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Sovereign of the Seas, Eastern Caribbean, May 20, 1995 - May 27, 1995
Teri and I had booked this cruise 10 months in advance and it had been consuming our thoughts for quite some time. This would not be an ordinary cruise for us (as if any cruise could be considered ordinary); we would be getting married on board Sovereign of the Seas before departure and cruising for our honeymoon!
We have been on two cruises before. The first was a five-night Premier ``Big Red Boat'' holiday cruise on the Star/Ship Atlantic with my family. This is what got us interested in cruising. Our second cruise was a 3-nighter on RCCL's Viking Serenade with a long-time friend. This wedding/honeymoon cruise on Sovereign would be our first week-long cruise and our first cruise by ourselves.
Friday, May 19, 1995
Flying to the East Coast
Our journey started in the wee hours of Friday, May 19. RCCL Passengers flying from the West Coast to Florida are required to fly the day before and spend the night in Miami. This suited us just fine. However, our flight left San Diego at 7 AM so we had to get up really early. Anyway, after a plane change in Dallas, we arrived in Florida around 6 pm on Friday evening. As we were flying into port we saw the Nordic Empress and several other cruise ships in port.
A Royal Caribbean agent met us (and many other passengers) at the gate and led us through the airport where we waited for a bus to pick us up. Unlike other cruise lines that I have been reading about lately, we did not have to claim our luggage. Royal Caribbean sends luggage tags with the cruise documents that are affixed to your luggage before leaving home. Royal Caribbean personnel grab your luggage right off the carousel and transport it to the ship without intervention. Much more convenient than having to pick it up and hand it over to the cruise line porters. Unfortunately, we had to wait while several people that did not know about the luggage tags went with an RCCL agent to find their bags, tag them, and put them right back on the carousel.
Since we'd be staying overnight, we had to hand-carry an overnight bag. And since we'd be getting married, I was also carrying a garment bag with my suit and Teri was hand-carrying her wedding dress.
We rode the bus to the Hyatt Regency in Miami. Our room was very nice. We wanted to go out on the town but decided to eat at the hotel restaurant and get to bed early. We didn't want to be too tired on our wedding day!
Saturday, May 20, 1995
Our Wedding Day, Sovereign Departs
Saturday morning I went to the RCCL check-in desk in the lobby of the hotel. There was a very short line. This is a major advantage to be able to check-in at the hotel and then just walk onto the ship later. The one thing I don't understand about RCCL is why they don't also activate the ship-board charge card at check-in; this must be handled later after boarding the ship (this was also our experience checking in at the port of Los Angeles for our cruise on Viking Serenade).
Buses started shuttling passengers to the ship at 11:15 am. Our wedding officiant picked us up in a mini-van so we didn't need to hassle with the bus. (Avoiding the bus and the crowd when arriving at the pier worked out so nicely that in the future, we will just take a taxi to the pier.)
The Norway was docked right next to Sovereign. It was quite exciting on the drive up to see two of the world's largest ships docked next to one another.
We walked into the terminal and right onto the ship. We were met by a uniformed crewperson as we entered the ship and were shown to our category C cabin on deck 10, #1578. She even carried one of our bags! Our cabin was fabulous. It was very large with lots of closet space and a small safe in one of the closets. There were two mini-couches and a small table in the sitting area and three large windows. We also had a 20" television and a refrigerator. The bathroom had a tub/shower combination.
Our officiant had accompanied us this far, but now he left, giving us almost an hour to change and prepare for our wedding. When the hour was up, he returned and escorted us down to the ship's library, where our wedding was held. The wedding consisted of the officiant, the two of us and a photographer.
It was a nice ceremony. We had picked two poems to be read. We also shared a glass of wine as part of the ceremony, and took two candles and lit one.
After the ceremony the officiant left and we walked around the ship with the photographer getting photos taken. We even ran into another couple getting photos taken that had just been married elsewhere on the ship. By this time, the ship was starting to fill up with people and it got to be somewhat embarrassing walking around all dressed up amongst the people wearing shorts and t-shirts.
The wedding company had had a bottle of sparkling wine and a cake delivered to our cabin so we got the standard photos taken cutting the cake and toasting, etc.
After the photographer left, we quickly changed clothes and dashed to the Windjammer Cafe' (which we took to calling the Foodjammer Cafe') for the buffet lunch. Then we started exploring the ship.
As the ship was about to depart, we headed to the Viking Crown Lounge, a spectacular room with floor-to-ceiling windows, wrapped completely around the smokestack 14 stories above the water. We'd really been looking forward to spending time in the Viking Crown Lounge (we had enjoyed the one on the Viking Serenade).
