A Lifetime of Romance

A Lifetime of Romance

Infuse life’s most treasured milestones with adventure, culture, flair and more than a little delicious pampering.

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Moon wrasses flitted through holes in the reef while a school of jacks whirled in the deep blue overhead. I turned to make eye contact with my dive buddy, eager to share this vibrant moment at 60 feet. I saw Richard writing on his dive slate. Concerned that something might be wrong, I finned to his side and peered at the slate. It held the five simple words that would change our lives forever.

“Will you be my wife?”

He slipped the sparkling ring on my finger as we hovered among the reef fish. We held hands on our ascent, and when we finally reached the surface, our fellow divers and the Fijian boat crew burst into cheers and raucous applause.

These memories still evoke the unparalleled joy of that long-ago day in the South Pacific. It was simply perfect for us, and celebrating our romantic milestones through travel has become a lifelong journey. We got married on Isla Cozumel, in the midst of a two-week dive vacation; just a year later, we dashed off to Tulum for an utterly decadent babymoon adorned with Maya ruins, white-sand beaches, plunge pools and fruity virgin cocktails (for me, at least).

Travel magnifies the intensity of our experiences and our emotions, which means it can infuse life’s most treasured moments with a distinctive and everlasting magic. From proposals and weddings to babymoons and anniversary celebrations, romantic getaways overflow with thrilling adventures, exotic cultures and personalized luxury. What’s more, they’re absolutely attainable for all ages and all walks of life.

Caesar's Palace

Courtesy Caesar’s Palace

THE PROPOSAL:
Paint Your Canvas in Las Vegas
Nothing is more thrilling than creating a proposal that captures who you are as a couple. For that reason, few destinations can match Las Vegas, which offers quite literally something for everyone.

At Caesar’s Palace Las Vegas, you can guide your partner through ornate gardens to just the right spot under a graceful gazebo, surrounded by shimmering pools and leafy palms. You can put your proposal into dreamy Parisian light at the Eiffel Tower, say the words aboard a helicopter hovering over the Grand Canyon, or drop to one knee atop the 550-foot High Roller observation wheel, with the entire city gleaming through your cabin’s glass walls.

At its glittering heart, Las Vegas is essentially a blank canvas waiting to be painted. All you need to do is find the right partner to help you bring your unique vision to life. At Caesar’s Palace, for example, the professional coordinators in wedding services can design a custom proposal package, whether it’s a Roman-themed extravaganza or a glamorous rooftop proposal at Nobu Restaurant, in the heart of the resort complex’s Nobu Hotel. The full proposal experience also means appreciated touches like VIP check-in, nightly rose-petal turn-down service, access to VIP lounges, personalized bathrobes, Champagne and chocolate-covered strawberries. “We’ve seen more coordinated proposals in the last couple of years, but it’s not advertised much,” says Desirae Parker, manager of wedding services at Caesar’s Palace.

“People don’t know exactly what to do or where to go. We love planning for these couples. Everyone on our team gets so excited, because it’s emotional for us, too.” Las Vegas is truly all about taking your vision to a new level. At Wynn Las Vegas and Encore, staff work closely with guests to create truly customized—and unforgettable—proposal experiences. “We can do something as simple as a single rose and candles in our Primrose Courtyard,” says Rochelle Clayton, director of the Wedding Salon at Wynn Las Vegas. “We also can arrange a more elaborate presentation that incorporates a pathway of petals to a private, candlelit table for two with Champagne. Once, we hosted a surprise proposal that featured a mariachi band. “We have resources for everything, and we’ll assist you from start to finish,” she continued. “Customizing is a great way to go these days, and we love helping our guests create these incredibly unique romantic moments.”

The Wedding Salon at Wynn Las Vegas is renowned for its many available wedding packages, from the simple $1,790 Love Affair ceremony to the opulent $29,990 Elegant Affair.

THE BIG DAY:
Celebrating One Love in Jamaica

The most common misconception about destination weddings is that they only happen on the beach. To explore all the possibilities, with an extra dose of culture, fun and exotic island spirit, look no farther than the country of One Love. “Couples are attracted to the beauty of Jamaica, its topography, its azure waters, its gorgeous sunsets and, most importantly, the richness of its history, its people, and the depth of its culture,” says Marsha- Ann Donaldson-Brown, director of romance for Sandals Resorts International. “It’s simply one of the most magnetic islands.

“What makes Jamaica truly special is the diversity of where one actually can get married, whether it’s on the beach, in lush gardens, in the shadow of historical ruins, in a wedding chapel or in a ballroom,” she adds. “Whether you want something a little more laid-back or more elaborate, we have a comprehensive landscape for any dream to come true.”
Couples might wish to say their vows in the graceful Prospect Chapel, or amid the verdant ferns at Dr. Robert Page’s whimsical Ruins at the Falls. An intrepid few might envision saying “I Do at 700 Feet,” soaring in a chairlift over the treetops at Rainforest Adventures at Mystic Mountain, while others select a resort venue so their wedding and honeymoon seamlessly blend into what Sandals calls a Wedding Moon.

