Honeymoons: Suit Yourself

There are as many honeymoon possibilities as there are honeymooners. Here, in no particular order, are a variety of ideas for a romantic vacation.

The Islands of The Bahamas
East and south of southern Florida, the 700-plus islands and coral outcroppings that make up the formerly British, now independent, The Islands Of The Bahamas offer great variety within easy distance of most East Coast U.S. cities. The pace of some islands is set by their casinos; the pace on others is slow and natural. The weather in The Islands of The Bahamas is generally warm and sunny. The warmest months are July and August, when the average temperature range is from 75 to 89. The coolest month is January, when the range is from 62 to 77.

For an overall picture of honeymoon possibilities in The Islands Of The Bahamas, and a wedding planner, contact the Nassau Paradise Island Tourist Board, the Brand Bahama Island Tourist Board and The Bahama Out Islands Promotion Board for details about the dozens of places to stay on the quieter islands.

Grand Bahama Island's Club Fortuna Beach, one of Viva Resorts' all-inclusive properties, provides good value for honeymooning couples who want a lively resort with some foreign atmosphere. The 204-room Club Fortuna has a white-sand beach, a wide range of nonmotorized water sports, a variety of professional nightclub shows and access to the nearby Lucaya Golf & Country Club and the Fortune Hills Golf & Country Club.

On Paradise Island, couples who want the action but have a limited budget could consider Comfort Suites Paradise Island. The six-night Bahamian Supreme package can become a honeymoon plan. The property is a short walk from the beach, restaurants and shops. Also nearby is the 1,147-room and suite Atlantis Paradise Island Resort with its casino, restaurants, and 14-acre waterscape. For honeymoons at Atlantis, ask about the Honeymoon on Paradise package, which has a two-night minimum and includes chilled champagne, a picnic lunch and a day cruise.

The Caribbean
Sunstruck, sea-splashed holidays are the speciality of this region, but the 30-plus island groups and the Central and South American countries bordering the western and southern shores of the Caribbean offer far more variety than sun-and-sea. While the justifiably popular all-inclusives are easy to sell, the region also offers tropical forests with hillside or mountain resorts, cozy inns, exclusive island resorts and restored plantation houses.

The Caribbean also includes the Aztec and Maya influences of Mexico's Yucatan peninsula, the Amerindians and Bushnegroes of Guyana. Honeymooners can observe their culture as well as buy their crafts. Opportunities also exist to hike in rain forests, go kayaking and sailing and enjoy soft-adventure excursions such as jeep safaris in Aruba and birding in the mountains of the Dominican Republic.

Aruba's "Honeymoon Planner," available through the Aruba Tourism Authority, can be given to clients who are uncertain about where to go. In addition to providing details about getting married in Aruba and special places for a wedding and reception, the brochure describes the annual One Cool Honeymoon promotion in May, June and September, when most properties offer added value with some free services. Most Aruba hotels have honeymoon packages throughout the year. Agents can check with Americana, Holiday Inn, Hyatt, Marriott, Radisson, Sonesta and Wyndham, but shouldn't overlook some of the domestic properties such as Bucuti Beach Resort, Amsterdam Manor, or The Mill Condominium Resort that have island personality and imaginative plans.

On Barbados, Pemberton Princess Hotels has a Royal Romance plan for both its Glitter Bay and Royal Pavilion properties, beachside neighbors on the west coast. The honeymoon package includes chilled champagne and orchids on arrival, plus day-after arrival breakfast, daily afternoon tea and use of nonmotorized water sports equipment.

The British Virgin Islands, rising from the sea northeast of St. Thomas and St. John, two of the U.S. Virgins, seem far removed from pressure-cooked life. Berths aboard charter yachts outnumber hotel rooms in these islands which are surrounded by some of the region's best sailing seas. Couples eager to enjoy a more quiet setting should consider Drake's Anchorage, a 125-acre private island off the north coast of Virgin Gorda, with a 10-room inn with two villas. Accessible only by boat, the island has four secluded beaches, hiking trails and a waterfront restaurant.

Grenada's Blue Horizons Cottage Hotel offers a seven-night Honeymoon Deluxe Vacation until Dec 16. Located on six acres, a short walk from the beach, the 32 rooms are in cottages on the hillside. The plan includes all breakfasts and one dinner at nearby La Belle Creole restaurant.

Grenada's Calabash Hotel has several two-story cottages with 30 suites, some of which have private plunge pools or whirlpools and all of which face the lawn that reaches to beach and sea.

