You booked a cruise vacation to get away from it all with the love of your life…now what? From chocolate body wraps to sleeping on your own private deck, there's plenty of ways to customize your cruise that will make the entire trip about just the two of you.
If you find it tricky to seek out seclusion onboard with hundreds or thousands of other passengers, we're suggesting 10 super romantic cruise experiences that make it feel like you're the only two people on earth (land or sea).
Photo: Crystal Cruises
Request a Table for Two
Dinner for two at a swanky restaurant always makes for a perfect date night, but on a cruise ship, you usually end up sharing a table with a few other couples in the main dining room. To up the romance level, make a reservation for two at a gourmet specialty restaurant onboard.
Steakhouses (such as Holland America's Pinnacle Grill and Celebrity's Tuscan Grille), French restaurants (think Norwegian's Le Bistro) and Italian venues (Oceania's Toscana and Viking Ocean's Manfredi's) are among the top choices for intimate meals. Disney's Palo and Remy make for perfect, kids-free date nights when you need an adults-only escape on an otherwise family-focused sailing.
Photo: Norwegian Cruise Line
Retreat to the Spa for a Couple's Afternoon
Relaxation can be sensual if you're unwinding with someone special. Benefit from your cruise ship's spa offerings by enjoying a couple's massage, private spaces with saunas or hot tubs or VIP villas that let you lounge all day at your leisure.
Princess Cruises, of Love Boat fame, offers couple's treatments with a view at their outdoor adults-only Sanctuary spaces. The line's Chocolate Journeys program also includes indulgent chocolate body wraps and other cocoa-infused concoctions; we hear chocolate is a sweet aphrodisiac.
For something a little more hands-on, book a Rasul experience on a line like Cunard. These private chambers allow you and your closest companion to detox in unison as you apply various muds and let the herbal steam do the rest.
You might be surprised to learn that Disney Cruise Line also offers a lush, adult escape with its Senses Spa Villas. Enjoy an open-air balcony (with a shower), whirlpool tub and canopy bed, and even have Champagne and strawberries delivered. A tea ceremony, foot cleansing and bathing rituals are included in the price.
Photo: Disney Cruise Line
Dine on Your Balcony, Course by Course
A romantic dinner can be accomplished with a two-top at a specialty restaurant, but sometimes you'd prefer to toast each other in private. On several cruise lines, you can treat yourself to a gourmet multicourse meal without leaving the comfort of your cabin. Many luxury lines, like Crystal and Regent, will serve you and your spouse a full feast from the main restaurant menu, in courses, to your private balcony (or in-suite dining table), free of charge.
This feature can also be found, for a fee, as Ultimate Balcony Dining on Princess Cruises. Order a full Champagne breakfast on your veranda to accompany you as you pull into a striking new port, or a lavish dinner at sea with cocktails included.
Photo: Princess Cruises
Treat Yourself to a Special Celebration
Whether you're celebrating a milestone in your lives together or you simply want an excuse to make a fuss, organizing a special event on your cruise can mark any occasion as memorable. Almost any cruise line sells romance packages that include everything from sparkling wine and chocolate-covered strawberries to roses and canapes, delivered to your stateroom. Cake, flowers and bubbles certainly add flair to any celebration, so consider infusing them into your quiet night in.
Or, for a bit more of a statement, book a ceremony to renew vows (or even get married) during your cruise. Princess Cruises even offers an engagement package if you want to propose during your vacation. It comes with the services of a videographer to document the big moment, Champagne and roses for just after and dinner for two in a specialty restaurant and a couples massage to celebrate.
Photo: Royal Caribbean
Camp Out in a Cabana or Remote Corner of the Sun Deck
To book your own onboard retreat, check if your line offers a sun deck with limited access. Vibe Beach Club onboard Norwegian will pamper you with fruit skewers and Evian misters, for a fee. Cuddle up on padded loungers or daybeds, or pony up even more for private cocoon-like cabanas within the private retreat.
Looking for a hideaway day or night? Celebrity Cruises' Lawn Club's Alcoves, found on Celebrity Solstice, Reflection and Silhouette, offer shade and picnics by day, and stargazing and drinks by night. It's perfect for a 12-hour marathon date.
If you find yourself onboard Seabourn Encore or Ovation, take a trip to its Retreat space with 15 private cabanas designed as "luxury living rooms." Each features a sofa, comfy lounge chairs, a TV, special lunch menu, Champagne and use of a shared hot tub. You can have one to yourself for $350 per day, so make sure it's a truly special occasion.
