By Jay Clarke
Knight Ridder Newspapers
Plenty of hotels are ready to conspire with Valentine Day lovers to make their weekend tryst a memorable one. They'll ply them with aphrodisiac nibbles, pamper them with sensuous spa treatments, tempt them with bedside champagne and chocolates, love potions and other indulgences they don't enjoy at home.
Maybe that's what prompted Britney Spears to get married earlier this month during a romantic weekend getaway with friend Jason Alexander in Las Vegas.
No need to follow the pop star down the aisle, though - nor have to file for annulment the same day, as she did. Just put your regular-day cares aside on Feb. 14 and spring for a loving weekend. After all, what better time of year is there to give in to love than on a day long devoted to love?
Here is an assortment of lodging packages that will put romance into this very special weekend. All are subject to availability.
Coconut Grove: Right in the heart of the action in Miami's bustling Coconut Grove, the Sonesta Hotel greets Romantic Rendezvous guests with a welcome cocktail, champagne and strawberries. The package includes daily breakfast, a candlelit dinner for two at the hotel's restaurant and one afternoon's admission to the Beach Club at the Sonesta resort on Key Biscayne. Price is $249 per night. 305-529-2828, www.sonesta.com/coconutgrove.
Palm Beach: Red Carnation's eight upscale hotels worldwide - including the Chesterfield in Palm Beach - are offering a two-night Food of Love package over Valentine's Day with several intriguing features, including a disposable camera the hotel group says is provided "for your misuse." Also in the package: Two nights' lodging, a bottle of champagne, chocolate truffles and flowers in room on arrival, three-course aphrodisiac candlelit dinner in room, heart-shaped frame for your favorite photo, liqueurs left on bedside table, three-course lunch with wine, in-room massage spa treatments and full breakfast in room or in restaurant.
Cost at the Chesterfield begins at $684 plus tax; 561-659-5800. For other properties (five in London, one in South Africa and one in Switzerland) call 877-955-1515 and ask for the Food of Love package. www.redcarnationhotels.com.
Downtown Miami: The five-star Mandarin Oriental Hotel orchestrates a Fantastic Valentine's Package that includes two nights' lodging, full American breakfast in bed daily (or in Cafe Sambal with mimosas), a bottle of Laurent-Perrier Rose champagne, chocolate-covered strawberries and a dozen red roses in room, plus a 50-minute full body massage with aromatherapy oils for two. Cost is $1,222 per couple plus tax. 305-913-8288, www.mandarinoriental.com.
Love at sea: Ever since the "Love Boat" television series entered our lives, cruises have taken on a romantic aura. With Valentine's Day falling on a Saturday, many a loving couple will board a cruise ship for romance at sea. Two weekend cruises are available out of Miami. Both depart Friday, Feb. 13 for three nights, calling at the Bahamas: Fares on Royal Caribbean's Majesty of the Seas start at $429 per person, double; fares on Carnival's Fascination at $329. Prices are subject to frequent change. Royal Caribbean, 800-327-6700, www.rccl.com. Carnival, 800-327-9501, www.carnival.com.
Miami Beach: Pets need loving, too, so Loews Hotels has put together its second annual Puppy Love package for Valentine's Day. A special one-night treat for your pet (along with you and your beloved, of course) includes pet amenities, a free in-room movie and dinner for two in the hotel restaurant with a special doggie bag for leftovers.
Price at Loews Miami Beach is $475, but the package is available at all 19 other Loews hotels in the United States, with rates running from $175 to $510. 305-604-1601 (Miami Beach) or 800-23-LOEWS, www.loewshotels.com.
Butler in Charlottesville, Va.: Atop a hill in Charlottesville, home of Thomas Jefferson's Monticello and of the University of Virginia, the 48-room Keswick Hall provides a "love butler" to tend to a couple's needs during their romantic getaway. In addition to supplying them with such items as aromatherapy bath oils and a volume of classic erotic stories, the love butler can help arrange other pampering pleasures. The 1912 inn, selected by "Good Morning America" as one of the nation's most romantic hideaways, offers a romance package that includes one night's lodging, afternoon tea for two and a gourmet five-course dinner for $395. 800-274-5391, www.keswick.com.
Capital chef: Washington's great museums and its shrines of political power make it a wonderful place to visit, and the Hotel Monaco will spice up your stay with its romance package. Award-winning chef Jay Comfort will cook an in-room candlelit dinner for you and your mate on Valentine's Day while you listen to a keepsake Frank Sinatra CD. Afterward, you can top off the evening soaking in an oversize spa tub sprinkled with gardenias and Dead Sea salts. Cost is $850. 202-628-7177, www.monaco-dc.com.
