Why limit your honeymoon to a land-based vacation?
Here’s a little-known fact: Taking a cruise for your honeymoon is one of the smartest – and most affordable — things you can do, especially if you sail on Azamara Club Cruises. We recently took a 16-day luxury Azamara sailing from Miami (commencing after a brief but wonderful stay at the Hilton Miami Airport hotel) to Athens, Greece. Extended sailings are a hot new trend — and we have all the insider tips to make your honeymoon, not only fantastic, but unforgettably fabulous – and wonderful for your wallet too.
Why cruise? First, unlike land-based honeymoons, you simply unpack just once and experience numerous terrific ports of call, with no hassle. If your goal is to honeymoon in Europe – especially the Mediterranean in the summer – and desire a superb warm-weather trip, Azamara should be your first choice. Why fly, unpack, and tote luggage from hotel to hotel, when an Azamara cruise makes traveling from place to place so simple and carefree?
Second, forget your wallet – onboard, all of your meals and drinks are included, including alcohol. A cruise obviates the hassles of finding good restaurants, taking taxis there, paying for dinner and shelling out big tips. On a cruise you can maximize your budget and pay for everything upfront, with no financial surprises.
Third, when you sail on a ship such as the Azamara Journey or Azamara Quest, the staff makes your cruise as special as it can be. Just tell them your requests, and you will see that there is no “No.” Here’s what we recommend, to make your romantic honeymoon cruise all the more fun:
- Special-order hot fudge sundaes in the Jacuzzi. And with all alcohol included, go ahead and enjoy everything from an Appletini to a Zentini!
- Bring a special romantic DVD from home, and watch it alone on the big screen in the Cabaret theater some night, complete with popcorn, cocktails and blankets.
- Amp up your upscale by choosing a Continent Suite – these staterooms have bathtubs (good clean fun for the two of you) and also come with free entrée to the specialty restaurants, complimentary internet minutes, and the services of a dedicated butler.
- Surprise your beloved with a special meal on your one-week wedding anniversary, with all of your favorite foods. Or surprise your sweetie with a favorite dessert – such as chocolate lava cake with Tahitian vanilla ice cream. Just ask the Executive Chef and consider it done.
- Don’t forget about taking ballroom-dancing classes and learning the basics from the professional dancers/entertainers on board.
- Take a moonlit walk on deck at nighttime, under the stars.
Other reasons Azamara Club Cruises is so special:
Azamara Cruises are famous for longer port stays and more overnights, so that you don’t leave ports at the typical 3:00 PM. Instead, you can tour in the morning, shop in the afternoon, dress up for dinner, and go to town in the evening. Let’s face it – St. Tropez is special and completely different at night! Azamara also offers incredible – and complimentary – “Aza-mazing Experiences” to all passengers, such as a special concerts in Ephesus, in a historic amphitheatre, where you can enjoy cocktails, music and more. More so, you can plan your honeymoon around special European events – perhaps you’d like to visit the Monaco Grand Prix in 2016, or watch the golfers at the British Open next summer. These trips and more are available. Azamara’s fares also include all gratuities and tips.
Azamara’s small 686-guest club-like ships also take you to ports where larger ships won’t fit, like in the heart of Marseille, Amalfi, and Crete, or even to the doorstep of Bangkok (while other large cruise lines dock a few hours away).
We also took several excursions thanks to Land Discoveries, and this included a driving tour of Athens, visiting the Acropolis and the famous Plaka.
On disembarking in Athens, even more luxury awaited us at the Athens Hilton, on an Executive Club floor. Here, we were ensconced in a beautiful room, on a special Club floor – with dedicated concierge – who assisted us with dinner reservations and other excursions. Included with your Athens Hilton Club room are daily food presentations including a fabulous full-service breakfast. There’s also a serene spa, huge swimming pool and fitness center on the ground floor. The Athens Hilton is conveniently located to major city sites – including the Acropolis – and is a quick taxi ride to the Plaka, for gorgeous Greek jewelry, soaps, crafts, clothing, souvenirs, and more. We spent about 4.5 hours at the Plaka one Sunday, and with the strong American dollar, bagged tons of bargains. Dinner was either hors d’oeuvres on the Club floor (delicious!) or a five-minute walk to Oroscopo, a local favorite restaurant, where you can indulge in delicious pastas, pizzas, and salads.
