Mar­riages are made at sea

Not only are cruise wed­dings still a huge novelty in In­dia, they also al­low agents to have wider mar­gins while mak­ing it eas­ier for the fam­ily to or­gan­ise the once-in-a-life­time event

Micetalk - - Contents - Hazel Jain

Move over des­ti­na­tion wed­dings, nup­tials on­board a cruise liner is the way to go now. While the idea of cruis­ing it­self is still strug­gling to get the In­dian hol­i­day­maker’s at­ten­tion as an op­tion to hol­i­day, his­tory has shown that we like to get way more ad­ven­tur­ous when it comes to wed­dings! Purely based on this quirk­i­ness, per­haps wed­dings on cruise lin­ers may just take off in the In­dian mar­ket.

Pav­ing the way to make this a pos­si­bil­ity are mul­ti­ple in­ter­na­tional cruise lin­ers who have al­ready con­nected the dots and are equat­ing the idea of cruis­ing with ‘life events’ of which wed­ding is a huge part. Take for ex­am­ple MSC Cruises. Pro­moted by Sharaf Trav­els in In­dia, MSC Cruises has spe­cial pack­ages for wed­dings. Ku­nal Sam­pat, Gen­eral Man­ager In­dia, MSC Cruises, ex­plains, “In­dian wed­dings as com­pared to oth­ers are enor­mous spec­ta­cles. At MSC Cruises, we en­sure the client can live out their ro­man­tic dream. Be it a sym­bolic cer­e­mony on-board or re­newal of vows, we have pack­ages de­signed for dif­fer­ent oc­ca­sions. Our events team co-or­di­nates with the plan­ner to gather all the re­quire­ments. Once the same is provided, we short­list the best pos­si­ble venues on­board. We can also sup­port by pro­vid­ing ex­tra ser­vices to en­hance the cer­e­mony which in­clude culi­nary delights, video and photo pack­ages, live cer­e­mo­nial mu­sic and more. Once the cer­e­monies are com­plete, we can even of­fer ‘Him & Her’ deluxe pack­ages.”

MSC Cruises’ ships can ac­com­mo­date any­thing be­tween 2200-4500 pas­sen­gers. The clincher it seems is how early the client books. “We have var­i­ous venues avail­able on­board that can be al­lo­cated to the group based on the size. We could have cer­e­monies in the lounges, on the open deck, in the Royal the­atre, etc. We can also pro­vide cus­tomised menus along with beverages, spe­cially print per­sonal mo­tif on our daily pro­gramme sheets, ded­i­cate a TV chan­nel dis­play­ing their pro­gramme for the day, have ded­i­cated hos­pi­tal­ity desks, ded­i­cated check-in/check-out coun­ters and more,” Sam­pat adds. How­ever, while fire is an essen­tial el­e­ment for a Hindu wed­ding, it is not al­lowed on-board due to safety rea­sons. The com­pany will now be pro­mot­ing its new next-gen­er­a­tion ship, MSC Mer­av­iglia, for wed­dings and prom­ises to of­fer more value for wed­ding plan­ners.

STAR OF THE SHOW

Mean­while, Star Cruises and Dream Cruises ships are also equipped to host In­dian wed­dings and of­fer a va­ri­ety of pack­ages. The ‘Wed­ding At Sea’ pack­age in­cludes ev­ery­thing that a cou­ple needs to cel­e­brate their nup­tials, in­clud­ing beau­ti­ful venues, Cham­pagne toast, wed­ding cake, and In­dian veg­e­tar­ian or in­ter­na­tional cui­sine. Be­sides, an ex­pe­ri­enced wed­ding co-or­di­na­tor is also avail­able to as­sist them in the plan­ning process.

Naresh Rawal, VP Sales – In­dia, Gent­ing Cruise Lines, adds, “Elab­o­rate In­dian cer­e­monies can be ac­com­plished with all the mar­riage rit­u­als to com­mem­o­rate the most im­por­tant day of their life as they’ve al­ways imag­ined it. The cou­ple and their fam­i­lies can also avail of spa and beauty treat­ments, flow­ers (in­clud­ing cus­tom or­ders), pro­fes­sional pho­tog­ra­phy and videog­ra­phy, trans­porta­tion to and from the ship or wed­ding lo­ca­tion, pri­or­ity check-in, and a va­ri­ety of wed­ding re­cep­tion op­tions. We can even ar­range for the sangeet and mehendi cer­e­monies, rang­ing from an el­e­gant cock­tail re­cep­tion with gourmet selections and open bar to a four-course sit-down lunch on with wine ser­vice.”

For cou­ples who wish to re-con­firm their love at sea can also choose their ‘Vow Re­newal’ pack­age which of­fers mar­ried cou­ples the op­por­tu­nity to cel­e­brate their love all over again with a pri­vate vow re­newal cer­e­mony per­formed by one of the ship’s of­fi­cers. The pack­age in­cludes cer­e­mony mu­sic, a

Elab­o­rate In­dian cer­e­monies can be ac­com­plished with all the rit­u­als that they've imag­ined

ro­man­tic sin­gle red rose, Cham­pagne toast, a cel­e­bra­tion cake for two, a com­mem­o­ra­tive vow re­newal cer­tifi­cate, sparkling wine, canapes, and choco­late-cov­ered straw­ber­ries de­liv­ered to their state­room at the end of the cer­e­mony. Star Cruises and Dream Cruises of­fer In­dian, in­ter­na­tional, veg­e­tar­ian and even Jain meals. The menu can be up­graded for wed­ding groups and de­cided in con­sul­ta­tion with the fam­ily and chef on board. “It means any com­mu­nity from In­dia can or­gan­ise a wed­ding on a Star Cruises ship,” Rawal adds.

