Not Just Married

Weddings: More and more lovers leap at the chance to get hitched and honeymoon in the same romantic destination.

February 14, 1999|By BARBARA SHEA | BARBARA SHEA,NEWSDAY

The perfect honeymoon takes as many shapes as the perfect honey.

Almost every lodging in the world offers some sort of romantic package or can invent one at a moment's notice with a quick call to the florist. In general, amenities range from ``Just Married'' T-shirts and a bottle of bubbly to moonlight sails (common in Florida and the Caribbean) and heart-shaped beds or tubs (a trademark of the Poconos and Niagara Falls).

Geri Bain, travel editor of Modern Bride magazine, says the weddings-away business is ``growing really fast.'' She attributes it to a desire for more privacy and less hoopla by older first-time marrieds, as well as to the greater acceptability of such weddings. Reader polls showed destination weddings rising from 2 percent to 4.3 percent between 1991 and 1995, she says. At Walt Disney World in Florida, such ceremonies were up more than 20 percent last year.

Tropical retreats have raised honeymoon planning to a fine art, often making the wedding itself part of all-inclusive deals (Sandals resorts in the Caribbean and Bahamas call them ``WeddingMoons''). Many Caribbean islands have streamlined marriage laws for foreigners and lay on a variety of extra perks; Aruba has decorated taxis available to honeymooners throughout their stay.

For the best price, try to schedule your wedding trip off-season - winter in Europe, summer in Hawaii, Mexico or the Caribbean. Some resorts also offer promotional discounts if you pay with one specific credit card or another. Take time to comparison-shop carefully - by viewing videos when possible and asking lots of questions, particularly to determine what each all-inclusive resort means by ``all.'' Beware of expensive, hidden extras such as taxes and service charges, airport transfers and activity fees.

Here are some ideas (rates may vary by season and accommodations). Travel agents can help with arrangements and suggest countless more.

Florida

* America's No. 1 honeymoon destination is also its favorite family vacation spot: Disney World. If Mickey and Minnie ever decide to tie the knot at the Orlando theme park they call home, they'll have to wait in a long line of prospective brides and grooms. More than 2,300 couples a year marry there. Prices start at $3,300 for an intimate gathering for two; an average wedding for 100 people is about $20,000.

Just want a honeymoon? Three-night stays range from the ``Honeymoon Escape'' - accommodations at a value resort hotel from $970 - to the ``Honeymoon Grand Plan'' - accommodations at a deluxe resort hotel including unlimited admission to theme park attractions and recreational activities, three meals daily at your choice of Disney dining locations, private golf and tennis lessons, use of bikes and boats at selected hotels, tickets to Cirque du Soleil and a 50-minute spa treatment, fireworks cruise, guided tours and seminars. Call 407-W-DISNEY.

In trendy Miami Beach, the Eden Roc Resort has ``Spa Honeymoon'' packages, including numerous personal treatments at the oceanfront Spa of Eden. Rates run from $1,809 to $2,160 per couple for three nights (two spa meals daily), $4,050 to $5,055 for seven nights (three spa meals daily). Call 800-327-8337.

Mexico

When it opened 40 years ago, Mexico's Las Brisas was the most romantic resort in one of the most exotic honeymoon destinations: Acapulco. Individual ``casitas,'' most of which come with a pink-and-white Jeep and a private pool that's sprinkled with fresh flowers each morning, are terraced into a hillside offering spectacular bay and ocean views. Romance packages, including a private-pool casita, Jeep with gas and unlimited mileage, daily breakfast, a dinner for two, daytime tennis, bottle of champagne, temporary membership at a private beach club, gratuities and other gifts run from $810 to $1,200 per couple for three nights and from $1,620 to $2,400 per couple for six nights (depending on type of room). Call Westin Hotels & Resorts at 800-228-3000.

Up the coast in Baja, Rosewood Hotels & Resorts' deluxe all-suite Las Ventanas al Paraiso, opened in April 1997 in Carretere Transpeninsular. A ``Pure Romance'' package at this five-star resort is $5,800 per couple for seven nights in an oceanview junior suite. It includes champagne on arrival, full breakfast and lunch daily, dinner five nights, 50-minute massage for each person and other amenities. Call 888-525-0483.

French Polynesia

You can run away to French Polynesia for seven nights for less than $3,000 per couple - including round-trip airfare. The Blue Lagoon package with New Frontiers includes two nights in Moorea, two nights in Huahine, two nights in Bora-Bora and one night in Tahiti. Some meals and airport transfers included. Call 800-366-6387.

Caribbean

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