Finding the right cruise line for your romantic occasion takes a little research and planning before setting sail.
STORY: Debbie Selinsky PHOTOS: Jennifer and Jake Baas, Regent Seven Seas, Silversea Cruises, and Shutterstock
Romance, like beauty, is in the eye of the beholder. But few honeymooners would disagree that romping on pristine beaches by day, enjoying a relaxing couple’s massage by sunset, and dancing under the stars on a moonlit deck at night more than fits the bill.
In recent years, cruise lines have upped the romantic ante even more with features such as cozy, private cabanas, complete with hot tubs and chilled drinks; verandahs that give couples a chance for intimate stargazing; and private gourmet picnics enjoyed while lounging on real grass lawns on deck.
“Our honeymoon cruise was the most relaxing one we’ve ever taken,” says Jennifer Baas of Leesburg. She and her husband, Jake, (pictured at left) married last August and spent their honeymoon aboard Royal Caribbean’s Oasis of the Seas®. “We’ve taken eight other cruises in the past but this one was special. The ship was newer and the service was excellent.”
For your dream honeymoon to come to fruition, you need to do a little research and planning. For example, most honeymooners prefer to avoid ships with lots of small kids onboard. That eliminates Disney cruises, although they have many adults-only activities and amenities. You also can avoid large numbers of families and kids on cruises by dodging summer and holiday crowds.
If you are a young couple, you might be more comfortable on a ship with younger clientele and more physical activities, such as Royal Caribbean (hello, rock-climbing and zip lining) and Carnival, which boasts the only dedicated comedy clubs at sea. Jennifer says the unique activities and excellent spa services aboard the Oasis of the Seas were the best part of her seven-day honeymoon cruise in the Caribbean. “We especially enjoyed the outdoor theatre’s aqua show on the back of the ship,” she says.
And since the lowest cruise fares are usually found online, another sensible move is to check out websites that keep up with the industry, like www.cruisecritic.com, and sites that sell a variety of discounted cruises, such as www.vacationstogo.com. Jennifer and Jake booked their cruise online but they were experienced cruisers, having traveled on several other ships in the past. “We were perfectly comfortable booking online and we knew we wanted to be on the Oasis. We had heard and read a lot about that particular ship,” she says.
However, if you are a novice cruiser and aren’t sure about booking online, call the cruise lines directly or talk to a travel agent, especially one who is a cruise specialist. Ask or check websites to see if they have designations such as Accredited Cruise Counselor (ACC), Master Cruise Counselor (MCC), or Elite Cruise Counselor (ECC). These accredited agents have completed an extensive curriculum of cruise sales training and have personally sailed or inspected a variety of cruise ships. They often can match an online price and ensure you earn points in the cruise line’s loyalty program. They are also able to arrange special events that online sites usually cannot.
Cruising Baby Boomer Style
Well-traveled baby boomers and more mature couples might check out Holland America Line, where ballroom dancing, computer classes, and gourmet cooking lessons are popular activities, or Celebrity Cruises, whose high-tech, spa-centric Solstice Class ships feature AquaClass Suites that give you special access to spa facilities and a health-focused restaurant.
If you are a sailor, you may be especially drawn to the motorized sailing vessels of Windstar Cruises. And if price is no object, check out upscale Regent Seven Seas’ ships, the most inclusive at sea. Your cruise fare includes the price of shore excursions, spirits and wines, gratuities, and pre- and post-cruise hotel stays, leaving you virtually no reason for a lover’s quarrel.
A few cruise lines offer complimentary perks to honeymooners. Don’t be surprised that while on a cruise of romantic Tahiti on the Paul Gauguin you find red rose petals scattered in your bathroom. Celebrity and Holland America offer evening celebrations for all newlyweds aboard the ship, featuring hors d’oeuvres, champagne, and special greetings from ship officers, while Silversea Cruises includes in-cruise fares, a bottle of top-notch champagne, chocolate-covered strawberries, and flowers. Be sure to let the cruise line know you are on your honeymoon.
A honeymoon cruise is generally a great value since meals, accommodations, and most entertainment are part of your fare. But when you’re budgeting, be sure to add in the cost of airfare, beverages, staff gratuities, and funds for spa treatments, shopping, gambling, and exercise classes to arrive at the true cost of your honeymoon cruise.