Category: Wedding & honeymoon travel

Where would you go to make an anniversary holiday more like a second honeymoon?

My wife and I had our 13th anniversary a few days ago. Every August we begin thinking about a second honeymoon – not just a trip but an another honeymoon. This year, resorts were the main topic of discussion because friends recently told us about their honeymoon holiday in Mauritius. This was their second honeymoon and their 15th anniversary. Their first honeymoon was at Woodstock 1999 – more on that later but let’s just say that Woodstock 99 was not great honeymoon material.

Mauritius, our friends say, is perfect honeymoon material. Mauritius has mountain views, turquoise seas, palm trees, and white sandy beaches. Our friends spent 4 of 6 days in their resort. They relaxed on the beach, played in the pool, ate and drank whenever they felt like it, napped on the beach, snorkeled and swam in the ocean, practiced archery (good for a possible future zombie apocalypse), rose horses, and played golf. Other days, they would take day trips. They had a guide for Les 7 Cascades. Hiking at the Seven Cascades, means great scenery as long as you have hiking boots. It also means playing underneath a waterfall as long as you bring your bathing suit. You may also want to bring a light raincoat. Another day they rented a scooter from their hotel and toured the island, noting that Port Louis waterfront and market and Grand Bay are especially worthwhile.

So let me interrupt our friends’ story with my own thought for my second honeymoon. The second honeymoon has to be low-stress. Our first honeymoon involved me taking a language teaching course in Rome for the first month. I didn’t get to pay much attention to my beautiful new bride because of school. Then we went to Assisi, which was much better because we spent all our time together. But Assisi was still not stress-free. We still had to find accommodation and find our way around the (thankfully small) city. I think getting lost was a stressor and the expenses of eating out maybe stressed us out some too. We were simply too poor for a 9 week honeymoon, but we did it anyway.

So to make the second honeymoon low stress, you want to budget the trip – make it a week instead of a couple months so you don’t have to try to honeymoon on the cheap. Take our friends for example. When they arrived, friendly tour operators met them. The tour operators took care of the luggage and took them to the resort. There they received a welcome drink and an ice towel to help cool off. Hotel staff delivered their luggage to the room. The room had a great view of the bay, “Just Married” sandals, and letter from the Hotel. They didn’t have any of that stuff at Woodstock 99 and we didn’t have any of that stuff when we did Italy on a shoestring budget. I guess it’s those luxury things that make you feel pampered, like you’re honeymooning. Of course I still need to test that theory.

Our friends option included breakfast and dinners. They received a complimentary foot massage at the hotel’s spa. They had a romantic dinner at Chateau Mon Desir (a five star restaurant). They certainly didn’t have gourmet meals at Woodstock 99 (although the prices were gourmet-like) and I don’t think anyone there was touching anyone else’s feet. We had it a little better in Assisi – there was one restaurant, Il Duomo, that we loved and visited probably 20 times during our stay. No massages for us either though.

So what do you think makes a holiday a second honeymoon? Is it relaxing on the beach? Getting pampered at the spa? Luxury vs. budget travel? Would you recommend Mauritius for a second honeymoon?

Cape Verde honeymoon experience

Guest submission: Last year I ventured to the Cape Verde islands with my beautiful wife to be for our honeymoon. We wanted somewhere remote, far removed from the usual hassle of many traditional holiday destinations. Armed with a few months of research and the convenience of a direct flight route from Manchester, we settled on the island of Sal. The Cape Verde Islands are a 10 island archipelago around 300 miles west of Senegal on the African mainland and 900 miles south of the Canary Islands. They’ve become increasingly popular over the last decade as a tourist destination with many holidaymakers travelling as part of their honeymoon drawn to the islands by their rugged remote natural beauty, world class beaches and new luxury resort developments.

