You booked a cruise holiday 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 customise 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
Spend the Day on a Private Island
Feeling like you have a tiny corner of a bistro to yourself can be romantic, so imagine the air of exclusivity when you and your loved one spend the afternoon with an entire island at your disposal. Many cruise lines have their own private islands, but a few are better for couples looking to avoid families crowding the beach.
For a dreamy South Pacific sanctuary, we recommend Paul Gauguin Cruises' Motu Mahana off Taha'a or a private beach in Bora Bora. Snorkel, sunbathe or walk the shoreline hand in hand while the pristine beauty of French Polynesia surrounds you. Afterward, sip libations from a coconut, go for a massage in an overwater bungalow and prepare yourself for an impressive barbecue.
MSC Cruises' Sir Bani Yas is another exotic island, southwest of Abu Dhabi. Embark on a safari through the island's nature reserve, with species from the continents of Africa and Asia, and make it back in time to dance the night away at an energetic beach party.
Photo: Paul Gauguin Cruises
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, and even 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 space. 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, rent a rasul on select Royal Caribbean ships. 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 cosy candlelit dinner can be accomplished with a two-top in the main dining room if you and your partner don't mind tuning out with the masses. But the idea of toasting to each other, in a crowd, isn't always that appealing. Instead, 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 any venue onboard, in courses, to your private balcony, 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, organising a special event on your cruise can mark any occasion as memorable. Almost any cruise line sells romance packages 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. Cruise lines like Princess and Royal Caribbean also offer proposal packages if you want to get engaged during your holiday. Royal Caribbean's Royal Proposals package ensures a private location and comes with the services of an event coordinator and a photographer.
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 day beds, 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 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, take a trip to its Retreat space with 15 private cabanas designed as "luxury living rooms." 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 Penthouse Veranda suites, Royal Suites on select Celebrity ships 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 alfresco. SeaDream Yacht Club offers a Balinese Dream bed experience, which promises a soothing evening under the heavens, wrapped up with your favourite 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 cheaply, 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 night time 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. Windstar Cruises also offers special activities, some of which take place at night. Live out your Bond fantasy on an excursion called "Lifestyles of the Glitterati" as you arrive at Monte Carlo's Grand Casino for dessert, Champagne and a private reception.
If a night time excursion isn't offered on your cruise or in a certain port but your ship is docked overnight, then organise 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
Blend Your Own Bottle of Wine (Then Drink It)
Ordering a fine vintage can be a thrill, but why not customise a blend as unique as your love? On MSC Divina, couples can learn about and create their own bottle of vino with Blend Craft's Winery at Sea program. Mix it up until you have the perfect combination and then give it your own meaningful label.
Wine-blending on Holland America's Koningsdam is also offered, through Washington's Chateau Ste. Michelle. Blend is an entire space dedicated to blending wine. Once your bottles are finished, save one as a souvenir to open on a later anniversary and enjoy the other over a special meal onboard.
(If you and your significant other aren't oenophiles, consider a beer tasting to get the love buzz going.)
Photo: Minerva Studio/Shutterstock.com
Spend a Night Out Onboard
Dinner and a movie or a round of mini-golf and ice cream take on a different feeling when you're on a cruise ship. The most simple date-night ideas become even more romantic as you're sailing toward your next destination arm in arm. After a meal at Manfredi's, one of Cruise Critic's favourite restaurants at sea, consider stopping by Viking Ocean Cruises' solarium pool area. Films play here at night and watching it from the warm waters of a hot tub beats the theaters at home. If you're starting to get pruny, bundle up on the comfy lounge chairs and snuggle for the rest of the movie. 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 "Million Dollar Quartet." Dinner (from the main dining room) and a Broadway-quality show, like "Rock of Ages" or "After Midnight," is included in your cruise fare.
Photo: Norwegian Cruise Line
The moment you step aboard a luxury cruise ship, a hostess is at your arm proffering a glass of bubbly while a capable room steward offers to heft your carry-on as he escorts you to what will be your home-away-from-home for the next few days. You stow your things (likely in a walk-in closet) and then emerge from your suite to get the lay of the ship. As you walk the decks, friendly crew members greet you ... by name. How can that be? You just set foot onboard! First-class, personalised service is just one of the hallmarks of luxury cruise lines. You can also expect exotic itineraries, varying degrees of inclusivity in pricing, fine wines and gourmet cuisine as well as universally high crew-to-passenger ratios. That being the case, you might think any old luxury cruise ship will do, but that's not quite true. Like people, cruise ships have their own unique personalities -- and some will be more suited to your holiday style than others. Lines like SeaDream might not offer the most spacious suites, but their intimate yachts can stealthily visit ports that large ships can't manage. Regent Seven Seas and Oceania Cruises are owned by the same parent company but Regent offers a completely inclusive holiday experience, while Oceania draws travellers with a more independent streak. Take a look at Cruise Critic's list of best luxury cruise lines and ships to see which one resonates with you.