Celebrity Cruises said a gay couple was legally married on the Celebrity Equinox, a first for the line and perhaps the industry.
Francisco Vargas and Benjamin Gray were wed in a ceremony officiated by Capt. Dimitrios Manetas.
Celebrity is billing the event as the first same-sex couple to be legally married at sea on a major cruise line.
Celebrity said an October 2017 liberalization vote in Malta, where its ships are registered, opened the door for Celebrity to legally recognize same-sex marriages performed onboard while at sea.
“Words cannot express how proud I am to congratulate Francisco and Benjamin at this truly historic moment, both for them and for Celebrity,” Celebrity president Lisa Lutoff-Perlo said.
Vargas, a manager in the group’s department at Cruise Planners in Coral Springs, Fla., said, “We are grateful for the outpouring of support from our Cruise Planners family and hope our story brings strength for others in the LGBTQ+ community,” he said.
The new Symphony of the Seas will help propel the Caribbean to a record year of cruise capacity.
Despite the uptick in ships and passengers, capacity and pricing is not a concern for Royal Caribbean International.
“After the hurricanes in September, we saw that softness for about four to six or seven weeks but that recovered and picked up and we’re in a good booked position for Q1,” said Michael Bayley, president and CEO, on the company’s Q4 2017 earnings call. “And overall we’re feeling pretty good about the Caribbean for 2018.
“We’re fortunate because we’ve got the Symphony of the Seas coming into the Caribbean towards the end of the year. We have also got Celebrity Edge and we’re introducing Mariner of the Seas after an extensive modernization and revitalization and we’re putting that product into the short market, so that’s quite a lot of volume that’s coming into that market. We’re actually very excited about what that product’s going to do, the bookings are going very well and it’s still outside of its typical booking window because it’s a short product. So overall, we’re feeling okay about the Caribbean.”
As for the booking window, the company opened 2019 deployment four months earlier than in previous years.
Richard Fain, chairman and CEO of Royal Caribbean Cruises, noted the booking window continues to impress.
“Now you may recall that a year ago I said and I’m quoting, that the booking window has stretched as far as we will ever want and I don’t expect to announce another record level bookings a year from today,” Fain said. “Well I wasn’t terribly accurate, here we are a year later and we’re announcing another record level bookings.”
CFO Jason T. Liberty advised that other companies in the Caribbean marketplace may have pricing challenges, but those incidents are not indicative of the entire market.
“There are occasions sometimes when a new product enters the market from competitors and they may have some challenges initially and you may see some fairly aggressive pricing going into the market,” he said. “That can be disruptive but it’s very localized.”