We arrived at Sal International airport (also known as Amílcar Cabral International) mid afternoon and stepped out into the mid-day sun. Two things the islands are noted for, strong winds and barren landscapes, were both in evidence. The airport was very small but relatively new. It didn’t bear much resemblance to a standard European holiday destination arrival and it began to sink in we were in Africa. We knew in advance that Sal was not noted for greenery but had the vista not contained some cars, people and an airport you could be excused for thinking you had just stepped off one of 1070s Viking Landers probes to Mars. A car was waiting for us, pre-booked, and we made our way through a remote dead landscape along a straight apparently newly laid four lane highway to the main tourist town on the island, Santa Maria.

Santa Maria is a small fishing town about 25 kilometres south of the airport. The area is synonymous with the recent growth in Cape Verde tourism and associated development boom. The resort is notable for is beautiful sandy beaches and various watersport activities but before we could visit the beach we had to check into our catered beach villa at Tortuga Beach Resort. This was located just north of Santa Maria town centre further round the coast heading west and was nestled perfectly on the edge of another one of Cape Verde’s endless pristine white beaches. Our stay in the resort for 10 days was serene and most days we spent relaxing on beach sun loungers and most nights watched the sun set from the beach also.

We ate some nights in the resort complex and others made our way into Santa Maria by taxi to eat at one of the local restaurants. Santa Maria is not a mature tourist destination yet and we knew we wouldn’t find a plethora of gourmet restaurants but one we did find and grow to love was La Prive. Hidden away and set around a secret walled garden, it was gem which we returned to on several occasions during our stay. The food was excellent but the outside dining set up in the garden was the perfect setting for romantic dinners during our honeymoon.

During our stay, whilst we wanted to relax as we were on honeymoon, we did enjoy many of the watersport activities on offer in Santa Maria, by learning to windsurf and enjoying some snorkelling. Cape Verde winds are legendary so you can always windsurf whilst choppy seas make surfing possible as well.

All in all we loved our stay in Cape Verde and it made for the perfect honeymoon; no unnecessary travel, completely stress free, great weather and beaches and complete relaxation. We intend to return to Cape Verde as soon as we can and next time want to explore some of the other islands like Sao Vincente and Santo Antao.

Weather persecuted honeymoon

I like this quote: “You think: ‘Are we weather persecuted? What will happen next?’ It is almost absurd.”

This from one of the Svanstroms, who experienced 6 natural disasters on their honeymoon:

-stranded in Germany by one of Europe’s worst-ever snowstorms. Next up:

-cyclone in Cairns

-flooding in Brisbane

-bushfires in Perth

-6.3-magnitude earthquake in Christchurch.

in Tokyo when the quake and tsunami hit.

That’s a lot, but I don’t see how a 4 month honeymoon can be a honeymoon from hell. I have a friend who had to cancel his honeymoon because his father died the day of his wedding. That’s not technically a honeymoon but it kind of puts things in perspective.

Actually it kind of reminds me of the ruined honeymoons back when Europe was getting snowed in (December 2009).

Caribbean honeymoon during hurricane season? Advice needed.

Happy 2011 everyone! I thought we’d start off the new year by helping some newlyweds plan their honeymoon.

Reader question: I am getting married late August 2011 and planning on taking the honeymoon within a month or two after. As of right now I am leaning towards St. Lucia and a few other Caribbean islands, however my fear is obviously hurricane season. Has anyone traveled to the Caribbean in Sept/Oct with success?

I am also open to other options. Before they are suggested, I am not interested in going to Europe. I know many have suggested Greece but she doesn’t want to go there and I am not crazy about it either.

I am open to going somewhere in the South Pacific, but I am concerned about how long it takes to get there and flight cost. We are registering our honeymoon, but I can’t be completely reckless with the destination.

I’d say #1 is beaches and the hotel itself. History is something I can take or leave and I know she can care less so i’d say its not a priority. We are both laid back, like the sun, nice beaches, snorkeling/water sports. We don’t get too crazy partywise but it would be nice to have that option (she doesn’t drink much but probably will on a couple nights). Price range is probably about $5-$8k tops.

