As veteran travelers know, one of the toughest tests of a relationship comes when two people set out on a journey together. It's only logical, then, to hope for a honeymoon that matches one dictionary's definition: "A period of blissful harmony."
Cruise ships, once thought of as the refuge of wealthy older people, are becoming ideal honeymoon destinations as more and more young people discover the ease and pleasure of seagoing holidays.
The cost, easy to reckon in advance with one all-inclusive price that covers everything except bar bills, tips, laundry and shore excursions, often is less than resort hotels once you figure in meals and entertainment. Also, both romance and luxury are in plentiful supply.
You can stroll on the deck in the moonlight, seek out your own uncrowded beach on a tropical island port of call or soak in a hot tub together while you sip chilled champagne. Breakfast in bed is as close as a phone call, and you can stake out a secluded corner of the deck for sunbathing or quiet conversation.
'Gift of Cruising'
Some lucky couples receive honeymoon cruises as wedding gifts from parents and grandparents who chip in toward this once-in-a-lifetime experience. At least one line, Cunard, presents the "Gift of Cruising" certificate in a lavish velvet gift box with solid brass luggage tags.
But whether you're buying a cruise for your own honeymoon or for someone near and dear to you, you'll want to check certain details ahead of time with the cruise line or your travel agent.
First, look for an air/sea package that includes all transportation and transfers, so you can book everything in one transaction. You'll usually save money on the air fares as well, because the cruise line can buy at a much lower group rate.
Ask for a cabin with a double, queen- or king-size bed, in short supply on some older ships. Most new ships--Princess' Royal Princess, Carnival's Jubilee, Celebration, Holiday and Tropicale, and RCCL's new Sovereign of the Seas, for instance--have twin beds that convert to one large bed. On some ships you may find it worthwhile to book a more expensive cabin or mini-suite to get extra space and amenities.
Tables for two are not always guaranteed because some lines prefer passengers to sit at larger tables of six or eight. If you encounter this, ask to be seated with other honeymooners or young couples.
Some lines will make table assignments at the time the cruise is booked, while others require that you make your dinner reservations in person after boarding the ship. If the latter is the case, make it a point to board as early as permissible on embarkation day and go directly to the dining room to request your sitting.
You will be able to choose between the first dinner sitting, usually around 6:30 p.m., or the second, more popular with young passengers, at 8 p.m. or 8:30 p.m., as well as specifying your preference for a smoking or nonsmoking area. And, if you are not happy with your assigned table after the first day, go to the maitre d' and ask to be moved.
Some couples enjoy being singled out for congratulations and celebrations on board but others prefer to be left alone. Your travel agent can notify the line at the time you book to order a special cake, flowers, champagne or a serenade from your waiters, but if you want anonymity, make it clear in advance.
The ultimate celebration might be to hold the wedding and/or reception on board ship, with the newlyweds sailing away after the party. Admiral Cruises, for example, can prepare a one- to two-hour pre-sailing wedding and reception ($1,500 to $2,200 for 100 people) with open bar, champagne, cake, hot and cold hors d'oeuvres, live entertainment and a souvenir photo album.
For information, call Grace Aguilar in Los Angeles at (213) 548-8411 for the Azure Seas or Stardancer or Helen Lang in Miami at (305) 374-1611 for the Emerald Seas. Admiral also promises honeymooners a table for two in the dining room and a cabin with double bed.
Three-, four- and seven-day Bahamas, Caribbean and Mexico cruises are popular all year from both East and West Coast ports aboard Admiral, Carnival and Norwegian Caribbean Lines, with weeklong Hawaii and Bermuda excursions also great favorites with honeymooners.
American Hawaii will add a free six-night Waikiki hotel package on selected cruises for couples who book and pay for certain mid- and upper-category outside cabins (priced from $1,895 per person, double plus air) at least 90 days ahead of their weeklong Hawaii sailing.
Bermuda-bound honeymooners can also frequently save money by buying a cruise. During the 1988 season beginning in April, you can book a seven-day sailing for $1,210 per person double occupancy for a minimum inside or outside cabin with double bed, air fare included, from Royal Caribbean; from $1,225 each, plus air add-ons, for a standard outside with double bed from Home Lines, and from $495 to $1,095, plus air add-ons, for five or six days with Chandris Fantasy Cruises.