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Thursday, December 27, 2007

10 Tips for Choosing your Honeymoon Destination

The pool at Le Meridien Tahiti -
a nice spot for a honeymoon!

Not sure where you want to go on your honeymoon? HoneyLuna offers some advice on choosing the honeymoon destination that's perfect for you.

It's a big world, after all! And there are so many places that sound wonderful for your honeymoon. And it is the trip of a lifetime right? How do you decide where to go on your honeymoon?

It may seem obvious, but the first step in planning a trip is deciding where to go. Here are some simple guidelines:

1.) Be realistic – the first step is determining how much time you have to travel, and as important, how much money do you have allocated for your honeymoon. (Using HoneyLuna’s honeymoon registry can give extra cushion to that budget!)


2.) The best way to start your planning may be to choose a list of specific destinations that interest you. Then start reading and researching these places to see if they fit your desires. If there are only beach and water sports and you don't tan and can't swim, then it may not be the place for you.


3.) Narrow your choices. The world is big. Even one country is big. You can't see it all in a lifetime, much less in a week or a few weeks. Most people try to do too much in too little time. You'll have a much better experience if you can actually take the time to enjoy where you are - instead of being exhausted because you're running from one city to the next, one country to the next. (This makes for some cranky travelers!)


4.) Choose a place that interests you - not just for the monuments but also for the culture and way of life. Your daily activities and the people you meet have more influence on the quality of your travel experience than the sites you visit or the sights you see.


5.) Make your own choices. Don't go somewhere just because someone else liked it or told you to go there. See #4 - again, just because a friend enjoyed the trek through the Himalayas in freezing temperatures carrying a 60-pound bag doesn't mean you will. If you're idea of roughing it is a 5 star hotel in Tahiti then a river-rafting trip down the Grand Canyon may not be for you!


6.) Think about who is giving you advice and what their knowledge is based on. Have they actually been there or are they experts on this destination? Look for resources from and by people in the places you are thinking of going for the most accurate picture of what travel in those places will really be like.

7.) Travel in the present. Learn about contemporary life and current affairs in the places you are going. (The Internet makes this much easier than ever before.)

8.) And most importantly, be sure that you and your fiancée are on the same page. If you want a week at a luxury hotel with a spa and a swim up bar, and he wants to go to a dude ranch, then you need to talk about that early on and find a way to compromise. (That is what you do in marriage!) Perhaps you can go to Kauai and stay at the Princeville Resort, which has a wonderful spa and is conveniently located by the Princeville Stables!

9.) Once you’ve made your decision, book early! Waiting for those last minute Internet fares is not honeymoon appropriate. The most popular honeymoon destinations such as Tahiti sell out months in advance!

10.) Don’t forget to say “I DO” and go have the honeymoon of your dreams. You should come back from your trip feeling like you’ve just experienced one of the most memorable and enjoyable events of your new life together.

Wednesday, December 19, 2007

Top 10 (and more) Most Romantic Honeymoon Tips for Honeymoons in Hawaii

Romantic Honeymoon Tips for Honeymoons in Hawaii

Congratulations to the newly engaged! Are you fantasizing about a honeymoon on remote tropical islands? Well Hawaii has it all - take Moloka‘i, for example, the least populated of the Hawaiian island chain—sparse, white-sand beaches as far as the eye can see, plus historical sites like the monument commemorating Father Damien in the remote village of Kalaupapa.

Besides being a remote getaway, Moloka'i now has luxury accommodations—which is part of my fantasy. On the other end of the spectrum, there’s Waikiki: easy to get to, same warm, gentle Pacific and tons of shopping and world-class restaurants, all within walking distance. And then there’s my favorite hammock at the Big Island’s Kona Village Resort, overlooking Kahuwai Bay and its resident pod of honu, or green sea turtles. I can hear the tide rolling in and feel the warm trade winds pass over me as I and swing back and forth in front of our private beach hale. Does any of this sound like a perfect honeymoon destination to you? Is so, here are a few tips on what we consider to be the most romantic spots on all the islands. (and many of these spots/romantic activities can be included on your HoneyLuna honeymoon registry!)

Kaua‘i
Catch the sunset
  • Positioned perfectly to catch the nightly show of pinks, oranges and possibly a flash of green. The Point at Sheraton Kaua‘i has been serving up island-inspired cocktails and pupus to swooning couples for decades.
  • Hop aboard a late afternoon boat tour to experience unnamed shades of green and gold as the sun sets on the majestic Na Pali Coast.
  • Walk the beach at Hanalei on the north shore and if you’re lucky you might see the infamous green flash.
  • Watch the sun ease into the Pacific from the most western point in the United States – Polihale Beach, which is also considered a Hawaiian-style-Sahara with dazzling white sand dunes, some rising 100 feet.
Remote (romantic) hike
  • The Kalalau Trail along the Na Pali Coast.Leave early (as in 6 a.m.) to avoid the hot sun and crowds. Head to the secluded Hanakapi‘ai beach about 2.5 miles from the trailhead, have a snack and then it’s another 2 miles to Hanakapi‘ai falls.
Romantic dinner
  • Ask for a window seat at the Bali Hai restaurant located in the Hanalei Bay Resort, 808.826.6522
  • Reserve a table for two on the terrace of Café Hanalei at the Princeville Resort, 808.826.9644
  • The Beach House in Poipu is an ideal spot to watch surfers take the last wave of the day as you enjoy a sampling of island cuisine and a glass or bottle of wine. 808.742.1424
  • Cozy into a beach-facing gazebo, order a mango martini, and share fresh sashimi as Hawaiian musicians serenade the sunset at the Aupaka Terrace sushi bar at the Kaua`i Marriott Resort & Beach Club. Or plan ahead and ask executive chef Guy Higa to prepare a customized meal for two in a private seaside cabana with a view of Kalapaki Beach. 808.245.5050
Pack a picnic
  • Paddle your own kayak up the Wailua River to a romantic waterfall grotto. Most kayak tours include a picnic lunch.
  • Grab lunch at the Shrimp Station in Waimea, before heading to a lookout in the picturesque Waimea Canyon.
O‘ahu
Catch the sunset
  • For expansive views of Waikiki and beyond, check out the Diamond Head Lookout. From the parking lot at Diamond Head State Park, there is a short hike to the top.
  • Celebrate literary history at the Sunset Lana‘i Bar at the New Otani Kaimana Beach Hotel. Word has it, Robert Louis Stevenson wrote poems here to the Princess Kaiulani, under the shade of the hau tree fronting the property. 808.923.1555
  • Perched to catch the very last rays, the Hau Terrace at the venerable Outrigger Canoe Club has been a locals’ choice for sunset dining for decades. Located on the southern end of Waikiki, this social club has reciprocity with most yacht club memberships. 808.923.1585
  • The Kane‘ohe Yacht Club defines island casual; flip-flops and T-shirts (only if there’s a breeze). It’s hard to beat the cement patio and fold-out chairs for a front-row view of the sun setting behind the jagged ridge of the Ko‘olau range. Toast the day with a chilled Bud Light. Any mainland yacht club membership is reciprocal. 808.247.4121
Romantic dinner
  • Reserve a private dining gazebo right on the water at Hoku’s restaurant in the Kahala Resort on O‘ahu. 808.739.8888
  • For the past century visitors and locals alike have enjoyed the sunset and Diamond Head views and award-winning island-inspired cuisine at Halekulani’s House Without a Key 808.923-2311
  • Reserve a table at sunset at Jameson’s by the Sea in Haleiwa, a casual indoor/outdoor setting. 808.637.6272
  • For an oceanfront dining experience, Ola at the Turtle Bay Resort recently opened to rave reviews. 808.293.6000
Remote (romantic) hike
  • Old Pali Trail is short and steep (coming back). The first part is not remote, but once you head off the main trail, Likelike Trail is a lush, uncrowded, narrow path that passes through waterfalls. Go at sunrise or sunset for the best views of the Ko‘olau Range and the windward coast; trailhead starts at the Pali lookout.
  • The Makapu’u Lighthouse hike is not remote, since the trailhead is right off Highway 72, but once you crest the hill after a mile-long easy ascent, it’s just pounding surf and miles of blue sky.
Pack a picnic
  • Pick up a veggie sandwich or tuna melt at Kalapawai Market in Kailua, then head to Kailua Beach State Park, consistently rated a “Best Beach in the World” by coastal expert Dr. Stephen Leatherman.
  • O‘ahu’s North Shore is famous for big surf and laid-back vibe, but it’s also a great place to spend the day. Grab a grilled sandwich to go at Ku Aina in Haleiwa, bring a towel and beach mat and head to the scenic Waimea Bay. Even if the surf isn’t pounding, there will be plenty of people-watching.
Maui
Catch the sunset
  • Grab a chair in the sand and order a cocktail at the Barefoot Bar at Hula Grill on Ka‘anapali Beach, as the sun sets over the neighboring island of Lana‘i. 808.667.6636
  • Overlook all of Wailea Resort with views of Molokini and Kaho’olawe (and Lana‘i on a clear day) while dining at Capische at Diamond Resort. 808.879.2224
Remote (romantic) hike
  • Haleakala Crater, whether you opt for the 3a.m. pickup for a sunrise hike, or just take one of the many trails, there is plenty of room on this 10,023-foot high dormant volcano to find a scenic path for two.
  • Just past Hana. It takes awhile to get to the 7 Pools trailhead from the west side of the island, so leave early. Besides freshwater pools, the trail passes through bamboo forests and a remote black sand beach.
  • Not an outdoor hike, but a romantic notion for a stroll…docent-led art tours at the Four Seasons show off the new museum-quality art collection with over 280 original works.
Romantic dinner
  • Consistently rated one of the best restaurants in Maui,  the Hailemaile General Store is a bit of a drive from most hotels, but the scenery is gorgeous and well worth the effort.
  • Chez Paul in Olowalu enjoyed recent publicity when chef Patrick Callarec shared his culinary talents with the “Romance Me Maui” campaign. 808-283-9044.
  • Duo at the Four Seasons — dine by the pool waterfall overlooking Wailea Beach.
  • Mama’s Fish House in Kuau Cove on Maui’s North Shore While some say this longtime standby is too pricy and hyped, nobody seems to be listening….be sure to make reservations.
  • Sushi for two? Locals and returning visitors flock to Sansei for its award-winning dishes. Two locations on Maui; Kapalua 808.669.6286 and Kihei 808.879.0004.
  • Lunch or dinner at Ka’uiki Restaurant at Hotel Hana-Maui will be a meal to remember. 800.321.4262