My answer: That’s a healthy budget that should be able to get you wherever you want to go. Basically, it boils down to your risk aversion. If you want a safe bet with beautiful beaches and a ton of activities, Hawaii isn’t a bad option. Also, Tahiti, Fiji and the rest of the South Pacific are viable destinations. Bora Bora is beautiful, but its a nasty trip out. Any of these places are not subject to hurricane season and will mostly have stable (and beautiful) weather. That time of year is actually the best to visit Hawaii.

If you want to roll the bones, although I haven’t been there, I’ve heard nothing but good things about St. Lucia. That said, you very well could spend your honeymoon in a hurricane. If you wanted to wait, your probably safe heading down to that area in December. And again, its the rainy season, so expect to lose at least one day to heavy rains.

You may be fine in September / October or you may be dealing with a tropical storm that ruins the trip, especially depending on which island you go to. Its impossible for anyone to really relay anything beyond the fact that you may be fine or you may experience terrible weather. Even without a storm, it is still the rainy season and you will encounter heavy rains in most places in the Caribbean. Also, St. Lucia just got wrecked in a storm and is still cleaning up – most hotels are not impacted, but the island has been getting beaten up with storms in recent years. If you plan to do something in the Caribbean that time of year, just get the travel insuarance.

Please leave a comment if you can add anything helpful.

Proposing on vacation – Anyone ever done it?

Reader question: We are traveling to Europe in a bit and I thought it would be a good time to pop the question. I’m a bit nervous traveling with the ring – it is insured, but still. Also anyone know if I can bring it through customs? Anyone have similar experiences?

My answer: Personally, though I have no experience, I think this is very doable. Keep the ring on you at all times. Of course, make sure it is well-insured in case something does happen. Another concern would be the wife seeing the ring as you go through customs/ security/ etc. I don’t believe you have to declare expensive jewelry that you bring into a foreign country (normally you declare what you bought abroad when you return home) but that is certainly worth double-checking.

Congratulations and good luck!

Sandals experiences & tips: Has anyone been to a Sandals resort for honeymoon or vacation??

I was able to gather some experiences and tips for someone who asked the following. As always, your comments are welcome too::

Question: My fiancé wants to go to St. Lucias resort for our honeymoon but I wanted to do a cruise. Guess who’s going to win that battle? I guess we are going to St. Lucia. Anyway if you have gone how was it? Our travel agent said we should book a regular room and when we get there show them our marriage license and they should upgrade us…do you buy that?

Experience 1: There are three Sandals resorts in St. Lucia: Sandals Regency St. Lucia, Sandals Halcyon St. Lucia, and Sandals Grande St. Lucian. I had my honeymoon at the Grande, loved it. My cousin has hers at the Halcyon, loved it. My wife’s cousin had hers at the Regency, loved it.

The Regency is big. They have a shuttle to take you from one end of the resort to the other. There are also shuttles to take you between the three resorts (we had reservations at Marios, the Italian restaurant at Halycon.

Stayed in a swim-up room, loved it. Enjoyed the swim-up bar as well, although there’s waiter service to the other pools as well.

There’s a long 2 hour drive from the airport to the resorts, cause the nearer airstrip isn’t big enough to accommodate large international planes. Mine was…interesting. You can pay extra for a helicopter ride, though.

Oh, and don’t bother with the drive-in volcano. You might imagine driving INTO a volcano. Well, it isn’t. Apparently a long time ago, a volcanic eruption caused an explosion of part of the crust. So you go to this spot, and look down at a crater where you see steam emanating from various points. THAT’S ALL. Kinda lame.

Experience 2: We stayed at the Regency. Great vacation. Regarding the airport, we connected in San Juan to a smaller plane and landed at the airport near the resort. Five minute ride.

It’s definitely worth flying through Puerto Rico so you can go to the little airport. I can’t imagine the 2 hours bus ride. The 15 minute shuttle from the airport to the Grande was key. And don’t forget that’s the case when you leave too.

Grande was a great time. I recommend the Crepe place, the Italian place (rack of lamb was out of this world), and the Hibachi over at one of the other resorts.

And remember this – all your food is paid for, so if you have trouble deciding between meals, bottles of wine, or desserts, just get both.

