Carry Her Across the Threshold of a Stateroom – Honeymoons at Sea Part I


By Liam P. Cusack
New York — October 23, 2011 – The old adage about cruising, in which passengers tend to be “newly-wed or nearly-dead,” no longer applies, as cruise lines have embraced a far more contemporary vibe. Still, there’s no question that a honeymoon cruise is a romantic, hassle-free vacation option. Cruise lines realize the marketing possibilities and many cruise lines continue to offer perks to attract the newly married, from those coveted tables for two to fresh flowers and Champagne (which unfortunately, on most lines, you’ll have to pay).
Throughout all the planning for a wedding and the stress of the wedding day honeymooners really need some decompression and simplicity for their honeymoon. The question becomes, what’s the best bet for your honeymoon? It depends. Before honing in on a cruise, it’s important to figure out what type of honeymoon you want. Are you active, outdoorsy types? Do you prefer a low-key on-board ambiance? Are you a luxury-seeker, or do you prefer more informal, cheaper digs? And age matters too. While most honeymooners have tied the knot at ages ranging from 20-something to 30-something, there are also plenty of choice options for more mature folks. Late-in-life nuptials deserve celebrations, too!
Here are some tips to get you started:

Use a travel agent. Most cruise bookings are made online today, but using a travel agent will give you some leverage.You probably won’t receive special treatment by identifying yourself as a honeymooner, but if you have a travel agent who specializes in cruises and has a good relationship with the cruise line you’ve booked, you might get some amenities at no charge. Don’t count on anything, but do ask your agent to let the line know that you’re on your honeymoon.If you’re buying a celebration package, purchase it well in advance. Many lines offer several with varying degrees of amenities (such as Champagne, breakfast in bed, spa treatments and dinners in specialty restaurants), and there is often little difference in cost between the mid-range and top-level. Know what you’re getting, and book early. Once again an experienced travel agent will help you get the best value for your honeymoon.If you’re on a ship with traditional dining, and you want a table for two, request it early and — particularly with this request — make sure the cruise line knows that it’s because you’re on your honeymoon. Otherwise, you could find yourself sharing those special meals at a table filled with new-found friends.

Some cruise lines offer couples’ massages in the spa and, occasionally, in your stateroom or suite. If you want that and the line allows you to book the spa treatment early, do so. Couples massages sell out very quickly, so book as soon as you can.

Here’s a selection of what cruise ships offer to newlyweds:

CARNIVAL CRUISE LINES

Why? Carnival Cruise Lines offers affordable honeymoon options for cost-conscious couples; its standard cabins are some of the largest among mainstream lines, and every cabin features an ultra-comfy Carnival Comfort Bed, perfect for cuddling together on leisurely mornings. Carnival’s newer ships also have plenty of opportunities for splurging on special experiences like dinner dates in its supper clubs.Romantic Extras: For charges ranging from about $10 to $80, you (or family and friends) can choose a romance gift that’s special. The $10 will get you a honeymoon cake. For about $30, you can get a “Just Married” memory box — to hold those special keepsakes — with photo frames and photo mailing cards.

As you go up in price, the packages become more elaborate; the “Hearts Forever” package includes a bottle of Korbel sparking wine from California with two etched “Honeymoon” Champagne flutes, a 4 x 6 inch photo frame with a heart emblem and Tic-Tac-Toe with metal game pieces, cut in heart shapes — all delivered in a wire basket. The Honeymooners’ “High-Seas” gift set includes T-shirts, visors, beach towels, bar coupons, a photo coupon and Korbel sparkling wine with engraved flutes. And there are always flowers: Plan on spending about $25 for a generic bouquet and at least $50 for roses.

Caveat: Carnival operates on the set-seating scenario, so tables for two could be hard to come by (with the exception of Carnival Legend and Liberty, which offer flex-dining). If you don’t want to share your meals with other cruisers, book early, and request a two-top. In addition, Carnival’s ultra-romantic Supper Clubs can only be found on its newer ships, so book accordingly.

Best Itineraries: Carnival is best known for its Caribbean cruises, which it offers from a variety of U.S. homeports. Honeymooners will enjoy relaxing on beautiful beaches or taking a more active approach to romance with snorkeling, kayaking and ATV rides. But the line also offers trips to the Mexican Riviera, Canada/New England and Alaska.

