Romantic Escapes 2011

Perhaps the two of you enjoy diving together, dining in fine restaurants or merely lounging by the sea. Whatever your joint passion, a setting of beauty is surely essential. We share with you here more than a dozen resorts in beautiful locales with doting staffs eager to make your time away spectacularly romantic.

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South Pacific

Images of lush islands, deep blue seas and tropical flowers define the South Pacific, those far-away enchanted islands known for their warm hospitality. The two of you can visit Tahiti, French Polynesia and the South Pacific effortlessly aboard the m/s Paul Gauguin, a luxury cruise ship small enough to dock at intriguing ports where larger vessels can't go.

And you'll travel in absolute comfort. Guests rate The Gauguin with honors; in fact, 98.9 percent of guests on the August 7, 2010, sailing rated the ship "excellent", its highest rating ever. What's so special? How about generously sized staterooms, superb food and beverages and a staff devoted to pleasing guests? "We were utterly spoiled by sumptuous meals and other services," said one client. Aboard ship, you'll have access to three restaurants, a piano bar, a lounge, an onboard water-sports marina, a casino and a nightclub, as well as 24-hour room service. Butler service comes with higher-level suites and staterooms. For an even more indulgent way to spend time together, add on the Romantic Escapades experience when you dock in Bora Bora. You'll spend the night in an overwater bungalow at a resort that offers spa treatments in a glassbottom overwater spa, and private candlelit dinners for two. Special occasions are also a specialty aboard The Gauguin. For example, if you are on your honeymoon or renewing your vows, you can request a traditional Polynesian blessing by the ship's entertainment troupe. 800-848-6172, pgcruises.com

St. Croix, U.S. Virgin Islands

Romantic resorts take many forms, yet some members of the genre are timeless. Picture a graceful expanse of rolling green hills punctuated by historic buildings — enough to place the hotel on the register of The Historic Hotels of America. Imagine this property snuggled along the coastline, boasting three of its own memorable beaches along the warm and clear Caribbean Sea. Tastefully appointed accommodations with modern amenities, two freshwater swimming pools, destination restaurants, a golf course, tennis courts, water sports and a luxurious, full-service spa complete the picture.

Enter The Buccaneer, a family-owned beach resort that has been hosting weddings for decades. Dating back to 1653 but run with contemporary savvy, this St. Croix grande dame has the perfect choices for ceremony and reception venues — and knows how to run a wedding so couples can simply enjoy themselves. If you're alone or with a group of no more than 12, consider celebrating your union in the Sugar Mill, a centuries-old structure of limestone and slate. With more guests, you can have photos taken there, then celebrate in other lovely venues. The Buccaneer encourages newlyweds and all couples in love to lodge in its Doubloons rooms, which are spacious suites. During your stay here, be sure to ask the concierge to arrange a romantic sunset sail; you'll enjoy sipping the island's best local rum punch while taking in the picturesque views. 800-255-3881, www.thebuccaneer.com

Jamaica

Join hands over an eight-course candlelit dinner at the edge of a pier jutting over the calm waters of the Caribbean Sea. Sip homemade rum punch — the flavor changes daily; perhaps Jamaican ginger? Lychee? — at a swim-up bar where you'll always find a seat.

The Jewel Dunn's River Beach Resort & Spa is the newest and most brilliant luxury all-inclusive in Ocho Rios, and it's designed for adults only. Every element of your romantic retreat is included here, from dining in your choice of six restaurants to golf, tennis and water sports; Jewel guests also have the option of an exclusive tour to the famous Dunn's River Falls. When you're ready for the ultimate indulgence, splurge for a room with butler service. Carry with you the cell provided to request assistance wherever, whenever you want it. You'll always have access to 24-hour room service, robes and slippers, wet bars with premium spirits and, at your whim, a butler-served dinner in your room. Wherever you lodge at Jewel Dunn's River, you'll feel pampered day and night. Simply sunbathing by the pool is a heavenly experience. Expect pool concierges to stop by with skewers of fresh fruit, mists of eucalyptus- infused water, chilled face towels and more. They even swim up to your floats with these amenities. Should you need yet more relaxation, treat yourself to a wrap or scrub in the Radiant Spa. Better yet, sign on for the Say Yes Again package — a sugar-cane exfoliation and Diamond in the Rough signature massages plus paraffin wax treatments, snacks and champagne. At the end of your stay, The Jewel further spoils you with a turndown gift of tropically flavored rock candy uniquely wrapped to resemble precious gems — a gift sure to give you sweet dreams of your stay. Delightful indulgence? Most certainly. Special introductory rates are available for a limited time. 888-529-5176, jeweldunnsriverresort.com