Pack a picnic
  • Aim for getting to Makena Beach around 11:30, before the crowds hit the Taco Truck. Located just where the road turns toward the beach, this white truck is popular among locals, who line up for the fish tacos and fish burritos. Once you’ve got your lunch, head over to the Cove at Secret Beach.
  • On the way to Cove Park at Kihei Beach, stop off at Da Kitchen (808.875.7782, da.kitchen.com) in the Rainbow Mall in Kihei. After sharing a box lunch of Korean chicken, take a surf lesson offered on site.
Moloka‘i
Catch the sunset
  • A rocking chair on the lanai of any room at the Lodge—they all face west.
  • While wading in the tidepools off Kaupoa Beach at the Beach Village, search for medeka (minnows) and opihi shells.
Remote (romantic) hike
  • Waikolu Valley. Depending on your fitness level, trek (or park near) the look-over to the forest reserve. Locals call it a truly untouched otherworldly valley.
  • The most popular trail on the island (four people a day) is Halawa Valley. This daylong hike will take you through a waterfall spilling into a large bubbly (think champagne) pool. With soaring cliffs as the backdrop, the trail ends at Halawa Bay where it’s said the first Polynesians set foot on Moloka‘i.
Romantic dinner
  • Reserve the intimate greenhouse on the grounds of the Lodge, for a private dinner created by chef Erwin Kudoba.
  • Wiggle your toes in the sand, at your own table with private service a the Beach Village. Casual to formal, depends on your own style.
Pack a picnic
  • Pick up a prepared lunch at the Lodge or the general store in Mauna Loa and head to Mile Marker 19: a remote white sand beach protected by a coral reef.
Lana‘i
Catch the sunset
  • Veranda of Four Seasons Resort Lana`i, the Lodge at Koele. Overlooks the stables, and the ocean in the distance below.
  • For a bit of the surreal, head to the Garden of the Gods, and watch the ancient red rock formations change color with the setting sun.
Remote (romantic) hike
  • Plan for an early morning or late afternoon moderate hike along the Koloiki Ridge, which offers expansive views of the island and the ocean and neighboring isles.
Romantic dinner
  • In-room romantic dinner at Manele Bay. Served at the dining table or most often on the private lanai. Candles, flowers, white cloth service.
Pack a picnic
  • Both Manele Bay and the Lodge pack picnics for hikes, Jeep excursions or the beach.
Hawai‘i
Catch the sunset
  • Huggo’s on the Rocks: Casual setting serves up cocktails, Hawaiian pupus and music right next to the iconic Huggos Restaurant on the south end of Kona’s downtown. 808.329.1493
  • Any hammock-for-two on the Kohala Coast.
  • Watch the sun set as fishing boats return to Keauhou Bay and the coastline of Kailua-Kona lights up while at Crystal Blue, an indoor/outdoor cocktail lounge at Sheraton Keauhou Bay Resort and Spa.
Remote (romantic) hike
  • Meet up with the ancient Ala Kahakai trail at the public access parking lot behind the new Waikoloa Beach Marriot Resort and Spa and head south. Wear sturdy shoes and hats and bring sunscreen; this is a long and potentially hot trek over lava to freshwater lagoons and a black sand beach.
  • Get existential about the meaning of life as you hike through the trails at Hawai‘i Volcanoes National Park. nps.gov/havo
Pack a picnic
  • Waterfalls, lonely black sand beaches and wild ginger are just a few sights to behold when hiking the famed Waipi‘o Valley. Stop at the Waipi‘o Valley Artworks for a takeout deli sandwich along the way.
Romantic dinner
  • Pahui‘a at the Four Seasons Resort Hualalai has been earning awards and accolades since opening. Aim for sunset when you make reservations. Desserts include a daily soufflé and the pièce de résistance; their warm dark chocolate lava cake. 888.340.5662.

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Tuesday, December 18, 2007

Unique Online Honeymoon Registry Provides the Perfect Wedding Gift


True or False: For my wedding gift, I'd like a turkey baster.


True or False: For my wedding gift, I'd like a castle tour in France.


When Alexa and Don Mercer got married, they didn’t bother registering with the traditional registries.



“We’d lived together for two years and had already bought the housekeeping stuff we needed,” explains Alexa.



Instead, the Mercers registered with HoneyLuna, the Honeymoon Registry Service, and became part of a growing trend of couples seeking non-traditional wedding gifts. Nearly 80 percent of the guests at the Mercers’ wedding gave gifts from the couple’s honeymoon itinerary by selecting gifts from the couple’s registry.



“Parts of our honeymoon included staying at a fifteenth century farmhouse outside Avignon, France, and having a biking picnic through the French countryside with castles tours along the way,” says Alexa.

“HoneyLuna is the first registry service to focus solely on honeymoon travel as wedding gifts.”
—Nancy Williams, HoneyLuna CEO


Nancy Williams, CEO and founder of HoneyLuna, started HoneyLuna in 1995 after leaving a career in business management. When she got engaged and realized she didn’t need a toaster or blenders, she hit upon the idea for HoneyLuna. At the time, she and her then-fiancé dreamed of an extended honeymoon in Europe. Nancy created her own honeymoon registry and had about 60 percent of her honeymoon paid for by wedding guests.


“HoneyLuna provides couples with a unique option for wedding gifts and gift givers with fun, experiential options to choose from. Our brides and grooms can have fun creating a honeymoon registry wish list for their friends and family. As a gift giver, I would much rather purchase a fantastic memory than a toaster or a towel".

Consider the following two registry items:


2 dinner plates ($50) 1 Gondola Ride in Venice ($50)


Which would you rather register for?

Which would you rather give as a present?



Feel free to replace Gondola Ride with: lift tickets, sunset cruise, snorkeling trip, jeep rental, shore excursion on a cruise - whatever, the answer is the same - honeymoon registries are fun for all!

HoneyLuna has grown each year as more couples are discovering HoneyLuna and learning about the honeymoon registry alternative.


Couples working with HoneyLuna have two registry service choices: A free to the bride and groom "self service" honeymoon registry where brides and grooms simply create and account and use HoneyLuna's destination templates to create their own registry. This is great option for honeymoon couples that have already booked their travel, or prefer to work with their own travel agent.

Or, for a small set up fee, they can registry for HoneyLuna's "full service" where HoneyLuna can arrange their honeymoon, including airline tickets, hotels, activities and more. The company handles the arrangements and creates a customized registry list, complete with gift descriptions and items in all price ranges.

Click here to read more about HoneyLuna's two registry options.

HoneyLuna also provides the couple registry cards to give to guests. Guests contact HoneyLuna—via the Internet or a toll-free number— to purchase items from the registry. HoneyLuna then sends gift acknowledgements to inform couples of the gift purchases.


HoneyLuna has planned honeymoons and created honeymoon registries for thousands of couples desiring traditional as well as exotic itineraries. In addition to the popular destinations of Europe, Hawaii, the Caribbean and Tahiti, HoneyLuna has arranged safaris in Africa, trekking in Thailand, and a 10-month, around-the-world honeymoon. Williams says couples typically find that 50 to 70 percent of their honeymoon is paid for if they register exclusively with HoneyLuna.

