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“Scattering Ashes At Sea” - The Celebration of Life Ceremony


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I haven’t found any write up on this topic with respect to Virgin Voyages, so I will share our experiences in case others may find it helpful. This was our first cruise with Virgin Voyages.
Firstly the legal boundaries, as I understand them: it is legal to “scatter” ashes at sea within certain constraints:
  • You must be in International Waters, which typically means 12 miles from coast
  • The ashes must be in a biodegradable container, and you may expect to be asked for a Certificate of Biodegradability from the manufacturer
  • You may not throw anything additional into the water, such as balloons, ribbons, etc
  • Securing the agreement and participation of the vessel you are on is key - they will almost certainly take a dim view of you just throwing something overboard on your own.
Since I read conflicting reports of other documentation that might be required, I obtained a death certificate and certificate of cremation - made a little more challenging because we live in the USA but Dad died and was cremated in his home town of Southampton, UK. I carried this paperwork with me and the non-metallic container of ashes in my carry on luggage, as advised by the TSA website (https://www.tsa.gov/travel/security-screening/whatcanibring/items/cremated-remains)
First, our background: my father passed in 2000 and I had a container of his partial ashes at home. After serving in the Royal Navy in WWII, his life at seat picked up again towards the end of the 1950’s when he started ferrying yachts to the West Indies from the UK after refit. By 1962 he was skippering Idalia (https://www.frickers.co.uk/art/blog/2021/07/27/harland-wolff/) for Lord Camrose, alternating between cruising the Mediterranean based in Malta, and the West Indies. It was during a winter season cruise of The West Indies that he met my mother, who was working as a teacher on the island of Bequia - paid in chickens for the most part!
I’d been thinking for some time of trying to scatter his ashes at sea in the waters he cruised, but no easy path presented itself. Somewhere along the way I discovered that cruise lines will often be supportive of a "sea burial", and the seed of an idea was planted.
The newly announced “South Eastern Caribbean Isles” itinerary on VV looked promising, as it called on several ports I remember Dad talking about including Saint Lucia and Antigua - and the passage to Barbados would put us cleanly in International Waters. That it was adults only was clearly a plus, as we had previously sailed only with Viking and were curious to see another adult only cruise line.
The VV website specifically calls out spreading ashes as a possibility in the policies, (https://www.virginvoyages.com/help-and-support/the-days-at-sea/onboard-policies) and so I contacted Sailor Services to confirm feasibility for this specific cruise. About 36 hours later I had confirmation and so we booked in February of 2023 for a February 2024 sailing.
We were originally booked on Brilliant Lady, but were transferred to Valiant when BL was a no-show. I used that switch as an opportunity to reach out to Sailor Services to confirm that the Celebration of Life was still “on”. Generally I found that neither Sailor Services nor Voyage Services were very responsive, and I only ever got traction when I copied in the Red Glove Services team that are part of the Rock Star pre-cruise support. 
As we got closer to sailing I did get more detailed information:
  • 14 days prior to sailing, send the certificate of biodegradability to Voyage Services
  • At embarkation let the staff in the terminal know you are carrying ashes prior to security screening
I shopped Amazon and found that biodegradable paper pouches for ashes were pretty easy to source, though not inexpensive. The one I selected included a digital image of the biodegrable certificate.
We did as instructed, sending in the biodegradable certificate, and got no reply from Voyage Services until I once again copied in Red Glove Services for help.
At embarkation no one had any idea why I was telling them anything about human ashes, and rather wished I would stop mentioning it. So I did.
Once onboard we met our Rock Star Agent, Kimberly Kendall, who knew about the Celebration of Life - which was reassuring. We then heard from Roxann in Sailor Services with a proposed time slot - 06:20 on the morning prior to arrival in Barbados, consistent with what I had guessed. This was presented as the only viable opportunity on our particular itinerary. We were to meet at Sailor Services and then proceed to the Starboard corner of deck 7 at The Dock.
At 06:00 we opened our cabin door to find Kimberly already standing in the hallway waiting for us - at 6 in the morning! She escorted us down to 5 where we met Roxann, there was a call to confirm everything was a go, then we headed up to 7. On the way aft through The Dock House we were greeted by the ship’s Environmental Officer, there to ensure nothing improper was thrown overboard.
Once outside on the deck at The Dock it was an appropriately grey and damp early morning, though the ever present musical background didn't really fit the tone. Either Kimberly or Roxann jumped on a call without us asking and had the music nixed instantly. No preparations had been made to the deck area, such as fencing off a spot or clearing away last night's empties, but we hadn't expected otherwise. Our escorts discretely held back while we made our way to the corner of the deck and had our moment. I said goodbye and we stood watching the ashes container bob for a minute in the wake before it vanished. That done we all went our separate ways.
The next day there was a certificate in the cabin that captured the date, time, and lat/long of our Celebration of Life Ceremony, along with a very touching personal note from Kimberly.
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29 minutes ago, cantgetin said:

Thank you for sharing this.

I'm wondering if it would work if you had not been a mega rockstar.

We were “just” regular Rock Stars, and it might not have gone as smoothly without Red Glove and our agent.

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