Is a Honeymoon Cruise a Good Idea?

I have a confession to make.  Okay, deep breath, here we go.

I don’t hate cruises.

This may be even more shocking than when I wrote about why I used a travel agent to help me plan my honeymoon, but it’s true.  Did I want to go on a cruise for my own honeymoon?  No, but I can definitely see why people would choose to go that route.

Cruise Ships

1) Cruises are a stress-free way to see many destinations on one trip.  Whether you want to check out a variety of Caribbean islands or multiple ports around the Mediterranean, you won’t have to worry about transportation between each place.  No delayed flights, smelly trains, or confusing roadmaps to dampen your honeymoon!

2) All-You-Can-Eat and midnight buffets.  I don’t know about you, but I was ready to chow down once my wedding was over.  So not only can you eat a ton on cruise ships, picky eaters or people on special diets don’t have to worry about what they are eating while they’re in foreign countries.*

3) It’s pretty impossible to get bored on a cruise ship these days.  Between the rock climbing walls, the spa, the shows, the ice skating rink, etc., your days at sea can be as active or relaxing as you’d like.

Even though there are a lot of good reasons to cruise, there certainly are some turn-offs as well.  You can’t be flexible about your itinerary, cruise ship cabins can be comically small, and some cruises have strict seating assignments and meal times.  Despite the monstrous size of cruise ships these days, some people feel claustrophobic nonetheless.

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Real Honeymoon: Germany, Croatia & Hungary

One of the best parts about starting this blog is hearing about my friends’ friends’ honeymoons.  Although I haven’t met Jamie before, I’m so glad she shared the details of her amazing European honeymoon with one of our mutual friends.  Thanks for contributing, Jamie!

When and where did you honeymoon?

Sept 2011 – Oct 2011 (3 weeks)

Munich, Germany (Oktoberfest) 3 nights

– Croatia 12 nights total:

  • Dubrovnik 4 nights
  •  Hvar 4 nights + Plitvice Lakes/National Park (Day Trip)
  • Rovinj 4 nights

Budapest, Hungary 3 nights

Oktoberfest

How long was your trip?

3 weeks

How did you decide on your honeymoon destination(s)?

We knew we wanted to go to Europe for our honeymoon. We quickly discovered that our honeymoon would fall during Oktoberfest. We decided to take a direct flight to Munich from SF International airport and start our honeymoon with a party.

Next we decided to travel to Croatia for a little R&R. We stayed in three different cities and rented a car between cities to get from one place to the next.

Finally we decided to end in Budapest; we had heard great things about the city.  It ended up being one of our favorite cities on the trip.

Budapest

The best part about our honeymoon was…

Experiencing so many new things with my new husband as both he and I had never been to those locations before.  We have some great pictures of the two of us in our Oktoberfest costumes, that was pretty unforgettable. Other great memories: Buza 1 and 2 in Dubrovnik, Plivice Lakes/National Park, beach of Hvar, Truffle hunting in Rovinj, Beef Goulash in Budapest, European history of Budapest.

If I knew then what I know now, I’d change…

Spending one or two less days in Dubrovnik, the city was amazing, but the people were not that warm and the food was our least favorite out of all our destinations.  Make sure you get to Rovinj before the tourist day ferry to Venice stops (we missed it by one day). Go wine tasting just outside Budapest, we ran out of time for that trip.

Croatia

How much planning did you do in advance?

We had our flights and our hotels booked before we left. We studied our Lonely Planet guides on our way to the next destination. We rented cars with the help of our hotels once we arrived.  It was difficult to plan a wedding and really plan a honeymoon.

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My Top 10 Australian Beaches

When I composed my list of top 10 beaches for serious beach bums a few weeks ago, I realized that I was having a hard time narrowing down the best beaches in Australia alone.  I decided to include only two beaches on that list because it would only be right to dedicate a separate blog post entirely to the best beaches Down Under.  So without further ado, behold the 10 best beaches that I visited during my six months in Australia:

1) Whitehaven Beach

Whitehaven Beach

Whitehaven Beach via Damien Dempsey

Look familiar?  Not only is Whitehaven Beach my favorite beach in Australia, it is also my favorite beach of all time.  Sailing around the Whitsunday Islands was one of the best things I did during my time in Australia, so don’t miss out!

