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5 romantic cruise ships

Are you dreaming of a luxury cruise with the one you love? Exotic places, balmy breezes, starry nights and tropical drinks for two? “The Love Boat”? Maybe “The Lust Boat”?

No problem.

Cruise ships have become popular venues for romantic getaways in the past few years. Never slow to catch a trend, cruise lines have responded by offering couples an array of services and amenities to inspire romance and even some nautical naughtiness. Here are five ships that Cupid would approve of.

Windstar Cruise Line’s “Wind Star”

Wind Star gets points on the romance meter before it even leaves the dock. French-built and French-decorated, this four-masted schooner carries just 148 passengers to seductive destinations under billowing white sails.

To enhance the romantic ambiance for couples, Windstar Cruises takes a culinary approach, offering an in-room “Romance Dinner” with an aphrodisiac menu served on an elegant tray. The menu offers such tantalizing presentations as “Rack of Lamb under a Blanket of Sun-Dried Love Apples, Seduced by a Rosemary-Garlic-Mint Sauce.” Top it off with a dessert called “Fantasy of Fresh Strawberries Caressed by Decadent Chocolate Ganache with Kisses of Chantilly Cream Aroused with Pernod.” The description alone makes me swoon.

Dinner comes with an iPod Nano cued to romantic music, which plays through the cabin’s Bose SoundDock speakers. There is no additional charge for the dinner, but serious romantics can order other mood-makers for an additional fee, such as wine, champagne or even a couple’s massage.

Clearly, Wind Star has a recipe that will keep the “Do Not Disturb” sign up on the cabin door for a long time.

Radisson Seven Seas Cruises’ “Paul Gauguin”

The Paul Gauguin cruises the waters of French Polynesia, one of the most romantic places on earth. Named for the Parisian painter who was himself seduced by the Polynesian landscape, the Paul Gauguin carries 330 passengers in luxurious surroundings and under the high standards of quality and service for which Radisson Seven Seas Cruises is famous. The cuisine is created by Jean-Pierre Vigato, a Michelin-starred chef.

For a ship of this size, the Paul Gauguin has an airy design that invites in tropical breezes and eye-filling vistas. Sailing from Papeete, you’ll discover that Tahiti really does look like the Garden of Eden (Gauguin was right about that) and that Bora Bora’s lagoon truly is sublime. More beautiful still is Moorea, its shark-jaw peaks reflecting timelessly in the calm waters of the island’s spectacular bays. It’s enough to inspire a re-creation of the famous beach scene with Deborah Kerr and Burt Lancaster in “From Here To Eternity.”

Unique to the Paul Gauguin is a sea-level watersports platform in the stern. From here you can step directly into a kayak or windsurfer to explore an inviting lagoon — a quintessentially romantic Polynesian experience. Back on ship, lovers can return to their cabins and toast a South Seas sunset from their private balcony (available on half of the staterooms). Or they can snuggle up on the love seat in their cotton robes and — well, you get the idea.

Silversea Cruises’ “Silver Whisper”

How can you not love a cruise line that has Isabella Rossellini as its spokeswoman? After all, she is the product of one of the world’s most romantic love affairs — the daughter of Ingrid Bergman and Roberto Rossellini. For couples who want luxury while cruising some of the world’s romantic places (everywhere from Venice to Rio de Janeiro), there’s the Silver Whisper, the newest ship in the ultraluxury fleet of Italian cruise line Silversea Cruises.

The atmosphere on this 382-passenger ship is perfect for couples looking to celebrate their relationship or to rekindle romance. Wine, champagne and spirits are all free, thanks to the special all-inclusive service, and the ship has an open-seating policy in its three elegant restaurants, so an intimate, candlelit table for two is always available.

But it’s the staterooms that make the difference on the Silver Whisper. Silversea has the largest cabins at sea, and the amenities are amazing: Fresh flowers, fruit baskets, personalized stationary, Acqua Di Parma bath products, beds wrapped in 600-thread-count linens, a fully stocked bar, and Godiva chocolates are just some of the many items found in every suite. And there’s 24-hour room service, which means some couples may never leave their cabin. In fact, couples can relax with a Balinese massage for two in the privacy of their suite. Or, at no extra cost, they can take every meal in their suite — or alfresco on their veranda — served course-by-course by their own waiter. Now that’s amore, Italian style.

SeaDream Yacht Club’s “SeaDream II”

The motto aboard SeaDream Yacht Club is: “It’s Yachting, Not Cruising.” Step aboard the intimate 110-passenger SeaDream II and you’ll feel like an Onassis. The unstructured nature of life on board has a strong appeal for discriminating couples who prefer a casual shipboard experience.

The staterooms offer great amenities, including showers with multi-jet massaging sprays, pajamas, slippers and plush Turkish robes. To entice romance, the ship’s cabin staff makes creative use of rose petals and swan towel-sculptures. The food and service are exceptional and should couples wish to dine alfresco, they can do so at a candlelit table for two in the ship’s Topside Restaurant.

SeaDream II features a large retractable watersports platform, from which couples can launch a variety of watersports including kayaking, water-skiing, tubing, boarding, swimming, wave running, snorkeling, and Sunfish sailing.

But the most romantic thing on board this ship is the “Balinese DreamBeds,” amazing queen-size loungers found on Deck 6. Raised above the height of the yacht’s railings, they provide unobstructed views of the ocean. This is the perfect place to sunbathe, read, look out to sea or just snooze. And, should a couple wish to sleep under the stars, SeaDream’s staff will supply pillows and a cozy duvet. Now that’s a good night.

Princess Cruises’ “Crown Princess”

A vast, white wedge of a cruise ship as big as a city block may seem more awe-inspiring than romantic. But size aside, Princess Cruises does have some campy romantic value left over from “The Love Boat” days. And, beginning in June 2006, with the launch of the line’s newest ship, the Crown Princess, a new “Engagement Under the Stars” package will help create multimedia marriage proposals to remember. Regular Joes can become Cruising Casanovas when they pop the question to their unsuspecting bride-to-be with a personal proposal videocast on the ship’s giant outdoor “Movies Under the Stars” movie screen. After she says “Yes,” (please, God, let it be “Yes”), the Crown Princess crew will shower the happy couple with a special romantic dinner, amenities and keepsake items to help them remember the occasion long after they return home. After debuting on the Crown Princess, the “Engagement Under the Stars” package will be rolled out to all Princess ships that feature “Movies Under the Stars,” including the Caribbean Princess, Grand Princess and Sea Princess.

So if you and your honey are ready for romance, the cruising world is definitely ready for you. No matter what cruise you choose, it’s sure to light a fire under your relationship that will make for good times and fond memories.

Happy Valentine’s Day — whether you are on land or at sea.

This article appears on MSNBC Travel & Tripso.com

©Anita Dunham-Potter

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