“I never planned to get married on a cruise ship. In fact, I never planned to get married at all.” This was the opening line of my article on hitchhiking at sea, which I wrote for this newspaper in 2004. Now, I was about to do it all again – and for the same man! Not a full-blown wedding this time, although I was just as nervous. Instead, we had decided to renew our vows – on a ship, of course. It seemed only right to continue the nautical theme.
During the various lockdowns, my husband Mark and I spent more time together than we had in the previous 18 years since we got married. Being put together could have been a disaster, but we went through it and came out with a stronger bond than before. It was time to celebrate.
This time around, we went luxury, sailing the Regent Seven Seas Cruises luxury line and repeating our vows on Seven Seas Explorer, the ship that starred in the TV show The Most Expensive Ship in the World. It certainly isn’t too shabby, with its famous £ 9,500-a-night Regent Suite, free champagne and butlers.
We didn’t go that extravagant, but we were very happy with our suite. It was a lovely size and resembled Chicago’s art deco Pendry hotel, with a large balcony, a marble bathroom (with his and hers sinks) and a bed so large you could miss each other. more under the duvet.
And anyway, we didn’t need a butler because we had Melanie, who kept our minibar stocked with sparkling wine, and Rachel, the ship’s social hostess, who had planned our upcoming nuptials. Good thing, too, because we were seriously unprepared, even though we had done it before.
Rachel had instructed Captain Rosario (“Call me Captain Saro”) to conduct the ceremony, chose a venue, lined up a red carpet, ordered a bouquet for me and a boutonniere for Mark and had the galley waiting to bake a cake. . She also gave us a choice of vows (non-religious, please) and a chance to say some of our words once we’d done “until death do us part” things.
We had chosen this cruise for the itinerary: 12 nights sailing from Istanbul to Piraeus (Athens), visiting a different port every day as we zigzagged between Turkey and Greece, with a quick detour to Cyprus.
The Greek islands of Rhodes, Santorini and Crete are ancient favorites, so we planned to do our thing in each and take our vows as we moored alongside the Turkish town of Kusadasi. But Kavala in Greece and Alanya, Antalya and Marmaris in Turkey were new to us so we signed up for the excursions. Regent’s are mostly included, as are tips, transfers, and just about anything you can think of – and they’re a great introduction to a new place.
As the ceremony didn’t happen until late afternoon, I treated myself to a makeover in the spa, not cheap (my bill was £ 220 for three treatments). But the way I see it, it’s just, uh, twice that you do this marriage thing – to the same person anyway. Beauty therapist Ivy spent nearly an hour applying lotions, potions, and peels to her face, and while they haven’t been able to go back over the years, I was very lucid when I embarked on the third part of my makeover. “This is going to be a challenge,” I warned hairstylist Daryl. He thought I was joking, but 40 minutes later he admitted defeat. I gave him top marks for perseverance.
The big day
Rather than worrying about what to wear when renewing vows, I decided to opt for the dress I hitched in, while Mark wore the same suit. It was a lot of recycling, and I was more than proud that, 18 years later, my dress still fit on me like the day I bought it.
Rachel rang our suite bell when she came to escort us into the lobby, which stood like a chapel. A clandestine phone call alerted pianist Ed that we were approaching, and Pachelbel’s beautiful Canon in D major rang as we descended the grand staircase, turned to the red carpet and … Oh my God.
When Rachel said some officers were present as alternate guests, we were expecting two or three, but there were 10 or more, all in uniform. “Never again,” whispered my rather disheartened husband as we walked the red carpet. And then we left. Cruise director Dru talked about love, Captain Saro took our vows, we read the words we had written (Mark excelled with references to storms and anchors) and the deed was done.
We ended the big day at Prime 7, a restaurant where everything is great, including prawns, steak and, for just one night, our “wedding cake”. He was taken out on a tram by the singing waiters and could have fed the five thousand. Yes, the celebration was extravagant – exaggerated, even – but also perfect. Just as I would expect from the most expensive ship in the world.
Regent Seven Seas Cruises (023 8082 1390; rssc.com) has a 10-night voyage of history, culture and cuisine from Piraeus (Athens) to Barcelona on sister ship Seven Seas Splendor, departing April 29, 2023. Fares start at £ 6,709 per person including flights, transfers, excursions, all meals, Wi-Fi, drinks, tips and laundry.
The vow renewal package costs £ 400 and includes the ceremony, a bouquet of flowers, a congratulatory letter from the captain, a Veuve Clicquot champagne reception, a cake and a Leonidas box of chocolates.
Facials in the spa cost from £ 144 for 50 minutes. Book three treatments to get 10% discount on the first, 15% on the second, 20% on the third.
For full details of entry requirements and Covid rules for your favorite destinations, see telegraph.co.uk/tt-travelrules. Refer to the cruise company for more travel information.
Cruises to rekindle romance
Light of my life
13-day Northern Lights traveler gracefully sails along the Norwegian coast, gliding between snow-capped mountains and pretty fishing villages as you curl up next to your loved one and drink in the view. There are husky rides, the Arctic Cathedral of Tromso and the incredible Saltstraumen whirlwind, but nothing compares to the spectacular finale of the Northern Lights.
How to do it: From £ 5,490 per person, including all meals and entertainment, onboard beverage package, one shore excursion to each port and all onboard gratuities. Depart Tilbury on 11 February 2023 (01760 722011; onetraveller.co.uk)
The blue Danube
If you’re on the hunt for a fairytale romance, you can’t go wrong with Viking River Cruises’ ever popular romantic Danube trip. Spend eight glorious days from Budapest to Regensburg in Germany, passing through elegant and historic Vienna, Krems (the jewel of the Austrian Wachau Valley) and peaceful, gothic Passau.
How to do it: From £ 1,945 per person, including round-trip flights, beer, wine and soft drinks with lunch and dinner on board, ground transfers and onboard gratuities. Departs Budapest on dates throughout 2023 (0800 319 6660; vikingrivercruises.co.uk)
Down to the islands
Celestyal Cruises’ 14-night Idyllic Aegean and Steps of Paul cruise lets you see side-by-side some of the region’s most majestic sights: from the tranquil beaches of Milos and the mosaic-paved streets of Ephesus to the emerald waters of the Cyclades and the magnificent mosque of Hagia Sophia.
How to do it: From £ 1,433 per person, including free meals, classic drinks, onboard entertainment, all port taxes and gratuities. Depart Athens on 7 October 2023 (0800 411 8038; celestyal.com)