Core of Big Apple: You won't find chocolate-covered strawberries on your pillow at Apple Core's five New York City hotels, but with the money you save booking the group's special Valentine's Day weekend rate of $99 per night, you can devise your own Big Apple romantic frills. Splurge for dinner at a fine restaurant, take your beloved to a top Broadway production and cap the evening with a cognac in a midtown lounge. A two-night minimum stay is required. 800-567-7720, www.applecorehotels.com.
Snow and spa: Vermont's largest spa, the brand-new Spa at Stoweflake in Stowe, tempts with a two-night Cupid's Spa Romance package over Valentine's day beginning at $800 per couple. Included are to 50-minute spa treatments, full breakfast and dinner daily, a bottle of champagne with keepsake glasses and an amenities package. Area activities include skiing, sleigh rides and dog sledding. 800-253-2232, www.stoweflake.com.
MIDWEST, WEST U.S.
Sex lessons: Take a break over Valentine's Day to brush up your bedroom skills with sex expert Lana Holstein, M.D., and her husband David Taylor, M.D. They will conduct their first four-day Partners, Pleasure and Passion couples retreat Feb. 11-15 at the Miraval Resort and Spa in Catalina, Ariz. You'll learn about the seven essential dimensions of sexuality - and the homework assignments are the best.
Included are three gourmet meals daily, access to all resort programs and activities (yoga, hiking, horseback riding), one daily spa service per person each night of stay and airport transfers from Tucson airport. Cost is $5,985 per couple. 800-232-3969 or www.miravalresort.com.
Bay Area romance: If you left your heart in San Francisco, you can get it back over Valentine's Day with a stay at a Bay Area hotel. While exploring one of the most romantic cities in America, you'll be treated to a bottle of champagne, chocolates, rose petals and bubble bath as part of the hotel's Romance package at the Serrano Hotel. Cost is $299 per night. 866-289-6561, www.serranohotel.com.
At the Pan Pacific Hotel close to Union Square, the new Celebrate Romance package starts at $299 and includes a dozen roses, champagne and chocolate-dipped strawberries. The hotel also offers complimentary luxury car service. 415-771-8600, www.sanfrancisco.panpacific.com.
Winter warmup: Chicago in February can be bone-chilling, but the Lenox Suites Hotel offers to warm up guests with its Light Nights and Warm Hearts package. For $135 per weekend night through Feb. 28, the hotel provides a queen studio suite with full kitchen, in-suite breakfast, two tickets to the Adler Planetarium, hot chocolate, truffles and long-stem rose on check-in. The hotel is just a block from Michigan Avenue's elegant shops. 312-337-1000, 800-44-LENOX, www.lenoxsuites.com.
Ranch chic: If expense means nothing and you'd like to celebrate Valentine's Day with a few dozen of your closest friends, treat them to a ranch stay in chic Santa Barbara, Calif. Deep in wine country, the 10,000-acre Alisal Guest Ranch is yours for $38,000 a day. Guests can bed down in the ranch's 73 deluxe cottages and suites, go riding from the 100-quarterhorse equestrian center, play on an 18-hole golf course and dine on dishes prepared by resident French chef Pascal Gode. 800-425-4725, www.alisal.com.
Hammocks and wine: Two hours from Miami, the Hacienda Xcanatun in Mexico's Yucatan Peninsula tempts with a four-night Valentine's Extravaganza package in a restored 18th-century manor surrounded by nine acres of gardens. The deal includes a garden-view suite with hammocks on its private terrace, a bottle of wine, massages for two, a candlelit dinner, daily breakfast in suite and round-trip airport transfers to/from the Merida airport. Cost is $1,550 per couple. (Air not included.) 888-883-3633, www.xcanatun.com.
L'amour: Few places are more romantic than Paris. Imagine strolling hand in hand on the Champs Elysees, exploring the winding passages of Montmartre, taking a romantic evening cruise on the Seine River. It's all possible on a weekend getaway to the City of Light, and you can make it even more romantic with the Hotel Bel-Ami's Loves Me, Loves Me Not Valentine's Day package. The deal includes lodging, daily breakfast, champagne and red roses in room. You can arrive on Feb. 13 or 14 and must stay for at least two nights. Cost is 260 euros (about $333) per night. (Air not included.) (011-33-1) 42-61-53-53, www.hotel-bel-ami.com.
© 2004, The Miami Herald.
Distributed by Knight Ridder/Tribune Information Services.