At second-seating dinner in the GiGi dining room, we met our table companions. Our table of ten consisted of us, two other honeymoon couples, another young couple celebrating their honeymoon (though they'd been married two years) and one older couple. We also met our waiter, Bobby, and our busboy, Carlos. The couple that had been married two years had started their first honeymoon on a Dolphin cruise, but the ship had torn a hole in its side while docking in Cozumel and their honeymoon cruise had ended early!
Around 11 pm, we were out on deck and we saw a large ship approaching. As it came closer we realized that it was the Majesty of the Seas on its way back to Miami. So we got an idea of what our ship looked like from a distance. Then it was time for the midnight buffet in the Kismet dining room.
Sunday, May 21, 1995
At Sea and First Formal Night
We are not morning people so we ordered coffee and croissants from room service. We liked this so much it immediately became part of our daily routine for the rest of the cruise.
At 11:15 am, there was a get-together for honeymooners in the Viking Crown Lounge. They had hot hors d'oveurs and served us (free) mimosas (orange juice and champagne). We were told there were 71 honeymoon couples on the cruise, including two other couples that had gotten married on the ship. However, only about 20 couples showed up to the get-together and since we had gotten married most recently of everyone present, we got to cut the ceremonial cake at the party. Each couple had to tell exactly when they were married, how they met, how long they'd been together before that and who asked who to marry them.
We had buffet lunch at the Foodjammer, and after that, we went down to the dining room for the sit-down lunch. We came to eat!
In the late afternoon (4 pm), there was a wine ``appreciation'' hour in the disco. For a $4 charge, we received a chrome-coated plastic sommelier (wine steward) cup and tastes of about 8 different wines, including one champagne. Light hors d'oveurs were served also. It was an enjoyable way to spend an hour or so.
Monday, May 22, 1995
We looked out of our window to see a beautiful island paradise. We had decided to snorkel at Labadee so we got all decked out in our swim suits, hats, sunscreen, etc. When our tended number was called, we went downstairs and were taken right to the island.
We snorkeled in the bay but the water was cloudy. Still it was a fun experience.
Tonight was the Captain's cocktail party. It was pretty crowded and by the time we arrived there was nowhere to sit. We never even saw the Captain so we also didn't get our photo taken with him (no great loss). We left and went to the Casino (but not until we had a free drink).
Tuesday, May 23, 1995
San Juan, Puerto Rico
The ship pulled into San Juan around lunch time. We took a bus tour of San Juan. We rode around San Juan, stopping at the Condado bridge, and again at the A Touch of Gold store (we weren't impressed by the quality of the merchandise or the prices). We explored San Cristobol (a fort similar to the more famous El Moro). It was very interesting but unfortunately we didn't have enough time to really look at everything. After the tour, most people went shopping but the heat was so oppressive that we just went back to the air conditioning on the ship.
Wednesday, May 24, 1995
St. Thomas/St. John
We took a ferry right from the ship to the nearby island of St. John for a Glass-Bottom Boat Tour. We went out in a very small boat. I felt sick from the rocking of the boat and exhaust fumes, but Teri really enjoyed looking at the sea creatures. After that we walked around St. John and did some shopping for the standard touristy items (t-shirts, refrigerator magnets). Teri bought a gold necklace at Coral Bay Jewelry. We would have liked to stay much longer on St. John, but we had to rush to catch the ferry back to the ship.
After returning to the ship, we went to the Havensight mall (literally right next to the pier where the ship was docked). There is rumored to be better shopping downtown, but we didn't have enough time to get there and back. Many of the downtown stores have ``satellite'' stores at Havensight anyway.
Thursday, May 25, 1995
At Sea and Second Formal Night
Teri was signed up for the slot machine tournament at the Casino. The way it worked was each participant (in groups of eight) sat at a randomly assigned ``tournament'' slot machine and had 10 minutes with the machine set to ``free play'' to press ``Spin'' repeatedly and attempt to get the highest score. The person with the highest score from each round went to the final round and the winner of that round won $300 or so dollars. Unfortunately, even though Teri sat at the machine that had won the first round, it barely payed off at all in her round. Slot machines have no conscience!
This evening was the Repeat Passenger Party. Since we'd been on an RCCL cruise before, we were invited to attend. Free drinks (champagne) and hot hors d'oveurs. The captain answered questions from the audience and said that he'd shortly be transferring to the Sun Viking in the Far East. We had a lot of champagne at that party.
