Best Valentine's Day Cruises

On a cruise ship romance and the sea go hand in hand. At one time public displays of affection were limited to a moonlit tryst on the promenade deck, or dancing cheek-to-cheek to the rhythms of the ship's band. Then in 1977, the American network ABC premiered the schmaltzy weekly show "The Love Boat", revolving around the antics of passengers aboard Pacific Princess who discovered the ship's miraculous power to instil romance in even the most staid of souls.

But romantically-inclined couples don't need a TV show to persuade them to seek Cupid on the ocean waves. They can have the red roses, pink Champagne and chocolates on a cruise -- and set sail on their own 'sea of lurve'.

When booking a Valentine's cruise there are several factors that will ensure you and your sweetheart have a romantic time.

The choice of destination is paramount. Tahiti, Bali or the Seychelles automatically conjure up romance, but they're a long way away and priced accordingly, so our advice is to set your sights more modestly. Mid-February is not a good time for romantic sunsets on northern seas, so if you and your true love are sun worshippers a fly/cruise is a perfect option. However, if your paramour is content in your company whether it rains or shines there's a host of options that won't turn out to be passion-killers.   

Another consideration is accommodation. Your love-nest could turn out to be less appealing if it's a pokey inside cabin with single beds. Splurge on a balcony cabin, or if you want to impress your loved one opt for a suite where your butler will chill the Champagne, serve a romantic dinner on your private balcony -- and might even cover your bed in rose petals.

Ships offer plenty of ways to woo your beau in intimate surroundings, such as quiet nooks in cocktail bars where you can canoodle, or a table for two in the corner of a speciality restaurant.  You can also book a couples pampering spa massage or sign up for a private pool-side cabana.

For romance ashore strolling hand-in-hand through charming ports like Amalfi or St Barths; and while being serenaded on a Venetian gondola might be cheesy, it's hard to beat.

Here's our selection of the 5 Best Cruise Ships to Celebrate Valentine's Day.

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Royal Clipper

Star Clippers' tall ships hark back to the "golden age of sail". The 228-passenger flagship Royal Clipper was inspired by the world-beating Preussen of 1904 and is the only five-masted sailing ship conceived since that time. The sight of the 42 sails unfurling to the accompaniment of Vangelis'  stirring "1492: The Conquest of Paradise" is impossibly romantic. So too is lying in the net slung beneath the bowsprit, looking down at dolphins gambolling in the emerald sea.

Typical itineraries include Southern Caribbean sailings, with calls in picture postcard ports such as St Kitts, Isles Des Saintes, St Lucia  and Antigua.

Shore side service on a SeaDream cruise

SeaDream II

This might not be the cheapest option, but SeaDream yachts offer romance in spades and have been the ships of choice for several A-listers seeking to escape the paparazzi for a week of unadulterated bliss. With moonlight reflecting on the Caribbean Sea, the Top of the Yacht Bar is the place for socialising at night. Aboard these boutique bateaux life's creature comforts are never far away, be it a Thai massage on deck, fine wines to accompany degustation feasts; riding the ship's jet-skis on the blissfully warm sea; or the decadent Champagne and caviar beach parties. The 112-passenger SeaDream II spends its time in the heady warmth of the Caribbean, calling at dreaming stops such as St Barts, where the ship will often spend overnight.

Crystal Esprit

Another class act is the svelte 62-passenger Crystal Esprit, which is spends its late winter sailing in the exotic Seychelles, and with its shallow draft Crystal Esprit can dock in secluded spots. The six-star service and all-inclusive lifestyle will ensure a true romantic getaway. The yacht spends Valentine's Day at Praslin, and it was here, in 1881, that Victorian General Gordon of Khartoum declared he had discovered the Garden of Eden.

Couples watching the sunset on a Hurtigruten cruise

MS Spitsbergen

How about spending Valentine's Day with the chance of a ringside seat for nature's mesmerising light show, Aurora Borealis? This is prime viewing season for the spectacular phenomenon, and there's no better option than aboard Hurtigruten's 11-strong fleet that operates a daily passenger and freight service along Norway's coastline to and from Bergen. The line isn't a typical romantic option, but with cruises visiting Alta and Tromso providing the best possible chance of seeing the northern lights in a sky devoid of any light pollution at this time of year, it's your best bet. While the daily dress code will air on the side "wear as many layers as possible to avoid frost bite," it provides a good excuse to snuggle up with your loved one while watching nature's famous light display. The 335-passenger MS Spitsbergen departs Bergen on regular round-trip voyages to the North Cape, ensuring you spend Valentine's Day cuddling up inside the Arctic Circle.

Marella Explorer 2

Marella Cruises' brand-new Explorer 2 cruise ship is adults-only -- ensuring no screaming kids to ruin your fun -- and offers a slew of romantic features such as Movies at Moonlight, a couples room in the Champneys Spa and a fun champagne bar called Flutes for date night drinking. If you really want to impress next Valentine's Day, splash out on the ship's -- and the line's -- largest suite, the Royal suite, which features a whirlpool on the balcony. The ship is spending its wintertime in the Caribbean -- hitting the gorgeous islands of Barbados, Tortola, St Maarten, Antigua, St Kitts and St Vincent and the Grenadines.