Why? You don’t want to stick to a schedule on your romantic getaway, and NCL’s Freestyle Cruising concept lets you eat when and where you want with a choice of multiple restaurants and cuisines on-board. Plus, multiple bars, lounges and discos ensure happening nightlife if you and your new spouse like to stay out late.
Romantic Extras: NCL hosts too many honeymooners to give away costly freebies. But, you can book one of four packages, including the Deluxe Celebration package for just over $300. You’ll get Champagne and strawberries, a couples’ massage, a body wrap for her, breakfast in bed and in-cabin tea service (which you’d get anyway), a bridge tour, a formal portrait and dinner for two in Le Bistro with wine.
Caveat: Freestyle dining offers flexibility, but it can also lead to long queues at popular venues during peak dining hours. To avoid headaches and lovers’ spats over dinner options, make reservations in advance, dine at off-peak hours, or use NCL’s electronic dining information boards to ascertain which eateries have the shortest waits.
Best Itineraries: NCL is the only line to offer seven-night Hawaiian cruises, round-trip, out of Honolulu. You can spend your honeymoon cruising past volcanoes and scenic coastlines, visiting a myriad of waterfalls and watching the surfers while you lounge on the islands’ many beaches. Ships also cruise in Europe, the Caribbean, the Mexican Riviera, Bermuda and Canada/New England.
Why? Oceania Cruises, is an excellent choice for low-key honeymooners, who want interesting itineraries, a sophisticated on-board ambience and fantastic dining and service.
Romantic Extras: While Oceania does not make a big effort to attract honeymooners, its mostly 50-plus passengers flock to the line for the aforementioned low-key trips. And if there are no rose-petals-on-the-bed packages, you’ll find plenty of romantic spots – such as sun deck cabanas — on-board these cozy and intimate ships. Sweet, but not honeymoon-focused, is the ship’s Champagne breakfast; a full hot and cold menu is served on your private balcony. This is, however, only available for those booking Concierge-class staterooms.
Caveat: If you’re looking to meet other honeymooners or want to dance until dawn in the disco, this is not the line for you.
Best Itineraries: Oceania sails everywhere, but particularly romantic itineraries focus on the Greek Isles or on Mediterranean ports of call in Italy and Greece. Another possibility is its “Samba Rhythms” South America itinerary.
P&O CRUISES U.K.
Why? P&O Cruises’ ships each have distinct personalities, geared toward specific types of travelers, so there’s a perfect ship for every honeymooner, especially British ones. Arcadia and Artemis are adults-only, so you don’t have to worry about screaming kids overrunning your romantic escape. Ventura, Arcadia and Oceana offer a contemporary vibes with a choice of fixed or flexible dining and modern spas (some with hydro pools) — great for younger honeymooners – while Aurora, Oriana and Artemis lean toward the traditional, offering with set dining and sedate evenings.
Romantic Extras: There are three levels of packages offered to honeymooners. The basic package includes Champagne and chocolates in your room on arrival, a formal portrait and breakfast in bed with a half-bottle of Champagne. The next level adds fresh flowers and a choice of a massage or facial, and the final level adds two fluffy bathrobes. Every effort will be made to seat you at tables for two at dinner if that’s your preference.
Caveat: As the on-board atmosphere can vary radically across ship and by itinerary, be extra careful when booking your honeymoon, so you get the experience you prefer.
Best Itineraries: For those seeking a European honeymoon, try Mediterranean, Northern Europe and Atlantic island cruises out of Southampton.
PAUL GAUGUIN CRUISES
Why? This line’s only ship, Paul Gauguin, spends the year sailing in the South Pacific and is arguably the most romantic ship in the world.
Romantic Extras: A special honeymoon package of extras includes a pillow gift, a photo, a Polynesian blessing ceremony with other honeymooning couples and a bottle of Champagne. The package is complimentary. For $500, you can upgrade to a more lavish honeymoon package that also includes a letter from the captain, canapés every afternoon, a miniature wedding cake and a box of chocolates.
Caveat: No matter where you live, Tahiti is a long plane ride away. Be prepared to endure many hours on a plane before you can fully enjoy your honeymoon.
Best Itineraries: You can’t go wrong with any of these South Pacific itineraries. The seven-night itineraries call in beautiful Bora Bora and Moorea, while longer sailings visit more out-of-the-way destinations like the Marquesas, Tuamotus, Cook Islands and even New Zealand.
Why? “The Love Boat” line offers all amenities necessary for on-board romance — fabulous dining options, including a VIP dining experience in the galley and an Italian tapas menu with ocean views at Sabatini’s; indoors and outdoors pampering with al fresco massages in The Sanctuary and a mud room for two in the Lotus Spa; and, for on-board date night, a variety of entertainment options that range from outdoor movies to small-scale performances in the Piazza.
Romantic Extras: Princess Cruises offers two packages. The Honeymoon Experience (about $150) includes a bottle of Champagne, two engraved glasses and two long-stemmed red roses on arrival, and a framed formal portrait and chocolate strawberries, delivered to your cabin the first evening on-board. Or, for $400 per couple, you can book the Deluxe Princess Honeymoon Experience, which includes all that, plus two terrycloth robes, two 30-minute massages, canapes on selected evenings, a bridge tour by personal invitation from the captain and Champagne (half-bottle), delivered with breakfast one morning.
