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A lush utopia for destination weddings and honeymoons (expert advice)
Photo by Sandals Grande Riviera
Sponsored by Sandals Grande Riviera
Boasting Negril's world-renowned seven-mile beach, majestic waterfalls, lively locals in Montego Bay and the untouched South Coast, Jamaica is an exhilarating destination for weddings and honeymoons. The warm tropical climate, mouthwatering jerk cuisine and thrilling activities also make it one of the friendliest hosts in the world and truly an authentic Caribbean experience. Immerse yourself in the island’s laid back, “No worry" attitude or explore countless adventures.
Imagine getting lost in a lush utopia where the beauty of the sea meets the awe-inspiring landscape of the mountains. Your tropical dream wedding and honeymoon will come true in Ocho Rios, Jamaica. Rich greenery, mountains that loom over white sand beaches and the world-renowned Dunn's River Falls are what make Ocho Rios such an extraordinary destination. Beautifully nestled in the center of Jamaica's North Coast, Ocho Rios is home to natural wonders and colorful craft markets alike. The best way to experience the real Jamaica is to get up close and personal with it. Tour companies like Island Routes Adventure Tours offer a range of excursions to help you do just that.
One of the prime destination wedding and honeymoon hotspots in Jamaica can be found at Sandals Grande Riviera Beach and Villa Golf Resort. Their philosophy: it’s “Your Wedding. Your Style.” is a concept that allows you to plan the wedding of your dreams. With Sandals' exclusive online inspiration board tool you can design to your heart’s desire and at your own pace! The resort also offers an impressive list of complimentary wedding amenities and services.
At Sandals Grande Riviera, you'll have direct access to the natural splendor in the Ocho Rios region of Jamaica’s St. Ann Parish. Considered to be the true Garden of Eden and the largest Sandals Resort, it is situated on the slopes of over 100 acres of beautiful hillside gardens overlooking the Caribbean Sea. This grand resort presents the most diverse wedding and honeymoon experiences by offering more accommodations, dining options and activities than any other Sandals Resort. In fact, you'll benefit from their careful curation of three unique experiences in one: the vibrant beach culture of the Ochi Beach Club, the private Riviera Villas with pools nestled along lush gardens, and the Great House with a sky-sized zero entry pool and swim-up pool bar.
You take your hobby seriously. Your spouse shares your obsession. Lolling on the beach sounds boring, and you can’t imagine what could keep you busy for a week on a traditional cruise. Well, take heart: There are honeymoon options out there to fit both your personality and your passion, so you can both spend your time doing what you love best. Here are just a few of the possibilities:
Following a spring wedding, what could be more fun for fans than a honeymoon full of baseball games? You could pick a location where spring training is in progress and hang out for a week, attending games, seeing the sights, and enjoying the weather. Or take the first steps toward a lifetime goal of attending a game in every Major League stadium. Granted, this can lead to a hectic schedule and a lot of traveling, but start with one area of the country and add more stadiums on future trips. Be sure to bring your camera to document your experience, and budget some extra cash for souvenirs (and peanuts and Cracker Jack!).
If riding the rails is a source of fascination for both you and your partner, consider a journey by train. The possibilities are almost endless, and you can enjoy luxurious surroundings almost anywhere in the world. Consider Rovos Rail in Africa, where you can book a luxury suite aboard the train; a Romance by Rail vacation on VIA Rail Canada, where the staff will even serve you breakfast in bed; the elegant Palace on Wheels train through Rajasthan, India; or take Amtrak’s Coast Starlight line from Los Angeles to Seattle for spectacular scenery. You can also take a series of shorter train rides, stopping off between routes to sightsee and wine and dine.
You’ve watched all those poker tournaments on TV and even joined in some hot games yourself. Now you and your partner can combine poker and traveling for an exciting honeymoon adventure you won’t soon forget. Poker cruises are all the rage right now, and most feature poker seminars, poker lessons, tournaments, and a separate poker room where you can play until dawn. Check out the World Poker Showdown for cruises and affordable poker in the Caribbean, or Card Player Cruises, which schedules poker cruises from Alaska to Southeast Asia. If you get tired of playing cards, disembark when the ship is docked and act like regular tourists!
If you’re not content to stop dancing after your first dance as man and wife, keep on dancing through the honeymoon! Options include programs such as Ballroom Vermont, where you stay at a lovely hotel and take ballroom dancing classes every day in foxtrot, waltz, swing, rumba, tango, and cha-cha. You can also get private lessons. Dance Camp Las Vegas is another possibility, where you’ll spend a week at a Vegas hotel and enjoy intensive dance instruction, plus a show with dance professionals and competitions. If you’d like to dance while afloat, investigate dance cruises, some of which have a particular focus such as swing or line dancing.