Next stop: Shannon, Ireland. We chose Shannon as a final destination for two reasons. First, we wanted to break up our trip home from Athens to Boston into two manageable legs, and Shannon is the westernmost point of Europe, back to Boston. Second, we have also always wanted to stay in a genuine castle, and Dromoland Castle, a member of the Preferred Hotel Group, did not disappoint. This gorgeous five-star property is the type of place where Kate Middleton and Prince William would feel right at home. We’ll put it this way – once, many years ago, we stayed in probably the world’s best suite, at probably the world’s best hotel: The Presidential Suite of the Four Seasons George V in Paris. We never thought we would find a property to exceed that delight – until we discovered Dromoland Castle.
Located on 500 plush acres, with an impressive 18-hole golf course, Dromoland is your own personal Downton Abbey.
Gold-framed oil paintings on display everywhere? Check. Crystal chandeliers? Check again. One-to-one staff-to guest ratio? You bet. There are also voluptuous tapestries everywhere, and outside, a pony-and-carriage tour of the immense and lovingly maintained property. We were especially impressed by breakfast, offering every delicacy imaginable. It’s amazing – at 8:00 AM you’ll dine on fine crystal and china, served by waiters in tuxedoes. You’d swear you were at Windsor Castle.
The 98 rooms are renovated every five years, says General Manager Mark Nolan. And he ought to know – he so loves his job there he’s been at it for 26 years. Mr. Nolan says that most people discover Dromoland at the end of their journey – as we did after a cruise – and that the average stay is about 1.5 nights. The complaint about that? He says that most guests tell him, “Gosh, I wish we had stayed here another day. We have loved the castle experience.” We can easily tell you – if you’re honeymooning, there’s nothing more romantic than Dromoland Castle. And if you’re outdoorsy, you’ll be pleased to know you can also go fishing on Lake Dromoland, play tennis, walk and jog on idyllic woodland, go bike-riding, and also enjoy clay shooting and falconry.
Spa-lovers will also not be disappointed by Dromoland’s award-winning spa that showcases Voya organic products, which offer a spectacular facial. Try the Spa Honeymoon Package that includes a back, neck and shoulder massage, facial, head massage and scalp treatment, plus pedicure for him and her.
The Castle is situated so that you can easily experience the County Clare surroundings. We took a delightful tour of The Burren, the smallest national park in Ireland, which was formed by limestone 250 million years ago.
Despite its rocky lunar landscape, the Burren has nine months’ annually of growing Mediterranean and mountainous plants. Next stop was the Burren Perfumery, for handmade organic skincare and fragrances. (I’m crazy about the honey-orange lip balm, the rose otto cream and the clove-and-orange soap). This is a great place for brides to stock up on terrific locally made beauty products, for herself, or as souvenirs. Ladies – you will love it there.
Don’t miss the Burren Smokehouse, where you can procure award-winning organic smoked salmon, made with salt from the Camargue in France, and smoked on oak that imparts a distinctive flavor. Says Birgitta Curtin, who co-owns the smokehouse with her husband Peter: “What we do here is an art and a craft – it’s not a mass-production. We are an artisan smokehouse.” And — Holy smoke! – we can tell you – their smoked salmon is absolutely delicious and perfect to take home with you.
Our Irish piece de resistance was a boat trip to the Cliffs of Moher, featuring enormous cliffs and big-wave surfing!
For more information contact County Clare Ireland – www.clare.ie, and remember that the Gaelic word for “fun” is “craic!” May the craic be with you – on your European honeymoon.
By – By Debbi K. Kickham and William D. Kickham, Esq.
Debbi K. Kickham is the author of The Globetrotter’s Get-Gorgeous Guide – the world’s first beauty book for traveling women and brides, www.GorgeousGlobetrotter.com.