After reflag, Cunard ready to take the plunge with weddings

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For the first time in its 172-year history, Cunard Line is poised to begin a weddings-at-sea program, with its ship captains presiding over marriage ceremonies.

The line last year said it was mulling the introduction of wedding packages because, as Cunard President Peter Shanks noted, it was missing out on a lucrative revenue stream.

There was some red tape to deal with first, however, including changing the ships' registries from England to Bermuda because under British law, marriage ceremonies must be held in a publicly accessible venue. And by transferring the registries to Bermuda, which is a British overseas territory, the vessels can continue to hoist flags showing the British insignia.

Starting next month, passengers can arrange to be married by the captains of the Queen Mary 2, the Queen Elizabeth and the Queen Victoria on any sailing.

Cunard has set up its wedding program differently from other cruise lines. While mass-market and premium lines outsource their wedding-planning services to specialist vendors, a Cunard spokeswoman said that the line will handle all bookings and arrangements internally.

It has created a standard package, priced at $2,500 plus a marriage license fee of $575. The plan covers priority baggage delivery; press service for bridal outfits; priority boarding and disembarkation for the bridal couple; an onboard wedding coordinator; two floral arrangements for the ceremony venue; a bridal bouquet and groom's boutonniere; a one-tier wedding cake; a White Star bellman to escort the bride to the venue; a commemorative wedding certificate; a bottle of champagne; breakfast in bed for the bridal couple; and wedding invitations and thank-you notes.

Other services and amenities are offered in Cunard's "Finishing Touches" program and can include such additions as cocktail parties or dinners, music by the ship's harpist or the placement of an ice sculpture.

According to the line, ceremonies will be limited to one per day, per ship, "to maintain exclusivity," and all weddings will be held on at-sea days.

Various venues, such as lounges and restaurants, are available aboard each ship depending on the size of the wedding party.

Agents can review wedding package details at www.cunard.com.

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