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How Do I Love Thee? Let Us Count the Over-the-Top Getaway Options


"The challenge (and high-wire fun) of love is finding ways to make each day a fresh adventure with one's partner," Diane Ackerman wrote in "A Natural History of the Senses."

As another Valentine's Day approaches, the challenge is again upon us. Another sappy card. Another bouquet. Another romantic getaway.

To help couples find the freshest adventures on Valentine's Day, hotels and resorts create packages full of such romantic flourishes as breakfasts in bed, rooms with fireplaces and tandem massages. But you have to be careful with romantic getaways; sometimes, when planned, they fall flat, which can be worse than not having a romantic interlude at all.

This year, a few hotels and resorts have pulled out all the stops, offering packages with outrageous features. For instance, at Hedonism III, a resort on the north coast of Jamaica, you can exchange vows with your loved one in the buff. At Caesars Pocono Palace in Pennsylvania, a bubble bath in a 7-foot-tall whirlpool, shaped like a champagne glass, awaits you. Or you can spend one wildly cushy night in the presidential suite at Bacara Resort & Spa, near Santa Barbara, for $10,000. (The suite alone usually runs $5,000 a night.)

Whether anyone actually books Bacara's little Valentine's Day spree remains to be seen. Kathryn W. Sudeikis, national vice president of the American Society of Travel Agents and a travel agent in the suburbs of Kansas City, Mo., says that some packages are intended mainly to attract attention, though that's probably not the case with the champagne glass tubs because there are 176 of them at the Caesars resort in the Poconos.

Do these options sound attractive? You romantics who seek to fan the flames of love by escaping the humdrum on or around Valentine's Day know who you are. Most of you are women, says Caroline O'Connell, author of "The Best Places to Kiss in Southern California" (Beginning Press, $13.95). "Men are wired a little differently," she says, and less likely to initiate a romantic getaway.

On the other hand, Phyllis Madonna, co-owner of the Madonna Inn in San Luis Obispo, claims that Alex, her husband of 51 years, is an unabashed romantic. She says their hotel, long a favorite among lovebirds for its 106 uniquely decorated and themed rooms ("Cloud Nine" or "Love Nest") is as much his creation as hers.

When travel agent Sudeikis gets a call about a Valentine's Day getaway, it's usually from a man with a woman to wow. Lately, she's been suggesting a week in Paris, partly because air fares to France are at their lowest in winter.

But why be practical about it when you can spend Valentine's Day (and night) in one of the 20 Roman Towers rooms at Caesars Pocono Palace? These top-of-the-line, over-the-top chambers are on four levels and feature not only the aforementioned champagne goblet tubs (accessible via a staircase), but also a signature heart-shaped indoor swimming pool. Roman Towers suites are priced at $455 per couple per night, including breakfast and dinner, winter sports and evening shows,

Or you could get married au naturel at Hedonism III, a resort for singles and couples. This 15-acre Caribbean paradise offers all-inclusive vacations; it will even throw in a wedding with a marriage license, minister, witnesses, champagne and a wedding cake for the price of the vacation ($320, per couple, per night, with a two-night minimum stay).

If you'd like to tie the knot without your clothes on this Valentine's Day, you can do so at the resort during what Hedonism III is calling the "World's Largest Nude Wedding." It will be a group event, available if you book a vacation of at least four nights at $470, per night, per couple.

Getting married nude on a Caribbean beach may be someone's fantasy. For somebody else, it's being John Lennon or Yoko Ono during their 1969 "Bed-In for Peace" at the Queen Elizabeth Hotel in Montreal. Lennon and Ono encamped there for a week to protest the Vietnam War, record "Give Peace a Chance" and order lots of room-service fish and chips. This Valentine's Day, you can book the "John Lennon Peace & Love Getaway" at the Queen Elizabeth Hotel for $398 per night, including breakfast, a bottle of sparkling wine and a souvenir photo of the bed-in.

There are many ways to make St. Valentine's Day memorable. Trump International Hotel and Towers in New York has a "Love Me Tender" package for $1,295; the Ritz-Carlton Laguna Niguel can give you a Dom Perignon romantic respite for $575; or you can drop $10,000 at the Bacara Resort & Spa. The "Revel in Romance" package includes two dozen long-stemmed roses, champagne and caviar served on the beach, a diamond trinket worth $2,200, massages for him and her, a suite with Asian antiques and a hot tub overlooking the ocean.

I'm no expert on romance. I'll be watching reruns of "Mad About You" on Valentine's Day, hoping for the best for my coupled friends.

Bacara Resort & Spa, 8301 Hollister Ave., Santa Barbara, CA 93117; telephone (877) 422-3533 or (805) 968-0100, fax (805) 968-1800, Internet

Caesars Pocono Resorts, P.O. Box 40, Lakeville, PA 18438, tel. (800) 233-4141, fax (570) 226-4697, http://www.

Fairmont The Queen Elizabeth, 900 Rene Levesque Blvd. W., Montreal, Quebec, H3B 4A5, Canada; tel. (800) 441-1414 or (514) 861-3511, fax (514) 954-2256,

Hedonism III, P.O. Box 250, Runaway Bay, Jamaica, tel. (800) 467-8737, fax (876) 973-5402,

The Madonna Inn, 100 Madonna Road, San Luis Obispo, CA 93405, tel. (800) 543-9666 or (805) 543-3000,

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