Cruising, DESTINATIONS, International, TRAVEL

Aisle to Isle Vow Renewal Package

Romantic Location Onboard?

TRAVEL THERE: WHAT’S INCLUDED AND WHAT’S NOT

Celebrity’s Aisle to Isle Vow Renewal Ceremony is $595, or perhaps I should say starts at $595.  I guess I knew it would cost something and $595 is a bargain compared to what a typical wedding costs, but still it was a bit ouchy for me.

What’s Included

This is what Celebrity includes in their Aisle to Isle Vow Renewal Ceremony:

  • Pre-sailing event manager
  • Romantic location onboard the ship
  • Shipboard ceremony officiate
  • Recorded ceremony music
  • Ivory flowers for couple^
  • One hour of photography service – Photos not included, but may be purchased separately**
  • Specialty cake for two^^
  • Commemorative vow renewal certificate

What That Means

Pre-sailing event manager – this is the nice ladies you talk to at Celebrity when you call the wedding department.  I am sure some people may call and harass these ladies on a daily basis, perhaps for a year or more.  I had one phone conversation with them and exchanged a handful of notes back and forth on their wedding site.  I liked them.  They were nice and very thorough.  I’m not sure why, but there is a bit of a disconnect between them and the on board staff.  I’d covered the details of the day ad nauseum with these ladies, but the on board staff merely had the briefest of outlines.  I felt like a lot got lost between the cracks and it made me a little crazy.

Romantic Location Onboard the Ship –  yes, but good luck knowing exactly where on the ship the ceremony will be or what time you’ll have it.  I might recommend just going with an afternoon wedding in an empty dining room.  They really like those.

Shipboard Ceremony Officiate – it was the Cruise Director.  He was an absolute delight.  He did the ceremony exactly the way I wanted it.  He even cried!

Recorded Ceremony Music – Check!  They have several canned songs or you can provide whatever you want.  If you provide your own, there are some rules about how and when these have to be available to the crew.  We opted for canned, because their choices included exactly what we wanted.  I also had special music, but my bestie is an opera singer and she preferred to do the song a capella, so I didn’t have to do anything.

Ivory Flowers for the Couple –  “Ceremony flowers consist of bouquet and boutonniere, two small bouquets or two boutonnieres. Flowers may be substituted or enhanced based on availability,” according to the website.  It took me a while to wrap my mind around that, but then I figured out the variety was based on serving both heterosexual and same sex marriages.   This got a little pricey.  Since my friends had ponied up and paid to come on this cruise, the least I could do was provide ceremony flowers.  The translation for “bouquet” is one rose with ribbon.  I paid extra to have a six rose bouquet and had a one rose “bouquet” for each bridesmaid.  We also added a boutonniere for the best man, in addition to the one provided for the groom.  These little touches weren’t the most expensive thing for the ceremony, but they added up faster than I realized.

One hour of photography service – Photos not included, but may be purchased separately** – Get out your wallets.  Cruise ship management knows that if they take photos, we will buy.  Why else would they spend so much money on those photo opportunities with studio backgrounds, special lighting and professional photographers? I really didn’t want a photographer.  Bill is allergic to paying for pictures on a cruise.  I knew immediately the mere presence of the photographer would put him on edge.  However, the photographer is mandatory.  The resulting photos were GORGEOUS and their price was OUTRAGEOUS – as in $3500!  My vow renewal was almost null and void when Bill heard that.  We did buy some pictures, but it was in the three digit department, not the four digit and even then, everybody pitched in so I could have what I wanted.  Thanks guys!

Bottle of champagne – One bottle of champagne isn’t quite enough for six people.  I ordered an extra bottle which was $50, because I wanted lots of champagne drinking going on.  Only they didn’t deliver the bottle to the ceremony.  We got it at dinner, but I was disappointed.  Not exactly what I had in mind.  The champagne is OK, but in the grocery store you’d pay about $11 for it.  You could bring your own champagne, but then they’d charge you a corkage fee.  Just be aware, booze costs a lot on a cruise.