CHAR­TERS FOR WED­DINGS

Mean­while, Costa Cruises re­cently hosted a lav­ish wed­ding of Adel Sa­jan, son of the UAEbased In­dian busi­ness ty­coon, with Sana Khan, on-board the Costa Fas­ci­nosa cruise that sailed the Mediter­ranean. Nalini Gupta, MD, Lo­tus Des­ti­na­tions, GSA Costa Cruise In­dia, says, “This was the first time that such a big cruise ship was booked for a wed­ding. Over 1000 guests sailed on-board the 3800-pas­sen­ger ca­pac­ity ship from Barcelona to Mar­seille, and then to Cannes be­fore fi­nally stop­ping at Savona.” She thinks that In­dian wed­dings and a cruise have a per­fect fit, en­abling the bride and groom to ac­tu­ally en­joy their wed­ding. This was seen at the re­cent wed­ding of Sana and Adel where guests didn't have to worry about trav­el­ling to dif­fer­ent venues for cer­e­monies. A pool­side party closed the event with the cut­ting of the wed­ding cake, pre­pared by the Costa’s cor­po­rate chef – an ex­tra­or­di­nary 12-level dessert weigh­ing 140 ki­los, al­most three me­tres high.

Speak­ing about al­low­ing fire cer­e­monies on board, Gupta says, “We may now be will­ing to ex­plore that pos­si­bil­ity with our Safety Of­fi­cer su­per­vis­ing it. We have been very keen on hav­ing In­dian wed­dings on-board Costa ships, but due to safety guide­lines of the fire cer­e­mony, we were un­able to ex­plore this seg­ment.” Costa will cre­ate wed­ding brochures with spe­cific itin­er­ar­ies for the In­dian mar­ket. The guest has to just buy the cabins, and ev­ery­thing from food, entertainment, and venue is taken care of. Only al­co­hol and ex­cur­sions are charge­able over and above the cabin price. “Even for that, we have lots of deals, like an un­lim­ited al­co­hol pack­age, which is charged at USD 35 per per­son, per day, cov­er­ing a large va­ri­ety of al­co­holic and non-al­co­holic beverages. Our ships can ac­com­mo­date 1500-5000 guests de­pend­ing upon the ship,” Gupta adds. Two things that Costa doesn’t al­low, how­ever, is any dé­cor that in­ter­feres with the phys­i­cal struc­ture of the ship and al­co­hol bot­tles from out­side.

In­dia is a last-minute mar­ket and group book­ings on cruises can get very tricky dur­ing peak sea­son

CHARM­ING RIVER CRUISES

That may be a huge damp­ener for In­dian fam­i­lies to opt for an ocean cruise. But what

about river cruises? Ki­ran Bhan­dari, Co-founder, CruiseClub Va­ca­tions based in Pune, feels that the lat­est trend is wed­dings on river cruises. “This is quite a charm­ing ex­pe­ri­ence, as it is ba­si­cally a float­ing ho­tel tak­ing you through the beau­ti­ful Euro­pean coun­try­side land­scapes, and then stop­ping right in the heart of cities. Th­ese are suit­able for com­pact groups, with most ships with a ca­pac­ity of 150-180 pas­sen­gers. But the ad­van­tage is that you can char­ter the en­tire ship, and for any du­ra­tion, which is nearly im­pos­si­ble on large ocean cruises in Europe,” he adds.

Cost-wise, this turns out to be a lot more af­ford­able as com­pared to any other cruise ex­pe­ri­ence, and some­times even land-based wed­dings. Since the ship is en­tirely al­lo­cated to the group, it is a com­pletely pri­vate ex­pe­ri­ence. As such, food and al­co­hol can be cus­tomised ex­actly as per the needs of the group. Bhan­dari gets a lot of wed­ding groups for this from cities like Mum­bai, Ahmed­abad, and Kolkata, and they are usu­ally Mar­wari and Gu­jarati wed­dings.

THE LATE MAR­KET

Un­for­tu­nately, In­dia is a last-minute mar­ket and group book­ings on cruises can get very tricky, spe­cially dur­ing peak sea­son. Cruise Pro­fes­sion­als does get a lot of wed­ding group re­quests each year, but they have not had a chance to host an In­dian wed­ding since th­ese re­quests have gen­er­ally come only five or six months prior to the sail date. Nishith Sax­ena, Founder & Di­rec­tor, Cruise Pro­fes­sion­als, says, “This seg­ment shall grow only when the wed­ding plan­ners start se­ri­ously con­sid­er­ing cruises as a unique op­tion and work ac­cord­ing to the cruise sched­ule rather than run­ning a par­al­lel op­er­a­tion, which some­times dis­turbs the oper­a­tional ef­fi­ciency of the ship.”

Also, since In­dian wed­dings re­quire a high level of cus­tomi­sa­tion, of­fer­ing ex­clu­sive ar­eas for cer­e­monies may be­come a chal­lenge, spe­cially on a high-end ships, un­less the re­quire­ments have been provided in ad­vance.

“The whole idea of a cruise is an all-in­clu­sive price but when we start work­ing on cus­tomi­sa­tions for wed­dings, the costs start spi­ral­ing. On Princess Cruises ships, we have a wed­ding chapel where we can ac­tu­ally cre­ate and do al­most any­thing within rea­son­able de­vi­a­tions for In­dian wed­dings. What we do not al­low is the In­dian-style ‘pheras’ as this is a safety haz­ard,” Sax­ena clar­i­fies.

Such el­e­men­tal prob­lems might put a spoke in the wheels of cruis­ing as an op­tion for In­dian wed­dings, but In­di­ans are re­silient crea­tures and their de­sire to be dif­fer­ent may just fi­nally win the bat­tle with tra­di­tion.

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