- 2 years ago
- Wedding: September 2014 - A sunny beach in Freeport, The Bahamas
I’ve posted a little bit about my wedding experience on other threads, but I felt it might be time to start my own thread about my experience with Carnival/The Wedding Experience for future brides out there who are considering a destination wedding through either company. Before I begin my story, I want to preface it by saying that despite all of it, I wouldn’t change anything and at the end of the day I still married my best friend. And to be fair, Carnival has given us almost a full refund of our cruise and wedding package at this point.
DH and I had been contemplating a honeymoon cruise through Carnival for a while, and when we canceled our plans for a big wedding in December due to family drama, we discovered that Carnival offered wedding packages through The Wedding Experience. We decided to push our wedding date up, book a cruise, and elope in The Bahamas. We left on Sunday, August 31; our wedding date was scheduled for Friday, September 5; we would arrive back in the US on Sunday, August 7, 2014.
<br /> The planning process went smooth. The Wedding Experience called every so often to check in and they got back to us quickly whenever we had any questions. We set everything up through them and had every detail organized, right down the filling in our wedding cake. The last email we received explained that our wedding date would be at the end of the cruise in order to be legal residents of The Bahamas for 24 hours, and reminded us to bring all of our original documents with us to the island.
Once on the cruise, things quickly became a comedy of errors. We arrived in our stateroom and found a letter signed by Rachel, our wedding hostess (not to be confused with the wedding coordinator whom we would later meet in Freeport on our wedding day). The rest of our afternoon was spent searching for Rachel, but because she had been on the ship for less than two weeks and this was her first wedding (which we later found out), she was impossible to track down. Guest Services had no idea who she was and it turns out she did not have her own cell phone or extension where she could be reached at because she was so new on the ship. It was only later that night when we gave up looking for her and decided to go to dinner that we accidentally stumbled across her in the dining room…as the Your Time Dining Hostess.
Yup, that’s right, Rachel’s priority on the ship was to remain in the dining room from 8:30am-12:30pm and 5:45pm-9:30pm in order to greet guests as they arrived to eat. Aside from never having done a wedding before and making wedding planning a second responsibility, she was also coordinating three other weddings besides our own!
Things quickly got worse when she walked off with all of our original documents to make copies, then explained to us about an hour after we finished eating that she didn’t copy anything because she didn’t know what would be needed on the island. I asked her if we could sit down and go over all the paperwork I had and the full contract, but she quickly stated that she had everything in her emails from The Wedding Experience and she didn’t have time to go over anything with us right now.
Fast forward a few days to Tuesday, when Rachel explained that our photographer would meet us at dinner to set up an appointment time when we could sit down to discuss the poses we would like and his style of work. We waited…and waited…and finally left an hour after we had finished eating. Turns out the photographer wasn’t scheduled to arrive on the ship until our first port in Florida on Wednesday.
When we finally did meet with the photographer on Wednesday night, he spent less than 5 minutes explaining that he has been working with Carnival for 5 years but he has never photographed a wedding and the last time he was in Freeport was 5 years ago. He quickly asked us to leave because he had another appointment and assured us there would be plenty of time to discuss our poses on our wedding day.
If you’re still with me, it gets better on our wedding day……
But first, I should mention that I had scheduled a hair appointment immediately when we arrived on the ship for 8am Friday morning. Rachel had explained that she would ask the salon to move my appointment up to 7:30 that morning so I could make it to the island on time by 9am. When I accidentally bumped into the hair stylist on Thursday, I took the opportunity to confirm that Rachel had spoken with her – as it turns out, she had no knowledge of this. The hair stylist made a call to the salon and explained that my appointment needed to be moved back. Her end of the conversation went something like this: “Yes, somehow before I even get up in the morning I have to be there…well because she’s the bride and I guess the bride always gets what she wants right…I know the party is tonight but I have to get up early now…yes, before the salon even opens…”
And then the big day came…
I woke up at 5:30, showered, and then put my makeup on before I had my hair done because I knew I would be running on a tight schedule. I arrived at the salon at 7:25 and waited for the hair stylist to show up…and waited…and waited. Finally at 7:50 she showed up, looking completely exhausted, and before I could even say anything she immediately told me that she missed out on the best party ever last night, she was exhausted, and she just overall did not want to be there. Determined to not let anything ruin my special day, I asked her if she had any coffee yet and if she wanted me to go get some for her. As it turns out, she’s allergic to caffeine and all preservatives from the US…okay…
Finally in the salon, I attempt to make small talk to keep her awake and happy. Well, out of no where she breaks down into tears and starts telling me about how even though she’s 35, she still gets sad every time she thinks about the time she almost drowned in Jamaica when she was 16. And she continued to cry…and cry… I attempted to change the subject, tell a joke, anything to make her stop. I don’t know what I said but I triggered something else when she finally stopped crying because she started all over again, explaining how her “daddy is a whore” and he has 19 kids with 19 different women and she hates him.