Belize

Stroll around Victoria House and you'll see couples exploring the resort's 19 lush acres of lovingly nurtured gardens, lounging on its palm-lined beach, swimming in its four pristine pools, dining and enjoying fine imported wines in its relaxed restaurant and toasting one another on the wraparound verandah of its bar. Folks tend to honeymoon and spend their anniversaries at this quaint resort, where unusual upscale lodging, exquisite grounds and attentive service nurture romance.

The packages help, too. Embracing its magnetism for people in love, Victoria House offers several vacation options designed for two. Sign up for Reef Romance, for instance, and you'll be greeted with a welcome cocktail and a chilled bottle of champagne. During your visit, you'll be treated to massages, the use of snorkel equipment, a two-stop snorkel excursion to Hol Chan Marine Reserve and Shark Ray Alley and the unlimited use of kayaks. Three meals a day are also included — one of those a private candlelit dinner on the beach or by the pool. With other packages you might have the use of a cabana, an hour of horseback riding, the use of bicycles or a golf cart, a boat trip to a jungle river or a sunset sail. At Victoria House, the accommodations are so lovely you might be tempted to stay indoors. Thatch-roof casitas are decorated with hardwood beds crafted locally. Beachfront villas have private infinity pools, Mexican-style walkin showers or views of the barrier reef. It's no wonder that weddings have become popular at Victoria House — so much so, in fact, that the resort now has a dedicated wedding website, destinationweddingbelize.com. 800-247-5159, victoria-house.com>

Mexico

Tempted by Cancun's sunshine and services but not its megaresorts? If you prefer chic and intimate with your south-of-the-border sunshine, make a beeline to the all-suite Casa Turquesa Hotel Boutique Museum. Undeniably romantic, Casa Turquesa is an intimate boutique getaway located minutes from the action. Its artwork distinguishes this hideaway, which draws celebrities and jet-setters regularly.

Of course, that means leaving your suite — which you may not be in a hurry to do since every one of the 33 on property has a private Jacuzzi for two on its terrace as well as two or three bedrooms, a kitchen, and living and dining areas. Within, you'll find an MP3 docking station, a minibar, terrycloth robes, comfy slippers and free Internet access. Awaken each day to coffee and cookies, a nice nosh that precedes a full breakfast, which is included in the price along with lunch or dinner each day. And, oh, those meals. You'll dine elegantly at Celebrity, a formal gourmet restaurant with an impressive wine list. For a more casual yet equally impressive experience, opt for Belle View, which sits by the pool. With such an intimate aura, Casa Turquesa is ideal for weddings — and with only 33 suites it is so small that you can rent the entire resort, including the pool, beach access and staff. For more privacy, opt for Hacienda Kaanac, a 17thcentury castle transformed into a boutique resort with 10 luxurious suites; it's an hour away. 888-528 8300, casaturquesa.com

Dominican Republic

You're scurrying away from your everyday lives to spend time alone together, not to be stuck in a car with a GPS and bewilderment as to where to go. At Casa de Campo, you can forget the need to explore — although the Dominican Republic offers plenty of romantic day trips, to be sure. This 7,000-acre resort is so complete that you'll likely never think to wander off. It not only boasts three golf courses and a pampering full-service holistic spa; this heavenly hideaway also has a replica 16th-century Mediterranean village, Altos de Chavon; a professional tennis center; an equestrian center; a shooting range; a sailing school; and a marina.