Jamaica's Half Moon Golf, Tennis & Beach Club with 400 acres is a beachside resort with complete facilities, including a golf course, paddle tennis courts, horseback riding, spa facilities, several swimming pools and a full range of restaurants. Lodgings include free-standing villas, two stories of seaview hotel rooms and, the newest addition, 32 five-, six- and seven-bedroom Royal Villas.

In Puerto Rico, the Horned Dorset Primavera offers package plans that can be ideal for honeymoons. With a pool on the lawn in front of the Spanish neo-colonial hacienda that serves as the main house and a small-but-pleasant beach bordering the hacienda on the sea side, the hotel has the feeling of a country estate. A seven-night Island Relief plan includes daily breakfasts and dinners, as well as transfers from Mayaguez or Aguadilla airports. Priced at $3,500 to $4,500 Dec. 15 to April 15, the plan does not include taxes and gratuities.

St. Lucia's Windjammer Landing Villa Beach Resort has a honeymoon package that offers extras for couples who book one of the property's one-bedroom villas or a superior or deluxe room. Weddings can be arranged through the hotel.

In St. Martin (the French side), overlooking Anse Marcel, the hilltop-capping Privilege Resort and Spa has a seven-night honeymoon package for $2,645 per couple until mid-December, $3,645 in winter season, through mid-April. (Rates for Christmas holidays and February are higher.) Included in the package are daily breakfasts; one dinner; use of spa facilities; access to tennis, squash and racquetball, and a helicopter tour of St. Martin.

St. Martin's Le Meridien L'Habitation Le Domaine can seem like being on the French Riviera. Nestled on its own bay on the northeast (French) shore of the Dutch/French island, the resort has grown from its original cluster to include a fully equipped marina, many shops, several restaurants and a wide range of accommodations. Honeymoon packages at Le Meridien L'Habitation Le Domaine include dinner for two at La Belle France restaurant, matching T-shirts and transfers from the island's airport to the resort. Through Dec. 19, four-night honeymoon packages start at $920.

Clients can combine two or more islands for a longer honeymoon. Air Jamaica's hub at Montego Bay, Jamaica, allows for stopovers in Jamaica on a fare to Antigua, Grand Cayman, Nassau, The Bahamas, Barbados, St. Lucia and Providenciales in the Turks & Caicos, all of which are included in the carrier's schedule. Call 800-523-5585.

Well-traveled honeymooners are ideal candidates for Explorer tickets sold by Antigua-based LIAT (Leeward Islands Air Transport), for interisland travel throughout the Caribbean. Available year-round on LIAT services only, the $249 Explorer BE249 is valid for three stops in a maximum of 21 days. The $449 Super Caribbean Explorer BE449, also available year-round on LIAT services only, is valid for unlimited stops in 30 days, and is sold within the Caribbean. In addition, a Caribbean Air Pass BE80 is offered at $80 per flight for three to six islands, with a maximum 21-day travel period. Call (268) 462-0700.

Sandals and Beaches resorts flourish in five Caribbean countries: Jamaica, St. Lucia, Antigua, Nassau in The Islands of The Bahamas and Providenciales in the Turks & Caicos. Weddings at Sandals start at $750, and include the clergyman or justice of the peace, plus witnesses (if required), flowers, wedding cake and video of the ceremony. At present, weddings are included in the all-inclusive vacation prices at Beaches resorts.

SuperClubs Super-Inclusive Resorts include the wedding ceremony, with officials, cake and other elements requested by the client in their all-inclusive rates. With nine properties in four brand categories, the Jamaica-based SuperClubs has resorts in three Caribbean countries -- Jamaica, The Islands of The Bahamas and Cuba.

Caribbean Inns represents about 20 inns on a dozen islands. Each place has its own possibilities for special honeymoon packages, for clients who want unique surroundings in the region. Among the properties are Admiral's Inn at English Harbour on Antigua; Sugar Mill on Tortola and Old Yard Inn on Virgin Gorda in the British Virgin Islands; Hamak on the French island of Guadeloupe, and Villas Tacul on the beach at Cancun.

GOGO Worldwide Vacations' programs throughout the Caribbean include many hotels that have honeymoon packages, and smaller properties where you can make special arrangements for your clients such as an island tour or a half-day sail. On the Cayman Islands, for example, GOGO has land-only packages at Spanish Bay Reef and Beach Club Colony, both of which offer inclusive-priced holidays, as well as condominium resorts such as Villas of the Galleon, Westin Casaurina Resort and Treasure Island Resort, both on Seven Mile Beach.

Florida
While the Florida Keys share characteristics of Caribbean islands and Sanibel-Captiva offers traditional Floridian places to stay, self-contained resorts fleck the shorelines -- both east coast and west.

