WARNING: If you’ve already booked your wedding through a cruise ship, don’t read any further.
What I’m about to share will likely upset you if you are considering booking a wedding with a cruise line.
(*For this article I looked at wedding packages offered by Norwegian Cruise Line, Royal Caribbean, Princess, Carnival, Holland, MSC and others. I chose 3 of the more popular packages, but all of the cruise line wedding packages were in line with the options and costs seen below.)
In this article I’m going to cover 2 things:
1. Why you absolutely, positively SHOULD NOT book or plan your wedding through the cruise ship (although there is still hope for you if you’ve sent in your deposit as I’ll explain at the end of the post).
2. How to instantly save almost $2,000 or more on your cruise ship wedding in St. Thomas
(St. Thomas is one of the best places in the world for a destination wedding, once you are ready to pick your wedding date on St. Thomas, check out 13 Things You Must Know About St. Thomas Weddings).
There I said it.
A little harsh?
Well, there isn’t another way to say it…and after reading this article, I think you’ll agree.
Look, I think cruises are awesome. I love to cruise. There is something about the ease of it all. Food is plentiful. The service is usually pretty excellent. The activities, casinos, pools and convenience of a cruise make the travel experience painless. And it’s all included in the price of the cruise.
But when it comes to cruise ship weddings, the joy, convenience and affordability give way to frustration, stress and wasted money.
Let’s put it this way, if you think cruise ship drink packages or shore excursions are expensive, that’s nothing compared to the insane cost of a wedding booked through the cruise line.
Simply put: The cost of a cruise ship wedding is way out of line with what the wedding actually costs.
So let’s take a look at what a cruise ship wedding costs booked through a cruise line for 2 people.
(QUICK NOTE: I focus on the costs for 2 people eloping to St. Thomas on a cruise line. Sadly, the costs for additional wedding guests inflate the price exponentially when booking through the cruise line.)
I visited Royal Caribbean’s wedding packages page: http://www.royalcaribbean.com/weddings/home.do and found this for a St. Thomas wedding:
So, a “budget” beach wedding for 2 people in St. Thomas will run you $2,995 and includes:
For $3,995, you get a “Deluxe Beach”. You have to fork over another $1,000 to choose a nice beach?
And if you really need further proof that the cruises are there to make money of you any way they can – look at the small print in the image above. It says, “the cost of licensing and processing is $345”.
Reality check. The actual cost for a marriage license is $200. The cost for 2 certified copies of your license after your wedding is $6. So the licensing and processing will cost you $206.
The grand total for a Royal Caribbean wedding package on a beautiful beach:
$3,995 – Beach of your choice
$345 – License
Go to Carnival Cruise Weddings and click on the brochure and you’ll find this:
If you go down to the bottom of the list you’ll see St. Thomas in the left column. Just under that row you’ll see a line that says, “LIME TREE BEACH RESORT $2,275.
The $2,275 package is Carnival’s beach wedding package.
The Carnival Cruise Ship Wedding Package in St. Thomas includes:
Unfortunately, Carnival Cruise Line doesn’t offer a “Deluxe Beach”. Limetree is the only beach option.
Total Cost: $2,481 (including $206 for marriage application)
You can find the pricing at the Princess Cruise Weddings site. And it includes:
Again if you go to the bottom of the first column you will see that a beach wedding for 2 on St. Thomas starts at $2,500.
No indication on what beach, but it is almost assuredly Bolongo Beach Resort or Limetree Beach Resort.
It includes a photographer, but they charge separate for your photos. 🙁
Total Cost: $2,706 (including $206 marriage application)
If we were to only look at the most affordable package, Carnival Cruise Ship is the winner by about $250. It seems to include everything the others include and also has a few tiny extras not seen in the other packages – recorded wedding music, wedding cake & topper and a few photos!
OK, now let’s dive into the Carnival wedding package.
As with all cruise ship services, you have to dive into the details to see what you really get.
For example, take a look at the image below, taken from Carnival’s package page.
The package includes “Photography service”.
What exactly is included with “photography services”?
Carnival will send a photographer along to the beach but you don’t get any of the pictures. You have to pay for them separately. See below for the exact wording:
You have got to be joking. You get the photographer, but not the pictures!
At a minimum, photo images are going to cost $10 per print. So for 40 images your cost will be in the neighborhood of $400.
So when you add a few pictures Carnival’s best deal on a simple beach wedding for 2 people with just the basics will cost you: $3,106.
The beach where you get married is Limetree Beach. And I don’t mind saying that Limetree is one of my favorite beaches.
But Limetree is not the best beach for everyone.
For example, if you want to spend the day at the beach after the wedding, it’s not the best option.
Or if you want a mid-day wedding, I might recommend a different beach.
Anyhow, I think you get the idea. If you want flexibility, you won’t get it from the cruise lines.
