Play up the passion on land and at sea
By Alexis Hilts
Jeff Herron/Couples Resorts
Couples Negril In Jamaica
The pair that plays together stays together. That could be the motto of Couples' all-inclusive resort in Negril, nestled on 18 acres of Jamaica's lush gardens and soft, white sand. Here, competitive duos might play in a pingpong tournament, join a beach volleyball game or test their skills in a tennis match. The more creatively inclined can craft tokens for each other in a jewelry-making class or learn the art of wood carving. Water lovers splash around on a range of aquatic toys or take advantage of twice-daily dive trips, and avid golfers swing their clubs at a par-72 course. Bonfires, dance parties and sing-alongs appeal to social butterflies.
Couples Negril adds sweet touches such as sunset catamaran cruises, and guests on their honeymoon also receive complimentary sparkling wine and a couples massage. Call (800) 998-6925 or visit www.ResortVacationsToGo.com/Couples.
SeaDream Yacht Club In the Caribbean
Imagine sipping on bubbly and sampling caviar while feeling the caress of soft sand between your toes and the embrace of the azure sea. If this tropical scenario sounds like the ideal aphrodisiac, then choose a Caribbean itinerary on one of SeaDream Yacht Club's two luxury ships. The Champagne and Caviar Splash is not the only touch of opulence on these intimate sailings: Each SeaDream vessel boasts 95 crew members to a maximum of 112 passengers, a ratio that ensures each cruiser is properly pampered. All staterooms come with seaside panoramas, Bulgari toiletries, fine linens and multijet showerheads. And guests sail without worry as gourmet cuisine, alcoholic beverages, water sports and gratuities are all included in the up-front price. The best spots for snuggling are the built-for-two Balinese Dream Beds on Deck 6, where sleeping under the stars is encouraged.
SeaDream I and SeaDream II travel to sun-drenched Eastern and Southern Caribbean ports such as St. John, Virgin Gorda and Nevis through April. After a stretch in Europe, they return to the islands in November. Call (800) 338-4962 or visit www.VacationsToGo.com/SeaDream.
Sandals Grande Antigua Resort and Spa
Some couples disagree on everything except the fact that they're crazy about each other (even if they drive each other crazy). For these feisty pairs and others wavering on what they want out of their escape, this Sandals resort soothes dueling desires with its dual nature: The all-inclusive encompasses both a Mediterranean Village and a Caribbean Grove. One part European sophistication, one part tropical rhythm, the 373-room retreat inspires glamorous date nights and laid-back beach days. Eleven eateries please palates with bites from Jamaican jerk to wood-fired pizza, and there's unlimited land and water sports, plus two scuba dives per day. Some suites pack additional perks like private plunge pools with Jacuzzis and butler service. Sandals ramps up the romance for honeymooners with complimentary sparkling wine and a breakfast in bed complete with fresh flowers.
All of this is added flair to an already alluring destination: Antigua boasts year-round temperatures averaging between 75 and 85 degrees and 365 pretty patches of sand -- one for each day of the year. Call (800) 998-6925 or visit www.ResortVacationsToGo.com/Sandals.
El Dorado Seaside Suites In Mexico
For busy twosomes caught up in the frenetic day to day, passion requires a relaxation ritual. Set on 500 acres of tropical jungle in Mexico's Riviera Maya, Karisma Hotels & Resorts' all-inclusive El Dorado Seaside Suites sets a slow pace with a favorite plush perk: comfy double beds along the sand, topped with palm canopies and draped in sheer white linens for a secluded ambience. Lovers who wish to take a break from lounging can grab a mask and fins and view the multicolored fish off El Dorado's shores.
The adults-only sanctuary also coaxes guests into a leisurely state of mind with its 280 lavish accommodations with Jacuzzis for two and ocean or garden views. Some back up to a "lazy river," allowing vacationers to step right from their patios into a meandering oasis. Call (800) 998-6925 or visit www.ResortVacationsToGo.com/Karisma.