Alexa Mercer believes the time has come for a registry like HoneyLuna. She has recommended the idea to several soon-to-be-married friends. By using HoneyLuna for their own honeymoon registry, Alexa says their honeymoon “became a trip of a lifetime.”

HoneyLuna


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Tuesday, December 11, 2007

Best First Dance Ever Video - Check this out!

A fun video to give all your brides and grooms some ideas for your first dance!!!

(Maybe you should include dance lessons on your HoneyLuna registry!)



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Thursday, December 6, 2007

We had (the Bridge Climb) of our life!

Past HoneyLuna clients, Maria and Rich, share their
Sydney Harbour Bridge Climb experience!


Do HoneyLuna clients really enjoy the gifts they get from their honeymoon registry? You bet they do!! HoneyLuna clients Maria and Rich spent their honeymoon in Australia enjoying many fun items and activities of their honeymoon that were purchased from their HoneyLuna registry as wedding gifts.

Here is their story of one of their favorite gifts...

"The Sydney Harbour Bridge Climb is a 3.5 hour tour that takes you 440 feet to the top of the Sydney Harbour Bridge. On one wall are pictures of celebrities that made the climb. The first half hour was basically spent suiting us up: a jumpsuit, a belt with the contraption that keeps us hooked up to a wire line the whole time we’re climbing, a baseball hat, a hanky (because your nose gets really runny while you’re up there), a scunci for the girls, radio packs and head sets.

They took us through a sample catwalk and rules on how to climb up and down the ladders. This had to be one of the coolest experiences I’ve ever had in my life. If you ever go to Sydney and do one thing….this is the thing to do! The scariest part was climbing up 4 ladders to the arch of the bridge. Basically you are coming up these tiny steps and you’re coming up as traffic is whizzing past you on one side. Coming down, a train can speed by you at any minute. Once you are on the arch, it’s a breeze. The views were incredible!

We didn’t pay for the sunset tour which is $80 more but we still got the sunset. Gorgeous! Our group was small: 2 Americans that lived in Sydney for 2 years but were moving back on Saturday, and their 2 friends that visited from Florida. They just got engaged while visiting Cairns. Our guide, Nick, looked like Tom Cruise. He was hilarious and I think his sense of humor kept us all at ease. By the time we were done with the climb, we climbed approximately 1200 steps. But you don’t realize it until you start taking off your gear and feel how sore your body is.

Their motto is “Get ready for the climb of your life.” That it was!"

posted by Mur at 11:28 PM

1 Comments: and her HONEYLUNA gift giver said....

"I see you took good use of the gift. I hope you guys had a very nice bridge climb."
11:05 AM

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Monday, December 3, 2007

Cruises – An Affordable Honeymoon Option

A honeymoon cruise in Tahiti:
cruising past a church in Taha'a

For most couples about to be married, budget for the honeymoon can be a challenge – especially after all the wedding expenses! Cruises are a great way to know the costs in advance of your honeymoon and allow you to enjoy your honeymoon without worrying about all the money spent.

In addition, a cruise allows you to see several different ports, and even different countries. Since it “includes your transportation” between ports, cruises can also be an affordable way to travel to many cities or countries.

Initially, the cost of a cruise may seem more expensive than an air and hotel package. But remember, cruises also include your meals, many beverages, and possibly some activities. So what may seem cost prohibitive with the “upfront” price tag actual has much value included in that price and helps you control costs while you are on your honeymoon.

Athough cruises are somewhat “inclusive” they are not necessarily always “all-inclusive”. Inclusions and out of pocket expenses vary from cruise line to cruise line, so it is always best to identify in details what your cruise will cost and what really IS included in the total package cost of your cruise.

And remember, although there may be some out of pocket expenses... your honeymoon cruise can be incorporated into a HoneyLuna honeymoon registry. Items such as your spa treatments, shore excursions and Professional Photos from your honeymoon cruise make excellent gift registry items! Click here to see what a honeymoon cruise registry could look like for you!

This article outlines briefly what you can expect when you pay for a honeymoon cruise…

What Is Included in the Cost of a Cruise?

A cruise price, of course, includes the cabin accomodations that you book and pay for. More expensive cabins include ocean views or private balconies, and the most exclusive staterooms feature multiple rooms, mini refrigerators, concierge service, and other luxurious amenities. Like hotel rooms, cruise cabins are serviced daily by housekeeping staffs that replenish towels, clean your cabin, etc.


Typically, your cruise fare also includes:

* The ocean transporation
* Cruise packages can also be priced to include air fare from your city. (This is usually an additional cost on top of the price of the cruise. From time to time, however, you may find a cruise line offering free air fare as a special promotion)
* Use of deck chairs and other shipboard facilities, including pools, whirlpools, fitness centers, and limited sporting equipment
* Nightly entertainment and other activities such as lectures, movies, etc.
* Your meals in the restaurants, casual restaurants, and showcase buffets

What Is Not Included in the Cost of a Cruise?
Cruises do include many of your typical vacation expenses. However, as mentioned earlier in the article, not all cruises are truly “all –inclusive”. Several types of activities require additional fees, but most of them are optional and budget-conscious cruisers can easily moderate the added costs.

Most cruises do not include:

* Specialty restaurants
* Air transportation (can be booked along with your cruise as mentioned above)

And items of a personal nature, SUCH AS:
* Shore Excursions
* Alcoholic beverages
* Telephone calls
* Gambling costs
* Photographs and Souveniers
* Spa Treatments and Gratuities

Despite some of the out of pocket expenses that can be incurred, cruise vacations can still be an excellent value for honeymooners. Because the basic cruise fare includes all the necessities of a luxurious honeymoon, and savvy honeymooners can easily avoid extensive additional charges, do consider a cruise for you honeymoon.

And remember that both the cost of the cruise, as well as the extra out of pocket items for your honeymoon cruise can be included in a HoneyLuna honeymoon registry. Items such as your spa treatments, shore excursions and Professional Photos from your honeymoon cruise make excellent gift registry items!

Click here to see what a honeymoon cruise registry could look like for you!

Other “notes” honeymooners should know about cruises….

HURRICANES:

If a hurricane threatens, cruise lines try to avoid operating any ship in the vicinity of a tropical system and monitor the progress of these storms very closely. If there is a potential threat to any of our guests or ships, the itinerary MAY BE ALTERED to try to avoid any interaction with the storm or any affected areas. NOTE: IF THE ITINERARY IS ALTERED, THIS DOES NOT GIVE YOU CAUSE TO CANCEL THE CRUISE... ALL APPLICABLE CANCEL PENALTIES, ETC. WOULD APPLY...

PASSPORTS: Effective January 1, 2007, passports are required for ALL US residents for all air, sea and land travel to or from Canada, Mexcio, central and South American, the Caribbean and Bermuda. CHANCES ARE YOU WILL NEED PASSPORTS FOR YOUR HONEYMOON CRUISE !!



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Wednesday, November 28, 2007

Medieval Europe in the Napa Valley


“A medieval castle in the Napa Valley? How come I’ve never seen it?” people ask me when I tell them about “my” latest discovery. “Really, there is a medieval castle, complete with a drawbridge, towers, great hall and torture chamber right off Highway 29!”, I say.


You probably haven’t seen it because 1) it is not visible from the road, and 2) it is brand new.


If you're visiting the Napa Valley for your honeymoon, be sure to include this new gem on your honeymoon itinerary!


There is no need to go to Europe now to visit an authentic medieval castle, just drive to St. Helena. Oh, and did I mention it’s a winery, too? After your castle tour you can taste the castle’s collection of wines! Castello Di Amarosa, (The Castle of Love) is Darryl Sattui’s (of V. Sattui Winery fame) new love and latest venture.

I’ve been to Europe many times and have visited many castles, but this castle is so authentic it does seem like the real thing – minus the cobwebs (happening soon) and the expensive, long flight to Europe. There were some signs of modern times amid the rusted wrought ironwork, and the ducts to pour hot iron over the invaders. The bathrooms were modern and there was electricity!

For $25 ($30 on weekends), you can tour the winery, visit the workings of the castle, and taste some wines. For $10 more add “reserve tasting” to your day at the castle. On the tour you will visit the chapel, the great hall with beautiful hand-painted frescoes, the torture chamber (with an Iron Maiden and a rack) and the wine cellars.


If you DO create a HoneyLuna honeymoon registry for your Napa Valley Honeymoon, be sure to include the Castello Di Amorosa tour and wine tasting on your honeymoon registry!

