Same-sex couple distraught after P&O Cruises axes gay marriages

Stephen Henderson, 29 and partner Stuart Andrews, 36, were looking forward to their dream wedding coming to life.
Stephen Henderson, 29 and partner Stuart Andrews, 36, were looking forward to their dream wedding coming to life. Photo credit: Caters

A gay couple have had their dream wedding on a cruise cancelled after P&O axed all same-sex ceremonies.

Stephen Henderson, 29, and partner Stuart Andrews, 36, have been going on cruise holidays for the past four years but couldn't find a way to have a ceremony onboard.

But in April 2017, P&O Cruises announced they'd be conducting civil partnerships as the firm is registered in Bermuda and the island's Supreme Court had recently legalised same-sex marriages.

The couple excitedly booked their wedding and began organising their big day immediately which would have taken place on July 22, 2019 in The Bay of Biscay.

But on December 20, P&O Cruises contacted them revealing that their dream wedding had been cancelled.

The company explained the Government of Bermuda had entered into a process to change the law on same-sex marriage, just months after it was legalised, which would allow only domestic partnerships.

Mr Henderson, from Warwickshire in the UK, said: "It is just mad. It is the 21st century. You can't go and offer a marriage and do a big press launch and then say we can't do it now. I am so annoyed and upset.

"It was the dream wedding that I have been planning since I was a kid. It's not the same. It is such a shame. It is the most important day of our lives.

"I would understand it if it was booked with a company in a different country but this is like going into Sainsbury's and them saying, 'you can't come in because you're gay'.

"It is very hypocritical. They pride themselves on being a British company providing for the British people. It floored me.

"They launched a campaign that says they are open-minded and that they will cater for any sex relationships and then to turn around and say that they aren't now is backwards.

"They said that we will get a full refund but all the hassle, all the time and effort that we have put in has just gone to shit."

The couple got engaged in August 2016 on a cruise in the Caribbean with another company and decided to go with P&O Cruises for their wedding after seeing their campaign for same-sex weddings.

Mr Henderson, who has arthritis and often uses a wheelchair, finds the accessibility of everything on one ship much easier for his disability.

Although P&O Cruises is awaiting further information it believes that Bermudian law will not permit a same-sex wedding ceremony on board its ships after January 2018.

Mr Henderson said: "I appreciate that they are trying to give us a heads up but it is still not right. I feel sorry for the person who made the phone call.

"What can compare to that? We have been cruising for the past four years. It's safe for me and we get to see the world. It is secure and there is no worry on the ship. Nothing can compare to that.

"We were planning to spend around £10K ($NZ 19,000) on a wedding, which included ten lovely days away. Now we are going to be spending that on one day. They are just refunding it and just brushing it under the carpet."

A spokesperson for P&O Cruises said: "On May 5, 2017 a Supreme Court decision was made in Bermuda legalising same-sex marriages. P&O Cruises were delighted by this decision as we have wanted to offer same-sex ceremonies for many years.

"The Government of Bermuda has now entered into a process to change this recent law on same-sex marriage, the new bill will replace or overturn the Supreme Court decision, which legalised same-sex marriage in 2017. They will now be looking to introduce a Domestic Partnership which will replace the previous bill.

"Although we are awaiting further information from Bermuda, it is unfortunately likely to be the case that Bermudian law will not permit a same-sex wedding ceremony on board our ships after January 2018. We are very unhappy about this decision and we do not underestimate the disappointment this will cause those guests who have planned their weddings.

"P&O Cruises would still love to welcome them on board, whilst we are unable to hold the legal ceremony we can still offer a Commitment Ceremony to celebrate their partnership or a renewal of vows ceremony, both of which will be officiated by the captain or a senior officer."

Caters.