Both packages also come with a personalized, engraved congratulatory card, signed by the captain — a nice keepsake.
Caveat: Many of Princess’ most romantic on-board activities come with fees for specialty restaurants ($20 – $25), the Sanctuary ($10) and balcony dining ($100, plus the higher cruise fare for a verandah cabin).
Best Itineraries: Princess cruises the world, but its Caribbean itineraries are best for enjoying its Ultimate Balcony Dining on your private verandah; a lazy day in the adults-only, spa-like Sanctuary sun deck; and Movies Under the Stars at night. (We recommend you snuggle under a blanket with your sweetie, even during the warmest evenings.)
REGENT SEVEN SEAS CRUISES
Why? Regent Seven Seas Cruises’ upscale ships cruise to some of the world’s most romantic destinations, including the Caribbean and Europe. Service and cuisine are superb, and dining is flexible — enjoy a private two-top one night, and join with other passengers on another.
Romantic Extras: Regent ships offers a special honeymooners collection of amenities, which includes a bottle of Veuve Clicquot Champagne and caviar; in-suite canapes, served every afternoon; a bountiful flower arrangement; a mini-wedding cake; a box of Belgium’s famous Leonidas chocolates and a congratulatory letter from the captain. The cost is $500.
Caveat: Regent Seven Seas is definitely marketed to older (50-plus), well-traveled and sophisticated individuals; exuberant and boisterous young folks may feel out of place.
Best Itineraries: The best on this line include the Baltic, the Mediterranean and Alaska.
Why? Some active cruisers think surfing, rock-climbing and working out together is romantic — especially when you can unwind in the spa, relax in a hot tub or indulge in some Ben & Jerry’s ice cream, once you’ve worked up a sweat.
Romantic Extras: You can choose from a selection of Royal Caribbean Romance Packages, which range in price from about $100 to nearly $800. With the Classic Romance package, you get a bottle of Domaine Chandon sparkling wine and canapes for two, pre-dinner canapes and after-dinner sweets on the first formal night, and an 8 x 10 inch portrait in a silver-plated frame.
Or, you can upgrade to the Grand Romance package; this gets you Veuve Cliquot and canapes, flowers, two waffle-woven robes, pre-dinner canapes and after-dinner sweets on two formal nights, and an 8 x 10 inch portrait in a silver-plated frame. But, there’s also the Ultimate Romance Package II, which includes a bottle of Dom Perignon, a dozen roses, terry robes, petit fours and canapes every evening, two spa treatments, the silver-framed portrait and breakfast in bed one morning.
Caveat: Royal Caribbean’s emphasis on active pursuits also makes it a fabulous line for families. Choose your sail date wisely (i.e., avoid school breaks) if you don’t want to contend with hoards of children.
Best Itineraries: To find the biggest selection of on-board activities, shops, restaurants and cabin categories, sail Royal Caribbean’s largest ships to the Caribbean or Europe. Brits can even get in on the action with cruises out of Southampton on Royal Caribbean’s newest ship, Independence of the Seas.
Why? For serious pampering and service — not to mention one of the most inclusive cruise experiences around — go straight to the top with Silversea Cruises. The line caters to affluent retirees, so younger honeymooners should not expect to find many peers.
Romantic Extras: This is the jackpot of honeymoon cruises. First of all, since Maison Pommery Brut Royal Champagne is included in the cost of the cruise, they’ll not only have a chilled bottle waiting in your cabin on the first night, but you can ask to have one iced every night (and sent with your breakfast every morning). You’ll also get a box of Godiva chocolates on arrival, and you’ll find fresh flowers in your room. Don’t feel too special — they’re in every room. But, while you knew you’d get these perks when you booked your cruise, they do manage to surprise you. You may request to have canapes delivered to your suite each night before dinner, and, if the cruise line’s Special Services department is notified at least four weeks in advance, you’ll also get a cake that says “Happy Honeymoon” in chocolate.
Caveat: If you get tired of staring into your lover’s eyes all day long, Silversea does not offer many on-board activities, beyond trivia and lectures.
Best Itineraries: Since you’re going all-out for your honeymoon, choose a trip-of-a-lifetime destination like Africa, the Far East or South America.
Why? Thomson Cruises is a cheerful and traditional line, best for British honeymooners looking for a cost-effective holiday.
Romantic Extras: With a call to customer service, options can be ordered on an a la carte basis. Choose from any combination of Champagne, wine, candies, flowers; breakfast in bed or chocolate-dipped strawberries. You can also request a table for two. Call 44 0870 550 2599 to order.
Caveat: Thomson Destiny, The Emerald and The Calypso offer two seatings of assigned-table dining, while Thomson Spirit and Thomson Celebration have open-seating dining at dinner. Definitely factor your dining preferences into your decision before booking your trip.
Best Itineraries: For easy, seven-night honeymoons, choose one of Thomson’s Mediterranean itineraries.