The main underground barrel cellar is 135 feet long, with more than three dozen cross vaults. We were told that the cross vaults are authentic architecture. Darryl brought someone over from Italy who could create these wine cellars. The wine cellars alone took 10 years to build, the “top of the castle”, three years. The castle/winery opened just 3 months ago. It was hard to get a dollar figure out of tour guide about the expense of such an extraordinary undertaking, but the number floating around was $30 million.

There was not a definitive explanation about the “why Darryl” built the castle. (If you build it, they will come?) But I will say after living in Marin and visiting the wine country often, I was pleased to find something new and very different in Napa. With a little bit of wine and a lot of imagination, I did feel as if I’d escaped to Europe, if only for the day.

If going: Castello di Amorosa is located at 4045 N. St. Helena Highway (just north of Peterson Drive, just south of Maple) 2-1/2 miles south of Calistoga. The castle does not have picnic grounds or food. I suggest stopping first at V. Sattui for wine and a picnic and then heading up the road to the castle.

For more information, phone (707) 942-8200 or go to the website at http://www.castellodiamorosa.com/. Reservations recommended.

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Monday, November 26, 2007

Close to Home Honeymoon Ideas ~ America's National Parks


A fabulous honeymoon doesn't have to be in a tropical paradise far away from home. A honeymoon doesn't have to be expensive or far away. The United States is filled with fabulous destinations for honeymooning "close to home" or honeymooning somewhere within the 50 United States.

And even if your honeymoon is close to home or it is within the United States, you can still register for the items and activities of your honeymoon with HoneyLuna as wedding gifts!
Click here to see what a Yosemite Honeymoon Registry from HoneyLuna could look like.....

Honeymooners have registered for nights at a lodge in Yosemite, car rental for "day trips" from one national park to the next, or even white water rafting trips on the Colorado River!

The advantages of honeymooning close to home are many! National Park honeymoons are:


* Affordable
* Offer a chance to see some of America's greatest and most beautiful scenery that is often overlooked.
* Many national parks are close to home so you can drive - not fly!
* Offer fun items and activities for honeymoon registries!

Take advantage of the adventure and the splendor of America's national parks! Consider a honeymoon in Yosemite (CA), Yellowstone (WY), North Cascades National Park (WA), Acadia Natioanl Park (ME), Mammoth Cave National Park (KY) and yes, there is even a national park in the Virgin Islands! Have a fabulous (and affordable!) honeymoon with memories that will last you a lifetime!

For more information and ideas about planning a honeymoon in one of our great national parks, check out this article in the the June 2004 issue of Outside Magazine, or click here to view their National Parks Special article, This Stash is Your Stash, on their website.

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Wednesday, November 21, 2007

Honeymoon Tips from a "Been There Done That Honeymooner"


We often receive wonderful emails from our HoneyLuna Honeymoon Registry Clients about their honeymoon experience. This HoneyLuna client, Alison, helped us out by writing her own version of "honeymoon planning tips". You've read mine, now here is one from a real honeymooner!


"Hi, Nancy...

It's been three wonderful years since we took our honeymoon to Hawaii and Napa Valley, CA, and though I can say I wouldn't change a thing, in thinking back, I suppose there are a couple words of wisdom I might share for those about to take the plunge:

1. Talk to each other beforehand about what "honeymoon" means to you. For one person, it might mean relaxing away from it all, having leisurely meals, making love by moonlight. For another, it might mean adventure, doing as much as possible to take in all the sights and experiences of the new place you're visiting. Have some sort of plan ahead of time so you're not arguing about how to spend your days.

2. Don't cram too much into your honeymoon. Even if you're the type who wants to "do it all" (see #1), remember that your honeymoon is a vacation, a time to get to know your new spouse, and if you wear yourselves out all day every day, you'll be exhausted (and grouchy) by the time the honeymoon is over!

3. Keep a journal of how you spend your days (and nights). Stick a few receipts, or a postcard or two, in the pages too. It's fun to look back and / or create a scrapbook when you return home / back to reality!

4. Have other people take pictures of the two of you so that your scrapbook is filled with more than just "pretty" pictures.

5. If you're on a cruise or other event where a professional photographer is taking pictures that you can buy at the end, do it. It might seem like a lot of money at the time, but those pictures are great to look back at or hang up in your new home.

6. Always ask about upgrades or discounts or freebies. People love honeymooners and will generally do what they can to accommodate "young love". We had our room in the Sheraton Maui upgraded to a master suite that was almost as big as our house! Going off-season can help too. We were in Hawaii in July, mid-week at the Sheraton.

7. Finally, and this goes for the marriage too, not just the honeymoon: remember to *laugh.* A lot. Especially when things go wrong and you'd rather just yell at your honey. A healthy sense of humor will help you through those long flights, lost tickets, rude cab drivers...you get the picture.

Alison Miller"

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Monday, November 19, 2007

It is NOT o.k. to do calisthenics in a temple!



Buddha Statues, Ayuthaya, Thailand

Understanding local cultures and customs / Traveler’s Code of Ethics

Traveling is a wonderful privilege and a fantastic way to enrich our lives. For many though, especially when traveling out of the US and especially to third world countries, our "comfort zone" is often pushed a bit. Also, customs vary greatly from country to country. So what is acceptable here, for example, may not be acceptable in Bali.

In a lot of Asian Destinations, people get into trouble when it comes to customs of the head and feet. For instance, in Western Societies, rubbing or patting a child on the head is a form of endearment or play. However, it is very frowned upon in Asia and particularly Buddhist countries where touching someone’s head, resting place for the soul, is definitely not acceptable.

Another area that can get us in trouble is the fee! Most of us are are not accustomed to sitting on the ground much or with our legs crossed behind us (as is custom in Asia). The feet are considered very dirty and to point them at someone, even just sitting with your legs out in front of you is an insult. I was on one of our group trips once where we went inside a Buddhist temple, all sat down on the floor in front of Buddha, and a woman in the group literally started stretching and doing calisthenics saying her joints were to creaky to keep her legs folded behind her – completely oblivious her legs and feet were stretched out and pointed right at Buddha to the dismay of the locals there paying homage.

Years ago I found this "Traveler's Code of Ethics" and now share it with my HoneyLuna clients as few simple "rules" or thoughts before, during and after you travel.

(We didn't write this but we think it's great!)

Travel in a spirit of humility and with genuine desire to meet and talk with local people.

Be aware of the feelings of the local people; prevent what might be offensive behavior.

Cultivate the habit of listening and observing rather than merely hearing and seeing or knowing all answers.

Realize that other people may have concepts of time and have thought patterns which are different than yours.

Instead of seeing the exotic, discover the richness of another culture and way of life.

Get acquainted with local customs; respect them.

Remember that you are only one among many visitors; do not expect special privileges.

When shopping through bargaining, remember that the poorest merchant will give up profit rather than give up his/her personal dignity.

Make no promise to local people or new friends that you cannot implement.

Spend time each day reflecting on your experiences in order to deepen your understanding. What enriches you may be robbing others.

If you want a home away from home, why travel!

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Sunday, November 18, 2007

Honeymoon in the South Pacific



One Foot Island, Aitutaki, Cook Islands

Are you dreaming of a honeymoon in the South Pacific?.... Through HoneyLuna, I have had the opportunity to travel throughout the South Pacific to research the islands of romance: The Hawaiian Islands, Tahiti and Her Isles, The Cook Islands and Fiji. There is a reason these islands are popular honeymoon destinations - they are all truly a tropical paradise on earth.

This page gives our editorial, feedback and online photo albums of my favorite destinations in the South Pacific. I hope my photo albums bring the magic alive for you and inspire your honeymoon planning. When you're ready to book your honeymoon travel, give us a call!! We would love to help!

I've included links to some of my online albums if you want to read about and view my photos for Hawaii, Tahiti and the Cook Islands.

Please note: you may need to "join Imagestation" to get a user name and password to view the albums, but you can opt out of solicitations, emails,etc..... it's worth taking the time to join - our albums are great!).



The Island of Kauai ~ The Island of Discovery... Kauai PhotoAlbum #1 and Kauai Photo Album #2 (This album includes Maui)



Kauai is my favorite of the Hawaiian Islands. Aesthetically, I believe Kauai is the most beautiful of the Hawaiian Islands.

It has so much to offer in terms of natural beauty. Known for its spectaular natural beaty, it is at the same time lush and tropical and stunning and dramatic, and of course completely romantic. Kauai is famed for its breathtaking Na Pali coast (a must do hike on the Kalalau Trail), Waimea Canyon (Hawaii's "Grand Canyon") the Fern Grotto and Hanalei Bay.

Being the island with the only navigable rivers, honeymooners can get "deep" in to the interior and tropical jungles via a kayak or boat that gives close up views and experiences of nature at it's best.

