By Georgina Cruz
For Al Dia Today
There’s nothing like new beginnings to fan the flame of romance. Perhaps 2013 is your year to pop the question, tie the knot, or go all out to celebrate Valentine’s Day with your sweetie. Here are some Florida getaways arranged by destination to consider – Florida has more romantic spots than Cupid has arrows and one of these just may be the ticket for you. Check each resort’s website for rates, specials and packages.
• Amelia Island – Omni Amelia Island Plantation is a 1,350-acre resort on Amelia Island, north of Jacksonville. To the east of the resort are the blue waters of the Atlantic Ocean; to the west, green marshland and the Intracoastal Waterway. Pastimes include spa treatments, tennis and golf, and, of course, those lover-magnets: sunsets. Visit www.omnihotels.com/ameliaisland.
• Cocoa Beach – International Palms Resort & Conference Center sits on 13 acres by the sea. Area excitement abounds in such activities as manatee watches, boogie boarding and surfing. Onsite amenities include beach volleyball court, tennis court, corn hole court, half basketball court, heated junior Olympic swimming pool, and oversized Jacuzzi. Lovebirds may be tempted by the Caribbean cuisine at the beachside Mambos restaurant. Accommodations include oceanfront rooms and one-bedroom suites. Visit www.internationalpalmscocoabeach.com.
• Islamorada, Florida Keys – Cheeca Lodge & Spa on Islamorada is a quintessential tropical playground in the Keys, located on 27 oceanfront acres. Lovers find a private beach lined with palm trees, pampering treatments in the spa, West-Indian-style accommodations surrounded by gardens, pools and waterfalls, a 525-foot pier for a sunset stroll and oceanfront dining. Activities include snorkeling, windsurfing and other water sports. Visit www.cheeca.com.
• Lake Buena Vista – Nestled along the shores of Seven Seas Lagoon, Polynesia comes to life at Disney’s Polynesian Resort in Disney World. The luxury monorail resort, which opened with the Magic Kingdom in 1971, captures South Pacific island flair with landscaping, colorful birds and flowers, waterfalls and Polynesian dancers. A tropical interior, complete with bamboo-style furnishings, welcomes guests. “We came on our honeymoon two years ago,” said Pat Wilson, a visitor from Tampa, “we returned for our first two anniversaries –it is very romantic!” A swimming pool features a 40-foot-high volcano and a water slide. Another option? The romance of the south comes to life at Disney’s Port Orleans Resort. This moderately priced resort combines two southern themes. Ornate row-house buildings and cobblestone streets reminiscent of New Orleans provide fantasy adventures at Disney’s Port Orleans Resort-French Quarter. Next door, the bayou and Cajun tradition of the lower Mississippi River is alive and well at Disney’s Port Orleans Resort-Riverside with grand manors and rustic, bayou dwellings along picturesque waterways. Steal a kiss during a carriage ride or stroll in the grounds. Visit www.disneyworld.com. Yet another romantic choice in Lake Buena Vista is the Walt Disney World Swan & Dolphin Resort located within walking distance to Epcot (via an entrance in the park’s World Showcase section) and also strolling distance from Disney’s Hollywood Studios (free, continuous boat service is available to all Disney parks). If you and your sweetie always wanted to know what it’s like to be inside a work of art –this resort is the place: these hotels were designed by noted architect Michael Graves, and experts have called them “colossal works of art.” The hotels have facades in coral and turquoise crowned by colossal sculptures of 47-foot-high swans in the Swan and of 56-foot-high fish in the Dolphin; murals –the one at the Swan symbolizes water in the form of waves, the one at the Dolphin represents Florida’s exuberant flora; and fountains galore including at each hotel’s lobby and a spectacular one forming a nine-story waterfall emptying onto a series of five gigantic shells on one of the sides of the Dolphin. Their beauty is icing on the cake – who doesn’t want to be surrounded by beauty on a romantic getaway? –but also there are many amenities onsite inclu-
ding five pools, sandy beach, two health clubs, and 17 lounges and restaurants including celebrity chef Todd English’s bluezoo with gourmet specialties and market-fresh ingredients, and Il Mulino New York Trattoria with Italian delights. Visit www.swananddolphin.com.
• Little Palm Island, Florida Keys – Thirty suites, with décor themed to the islands of Indonesia and Polynesia, spell romance at Little Palm Island in the Keys. It is accessible only by boat or seaplane, some of the suites are equipped with an outdoor shower surrounded by tropical vegetation, and accommodations have no phones, radios or televisions to distract lovers. Water sports are included. Little Palm Island’s reception center is at 28500 Overseas Highway on Little Torch Key. After registering, the resort’s private launch whisks you and your love to Little Palm Island. Visit www.littlepalmisland.com.
• Mt. Dora – A Victorian dream, the Lakeside Inn in Mt. Dora has a romantic floral décor in the rooms and ample verandahs for views of scenic Lake Dora. Pastimes include antiquing at Mount Dora’s many antique shops, browsing at art galleries and excursions on the lake. The Lakeside Inn offers a variety of packages. Visit www.lakeside-inn.com.
• Orlando – Staff greets you with a “buon giorno” and takes leave of you with an “arrivederci” at Loews’ Portofino Bay Hotel at Universal Orlando. Inspired in Portofino, the hotel looks as if it has been plucked out of the Italian Riviera and placed in Central Florida –with pastel-colored buildings with green shutters, a “harbor” dotted with boats, and Italian sports cars are parked by the hotel’s entrance. You can play bocce ball or go for a stroll in the harbor plaza, where nightly concerts present Italian musical styles. Mama Della’s Ristorante at the hotel serves Italian fare to the tune of strolling musicians and Mama herself checks that you and your sweetheart have eaten all your dinner. Visit www.loewshotels.com.
• Sanibel Island – The Sundial Beach & Golf Resort is steps away from a one-mile shell-strewn beach on Sanibel. Lovebirds find five heated pools and tennis courts. Bicycles, sea kayaks (perhaps for an afternoon of paddling in the Gulf of Mexico?) and catamaran rentals are available as well as other activities. Massage therapists offer in-room and pool deck treatments. Dining spots include Beaches for a breakfast with views of the Gulf of Mexico; the Poolside Bar & Grill with refreshing frozen tropical drinks; and Sharky’s, a casual restaurant serving such specialties as blue crab bisque, Angus burgers and local grouper sandwich. Visit www.sundialresort.com.