Honeymoons: Magnetic South

 

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Fort Lauderdale, Fla.

by Dale B. Salm

At first blush Fort Lauderdale may not have the romantic cachet of, say, bali, but it’s a surprisingly delightful—and multifaceted—destination. Since the city’s spring-break heyday, upscale hotels have moved in along the three-mile beach, restaurants and shops have gone up several notches in sophistication and Fort Lauderdale today qualifies as a top vacation spot. It’s especially alluring fall through winter, high time for couples who like the idea of spending a few relaxing days in the sun in a small city by the sea in mainland USA, and that includes honeymooners like you from Connecticut.

For our honeymoon trial run we decided on The Ritz-Carlton Fort Lauderdale, and loved it from the moment we stepped into the grand marble lobby and glimpsed the sun-splashed beach just beyond. We were greeted with a cool drink and a warm smile, a sign that true to its Ritz-Carlton mantra (“ladies and gentlemen serving ladies and gentlemen”), it’s all about gracious service here—and luxe accommodations.

And indeed our room, a class act with balcony overlooking the beach (some rooms overlook both the beach and the mansion-and-yacht-lined Intracoastal, a bonus in the water-view department), was richly appointed and spacious. We could have danced all night/day here, but first things first.

We quickly discovered what would become our base of operations: the eighth-floor pool deck, and a row of private cabanas—with flat-screen TVs, fridges, iPod docking stations and couples’ massages on request—one level below. From pool and cabana, our eyes were drawn across the way to the blue Atlantic, with surfers surfing, kites flying, megayachts and cruise ships gliding by. Mid­afternoon, when the sun went down poolside, we’d head to the beach, or to the hotel’s serene all-organic spa (we suggest a deep-tissue massage for your love, the Intuitive Ocean Treatment for you—ask for Maria of the magic hands). Suitably tanned and refreshed, you’ll enjoy dinner in the hotel’s elegant Via Luna, whose memories to savor run from Via Luna meatballs (the chef’s mother’s recipe) to heavenly Nutella beignets. For a wine tasting before dinner or a more private dining venue, reserve the wine vault (they supply wraps since, baby, it’s cold inside).

Dining options don’t end in the hotel, as sublime as it may be, and you’ll want to explore, of course. A block away we found piano bar/restaurant Casablanca, complete with whirlng fans, sidewalk tables ideal for people watching and a crowd-pleasing menu (recommended: “Up East” chowder and Chilean sea bass with ginger-mango chutney). Another night found us at the über-hip W Fort Lauderdale and its sleek Steven Starr restaurant, Steak 954 (named for the local area code), the place for Kobe cuts, sinful sides (e.g., truffle potato gratin) and a cool aquarium backdrop.

For downtown action, we hopped a water taxi—“the Venice of America” is known for its canals—to Las Olas, a lively allée of chic shops and galleries, restaurants and night spots (think Florida’s answer to Paris’ Left Bank), and the nearby Broward Center for the Performing Arts (look for Rain, Jersey Boys and Billy Elliot). Farther afield we alighted on Butterfly World, a dreamscape of butterflies, birds and blossoms that was pure enchantment.

Finally, since Fort Lauderdale is America’s cruise-ship capital (55 ships set sail here), you can easily extend your honeymoon onto the high seas—which we did. If your style is small and classy, you’ll find Nirvana on the 225 all-suite Seabourn Sojourn. We felt blissfully comfortable and cosseted on the liner that’s raised the bar for small-ship luxury, even on our all-too-short two-day cruise to nowhere. If time and money allow, Sojourn cruises the world.

If big and glitzy is more your style, go for Royal Caribbean’s 2,700-room megaship, Allure of the Seas. Everything here is on a grand scale, from 26 restau­rants to a 29-room spa to a Vegas-style casino. Again, we did a two-day cruise to nowhere but if you’re island-minded, Allure sails the Caribbean.

And you thought Fort Lauderdale was stuck in spring-break time! It’s clearly come of age, and is beckoning you and your love to test the waters, and sail on.                               

For more info on Fort Lauderdale, visit sunny.org; for The Ritz-Carlton Fort Lauderdale, visit ritzcarlton.com; for cruise options, visit seabourn.com and allureoftheseas.com.
 

Honeymoons: Magnetic South

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