Kauai is a bit quieter than Maui - not as touristy, not as built up. If you want something a bit more "off the beaten path, then Kauai is for you. Another Kauai "must do"... a helicopter tour over Waimea Canyon and the Napali Coast.





The Big Island Of Hawaii The Big Island Photo Album **note - I had just gotten my digital camera so this one is kind of "amateur"....


What can I say?... I LOVE the Big Island too!! Not only does the Big Island have tremendous sun and surf appeal, it offers something truly spectacular NONE of the other islands have: the world's most active volcano!! A minimum 1 night - hopefully 2 - visit to Volcanos National Park is a "must do".

After that, you'll have time for relaxing on the Big Island's fabulous beaches (green, white and black!)or fill your days with ecoadventures: diving, snorkeling, kayaking, hiking, horseback riding, and searching for whales and dolphins. There are said to be 13 climatic regions on earth and the Big Island has all but two (the Artic and the Saharan). A day driving around the island will take you through almost lunar landscapes (the lava fields), to lush tropical rainforests, to savannahs and more... Nearly every one of the Big Island's diverse regions has its own nationally recognized park. This makes the Big Island "must see" for the traveler who wants to experience Hawaii's rich cultural history and unique natural resources.


Click here for a link to the USGS Hawaiian Volcano Observatory Website for details on the volcano and current eruptions.





Tahiti Tahiti Photo Album



If Tahiti is Paradise (and it is!....) then Radisson's Paul Gauguin is Heaven on Earth! Nancy Williams, CEO, HoneyLuna



I have had the great fortune of visiting Tahiti several times... and I LOVE it!! On our last trip to Tahiti, we combined a week cruise on the Paul Gauguin followed by island stays on both Huahine and Moorea. I had heard great things about this
ship but had never experienced it. I must say, this is truly the greatest ship to sail the oceans and, luckily for all of us, it sails in French Polynesia - one of the most beautiful places on earth! I could write for days about the m/s Paul Gauguin - but in a few words, the m/s Paul Gauguin is: understated elegance and luxury while cruising a phenomenal itinerary. The price point for this cruise, although higher than some other cruise lines, is worth every dollar. The Gauguin's excellent service puts the rest of the hospitality industry to shame! You won't be disappointed. My only problem with this cruise is that it wasn't long enough!



Here is a "day by day" account of our cruise...

Day 1 - Arrive ship - gorgeous! Complimentary cocktails for sail away party and I'm already relaxed. Pull up anchor and sail on.

Day 2
- Wake up in Raiatea and look through our enormous
stateroom window at the stunning beauty of this island. Have breakfast outside on the deck at Le Grill (this became our daily routine - something about having coffee in the morning on the deck gazing at a beautiful island really appealed to me!) We then took a wonderfuljeep safari/outrigger river and lagoon excursion to explore Raiatea. We weren't disappointed! The Gauguin's activities desk is well staffed and very helpful. Arranging excursions was painless. (Many thanks to Lara and Henri for their help and recommendations...)

Day 3 - Early morning on deck to watch our cruise into Taha'a. Everybody MUST do this - it's gorgeous. We then opted to spend the day on Radisson's private Motu Mahana. WOW! I could get used to spending my day as a castaway with lunch served with white linens and cocktails in coconuts.

Day 4 - Wake up in Bora Bora - another great view from our
stateroom window. We took the jeep safari / snorkeling excursion (I had done this before but loved it so much we did it again).

Day 5 - Quite honestly, we woke up to rain. (We still had
breakfast on deck, only this time under the canopy) But don't worry. You can still snorkel and scuba to your hearts content - even in downpours. I spent the day scuba diving (see above photo) and the visibility and diving was excellent despite the rain. The Gauguin's instructors and scuba staff were knowledgeable and competent. (I'm a Dive Master so I can say this with some authority...) I highly recommend their program for both certified and "wanna be" divers. This evening we attended the lecture "Ancient Tahiti of the Golden Mists" presented by Dr. Mark Eddowes on the history of Polynesia. Excellent, excellent lecture and highly recommended to all.

Day 6 - Woke up this a.m. to sunny skies and the cruise around Tetiaroa - Marlon Brando's islands - on our way to Moorea. Lucky guy bought those before people really knew about Tahiti! Anyway, sun turned briefly to rain so I attended Dr. Eddowes lecture on "Mutiny on the Bounty - What Really Happened". Another must do. The lecture ended and the sun came out just as we cruised in to Cook's Bay. Stunning of course -there is a reason this bay is so famous! This was also Thanksgiving (We had a lot to be thankful for!) and the Gauguin prepared a wonderful turkey dinner for the Americans on board. I'm a vegetarian but I still enjoyed the pumpkin pie!

Day 7 - Dolphin watching excursion with Michael Poole - another MUST DO! Stunning views of the Moorea coastline while you search for spinner dolphins. Dr. Poole is a marine biologist / Director of the Marine Mammal Research Program in Moorea. His knowledge of these dolphins was amazing and interesting. That night we cruised back to Papeete for our last night on the ship. The next day I was pulled off the ship - kicking and screaming! This is a fabulous cruise and will be a wonderful journey to remember for all! Please visit the m/s Paul Gauguin's site for future cruise dates and call us about booking your cruise in Tahiti on the m/s Paul Gauguin. And if a cruise on the Paul Gauguin doesn't work for you, then by all means you will be completely and totally happy staying on any of of the islands in Tahiti!

The Cook Islands The Cook Islands Photo Album



All right, I admit it!! I am a South Pacific junkie. I was recently able to spend a glorious 10 days on the islands of Aitutaki and Rarotonga in the Cook Islands. I loved it just as much as Tahiti - and in some ways, a bit more. It is a long flight (close to New Zealand) but very much worth it! The Cook Islands are a great blend of Kiwis and locals - and of course the islands are English Speaking. The Cooks are also ringed by coral reefs which create beautiful lagoons and excellent swimming beaches. It's also an incredibly affordable destination (once you're there...) So take a look at the pictures and DO consider the Cook Islands for your honeymoon!




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Thursday, November 15, 2007

How to protect yourself if you “lose it” (lost passports, credit cards or other travel difficulties)

“My ATM card won’t work! / I lost my credit card! / I can’t find my passport!” HoneyLuna friends and clients share their stories....

A good friend of mine was in Berlin and didn’t feel her room / hotel was “safe” enough to leave her passport. Rather than either carrying it with her (money belts are your best bet!) or leave it a safe at the hotel front desk, she decided to hide it. Thinking no one would be gross enough to dig in her bag of dirty laundry, she stashed the passport in the bottom of the smelly bag and went off sightseeing.

A few days later she had an early flight home and as the hotel buzzed her to let her know her driver was waiting, she realized she didn’t have her passport. She looked in her room safe, under the bed, in the closet – everywhere!! Still no passport. Panicked and with no passport, she had to send the driver on her way thinking she either lost her passport or it was stolen. She missed her flight and spent her day at the US Embassy getting a new passport and flew home the next day.

Tired and weary after a long flight home and the stress of the “lost” passport, she arrived home and dumped the contents of her suitcase on her bed – including the dirty underwear bag – and… found her passport!

This story has many important points:

First of all, never leave important documents in your room. Either carry them ON you (not in a back pack or fanny pack) or stash them with the hotel’s safe at the front desk. The only truly “safe” place is the hotel’s front desk safe. Hotels will not accept responsibility for items lost or stolen from your room – or your room’s safe. I once read an Ombudsman piece in a travel magazine where the entire safe had been cut out of the wall in a hotel room and all contents were stolen. Because it was a safe in the room, the hotel would not accept any liability or replace the contents.

Secondly, always carry copies of your important travel documents with you (separate from the originals!) And, to be extra safe, leave a copy with someone at home as well. This will come in handy and can save lots of headaches if you have the misfortune of losing something while you are traveling. Photocopies cannot replace the originals, but are extremely useful to provide important and necessary information to whoever needs to replace the documents.

I had some HoneyLuna honeymoon registry clients who inadvertently threw out their paper tickets on their honeymoon in China. While the airline was trying to accommodate them and get them home (on the same flight even), the airline could not find a copy of their airline records! If the clients had only had a copy of the tickets, the airlines could have easily found their records from the ticket number. However, because they couldn’t find the record, my clients missed their flight and were forced to spend an extra night. They finally reached me at the travel agency the next day and I faxed a copy of the tickets to the airline, which then found the record, re-issued the tickets and sent my clients home.

It is important to note that this particular airline was very accommodating. They did NOT have to re-issue those tickets. In fact, most airlines will make you buy a new ticket home (often costing thousands of dollars) and then you must file for a lost ticket refund – which can takes months to receive. Although many airlines have gone to ticket less travel, there are still quite a few airlines that issue paper tickets. If your tickets are paper tickets (and yes, paper tickets do still exist) make copies!! Actually, make copies of your e-ticket receipts as well.