2) Lake Mckenzie

Lake Mckenzie, Fraser Island

Lake Mckenzie Beach via Sensenmann

This is the other beach that made my all-time top 10 list.  Lake Mckenzie is on Fraser Island, an all-sand island just off the coast of Hervey Bay.  The whiteness of the sand combined with the incredible colors of the lake is absolutely unreal. If you want to rough it, rent a 4WD on the mainland and then camp out on the island for a few days.

3) Coogee Beach

Coogee Beach

Coogee Beach via Mynameisben123

Alright, I’m definitely biased on this one.  My house was just blocks away from Coogeee Beach, so how could it not make it to the top of my list?  Prejudices aside, Coogee Beach is great because the sand is soft, shark nets allow swimmers to enter the bright blue water without fear, there are great little restaurants along the shore (I highly recommend A Fish Called Coogee, and when you’re done sunbathing and ready for a cold beer, the CBH Beer Garden is just across the street.

4) Bondi Beach

Bondi Beach

Bondi Beach via stealthtractor

Arguably one of the most famous beaches in Australia, Bondi Beach has it all.  Although it can get quite crowded on summer weekends, it’s a wonderful place to surf or sunbathe on weekdays.

5) Byron Bay

Byron Bay

Byron Bay via Bigbewo

Just a short plane flight from Sydney, Byron Bay is the perfect destination for a short getaway.  The long beaches are great for surfers and kayakers, just watch out for the jellyfish (a.k.a. blue-bottles).  Make sure to hike up to the Byron lighthouse, too.

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Real Honeymoon: Greece & Turkey

Last week I published Jennie and Chris’ Napa mini-moon post, and this week we have all of the details on their longer European honeymoon in Greece and Turkey!

When and where did you honeymoon?

Greece and Turkey in May/June 2012. We went to Athens, Santorini, Ephesus, and Istanbul.

Turkey & Greece

How long was your trip?

2 weeks.

How did you decide on your honeymoon destination(s)?

We’d heard great things about Greece and Turkey, and we wanted to take advantage of living a bit closer to Europe (we were living in DC at the time but live in California now).

Greece

The best part about our honeymoon was…

Spending a lot of time reading and laying in the sun in Santorini. We stayed at a great little hotel overlooking the caldera, and it had nice beach chairs right outside our room, on a balcony with a gorgeous view.

If I knew then what I know now, I’d change…

I’d spend maybe one less day in Istanbul. It is a really cool city, but six days was one day too many. We just got tired of sightseeing and walking around a city.

Turkey & Greece

How much planning did you do in advance?

We booked hotels, flights, and ferries in advance. We also booked a nice dinner in Istanbul for our first wedding anniversary. Otherwise, we planned everything else once we arrived.

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Honeymoon Destination Recommendations For… Serious Beach Bums

You know how the surfers in the Endless Summer movies spent their days searching for the perfect wave?  Well, I wish I had more time to travel the globe in search of the perfect beach.

Fortunately, I’ve already visited some pretty spectacular beaches over the past 28 years, so I am going to share with you a list of some of my favorites*.  Hopefully the list will help the beach bums out there decide where to go on your honeymoon:

1) Whitehaven Beach, Whitsunday Islands, Australia

Whitehaven Beach

Whitehaven Beach via Damien Dempsey

Ladies and gentlemen, I present to you Whitehaven Beach.  Located in the Whitsunday Islands (which is FULL of incredible beaches), Whitehaven is quite aptly named because it has the softest, whitest sand that I’ve ever seen in the world.  My friends and I were told that brushing our teeth with the sand acts as a whitener, but in retrospect that probably wasn’t the best idea for us to do.  That aside, it is the most spectacular beach I’ve ever seen.

2) Cap Juluca, Anguilla

Cap Juluca

Cap Juluca via Tiarescott

Popular with celebrities like Courteney Cox and Jennifer Aniston, the pristine beach at the Cap Juluca resort makes it a quintessential honeymoon destination.  It’s also just a short boat ride away from nearby St. Maarten, so you can just check it out for a day if you don’t want to stay at the resort.  Okay, okay, I know we all WANT to stay there, but it’s just really expensive, that’s all.

