Deborah Stone and Nick Dalton decided to tie the knot on board Crown Princess last summer. Here Deborah tells us about why the experience was so special…
I’m sitting in the sunshine on a deck lounger somewhere off the coast of Spain, but while all the other sunbathers on Crown Princess are settled for the afternoon I’ve got a very important appointment with the captain.
This is my wedding day, and it’s only when I remember that the onboard photographer is coming to take pre-nuptial pictures in an hour that I dash off to get changed.
There’s no last-minute panic and absolutely no frantic arrangements to make because this has been the most stress-free, easy-to-arrange marriage in the history of laid-back weddings.
Princess Cruises’ “Tie The Knot” wedding planners have made all the boring legal arrangements leaving Nick and I to look forward to two weeks sailing around the Western Mediterranean to romantic Italy, visiting Pisa, Rome and Naples.
Getting married at sea is as special as it sounds, particularly if you want a small but memorable affair with just a few close friends or your family.
In our case we just wanted our children to come along because, like many others who choose to sail off into the sunset, Nick and I are not exactly love’s young dream.
After 23 years together and with two children – Georgia, 16, and Henry, 13 – we were finally ready to commit. But neither of us had the patience to inspect wedding venues and write out guest lists and there was the question of the wedding ring: I had my heart set on a Celtic-design band and they are not easy to find.
All right, so that was probably a delaying tactic, but then I had my “eureka” moment: “Why don’t we get married on a cruise ship?” I suggested one cold, dark February night.
And five months later here we are in glorious sunshine and clear blue skies, which is a relief because yesterday we were bouncing around the Bay of Biscay in worryingly lively seas.
That must be why most Princess Cruises weddings are booked on Caribbean trips. The ceremonies can only take place on sea days when the ships are more than 12 miles offshore unless you want to say your vows on a beach or somewhere equally exotic, which the wedding planners will also help you to organise.
So we have had lunch out on deck, the children grabbing burgers from the poolside grill restaurant, and we’ve found a couple of loungers in the sun and suddenly I realise there is only 90 minutes until the wedding and I’m still in my swimming costume.
But somehow the race to shower and getting dressed before photographer Rodel arrives is all part of the fun and Georgia zips me into the dress I bought on the internet two weeks ago, minutes before he arrives.
Rodel is a lovely, quite excitable Filipino man who used to be a fashion photographer and puts us at our ease immediately.
Trouble is, this is his first wedding so it is only when we are half way to the wedding chapel on deck 16 that he asks where my flowers are and remembers I’m supposed to be collected by an officer.
“Shall we go back?” he asks but we’re nearly there and within a few minutes the hotel manager Sofia arrives with my bouquet of ivory roses.
“I wondered whether you had changed your mind,” she jokes. “I thought we’d better not let the groom know.”
Captain Tony Yeomans comes out to explain how the ceremony will go, with just the right mix of calm and humour, then the chapel doors are thrown open and I’m walking in time to the music Nick and I chose a few months ago.
There are only the children, two officers for witnesses, the captain, Nick and I in the room but it is packed with emotions and I have a moment of anxiety just in case anybody knows why we should not be joined in matrimony.
Then there’s my comedy moment as I narrowly avoid saying “awful marriage” rather than “lawful marriage”.
But the wedding ceremony is surprisingly moving and for just a few moments it feels like there is just Nick and I in the room as we vow to love and honour each other in sickness and in health.
We sign the wedding certificate and Rodel leads us off for photographs on the bridge, out to the promenade deck, into the plush New York-style Adagio Bar. The children come along for a while but refuse to go to the atrium because they don’t want us to be seen in our posh wedding clothes.
Most people are still on deck in the sun, watching the film on the huge outdoor screen, playing football or golf in the sports deck and tucking into free ice cream by one of the two outdoor pools.
And the few passengers we do see couldn’t be nicer. Everybody wishes us luck and says how happy we look. It nearly sets me off.
Finally we’re back in the cabin with the children, champagne and lemonade all round and the squidgiest chocolate cake I’ve ever tasted before we go for dinner at Sabatini’s, the ship’s pretty Italian restaurant where the lobster and steak is well worth the $25 cover charge and the sunset over the back of the ship is priceless.
The morning after we are still on our ship, and officially on our honeymoon, without any tiresome flights. At Barcelona we head for the Ramblas, calling in at the daily market for ice cold fruit drinks. We stroll past the interesting little boutique shops of the old Gothic quarter but have promised the children we won’t drag them into museums so when we find the FC Barcelona shop Nick and Henry are straight inside.
Next day we’re in Monaco and walk up the hill to the palace then around the harbour to the Belle Époque casino where jewellery shop windows are dripping with gems and there are seriously expensive cars casually parked like cheap little run-arounds.
We may not be able to afford the casino but back on board our waiter treats us like royalty. He brings us an extra portion of chips without being asked and we have a table by the window in the main restaurant.
After dinner we usually play cards then go to bed early because after the leisurely sail to Spain we have a full-on programme in Italy.
At Livorno we get the train to Pisa to gawp at the leaning tower then walk back to the virtually tourist-free town to eat the best chocolate ice cream of the holiday.
We completely fall in love with Rome, feel the hairs stand up on our necks as we walk across the Forum where Julius Caesar and Mark Antony once stood and threw coins in the Trevi Fountain to ensure we would be returning soon. Italy is so hot though that it’s a huge relief to get to Corsica and spend the day on the beach at Ajaccio – just running in and out of the water whenever we feel the urge to cool down.
Then we’re on our way home, with just a few hours to explore Gibraltar before sailing north back to Britain to start our newly-married life together.
It was the most wonderful, fun-filled, relaxing wedding and honeymoon. I wonder how Nick and the children would feel about having a blessing next?
Princess Cruises offers a 14-night round trip from Southampton on board Emerald Princess, calling at Barcelona, Marseille (Provence), Florence/Pisa (from Livorno), Rome (from Civitavecchia), Genoa (for Milan), Corsica (Ajaccio) and Gibraltar. Prices are from £899pp, based on two adults sharing an inside stateroom, including accommodation, all main meals and onboard entertainment. For further information or to book visit princess.com or call 0843 373 0333.
Read our review of Princess Cruises’ Royal Princess here.