When Captain Jeff Behrens (and his mate in work and life, Catherine) decided to begin small ship cruises around Alaska with itineraries covering almost every inch on this incredible state, his dream was to have a ship that holds only 32 people yet has a crew of 10 so everyone gets the most personal service they deserve.
And he’s done that most successfully for the past 20 years.
What he hasn’t done, which occurred for the first time for our favorite Captain, was to hold and host a commitment ceremony between two lovely young people, both in their 70’s.
Allow me to give you an overview of one of the most endearing and memorable occasions I have ever experienced and I only knew the bride and groom for less than a week.
Captain Jeff walks the beautiful bride Delores, down the most beautiful aisle – Photo Credit: Ellen Eichelbaum
Lewis and Delores, from the moment the crew and guests met them, were constantly affectionate. They were holding hands most of the time and spent every waking moment either looking in each other’s eyes or sharing hugs. There was no doubt that Lewis and Delores were (and will always be), in love.
Lewis gets a new boutonniere from Mandy, one of Jeff’s crew members
After about 5 days on The Island Spirit, going on my first Wilderness Cruise with 18 people I’ve never met, I sat down with this special couple. As they were so lovey-dovey, I asked them how long they were married. “Oh, Delores said, we are not married; we just got engaged in December.” Both are widows from very long-term marriages. In fact, while talking to them, they told me they dated 59 years ago in college, but only briefly.
They began dating again in late 2016 and by mid 2017 they both felt that they belonged together and wanted to spend their later years with with each other.
Until one day that made Lewis the happiest man in the world. “I loved her from the moment I met her,” he told me. She looked at him adoringly and agreed that Lewis was the man she wanted to spend the rest of her life with.
Between them, there are seven children, multiple grandchildren and great grandchildren. I asked them why they haven’t gotten married yet; after all it’s May and that is already 5 months of engagement. Because I’m from New York and they are from Texas, I was hoping I wasn’t too forward by asking them that personal question.
They commit for LIFE as Josh reads the vows – Photo Credit: Ellen Eichelbaum
Then I said, ‘look around you guys,’ you are on a boat in the middle of Southeast Alaska where the air is fresh, the sea lions and humpback whales are surrounding the boat, the eagles fly above and the scenery is spectacular. ‘Why not get married on this boat?’ That was quite forward of me and I almost started to regret butting into their lives.
Then, Lewis and Delores looked at each other and, from that moment on, Captain Jeff was having his first commitment ceremony. And we had less than ONE DAY to plan this event.
Understanding that there were no stores around or places we could buy wedding ware, clothes, flowers, etc., the crew chose to be very thoughtful and hard-working and they all got started putting together the ceremony AND the reception. Both Rob and Joe our wonderful chefs, kept the big secret and baked a wedding cake for Lewis and Delores. The rest of the crew, especially Heather and Mandy, set the tables with gorgeous settings, beautiful napkins shaped specifically for this occasion, and I have no idea how they found such gorgeous flowers, but they did. They even had a bouquet for Delores and a boutonniere for Lewis. Champagne was on the tables and it wouldn’t have been nicer had we been in the biggest catering hall.
Photo Credit: Ellen Eichelbaum
The wedding was set for 6 p.m. the next night, less than 24 hours after I took the chance and made the THE big suggestion.
The crew set chairs up on the bow of the ship so we all had a front row seat and Josh, one of our crew members who, each day took us out to see different water animals, happened to be an ordained Minister. I don’t think things like that just ‘happen.’ I think they are ‘meant to be.’
Captain Jeff took off his bear slippers that he loves so much, put on his Captain Steubing shirt and walked lovely Delores from the head of the bow to the middle of the bow, where Lewis was awaiting his bride-to-be as she gracefully let the Captain’s hand go and went right into Lewis’ arms. I cried. Everyone cried. It was a once-in-a-lifetime experience and I was there to tell this story. And it is giving much pleasure to write this.
Congratulations! Lewis and Delores – Photo Credit: Ellen Eichelbaum
Josh had the proper bible and notes and it was as if he had been doing it for years. It was his first time; it was everyone’s first time. But, for Captain Jeff, it was going to be the ‘first of many’ because after you read this, you will want to not only want to take one of his special cruises, but you just may want to ‘tie the knot’ in a place most people have on their personal bucket list.
The exchanging of vows, which both Lewis and Delores wrote themselves, brought tears to everyone’s eyes. I have the recording of the ceremony but will await the permission of the newlyweds before I post it on YouTube.
After the ceremony, as the beautiful Alaskan sun stayed high in the sky, we all joined for dinner and made a toast to the lovely couple who were smiling ear-to-ear and they hugged and kissed and, frankly, couldn’t wait to go to their room to be alone..
After we had our specially-prepared wedding dinner, we moved the couches to the far end of the room and danced the night away as we watched the newly-committed couple look lovingly into each other’s eyes.
Dancing the night away on THE ISLAND SPIRIT – Photo Credit: Ellen Eichelbaum
I was envious as I went back to my room and picked up my nightgown which had the appropriate holes and permanent stains it should have after fifty years. My husband, Jack, fell asleep way before me as I basked in the midnight sun taking in the events of the night.
The next morning, Lewis and Delores were the last to get up and eat breakfast. YOU KIDS GO!!!
The best of everything to this wonderful couple who went home to tell their big family, ‘guess what we did on the cruise.’ Moments in time forever remembered.
Having a wonderful wedding on THE ISLAND SPIRIT – Photo Credit: Gayle Harper Photography
For more information on booking an event in Alaska on The Island Spirit, go to small alaska ship And, I’m betting that if you do it more than 24 hours in advance, Captain Jeff and his amazing crew just may have the time to go shopping. Thank you to the ENTIRE crew and to those who met for the first time not knowing that this would be an extra special event.
By the way, I must mention, the night before we docked, we all plopped down on those comfy couches to watch THE BUCKET LIST with Jack Nicholson and Morgan Freeman. If you don’t have Alaska on YOUR bucket list, you will after this movie.
May you live a lifetime of laughter and health, Lewis & Delores.
Love, the guests and crew of The Island Spirit – May 26 – June 3, 2018.