(10:00 p.m. AEST) -- Celebrity Cruises has announced that legalised same sex marriages will be offered on all of its ships, effective immediately, making it the world's first cruise line to legally conduct gay weddings at sea.
Lisa Lutoff-Perlo, the line's president and CEO, made the surprise announcement tonight at an industry event in Australia, where coincidentally the population is voting in a national government survey to determine whether same-sex couples should be allowed to marry.
On her first visit to Sydney, Lutoff-Perlo said the vote in Malta, where Celebrity Cruises ships are flagged, was almost unanimous. Celebrity Cruises captains will conduct the ceremonies. In further support, the cruise line will also be a major sponsor of the Australian LGBTI Awards.
The move follows Princess Cruises, Cunard and P&O Cruises UK, which recently confirmed that their Bermuda-registered ships will offer same-sex ceremonies from next year. Celebrity Cruises, however, is technically ready to start the service globally from today.
The event at Sydney's Royal Botanical Gardens, attended by local media, travel agents, government and port officials, also showcased the new Celebrity Edge, which Lutoff-Perlo hopes to deploy to Australia in the future. Australia is the third biggest market for the cruise line, after North America and the U.K., with only one ship, Celebrity Solstice, based in Sydney for six months of the year. Solstice returns down under next Friday for its sixth summer season.
--By Louise Goldsbury, Australia Editor