3) Playa Cristal, Colombia

I was blown away by Playa Cristal because of the clearness of the water and the beautiful backdrop of the lush jungle.  You can hire a boat in Taganga to take you to the beach.  Unfortunately I couldn’t bring a camera with me to the beach because our next stop was Playa Brava where we actually swam to shore, slept on the beach overnight, then hiked out of Parque Tayrona the next day and hitched a ride back to Santa Marta, so bringing electronics along was a no-no.  You’ll just have to trust me that the beach was so wonderful that it made my list of top 3 beaches in the world.

4) Playa Blanca, Colombia

Playa Blanca

Playa Blanca, land of magical beagle puppies

Yes, yes, another Colombian beach.  I don’t know if I’ve expressed how much my husband and I love Colombia yet on the blog, but we highly recommend going there if you love beaches, friendly people, and good food.  You can reach Playa Blanca from Cartagena in one of two ways: hire a private boat down by the fish market (just hold your nose while you’re there – it really stinks), or sign up for an “organized” day tour.  It seems like the organized day tour is less than ideal though because it only brings you to the crowded part of the beach, so go with the private boat for a more relaxing experience.

For honeymooners who want to rough it, you can spend the night in hammocks at Hugo’s.  My husband and I thought it was the greatest place ever because 1) it was BEAUTIFUL, 2) it was the first time we slept in hammocks during that trip so the novelty made it fun and not back-breaking yet, and 3) we woke up in the morning to a litter of beagle puppies that were born overnight.  Beagle.  Puppies.  In.  Paradise.  Probably one of the best days of my life.

5) Lake Mckenzie, Fraser Island, Australia

Lake Mckenzie Beach via Sensenmann

The colors of Lake Mckenzie look totally fake, but I assure you, this is really, really what the lake looks like.

6) Lanikai, Oahu, Hawaii

Lanikai

Lanikai Beach via Cristo Vlahos

A friend of mine who was living in Honolulu at the time took my husband and me to Lanikai, a beautiful beach that isn’t terribly overcrowded with tourists.  Do yourself a favor and pick up some Leonard’s malasadas to eat when you get to the beach.  A perfect combination.

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Real Mini-moon: Napa

I’m excited that today we have Peonies to Palm Trees‘ first ever real MINI-moon blog post!  More on mini-moons in general later on, but check out Jennie and Chris’ quick trip to Wine Country below.  And then next Monday, make sure to come back and read all about their longer European honeymoon, too.

When and where did you honeymoon?

Napa in June 2011. We stayed at the Napa Valley Lodge in Yountville, which I would highly recommend.

How long was your trip?

3 days.

Yountville

How did you decide on your honeymoon destination(s)?

We wanted to go somewhere close to our wedding location (Santa Cruz) since we only had a few days available for our mini-moon. And we love wine and good food, so Yountville was the perfect place to go to enjoy both.

The best part about our honeymoon was…

Staying in a hotel that was walking distance from so many fabulous restaurants. It meant we got to go on some nice walks, we didn’t have to drive to all our meals, and we didn’t have to spend lots of money on cabs.

Napa

If I knew then what I know now, I’d change…

I’d eat a little less of each course at French Laundry so I didn’t get too full by the time the meat courses arrived. They give you a ton of food, so unless you have a huge appetite, I’d suggest eating a portion of every serving and taking the rest to go so you can enjoy all of it without feeling too full.

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Quick Tip #6: Make Reservations Under Your Maiden Name

If you’re:

a) planning on changing your last name, and

b) going on your honeymoon less than 4 months after your wedding,

MAKE YOUR HONEYMOON FLIGHT RESERVATIONS UNDER YOUR MAIDEN NAME!!!

boarding pass

The name change process is time-consuming and complicated, and you can’t fly anywhere under your married name unless you have the proper documentation.  First you need to get your marriage license, then you need to change social security, then you’ll have to get a new drivers license/passport, etc… it basically takes forever.  I know you’re probably all giddy about being Mr. and Mrs. So-and-so, but just do yourself a favor and use your maiden name.

As for hotel recommendations, some say that hotels will discriminate against couples if they think you’re you’re unmarried.  Personally, I “traveled in sin” for years and have never experienced anything like that.

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Honeymoon Destination Recommendations For… Party Animals!

Not everyone has the same thoughts in mind when they think about a “perfect honeymoon.”  For some couples, the ideal honeymoon means relaxing on a beach with cocktails in hand.  Other couples prefer to go somewhere with plenty of sightseeing options.  And some couples, you’ll know who you are, just want to party their pants off.  In this installment of my “Where To Go” series of posts, I’ll share my top 3 honeymoon destinations for party animals.