Specialty Cake for Six

Specialty Cake for Two – Celebrity is all about this little specialty cake.  Their photographers are all geared up to take those cake cutting and feeding pictures, but there was no way I wanted that to be a part of the ceremony.  However, like the photographer, you are going to get a cake.  So, I paid to up-size it for six instead of two.  I also requested it be delivered to our dinner venue for dessert, rather than cutting it after the ceremony.  My pre-sailing event manager was devastated.  My onboard coordinator was devastated.  My photographer was devastated.  Probably the team serving dinner was devastated.  That’s OK, I was the bride and I got what I wanted.

Commemorative vow renewal certificate – Yes and it was nice.  It will be great in my scrapbook.

So that’s what you get.  Let’s talk about the actual ceremony next time.

Cruising, DESTINATIONS, International, TRAVEL, Travel Planning

Hair & Make-up for the Big Day

TRAVEL THERE: LOOKING GOOD FOR MY SHIPBOARD VOW RENEWAL CEREMONY

We all have our priorities and I confess, one of mine is how I look.  I know I don’t have super-model good looks, but like to make the best of what I have, especially for special occasions and a Shipboard 25th Anniversary Vow Renewal on the Mediterranean Sea is a pretty special occasion.  All it takes is money.

My Girls

There were a lot of things I was excited about when it came to my cruise, but one I was particularly excited about was spending days on end with my girls.  Deb, Melanie and Viktoriya are so dear to me.  Most of all I was looking forward to spending salon time with them on the day of our ceremony and I was right to do so.  It was some of the best moments of the whole cruise.

Make-up was easy.  BAM $75 per person.  Yep, that’s expensive for a little mascara and blush, but you’re paying for the experience, right?  Believe me, it was worth every penny.  We looked marvelous and we had a blast getting that way.

My Hair

Hair was not so easy, primarily because my hair was its own problem, all by itself.  I’d decided to grow it out a few years before.  By the time I booked the cruise, I was firmly convinced long hair was not for me, because my hair is somewhere on the cusp between wavy and curly, which, when it’s long, translates to frizzy with the least provocation  Still, I really, really wanted to have an updo for my vow ceremony, so I fought my hair one more year just for that moment.

To complicate matters, Celebrity has all these different categories of things:  Upstyle, Blow Dry & Style, Shampoo & Style and Bride’s Day Hair.  What’s more, each of these choices was divided into categories based on length and there was no guide to let you exactly where each category began and ended.  My hair was down past my shoulders, but that was nothing compared to someone with waist length hair.  Was I paying the same thing as them or did I qualify as medium?

Then there was another problem.  I would get my hair cut and colored the day before I left, but by the day of the ceremony I’d be wishing for clean hair. However, I was informed I should not wash my hair within the 24 hours before they were to give me my updo.  Since 24 hours before my hair appointment I would be on a 10.5 hour tour of Capri and Pompei, I would have had to wash my hair on Embarkation Day.  Washing my hair on Embarkation Day potentially meant frizzy hair for our first night’s dinner AND the 10.5 hour shore excursion.  Did I mention I was vain?  I opted for dirty hair for my ceremony – don’t tell anyone.

Still that didn’t answer whether I wanted an Upstyle or Bride’s Day Hair.  It would make sense that I wanted the Bride’s Day Hair, which was $35 more than a mere Upstyle, but no one anywhere could tell me exactly what I got for my extra $35 – plus, that would mean the mandatory 18% service charge would also be more.  They got their extra $35 and I still don’t know what for.  In the big picture, $35 was nothing, but it still eats at me that I paid extra for virtually nothing the others didn’t get with their more economical Upstyle.  Live and learn!

Like everything on board a ship, there are always more ways to spend your money.  Sure that fare includes a place to stay, lots of food to eat and a lot of entertainment, but even though all of this is covered, they still find so many ways to stick their hands in your pockets.  Let’s talk about that next week.

