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Baby, let's cruise

By Kathy M. Newbern and J.S. Fletcher

Posted: Tuesday, Jan. 10, 2012

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Dreaming of a honeymoon in Alaska, Aruba, Antigua, Amsterdam, Australia or Asia? There’s one package that can deliver any of those and more – a cruise honeymoon.

Seabourn’s intimate approach

Seabourn’s six ships each have just 104 or 225 suites, assuring intimacy and personalized service.

The newest, Seabourn Quest, recently christened in Barcelona by actress Blythe Danner, holds only 450 passengers.

The line’s smaller-sized ships can access ports and harbors inaccessible to mega-ships.

Thrive on the exotic? Check out Seabourn’s maiden calls for 2012: Rosas, Spain; Porto Torres on Sardinia; Mgarr on Gozo; San Antonio on Ibiza; Sóller on Mallorca; Ciutadella on Menorca. Lemnos in the Greek Isles; Cesme, Sinop and Iskenderun in Turkey; and Larnaca on Cyprus.

Seabourn’s spokesperson says: “A cruise aboard Seabourn is, in itself, a romantic gesture, a promise of shared intimacy and adventure. It is a pact between two people to go forth and discover new places, sights, sounds and tastes that will please them both, and that will, forever more, possess a deeper meaning for them.”

Our deeper meaning came on a Seabourn Spirit cruise from Hong Kong to Shanghai.

Those Seabourn suites are spacious, with walk-in closets, tubs and showers, and sitting areas for relaxing or hosting a soiree with new friends met on board.

The cuisine is gourmet. Complimentary wines and spirits are served throughout the ship, and each suite is stocked with your choice of spirits (one bottle per passenger).

A table for two is never a problem at The Restaurant (or on Quest at Restaurant 2, with sexy chocolate-and-red-wine décor), but couples can also have dinner served, course by course, in their suite or on their veranda, where the table is set with linen, silver and crystal. The food is the same as in the restaurant; only there, with the balcony door open to the evening breeze and the lights of the harbor glittering across the bay, the mood is definitely tres romantique.

The whirlpool spa at the ship’s bow is a great spot for two — enjoy champagne and caviar, hot fudge sundaes, or cookies and milk delivered. Later, watch a movie outdoors on deck, or simply gaze at the Milky Way sparkling overhead. Of course, as on larger ships, there’s dancing, shows, a casino and a spa.

The tour/concierge staff can arrange restaurant reservations or performance tickets in port, as well as other private experiences ashore such as a private “trunk show” of haute couture in Monte Carlo or a gondola serenade in Venice.

Our Hong Kong experience included a personal shopper who picked us up in a Town Car. Hint: Tailor-made outfits make a one-of-a-kind honeymoon gift.

Contact: 800-929-9391 or www.seabourn.com.

“The Love Boat”

Princess Cruises put the love in “The Love Boat” (of TV fame), and love remains a focus especially aboard its newest ship, Ruby Princess.

Princess even has a “Department of Romance” committed to making honeymoons (and weddings) memorable with experts and advisors including Gavin MacLeod (Captain Stubing from the TV show); Dr. Ruth Westheimer (intimacy expert and radio host); and Trista and Ryan Sutter (“The Bachelorette” couple who christened Ruby Princess).

With 16 ships in their fleet that spans the globe (17 ships by May 2013), undoubtedly one of them will feature the honeymoon destination perfect for you. Shore excursions are diverse; we tried a Segway tour and Temazcal Mayan Sweat Lodge separately on Cozumel before teaming up for shopping afterward.

On Princess Cays, the cruise line's private island, we felt like royalty in our private bungalow, and then continued receiving the star treatment back on ship at The Sanctuary, the adults-only oasis featuring private butlers and two massage cabanas.

Romantic dining opportunities include the specialty restaurant, Sabatini’s, for fabulous Italian cuisine.

Another night we experienced the special chef’s dinner that starts with in-the-galley champagne and appetizers and concludes with a signature menu at the chef’s table with other diners.

We also recommend the private “Ultimate Balcony Dining.” Ours was served under a full moon after we returned from relaxing spa treatments (still in our bathrobes!).

In the Asian-themed Lotus Spa, hot stone massage is a great choice, and there’s even acupuncture. (Tip: book spa appointments online before you cruise to snag one of the coveted sea-day slots.) The thermal suite has a sauna, steam rooms and heavenly, curved, heated-slab “beds.”

Activities on board will keep you busy, whipping up sexy cocktails in Mixology@Sea, taking dance lessons, making pottery, watching a movie under the stars or taking in a stage show like “Once Upon a Dream” (loved it).

The dramatic, soaring, three-story atrium, Piazza, is perfect for formal night portraits.

Don’t miss Astronomy@Sea to explore the night sky on the top deck assisted by one of the ship's bridge officers.

Princess Cruises, incidentally, has wedding chapels on some ships, plus their "Tie the Knot" program, “Honeymoon Experience,” “Anniversary Experience” and “Engagement Under the Stars” on their grand-class ships.

