All-Inclusive Honeymoon Ideas

Martha Stewart Weddings, Special Issue 2009

On your post-wedding vacation, you'll want to be whispering sweet nothings to your new husband, not haggling loudly over prices with vendors. Book an all-inclusive trip, and you won't have to deal with such mundane issues as monitoring cash flow, since you'll be shelling out for the whole shebang -- rooms, meals, drinks -- up front. 

Here, we've identified the best resorts, cruise lines, tour operators, and safari outfitters for every type of personality. But first, a warning: Beware of hidden fees. "At some places, they're part of the business model," says Howard Green, chief executive officer of MoonRings, a travel service specializing in honeymoons. Call to ask what's not included, or consider only mid- to high-end companies; they're more likely to include everything, even gratuities. Once you've decided on the right all-inclusive for you, kick back and enjoy -- after all, it's paid for!

Safaris 
They're pricey, but repeat after us: once in a lifetime. Itineraries generally include three or four parks and daily game drives in search of the "big five" -- lions, leopards, buffalo, rhinos, and elephants. Oh, my!

Budget 
8 days in Tanzania, $3,598 per couple
The "Duma" safari by 2Afrika includes four stops in its traditional trek across Tanzania's north. One of the best places in Africa for wildlife viewing, the second stop -- the 5,700-square-foot Serengeti National Park -- plays a major role in the "great migration," when 1.6 million wildebeest trek over from Kenya. Along with the Serengeti, the Ngorongoro Crater (a collapsed volcano) is the longest stop, and for good reason: 30,000 animals live on its floor. On the crater's eastern rim, guests can relax in a lodge that, like most of the trip's hotels, features balconies and sunset-bright colors. The "Duma" package starts at $1,799 per person, plus airfare. (Any safari that costs less than $250 per person per day should be considered only by "people looking for a more rustic and adventurous experience," says Green.) 866-462-2374.

Moderate 
8 days in Kenya, $5,370
Masai Travel's classic safari hits all the high notes of the genre: game drives in two famed parks, sightings of the big five, and overnight stays in thatched lodges overlooking waterholes or rivers. Guests touch down in Nairobi before jetting off to the Samburu National Reserve, incidentally, the backdrop for the 1966 film "Born Free." Spend an exciting afternoon horseback riding near the slopes of Mount Kenya -- the second-tallest mountain in Africa (Kilimanjaro's the highest) -- before crashing at a luxurious colonial-style resort that was once frequented by Winston Churchill. Two days in the Masai Mara reserve, the celebrated home of some of the continent's most captivating predators and prey, constitute the thrilling big-five finale. Masai Travel's "Kenya Royal Safari" starts at $2,685 per person, plus airfare. 800-587-1644.

Luxury 
15 days in Botswana, $26,990
This is honeymooning in grand style, thanks to the leisurely pace (15 days), striking setting (unspoiled Botswana), and pull-out-all-the-stops approach (flying from park to park) -- not to mention the lavish accommodations (private viewing decks, four-poster beds, and one of the world's most romantic bars, as picked by The New York Times). But the best part by far is the expert safari guides, who know exactly where to find elephants, buffalo...anything on four legs -- or two, for that matter. For the dramatic game drives, guests traverse the lagoon-rich Okavango Delta not only in a four-wheel vehicle but also in a mokoro (gondola) and a helicopter -- which is also how travelers get to see the thundering waters of Victoria Falls. Micato Safari's "Botswana's Great Herds" safari starts at $13,495 per person, plus airfare. 800-642-2861.

FYI: Rather than "high" and "low" seasons, outfitters use the terms "dry" and "rainy." Dry, cool summer is peak season, but some tourists prefer the greener landscapes and thinner crowds of the rainy period. Certain seasons are better for spotting specific animals (birds, migrating wildebeest), so talk to your outfitter about your viewing preferences.

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Resorts 
Lukewarm buffets and watered-down drinks? Try top-notch food and high-brow design. Here, three all-inclusive resorts for couples who want their beach honeymoon with a side of sophistication.

Budget 
6 nights in Cancun, $2,712
The Riviera Maya is dotted with sprawling monuments to relaxation, such as the new resort Secrets Maroma Beach, carved from 500 acres of jungle. Towering white buildings house its 412 suites; think neutral backgrounds with orange and blue accents, dark-wood furniture, and four-poster beds draped with honey-hued curtains -- a look that extends to the hotel's seven restaurants, many topped with thatched roofs. The resort cranks the romance factor to "high": Candles blanket many surfaces, Jacuzzis grace every suite, and some patios even have telescopes. It also nails the all-inclusive thing, with its 13 pools, eight bars, entertainment theater, and activity list (sailing, archery, snorkeling). Secrets Maroma Beach's six-night package starts at $226 per person, per night, plus airfare. Spa treatments not included. 866-467-3273.