For couples, Casa de Campo offers nearly limitless romantic endeavors. First off, there's the lodging. You can cuddle up in the new Elite Balcony rooms or an Elite Suite, where indigenous Coralina stone and rich mahogany furnishings are the backdrop for a stylish room with MP3 docking stations, flat-screen TVs, Bluray players, local artwork, a sleekly furnished private balcony and use of a touring car. And what a property it is. Besides a private beach, chic pool terrace and dizzying array of sports, you'll have access to an amazing variety of restaurants, bars and lounges. When you're not lingering over leisurely meals, you might meander hand in hand through boutiques, ogle yachts for sale and even learn to sail. For the ultimate in luxury, splurge on the Sweet Romance Supplement. With the ever-ready aid of a private concierge service, you'll be welcomed with a bounty of island fruits, petit fours and sparkling wine. During your stay you'll receive a full in-room breakfast on your private balcony, a picnic for two in a secluded spot, a couples massage and therapeutic cleansing in the Water Ritual Suite, and a farewell gift. In addition, you'll have coveted reservations for a romantic dinner in one of three scenic locales (food and beverage extra). Casa de Campo is a member of The Leading Hotels of the World. 800-877-3643, casadecampo.com.do Your love is special, so celebrate it in a resort like no other — the brand-new Hard Rock Hotel & Casino Punta Cana, an all-inclu-sive property set along the magnificent white sand of Macao Beach in the Dominican Republic. Whether you visit to marry, honeymoon or simply enjoy one another's company, you'll find the Hard Rock Hotel & Casino Punta Cana in tune with your style. From couples' treatments in the Rock Spa®'s Golden Suites (each with its own sauna, steam room, whirlpool bath and sofa) and moonlit dinners designed by celebrity chef Kerry Simon, to late-night dancing in the haute nightclub Oro and exciting gaming in the island's largest casino, expect thrills of all kinds.

Cool and contemporary settings distinguish weddings at the Hard Rock Hotel & Casino Punta Cana, where lace and petals blend seamlessly with the chic vibe. From fashionable flowers to an au courant arch, from a smashing updo to ballad trios, your wedding will be like no other. Beaches, gazebos, ballrooms, oceanview terraces … the venues are inspiring. Enhance your honeymoon, anniversary or romantic getaway with packages designed to get you in the mood. Newlyweds might receive candlelit dinners and breakfasts in bed as part of their pampering package. For an anniversary, expect a bottle of chilled champagne along with a fruit basket in your room, plus an extraordinary evening repast. Or how about the ultimate romance package: two 25-minute back massages, a small flower arrangement, chocolate- covered strawberries, keepsake bathrobes and slippers plus in-room aromatherapy. All this is in addition to meals, beverages and activities at the Hard Rock Hotel & Casino Punta Cana, where all the essentials are included in the price. Your guestroom will spoil you with Sleep Like a Rock® bedding as well as whiskey, tequila, rum and vodka dispensers. In the Rock Star Suite, you'll spread out in four bedrooms with a living room and full kitchen, a sprawling terrace, a private pool and a double whirlpool tub — and a pool table! 888-762-5002, hardrock.com/puntacana

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St. Kitts

There is no resort on the planet like Ottley's Plantation Inn. Situated on the an idyllic hillside that was once a sugar plantation with rolling lawns and cooling sea breezes, Ottley's offers guests an unmatched blend of sensual experiences. The owner-operators and dedicated staff offer warm hospitality along with beautiful rooms; Supreme rooms have private plunge pools and Jacuzzi whirlpools, ideal for romance. You'll also find delectable dining, breathtaking views and a quaint spa cottage overlooking a rainforest ravine.

