Being an avid Disney fan I did not need much convincing when my cousin told me about his plans to get hitched with the Mouse. A Disney cruise wedding - I was all for it! Adding to the excitement was the fact that we would be sailing on the Disney Dream for a four-night voyage, which included a stop at Nassau and at Castaway Cay, Disney’s Private Island in the Bahamas.
While the couple could have opted for a Florida marriage license and ceremony, all arranged by Disney prior to boarding the ship, we had a lovely ceremony in New York a few weeks before the cruise.
Eventually departure day came and a party of 27 guests boarded the Disney Dream and left everything up to the bride, the groom and the wedding coordinator. Upon check-in the wedding coordinator promptly summoned the couple for last-minute arrangements and provided concierge service, which included bookings of shore excursions, spa and hair salon appointments and a special champagne welcome for them.
On the first night we all received an elegant printed invitation to the wedding with instructions for the big day. I can attest, having traveled with most of the guests before, that it is no small feat to get us all in one spot at the same time. I had my doubts when I read what seemed like simple instructions. Departure to Castaway Cay was set for 9:30 a.m. with a general assembly order at 9:00 a.m. in the atrium of the ship for pictures of the wedding party.
Finally the big day arrived and a group of excited wedding guests gathered in the atrium of the chip. I chuckled while observing the wedding coordinator and the photographer trying to make sense of our unruly group. Eventually pictures were taken and at 9:30 a.m. sharp we were all whisked onto a trolley that took us to the beach where the ceremony was to take place. The bride and her immediate party followed a little later in a golf cart decorated with flowers. Guests along the way waved, applauded and wished us well while we were all belting out ‘Chapel of Love’, the song made famous by The Dixie Cups.
With the Disney Dream as a backdrop we were seated at the beach enjoying a fabulous view of the ocean, a pianist played classical music. The mom walked the bride down an aisle covered in flowers and seashells, which ended in front of a pulpit flanked by torches topped with mini wedding bouquets. A Bahamian minister performed the ceremony and made sure the couple had the intimacy such an occasion warrants. After the ‘I do’ and traditional kiss there was ample time for picture taking. The wedding was held right next to the family beach, and while some cruise guests chose to observe the ceremony, they stayed at a respectful distance.
We were taken back by trolley to the Disney Dream for a reception on the 14th floor while the couple set out for more picture opportunities on the island. Once more I was surprised by how easy-going the wedding coordinator was and how he was able to get us all back on the ship with no one left behind. The reception on the 14th floor of the ship was very intimate and included a pianist, champagne for all and a two-tier wedding cake. There was plenty of time for speeches and a first dance. At no time were we rushed, but eventually the bride and groom left for some more pictures onboard the ship.
They later joined the rest of us for a few hours on Castaway Cay. The island is beautiful and offers lots of activities for families with kids, and the beaches are simply pristine. The big draw is Pelican Plunge, a 2,400-square-foot floating platform with two slides and a giant water bucket that dumps hundreds of gallons of water on bathers. Little tykes can cool off at the brand-new, 2,400-square-foot Spring-a-Leak water play area. Imagine dripping pipes, broken plumbing and hissing misters and you get the point. At Scuttle's Cove kids can enjoy youth activities under the supervision of Disney cast members.
And did I mention the barbeque? Not one but several stations ensure guests do not get hungry while exploring Castaway Cay.
Our party opted for rest and drinks at Serenity Bay. This Disney’s grownup-only beach comes complete with a barbeque station, a bar and secluded cabanas with a great view. The 325-square-foot cabanas are furnished with tables, cushioned chaise lounges, a stocked refrigerator, fresh water shower and a hammock. The rental fee is $499 for a party of up to six.
At night we all changed back into our wedding finest and enjoyed a dinner at Palo located on Deck 12, Aft. This adults-only specialty restaurant features Northern Italian cuisine and offers sweeping ocean views. Palo, named after the signature long poles used by gondoliers in Venice, serves fabulous fare in an upscale setting but requires an additional $25 fee per guest. Our dinner was delicious and I loved the lamb dish I ordered. The Oregano and Parmesan Crusted Rack of Lamb was served with Sangiovese roasted shallots, olive oil-baked Roma tomatoes and came with a Patato Torta. I was, however, disappointed with the service that night. The main wedding table did get proper attention, but the wait staff at our table made no attempt to make us feel special. We were pressured to order dessert before we even had the starter and rushed through the meal. When dessert came no coffee nor after dinner drinks or treats were offered.
The day ended with us enjoying the fireworks that went up as part of the pirate’s party held for all sailing guests. It was a fabulous experience: a wedding in the morning, time at the beach in the afternoon and a great dinner followed by fireworks, what could be better?
I was impressed by the execution of the entire event. Every night the wedding coordinator arranged surprises for the bride and groom. Strawberry’s dipped in chocolate, champagne, a fruit basket, a beach bag with towels and finally on the evening of the wedding the bed was decorated with rose petals, flowers and chocolate seashells. The top part of the wedding cake was also delivered to the stateroom and eventually shared with all of us on the last day of our cruise.
Disney’s Fairy Tale Wedding packages on Castaway Cay start at $4,000 for a party of 8 guests plus the couple. The charge for additional guests is $20 per person 3 years and older. The package includes the ceremony on the island, a wedding coordinator, concierge service and the services of a minister. Also included in this package is live music performed by a pianist at the beach and during the reception, a fresh flower bouquet for the bride and a boutonniere for the groom as well as a reception on board the ship with a two-tier wedding cake, a bottle of champagne and special treats for the bride and groom. The couple is also treated to a diner at Palo, a $100 onboard stateroom credit, and the steaming of the couples ceremony attire is taken care free of charge.
An event photographer, a surprise visit of Disney characters and floral add-ons can be arranged for an additional cost.
If you are planning to tie the knot with the Mouse, check out Disney's Fairytale Weddings and make sure to get the most out of your cruise with The Unofficial Guide to the Disney Cruise Line by Len Testa, Erin Foster and Laurel Steward.
Our party of three sailed on the Disney Dream on a four-night cruise April 13-17 in a Cat 11C inside cabin on deck 2. Price tag: $800 per person including all meals and activities on board. Offshore excursions, spa treatments, dinner at Palo and alcoholic beverage are not included. For more information and for booking your very own cruise, check out Disney Cruise Line.
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Liliane Opsomer is a freelance writer and the co-author of "The Unofficial Guide to Walt Disney World with Kids," a guidebook that provides planning and touring tips for a family vacation.