our favorite Carnival wedding shots from previous Pride weddings and saved them as reminders of pictures we wanted.
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