Here are my beach wedding packages:
The Cracked Coconut
The Mango Works
2 Lazy Palms
(Read more about my St. Thomas package details.)
As you can see with the 2 Lazy Palms Package you get just about everything included in all of the cruise line wedding packages.
All you need to do is include a cake ($105), add in the $206 for the marriage application and license and your total cost for the same package is: $1,206.
But my package also includes a bamboo arch, fabric, palm and conch shell aisle which aren’t available on the cruise line packages.
TOTAL SAVINGS TO YOU: $1,900
(And please remember that I’m not the only game in town. There are numerous wedding planners on island and they also offer savings over the cruise ships.)
See why I think cruise ship weddings are a rip off?
At least when it comes to the price, simplicity and options…
So, why do the cruise lines charge soooooo much?
I’m sure there are plenty of reasons why the costs are insanely inflated.
Think about it, when you book your wedding with any cruise line such as Royal Caribbean, Norwegian, Carnival, Princess, etc., the cruise lines have huge amounts of overhead to support.
Each cruise company may host as many as 100 weddings in a week throughout the Caribbean, Mexico and the southern United States.
A lot of staff and resources are required to plan 100 weddings. All that staff, the monstrous offices, call centers, etc cost a lot of money.
And all of those costs are passed right on to you.
But you want to hear the crazy part?
With all that staff employed by the cruise line, they don’t employ a single person that will actually be at your wedding or assist you in any way once you step foot on St. Thomas.
Put another way…
…every person involved in your wedding day from your taxi driver, florist, photographer, baker & officiant are local vendors like me that are hired by the cruise ship.
The cruise line literally outsources every service and every detail of your wedding.
So the crazy thing is that the big, monstrous company still hires guys like me and charges you twice what you could have paid if you hired me directly.
But wait Michael, I like the comfort of knowing my wedding is in the hands of a gigantic company. It gives me piece of mind.
Ok, I have a couple things to say about that…
First, let me ask you this, who do you think cares more about whether every detail of your wedding is flawless:
1. A multi-national, billion dollar cruise line.
2. A vendor or wedding planning team in St. Thomas that’s sole livelihood is assuring your wedding is perfect.
Another way to look at it, who do you think is more concerned that every detail is perfect:
1. A company that hosts 1,000’s of wedding each year and also millions of cruise ship passengers.
2. A company with its entire focus on 50-60 weddings a year.
Or to really drive the point home:
1. A faceless company that never meets (or even speaks) with the couple until the day they arrive.
2. A vendor that has built a relationship with the couple, has spoken directly with them and will actually meet them in person on the day of the wedding.
And who do you think is more concerned about a bad review on TripAdvisor or other review sites? A vendor whose sole livelihood is planning weddings? Or a company that will still book thousands of weddings and millions of passengers?
Having worked with every vendor on St. Thomas, I can tell you that all of them, myself included, dread a bad review. I recently got a bad review and I couldn’t sleep for 2 nights.
Do you think the executives at Carnvial lose sleep over a bad review?
I can tell you that if a vendor on island were to get a few bad reviews, the loss of business and reputation would be enormous. So the incentive for wedding vendors and planners in St. Thomas to give you the best is huge.
But wait, it gets worse.
When you pick up the phone to speak with a wedding specialist, who are you actually speaking with? With all due respect to the hard-working employees of the cruise line, you’re putting your wedding in the hands of someone you know absolutely nothing about.
You don’t get to pick your wedding planner! And that’s the thing, you won’t be working with a dedicated planner – on any given email or phone call you could be talking to whoever happens to pick up the phone at the call center.
Alternatively, you can meet and speak with a wedding planner in St. Thomas, put a face to the name, know they live on the island and get to know him/her.
The level of personalized service with an on-island planner is far superior to an anonymous person planning your wedding from a call center located who knows where.
I haven’t met a bride yet that likes the idea of being known as Royal Caribbean Bride #31586.
Check the box.
That’s how a cruise line plans your wedding.
You basically get a form to fill out where you check the box for the limited options offered.
Now, this might sound nice to some brides…kinda takes the angst of planning every detail of your wedding.
And if that’s what you want, myself or a wedding planner in St. Thomas can accommodate you just the same and do it for hundreds or thousands $$ less.
But if you want a little more thought put into your wedding, a planner doesn’t charge any more.
Here are a few areas where the cruise line’s inflexibility isn’t the best plan for your wedding:
They aren’t all created equal. Every photographer has radically different styles and skills. With the cruise line you are stuck with which ever photographer they book for you. With a wedding planner you can look at the portfolios of several photographers to find the one that suits your style and inspiration.
Admittedly, my wedding packages include The Mango Works. But you are certainly not limited to them. If you prefer, I can recommend a dozen other photographers you can hire outside of my packages.
The Wedding Location.
St. Thomas has some of the most beautiful beaches in the world. With Carnival Cruise line you are required to have your wedding at Limetree Beach. While I love Limetree and recommend it to many of my clients, there are better options depending on what you’d like your wedding to look like.