All this gives guests the most perfect place for relaxation, replenishment and romance. For those seeking a more active holiday, at Ottley's guests can swim, play tennis or croquet, and hike down sugarcane paths or along rainforest trails. Ottley's also operates a complimentary shuttle to several beaches and downtown Basseterre. Historic and natural St. Kitts offers endless activities, including golf, catamaran sailing charters, a scenic railway tour, a zip line, an island, a volcano hike and a ferry to sister island Nevis. The gorgeous setting is an obvious attraction to brides and grooms seeking an intimate and unusual setting for their special day. With just 23 rooms, Ottley's is ideal for a group looking to take over a property. Smaller and larger groups — from two to 100 — can also be accommodated at wedding ceremonies and receptions. (For larger events, some guests would have to be accommodated at other hotels.) With just a few phone meetings, the experienced event planner — who is also one of the owners — can plan the entire event so bride and groom can show up as guests at their own wedding! 800-772-3039, ottleys.com

Caribbean

With nine resorts strategically scattered among idyllic beaches across the Caribbean, Elite Island Resorts is expert at infusing romance into sun-sand-and-sea vacations.

Perhaps Elite's most enticing getaway for two people in love is the Palm Island Resort. The only resort on a 35-acre island, this intimate escape pampers with only 41 guestrooms and two villas, more than half of them set directly on pristine and serene Grenadine Beach; the rest are merely a few steps away. While this full-service eco-escape is inherently romantic, its staff eagerly enhances special occasions. For a proposal of marriage, a honeymoon or an anniversary, for example, they'll serve a private beachside dinner for two. For a more traditional yet equally enticing romantic getaway, opt instead for Galley Bay Resort & Spa, an adults-only hideaway for discerning travelers who want a refined yet unpretentious experience. Galley Bay, situated on 40 acres of private paradise, is surrounded by a bird sanctuary and boasts its own threequarter- mile-long stretch of beach on the sunset side of Antigua. Particularly ideal for romantic retreats, the resort's thatched-roof, Tahitian-style Gauguin cottages are encircled by the lagoon and bird sanctuary. Each cottage has a bedroom and a bathroom and dressing area connected by a sheltered breezeway as well as a sun deck with a private plunge pool. Lounge your days away without seeing another soul — although open-air dinners at any of three sea-view restaurants provide tête-à-têtes of another kind. 866-237-1644, eliteislandresorts.com

Carribean and Mexico

From the whisper of the tide to the clink of wine glasses, sunrise views on a terrace to the sparkle of the moon on the sea, the instant you enter Secrets Resorts & Spas, luxury emanates. With spacious suites and spectacular oceanfront settings, couples will be enraptured by the aura of pure bliss. Secrets are places where sparks fly, and with an all-adult atmosphere, romance ignites.

Indulge in Unlimited-Luxury® — where everything is included! Dine in gourmet-fare restaurants, sip premium cocktails and bask in deluxe accommodations with superior amenities, private balconies and Jacuzzis. You'll be lavished from the moment you arrive and pampered with 24-hour room and concierge service and pool and beach wait staff. Feeling adventurous? Get your blood flowing with various water sports and activities, like kayaking, water volleyball, tennis and snorkeling (all included!). Seeking relaxation? Enjoy a couple's massage, private candlelit dinner on the beach and champagne breakfast in bed. With shimmering pools and pristine beaches, no matter how you decide to spend your time, you'll be immersed in the most exquisite of settings and can focus on what's truly important — each other. Secrets Resorts & Spas are the perfect settings for all occasions, from spur-of-the-moment romantic getaways to the most cherished of days. Its amorous locations make wedding, honeymoon and anniversary dreams come true, offering packages that include everything you'll need for your momentous event. With locations across Mexico, Jamaica and the Dominican Republic, the perfect destination is sure to beckon. 866-GO-SECRETS, secretsresorts.com

St. Lucia

Anse Chastanet and Jade Mountain have no rules against singles, friends and families visiting, for sure. Yet it's couples who flock to these intertwined scenic resorts, and for good reason. The lush 600 acres encompassing the duo sit in harmony with nature. Breathtaking vistas abound. Phones, TVs and radios are unheard of. Romantic activities like candlelit dinners to mellow local entertainers are available — but nearly redundant, as the entire atmosphere enhances romance. Anse Chastanet is a 49-room boutique inn that climbs from beach to mountain in glorious splendor. Individually designed handmade furnishings distinguish guest rooms. Spend your days side by side at either of two pristine beaches. Or hike 12 miles of trails, dine in three restaurants, toast your love in three bars, peruse the art gallery and enjoy water sports like diving and kayaking. In Kai Belté Spa, learn to give one another Swedish massages. For more indulgence, lodge within Jade Mountain, a mountaintop retreat that's a yetmore- exclusive resort within Anse Chastanet. While couples have full access to all amenities, Jade Mountain guests have access to their own restaurant — with food by celebrity chef Allen Susser — as well as the Celestial Terrace, a cocktail corner seemingly at the top of the world. Rooms are magnificent, with private glassmosaic infinity pools that jut out into the sky. The rooms are missing fourth walls, offering unobstructed mountain views.