Moderate 
6 nights in Jamaica, $3,600
If the Swiss Family Robinson had landed in northeastern Jamaica with money and a refined design sense, the result might have been one of Kanopi House's five super-cool "tree houses" -- stand-alone accommodations on stilts offering close-up views of banyan trees. The Jamaica-born owners built the intimate bungalows with sustainably harvested sweetwood and Spanish elm, and decorated them with works (such as wooden crocodile sculptures) by local artisans. The lush six-acre retreat (TV-free, but Bose- and iPod-stocked) curves around a blue lagoon and attracts chic Americans and Brits who prefer to kayak and snorkel the days away, snacking on mangoes, jerk chicken, and banana fritters. Kanopi House's six-night package starts at $600 per couple, per night, plus airfare. Spa treatments not included. 800-790-7971.

Luxury 
6 nights in Antigua, $4,500
The look is rustic, but in a glossy-magazine kind of way. Overlooking a dreamy-blue bay are 25 hillside cottages with dark wood floors, crisp white bedcovers, and in some cases, verandas or private plunge pools for a cooling respite from the Caribbean sun. The Hermitage Bay has turned its natural assets -- 140 acres of tropical gardens -- into a sophisticated paradise by designing spaces with a light, eco-conscious touch (building placement is dictated by the landscape, and water is heated with solar panels). Guests can snorkel or lounge in the pool. At night, diners might order crispy duck in green-curry sauce, flavored with herbs from the resort's garden. The Hermitage Bay's six-night package starts at $750 per cottage, per night, plus airfare. Spa treatments and yoga lessons not included. 268-562-8080.

FYI: Skip places that advertise "group activities" and "cruise directors," both code for spring-breakers. Also, look for the term "adults only" so that "you won't get splashed by kids cannonballing into the pool," says Howard Green, a honeymoons travel expert. Last, for reasonable rates and still-nice temps, visit in late fall or spring -- in particular, November or late April -- instead of winter.

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Cruises 
If you have wanderlust and he has lounging fever, book a cruise. Set out for the open seas on one of these amazing voyages, and you'll get to see lots of different places -- all while staying in one spot.

Budget 
10 days in the Caribbean, $1,798
Many episodes of "The Love Boat" were filmed on Princess Cruises ships, so it's fitting that the real-life onboard atmosphere combines straightforward friendliness with unabashed romance. Of the company's 17 types of vessels, the Ruby and Crown Princesses work best for honeymooners, thanks to an adults-only lounge area and Champagne-and-spa packages for the just-married. At-sea activities include watching movies on a theater-size screen and taking wine-tasting classes. On the Caribbean routes, which start in Fort Lauderdale, Florida, guests can swim with dolphins in Ocho Rios and ride horses in Grand Cayman. The Ruby Princess Caribbean medley starts at $899 per person, plus airfare. Alcohol, spa treatments, and port activities not included; nominal fees for some classes and specialty restaurants. Princess Cruises: 800-774-6237.

Moderate 
7 days in the Galapagos, $4,598
Celebrity Cruises stands out in an area in which similar companies drop the ball: food. A Celebrity tour of the Galapagos Islands, for instance, includes onboard dinners of locally sourced fruit juices and fresh catches from Ecuadorian fishermen. With fewer than 100 people per boat and a 2-to-1 guest-to-staff ratio, the boat boasts a luxurious (Frette bathrobes!), personalized feel and attracts few children. On the Galapagos cruises, guests can encounter blue-footed boobies and giant tortoises, and snorkel in crystal-clear waters. The gratuities are part of Celebrity's all-inclusive rate, but don't forget to figure in the price of a hotel in Quito, Ecuador, where guests spend the night before boarding. The Celebrity Cruises Galapagos Experience trip starts at $2,299 per person, plus airfare to Baltra Island, Galapagos. 800-647-2251.

Luxury 
8 days in the Mediterranean, $11,000
Elegance threads its way through Regent cruises, from the dress code (arrivederci, jeans) to the meals (bonjour, foie-gras souffle) to the onboard casino, cigar lounge, and theater, creating a vibe that especially discriminating newlyweds would enjoy. Guest lecturers teach travelers about ancient Greek civilizations, while onshore, passengers can check out Athenian ruins or Istanbul's spice market, alone or with a guide; at night, they can retreat to their ocean-view suites (all 700 have balconies). And if you don't want to deal with booking a hotel for arrival and departure nights, be sure to inquire about pre- and post-cruise all-inclusive options. Regent's Mediterranean cruise starts at $5,500 per person, which includes airfare from 22 North American gateways to Athens. 877-505-5370. 

FYI: Soft drinks, alcohol, classes, and extra meals like snacks are often not included in the cruise package. A common solution is brokering a customized drink package (a specified number per day for a set rate). For cruises on which the stops are the draw (Europe, the Galapagos), consider going high-end. Luxury liners include more shore excursions -- a major budget menace -- in their rates than most.

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Adventure Tours 
Not included in these tours? Lovers' tiffs about who was supposed to pack the map or make the dinner reservations. Organized tours allow couples to bypass the logistical details and head directly to the scenic route.