Another “must do” is to call your credit card companies and advise them if you will be traveling and / or making a larger number of purchases than usual. One of our HoneyLuna honeymoon registry clients went to Disneyland on their honeymoon and wrote:

“After a wonderful honeymoon night, we had breakfast at the hotel restaurant in preparation for our first day at Disneyland. When we were finished and ready to head off on our Disney adventures, I gave the waitress my credit card. She came back with it, saying it had been cancelled! We used another card instead, but I was a bit freaked out because I knew there was plenty of money in my account and it shouldn’t have been cancelled. We immediately went back to the room and I called my bank. They said they cancelled it because several out of state charges had been made on my account and they thought someone had stolen my card. I assured them that I was the one that had made those charges because I was in California on my honeymoon! I was told to let my bank know the next time I went on a trip so that this would not happen again. Maybe other people already know this, but I didn’t. So it was quickly resolved, but the last thing I expected to be doing on my honeymoon was talking to my bank!”

In addition to talking to your bank in advance, take a back up credit card or debit card with you as well. On one of my own trips to Spain, my husband and I put all our spending money in my checking account that had a debit card attached to it. My card worked fine on the first day but then somehow became de-magnetized. It no longer worked in any of the ATMs in Barcelona. Since this was the account with all of our money in it we were in a bit of bind. I called our bank and after over an hour of international calls, we were able to transfer the money from my account, to our joint account and then to my husband’s account so we could use his card instead.

Also, it’s a good idea to check with your credit card company beforehand how they “treat” you if you do lose a card while traveling. On a recent trip in Austria a HoneyLuna employee lost their credit cards. They called to cancel their cards – one credit card company cancelled their card and sent a new card to their hotel via Fed Ex so that they received it the next day. The other credit card company cancelled their card and sent them a new card a few weeks after they had returned home. They immediately called and cancelled that card!

In these days of the internet, we can access much of our important information from anywhere in the world. But you may NOT be able to get to the internet, or for whatever reason might not be able to access your accounts. As such, do err on the side of caution and have old fashioned back up of all your important documents and information - photocopies!

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Tuesday, November 13, 2007

Creating a Successful Honeymoon Registry


Jenny and John had a successful HoneyLuna honeymoon registry!

When Jenny Johnson and John Ericson got married, they didn’t bother registering with the traditional registries. They already lived together, owned a home, and had the household items they needed.

Instead, Jenny and John registered with HoneyLuna, the Honeymoon Registry Service, (http://www.honeyluna.com/), and received “pieces of their honeymoon” as wedding gifts.

Jenny and John had a very successful honeymoon registry! “Our honeymoon included Spanish Language courses in Cusco and hiking the Inca Trail to Machu Picchu in Peru,” says Jenny. “It was so much more fun creating a gift registry that included these experiential gifts we would always remember. Our honeymoon was filled with fantastic adventures we will never forget, and allowed us to tie these special gifts to our loved ones back home.”

Honeymoon registries today are no longer “alternative” and are acceptable wedding registries. Honeymoon registries offer the opportunity for families and friends to give the couple something worth remembering for their honeymoon. However, because many people are not aware that honeymoon registries exist, it is important that the bride and groom (and their close friends, maid of honor and best man) let people know that their honeymoon registry exists and to “educate” their family friends about the concept. This will insure that they have the most successful honeymoon registry possible.

HoneyLuna provides many tools to help create a successful honeymoon registry and to “get the word out” such as:



  • Easy to use honeymoon registry templates to create a dynamic and customized honeymoon Registry announcement postcards to send to family and friends letting them know about your honeymoon registry

  • Email announcements via honeyluna.com to send to family and friends letting them know about your honeymoon registry

  • An easy to use website to for friends and family to view your itemized registry and purchase your gifts.

Although HoneyLuna provides some great tools to help you have a successful honeymoon registry, the bride and groom can also help make the honeymoon registry successful. Here a few things you can do to create a successful honeymoon registry.

1. Be Creative - Have fun with your registry. Don’t’ just ask for cash – include fun items and activities your friends and family can get excited about. HoneyLuna’s registry page allows you to include comments and even links to the hotel or activity to personalize your registry even more.



2. Include Gifts In a Variety of Price Ranges - When creating your registry do include a variety of items in different price ranges. You don't want to leave anyone out, nor make anyone feel uncomfortable. With a wide variety of price ranges, guests can contribute anywhere from $20 on up – more if they want!


3. Upload a Photo – Although HoneyLuna has a variety of photos for various different destinations, we can also upload a photo of the bride and groom to personalize your registry even more. You can just email HoneyLuna a jpeg and request that it be added to yourpage. .


4. PROMOTE YOUR REGISTRY – Don’t’ be Shy – PROMOTE YOUR REGISTRY! For a successful registry let everyone know where you are registered. Include registry announcement cards in your engagement letters, shower, and wedding invitations. Advise family members and bridal party of your gift wishes, so that they may be actively involved in communicating directly to your guests. Use HoneyLuna’s email announcements as a follow up close to the wedding date. People DO want to buy you a wedding gift, so you might as well make it as easy for them as possible.

Here is an example of some language you can use in email notifications or on your own wedding website:

Dear Tom and Susan:

We would like to share with you our honeymoon registry.

We have registered for the items and activities of our honeymoon as wedding gifts through HoneyLuna, a Wedding Registry for Honeymoon Travel! The gifts from our honeymoon registry will help us create memories that will last our lifetime! And, you'll be really connected with our honeymoon!

If shopping on line is not your preference, please call HoneyLuna at 800-809-5862. You may also find our registry on line at www.honeyluna.com and click on "Find a Honeymoon Registry" and type in either Smith or Williams.

Thank you so much for thinking of us. We look forward to seeing you and sharing our special day.

Nancy and Jim


Remember, the more you promote your honeymoon registry, the better your chances of having a successful honeymoon registry. Wouldn't you rather have some fantastic honeymoon experience as your wedding gift rather than a zebra head cookie platter or another turkey baster?

Monday, November 12, 2007

Honeymoon Planning Timeline and TIPS

Just like planning for your wedding, planning for your honeymoon is a must! We have created a honeymoon planning timeline (as a guideline) to make planning your honeymoon easier and more manageable.

Of course, this timeline is just a suggestion. Conceiveably you can take more time to plan a honeymoon – or you can accomplish everything in less time!

SIX MONTHS OR MORE BEFORE YOUR HONEYMOON...

Set a budget and research your possible honeymoon destinations.

Be sure to read our piece on HONEYMOON PLANNING TIPS in this blog which will help you to determine what type of honeymoon and where is right for you

Also, do read our article on All Inclusives Resorts as they can be a wonderful choice for many!

Now is the time sign up for your HoneyLuna honeymoon registry and start getting the word out. Do read our article in this blog about honeymoon registries.

When you create your HoneyLuna gift registry, don’t forget to include things you might need for the honeymoon such as a new digital camera, even luggage!

FIVE MONTHS PRIOR TO YOUR HONEYMOON...

If you have chosen a honeymoon destination outside of the US, a passport is required!! For most destinations, passports must be good for at least 6 months after your dates of travel.

To insure that you have time to take care of any difficulties, (read my fiancee can't get a passport) apply for your passport in plenty of time.

Here is a link to the State Departments page on applying for passports.

Make your reservations! It is never too early to book your honeymoon package. I’ve always felt waiting for “that great deal” is not a gamble one should take on honeymoons! DO check with travel agents and DO do your research on line to insure you’re getting a good package price, but don’t wait too long!

Take a look at HoneyLuna’s online booking engine to get some pricing ideas and to book your travel package on line.

HoneyLuna ALWAYS RECOMMENDS THE PURCHASE OF TRIP CANCELLATION INSURANCE. If it’s not included in your package you can purchase it separately. Try to purchase “cancel for any reason” coverage.

FOUR MONTHS PRIOR TO YOUR HONEYMOON...

Once you’ve booked your package, sit back and relax awhile… start shopping for the things your need at our HONEYLUNA STORE such as travel guidebooks or a new digital camera. As it gets closer to the wedding you won’t have much time to read!

Begin mailing the HoneyLuna registry announcement postcards or send out announcement emails. It’s never too early to let friends and family know of your honeymoon registry.

THREE MONTHS PRIOR TO YOUR HONEYMOON...

Begin making sure all the details are in place (especially since the wedding will be coming up quickly!)

Make sure your passports ARE in order!

Get any vaccinations you may need check out the CDC site to see what’s required for your destination.

TWO MONTHS PRIOR TO YOUR HONEYMOON...

Chances are final payment is due on your honeymoon package or cruise about this time. Don’t forget to pay for it!

Time to purchase luggage, your new camera and honeymoon clothing / swimsuits (if you haven’t already!)


ONE MONTH PRIOR TO YOUR HONEYMOON...

