Carolina: Cruising Past 70: Cruising to a Life Together...of Cruising

Friday, January 29, 2010

Cruising to a Life Together...of Cruising

This is an excerpt of the booklet, 'Cruising to a Life Together'

‘We may not have it all together, but together we have it all.’

At 8 PM on August 8, 2008 (8/8/8/08) Bill, 64, and I, nearly 60, started putting it all together in a way that matched our dreams. With loving family and close  friends we cruised to a life together…of cruising. We were both as much in search of a wedding ceremony of meaning as a marriage that will last (this will be the third for each of us) the remainder of our lives (the 30 or so years we have left). And we believe we found who we have been looking for!

Destination weddings have become such a byword. Wikipedia defines a destination wedding as ‘any wedding in which the engaged couple and/or a majority of their guests travel to attend the ceremony’. Bill and I, however, gave new meaning to the term: one, because our destination was not a specific place but rather a kind of lifestyle, and two, because it was not at the expense that the Cruise (Tom and Katie) wedding was.With the rising costs, real destination weddings have become the wedding of  choice only for the select few, the rich and famous. So we needed a twist, an option for couples who are not so fortunate, those whose first name may be Bill but whose last name isn’t Gates!

First we visualized the ceremony of our dreams: it had to be three things: fun, affordable, and meaningful. What a difficult set of values to balance! But then again, so is a marriage. And it had to be all three according to the circumstances, the preferences, and the dreams of the bride and groom. But, yes, more especially the bride’s!

I wanted a garden/nature-inspired wedding so it had to be outdoors. Our guests  should thoroughly enjoy THE PARTY! We had to be able to afford it (our travel plans for the future should not be endangered by the expense). The location, the ceremony, and the gathering must symbolize the joining of our lives. And the date must be numerologically lucky! Whew...tough criteria!

I originally wanted the wedding to be on November 28, 2008 because by then I would have reached 60 and, hopefully, reached the age of wisdom. But 8 PM on 8/8/08 (which the Chinese believe is the luckiest day of the century that is why they fought to have the Summer Olympics of 2008 in Beijing, which opened on the same date) beckoned with increasing force.

We looked at various options: garden estates, hotel courtyards, quaint B&Bs, even public parks with earthworks and lots of greenery. Luckily, we found that charting a cruise ship for three hours can be just as affordable! We wanted a guest list that is just right and the ship’s maximum capacity was a big help! We  chartered the only available ship left and luckily, it was the smallest Argosy ship (64 max). That certainly helped take care of…affordability!

Wikipedia defines a cruise ship as ‘a passenger ship used for pleasure voyages, where the voyage itself and the ship's amenities are part of the experience’. Cruising has become a major part of the tourism industry and cruise ships operate mostly on routes that return passengers to their originating port (ocean liners do "line voyages" and typically transport passengers from one point to another, rather than on round trips). A river (or lake) cruise ship, on the other hand, has similar amenities, however is shorter, narrower, and has a shallower draft, allowing it to travel inland waterways.

Fun for our guests…what can be more fun than being cozily trapped together in a cruise ship for a ritual that inspires and energizes in a setting that inspires and energizes? Many people have not had the chance to go cruising around together with ALL of the people they want to be with. In a short three hours you have romance, ambiance, food, booze, dance, music, games, banter, speeches, and THE sights. And we’ll talk about that in a little while!

Eureka! With all the bodies of water around us in the evergreen Pacific Northwest, the Pacific Ocean, the Puget Sound, and the lakes, an affordable, meaningful fun-filled lakes cruise wedding suddenly popped up as an affordable option for us! But for the last criterion…meaningful…we needed to have a good look at the real meaning of weddings on a cruise ship.

According to Cruise Lines International Association, cruise weddings have grown at a phenomenal rate the last few years. Five years ago, there were practically none, but this year ours will only be one of thousands. Carnival Cruise Lines alone estimates it will plan over 2000 weddings this year, and those weddings will also have a built-in honeymoon. This growth rate should not be surprising. You can have a wedding and then sail off on your/their honeymoon! No travel  time wasted between the "I dos" and the fun.

Cruise weddings can take place on board or on a romantic shore such as a  beach, a glacier, or a rolling meadow. Many couples get married while in a Caribbean port or before the cruise begins. That way the guests can come aboard, enjoy the service, and disembark before sailing. Alternatively, you could invite all your guests on the honeymoon! However, we will not be able to do this because our budget did not allow it (sorry!).

Besides the fun and the surprising affordability of a localized cruise wedding, the meaningfulness is unrivalled. I took this meaning of cruising from ‘to fly, drive, or sail at a constant speed that permits maximum operating efficiency for sustained travel’. A late-in-life marriage such as ours is really aimed at cruising along in life after years of hard work to provide for our families (I was, after all, a single parent for more than two decades). And what better way to do that than sustained travel for the years we are still able to do so?

This lifestyle is celebrated by the song of Gwyneth Paltrow and Huey Lewis:

“Baby let's cruise, away from here
Don't be confused, the way is clear
& if you want it you got it forever
This is not a one night stand, baby, yeah so,
Let the music take your mind, ooh
Just release & you will find
You're gonna fly away
Glad you're goin' my way
I love it when we're cruisin' together
The music is played for love,
Cruisin' is made for love
I love it when we're cruisin' together .”

Doesn’t that make you feel like cruising is the best form of existence for an ‘old’ (mostly because of Bill) couple like us? What better way than to cruise around a  lake that is named Union and to share a toast with loving family members and close friends aboard a ship named Champagne Lady?

Our life will be a looooooooong cruise that will take us through our bucket list, some 88 places we want to see and 48 activities we want to do together. This indeed became the dream wedding we wanted…fun, affordable, and meaningful. It was a lot of fun…executing it in less than three months and being with our friends and family in  three riotous hours. It was certainly affordable…under $9,000. And it was, best of all, meaningful, because…

We cruised to a life together…of cruising. It is not going to be a life of raising kids, building a home, and saving for retirement. This IS retirement, call it a reinvention. We will be cruisers in the last third of our lives. We will not buy expensive floating homes or huge mansions a la Gates. But we will travel many bridges that connect cities, countries and continents. We will revisit books, objets d’art, and places that made/make history. We will be entertained in sports, theater and other art forms. We will walk endless gardens, drive long roads, and sail many seas. We will commune with all kindred spirits, and we will have the beauty of nature and man’s achievements as a backdrop to a life of leisure and payback.

This is what the cruise meant to us, this is what weddings should be made of, this is how marriages should begin. And the quote we love which we have also printed on our wedding invitation, ‘We may not have it all together but together we have it all!’  now finally hangs as a cute little art work on our door. Our dream cruise wedding on the Champagne Lady around Lake Union at 8 PM on August 8, 2008, with our close friends and loving family was definitely the finest way to start getting it all together.