Budget 
6 days in Utah, $2,590
Explore the fabled American West by bike. On Western Spirit Cycling Adventure's tour of southern Utah, a group of a dozen or so bikers enjoys a virtual geological variety show -- the multicolored cliffs, mountains, and canyons of the Grand Staircase-Escalante National Monument. The camping, plus two nights in a lodge, is cushy: While friendly, knowledgeable guides grill, say, fresh salmon, guests sip beer and take in sunset views of fossil-rich plateaus and sandstone formations. The group covers 10 to 30 miles per day; the biking's not strenuous, but participants should be fit. Be aware that alcohol's not included, so bring your own and guides will store it for you. The Western Spirit tour originates in Moab, Utah, and starts at $1,295 per person, plus airfare. Bring your own bike, tent, and sleeping bag -- or rent them. 800-845-2453.

Moderate 
7 days in Costa Rica, $3,796
Wildland Adventure's Costa Rica trip has all the ingredients of a good adventure movie: a spectacular backdrop (envision waterfalls and jungles), low-tech transport (think bikes and kayaks), thrills (imagine lava viewing and river rafting), and a satisfying ending (picture three lush resorts). Each day's activity highlights a part of the country's diverse ecosystem; tour participants can cycle by an active volcano, soak in hot springs, kayak past colorful toucans and blue butterflies, and enjoy a gourmet Costa Rican meal on a riverbank, post-river-rafting. Worried about fatigue? Your guide can customize the activities just for you (for instance, slashing kayaking time for more lounging poolside). Wildland's Costa Rica Sports Adventure starts at $1,898 per person, plus airfare to San Jose, Costa Rica. Drinks and snacks not included. 800-345-4453.

Luxury 
11 days in Vietnam, $13,990
Once upon a time, a couple pedaled by the Pass of the Ocean Clouds and entered the City of Eternal Spring. These aren't details from a fairy tale, but rather highlights from Butterfield & Robinson's magical bike tour in Vietnam, which wends its way from Ho Chi Minh City to Hanoi and incorporates planes, boats, and five of Vietnam's best hotels. Outings include biking through coffee plantations, riverboating toward ancient imperial tombs, and eating fish hot pot and lotus-root salad in the countryside, all with knowledgeable local guides. When you reach the onetime-bustling seaport Hoi An, be sure to get a dream dress for you or a suit for him custom-made by one of the city's famed tailors. Butterfield & Robinson's Vietnam biking tour starts at $6,995 per person, plus airfare to Ho Chi Minh City. A few meals not included (gratuities included). 866-551-9090.

FYI: Costa Rica and Vietnam are both considered safe destinations, but pickpocketing can be a problem in both, especially in urban areas like San Jose and Ho Chi Minh City. Take common-sense precautions such as concealing cash in a money belt. In Vietnam, be especially careful when riding in a pedicab -- an alluring target for snatch-and-grab thieves.

How to Get the Best All-Inclusive Deals 
Made anxious by empty rooms, a recession-besieged industry is fighting back with inventive enticements. Before you check in, Check out our five tips for lowering your vacation bills.

1. Outsource the research to online companies. True, diligent researchers ferret out deals, but who has all that time to examine fine print and investigate resort websites? An Internet aggregator, that's who. Sites like VacationsToGo.com, ResortCompete.com, and Travelzoo.com touch base with all manner of sources daily, pinpointing the lowest prices for a host of popular resorts and cruise lines. 

2. Work the phones. Call and request a percentage off the per-day rate, an additional cheaper (or free) day, or a service you covet -- a massage, diving lessons, a cooking class -- gratis or heavily discounted. Some pointers: 1) This is more likely to work with a high-end company than with a budget hotel, which will have already trimmed the fat. 2) Ask them to match a competitor's deal. 3) See a sale that's expired? Inquire whether you can have the discount anyway. 

3. Outwit the airlines.  Isn't it irritating to see the plane ticket you purchased last week now selling for $200 less? Here's an insider tip: Many airlines will refund the difference with a voucher (keep in mind, though, that some airlines, such as Delta, slap a big fee on ticket reissues, potentially canceling out the savings). One nifty website, Yapta.com, tracks flight prices. Give them a confirmation number, and they'll alert you if the price drops and you become eligible for a refund; they'll even call the airline to get it for a small fee, if you so specify. 

4. Bring spirits and snacks. Some tour companies don't include alcohol in the package price, but a few do let guests bring their own -- often a cheaper option than buying it while you're on the tour. Likewise, the less-expensive resorts and cruise lines sometimes charge a hefty fee for snacks and other small, but vaguely necessary, items. Consider bringing your own, if it's easy to do so and makes sense; travelers who always get the munchies, for instance, will save a tidy sum by packing their own bites -- certainly more satisfying than getting hit with a bill for $7 cookies and $9 packages of mixed nuts. 

5. Make like it's 1989. Translation: Use a travel agent. Ask the local AAA office or friends and coworkers to recommend someone who specializes in the type of trip you're looking for -- and make a call (remember the telephone?) or visit their office (remember you have two feet?). With their contacts at resorts and cruise lines, and access to insider information, professionals can frequently secure surprisingly excellent deals. Not to mention they can help with your vacation budget. Howard Green of MoonRings, whose focus is honeymoons, says, "We can tell you the ballpark amount for gratuities and alcohol. By doing so, this will help you estimate the entire cost of your honeymoon before you leave."

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