croatia with compagnie du ponantEurope’s provocateur keeps raising eyebrows with timeless attractions: ancient cities, beaches with pine rather than palm trees, a dramatic Dalmatian coast. But there’s a reason why Dubrovnik keeps stealing magazine covers from so many other destinations—it’s an eyeful. As romantic as it is expressive, the port city—a UNESCO World Heritage site—has been fawned over by everyone from Lord Byron to Agatha Christie, who, in fact, spent her own honeymoon there. Belted by protective centuries-old walls on the southernmost coast of Croatia, Dubrovnik welcomes Mediterranean sun and breezes in an otherworldly setting of medieval palaces, terra-cotta roof tiles and churches. The 12th century Cathedral of the Blessed Virgin Mary is one of the city’s top attractions and a baroque beauty holding paintings of top regional artists of another era, as well as the Dominican and Franciscan monasteries. But that’s in the Old Town—once outside the walls, clients can head to Banje Beach, rent a lounge chair and spend some time soaking in the atmosphere or splashing about on a jet ski.
Compagnie du Ponant puts together a 7-night sail along the Dalmatian Coast departing from Venice aboard Le Ponant, an intimate, 290-ft. sailing yacht with 32 outside staterooms, a library and two restaurants. An enticing plus for clients: passengers can jump off its marina platform into the sea. Blown by the Wind in Croatia includes stops in Dubrovnik and other UNESCO sites like Trogir and Sibenik, as well as Mljet and other Adriatic gems; pricing starts at $4,365 pp dbl.
bora bora with paul gauguin As part of its Romantic Escapades experience, the m/s Paul Gauguin lets couples spend a night on an overwater bungalow at the InterContinental Bora Bora Resort & Thalasso Spa. Surrounded by honest-to-goodness crystalline waters, the bungalows have large sun decks, glass-bottomed coffee tables and lots of picture windows for made-for-Hollywood views of the waters and Otemanu Mountain.
Even if couples choose not to spend the night at the resort, Bora Bora is one of the world’s most pristine show-stoppers, which is why Paul Gauguin Cruises has included it in all of its current itineraries—you can’t be in the neighborhood and not drop by. It’s so pretty, in fact, clients don’t need crazed activities to enjoy it. Instead, they can just sign up for a glass-bottomed boat tour to admire life underwater. Part of the excursion consists of a crew member diving in to feed the parrotfish and their relatives below for a frenzy of color under your feet.
On board, couples can splurge on a treatment at the Deep Nature Spa, arrange for a Polynesian blessing ceremony or get PADI certified. The ship’s watersports marina allows couples to easily hop on a kayak or windsurfer to better enjoy their port of choice—the size of the m/s Paul Gauguin allows it to travel along waters not sullied by larger ships.
Paul Gauguin Cruises’ 11-night Cook Islands & Society Islands itinerary spends two days in Bora Bora and starts at $8,595 pp dbl for an Oct. 12 departure.
the galapagos with avalon waterways A journey to these islands is almost like stepping into an open zoo, with animals not usually scampering off when they spot you. Darwin’s paradise finds visitors shocked as giant tortoises saunter by, stoic penguins ignore them and fur seals complain about one thing or another. This option is unforgettable and perfect to share with a loved one, and has turned more than one visitor into a rabid environmentalist.
Clients who choose Avalon Waterways’ Ecuador & the Galapagos fly from Quito to Baltra Island, where they board the m/v Santa Cruz, a luxurious ship with just 44 staterooms and an observation lounge where passengers can spot dolphins and whales. This particular itinerary spends six days in the Galapagos, four of them cruising the islands. First off is San Cristobal Island, Darwin’s first stop, which is rife with seabirds and two species of lizards found only on this land mass and nowhere else. Next it’s Hood Island, where sea lions meet most visitors and sea bird colonies of different species abound—it’s also a great place for snorkeling. On to Fernandina’s penguins and flightless cormorants, then to Isabela Island for a coastal exploration of its cliffs. The final Galapagos stop is Santa Cruz Island, home to those mammoth tortoises and Darwin’s finches, where clients spend two nights at the Finch Bay Eco Hotel. Here, also, they’ll be able to mountain bike in the highlands or visit the coralline beach of Tortuga Bay. Prices start at $3,379 pp dbl for the 9-day cruise.