Magens Bay is a gorgeous beach that is 3 times bigger with unlimited spots for your ceremony. It has a coconut grove and old ruins for photographs. The water is prettier than Limetree. It is also a great beach to spend the day after your wedding with a full-service bar, watersports, beach-side grill and much more.
Forget having your wedding at Magens if you book through Carnival Cruise Lines. And with me or a local wedding planner, there is no additional cost to have your wedding at a “Deluxe Beach” like Magens or Lindquist Beach. Although, Magens and Lindquist Beach do charge a site fee of $100.
I talk more about places to get married in St. Thomas below.
Your Wedding Officiant.
And when it comes to checking the box, who wants to leave the most important part of the wedding to chance?
Of course I am referring to your wedding officiant/minister/celebrant. 🙂
Sad to say that cruise lines won’t give you much choice in choosing your wedding officiant. Now I’d like to think that I am the perfect wedding officiant for any couple, but the reality is I might not be the man for every job.
Your wedding ceremony is an important detail of your wedding day. A wedding planner in St. Thomas will be able to recommend a wedding officiant that fits you and your love. You can look at photos, videos and reviews to find an officiant that makes you happy.
If you are a real do-it-yourselfer, you can even contact vendors directly to plan your joyous event!
One final note about cruise ships and their check-the-box forms and fine print.
I was looking through the contracts for each of the cruise ship packages and found some depressing rules and regulations.
Each ship is different but they all have less than generous refund policies and payment requirements. If you are still unconvinced that cruise lines are difficult to work with, be sure to read the tiny wording on your contract.
Talk about inflexible!
Let’s pretend I convinced you the cruise ship wedding package was a bad idea.
And you made the momentous decision to hire me! Yahoo! I can’t wait to work with you and meet you!
Now we can talk about the $1,900 you saved by NOT booking through the cruise lines…
…and how to spend it!
Let me share a few things you could you do with $1,900 to make your St. Thomas wedding day spectacular.
Look, the fact is, the cruise lines are in business to make money. They have found an easy way to bring in a ton of money by signing people up for cruise ship weddings. I can’t fault them for their desire to make money. But I can at least point out the colossal waste of money it is to book your wedding with a cruise line.
There are so many more options for planning an amazing wedding in St. Thomas without the cruise line.
I find that too often couples to fall into the “it’s easy, so let’s just do it with the cruise line” frame of mind.
But it is sooo much more difficult to have a “stress-free” wedding day when you have no idea what to expect until you arrive on the island. With myself and the other wedding planners on St. Thomas, you will have the peace of mind that everything will be exactly as is should.
Take this for what it’s worth:
If you were to give me the $3,106 instead of the cruise line, I would blow your mind with what we could put together for your wedding!
One last thought about getting married in St. Thomas…
You decided on a destination wedding. The idea being that you want to get married in a beautiful destination.
So why limit yourselves to the few options provided by the cruise lines. Why not look at a private beach? A gorgeous garden gazebo? How about a multi-million dollar villa overlooking the British Virgin Islands? Forget it any of the above options when booking with a cruise line – they either aren’t options, or they are cost prohibitive.
A wedding planner in St. Thomas has at their disposal dozens of beaches, villas, botanical gardens and other wedding venues. Take a look at a few of the options at Blue Venues.
For a full list of wedding venues and reception options, contact Blue Sky Ceremony, one of the premier wedding planners in St. Thomas.
So that’s it. I hope you don’t think I was too hard on the cruise lines, but it does frustrate me when I get a call from someone that booked with a cruise line and is unsatisfied with the service and expense.
Which leads me to a quick suggestion.
And I’ll start by telling you a quick story…
I received a call from a bride named Jordan. She contacted me 3 weeks before her wedding because she was frustrated with the cruise line planning her wedding. Her frustration stemmed from the slow responses she received from her cruise line “coordinator”. She contacted me with a few questions and I gave her all the information she needed.
On a whim, she asked me for a quote for her destination wedding in St. Thomas (it included 12 guests). My quote was less than half what she was paying.
Jordan canceled her wedding with the cruise line (she lost most of her deposit) but she more than saved that and got the exact wedding she wanted!
So, if you already booked with a cruise line but want to change to a more flexible, personal, inexpensive and MORE BEAUTIFUL option, you can ask for a refund and give me a call 340-201-6069.
Even if you are out a few hundred bucks with your deposit, you will still save hundreds if not thousands and actually have the wedding of your dreams.
And that, ladies and gentleman, is how to save $1,900 on a St. Thomas Cruise Ship Wedding.
P.S. Please share this with anyone you know that is considering a cruise ship wedding or has already booked with a cruise line. It might not be too late! They will thank you for the assist and will be required to invite you and pay your way to their destination wedding in St. Thomas!