We renewed our own wedding vows in a group ceremony during our Valentine’s sailing.

To meet other honeymooners before you sail, go to the Princess Roll Call section on .facebook.com/PrincessCruises

Contact: 866-444-8820 or www.princess.com.

Solstice Class Cruising

While Celebrity Cruises has 10 ships in its fleet, the buzz surrounds its Solstice Class line of ships that started in 2008 with Celebrity Solstice, then continued with Celebrity Equinox (2009), Celebrity Eclipse (2010) and the newest, Celebrity Silhouette. Holding 2,850 passengers, Celebrity Reflection will premiere in 2012, completing the $3.7 billion investment in what Celebrity has labeled “premium cruising.”

Even though the ships were contracted before the economy plunged, Celebrity has forged ahead, paying attention to customer desires and proceeding with bold plans that are paying off.

The ships are spectacular with stunning décor, a huge art collection and stellar dining venues.

Head-turners include the top deck Lawn Club with growing grass, the Hot Glass Show and glassblowing studio from the Corning Museum of Glass, and The Hideaway, an upscale, avant-garde treehouse, with cozy, intimate lounging “nests,” perfect for honeymooners.

Solstice ships specialize in the cool factor.

In the iLounge, you can not only check your email on an Apple computer, but also buy one. And, you can tour the aforementioned fabulous art with an iPad.

“Celebrity Life” is the line’s approach to onboard learning and fun, like language instruction through Rosetta Stone, comparative wine tastings with Riedel Crystal, and enrichment presentations with Smithsonian Journeys.

“The Art Studio” has experts in drawing, painting and beading leading small groups, plus culinary sessions on the art of food with plating, tastings, mixology and other classes. It’s also the spot for exclusive pairing dinners hosted by guest chefs participating in Celebrity’s “Savor Your Destination” program.

The ships are sprinkled with sophisticated and fun nightclubs and lounges. One has an ice bar; another features the innovative Enomatic wine serving system. Insert your cruise card, place a glass under the dispenser and voila.

Of the specialty restaurants, Qsine, earns the title “hippest.” Here you order wines on an iPad, and the culinary journey features interesting bites presented unusually. How about sushi lollipops or popcorn fish-n-chips in popcorn containers?

We think the loveliest eatery is Blu, reserved for AquaClass stateroom guests.

AquaClass cabins are inspired by the ship’s AquaSpa, where you can sample “The Honeymooner” Couples Massage and the “Ultimate Newlywed Spa Ceremony.”

Among the standout entertainment are aerial shows – yes, flying performers on a cruise ship.

They also offer a Premium Romance Package: Mimosa breakfast for two in bed, a specialty dining experience, rose petals on the bed at turndown, plus chocolate-dipped strawberries and a bottle of Perrier Jouet champagne.

Celebrity sails in Alaska, Australia/New Zealand, Bermuda, California, Canada/New England, the Caribbean, Europe, Hawaii, the Pacific Coast, Panama Canal, South America, and the Galapagos Islands.

Contact: 888-305-9153 or www.celebritycruises.com.

Disney’s not just for kids

Don’t dismiss Disney Cruise Line when thinking of a honeymoon. After all, who better portrays the “young at heart” spirit? True, Disney is associated with kids, but we believe in the “kids of all ages” axiom when it come to their newest ship Disney Dream, in which 73 percent of the cabins are outside staterooms, and nearly half have private verandahs.

Dream is the third ship in the line with Disney Magic and Disney Wonder, and Disney Fantasy is slated for 2012.

Disney Dream is 40 percent larger than her predecessors (and holds up to 4,000 passengers), and she’s built with a more classic profile, like ocean liners of the early 20th century. However, she has all the bells and whistles expected from a technological leader like Disney. Consider that even the inside cabins have an “electronic porthole” television system that shows what’s happening outside with Disney characters popping into view. AquaDuck is the first water-coaster at sea, and the ride takes you out over the ocean before dumping you in the pool. Wow.

No need to worry that you’ll be lost in a sea of kids onboard; adult entertainment and specialty areas have been designed to keep you “Marco Polo” free, including:

• Quiet Cove, an adults-only pool;

• 687, a sports bar for adults at night;

• Cove Café, an adults-only lounge;

• Evolution, a nighttime, adult dance club;

• Meridian, Pink and Skyline, adults-only bars;

• Remy, an adults-only French restaurant.

There’s an extensive lineup of extravagant shows and loads of dining options, too.

And, if you already have children, Disney is perfect for combining the honeymoon with a family getaway.

Dream is our next cruise. We plan to ask Minnie & Mickey the secret to their fairy tale love affair – after all, they’ve been a couple since 1928.

Contact: 800-951-3532 or disneycruise.disney.go.com.

Whatever your ideal romantic destination, a cruise honeymoon will get you there, in lovey-dovey style.

World’s Most Romantic Ports

Our own Top 10 of most romantic ports-of-call are Bali, Barcelona, Bora Bora, Charleston, Dubrovnik, Paris (the port is Le Havre), Portofino, Rio de Janeiro, Santorini and Venice.

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