The real love boat: Renew your vows on board and your marriage will never be all at sea again!
The big day has arrived and the question is whether we opt for teeth whitening or keep it simple with a romantic breakfast on our balcony. That last one please.
In 2013, my wife and I got married on the Crown Princess cruise ship, passing through Spain, and now we are in the middle of the Caribbean on Regal Princess – somewhere between Cuba and Haiti – renewing our wedding vows.
And we are not alone. We are one of 658 couples on board in what turns out to be a record for this sort of thing.
Putting it all together now: Princess Cruises broke a record as 1,443 couples reaffirmed their vows
There is more than a touch of theatre. Two decks are awash with couples in smart suits and chic dresses.
Fittingly, Regal Princess is a descendant of Princess Cruises’ Pacific Princess, the star of the American TV comedy drama The Love Boat, which ran for nearly a decade from 1977.
The show was directed by Gavin MacLeod as Captain Merrill Stubing – and he sent us, aided by guest of honor Jill Whelan, his TV daughter Vicki.
Captain Stubing, who sadly passed away in May this year, pushed 90 on the cruise. He flaunted his belongings in his stiff white uniform and cap, confronted by a fleet of couples seeking his blessing. All grown up but as perky as ever, Jill told us how she got married on another Princess Cruises ship, Caribbean Princess – although, she confesses to me later in the bar, that wasn’t really the guy she’s married to now.
Also here is Michael, from the US, who is serious and cropped in a logo embellished blazer. He is from Guinness World Records and is eyeing this bid for the largest wedding vow renewal ceremony in multiple locations.
Until now, the largest vow renewal has been 1,201 couples, in Michigan, America. But we had joined forces with Royal Princess, en route from LA to Mexico, and Crown Princess, not far from us, for a triple blow.
In 2013, Nick Dalton and his Daily Mail wife married on the Crown Princess cruise ship (pictured)
During the massive event, my wife Deborah and I are begged to look each other in the eye and promise a lifetime of joy.
Even Captain Stubing renewed his vows with Patti, a real woman of 44.
There are all kinds. The elderly fellow who looks like Santa Claus (“It’s great to get away from the North Pole,” he grins) and his good lady, dressed like someone who had arrived on the Mayflower. The couple in T-shirts that read ’40 years married and we still like each other’. “And we do!” they tell anyone who will listen.
Love is in the air: Nick said the vow renewal ceremony brought up ‘many memories’ of his big day
The Princess Tie The Knot At Sea package costs from £1,845, which includes a captain-led ceremony, music, flowers, photos, cake and champagne (princess.com/weddingplanner).
The young couple got married the week before – the woman is in her wedding dress. The Australian couple were only married that afternoon by the real captain, Tim Stringer.
People in ball gowns and tuxedos, high heels and shorts, all of whom had come on this week-long journey from Fort Lauderdale, Florida. It’s theater, but it’s strangely moving despite all the showbiz hoo-hah.
We opted for a wedding on board, having gone beyond the stage of wanting a room full of family and vol-au-vents. And just inviting your best friends alienates all those who thought they were your best friends but weren’t invited.
Accompanied by our teens, Georgia and Henry, the captain performed the ceremony in a flower-decked room. There are photos of us casually leaning against the deck rail, and even a DVD, which we’ll be watching once we’re through a decade of The Love Boat.
Returning to the scene – or close enough – brings back a lot of memories. And there’s a massive leap of joy as Michael trumpets that the total number of vow renewals across the three ships is a record-breaking 1,443.
“It’s a cross-section of humanity, all ages, all walks of life,” Captain Stubing said later, as he was off duty with a glass of something. “So emotional.” And he was right.