It was a dark and stormy night. No really. Thunderstorms had been forecast and it had been raining all day. Not usually such a major issue but we were attending a wedding and reception aboard a Captain Cook Cruise ship. We were faced with five hours stuck on a boat with potential storms and rough seas.
In reality, it was nowhere near as drastic as we feared. Operating out of Barrack Street Jetty, the cruise line offers a number of regular dinner and lunch cruises to a number of destinations including Fremantle and the Swan Valley. Chartering an entire boat for an evening is becoming a more popular way to host special events, such as Christmas parties, school balls, and in this case – weddings.
Despite the weather, which did clear up by the end of the night, the boat was large and stable and there were no unlucky souls who lost their sea legs (although there may have been one or two who enjoyed a glass or five of wine too much). There are five boats available, all with unique layouts. There are three single level vessels suitable for dinner or cocktail cruises to the Swan Valley, the enormous MV James Stirling 'pride of the fleet', which can hold up to 350 people, and the boat we were on, the MV Captain Stirling.
This fully air-conditioned vessel has two levels and can be configured in a number of ways to suit up to 180 guests for a stand up cocktail event, or 120 for a sit down dinner event. The upstairs stern area is open for fresh air and has various seating arrangements, and there is also a separate enclosed area upstairs which can be filled with tables and chairs. Downstairs, the main desk is a large open room with a fully licenced bar, DJ stage and dance floor. Below this level are the toilets. It is not particularly wheelchair friendly. There is an open bow deck for fresh air or smokers (but not both). A mid deck functions as a buffet area, where serving staff can provide a variety of menus.
The MV Captain Stirling has just had a recent interior makeover and there are plenty of handrails for those who are concerned about all the stairs.
The staff provided by Captain Cook Cruises are multi-taskers, with the DJ doubling as MC and service staff providing finger food as well as clearing away plates and glasses. We did not see the captain up in the wheel house, but presumably someone must have been driving as we sailed from Perth down to Fremantle, did laps around the port for a while then crawled back to Perth.
One of the biggest fears of wedding guests, apart from an hour long ceremony or long queues for the toilet is that there is not enough food. There always seems to be plenty of alcohol, but we have all been to weddings when people start loitering around the wedding cake table, breaking bits of icing off so they have something to line their stomachs with.
To prevent this, Captain Cook Cruises have their own in-house catering department offering a range of menus including full hot buffets, fork buffets and cocktail menus. The full buffets vary in price and inclusions but you can chose hot food such as roast beef, roast pork, Thai chicken curry, lasagnes, seasonal vegetables and cold selections such as meat platters, prawns and smoked salmon, salads and bread baskets. Different menus also include a variety of canapés to start the night.
Last night's wedding started with a hot and cold selection of canapés including pate on toast, spring rolls and samosas, battered prawns, and garlic prawns. After about 90 minutes of cruising we were offered a fork buffet which consisted of bread rolls, a cold meat platter, crumbed fish and calamari, Caesar salad, two quiches, sushi rolls, and green chicken curry with rice. There was plenty of food, enough for seconds and no one went hungry. Dessert options range from fresh fruit platters, to Petit Fours to full dessert buffets. There is a menu to suit all tastes and all budgets.
Like all weddings, it is the personal stamp that the couple and their family put on the night that make it memorable for either the right or wrong reasons. You can't really control your drunk cousins yelling out offensively during the speeches but you can provide thoughtful little touches like bowls of chocolates for guests, and allowing all the oldies (and pregnant women) first bash at the buffet.
The staff at Captain Cook Cruises look like they genuinely enjoy their work and will wipe a tear at the best man's speech just as quickly as they will sweep up a broken glass on the dance floor. I saw the MC take the bride aside to double check on the progress of the night, but it was a courtesy more than an imposition.
It goes to show that just like the old adage that you can choose your friends (and partner) but not your family; when it comes to weddings, you can choose your date but you can't choose your weather. We may have all been rained on, but nothing could pull the smiles off the faces of the newlyweds.