Experience 3: We frew from Newark all the way into St. Lucia. The plane was part of the Sandals experience. So they had free champagne. This one woman, a dental hygienist from Staten Island, got trashed. Once we landed and left the airport, we ended up on the same shuttle as her and her husband. We’re sitting in the shuttle, waiting for it to leave, and a local walks up to the window by her window and welcomes her to St. Lucia. Her response?

Crazy woman: “Fuck you!”

Local: “Excuse me?”

Crazy: “Fuck you and your whole country!”

We begin the drive. It gets dark. There are a bunch of couple-aged couples with up, and they strike up a conversation with the crazy lady and her husband. Eventually, the husband mentions that he’s got pot in his bag. The college kids promptly spend half the drive trying to convince the guy to open his bag, and I’m sitting there thinking (1) this is the longest 2 hours of my life, (2) I wonder how strict the drag laws are in St. Lucia, and (3) are we ever actually gonna reach the resort.

In St. Lucia, you drive on the left side. So the driver’s side is on the right side of the cars (and shuttles). So one of the college kids is riding shotgun on the left. The drunk, crazy woman starts FREAKING OUT because the kid riding shotgun isn’t paying attention to the road. She seriously thought he was driving!

Eventually we made it to the resort. Thank god.

Our travel agent got us the upgrade before we left. But I guess it can’t hurt to try that too. Part of would depend on when you go and how booked it is.

Loved the Grande. There’s an English Pub on site, as well as a French Crepe restaurant (delicious, I’ve spent the last six years trying to find crepes that compare, and I’ve been coming up empty. There’s snorkeling and scuba diving (you can take a short, two hour course that gets you scuba certified for your stay; it’ll expire after you leave). There are some other restaurants there as well.

If you like chess, there is a giant chess board. Lots of pools, lots of drinks (all free). The local beer is Piton Beer. I’m not a beer drinker, but considering the number of people who drink it there, it must be OK.

Use sunscreen. The last day, my wife and I weren’t happy with our tans, so we went without for a few hours. That night, we got our pictures taken at the English Pub. Our faces were as red as the walls of the Pub.

Experience 4: Avoid the bus ride in any Caribbean country. On our way from the airport to the resort (Sandals, Montego Bay Jamaica), the shuttle driver was hauling A$$ up the hills and around the curves. It was around dusk/twilight, so none of us in the back could see out the front windshield all to clearly. But we did clearly hear/feel three distinct thuds during that drive. The first time, we all looked at each other and shrugged our shoulders, weary from our flights. The next time, there were plenty of whispers amongst us, but we mostly passed it off for bad roads. The third time, I spoke up and asked the driver what those noises were. His answer….?


Experience 5: We honeymooned at Sandals Grande St Lucia. All in all, it was a very enjoyable experience.

There are two airports on St. Lucia, George FL Charles Airport (SLU) and Hewanorra International (UVF). SLU is a small airport, too small for commercial jet aircraft, but it’s near Sandals Grande and most of the other major resorts. If you fly into SLU, you’ll only have a fifteen minute or so ride to the resort, as opposed to the two hour plus journey from UVF, but you’ll have to take prop place for the last leg of your journey. We flew to Puerto Rico and took a 70 passenger prop plane from there to SLU.

There’s also a helicopter ride from UVF to SLU if you’d rather do that.

St Lucia is a beautiful place and the St. Lucians are generally friendly and very proud of their island nation. Their flag looks like something from Star Trek.

I can’t recommend the Sandals experience highly enough. You don’t need money for anything except the gift shop. Everything is included and there is no tipping. You can spend the whole day out at the resort with nothing more than your bathing suit, a t-shirt and your room key.

The food isn’t bad, but it’s not great. Each resort has several different restaurants with one being their upscale/signature place that requires a reservation. The Grande’s big dining experience is an Italian place called Toscannini’s. We ate there a couple times during our seven day stay and it was reasonably OK, but there are a half dozen better Italian places within walking distance of my house.

BTW, one of the eateries is a crepe/dessert place that we didn’t find until the third day there. Recommended!

