by Vincent Finelli
St. Valentine's Day Wedding of Ginger Paige Kennedy to Marcello D. Finelli
Western Caribbean, 1999
Over thirty years ago my dream was to be married on board a ship. When my future wife and I crossed the Atlantic in November, 1968 on the Michelangelo, many crew members tried to convince us just how wonderful a shipboard wedding could be, but because of family logistics, we chose to marry in a candlelit church.
Now thirty years later we, the parents of the groom, had the pleasure of arranging our son's wedding on board the CostaRomantica. How did it turn out? It was everything we expected and more! The Costa wedding Coordinator, Mary Mendez of Pembroke Pines, Florida, listened to and forwarded all of our requests (down to the specific Spumante desired for the traditional wedding toast) to the Costa Office. Since we had sailed on the CostaRomantica twice before in '98, we had the opportunity to meet the key personnel responsible for the onboard arrangements: Alfredo Salomoni, Hotel Director; Alessandro Marossa, Services Director and Mario Anselmi, Maitre d'Hotel. They were so very cordial and enthusiastic about the prospect of a February 14th Valentine's Day Wedding that we were given the regal treatment.
The Wedding Package
We chose the Friends and Family package for 100 guests. There were several packages to choose from with such great variety that they could please all. Costa Security required a guest list to be filed with them one month prior to the wedding, with final additions or deletions one week prior to the wedding. At first we were told the number of guests could not exceed 100, but later Vice President David Christopher listened to our concern and reassured us that the information given on the fixed number of guests was erroneous and that Costa would be flexible to accommodate up to 10% either way. This took a lot of pressure off of us, since some guests were coming from a great distance, i.e. Italy, Argentina, Arizona, Massachusetts, etc. And of course, the American Airlines strike took its toll on some of our relatives, but all turned out well, with 95 guests.
Costa Security was helpful in checking in the guests (who needed a photo I.D. or passport to board) and escorting them by groups to the Tango Ballroom. The bride and groom enjoyed Priority Boarding and "white kid glove treatment." We boarded at 10:00 am and the wedding was set for 11:30 am, the reception at 12:00 noon and the banquet at 1:00 pm -- a schedule that ran on time like the proverbial Italian trains! Mary Mendez greeted the bride and escorted her and the bridal party to their oceanview cabin, #7042. Security also handled the heavy cartons of wedding favors (Bomboniere) and made sure everyone and everything reached either the Tango Ballroom or the Botticelli Dining Room.
Music, Flowers, Reception
The "Sensational Strollers" provided classical piano and violin music during the ceremony ("The Bridal March," "Ave Maria," etc.) and every piece of music was exactly as we ordered -- all requests were honored beautifully. The Tango Ballroom, a beautiful entertainment room located at the stern and surrounded by glass walls on three sides, was transformed into a floral bower and had the traditional grouping of chairs arranged in rows creating a white tulle and flower decorated aisle. There were fan-shaped arrangements of delphinium and maroon and white rubrum lilies on the high altar table for the marriage rites. The Sensational Strollers also played dance music during the one-hour open-bar reception, while hot and cold canapés and drinks were served abundantly to the guests. The service during the reception was superb, with waiters circulating throughout the guests carrying huge trays of beautifully arranged tidbits including caviar! The musicians followed the wedding party to the dining room and played requests on accordion and violin while strolling among the guests.
At precisely one o'clock, the guests were escorted down one deck to the Botticelli Dining Room where the bridal party was seated at the Captain's Table and the guest tables were arranged in a semi-circle facing the head table: all very elegant and beautiful. The ship provided a personalized Wedding Menu with the bride and groom's name in calligraphy and placed at each table setting. The formal dinner was essentially the ship's gala dinner:
- Antipasto Romantica: Smoked Salmon, Prosciutto, Pate and Marinated Mushrooms
- Pasta: Tagliatelle Verde All'Aragosta (Green noodles in a zesty lobster sauce)
- Salad: Insalata Amore (garden greens, tomatoes, basil and choice of dressing)
- Main Courses: Salmon oven baked with herbs and dill potatoes or Grilled Beef filet with Bearnaise Sauce and Croquette of potatoes; Sautéed spinach with pine nuts
This wedding feast was delectable in every way. The five courses were served at a perfect pace -- the hot items were hot, salads were crisp, and bread was freshly made. The salmon and beef were equally magnificent. The first four courses built up as if in a crescendo to the "piece de resistance" which was the two wedding cakes. Pastry chef Camillo Buonincontro outdid himself when he made two sponge cakes, each with three tiers and topped with bride and groom figurines:
Cake #1 was a beautiful Torroncino Cream with Grand Marnier flavor covered with marzipan frosting and marzipan flowers ( Soooooo Goooood!)
Cake #2 was a delicious Zabaione Cream with croccantino Strega di Benevento covered with Chantilly Cream and decorated with Marzipan flowers (heavenly).
Signor Buonincontro was gracious enough to come by the head table to congratulate the bride and groom and pose for some pictures with the cakes and the family -- Grazie Mille, Don Camillo!
Signor Boscolo took many pictures and our Roman relative, Maurizio Perfetto, was right next to the photographer taking numerous pictures, of which we have prints. If these are a preview of coming attractions, we will soon see magnificent formal pictures. The outstanding photo of the bride and groom and the entire wedding party and the family posed on the spiral staircase is very impressive.
This was the first cruise for both the bride and the groom. After one week of cruising on the Romantica, the newly married couple is already hooked on cruising. Upon returning, they appeared overwhelmed by the caring and pampering that they received aboard. Two complimentary bottles of Asti Spumante, one on the first and one on the last day of cruising, were sent to their cabin by Captain Massimo Garbarino and Hotel Director Alfredo Salomoni, respectively. They found the service excellent throughout the trip, in the cabin as well as in the restaurant and other places on the ship. They enjoyed the Western Caribbean itinerary, which included Key West, Cozumel, Montego Bay and Grand Cayman. And most of all, they enjoyed the relaxation of cruising, away from the everyday fast pace of life and the tension of modern living. They are ready to cruise again.
As for my wife and myself, after the wedding reception we left the ship very happy for the outcome of the event, but sad that we were not remaining on board. We had booked a cruise on the Celebrity Mercury for last January 17th, but had to cancel it due to my father's death. In addition to the two Caribbean cruises which we have booked on the Grand Princess and the Voyager of the Seas for next May 2nd and November 28th, respectively, we are booking a 14-day European cruise on the Century that leaves on August 28th from Amsterdam to Genoa, with ports of call in Belgium, France, Spain, Portugal, Morocco, France and Italy. Both the Celebrity Line and the European cruise will be firsts for us. We'll be writing reviews on those cruises.
Vincent and Mary Finelli have contributed previously to the SeaLetter and can be reached for questions or comment at: email@example.com.
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