Disney Fairy Tale Weddings has information about planning weddings and about honeymoon packages at the Walt Disney World resorts. In addition to facilities at many of the resorts in the Lake Buena Vista (Orlando) area, a special wedding pavilion opened in July 1995 for the program, which began in 1991. Fantasy receptions can be planned, using Disney themes. Several honeymoon plans are available; most are four-night bookings. Both the Intimate Wedding and the Honeymoon packets are available through Fax-on-Demand at (800) 900-8080, which will help answer a lot of your clients' questions. For further information call (800) 327-2996.

In 1998, between June 1 and Aug. 31, if your clients hold their wedding reception and dinner for 150 people (or more) at the Four Seasons Resort Palm Beach, they'll be given complimentary deluxe oceanview accommodations and chilled champagne at the Palm Beach hotel for their wedding night plus a three-night honeymoon immediately following at Four Seasons Resort Nevis, on the Caribbean island of Nevis. Air fare (from Miami, via Puerto Rico) is not included. The couple can also stay at the 210-room Four Seasons Resort Palm Beach.

Sanibel Island and Captiva Island have dozens of places in all price ranges that could be ideal for honeymooning couples. With the atmosphere of Caribbean islands, these places have all the comforts of being in the U.S. -- and can be driven to and from the island via Fort Myers, the nearest mainland city and airport. Captiva, tied to Sanibel by a short and narrow bridge, has South Seas Plantation Resort at its tip.

The Florida Keys can be an enchanted world for honeymooners who enjoy fishing and island life. More than 100 islands (keys) stretch over 126 miles, and more than 1,000 places to stay dot the islands. The main road that ties Key West to Miami, and most of the keys to each other, is the artery for arrival, unless your clients fly out of Miami on the small plane service to Marathon or Key West. Contact the Florida Keys Tourism Board for airline information.

In the Florida Keys, check out Little Palm Island Resort on Little Torch Key. The resort can be reached only by boat or by the resort's seaplane, and has a five-night honeymoon package that includes body massages, a sunset sail and a snorkeling trip.

Hawaii
The 50th state is eight major islands that are as different in personality from each other as the people who visit them. Honolulu on Oahu is the best known resort area, as well as the most tourist-focused, with its early fame gained from Waikiki Beach and surfers' enthusiasm for the high rollers there. Maui's more recent development resulted in tourist enclaves (and timeshare salesfolk) along several shores. Kauai and Niihau, on the Asian side of the state, are less trammeled and more natural, while the Big Island of Hawaii, the largest island, on the U.S. west coast side, has he headline-making volcanoes and a vast and spectacular national park. Molokai, Lanai and Kahoolawe are in Maui's orbit, northwest of the Big Island and southeast of Oahu.

Oahu's Kahala Mandarin Oriental has a wedding chapel where sensational views include Koko Head and the Kahala coastline.

On the Big Island, bed and breakfast lodgings are comfortable, unusual and memorable. A six-day trip that includes hiking the historic King's Trail to a remote beach and snorkeling in a marine preserve as well as sailing in a catamaran in search of dolphins and humpback whales is offered through American Wilderness Experience. The company also organizes a 10-day adventure on Kauai, Maui and the Big Island, and a 12-day adventure on Oahu and Kauai.

The Orchid Mauna Lani, a member of the Luxury Collection of ITT Sheraton, is a 539-room oceanfront resort with a wide range of facilities that include a spa, fitness center, pools, tennis and golf. On the Kohala Coast of the Big Island, the resort has a number of packages that can be adapted for honeymoons, as well as one tailor-made for the event. The resort can also arrange wedding ceremonies.

On Kauai, the Princeville Resort, on 23 acres at Pu'u Poa Ridge facing Hanalei Bay, provides a base from which honeymoon couples can hike the Na Pali Trail or explore other areas.

Maui's beachside resorts are legion, with dozens of condominiums, as well as some small properties, and several name brand properties. At the Westin Maui, an 11-story, 741-room resort, the Honeymoon package usually includes daily buffet breakfasts, one dinner at Villa restaurant and one sunset boat cruise.

Mexico
Mexico offers far more variety than most clients expect. The promotion of Cancun and the ability to value-price make the Yucatan resort area a prime consideration for many couples, but there are countless destinations along the west coast as well as in some of the central areas. For luxury accommodations on the beach at Cancun, Casa Turquesa has 33 deluxe suites, each with a terrace Jacuzzi.

