Long Beach’s seaside location lends a unique opportunity for couples who want to get married on the water. Harbor Breeze Cruises , Hornblower Cruises & Events and Carnival Cruise Line offer wedding packages for those who wish to sail into happily ever after.
“You can’t beat a wedding on the water,” Jane Waters, the Hornblower weddings & school sales manager for the greater Los Angeles area, said. “These days our brides are thinking outside the box. They want something completely different.”
Capt. Dan Salas, founder and CEO of Harbor Breeze Cruises based in Long Beach, is pictured in front of Sir Winston, the newest addition to the company’s fleet. The vessel is 132 feet and accommodates up to 500 passengers for weddings, corporate events and convention/trade show attendees. (Photograph of Salas by the Business Journal’s Pat Flynn)
Hornblower wedding cruises depart from Rainbow Harbor. “We have two of the largest yachts in the area: Endless Dreams and Entertainer,” Waters commented. “Both of those have open-top decks, so our couples are literally getting married between the sky and the water.”
Wedding packages include a ceremony service with the captain as officiant, a wedding planner, food services and accessories such as silverware and centerpieces. Waters said each package allows for flexibility.
“We encourage [couples] to put their own stamp on it,” she said. “They can customize any package.” This includes bringing a priest, rabbi or other clergy on board to perform the ceremony.
According to Waters, Hornblower is currently specializing in Indian weddings and working with local hotels like the Hyatt Regency Long Beach. “Persian and Armenian weddings are also very popular [with us] at the moment,” Waters said. “We love [working with] different cultures.”
(Photograph courtesy of Harbor Breeze)
Food options include a toast with champagne or sparkling cider, a customized wedding cake, buffet or seated meal, and different types of drinks including soda, juice, coffee and alcohol. Hornblower also offers packages for a luncheon and a champagne brunch. “The food is amazing,” Waters commented. “We have a team of chefs that travel with our couples on board. Everything is cooked fresh. If our couples want a food tasting ahead of time, we encourage that.”
Waters also encourages brides to pre-board an hour and a half before the event to dress on the boat or add decorations. This service is included in the packages. As for entertainment, Hornblower’s DJs reach out to couples ahead of time to plan a selection of tunes.
Waters said Hornblower aims to provide a “one-stop shop” for couples planning their big day. “Couples are so busy that the way forward at the moment is the all-inclusive package,” she said. “We can help them with anything from photography drones to any kind of entertainment. We just add it to their main account for them to pay 10 days before [the wedding]. She emphasized that all-inclusive does not equate to “cookie-cutter.”
“As soon as you set sail, you see the guests just smile and appreciate the views,” Waters described. “It’s so relaxing, so magical. There are no walls holding you in. That’s what they enjoy the most.”
A couple exchanges vows on board a Hornblower ship with the Queen Mary in the background. Hornblower provides several wedding packages that include amenities such as customized cakes, a DJ and a buffet or seated meal. At right is a dining room on a Hornblower vessel. The company offers separate brunch and luncheon wedding options. (Photographs courtesy of Hornblower)
For a longer experience on the water, Carnival Cruise Line offers wedding cruise options. Boats departing from Long Beach sail to Baja California, the Mexican Riviera, Hawaii and, occasionally, Alaska.
Carnival wedding experiences include an embarkation day celebration, which allows the couple to celebrate with family and friends before leaving on their excursion. Couples also have the option of tying the knot onboard the ship at a port of call, or at the cruise’s final destination. Starting this August, Carnival is also offering a wedding at sea.
According to Keta Burke-Williams, the marketing and business development manager for Carnival Cruise Line, the most popular package is the Carnival Classic Gold. This option provides for up to 50 non-sailing guests, a pre-cruise wedding planner, a cake, a toast, photography services and a honeymoon dinner. The cruise line also offers separate services for renewal of vows. Other amenities are discounted “prenuptial” spa treatments for the couple, as well as for the bride and groom separately. Wedding video services are also offered at an additional cost.
“It’s interesting, because people cruise and get married with us for different reasons,” Burke-Williams said. “If they’re looking for a destination option, the feedback we get is that they’re surprised at how easy it is to coordinate. If they’re doing it through us, they’re not coordinating it on their own through a vendor [at the destination] and also booking separate transportation.”
(Photograph courtesy of Hornblower)
Carnival Cruise Line is debuting a new ship, Carnival Panorama, in Long Beach at the end of October 2019, and Burke-Williams said couples are already booking weddings. According to Burke-Williams, three ships currently operate out of Long Beach: Inspiration, Imagination and Splendor. “Our most popular one in Long Beach for both renewal of vows and weddings themselves is Imagination,” she said.
Harbor Breeze Cruises is another cruise service operating out of Long Beach, and it’s based in the city. Last week, the company acquired a new boat. While its other vessels are able to hold up to 150 passengers, the new Sir Winston has a capacity of 500 and is available for weddings, according to Nilda Langston, vice president of operations at Harbor Breeze Cruises.
At 132 feet long, the Sir Winston has five decks, eight bars and a dining room that seats 250 people. It is accessible to guests with disabilities as the elevator provides service to all the decks. “Even when it’s raining, we can have a wedding on the new boat,” Langston said. “You don’t even need to use the outdoor space of the boat if you don’t want to. We have a sky lounge and sunset decks where people can enjoy the view.” She added, “The boat has staterooms where bridal parties can actually prep and do makeup.”
The Harbor Breeze wedding package includes a selection of hors d’oeuvres, bar and dinner options, a wedding coordinator, ceremony officiant, a champagne toast and cake. Weddings usually total around 50 to 100 passengers, a number Langston predicts will increase with the arrival of Sir Winston.
Harbor Breeze has a fleet of nine boats, and attracts mostly locals, although Langston said the company has had some international clients. “Setting up a wedding on a boat is not the same as at a venue where most wedding planners have experience,” she said. “Our planners can walk them through their process to work with them on their budget and needs. Most of our positive reviews are on the experience from beginning to end.”