Greg Alexander

Honeymoons in your element

Baltimore Sun, February 19, 2006

Remember in junior high science class when you learned about the four basic elements? Well, in case junior high was more years ago than you’d like to admit, here’s a refresher course: The Greek philosopher Empedocles asserted that matter consists of four elements – earth, air, fire and water – a theory that was later supported and embellished upon by the famous philosopher, Aristotle. So, what’s this have to do with wedding planning? Well, actually most – if not all – travel destinations can fall into one of these categories, including your honeymoon destination, so when you’re trying to decide on the type of honeymoon you want, let you junior high science teacher help you out.

Mother Earth

Are you and your beloved an Earthy, nature-loving couple? If so, head south to Amelia Island Plantation, located just 45 minutes from Jacksonville, Fla., which makes for an easy trip and several carriers offer inexpensive flights to Jacksonville from BWI. Amelia Island Plantation (AIP), known as Florida’s greenest resort, is the southernmost of the Atlantic barrier islands and not as susceptible to hurricanes as southern Florida. Since its inception, the 1,350-acre resort has been committed to environmentally friendly development (so much so, in fact, that the developer spent $60,000 in redesign costs to save a tree that was originally slated for demolition). The resort also dims its light at night to help out the migratory birds and sea turtles.

But what makes (AIP) really special for nature-lovers is the wealth of activities available to guests at the onsite Nature Center, which is staffed with certified naturalists. For example, the “Beach Bounty” guided tour will show you when and where to find the best shells and shark’s teeth on the beach while learning about trees, dunes, wildlife and marine animals. Birdwatchers will revel in the guided tour to find exotic birds, including red-shouldered hawk, eastern screech owl, woodpecker, wood duck, belted kingfisher, blue heron and several varieties of herons. Of course, getting up-close and personal with sea life requires you to hit the water, so why not take the “Naturalist Kayak” tour? The two-hour naturalist led trip allows you to see birds, fish, crabs and other unique animals from your own kayak while learning about a barrier island’s unique ecosystem.

If you’re looking for a truly unique nature program, try the “Segway Safari” tour. Segways (like the ones you’ve seen in airports) are a one-of-a-kind method of transportation – a self-balancing device that works with your body movements, making it impossible to fall. The Segway Safari takes you through the resort’s trails to see birds, animals and gorgeous fauna, while the trip back takes you seaside to enjoy the beautiful beaches.

Up in the Air

Chances are that you’re sky-high anyway after just getting married, so how about these mountain themed-honeymoons? Jack Weber, CTC, of World Travel Service’s Hunt Valley office, recommends Switzerland’s breathtaking Alps, including the Glacier Express luxury train that rides from St. Moritz to Zermatt. “Go far above the crowds and in the far reaches on top of the world. It is a remarkable adventure – a once in a lifetime experience,” says Weber, who has 25 years of experience in the travel industry. “The honeymoon couple should work with an experienced travel agent. Most of the places I recommend I have experienced first hand. Those are the impressions that an online search engine cannot give.” Other than Switzerland, Weber suggests Chamonix, France; Garmisch/Partenkirchen, Germany; or Cortina, Italy. “These destinations may be packaged for honeymoons any time of year,” notes Weber.

Looking to go stateside? Molly Hurwitz of Travel Destinations suggests Big Sur, Calif. “I had a couple go here on their honeymoon and back again for their one-year anniversary.” Hurwitz especially touts The Post Ranch Inn. “They have very private rooms built into trees on the side of the mountain; the views are unbelievable. There is a small town with art galleries, and the resort is very romantic.” Another destination Hurwitz suggests is Jasper/Lake Louise in the Canadian Rockies. “The resort, Chateau Lake Louise, is known as ‘The Diamond in the Wilderness.’ The resort offers breathtaking views of the Canadian Rockies, and Lake Louise and Jasper have great ‘couples’ activities like warm mineral springs, canoeing on Lake Louise, nature walks and horseback riding.”

Hot as Fire

Like the heat? Then head west to the desert. “Phoenix has a new ad slogan ‘Enjoy a desert playground.’ There are so many great things for honeymooners – hot air balloon rides to overlook the desert valley, for example,” says Hurwitz. “Many balloon tours offer a touchdown for a champagne picnic, and Phoenix has more than 325 days of sunshine.” Elsewhere in the desert, Scottsdale, Ariz., is known for its amazing resorts and spas. “An amazing resort in Scottsdale is the Phoenician Resort and Spa at the base of Camelback Mountain,” says Hurwitz. “The resort has an award-winning cactus garden on the slopes of the mountain, world-class spa, 27-hole golf course, tennis clinics and nine pools. Also, Sedona is an amazing, easy daytrip from Scottsdale, only two hours north.” Sedona is famous for its red rock formations in the middle of the desert, art galleries and wonderful restaurants, Hurwitz notes.

Water, water everywhere

Many couples head south to the Caribbean and relax on a beach for their honeymoon, as did Holly Mathis and her husband, Tucker. “We got married in August around hurricane season, so we wanted to play it safe and go to one of the ‘A.B.C. Islands’ that are below the hurricane belt. We chose Aruba because everyone we talked to raved about it, and no one had a negative thing to say about their experience,” says Mathis. “Aruba was clean, safe and the locals were so friendly and helpful.” Mathis stayed at the Marriott, which had a wonderful pool and beach. “Tucker’s one wedding task was to arrange the honeymoon, so he took the easy route and called a travel agent,” Mathis laughs. “The hotel was fabulous and the service was incredible.”

Mathis says that besides lying on the beach or in the pool, there were plenty of activities to enjoy. “We rented a Jeep and drove all around the island; it was very romantic. We also rented a boat, jet skis and did a tour of nearby bars on a fun bus ride.” Mathis says that the food was delicious, whether in high-end restaurants or local, casual places. But in the end, it was the beach that she remembers most. “The water is crystal clear with white sand beaches. We sat on the beach, enjoyed the trade winds and then headed to the pool for Happy Hour. It was simply perfect.”

For honeymoons, you can’t go wrong with a romantic cruise. “Bora Bora may be known as the island of dreams but is only one of the exotic islands in French Polynesia,” says Weber. “A cruise is a way to see these islands in a style that is leisurely, fun and adventurous. Unpack once and ‘voila’ you are on your way to one of the most romantic experiences of a lifetime. Chose from ‘floating hotels’ ranging from highly luxurious large cruise lines with selected daily itineraries or chose a smaller vessel that is fitted out for the greatest of comforts. When choosing one of the smaller vessels, you and your captain can set your course to discover and explore your interests – whether it be eco-tourism, scuba diving or simply sailing where the wind takes you.”

For true romance, Weber also touts a cruise to the Mediterranean, especially those on one of the tall ships. “These authentic sailing ships come equipped with all activities and amenities found on a private yacht.” Hurwitz recommends Windstar Cruises for a Mediterranean cruise. “The ships are small and not your typical cruise. Due to the ships being smaller, Windstar can offer very unique ports of call and they cater to couples. From April through October, they offer 7- to 14-day Mediterranean and Greek Isles cruises. All of the staterooms are oceanview, and the dining is very upscale but no formal seating – dine when you like, and no jacket or tie for men!”

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