Cunard “ties the knot” to reflag their fleet in Bermuda

Ah, the romance of the sea.

Who hasn’t seen at least one television show where some moon-y eyed couple takes their wedding vows aboard a gorgeous cruise ship.  Truth be told, that was pure Hollywood.  It was never possible until recently when Princess Cruises aka the “original” Love Boat, re-flagged the entire fleet to Bermuda, where the marriage laws permit a ship’s captain to perform legally recognized weddings at sea.

Thus ends a 171-year old history of Cunard ships registered in the United Kingdom. Rather than lose a lucrative bit of cruise business (a wedding package can run from a few hundred to thousands of dollars) Cunard’s decision will undoubtedly be a win/win for all concerned.  Not only would it be extremely romantic and memorable to say, “I do” from the middle of the Atlantic Ocean, but so it would also be unique to do so from any one of the exotic locations that the three Cunard ships, the Queen Mary 2, Queen Victoria and Queen Elizabeth annually traverse.

“Most of our competitors have been offering increasingly popular and lucrative ‘Weddings at Sea’ programmes, and these are now very big business in the cruise industry,” said Peter Shanks, president of Cunard Line.  “We receive a lot of enquiries about the possibility of being married on one of our ships – particularly during our regularly scheduled Transatlantic Crossings on our flagship Queen Mary 2, which no other company can offer.”

Cunard Queen Mary 2 Grand Lobby
Cunard Queen Mary 2 Grand Lobby Photo Credit: Sherry Laskin

The historic change of registry in response to the need to perform weddings at sea is the main reason for the change, given by Cunard.  According to information from  BBC News, however, if a ship sails with a foreign flag, termed “flags of convenience” the cruise line may employ crew members for less wages than if flagged in their home country.   To put an end to any speculation, Mr. Shanks added, “…we pride ourselves on how we look after every member of our crew.”  He also said the move would make “no difference” in the “many millions of pounds” the ships generate for Southampton.

Weddings at sea is a highly competitive and relatively new way to legally tie the knot. Princess Cruises (also owned by Carnival Corporation)  led the way for wedding at sea with the purpose-built wedding chapel aboard the Grand Princess in 1998.

At first, couples could only be married while in port and were subject to the marriage laws and requirements of that particular country.  The ceremony was performed by either a local religious leader or a wedding officiant of that country.  The only saving grace for Americans to not worry about legal issues was if the ship was docked in an American territory such as the U.S. Virgin Islands.

Beginning in Spring 2012, Cunard will offer a variety of wedding packages which can be performed about all three of their luxury ships, the Queen Mary 2, Queen Victoria and their newest ship, Queen Elizabeth.  The new Weddings Programme will be offered for reservation in December 2011.

Photo credit: Sherry Laskin

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