CELEBRITY CRUISES

Why? Celebrity Cruises offers a sophisticated on-board atmosphere and personal service at lower rates than the luxury lines. For extra amenities and service, book a Concierge-Class cabin (for better balcony furniture, daily canapes and priority services) or, on Celebrity’s new Celebrity Solstice, an AquaSpa cabin (for priority access to Blu Restaurant and the spa’s relaxation room, as well as in-room wellness amenities).

Romantic Extras: Celebrity offers evening celebrations for all newlyweds aboard the ship, featuring hors d’oeuvres, Champagne and special greetings from ship officers. Celebrity’s signature honeymoon packages include breakfast in bed (which, let’s be honest, you’d get anyway, via room service), a bottle of Mumm’s Champagne with two engraved glasses, flowers, plush cotton bathrobes and candy for about $180. Or, as always, you can choose to order from the a la carte menu instead. To receive your invitation to the evening gathering (and to book the package), contact Celebrity at celebrityspecialservices@celebrity.com, or call 800-242-6374.

Caveat: Celebrity is another line with set, couple-unfriendly dinner times, assigned tables and limited numbers of two-tops.

Best Itineraries: Worldly honeymooners find romance in Europe’s big cities and hidden gems. Celebrity offers cruises to the Mediterranean, Baltic, Western Europe and even the Arctic Circle. Its ships also trawl places like the Caribbean, Alaska, the Mexican Riviera and Canada/New England.

COSTA CRUISES

Why? Costa Cruises caters to travelers looking for a European atmosphere onboard. The Italian line boasts regional cuisine, a disco that rocks until the wee hours of the morning and some of the most expansive spas at sea. (The line has introduced the concept of spa cabins on Costa Concordia and Costa Serena, its newest vessels.)

Romantic Extras: Honeymooners are invited to a special reception, a cocktail party for newlyweds and those celebrating anniversaries. In addition, couples can purchase the Honeymoon Package for $169, which includes two keepsake bathrobes, a bottle of sparkling wine, a floral arrangement, a photo portrait and a “Certificate of Love” signed by the ship’s captain.Caveat: The European ambiance has its drawbacks for some non-European cruisers. If excessive on-board smoking, more a la carte charges, and a later dining schedule will grate on your nerves, this is not the line for your special getaway. As well, Costa main restaurant venues operate on a set-seating, set-tablemate schedule; book a table for two in advance.Best Itineraries: Why, Europe, of course! Costa offers year-round cruises to the Mediterranean, so you can still book a trip after your winter wedding. As well, the line has ships based in the Middle East, the Caribbean and Asia.

CRYSTAL CRUISES

Why?Crystal Cruises offers an upscale, luxury experience with big-ship amenities for the best of both worlds. Enjoy outstanding service, elegant afternoon tea and gourmet Asian cuisine in alternative restaurants, designed by celebrity chef Nobu Matsuhisa. It’s an especially good line for second honeymoons and vow renewals.Romantic Extras: If you’re sailing on Crystal, the line offers a range of amenities, from flowers and candy to Champagne, which can be pre-purchased as Bon Voyage gifts. The prices range from about $20 to nearly $300.

Caveat: Crystal’s formal dining scenario, with two seatings at assigned tables each night, might not offer the flexibility some honeymooners crave.

Best Itineraries: Go for the exotic, with cruises to Africa, Asia, the Middle East and Australia/South Pacific. For the most in-depth explorations, look into Crystal’s innovative shore excursions and pre- or post-cruise land packages.