The island of Cozumel, south of resort-filled Cancun, is in a low-key atmosphere that has long been popular with divers and other water sport enthusiasts. Accommodations range from the modestly priced 25-room Al Marestel and the 27-room apartment hotel Bahia to resorts that offer inclusive-priced plans, plus a couple of large resorts. Among the places offering inclusive packages that can be ideal for honeymoons are the 220-room Club Cozumel and the 50-room Bounty Beach Resort. Allegro's 300-room Diamond Resort offers a three-night honeymoon plan that has some extra services. A $250 add-on gives free laundry services including massage discounts, breakfast in bed and special check-in.

Mountains
Mountain vacations come in all price ranges -- and in many places. Once you've established the budget and time available, you can steer clients to lovely places in Vermont, Utah, Colorado, Canada, Switzerland, western Austria, northern Italy, or places that are farther away.

The French Alps published a "Discovery Guide," with information about several mountain resort areas. Some are modern, high in the mountains, within easy distance of ski lifts that also serve in summer for reaching hiking trails. One place to consider for romance is Megeve, where all buildings have been meticulously maintained in the Alpine chalet style, even when they have been recently built. Among the several small hotels with very special atmosphere is the Hotel Alpina, near the main square.

Austria offers a wide range of travel experiences that can appeal to honeymooners. If the couple wants culture, Vienna is an ideal place, with opportunities for a day trip or longer to Budapest, Hungary, and music everywhere in a city where cafe life thrives. In the western part of Austria, dozens of Alpine villages offer chalets and other accommodations for couples who enjoy walks, hikes, skiing and other sports, defined by the season (and the height of the slopes).

Italy's mountains and lakes have lured poets, artists and other romantics for centuries. While the major cities may be well known, many of the villages and towns in the Alps offer charming facilities and opportunities for the outdoor life. Lago di Garda, shared by the provinces of Lombardia and Veneto, with a tiny northern tip in the Trentino-Alto, Adige/Sud Tirol region, is the quintessential lake, with several small towns along its shores. Trento, the capital of the Trentino region, in Italy's northeastern Alps, can be a starting point for honeymooners who want to explore the area. Italtour has programs in this area. So does Italy Farm Holidays, which carefully researches its properties each year.

Switzerland has many advantages, including the fact that getting around the country on public transportation (train, lakeboat, postal bus, cable car) is very easy with one of an assortment of Swiss Passes, available through Rail Europe. Switzerland's public transportation network Passes come in a variety of time spans, both first and second class; there's a special pass for two people traveling together that would be ideal for honeymooners.

Colorado's Copper Mountain Resorts, a central office that represents approximately 75% of the rooms in the area, can help with putting together bed-and-breakfast packages for honeymooners as well as suggesting plans with more elaborate accommodations. Well known for ski vacations, the resort also has plenty to do in summer months, when the chairlift is free and hiking trails are well-marked. Horseback riding is popular; bicycles can be rented. Located 75 miles west of Denver and 20 miles east of Vail, the resort is easily reached from Denver airport.

Luxury Resorts & Personality Places
When your clients expect a full-service resort, where staff await their bidding, there are several reliable sources for suggestions. Answers to a few questions can carve the possibilities into mountain resort or beachside bastion. From that point onward, you can look to some of the widely respected hotel representatives. In addition to the well-known international management names -- Four Seasons, Hilton, Hyatt, Radisson, Regent, Renaissance, Sheraton and Westin among them -- it's worth checking Best Western (the firm represents hundreds of charming, often family-owned, always-comfortable hotels around European and other countries) and some groups that are household names in Europe, such as Minotel and Silence, but perhaps not so well known in the U.S.

If the couple shares an interest in the good life, especially as it's enjoyed in Europe, give them a copy of the "Relais & Chateaux International Guide," sold to the public for $8 but sometimes available to agents at a special price. The 413 privately owned, elegant hotels that are members of Relais & Chateaux share a quality found in country houses and estates.

Les Romantiques, a newsletter published by a public relations firm, has an edition about France that bases itineraries on exceptional small properties the firm represents. Ideal for honeymooners, any of the hotels can offer an opportunity to tour the surrounding countryside. Included among suggested itineraries are Paris and the nearby countryside, as well as the Loire Valley, Brittany, Alsace and other areas.

Marketing Ahead represents Posadas in Portugal and Paradors in Spain, as well as other unique, often historic, always atmospheric European properties. Well-traveled couples could enjoy renting a car to drive from arrival city to one or more of the properties, depending on their length of stay and personal interests. The representative can give suggestions for arranging a wedding at one of the properties. Call (800) 223-1356.

Romantik Hotels is a group of privately owned, usually historic properties throughout Europe. Each hotel has its own personality, typical of the region in which it is located. Properties are often family-owned and managed. Bedrooms usually vary in size and style, as is the case with older European buildings. The properties are known for good food and pleasant surroundings. An attractive booklet contains details about the inns, with contact numbers.