Paul Gauguin Cruises In Tahiti
Discovering exotic isles while sailing on a five-star cruise ship is one way to bust out of a romantic rut. With only 332 passengers, the Paul Gauguin was designed to maneuver shallow waters, calling at hard-to-reach ports in the South Pacific. Journey to enticing French Polynesian havens like Tahiti, Bora Bora and Moorea amid the vessel's casual elegance, with access to an onboard water sports marina, al fresco dining and a piano bar and observation lounge. Gratuities, beverages and a day on the cruise line's private islet, Motu Mahana, with snorkeling and a barbecue lunch, are included in the cruise package. Striking natural beauty and a clear, blue ocean paradise are the biggest bonuses of them all.
The Paul Gauguin sails in the Cook Islands, Society Islands, Marquesas and Tuamotus year-round on weeklong and 14-day itineraries. Call (800) 338-4962 or visit www.VacationsToGo.com/PaulGauguin.
Ladera Resort In St. Lucia
For scenery that sets the mood, you'd be hard-pressed to find a more enchanting hideaway than the intimate Ladera Resort, set 1,100 feet above the sea among the verdant hillsides of southwestern St. Lucia. Near the quiet town of Soufriere, this cluster of 32 open-air suites and villas enjoys soft breezes and unparalleled panoramas of the Caribbean island's crown jewels, the Pitons, a pair of volcanic peaks blanketed with lush foliage. Giddy guests luxuriate in their private, three-walled paradise with plunge pool, fashioned with timbers reminiscent of a tree house. Adjust to island time while sipping cocktails in the bar overlooking the bay, take the shuttle down to sun-soaked beaches or test the theory that the route to the heart is through the stomach with a Caribbean cooking class hosted by the resort's chef.
Ladera also allows vacationers to make the most of the magical surroundings: Set up a moonlight meal anywhere on the grounds for an intimate evening. Call (800) 998-6925 or visit www.ResortVacationsTo Go.com/Ladera.
Windstar Cruises In Greece and Turkey
Some harbor the romantic notion that hopping on a vessel and sailing into the sunset is the perfect couples escape, but this can be complicated by practical concerns -- lack of nautical knowledge and a sailboat, for starters. Windstar Cruises created an experience for those who've got sailing in their souls but prefer a bit more luxury (and someone else at the helm). The laid-back line sends two 148-passenger motor-sail yachts -- the Wind Star and the Wind Spirit -- to Turkey and the beguiling Greek Isles from May through October.
The weeklong itineraries travel between Athens and Istanbul and introduce guests to the wonders of the Mediterranean, from the ruins of ancient Ephesus to the cliffs of Santorini, on ships that combine elements of traditional seafaring with modern comforts. For an amorous evening, make reservations to dine on deck at the Candles Grill. Call (800) 338-4962 or visit www.VacationsToGo.com/Windstar.
Fairmont Orchid In Hawaii
Whether used as a symbol of affection, a colorful apology or a gesture in a blooming courtship, flowers are an expression of love. Named after one of Hawaii's prettiest blossoms, the 540-room Fairmont Orchid inspires amore with its 32-acre Big Island setting along the stunning shores of Pauoa Bay. Couples can swim in a sheltered lagoon or soak in lava-rock whirlpools. Green sea turtles sunbathe on the shore as guests lounge in hammocks or stroll the waterfall gardens. Try the rolls and sashimi at Norio's Japanese Restaurant and Sushi Bar, or make it a special night with the "gathering of the kings," a Polynesian luau with fire dancing and a feast. Seaside yoga and hikes exploring petroglyphs are complimentary.
Consider adding an hour or two at the Spa Without Walls, where massages with floral-infused oils and warm lava rocks melt stress away in cabanas by a waterfall or the ocean. Call (800) 998-6925 or visit www.ResortVacationsToGo.com/Fairmont.
The information in this story was accurate at the time it was published in January/February 2012.