Surely you’ve heard of geocaching by now, and you may even be hard-core fans, so pack up your GPS system – and extra batteries – and head out for a geocaching honeymoon. You can pick one general location to geocache (San Francisco, for example) or try your treasure-hunting skills at several spots around the world. You can even geocache from a port where your cruise ship docks. Need details? See www.geocaching.com for instructions, clues, and upcoming worldwide geocaching events. For some heavy-duty caching, plan to attend GeoWoodstock, the once-a-year gathering that has become the world’s largest geocaching event. (This event is usually held in May, and the venue changes from year to year.)
We all like to eat, but what could be more romantic than a culinary honeymoon where you do the cooking? Contact a major cooking school in the United States or abroad, then sign up for a cooking class. For example, the Institute of Culinary Education in New York City offers three- to five-day classes in everything from pastry making to ethnic cuisine, and you can spend your time off seeing the city. Or book a reservation at a culinary resort such as the Inn at Essex in Vermont, home to the New England Culinary Institute. Luxury cooking vacations are also available, so you can learn to create the cuisines of Spain, Portugal, Italy, France, or Thailand by traveling there and sampling each city’s culture along with its food.
In most parts of the world, food and wine go naturally together, but if you are a connoisseur specifically interested in wine, there are plenty of honeymoon options available. Check online for a list of fabulous wine cruises around the world that include wine education, private winemaker dinners, wine tasting, and visits to top-rated portside wineries. Or plan your own trip to one of the world’s best-known wine regions: Napa and Sonoma, California (be sure to take a ride on the Napa Wine Train); Tuscany, Italy (time your visit around one of the local festivals); the Marlborough region of New Zealand (known especially for its Sauvignon Blanc); France (you can use Paris as your home base); Argentina (see the Mendoza Province wine country); or South Africa (plan to stop in Stellenbosch, Paarl, or Constantia).
If we don’t have to convince you that birding is a fabulous way to spend your time, then a birding honeymoon is for you. You can do it practically anywhere, so it’s easy to combine a birding trip with sightseeing and exploring the local cultural attractions. You can get an all-inclusive package to a foreign destination or sign on with a stateside birding tour group and add some more North American species to your life list. WINGS Birding Tours offers worldwide trips plus specialized excursions like the Birds and Music tour to Austria, the Birds and Shakespeare Festival tour to Oregon, the Birds and Art tour to Provence, and the Birds and Medieval Monasteries tour of Romania. Accommodations are not likely to be luxurious, but they’ll be comfortable and you’ll have a blast.
For most couples, the wedding ceremony, reception, and honeymoon create three of the biggest pieces of the matrimonial pie. When calculating your honeymoon budget, you'll be planning on much more than a hotel room and rental car. When you approach your honeymoon budget, consider the following factors:
Before the Honeymoon
Your honeymoon destination will play an important role regarding the costs associated with newlywed bliss. If you're traveling out of the country, passport fees can run you into the hundreds. Expediting the process will cost you an extra $60 per each passport. If you use a travel agent to book your honeymoon, make room for their fees. Many couples book online to save on the cost of travel arrangements. If you own a pet, make an allowance for kennel fees if you don’t have a sitter. Childcare will also cost, even if a relative has graciously stepped up to the plate to help. Additional fees include new clothes for your trip, guidebooks, maps, and travelers' cheque fees.
Most couples on a honeymoon choose to fly the friendly skies to their destination. Calculate the amount that two round-trip airline tickets will cost. Will you rent a car during your stay? Booking online with a website (like Travelocity) will help save you money. They will often ask if you'd like to purchase extra insurance for your rental car. It's suggested to comply. Also, don’t let a glitch in rules and regulations ruin your honeymoon. Research your destination's policy on international driver's licenses – you may need to pay for one. Other honeymoon transportation costs include train tickets, gas, tolls, and taxi fare.
Once again, booking your hotel accommodations online will save a great deal of money. In some cases, the flight and hotel are offered as a package deal for a real money-saving treat. Jot down the amount that a package room deal for the honeymoon suite or any other lodging selection will cost for the number of days you are planning on celebrating the aftermath of your wedding. Don't forget to include anticipated tipping of the valet and bellhop. For cruise passengers, don’t forget to add in the cost of tipping staff, port charges, and tours of local sights.
What honeymoon is complete if you don’t plan on sampling local eats about town? For the number of days during your stay, estimate the costs for breakfast, lunch, and dinner. Don’t forget to make allowances for nights out (alcoholic beverages) and snacks. Include a bit of cash for tipping staff when eating out.
Activities and Entertainment
A honeymoon should be full of relaxation, cuddling, and fun. Activities and entertainment help elevate your overall experience. Wherever you wind up for your honeymoon, I bet you'll venture outside of your hotel room at least a couple of times. Local attractions are a draw for honeymooning couples who love taking photos of themselves floating on Venice waters or visiting the State Hermitage Museum in Russia. However, these sightseeing adventures come with a price. Set aside money in your budget for:Tours Admission fees to local attractions Activity charges (like golfing, snorkeling, and scuba diving) Equipment rental (like surfboard, skis, and mopeds) Gambling, when applicable Nightlife (drinks, comedy clubs, and cover charges)