I left the crazy hair stylist with 15 minutes to get my dress on and get downstairs to guest services to meet Rachel before going onto the island. That’s when I ran into another problem. A few days before I had sent my dress to get pressed (not dry cleaned) to remove the wrinkles from traveling. They must have dry cleaned it anyway and it was only as I was trying to get my dress on that I realized they broke all the clips off the back of my dress. DH ended up calling guest services to find Rachel so she could help me into my dress – the whole thing was safety pinned from the back!
I don’t know how but we managed to get onto the island just in time for 9am and Rachel passed us off to The Wedding Experience’s wedding coordinator. Well…it would have been okay if she didn’t look like she just rolled out of bed in cutoff jeans and a striped shirt with no bra, all while forgetting to run a brush through her hair and over her teeth. DH and I crammed into the old beat up car that she and the driver arrived in, with our photographer squished in the back right next to us. Off the courthouse we went!
When we arrived at the courthouse, the photographer asked DH to leave his small backpack in the car for better pictures. The backpack contained our sand ceremony, as well as all of our important documents. We were an identity theft’s dream! After arguing a little bit, DH finally gave in – we were told it would be locked safely in the car and the driver would be right there with it the whole time. I’m still not sure why the wedding coordinator was unable to hold the bag for us but anyway… Fast forward about an hour into signing papers at the courthouse. Sure enough, we needed some of the documents that Rachel never photocopied for us, so DH went outside to the car to grab the backpack. It was shoved inside the trunk, which was bungee corded down, and the driver was nowhere to be found.
As we were leaving the courthouse, DH and I were advised that the officiant was running late so we would be taking the scenic route to Coral Beach. The scenic route, after stopping to pick up my flowers, included a detailed tour of every single fast food restaurant in the downtown area, as well as an attempt to look into the windows of the home of the man who owns them all. We continued past a beautiful beach where we recognized the couple from the ship who were renewing their vows that day also, and I casually explained that we talked to them earlier that morning. The driver took that as some crazy cue and spun the car around, pulled into the parking lot, got out, and started waving his hands in the air as he jumped up and down and shouted that we were “shipmates” and we were also getting married – while they were in the middle of their ceremony!
We finally arrived at “Coral Beach” and DH quickly noticed the barbed wire and the no trespassing and private property signs all around the beach. The others ignored all of it and we proceeded to enter the beach where we continued to wait for the officiant. We took some pictures while we waited, and the photographer made sure I moved my dress into just the right spots to cover the private property signs. Then the officiant showed up.
He pulled out a tiny little table and went searching for a folder that he couldn’t find right away. I recognized him from the other beach and realized he was late because he was performing the other couple’s vow renewal ceremony. As our ceremony began, a local guy showed up and stood literally two feet behind DH, then behind me, then back behind DH for the entire ceremony, wearing jeans, no shirt, and a full arm cast. We both fought to keep our concentration on each other and not on him, and as we finished our ceremony he walked right up to us. “You’re married now! You give me money! I buy you drinks!”
He followed us for the remaining ten minutes we had on the island for our pictures and kept insisting we give him money. We never got to do our sand ceremony because the officiant ran so late and everything was so rushed. We never had our champagne toast or our wedding cake.
When we arrived back on the ship, the photographer made DH carry around his equipment behind him, saying if he didn’t we wouldn’t have nice pictures. And then halfway through our photos, the photographer answered his phone and left us to go meet with another client. He never came back.
That night, strawberries and champagne were waiting for us in our stateroom. We had arranged for this, and it would have been perfect, except they forgot the keepsake champagne flutes so we ended up drinking out of the mouthwash cups from the bathroom.
The next day, we bumped into Rachel just as she was about to hit send on an email she wrote explaining that everything went smooth the day before and we were very happy. When all of this was brought to her attention, the only thing she had to say was that we never ordered a cake. I brought all of my paperwork and the contract with me, explaining that I tried to go over all of it with her the first night. She offered $14.95 back for our cake and had the cake topper and champagne flutes delivered to outside our stateroom. They are just a reminder of everything Carnival/The Wedding Experience forgot on our wedding day.
I am not bitter or mad about this experience. I am a very easygoing, laid back person, and to be perfectly honest I didn’t even realize half of this until I woke up the next day and remembered that a no point during the day did we have our wedding cake. Then the rest of it pieced itself together. As for the pictures, we were able to salvage 17 from the entire day that did not include barbed wire, our unkempt wedding coordinator, or the random local guy on the beach.
For all you future brides out there, this is an absolute worst-case scenario. I couldn’t imagine that this could ever happen to any of you, but I didn’t think it could happen to me either. The good news is that with the exception of a few taxes and fees, our wedding and honeymoon were completely reimbursed. I ignored all the stories I found about Carnival Weddings, but it was because the bride was usually very angry and I thought they were overreacting. I wanted to tell this as fairly as I could, but I also want to caution any of you considering having a Carnival wedding. And please, please, please make sure your wedding hostess takes the time to sit down with you and go over everything in your contract!!
One more thing…I’m still waiting for my marriage license to arrive. I was told 6-8 weeks, but it’s getting pretty close. I’ll update when (if) it arrives.