Remind family and friends again of your HoneyLuna honeymoon registry.

ONE – TWO WEEKS PRIOR TO YOUR HONEYMOON...

Begin to pack (Double check the weight restrictions on your luggage, especially if your travel involves small planes)

Double check your travel documents – confirm itinerary, double check your airline reservations are E-ticket, make sure your passports are in a safe place.

Do you have seat assignments together?

Make photocopies of passports, airline tickets, travelers' checks numbers, and credit cards

Call your banks and credit cards to let them know you’ll be traveling. Make sure your PIN code will work if you’re traveling internationally.

Make sure you have all your medication and prescriptions / things you might need while on your honeymoon (birth control, urinary tract infection antibiotics, sunscreen, cortisone cream, aloe gel, etc.)

Have a beautiful wedding and get ready to go on your honeymoon!


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Friday, November 9, 2007

Luxury with a Conscience in Cambodia


Luxury with a Conscience.... through Shinta Mani Hotel Siem Reap, Cambodia

Our experience with the Shinta Mani Hotel in Siem Reap, Cambodia changed forever how my partner Jim and I view the world.

We went to Siem Reap to visit the temples at Angkor Wat. The temples were magnificent, and surely not to be missed. What changed us forever were not the temples, but an angel named Chitra Vincent. Chitra is an angel in a human costume. She is also the Academic Director and Community Support Projects Coordinator at the Shinta Mani Hotel in Siem Reap. A Sri Lankan who moved to Cambodia to work for Shinta Mani 5 years ago, Chitra fell in love with Cambodia and its people and never left. With the support of Shinta Mani’s founder, Chitra is the visionary and devoted energetic force behind Shinta Mani’s Community Support Programs.

Through their Community Support Program, we were able to purchase a fresh water well for a Cambodian family for only $90 US. We were given the opportunity to meet the family in the nearby rural village that had received our well and see the well in action. As we walked toward the village we did not know what to expect. So far our experience with the tourist infrastructure in Siem Reap (excellent), and the luxury of Shinta Mani (also excellent), provided us with a very protected first day. But on our second day, as we got off the main road and drove into the rural villages, the glossy veneer disappeared.

As we walked down a muddy footpath, we saw a thatched roof shack with just 3 walls and a board laid across the back wall. I had the passing thought that this must be where they keep their goats. In fact, this was somebody’s “home”! The board was their sleeping platform. If it rains, a plastic tarp is used as a bedspread to help keep them dry. I thought to myself, “Toto, we’re not in Kansas (or, in our case, Marin County) anymore!” We began to see the reality of how too many people in Cambodia live – below the poverty level (40%), often hungry, often with no fresh running water. Despite it all, we found the people in Cambodia to be genuinely gracious and friendly, and always ready with a huge, beautiful smile.


Because Chitra believes in accountability for every dollar, it is very important to her that donors know that they purchased something specific, not just a contribution toward some well some where. Our visit happened to coincide with Jim’s 40th birthday. As a surprise for Jim, Chitra had sign on the well painted to read “Happy 40th Birthday Jim”. Needless to say, when I saw it I broke down in tears knowing that this very small gift for Jim was a huge gift for this family.

Water health is of paramount importance. Cambodia has one of the largest deficiencies of clean drinking water, leaving 1 in 5 children dying due to water related diseases. With no fresh water, a family’s primary goal each day is to walk miles to obtain fresh water. With no fresh water, families can’t grow produce to help feed them. The gift of a fresh water well is a starting point for a family, and their village (One well can actually support up to 5 families.)

Life for the family grows from the well. They no longer have to spend hours seeking out fresh water. These hours can be spent developing agriculture and growing their own foods as they now have fresh water readily available for irrigation. In fact, the well design includes an irrigation run off channel that captures water run off from the well directly into a small family plot of vegetables. Mr. Arif, Shinta Mani’s GM, says "We find that the lives of many of our guests are changed after just one excursion to the villages". Mr. Arif went on to say, "Our guests experience a whole new realization; its difficult for those in developed countries to appreciate the level of poverty in Cambodia; their eyes and hearts are opened; they feel compassion and a desire to help. The support provided by our guests is primarily to the benefit of those less fortunate, but their donations are also an uplifting experience for our guests".


In addition to the well, we also purchased for our family a 50kg bag of rice and fish and soy sauce that will provide sustenance for a month ($25 US) and a bicycle ($46 US) to allow the kids easier transportation to school and a means of assisting the family to earn some income. The rice was also delivered to our family at the time of our visit. Chitra has developed an incentivized program of giving and receiving: as families illustrate they are properly using the well and developing their own sustenance, they then receive the larger gifts of piglets (breeding provides income), sewing machines (a tool for creating gifts and clothing that can be sold for income), and finally, a new home.


Shinta Mani is derived from the Sanskrit word that means “the gem that provides all”. It’s an appropriate name for this charming boutique hotel, founded by Sokoun Lo, that not only provides luxury and excellent hospitality, it offers ongoing and legitimate programs that give back directly to the people of Cambodia. These programs include the Institute of Hospitality, a vocational training facility for Cambodians, funded from the operations of the hotel as well as donations from private individuals, and the Community Support Programs.

Through Oct. 31, 2006, Shinta Mani guests and benefactors have generously donated (and they have installed) 201 water wells with hand pumps, bringing improved hygiene and health standards that provide a better life to more than 800 families in Cambodia.

For more information on reservations at Shinta Mani while visiting Siem Reap, or for making donations through Shinta Mani, please visit http://www.shintamani.com/ or contact their Community Based Activity at cba@shintamani.com.

If after reading this article, you would like to include the purchase of a Fresh Water Well (or the program's other items) in Cambodia on your HoneyLuna gift registry as a wedding present, please select and add the template "Cambodia Giving" to your gift registry. Please let us know that you are including these items in your register and HoneyLuna will monitor your account to coordinate the gift with Shinta Mani if it is purchased off of your gift registry.

For an idea of how it could look to include Cambodia giving on your honeymoon registry, click here....

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Thursday, November 8, 2007

Laughter is the best medicine when you're locked out of your honeymoon hotel!

Hi HoneyLuna! We would love to share our honeymoon story with you for your blog!

We (me and Chris) went to Ireland. I had never been out of the country, so I was looking forward to this trip more than anything. We arrived in Dublin and went straight to the "bed and breakfast" inn to check in. The employees were extremely polite and very sweet. They gave us maps and ideas of places to visit and sat down to talk to us for a while. However, they forgot to tell us about "curfew", which was when the Inn locked it's front doors. Since I was not familiar with staying at an Inn, I never thought to ask.

That night we got all dressed up and "went out on the town". I was wearing a cocktail dress and high heels. We had a great time touring Dublin. We arrived at the Inn after 12 midnight and to our surprise, the doors were locked. We rang the bell, but there was no answer. We called the Inn from our cellular phone, no answer. Since our room was in the front of the Inn on the ground level, my husband had the idea that we could crawl in from the window. "Crawl in from the window?! What is he nuts?"

I was imaging being arested for breaking and entering in Ireland. "Mom, I'm in jail in Ireland...can you come and get me?". Anyway, needless to say I gave in and we went to our window. It then starts to rain (of course). So, here I am, in the rain, with my husband up my dress trying to lift me to the window on our first honeymoon night. Needless to say, we couldn't get the window open and it was late. He put me down and we began to laugh, hysterically, at our misfortune.

We weren't in a main area and didn't know how exactly to contact a cab company or where the nearest hotel was. We begain walking down the street trying to find...something, and making jokes about what else could go wrong. Although this wasn't my ideal situation, I remember thinking to myself, "I couldn't be happier". We have no place to sleep, my high heels are killing me, there isn't a cab in site AND it's raining...and there we were laughing and laughing down the street to the point where I had to stop because I was laughing so hard.

We turned the corner and finally spotted a cab! It's a miracle! We hopped in and told the cabby our story. The cabby told us that all the hotels in Dublin were probably booked due to a convention of some sorts and we began going to one hotel after the other. All booked. After the seventh hotel or so, the cabby said "I know where to go" and took us to another hotel, where he got out with us and went to the reservation desk with us. He was friends with the person behind the counter and explained our story to him.

The hotel employee said that he had no rooms available but told us to wait a minute in the lobby. He went up the stairs and came back down sortly after. He said that he would give us the hotel "employees" room - which I assume was a room designated for employees to sleep from time to time. He said it was all he had and that if his boss knew, he would get into trouble giving away the room but gave it to us anyway. We said ok and were glad just to be out of the rain. The cabby left and refused to take any money for the drive.

