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Honeymoon Havens

Ideas for romantic getaways near and far

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Your honeymoon should be a time to remember blissfully for the rest of your life, whether you have only a weekend to celebrate or can take off on a monthlong extravaganza. The main purpose is to de-stress after the preparations, anxiety and excitement that comes with planning and executing a wedding and reception and to take some special private time to revel in the love and companionship that made you commit your life to your new spouse.

Proper planning is key to a successful honeymoon, one that runs smoothly, offers up exactly what is expected and provides fun and relaxation instead of complications and headaches. Travel professionals can be a great help in setting up accommodations, and many couples find cruises, resorts and other package deals help them to budget their resources correctly while providing all the activities and comforts they desire.

Modern Bride's most recent annual survey of top honeymoon spots reveals that Hawaii currently is most popular among American newlyweds. Although it's a part of the United States, a trip to the Aloha State is like visiting a different country. Overall, it's exotically different from most U.S. locales, plus it has six islands that are stretched over 3,700 miles of the Pacific Ocean that you can visit, with each possessing a distinct personality and differing activities. On the island of Hawaii, for example, you can take a 3-mile hike and end up at a beach composed of green sand courtesy of crystals from a nearby volcano. Or while away the hours shopping, playing water sports or dining on local cuisine. Oahu offers surfing, beaches and snorkeling; Maui features hula lessons, walks among its lush rainforest greenery and beaches. Sightseeing helicopters can take you over Lanai or a volcanic crater at Kauai, which also boasts tropical beaches, waterfalls and respected golf courses.

Nature and sun lovers also like to flock to the Caribbean where beaches are king. There are a host of choices in islands here, including St. Thomas, the Bahamas (home of Harbour Island's Pink Beach, so named for the color of its sand) and Cable Beach in Nassau. These destinations have a number of resorts that offer all-inclusive packages that not only are convenient but economical.

In the South Pacific are the Tahitian Islands, where $1,000 goes a long way at the various resorts on the island of Moorea (the home of James Michener's mountain top Bali Hai) and visitors are treated to snow-white beaches and jewel-colored azure waters.

Jamaica has long been a favorite destination of honeymooners and other American tourists, with its romantic history of reggae music, rum, coffee, beaches, sunset sails and affordable accommodations. It also boasts some nine SuperClubs truly all-inclusive resorts where you don't even have to tip and are treated like royalty.

According to Cruise Lines International Association, weddings and honeymoons have increased dramatically over recent years, with some 2,000 scheduled on Carnival Cruise Lines alone. Part of the attraction is that cruises are affordable, the price includes accommodations, transportation to various ports around the world, almost limitless world-class food, and you get to visit a variety of places without having to repack your suitcase even once. Most cruises also offer a bounty of activities on the ship, such as evening shows, gaming casinos, movie theaters, swimming pools and live music, as well as sightseeing and shopping excursions in scheduled ports of call. Often the cost of these trips rings up at around $100 a day or so.

A bit pricier and more steeped in history and tradition is a transatlantic cruise on the QE2, which can be tied in to special packages that include a three-day stay at the Ritz Hotel in London, which includes theater tickets, sightseeing tours and a flight home on British Airways.

For special honeymoons closer to home, couples will find plenty to do at the upscale Beau Rivage Resort and Casino on the Mississippi Gulf Coast in Biloxi. In addition to luxurious suites and guest rooms at a AAA four-diamond hotel, Beau Rivage also offers a nightclub, a 500-seat theater that stages musical and theatrical acts from around the world, a host of international cuisine choices, and salon and spa services. There's also a marina where you can book sunset cruises, island tours or offshore deep-sea fishing trips.

Farther away, but still in the continental United States are prime honeymoon destinations such as Los Angeles and San Francisco as well as California's wine country; Las Vegas, with its neon lights, world-class floor shows and 24-hour excitement; and Miami, with its South Beach art deco district, lively beaches, nightclubs and mouthwatering Cuban- and Caribbean-inspired cuisine.

Which honeymoon is perfect for you depends on the interests you share with your new spouse, how far or long you want to travel, the time you have allotted for the getaway and, of course, your budget.

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