Wherever you choose to marry, accommodations will be key. In the new over-water suites at Sandals Royal Caribbean in Montego Bay, you can relax in floating water hammocks, soak in a private infinity pool and Jacuzzi, and savor the immersive beauty of the Caribbean, day or night, courtesy of your villa’s glass floors. Or, you can choose the lavish Romeo & Juliet Suite at Sandals Ochi Beach Resort. This 1,200-square-foot “Love Nest Dream Suite” is designed to be the ultimate sanctuary, with a king-size four-poster bed, mahogany furniture, en-suite bathroom with sunken bath, and courtyard with Roman pool, outdoor rain shower and hot tub.

Romeo & Juliet Suite at Sandals Ochi Beach Resort

Courtesy Sandals Resorts

Donaldson-Brown encourages couples to look beyond the big day and engage with their environment, whether it’s through food, music, excursions or activities. “Go river rafting, or ride horses into the sunset,” she advises. “Consider a moonlit stroll on the beach, a private candlelight dinner, a couples’ spa treatment and lounging by an intimate fire pit, or in hammocks and cabanas for two. All these elements are important.”

Tulum Ruins

Tulum Ruins

THE BABYMOON:
Savor Togetherness in Quintana Roo

Couples awaiting the arrival of their first child have created their own romantic milestone, a way to spend quality time together before the ride of their lives begins. Called a babymoon, this trip is a careful mix of adventure, relaxation and wellness.

The Mexican state of Quintana Roo is an increasingly popular choice. Flight times from the United States are comfortably short, and despite the party reputation of its Zona Hotelera, the Cancún area is a couples’ haven. “It’s inherently romantic,” says David Torres of Excellence Group, which operates the family-friendly Finest Playa Mujeres and the adults only Excellence Playa Mujeres and Beloved Playa Mujeres. “You can have three-, four- and five-star resort experiences in the Zona Hotelera and enjoy the vibrant shopping, restaurants and nightlife in downtown; then if you venture 20 minutes north, you’ll find a private, upscale retreat in Playa Mujeres.”

He also notes that Quintana Roo’s many authentic cultural and natural offerings all lie within easy reach of the resorts, providing countless opportunities for couples to make
memories together before parenthood arrives. “Go to the Maya ruins,” he advises. “Snorkel among the coral reefs in Mujeres Bay, take a boat offshore to snorkel with the whale sharks, and tour Isla Mujeres, where you can visit the markets, relax on the beautiful beaches, and try Tikin Xic tacos with lime, a little habanero sauce and an ocean view.”

You might wish to stay in an adults only resort, as this may be your last chance for quite some time. It’s an opportunity to savor high-end culinary experiences, luxurious spa treatments, and romantic accommodations like Beloved Playa Mujeres’s rooftop suites, swim-up suites and two-story Casita Suite with plunge pool.

The Fiesta Americana Resort Collection’s Ana Gon-Ryan agrees that an adults-only property is ideal for a babymoon. Not only can you focus on each other, you can enjoy the myriad details of personalized service. At Live Aqua Cancún, that service extends to understanding a mother-to-be’s unique needs, from special pillows and protected beach cabanas to nutrition. “The more information we get, the more we can pamper you,” Gon-Ryan says. “Our executive chef can work with you to create flavorful dishes that will be good for you and your baby, like chilaquiles that aren’t too spicy.”

In addition, the Aqua Spa provides a relaxing Baby On Board treatment, and bartenders craft nonalcoholic drinks that still taste special and indulgent. Babymooners are tagged within the resort’s system, so all staff members will know them—and take good care of them.

Los Cabos, Mexico

Los Cabos, Mexico

10TH ANNIVERSARY:
Strengthen Connections in Los Cabos

A couple’s 10th anniversary is a powerful one. It marks a decade of togetherness, which may have included the arrival of children, the purchase of a first home, and the growth of thriving careers. It’s the perfect time to renew wedding vows, or simply to share a getaway that incorporates adventure and luxury as well as romance.

Fortunately, all these are in abundance at the tip of Mexico’s Baja Peninsula, where the vast Pacific meets the sublime Sea of Cortez. Los Cabos holds a privileged position in the anniversary and vow renewal markets, according to Juan Carlos del Rio of Epic Group Los Cabos. Not only is it a short, direct flight from many U.S. airports, it boasts an array of four- and five-star resorts that can help arrange custom events. It also has a very distinct appeal. Here, where the desert meets the sea, vacationers will find an untamed, natural environment within easy reach. “You’ll find isolated beaches, desert oases, even luxury yachts so you and your loved one can find nirvana on the water,” del Rio says. “For those who are more sports-oriented, creative and unforgettable romantic moments can happen while scuba diving, during a zip line ride, or on a Razor Dune Buggy
adventure.”

