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Getting Married Aboard Nieuw Amsterdam

Aaron Saunders of Ports & Bows on recently got married on board Nieuw Amsterdam and wrote about it. He let us post about his wedding on the blog, and we’re thrilled to share the happy couple’s experience.

Did you know you can get married at sea?

I tied the knot in late July aboard Holland America Line’s Nieuw Amsterdam in the port of Vancouver with the help of Delta, BC-based Royal Ocean Events (ROE). The company, headed by Tonia Scurr, has been organizing weddings aboard cruise ships for over two decades now, and I had the opportunity to see their amazing planning firsthand.

I never thought I’d be a wreck at my own wedding. I was. With 20 sailing and 50 non-sailing guests, I worried about people getting lost in the cruise terminal, arriving with no ID, or worse — being denied boarding.

Scurr and her staff, signs out and ready, had things under control. The entire process couldn’t have been more orderly, At check-in, security, and at the gangway, someone from Royal Ocean Events was always waiting to guide us in the right direction.

We’d chosen to have our ceremony at B.B. King’s Blues Club onboard the Nieuw Amsterdam, which was fully decorated and ready by the time we arrived. The Ocean Bar was taken over by our guests, with coffee, tea and light bites available while they waited.

On a ship, weddings in port work on a somewhat accelerated timeline. Our ceremony was a brisk 30 minutes, followed by a relaxed luncheon in the Pinnacle Grill, where we had time for speeches and visiting with friends and family as a delicious five-course meal was served with expert precision. We’re still talking about the amazing soup that was served.

We also customized our reception, bringing our own wine and electing to pay corkage on it, which saved some money over the cruise line’s beverage package. You can also elect to forgo lunch and just have hors d’oeuvres and bar service in one of the ship’s lounges, if that better fits your needs.

It’s a good idea to have professional photos taken before you embark: the cruise lines don’t allow outside photographers onboard, and their photo packages on offer are exorbitant … We hired a local-area Vancouver photographer to take photos of us at sunrise as the Nieuw Amsterdam sailed in and were thrilled with the results.

Once our reception luncheon in the Pinnacle Grill ended, our non-sailing guests were escorted ashore by ROE staff and the 20 of us sailing to Alaska settled into our shipboard routines. My wife and I stayed dressed for the entire day, even showing up to the lifeboat drill in our wedding attire — a good way to get people talking. Many of those not sailing with us stayed to watch us depart Canada Place on a sun-splashed evening, and our wedding coordinator was able to reserve tables for us to eat together in the dining room, followed by games, cake and activities in one of the windowed conference rooms.

Holland America also makes it easy for friends and family to wish you well: the line recently rolled out a new gift card program that can be applied to new or existing bookings or your onboard account.

Unlike a traditional wedding on land, we continued the celebrations over the next seven days in Alaska with family and friends. It’s also an economical take on the destination wedding, since a cruise ship offers a variety of accommodation types at different price points.

Admittedly, getting married on a cruise ship isn’t for everyone. For my wife and I, however, it was the perfect option: a unique way to celebrate with friends and family that wouldn’t break the bank, yet still provided us with a remarkable experience — and memories to last a lifetime. — Aaron Saunders

To read the article on Ports & Bows, visit If a wedding on a Holland America Line ship or in the chapel on Half Moon Cay sounds like the perfect way to say “I do,” Royal Ocean Events is ready to plan!

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