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 Cruises to Celebrate Valentine's Day.
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.
Itinerary: The seven-night Southern Caribbean itinerary, which includes calls at picture postcard St Kitts, Isles Des Saintes, St Lucia and -- on Valentine's Day -- Antigua offers the chance for some serious lotus eating.
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 overnights in chic Gustavia, capital of St Barths on Valentine's Day, with the opportunity for dinner at Pointe Milou -- a charming bistro seductively swathed in scarlet velvet.
Itinerary: The all-inclusive SeaDream II departs Charlotte Amalie, St Thomas on 11 February for a seven-night cruise taking in Anguilla, the volcanic outcrop of Saba, Nevis and the British Virgin Islands.
Another class act is the svelte 62-passenger Crystal Esprit, which is sailing in the 115 islands of the Seychelles over Valentine's Day, 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.
Itinerary: This nine-night trip from 10 February includes a night in Dubai and seven-night cruise from Victoria, capital of the Seychelles.
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. Cruises visiting Alta and Tromso provide the best possible chance of seeing the northern lights in a sky devoid of any light pollution. Warm clothing is essential -- a good excuse to snuggle up -- but many passengers don swimsuits for a refreshing dip in the hot tubs on deck. Back inside, the Norwegian Coastal Kitchen restaurant offers local specialities and the bar has an array of warming tinctures.
Itinerary: The 335-passenger MS Spitsbergen departs Bergen on a 10-night cruise to Kirkenes on 8 February ensuring you spend Valentine's Day cuddling up inside the Arctic Circle.
Thomson Cruises' season of sailings out of Dubai offer an affordable option for couples searching for Cupid's arrow at sea. The 1,264-passenger, adults-only Thomson Celebration is one of the fleet's smaller ships, with round-the-clock entertainment. The al fresco Terrace Grill is a great place to enjoy steaks cooked on hot stones, and other options for your Valentine’s Day dinner-a-deux are Asian-inspired Kora La or Mistral's with favourites such as lobster thermidor. Afterwards you can take in a revue in the Broadway Show Lounge, visit Hemingway's Bar, have a flutter in the casino -- or get an early night!
Itinerary: On the seven-night Cities of Gold fly/cruise from Dubai, departing on 8 February, you can regale yourselves in an "Arabian Nights" fantasy with pampering spa treatments and a visit to Dubai's gold souk -- for a ring perhaps? Activities include dolphin safaris, dune-buggying, sand-surfing and camel rides. On these cruises all-inclusive drinks packages are available, and there are also three-, four- and seven-night cruise-and-stay options in Dubai as well as a seven-night pre-cruise stay.