Two of the couples at our table had sprung for category A cabins (#1020 and #1510). We convinced the couple in 1020 to host a party before dinner. Their cabin was just incredible. The sitting area alone had enough room for all 10 of us! It contained a full-size couch, two reclining chairs, and two other over-stuffed chairs. There was also room to sit on the ``window sill'' next to the four large windows. In addition, there was a queen-sized bed with a real comforter, a huge desk/counter space and a large bathroom. We couldn't believe our eyes.
By the time dinner rolled around we were all feeling pretty tipsy.
After dinner we all attempted to flip spoons into our water glasses. It was very difficult and some people needed veritable runways with 8-10 glasses sitting close together.
Tonight was the gala midnight buffet. This was the most spectacular buffet we had ever seen. There were even little edible creations made of eggs with eyes and feet, which Allyn dubbed "Egg-Men" and lemons cut to look like fish with large mouths, eyes and tails, which Allyn called "Lemon-Fish".
For reasons that are no longer clear but must have made sense at the time, we decided to take several of the Lemon-Fish and keep them in our cabin refrigerator and bring them to dinner the next night.
Friday, May 26, 1995
Coco Cay (Little Stirrup Cay), Bahamas
The water at Coco Cay was unbelievably warm. We skipped snorkeling here since we had snorkeled at Labadee (but we later heard the snorkeling here was better). We did play in the warm water and had a very enjoyable experience.
We brought the Lemon-Fish to dinner. I had decided (during the afternoon's horse racing event) that I would hold ``Lemon-Fish Racing'' similar to the horse racing held earlier that afternoon. I lined up five Lemon-Fish in a row and put down two to mark the finish line. I ripped up some paper into 5 slips and wrote the numbers on the papers. Each couple chose one slip of paper to determine which Lemon-Fish was theirs. Then I shuffled the slips and had someone choose a slip and the Lemon-Fish corresponding to that number got to move forward one lemon's-length. This was repeated with much cheering and hysterics (with Bobby, Carlos and the head waiter gathered around watching) until one lemon finally emerged victorious. The winning lemon was photographed with its' owners.
We waited for the roving minstrels. We wanted them to play YMCA so that we could all get up and go through the hand motions and act silly. But they didn't know YMCA, so they played the chicken dance instead. Our whole table plus Bobby and Carlos were participating. I'm sure we looked ridiculous but we had a great time. I think people were videotaping us!
After dinner we had to rush back to the cabin to pack. The bags had to be outside of the cabin by midnight. We were given color-coded tags to place on the bags so that we could find them at the pier. We made the deadline with just a few minutes to spare!
Saturday, May 27, 1995
Alas, our trip was coming to the end. Since room service was not available on the last day, we went to the dining room for breakfast. Unlike our cruise on the Viking Serenade, we were allowed to leave our luggage in one corner of the cabin. This was much more pleasant than having to clear out of the cabin and drag all of your hand luggage around with you as was the case on Viking Serenade. After breakfast, we said goodbye to our table companions and Bobby and Carlos for the last time and returned to our cabin to relax and wait to leave.
When our color was called to depart, we gathered up our hand luggage and took one long last look at our cabin. It was hard to leave. It felt like home.
We easily found our luggage in our color coded area. The airlines had checkin/baggage drop-off right at the pier. That was very convenient (though dragging our bags to the end of the luggage area through crowds was not).
We saw some of our table companions at the airport and sat down with them to wait for our planes. In talking to some people near us, they told us that the Norway had missed her Great Stirrup Cay stop because a crew member had gotten seriously ill, and the ship turned around and went to San Juan instead. It was not clear whether the passengers got to go ashore in San Juan or not.
We arrived home in San Diego tired but relaxed and rested...
and already dreaming of our next cruise...
Our wedding was performed by A Wedding For You, one of several companies that perform weddings aboard cruise ships. They can be reached at 954 472 0320. They offer wedding packages aboard cruise ships departing from Miami, Fort Lauderdale, and Los Angeles.
Allyn's 2003 update: In 1995 there were only a couple of companies that performed cruise ship weddings and the cruise lines ignored this market entirely. Since then the major cruise lines have started offering onboard weddings packages themselves and it appears that A Wedding For You's capability to peform onboard weddings has been substantially reduced. Princess and Royal Caribbean even have wedding chapels aboard some of their ships now. Check with your cruise line to see if they perform onboard weddings.
Allyn's 2008 update: I'm sorry to say that Sovereign of the Seas has been transferred to Royal Caribbean's Spanish division, Pullmantur Cruises, and has been renamed Sovereign.
Copyright © 1995 Teri & Allyn Fratkin, All Rights Reserved.