Rosewood Hotels & Resorts is a small group of luxury properties, specifically Caneel Bay on St. John in the U.S. Virgin Islands, Little Dix Bay in the nearby British Virgin Islands (on Virgin Gorda), Las Ventas al Paraiso at Cabo San Lucas on Mexico's Baja peninsula, the Bristol in Panama City, Panama, and the Seiyo Ginza, a 60-room property in Tokyo.

Another place for one-stop shopping for personality properties in the Caribbean and Italy is JDB. The firm represents about 20 Caribbean properties and over 100 throughout Italy. Call (800) 346-5358.

Among the Caribbean properties are Rawlins Plantation Inn on St. Kitts, Cinnamon Reef and Frangipani on Anguilla; Cobblers Cove on Barbados, and Biras Creek on Virgin Gorda in the British Virgin Islands. The Italian properties are mostly four- and five-star, with a few three-star in the countryside. Ask about the In Love packages, targeted for honeymooners and anniversary celebrations. Each includes a candlelight champagne dinner for two in a romantic setting, in addition to other elements.

While sunny destinations immediately come to mind for honeymoons, there's merit in considering some of the Ritz-Carlton city hotels near hometowns for couples with limited time. The Ritz-Carlton Philadelphia, for example, has packages that include museum visits and other special features. Ritz-Carlton's resort properties have honeymoon plans as well as other multinight plans that can be adapted. Inquire about seasonal offerings and specific facilities at the Ritz-Carlton St. Thomas, in the U.S. Virgin Islands, or the one on the beach in Cancun, Mexico.

Leading Hotels of the World has a membership that includes 310 of the world's most luxurious properties. Most of the European sites are historic properties that have been completely refurbished to meet Leading's standards; several of the properties have recently added extensive spa facilities. While elegant suites at all properties would be ideal for a romantic interlude, standard rooms with a special view offer exceptional facilities at most. About 25% of Leading Hotels' members offer honeymoon programs, or romantic multinight vacations that would be ideal for the occasion.

Orient Express Hotels are led by the Hotel Cipriani in Venice, purchased by the company in 1976. Highly respected for its class-act trains and cruises -- the Venice Simplon Orient Express, British Pullman, Eastern & Oriental Express and Road to Mandalay -- the firm's collection also includes two Portuguese hotels, the Hotel Quinta do Lago in the Algarve and Reid's Palace on the island of Madeira; La Samanna on St. Martin in the Caribbean; the Copacabana Palace in Rio de Janeiro, and U.S. properties such as the Lodge at Vail, Colo.,and Charleston Place in Charleston, S.C.

Exotic and Unique
For couples who have backpacked in Europe and are experienced adventure travelers, several travel companies and destinations offer exciting possibilities. On itineraries arranged with the help of the pros -- Abercrombie & Kent International, Quark Expeditions, Special Expeditions, American Wilderness Experience and other companies -- clients can enjoy a more adventurous honeymoon. Luxurious (and private) accommodations are available on many of the exotic itineraries. Many of the small ships have deluxe cabins; most of the carefully chosen hotels have at least one elegant suite, even when the hotel may be small and remote. Opportunities to share a common interest -- or for one part of the couple to learn more about a special interest of the other partner -- can be wonderful. Boulder, Colo.-based American Wilderness Experience, has many exotic suggestions for honeymooning couples interested in real adventure. One four-day lodge-to-lodge snowmobiling expedition departs from Clark, Colo. to travel by snowmobile through an area north of Steamboat Springs. Two nights are spent at an inn; daytimes are outdoor adventures. Departures are scheduled for January through mid-March.

Give a copy of the company's "World of Possibilities" booklet to your clients, for them to think about such places as Alaska, or Papua New Guinea.

For an adventuresome, well-heeled couple who've already spent quality time together, consider one of the exotic expeditions planned by Natural Habitat Adventures. Based in Boulder, Colo., the company uses family-owned and operated hotels reached by air or land service out of Winnipeg and Churchill, Manitoba, Canada, for their annual (October) six- to nine-day Polar Bear Adventures, when participants have a rare opportunity to witness the polar bear migration and tundra wildlife. Advance planning is essential.

Quark Expeditions provides travel experiences no participant will ever forget. For well-traveled couples, a private cabin aboard the firm's Kapitan Dranitsyn is an ideal newly-wed's nest. Some July-August itineraries include the Northeast Passage along the Siberian coast on a 4,000-mile journey from Kirkenes, Norway, to Provideniya, Russia, located across the Bering Strait from Alaska's Seward Peninsula.

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