Happy February, the month to celebrate love — romantic, platonic, and family love! And if you love travel, why not give the gift of travel to those you love, and enjoy the present together — the planning, experiencing and remembering?
It's rumored that, long ago mid-February was a time when birds selected their mates, and fertility ceremonies rocked. If you want to celebrate this February by taking flight with someone you love, why not book a fantasy trip? Or for those who have already had fertility ceremonies, give the whole family a trip to love together?
When I look back, the trips I have loved with those I love, keep giving joy, and that makes me happy to look forward, too.
For intimate boating in Europe, European Waterways offers charming luxury barges carrying six to 20 passengers with dozens of itineraries in canals, rivers, lakes and lochs of nine countries. When a college friend and I glided through the Burgundy region, I biked daily on the parallel tow paths. Last July, my husband and I enjoyed romance and relaxation while savoring the foods and sights on the Venice to Mantua trip — luxurious time travel through medieval and Renaissance towns.
The former honeymoon yacht of Princess Grace of Monaco, can be booked year-round from Quasar Expeditions to island hop in the Galapagos. Between snorkeling with penguins and visiting giant tortoises older than Canada, you can sit in a hot tub, and enjoy al fresco, candle-lit dining under the stars with the romantic graces of the M/Y Grace. The trip I enjoyed even inspired a couple to get engaged — and then married — on the trip! The 18-passenger yacht also invites family reunion trips and unforgettable honeymoon journeys. On the Ecuadoran mainland, journeys into the Andes and Amazon can be added.
You can play polar explorer to Antarctica or cruising above the Arctic Circle with Hurtigruten, the Norwegian voyagers that have been navigating ice for over 120 years. In early 2012, my husband and I were enthralled with the close-ups of glaciers and penguin families during Antarctica's summer (winter in North America). We even had a very white wedding ceremony when we renewed our vows in a ceremony with the ship's captain above Paradise Bay, named because it's protected from winds in any direction.
If you are looking for a Love Boat that appeals to diverse interests, Holland America offers a wide variety of routes and activities onboard and on shore. Three generations of my family enjoyed my parent's 50th wedding anniversary cruising Alaska's Inside Passage, and each day every participant had a different story to tell at the dinner table. On the Ancient Mysteries cruise of the Mediterranean, a childhood friend and I fell in love with the intrigues of old civilizations.
For Titanic romance without tragedy, enjoy Cunard's comforts on the Queen Mary II across the Atlantic with the largest floating ballroom, afternoon high teas, Canyon Ranch spa treatments, a well-stocked library, and live music — as well as deck chairs that don't need re-arranging.
To continue the elegant romance, once in Southampton, England, head to Cliveden House above the Thames for tastes of Downton Abby upper-class life. During WWI, the Canadian Red Cross even built a small military hospital on Cliveden grounds by invitation of the owners, the Astors.
Before it was a five-star hotel, countesses, dukes and the Prince of Wales once lived at Cliveden. Previous guests included Gandhi, Churchill, Shaw, Kipling, Lawrence of Arabia, Charlie Chaplin, Henry James, and Queen Victoria. Will you add your name to that list?
For urban legacy and lore, indulge in the Goring, the oldest family-run, private hotel in London. The property even served as a Buckingham Palace annex when Queen Elizabeth was crowned. From the Belgravia location to the rubber duckies and flat screen TV in the marble bathroom, what's not to enjoy?
For an immersive learning experience, consider Access Trips, in exotic, sensual Morocco. Learn to cook or take great photographs while staying at diverse riads (like villas or small palaces built around an inner courtyard of flowers and fountains). Casablanca, Marrakesh, and the Atlas mountains await.
You can customize an Austen Adventure tailored for the whole family or a couple's get-away. I loved the diversity of their Nicaragua trip — ash-boarding down a volcano, horseback riding on Morgan's Rock Beach, zip-lining, and jungle hiking, as well as a chocolate massage, carriage ride over cobblestones, cathedrals, museums and many culinary treats, with local people.
May the gifts of travel increase the love in your life!
Lisa TE Sonne has visited and photographed all seven continents and many seas, and written for award-winning movies, television, Internet, and print. She's been married three times- to the same romantic guy. She's aiming for vows on each continent. Twitter: @ExploreTraveler. Email: Lisa@WorldTouristBureau.com