Photo: Celebrity Cruises
Share a Soak in Your Own Private Outdoor Hot Tub
Nothing kills the mood more than putting on your bathing suits, getting ready for a laid-back evening soak in a cruise ship hot tub and finding them packed to the gills. Booking a room with its own tub solves this problem nicely. A notch above a large whirlpool tub in your cabin bathroom is your own private outdoor hot tub on your balcony.
Look for these rare finds in Holland America's Pinnacle suites, Celebrity's Royal Suites and the Owner's Suites on Oceania Cruises' Riviera and Marina. The perks are many -- from nearby access to another gin and tonic, a robe, the bathroom or even your own flat-screen TV -- to taking a dip, clothing optional.
Photo: Holland America Line
Sleep Under the Stars (in Total Luxury)
Take full advantage of being out among the open ocean with a night's sleep outside. SeaDream Yacht Club offers a Balinese Dream Bed experience, which promises a soothing evening under the heavens, wrapped up with your favorite person (and Belgian bed linens).
Azamara Club Cruises takes the idea a few steps further with its Nights in Private Places offering. While it doesn't come cheap, this unforgettable evening includes a personal butler, open bar and dinner for two on your own private spa deck with a pool. When you've soaked and sipped to your hearts' content, retire to your luxury bed under the night's sky. The entire space is secluded, so no need to worry about nosy onlookers ruining your after-hours romance.
Photo: SeaDream Yacht Club
Take Date Night to New Heights in an Exotic Destination
Date night gets amped up when you've got VIP invitations to exclusive events in some of the world's most dazzling destinations. Azamara offers one included nighttime event called an AzAmazing Evening on every cruise. Listen to a piano concert inside a 17th-century church in Colombia or attend a Thai festival in Bangkok, among other experiences.
If a nighttime excursion isn't offered on your cruise or in a certain port but your ship is docked overnight, then organize your own evening. Ask your onboard concierge or shore excursion staff for restaurant and entertainment recommendations, then arrange reservations and head out into the enthralling streets of a new city.
Photo: Azamara Club Cruises
Enjoy the Nightlife Together
Whether it's as simple as a round of mini-golf and ice cream or as fancy as cocktails and a show, date night takes on a different feeling when you're on a cruise ship. From live music to comedy shows, dancing till dawn or catching a flick, cruise lines have plenty of entertainment options to suit every couple's tastes.
For an extra-special take on the staple movie date, try catching a film under the stars on your ship's pool deck. Films play at night in Viking Ocean Cruises' solarium pool area, and you can watch from the warm waters of a hot tub or bundled up on comfy lounge chairs. Outdoor movies, some including popcorn and blankets, are offered across many lines like Princess and Carnival.
The nightlife scene and Broadway-style entertainment of Norwegian Cruise Line also makes it a fun choice for young couples looking for a night out. Grab a mojito from the Sugarcane bar and then head to the theater for a lively performance of Broadway-quality shows, such as "Million Dollar Quartet," "Rock of Ages" or "After Midnight" (and tickets are free of charge). Royal Caribbean also includes at-sea renditions of Broadway shows (such as "Grease," "Hairspray" and "Mamma Mia") in its fares on select ships.
Photo: Norwegian Cruise Line
Watch the Sun Rise or Set
Watching the sun rise out of or set into a seemingly endless stretch of sea while you cuddle up to your loved one is among life's most romantic moments. Spend a quiet morning out on your balcony, watching the sunrise hand-in-hand; you can even enjoy breakfast overlooking the sea -- and yes, it's OK to drink mimosas at dawn.
If wake-up calls really kill your mood, try a sunset stroll on an upper deck or search for the green flash over Champagne on your veranda. It's not every day you can greet or bid farewell to the day with a beautiful vista and your sweetie at your side -- so take advantage on your next sailing.
Like any vacation, cruising can come with good and bad surprises. Finding out your favorite specialty restaurant is bargain-priced for lunch or that spa treatments are discounted on port days might make you feel like you've discovered buried treasure. On the flipside, realizing you have to pay a $15 corkage fee to drink the wine you brought onboard or that the room service you ordered is saddled with a surcharge can be a real letdown. Despite the "all inclusive" lingo commonly used to describe cruises, all lines have "hidden" cruise fees. Additionally, each cruise line has its own policy when it comes to tipping, room service and more. Ordering bacon and eggs from your cabin might be free on one cruise line, but cost you on another. If you're under the impression something is included, having to pay can put a damper on your worry-free vacation mood and potentially leave your budget in a bind. So how do you prepare for fees that aren't as obvious? Here are 13 cruise fees that might take you by surprise.