Couples-only resorts almost guarantee a romantic vacation. They do it by offering unlimited opportunities for togetherness, by freedom from spending stress, and -- strange as it sounds -- by a little peer pressure.
"Hey, don't wander off like that; I'll be the only one without a partner," I hissed at my husband on our initial orientation tour of couples-only Sandals St. Lucia. We were both still travel-frazzled, but the peer pressure to stay together was obvious as we joined eight other couples walking two by two behind our guide on our "First Day Tour." Everyone was holding hands like little kids on a summer camp outing.
The whole resort, in fact, looks like summer camp for grownups with everyone on the buddy system. No singles, no kids, no families. Only couples. Mostly 20-, 30-, and 40-something in age. Everyone two by two in the dining room, on snorkel excursions, in the pools, at the bars, on the beach, everywhere you look. Everywhere you look, just couples -- strolling, splashing, smooching, or quietly standing arm in arm watching the sunset.
Anyone without their partner stands out like a weed in a dichondra lawn, inviting speculation about whether they had a fight or what.
And the resort has 100% occupancy. What's going on here? Do couples-only resorts possess a magic formula? I think so.
The new generation of all-inclusive, couples-only resorts just happen to deliver an almost perfect Romantic Escape. Since today's two-career, workaholic couples can't seem to find romance and escape from stress anywhere else, they're lining up to buy it from Sandals and SuperClubs.
Part of the formula is a true all-inclusive price. No beads, no sneaky charges for certain watersports, and even no tipping. You just don't have to think about money -- at all -- for a whole week. That means there's no way you can fight over money. A major stress eliminated.
Perhaps it's the safety factor. You don't have to worry about some bikini-clad single giving your mate the come-on while your back is turned. Nor is he going to be looking too hard on his own at any gorgeous gals on their husbands' arms. Another major fight opportunity avoided.
But the biggest secret is almost-mandatory togetherness in a contagiously romantic atmosphere. Like monkey-see, monkey-do, jet-lagged new arrivals stare at all the tanned and relazed couples strolling blissfully arm in arm and unconsciously start to follow suit.
You discover very quickly that everything's done as a twosome -- no males buddying up and deserting their mates to go golfing all day at a couples resort. Basically, you're a captive audience for each other. It's heaven for wives and girlfriends who feel they never get enough attention from their mates. The guys, for the most part, gradually get over the shock of 24-hour-a-day togetherness and learn to talk to their mates again.
Within a few days, even unromantic hubbies find themselves caught up in the ambiance. After all, how long can you watch everyone around you being romantic without getting the idea yourself?
For the first time in years, we find ourselves together all day, eating three meals a day together, playing together, going to town together, literally doing everything together. While it does sounds a bit frightening, the resort offers so many activities that you never feel trapped in your togetherness.
After a day or two, we become one of the couples smooching in the pool, holding hands in the dining room, and working out side by side in the gym. The place has worked its magic.
On other vacations, it's been too easy for one of us to go shopping and the other one to go to the beach or play golf, in a "you do your thing, I'll do mine" mindset. Here, it's just not done.
Show up alone at just one meal, and the pitying and curious looks of the other couples make you feel like you're wearing a tuxedo at a nudist colony. And if you've been there more than a day or two, the nice older couple from the snorkel sail or the young couple from the windsurfing lesson will stop by to see if your missing mate is sick.
All this togetherness leads, inevitably, to sex. It's in the air everywhere. Couples giggle in the jacuzzi, whisper to each other as they swing on hammocks, and sneak into the ocean for a late-night skinny dip. At every meal, couples look as if they've just tumbled out of bed with a happy, freshly-showered afterglow.
As at virtually all of the all-inclusive couples resorts, the rooms at Sandals St. Lucia lack TV and aren't lavish, but they are large, comfortable, and conducive to romance. The beds are all appropriately kingsize, and the air conditioning effectively combats the Caribbean midday heat.
Throughout the rest of the resort, a "no problem, mon," attitude shows itself no matter what you want. One day, we wanted to go on the snorkle trip but the boat was full. So Jimmy at the activities desk took just the two of us in a little motorboat down the coast to a private beach and snorkle spot, promising to pick us up later -- which he did. There was hardly anything we could think of that we couldn't have, including lots and lots of each other.
During the week, we met couples like like Sam and Judy who have been to Sandals 9 times. "We just love it here, it renews our romance and reminds us of what we've really got together. In the hustle and bustle of everyday life, we slip apart. A couples vacation brings us back to where we started."
Honeymooners Jim and Erica told us, "The shared experiences we've had here, like learning to snorkel and then to scuba, make great memories long after our vacation is over. And it's all included in the price."
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