Baja California Sur’s cape region remains one of the least populated areas of Mexico and Latin America, giving it an intimate feel. Del Rio notes that property owners are
acknowledging this, and the needs of romance travelers, by providing more emphasis on what he calls “luxe intimate resorts.” In fact, in the next 18 months, Los Cabos will add 2,500 luxe guest rooms in new boutique hotels. “You’ll be seeing Ritz-Carlton, Four Seasons, Auberge, Le Blanc, Park Hyatt, Vie Vage, Solaz, Montage and Nobu,” del Rio says. “And, when you plan a special anniversary event, you can even arrange romantic limo transfers with Champagne and hors d’oeuvres, as well as a sexy night tour of Cabo San Lucas.” Couples also can arrange a private excursion through the southern tip of the Baja Peninsula. The tour incorporates the laid-back village of Los Barriles; Todos Santos, home to Hotel California and a thriving arts community; and the capital city of La Paz, where the waterfront malecon and colonial centro have changed little since John Steinbeck visited in the 1940s, documenting his experiences in “The Log from the Sea of Cortez.”

In addition to watersports and desert adventures, Los Cabos also has become known for its burgeoning food scene. In the last 10 years, the cape has seen an explosion of new restaurants, from elegant gourmet to trendy fusion. “Everything is possible in Cabo,” del Rio assures. “Our limit is your imagination.”

New Orleans

Courtesy New Orleans Convention and Visitors Bureau

25TH ANNIVERSARY:
Rekindle the Fire in New Orleans

“A successful marriage requires falling in love many times, always with the same person,” wrote American journalist and author Mignon McLaughlin. And falling in love again is effortless while you’re immersed in a place that has its own unquenchable fire. New Orleans shines as a romantic destination, with its languid Mississippi River breezes, fragrant bougainvillea and evocative architecture. Its relaxed Southern pace and colorful cultural traditions encourage visitors to savor every pleasure. “Just being in New Orleans enlivens the senses in a way that’s hard to describe,” says the New Orleans Convention and Visitors Bureau’s Kristian Sonnier, a Louisiana native. “It’s in the way we eat, drink, laugh and celebrate life. When you feel it for the first time, it’s undeniable.” You might enjoy an early dinner at Meaux Bar, an intimate bistro with a locally inspired menu of perfect-to share small and large plates. Then, stroll through the French quarter’s Jackson Square while the St. Louis Cathedral bells chime, or if it’s rainy,
tour the quarter’s narrow, lamp lit 18th century streets in a horse-drawn carriage.

Some couples might elect to cruise the Mississippi River aboard the Steamboat Natchez, but for a more private experience, simply drift down Bayou St. John in a canoe at sunset.
If you wish to explore the Sculpture Garden and Botanical Gardens at City Park, don’t miss the opportunity to visit Ralph’s on the Park, a fine dining establishment in an 1860s parkside home. Or, relax in luxury at the Woodhouse Spa or Belladonna Day Spa, and then savor an opulent meal at Restaurant August, Chef John Besh’s flagship restaurant.

To complete any romantic occasion, consider staying at one of New Orleans’ grand dames. The Roosevelt, a luxurious 1893 Waldorf Astoria property located one block from Bourbon Street, incorporates the historic Sazerac bar and Chef Alon Shaya’s acclaimed Domenica Restaurant. The Ritz-Carlton, in the 1908 Beaux Arts Maison Blanche building, boasts antebellum mansion inspired décor, a grand spa and the farm-to-table M Bistro. But, in the end, your experience in the Crescent City can be whatever you desire.

“The boozy brunch at Brennan’s, poolside drinks at the Ace Hotel, beignets and coffee at sunrise… all these things are romantic to me,” Sonnier says. “That’s what’s so wonderful about New Orleans. A couple can find romance around any corner.The city lends itself to everyone’s interpretation of romance.”

Celebrate your romantic milestone through a once-in-a-lifetime vacation. To get started, contact your preferred travel professional or visit SouthwestVacations.com

Heather Steinberger

Heather Steinberger is an Associate Editor for Here & Beyond, where she writes feature stories, interviews experts for in-depth Q&As and insider articles, and covers a variety of news items and vacation trends. Heather holds a BA in Journalism from the University of Wisconsin-Madison, and she has been a professional magazine editor/writer for nearly 20 years, with articles appearing in nationally circulated titles such as Backpacker, Boating, Cabo Living, Islands, Sailing and Sport Diver. Her work has taken her from the United Kingdom and Germany, to the Mexican Caribbean and the Sea of Cortez, to Fiji and the Kingdom of Tonga.