Anguilla

You'll lodge mere steps from the beach — a bone-white, powdery sand shoreline washed by calm water so clear that you'll see fish swimming by before you even wade in. The setting is that spectacular at Carimar Beach Club, an Anguilla resort so satisfying that guest rate it No. 1 on TripAdvisor.com among hotels on the island's West End — and with 120 parties who've visited more than 10 times. While the 1.5—mile strand of Meads Bay Beach is key to Carimar's satisfaction, accommodations and service are equally enticing. The two of you will lodge in a villa—style suite. Whether you choose a one— or two—bedroom unit, you'll have a comfortable living room, a dining room, a balcony with an outdoor dining set as well as lounge chairs — and a fully equipped kitchen. Envision sharing quiet private alfresco breakfasts indoors while gazing out to sea, thrifty lunches and home-cooked dinners enjoyed as the sun sets and you watch for the Caribbean's legendary "green flash." When you're ready to wander, many of Anguilla's finest casual and fine-dining establishments are a lovely stroll away. For its entire 25 years, Carimar Beach Club has taken service quite seriously, hiring naturally friendly employees and hosting training sessions regularly so the staff is prepared to meet the needs of discriminating travelers. In fact, they'll even build a wedding to your specifications. Whether you want an intimate ceremony on the beach with a gourmet dinner at a nearby restaurant or a catered table-service affair under tents in the courtyard, Carimar's caring managers create your dream wedding for you. Wherever you wed, consider signing on for the generous honeymoon package. During your seven nights in a beach-view suite, you'll receive a bottle of chilled champagne, a starter breakfast basket, two massages, a two-day rental car, dinner for two with cocktails, fresh flowers daily, free use of snorkel equipment, access to tennis courts and a Carimar gift. 866-270-3764, carimar.com

Aruba

Picture yourselves sipping Passion Blossom martinis on the beach, your elegantly set table illuminated by torches, your toes curled in the sand. As the sun sets over the Caribbean Sea, follow with a dinner of mahi-mahi and baby scallops with beurre blanc, perhaps, or grilled filet mignon Firenze. Your vacation can be that romantic at the Amsterdam Manor Beach Resort, an intimate yet indulgent escape situated on Aruba's most beautiful strand, Eagle Beach. Amsterdam Manor has been owned by the Dutch Van Schaijk family since its debut in December 1989. It has only 72 spacious and air-conditioned studios and suites, each with kitchen or kitchenette, allowing for sincerely warm service.

Amsterdam Manor boasts a picturesque Dutch-Colonial design yet chic, refreshing guest room decor. The resort's team strives to offer a complete beach experience. Its beach and pool area features almost one palapa per room, enabling guests to find a shaded area at any time of the day. Spend your days gathered around the freshwater pool. Snorkel or float in the sea using the resort's equipment. The Beach Bar is open all day for cocktails and, at lunchtime, sells delightful light fare. For dinner, you can enjoy exquisite dishes under the stars at Passions on the Beach, then end the day with some after-dinner drinks in the Beach Bar's stylish new lounge area with views of the perfectly blue water. You can unwind, too, over spirits at the Sunset Upper-Deck Bar and enjoy casual meals at Mango's International Restaurant, a semiopen- air dining room with warm tropical breezes and beach views. Just ask, and meals will be delivered to your room. Romantic luncheon snorkel sails, sunset sails and a Passport to Paradise excursion to Palm Island can be arranged. 800-969-2310, amsterdammanor.com