Image: SANDALS
Photo courtesy of Sandals Emerald Bay
Sandals Emerald Bay on the outer Bahamian island of Great Exuma is a place where grown-ups come to play — complete with a butler.
By
Tribune Media Services
updated 3/1/2011 9:29:51 AM ET 2011-03-01T14:29:51

There are no kids anywhere.

They aren't building sandcastles on the mile-long Bahamian beach. They're not doing cannonballs in the Caribbean's largest zero-entry pool. No one is crayoning on children's menus at breakfast. There are no children's menus.

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And that's just fine. Because when you are after an adult's getaway, you don't want a lot of kids around to spoil your tranquility or make you feel guilty for leaving yours kids behind.

So what if you missed the mark this past Valentine's Day? Take your honey on a decidedly adult getaway to a place like Sandals Emerald Bay on the outer Bahamian island of Great Exuma (about an hour's flight from Miami on a 50-passenger jet). Though kids over 18 are permitted, this is a place where grown-ups come to play.

Getting pampered
"I like being the one to be taken care of, not doing the taking care of," said Bill Randolph, here with his wife Ana and two other couples from New Hampshire while their kids are home with relatives. It is their first adults' vacation in nearly five years, he added. "We get up when we want and go get served breakfast. We're not making the breakfast! We're like kids again."

Except here, instead of parents, butlers are taking care of us, catering to our every whim. Logesh Ambikapathy, a nice young man from India, and his partner Greg Raymond from St. Lucia, are charged with keeping my husband and me happy. Lemon for my water? Coming right up. Martini glasses and cocktail onions for my husband (the room is stocked with liquor)? Also no problem. Logesh even stops by the pool to see if we need anything. A pizza would be nice, we say. He brings it piping hot 15 minutes later to the cabana where we are ensconced. Honestly, I feel like I've fallen through the Looking Glass — and I'm not minding it a bit. Chris Gregoire is here with his wife Lorry. "It's hard to think of things for the butler to do!" he jokes.

Did I mention when we arrived at our room that on our bed sat a pair of swans fashioned from towels and flower petals scattered around them? We indulged in a couples massage, though I confess my husband really isn't a massage kind of guy. Our second night, we returned from dinner to find a bubble bath drawn, candles lit and "love" spelled out on the bath mat. On our third night, we were served a private dinner at an elegantly set table in a "tower" overlooking the romantically lit Sandals Emerald Bay pool, complete with champagne. We'd pre-chosen the menu (plus the conch fritters I asked our waiter to add), so we had pulled pork and sweet potato beignet and marinated Bahamian conch salad, followed by smoked marlin salad, cream of carrot soup, roasted jerk chicken and lobster, ginger creme brulee and bittersweet chocolate parfait. Just the two of us, the gentle breeze, the ocean, the pool. It's perfect, and worth the extra charge. The waiter gave me a rose when we left.

Believe me, you are never too old for romance and it doesn't have to be Valentine's Day either! Check www.sandals.com for their best upcoming deals. Elsewhere in the Bahamas, you have until the end of February to book a deal that you can use through December that touts free companion airfare to Nassau where you can take advantage of packages at Atlantis, the ultra deluxe One & Only Ocean Club and the historic 20-room Graycliff Hotel with its onsite cigar factory (get a lesson in rolling!) and spectacular restaurant.

Closer to home
Go someplace closer to home. Sonoma County, just 30 miles from San Francisco, offers an entire month of love (wine-infused chocolates anyone?) complete with romantic bike tours and luxury hotel deals. Add some sweetness to your next road trip with chocolates along the way.  Join a monthly wine dinner at the Taj Boston, just $65 per person, and get 25 percent off your room that night.

Cruise on a small ship without kids. This spring and summer, Windstar Cruises, which operates a three-ship fleet of luxury yachts that carry just 148 to 312 passengers, is offering special fares and shipboard credits of up to $1,000 on cruises to some of the most romantic ports of Italy.

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Sandals Emerald Bay where we spent a long weekend recently just opened a year ago — before that it was a Four Seasons property. The hardest thing was deciding how we should spend our well-earned idleness. We thought we'd go scuba diving but the waters were too rough. Instead, we went kayaking through the mangroves on the southeastern part of this small island, which is just 70 miles long. (The resort offers many excursions, including one that enables you to spend the day as "castaways" picnicking on a deserted beach.) Our Kayak guide Gully Rolle met us just in front of the bridge that connects Great Exuma to Little Exuma and we headed out on a blue-sky day on crystal-clear water to see sea turtles, manta rays and lemon sharks, stopping for a time on a deserted beach.

We could have played beach volleyball, bocce ball, golf, tennis or joined in the "Name That Tune" games around the pool bar, but we were content to simply relax. (And though the 183-room resort is 80 percent full, there is no jockeying for beach chairs at any of the pools, an enterprise common at other resorts.

Truth be told, the food isn't terrific — not terrible but not terrific — but no one cares because they are all having such a good time and because it is all inclusive, they eat (and drink) what they want when they want (24-hour room service! Sunrise breakfast!) The best part: No one is worried about anyone else's happiness this trip — namely his or her children.

"I love that I don't have to worry about the kids," says Lorry Gregoire. This trip is her first adult getaway with her husband Chris in more than a decade. "This is the best vacation!"

"It's nice to regroup as a couple," adds Bill Randolph. "You need that."

Absolutely. Now where is our butler?

For more Taking the Kids, visit www.takingthekids.com and also follow "taking the kids" on www.twitter.com, where Eileen Ogintz welcomes your questions and comments.

© 2011 Eileen Ogintz ... Distributed by Tribune Media Services, Inc.

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