We had a pretty basic room, but frankly we didn’t spend much time in the room unless we were sleeping, showering or having sex. We did have a balcony with an ocean view (through a fence and over a road, but still) which was a nice place to eat our room-service breakfast – fresh fruit, muffins, pastry, cereal and coffee.

Experience 6: The wife and I just got back from our honeymoon a week ago. And although we didn’t go to Sandals (we went to Excellence at Playa Mujeres in Mexico), the whole all-inclusive and adults-only thing was awesome. I’m not sure how your resort is going to be like, but I recommend you either have your travel agent call the resort or you can call the resort and tell them about it being your honeymoon. My wife set it up before we got there, and the resort went all out in setting up our honeymoon package for free (we just had to show up with a copy of our marriage certificate).

We also had a little longer drive (45 min or so) and drive through your typical Tijuana-type, run-down town, but when we got to our resort it was behind two security gates and very much away from any city. Oh yeah, it was during spring break, so we had a ton of college kids on our flight from BWI. It was rather annoying but funny to have three yelping college girls drinking Margaritas behind us in the shuttle talking about how drunk they were going to get and pointing out all the “hot guys” on the street that we were driving by. Thankfully we had no college kids at our resort although we did have a lot of mix-matching couples who were obviously old rich guys with either their mistresses or their young girlfriends…haha.

Experience 7: Did Ocho Rios for my honeymoon 19 years ago. An absolute blast and a fabulous resort. We did the midnight cruise one evening and what stood out to me was all the people from other resorts basically unhappy with their resort. All the Sandals people loved it in comparison

Experience 8: Honeymooned at Sandal’s Antigua and loved it – chose that resort because of the architecture – most of the other Sandals resorts are focused around a big hotel – at the time we went, the largest structure at the Antigua resort was 2 stories. A true little paradise, check your brain at the door. No need to carry anything but your room key – true all-inclusive, tipping disallowed.

Food is good – not great. Island is third-world but still worth taking day trips. And if the demon weed is your preference, just pay close attention to the beach vendors.

What are some good “second cities” for vacationing / honeymooning?

I was trying to think of a theme for this blog entry and I happened to find a few articles that I thought I could squeeze into the “honeymoon” theme.

This one is pretty obvious, saying that the honeymoon is important (no kidding!) and that you should plan it carefully. Luckily the article includes some advice including an example that makes it worthwhile. The author’s friend went to Paris for a week on her honeymoon but was too tired from planning her big wedding to do the usual touristy stuff like museums. So she and her new husband spent the week in cafe’s in Paris and now apparently the regret it.

The author (and I agree) says that a week of cafes in Paris sounds pretty great but people are different and this couple feels like they didn’t take advantage of their opportunity to see the cultural treasures of Paris. The author concludes that Budapest would have been better because they wouldn’t feel as guilt since the museums are not as world-famous.

I can see that. Although I can’t help but wonder why they didn’t make time for at least one museum in Paris. I mean it doesn’t take that much energy to visit a museum for an hour or two and how much coffee can you drink anyway? You have to do something besides sit in cafes…

But anyway, I think the point is an important one. When you’re planning a honeymoon you have to pick the right city and mode of travel and the two have to match your personality / expectations.

That brings me to this article on the World’s “second cities.” Now I had no idea the Florence and Barcelona are considered “second cities” – they seem pretty major to me. And the author writes that Florence is walkable (implying that Rome is not) yet my wife and I never got tired of walking around Rome on our honeymoon and you can always stop for a cappuccino or gelato or a meal when your feet do get tired. Sometimes we had to take the subway or bus but that didn’t ruin the honeymoon!

Now Lyon as an alternative to Paris makes sense to me and may have been a good option for the honeymooning couple discussed above. They feel bad for not taking advantage of Parisian museums? Maybe Lyon would have been better because they could have felt that they had seen a good chunk of it after a week, even without expending a ton of energy.

But then the next paragraph makes me think the article really is crazy:

For example, travelers to China may bypass Beijing for cities like Xian or Shanghai: “We’re seeing some real interest in the deeper, more unexplored parts of China.”