The hotel employee said that the room was very small and only had a single bed...we didn't care at that point. We went up to the room, completely exhausted and soaked. We undressed having nothing that was dry to change into and squished into this single bed - and I mean SQUISHED. We woke up the next morning still making jokes about the night before and how he hogged the covers and moved around on the bed all night. We put our clothes back on, me in my (now wrinkled and still damp) dress and he in his suit. We must have looked like some pair walking out of the hotel, down the streets of Dublin! We took a cab back to the Inn.

We arrived and the employees said that they were very worried about us since we didn't not come back at the required time. We said that we had never been told of the curfew. We still wanted to see more of Dublin so went back to our room, showered, and went back out to sightsee. When we returned to the Inn later we found champagne and chocolate in our room and received a personal apology from the manager (who, by the way, did not charge us for the night).

But the best part of the story for me was that I REALLY realized I had married the right person, someone who could laugh even when the chips are down. We had a great time that night (despite our bad luck) and I will never forget it. It was the best night and the worst night all in one!

Deitra and Chris Hughes

p.s. We really loved using HoneyLuna's honeymoon registry! (http://www.honeyluna.com/)
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Wednesday, November 7, 2007

Considering an all-inclusive resort for your honeymoon.

All inclusive resorts are an extremely popular choice for honeymoons. It’s wonderful to plan a trip (especially after all the wedding details) where just about everything is simplified and taken care of for you! Basically you pay one set price up front – and all of your accommododations, meals, many activities, beverages, tips and extras are all included in the price. Many all inclusive resorts have are upscale resorts in desirable locations.

All-inclusives are not for everyone, but they can be a terrific way to honeymoon, offering the best of all worlds for both the bride and groom. You can relax and / or have all the adventures you want, without having to worry about whether or not you can really “afford” it with the remaining cash in your wallet (often vastly depleted after a wedding!).

The nice thing about true All-inclusives is that there are no hidden costs. Do read the fine print though about what really is included as there could be some extra expenses such as some off property activities, spa treatments, or specialty activities such as scuba diving or golf. With many all-inclusives, watersports, tennis, kayaks, etc. are available at no extra cost. Some resorts, calling them ULTRA all-inclusives do include things like SCUBA, champagne parties, yoga classes, and even off property tours to local tourist attractions and popular activities.

Many All-inclusive resorts are destinations in and of themselves! You could theoretically spend an entire week at the right resort and never leave! However, you are free to go wherever you want and explore. And in my opinion, if you’re going to a fabulous destination, you should get out and explore! Why fork over the bucks to fly to St. Lucia if you only stay at the resort – but, that is a personal thing. Many resorts offer concierge services to help book off property excursions for you.

Contrary to what some may have heard about the old Club Med Days/Ways, honeymooners are not herded from one activity to another. You can choose to do as much or as little as you want. However, if you choose to participate in activities and tours, the resort makes it easy for you. You may also find that you meet other honeymooners and make new friends!

Do check out the food options available in the resort you are interested as food is one area that varies widely in all-inclusives. Many resorts have buffet only options but do offer special event options and menus throughout the week. Other resorts, like Sandals, offer several different restaurants within the resort, many with a la carte menu choices.

One important thing to consider…. If you want a resort that is couples only for your honeymoon, be sure to choose a couples only resort as some-all inclusives do allow children and families.

Remember when you are pricing all-inclusive resorts, the pricing might seem high but remember that is partly because you are paying for everything up front . A good exercise is to “break it down” to an a la carte approach and then add it all up. (i.e. if it wasn’t an all inclusive, what would I expect to pay for the hotel each night, 3 meals a day, alcohol, tips, etc.) Once you’ve totaled it all up, you will usually find that the all-inclusive is actually a great value.
And DO remember that even if you choose an all-inclusive resort, you can still use HoneyLuna’s honeymoon registry (www.honeyluna.com). You can “break down” the total package cost into manageable and tangible gifts on your registry such as $100 contribution to the night in your beachfront honeymoon suite, or dinner for two at one of the resort’s restaurants. You can also include the activities and spa treatments that will cost you extra. Honeymoon registries are a great way to help you have the honeymoon of your dreams at a wonderful all-inclusive resort.

This article discusses all-inclusives in general. However, it is important to check out the details of each resort to understand what it is you really are purchasing for your honeymoon and what really is included in your all-inclusive. Every resort is different. Also, another recommendation is to check out the resorts you are interested in on www.tripadvisor.com and read the reviews of the resort posted by other honeymooners and travelers who have actually been there. You’ll find some interesting feedback (hopefully all good) on the food, the activities, the beaches, etc..
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Tuesday, November 6, 2007

My fiancee can't get a passport!

Know before you go AND before you get married! Useful tips and traveler responsibilities before you leave on your honeymoon

This is a very serious article for many reasons. If you can’t get a passport, you can’t leave the country. If you don’t have the right visas for the country you’re traveling to, that country won’t let you in. Either scenario – or others, would obviously ruin your honeymoon.

Let’s start with something that might seem obvious, but has happened to us more than once, so it bears discussions. There are reasons that you might not be able to get a passport, or that your fiancée might not be able to get a visa. Do not automatically assume that either one of you are “sure things” in the passport and visa department.

We once had a couple that had booked a honeymoon to Tahiti. Three weeks before they were supposed to leave the bride called in tears because they had just found out that the groom could not get a passport – and hence, could not leave the country to travel to Tahiti. Evidently he had some issues surrounding child support and child custody issues from a previous marriage that were significant enough to prevent the Passport Agency from issuing him a passport.

Another bride booked an Alaskan Cruise from Vancouver. They were Canadian and thought they’d spend part of their honeymoon driving across Canada and then take the cruise. Again, just a few weeks before their honeymoon cruise, she called in tears because she just found out that due to a past criminal record and current probation issues, her groom-to-be was not allowed to leave Canada (and/or enter the US!). Although the cruise began in Canada, it left Canada as soon as it entered the US Waters of Alaska. Their cruise had to be cancelled.

Now if I were a marriage counselor, I would definitely advise both of these brides to take a good hard look at the men they were about to marry. Seems to me there are some red flags here! But I’m not a marriage counselor; I’m just a “honeymoon counselor”. But as a honeymoon counselor I can say, be sure to get all the issues out on the table. Anything out of the ordinary, anything that could possibly prevent you from having the honeymoon of your dreams – such as your fiancée not being able to get a passport!

Another issue that has arisen is when either the bride or the groom is not a US citizen and are traveling to a country outside the US. Be sure to check thoroughly the restrictions on your fiancées US visa. Can they leave the US and return?

Do not assume that the requirements for a US citizen to enter a country are the same as your fiancés if they are traveling under a different country’s passport. You may not need a visa, but they might, or visa versa.

From time to time we have honeymooners traveling or leaving the country with children from a previous marriage. Be sure you have all the legal documents you need to be able to take the children out of the country with you. You may need to show your custody agreement of a notarized letter from the other parent granting permission for the kids to leave the country.

We had once had a honeymoon registry couple that booked their own travel package on line to Brazil. They were not aware, nor did they read the fine print, that they need a visa to enter Brazil. Brazil did not issue visas at the airport. When they arrived in Rio, they were not allowed out of customs because they did not have a visa! The authorities wanted to put them immediately on the return flight back to the US. (Technically, the airlines should never have let them board the aircraft without the visa to begin with.) However, after much begging, pleading and tears, they were told that they could take a flight to Buenos Aires and they could be issued an emergency visa there. Not wanting to miss their honeymoon completely, this is what they decided to do. 48 hours later and several thousand dollars later, they entered Brazil with visa in tact. Despite their attempts to receive compensation from both the airline and the tour company, they ultimately bore the expense (and the lost honeymoon time) on their own. This is because no matter what, it is the traveler’s responsibility to make sure ALL their legal documents and requirements are in order!

THIS IS IMPORTANT!! It is ALWAYS the traveler’s responsibility (that means you!) to make sure that you have the appropriate legal documents, visas and immunizations for your destination. Travel agents, guidebooks, and tour operators do their best to provide accurate information. But it’s always a good idea to check with consulate or tourism board of the country you will be visiting yourself to be certain what is required. Laws change and travel agents and tour operators sometimes can provide misinformation – but they are not responsible – YOU are.

OTHER IMPORTANT NOTES: Most countries also require that your passport be valid for at least six months after your travel completion date. Be sure to check the expiration date on your passport and be sure it will be valid for six months after your dates of travel.

Make sure your tickets and visas are issued in the same name as your passport (or ID/Driver’s license if you are traveling within the US). If everybody knows you as Star, but the name on your passport is Elizabeth, your tickets MUST be issued under the name on your passport. Brides traveling immediately after your wedding date will need to have their passport and / or tickets issued in your maiden name. You cannot legally change your name to your married name on your driver’s license of passport until after you have your marriage license.

APPLY FOR YOUR PASSPORT EARLY!!!

www.honeyluna.com honeymoon registry

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