Cruising, DESTINATIONS, International, TRAVEL, Travel Planning

The Big Ceremony

TRAVEL THERE: PLANNING A VOW RENEWAL ON CELEBRITY EDGE

Another important bit of our planning involved the 25th Anniversary Vow Renewal.  For me, this was one of the more frustrating parts of the cruise preparation.  As you may know I am a bit of a perfectionist and perfectionists like to know what is going to happen.  Good luck with that if you want to have a ceremony on a cruise line.

Very Nice Ladies

My travel agent at CTC kept nudging me to get my vow renewal ceremony reserved, so I did that back in October, eight months previous to our June sailing date.  Celebrity has several kinds of ceremony packages, of all sorts: onshore, on board, engagements, weddings and vow renewals.  With a vow renewal there are two basic packages, True Love Knot and Aisle to Isle.  The primary difference between the two was that the True Love Knot is performed by the Captain.  For a couple of hundred dollars less, you get the Cruise Director.

Since even in October, long before I booked the shore excursions, I could tell we were going to spend a whole lot of money, I knew the husband-groom would be a lot happier if I settled for Aisle to Isle Package.  I tried getting online and doing my registration, but like many times I was online with Celebrity, it was not exactly a smooth process.  Sandra, my travel agent, had sent me a contact phone number and when the website was not cooperating, I decided to go ahead and call.

No one could be nicer than the wedding consultants at Celebrity.  They were almost more excited than me about my ceremony and they were willing to bend over backwards to see that I got what I wanted.  Unfortunately, as I will explain later, this sense of cooperation did not extend to my shipboard ceremony contact, but that’s another story for another day.

A Taste of the Future

Let me warn you of this.  When you plan a shipboard ceremony, absolutely nothing will be written in stone.  They treat you like a queen and they are nice as they can be, but I wanted to know when and where my ceremony would be.  The closest they could get to an answer was that it would be on the one day we were at sea, but that was about it.

Let me warn you of another thing, at least about Celebrity, they really, really, really want you to have your ceremony in the middle of the afternoon in an empty dining room.  Now this is not something they tell you when you first call up, but the on board staff made it abundantly clear that I was not business as usual.

The Progression of the Ceremony

Remember my stateroom with the obstructed views.  Well, I had specifically chosen that cabin with my ceremony in mind.  I envisioned my ceremony in the beautiful gardens of Eden with a view of the sea spread before us.  I would get Eden and I would get the sea, but not in any way as I anticipated.

The Edge was a brand new ship, not even completed when I was making my ceremony reservations, and apparently I was the very first person who requested Eden as a venue.  The nice ladies registered my request, but let me know there were no guarantees.

So then, a few months later I was talking to the Celebrity sales rep at a CTC party.  He agreed Eden would be beautiful, but he was all about the Rooftop Garden.  Still, I stuck with Eden until the obstructed views incident, then I moved my first choice to the Rooftop Garden.

And that’s how things remained until a few weeks before the cruise.  According to the website I would get confirmation of my wedding venue and time 10 days before my cruise, only that never happened, even though I made several attempts to get verification.  I admit, I was getting frantic.  I had all the pertinent information on the Celebrity Weddings website and you can rest assured that I had printed it all out, just in case, but no one was making me feel any better.

Finally, the day before we left, I got some really awful email threatening that my ceremony could be cancelled if I didn’t confirm the information.  Now somewhere in the email it mentioned that you could confirm the information via email, but the very official looking letter that was attached mentioned nothing of the sort.  You either had to do it online or send a fax.  Well, I don’t have a fax machine and online, not surprisingly, was not working.

Since I don’t have a fax machine I went online and had a very hysterical 15 minutes trying to make the confirmation thing work – it never did.  I confess, I wrote a very snarky email to the nice ladies and I also complained about the fact that I was leaving town the next day and I knew neither the time or location of my ceremony.

But fighting for my venue was just part of the fun.  Come back next week and we’ll talk hair and make-up.