Since when is Shanghai “unexplored”?

The idea of visiting second cities makes sense, but this article fails miserably at naming them (with the exception of Lyon – that’s a nice suggestion).

So I ask you ti make up for that poor article. What are some second cities that are good vacation / honeymoon spots?

I would say Assisi in Italy where my wife and I sent a month on our honeymoon could be a good one. I still can’t believe that article called Florence and barcelona second cities. What are some real second cities?

Plastic surgery to preapre for wedding day?

I happen to be a NY Giants fan and I happened to find this article on Michael Strahan, a former New York Giant defensive end who was really really good. He’s retired now and starting his acting career and getting married.

Somehow, the website (The Plastic Surgery Channel) uses that as an excuse to ask if Strahan will get plastic surgery before his wedding and mention the following:

A recent segment on Plastic Surgery News highlighted the fact that more and more brides and grooms-to-be to go under the knife in hopes of looking “perfect” in wedding photos and honeymoon snaps. In fact, this trend has widened to include the couple’s family members.

Wedding day patients commonly undergo Botox injections, face lifts, eyelid surgeries, liposuction, tummy tucks and body lifts. Many brides-to-be also opt for a breast augmentation, and both genders look to gain great skin through laser resurfacing. Because a cosmetic surgery patient needs recovery time, doctors advise those planning their nuptials to have their procedure done months prior to the big day.

New York Giants fans will know what I’m talking about when I say that Strahan needs an orthodontist before he needs a plastic surgeon. Not being mean – just honest. I love Strahan – famous for pass rushing but played great against the run as well. He helped the giants win A Super Bowl.

Anyway, this is just a warning that I’ll be trying to report on his honeymoon plans. But don’t worry – I think I’m done with the plastic surgery channel except as it applies to medical tourism like botox on vacation. Now that I think about it, they had Botox on the Norwegian Spirit.

Where would you go for a destination wedding?

So apparently weddings in the UK are even more expensive than they are in America. This article says that the average is 21,000 GBP whereas in 2008 the American average was about $22,000.

Anyway, the article goes on to list some wedding destinations that would be cheaper than the UK. America even gets a few mentions:

Quickie weddings got a glamorous overhaul at the beginning of the year, when the Manhattan Marriage Bureau opened at 141 Worth Street. The 20s building has an art-deco feel, and the elegant wedding chapels feature artwork on loan from the Brooklyn Museum of Art. The wedding licence costs just $25, leaving you plenty of spare bucks for cocktails and horse-drawn carriage rides round Central Park.

Banff, Canada gets a mention. So does Vienna. However, something sounds right to me about Italy (if I were going to renew my vows or whatever) since that’s where I wanted to get married 8 years ago but never figured out how to get it done there:

To give your nuptials a classic Italian feel, try the southern region of Puglia. It offers all the beauty and atmosphere of Tuscany, with far fewer holidaying Brits. The Masseria Torre Coccaro, on the coast between Bari and Brindisi, is a small hotel with a beautiful 17th-century chapel where a priest can perform the wedding ceremony before you sit down to a traditional Pugliese banquet in the picturesque courtyard. The Coccaro’s sister hotel, the Torre Maizza, is an ideal honeymoon spot – just 10 minutes’ walk away and close to Puglia’s unspoilt beaches.

Anyway, interesting article with 5 or 6 pages of cool wedding ideas.

After months of wedding preparations, from unique wedding invitations to dinner rehearsals, now you can finally enjoy your wedding honeymoon together.

The economy affecting weddings and honeymoons

This article talks about the cost of weddings and honeymoons. The average cost is declining: “Spending on the average wedding in the United States fell 24 percent from $28,732 in 2007 to $21,814 in 2008.”

They mention honeymoons only briefly and don’t offer a national average but one travel agent estimated that customers who used to pay $10,000 for a honeymoon are now spending around $8,000. I personally, think it makes more sense to spend more on the honeymoon than on the wedding but I guess I am in the minority.