DISNEY CRUISE LINE
Why? Despite what you might think, Disney Cruise Line caters to adults as much as to kids, offering special,adults-only pools, restaurants and discos. Still, you probably should be a serious Disney fan to consider this cruise for your honeymoon.Romantic Extras: True, you don’t have to be a honeymooner to book Disney’s Romantic Escape at Sea package — but it’s certainly appropriate. For about $350 per couple, you’ll get a cruise-long pass to the Tropical Rainforest room in the spa, one dinner with wine at Palo, the fabulous (and adults-only) alternate restaurant on-board, one Champagne breakfast in bed, one night of romance turn-down service and a special romantic gift.Caveat: Your summer honeymoon cruise could be overrun with children on school holidays, so consider a spring or fall trip if that works well with your wedding plans. Know, too, that Disney offers a structured, set-seating dining system, where you switch dining rooms each night. Not only do you not choose which restaurant you visit each night, but if you don’t get a coveted two-top, you might be spending time with a table of rambunctious kids.Best Itineraries: Seven-night Caribbean cruises on Disney Magic offer a mix of relaxing sea days, visits to beautiful islands and time spent on Disney’s fan-favorite private island, Castaway Cay. In 2010, Disney Magic will cruise in Europe. For honeymooners with limited time off, aim for the three- to four-night Bahamas cruises on Disney Wonder.FRED OLSEN
Why? If you’d prefer a cozy, British country house ambiance to the Vegas-style glitz of many mass-market ships, this traditional cruise line is a good choice. Fred Olsen Cruise Lines caters to an older crowd, so it’s a top pick for mature honeymooners or couples renewing their vows.

Romantic Extras: The line has a Celebration Package for honeymooners and couples celebrating their anniversaries. For £90, you will receive flowers or chocolates in your cabin, a bottle of sparkling wine, cake and a session with the ship’s photographer to commemorate the trip.Caveat: Formality is the key here with set dinner seatings and specific dress codes in the evenings. Also, given the more mature passenger base, the ship isn’t often hopping after dinner.Best Itineraries: Unlike many cruise lines, Fred. Olsen is committed to cruising from and around the U.K. and Ireland. Look for cruises to England, Scotland and Ireland out of multiple U.K. home ports.

GO BARGING (European Waterways)

Why? This U.K.-based, luxury canal barge line has something extra special on offer: a private honeymoon cruise. Go Barging’s six- to eight-passenger hotel barges are reconfigured to accommodate just the two of you, so you can spend your honeymoon in idyllic, private peace.Romantic Extras: With the run of the ship, you’ll stay in the nicest suite on-board. You’ll be catered to by a personal chef, and dine by candlelight — though one night you’ll be treated to dinner in a Michelin-starred restaurant ashore. Special honeymoon features may include a serenaded gondola ride, balloon trip or picnic by a Scottish lake with a piper in discreet attendance. All wines and shore excursions are included in the cruise fare.

Caveat: Chartering a barge is not a cheap endeavor. This intimate option is best for honeymooners with large budgets, as a six-night charter starts at $14,000.

Best Itineraries: Go Barging offers three equally romantic honeymoon charter options. Cruise aboard La Dolce Vita through the canals and lagoons of Venice; enjoy spectacular scenery (think castles nestled between mountains and lakes) on Scotland’s Loch Ness and nearby canals on-board Scottish Highlander; or float through the Loire Valley in France — past châteaux, vineyards and windmills — on Nymphea.

HOLLAND AMERICA LINE

Why? Holland America’s lovely, mid-size ships offer more intimate honeymoon experiences than the mega-ships. The line’s fleet-wide Signature of Excellence refurbishments have enhanced dining, accommodations and service on-board. Honeymooners will especially appreciate the Eurotop mattresses and upscale bedding, gourmet Pinnacle Grill specialty restaurant and expanded Greenhouse Spas on every ship.Romantic Extras: Holland America offers a Honeymoon at Sea party to all honeymooners listed as such on the ship’s manifest. Options range from a simple sparkling wine, balloon and 8 x 10 inch photo for less than $50 to elaborate “Just For Us” packages that include a dozen red roses; Mumm’s Cordon Rouge Champagne; a pair of terrycloth robes; an in-room dessert one evening, served with Champagne; a couples’ massage, a framed 6 x 8 inch photo, a signature Holland America-style afternoon tea, served in your stateroom; dinner at the Pinnacle Grill and a guaranteed table for two in the dining room. That package costs close to $500.Caveat: Holland America attracts mature travelers, so young honeymooners may not be impressed by disappointing nightlife options on board and shore excursions geared to less active participants.

Best Itineraries: Holland America was one of the first lines to offer Alaska cruises and is still ahead of its competitors with a wide array of cruise itineraries and pre- and post-cruise land packages to Denali, the Kenai Fjords and even across the Arctic Circle. We especially recommend these itineraries for honeymooning nature- and animal-lovers. Otherwise, for fans of Holland America, the world is their oyster, as the line sails all over the world.

But that’s not all. Next week the list continues with even more fun filled romantic, honeymoon cruise options.