Deborah Stone and her husband Nick were among 1,443 couples
who broke a Guinness World Record presided by the Captain of The Love Boat in the Caribbean
It’s not every day you get a chance to make history on a cruise, but when we heard television’s The Love Boat captain was leading a record-breaking marriage vow renewal in the Caribbean, we were among the first up the gang plank.
Princess Cruises usually has mass-marriage vow renewals every year during Valentine’s week in the Caribbean, but this was special: the cruise line was attempting to beat the Guinness World Record.
And we did – with 1,443 couples taking part on three ships simultaneously on 11 February, as we recited our vows under blue skies and sunshine on the decks of Regal Princess, Royal Princess and Crown Princess.
My husband, Nick, and I were on Regal Princess where actor Gavin MacLeod – The Love Boat’s Captain Stubing – officiated as 658 couples re-pledged their troth in a surprisingly emotional ceremony.
Nick and I were married on Crown Princess seven years ago, so it was particularly special to say our vows at sea again. As MacLeod, now an ordained minister, led the men’s vows and his co-star Jill Whelan led the women, I can’t have been the only person to gulp back a tear.
Not that it was a serious affair: more like a huge deck-top party as couples old and reasonably young, straight and gay, dressed to the nines or dressed down in T-shirts and shorts enjoyed some fun in the sun.
On Regal Princess, there was dancing on the deck and fizz all round as we celebrated smashing the previous record of 1,201 couples taking part in a multi-location marriage vow renewal. Guinness World Record adjudicators were on all three ships and rules were so tight that the official figure changed three times as recounts revealed that some Crown Princess couples had been counted twice.
Later, MacLeod told me he was never in any doubt that the record would be broken: “I’m a very optimistic person,” he said, with a twinkle in his eye.
MacLeod and other members of the late-70s and 80s American comedy series are Regal’s godparents and named the 3,600-passenger ship at a 2014 christening in Fort Lauderdale, Florida.
It was from here that we set sail on our seven-night return trip, spending a day at the private Princess Cays beach in the Bahamas and another in Jamaica before renewing our vows at sea.
Princess Cays is on the island of Eleuthera and it’s a colourful experience – from its clear blue gentle sea to the pastel-painted buildings and open-air bar with all-day live music.
We took the guided bike-ride excursion to see more of the island but there’s not much there. Although should we ever return we would just enjoy the free loungers and go for a walk along the beach.
Jamaica was different, though: we chose an excursion that took us to Dunn’s River Falls. You can walk by the side of the falls down a path to the sea, then either walk back up the path or walk through the falls with a guide.
We wanted to stay dry so that we could take photographs, but next time we would definitely walk up the falls.
The main pools on deck 16 of Regal Princess were covered for the vow ceremony, but usually there is plenty of space for sunbathing, and many passengers played cards in the
open-air seating areas, near the deck 16 buffet restaurant.
That night we had dinner in the Allegro dining room, one of the three main complimentary restaurants, where the Princess Love Boat Dream chocolate mousse on a thin brownie was a fitting finale to the meal.
But the best dinner we ate on Regal was at The Crown Grill, a paid-for restaurant where my ribeye steak took up most of my plate.
This came after a relaxing day on Grand Cayman, much less frenetic than Jamaica, where we spent a few hours on Seven Mile Beach (actually it’s only three and half miles long but with crystal clear water) as part of our excursion to Hell and back.
Hell is a small area of black limestone formations where there’s a post office for sending post cards from Hell (jokes are endless), although if you don’t fancy a ship’s excursion there is lots of duty-free shopping in town and a small sandy beach with locals fishing from rocks.
The best excursion of the cruise, though, came in Mexico. But the beaches of Cozumel island were so tempting; we took the 40-minute ferry ride to Playa del Carmen, then a 90-minute coach ride to Coba to see the spectacular Mayan ruins, including a stone pyramid you can climb.
The site is about 70sq km but most of it is under jungle now, as are more than 90 per cent of the ruins. There’s a tall roped-off pyramid with small trees growing from it and smaller pyramids with stone hoops for an ancient game now lost to time.
The main pyramid is about a mile’s walk, but you can take a rickshaw or rent a bicycle. Nohoch Mul pyramid was mesmerising: tall, elegant and beckoning you to climb it, so we did, breathlessly. It was seriously steep.
By halfway up, we were way above the jungle canopy, and from the top all you could see was trees – for miles.
Coba is one of the few places where you can still climb a Mayan pyramid because it has fewer tourists than the better-known ruins at Chichen Itza and Tulum.
Quite likely this 1,500-year-old remnant of an ancient world should be roped off, too, to preserve it, but climbing the 120 steps and 137ft was truly exhilarating.
Just like renewing your marriage vows on the love boat.
Getting there: Caribbean Princess offers a seven-night Western Caribbean cruise, departing 29 November (2020), round trip from Fort Lauderdale to Princess Cays, Jamaica (Falmouth), Grand Cayman and Cozumel, from £1,104, based on two sharing, including return flights, transfers, and pre-cruise hotel night (princess.com). Renewal of vows packages can be booked from £192 ($249) per couple.