1) Ibiza, Spain

Ibiza

Ibiza, Spain

Ibiza may be naturally gorgeous, but I think the Spanish island is most famous for its unparalleled club scene.  I haven’t been there myself, but friends of mine who have gone there recently raved about the fresh seafood, indulgent spas, and breathtaking hotels on the island.  But of course, the real draw is the nightlife.  Ibiza Spotlight has a great informational page for Ibiza Virgins that is helpful for navigating the club scene and buying advance tickets.

Ibiza is just a 50 minute flight from Barcelona, and I definitely recommend spending a few days there either on your way to or from the island.  Barcelona also has a surprisingly good man-made beach that was created for the 1992 Olympics, so you can split your days between sightseeing and sunbathing.

2) Koh Pha Ngan, Thailand

Full Moon Party drink buckets via A.Haldun ONUK

Full Moon Party drink buckets via A.Haldun ONUK

You’ve probably heard about Full Moon Parties before, but did you know that they originated on the small island of Koh Pha Ngan in Thailand?  There are plenty of imitation parties now throughout Southeast Asia (and “Half Moon Parties” too), but nothing compares to the original.

These parties occur once a month (duh), so either make hotel reservations in advance or plan on arriving to the island a few days before the party in order to arrange your lodging.  Some people even take the ferry over from one of the neighboring islands like Koh Samui or Koh Tao just for the night of the party, but believe me, you won’t feel like getting on a ferry too soon afterward.

Full Moon Party dos and don’ts:

Do: use common sense, buy yourself a drink bucket or two, and check out the ladyboys.  (Yes, those hot Thai ladies are probably not women after all.)

Don’t: accept food or drinks from strangers, bring too much cash or any valuables with you, or wear nice clothing.  Someone is bound to spill drinks or rub body paint on you at some point during the night.

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Real Honeymoon: Kauai

Liz and Pat are one of the busiest couples that I know, so they really wanted their honeymoon to be a chill vacation.  Read about their relaxing Hawaiian honeymoon below:

When and where did you honeymoon?  

Kauai [August 2012]

How long was your trip?  

10 nights

How did you decide on your honeymoon destination(s)?  

Pat had never been to Kauai and I hadn’t been since I was in 1st grade.  I always vacationed there when I was young so it was really special to me.  We wanted the most relaxed atmosphere so Kauai was a clear choice of all the islands. We had gotten engaged in Italy last year so we wanted to change it up and go somewhere tropical and relaxing and just spend time together.

The best part about our honeymoon was…  

Waking up and drinking mimosas on our patio and playing cards every morning.  To spend time like that is almost impossible when we are both working so much and it was just a time I will never forget.

If I knew then what I know now, I’d change…

Nothing :)

How much planning did you do in advance?  

[The trip] was very easy to plan. Booked hotel early and everything else was very easy to book while we were there.  Great location choice for busy people who don’t have time to do a bunch of planning in advance.

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Delaying Your Honeymoon? Travel in January!

A lot of people choose not to go on their honeymoons directly after their weddings for a variety of reasons. As I wrote in a previous blog post about timing your honeymoon, I think it’s really important for a couple to consider where they want to go, what their work/school situation is like, how they want others to treat their honeymoon, and their finances.

Ko Olina, Oahu

Sunset at Ko Olina, Oahu

So if you do want to delay your honeymoon, when is the best month to travel?  That, of course, depends on where you’d like to go.  There are certain places that have great weather all year (e.g. Hawaii), but obviously the major European destinations like Italy and Greece are going to be quite cold.  Beach Tomato’s “Follow The Sun” map is an awesome tool for finding sunny destinations all year round.

Financially speaking though, January is a great month for traveling.  Prices are usually at all-time highs around the December holidays, but they drop dramatically after January 1st once kids go back to school.  And for spontaneous couples that don’t need a lot of time to plan ahead, you can get really great travel deals if you actually book your January trip at the last minute.

What are my favorite January destinations?  If you’re looking for warm weather, it’s a great month to visit the Southern Hemisphere, and I especially recommend going to Australia, New Zealand, or Argentina.  I’d also looove to visit South Africa in January one day, too.

But if getting a tan isn’t high on your honeymoon priority list, January is also the perfect time to visit world-class ski resorts throughout the U.S., Canada, and Switzerland.