Ask Dr. Tracy

Romantic Cruising

by Tracy Cabot, Ph.D.

With a deep shudder like the aftermath of a giant orgasm, your cruise ship thrusts itself free of the dock, and your own excitement stirs. All your cares vanish into the ship’s silvery wake, pointing like a miles-long arrow toward exotic ports of call over the horizon.

Cruising lulls your senses into a state of bliss that only mother ocean’s gentle swells can induce. You rock together in each other’s arms as your ship becomes your own private floating universe.

To make sure that universe exudes the ultimate in romance, here are our seven Sensual Shipboard Essentials.

Sensual Shipboard Essential #1: Room Service
Room service quickly becomes an essential to any romantic cruise. You want to be able to say, “bring food and then leave us alone,” to feed each other delicious morsels, to nibble and lick off each other’s fingers, to smear and delight in total privacy. Eliminate all ships which don’t offer room service and look for one that has a gourmet chef overseeing the menus.

Sensual Shipboard Essential #2: A Private Veranda
Next, your cabin must have a veranda. Not merely so you can breakfast in your robes, sipping fresh-brewed coffee as briney breezes ruffle your hair and the sea whispers by and you turn and grin at each other. Not just for sunbathing in the nude, or holding hands at your private railing and gazing at unforgettable sunsets. Even if you never set foot outside, a veranda assures you of floor-to-ceiling views -- private enjoyment of sweeping horizons and beckoning islands which others must rush up on deck to see or crane their necks to glimpse through a small porthole.

Sensual Shipboard Essential #3: A Spa
Most modern ships feature high-tech fitness centers. But on your romantic cruise, you don’t want just a gym; you want a SPA. On Celebrity’s Galaxy (one of the better large-ship values), our softly pasteled cabin and private deck were sooo romantic we rarely emerged -- until we discovered the pampering available at their “Aquaspa.” Run by Steiner Transoceanic Ltd., these European-style spas on Celebrity’s superships are the most luxurious and decadent afloat.

On one of these ships, you can rejuvenate by wrapping yourselves in cushiony cotton robes and paddling on down to the Aquaspa. Slip into the bubbling Thalasotherapy pool for a side-by-side soak. Let the bubbles tickle you in the most intimate places, float you and push you seductively in and out of each other’s arms. Position your most sensitive spot in front of a jet and see how long you can stand it.

In the spa’s special room, pat Razul seaweed and special soothing mud onto each other. Give special attention to those places the masseur didn’t dare, rinse gently and then feel the new baby softness of your knees and elbows.

Afterwards you’ll be relaxed and ready. You and your honey will be given a massage lesson. Each of you will get a half hour professional massage and a half hour lesson on your partner. Soon your hands will explore each other’s bodies in new ways and with a special confidence you didn’t have before.

Take an Elemis aromatherapy burner with sensual Ylang Ylang and Sandlewood scents back to your cabin to continue your explorations of your newfound massage skills. Let the essential oils waft over you, turning your cabin into a exotic love den.

Sensual Shipboard Essential #4: An Exciting Itinerary
Choose an itinerary with ports you’ve always wanted to see. Visiting new places will make your romantic cruise exciting and memorable, and this selection will also help you home in on a ship that’s perfect for the two of you. When thinking about “where,” keep in mind your personal preferences for activities.

For example, get us anywhere close to a tropical island and we can’t wait to grab our snorkels and jump right in the water. On our Caribbean cruise aboard the twin-hulled, ultra-stable Radisson Diamond, we loved its spaciousness and superlative cuisine. We returned with sweet memories of lying on our private veranda, intoxicated with tropical sunsets and Jimmy Buffet songs. But to this day, what we remember most vividly is slipping hand in hand off the Diamond’s aft “marina” and finding 200-foot underwater visibility. Only a few ships, like the Radisson Diamond, the Windsong and Seabourne, offer ocean access.

Sensual Shipboard Essential #5: Upscake Pampering
Insisting on room service and a veranda will assure you of minimum pampering and a modern ship, but just to be sure, tell your travel agent you only want to consider ships rated 5- or 6-star by Fielding. That still leaves you with a lot of choices, most no more expensive than staying at a wonderful resort like the Mandarin Oriental or the Halekulani on Oahu in Hawaii.

Sensual Shipboard Essential #6: Compatible Fellow Passengers
To narrow your choices further, eliminate cruises that emphasize childrens’ programs or show Mickey Mouse in their brochures. Screaming kids just aren’t romantic. Also, cross off the 3-4 day party cruises -- they’re just too short and too rowdy for a romantic getaway. And while a 14-day cruise may sound dreamily romantic, those attract mostly retirees who have the time and money for extended cruising. A seven-day cruise is perfect.

Sensual Shipboard Essential #7: A Ship That Suits Your Style
Cruise lines also have definite personalities. When you ride the nine-story glass elevator in Carnival’s fun, fun, fun Destiny, you’ll feel like you’re inside a gigantic pinball machine, unready if you haven’t packed your sequins. Windjammer, on the other hand, is a totally barefoot beer party, while Crystal and Seabourne’s aristocratic ships deliver hushed elegance with white gloves on silver platters, and everyone comes with an assortment of designer formals.

If you’ve followed our seven Sensual Shipboard Essentials, your ship will be new and luxurious, high-tech and stabilized for your oceangoing comfort. Your cabin will combine sweeping views with total privacy -- the ultimate romantic hideaway. Outside your door, your steward awaits to pamper you discreetly, and a whole floating fantasyland exists to indulge you.

Days at sea become a series of delicious dilemmas: back to bed or sunbathe on your private deck? Order more room service or check out the lunch buffet or enjoy fine service in the dining room? Visit the spa for a massage or take a nap?

At night, shipboard life comes alive with elegance bordering on decadence. On Celebrity’s superships, candlelit desserts held aloft by tuxedoed waiters parade through a gala ballroom-style dining room. Flashbulbs pop to record your own glorious entrance down a grand staircase fit for Princess Di.

Later, after feeding each other tantalizing tidbits from the midnight buffet, you’ll doze away blissfully in each other’s arms -- but not before ordering room service breakfast.

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