No romantic request is too outrageous at the Royal Plantation in Ocho Rios, Jamaica.
The resort has even accommodated a guest who wished to propose to his girlfriend during a midnight dive in the Caribbean. The elaborate scheme required a staff member to dive into the water and place the ring near a coral reef, which was then discovered by the couple. Following a successful proposal on the beach, the two enjoyed a candlelit dinner.
For pairs celebrating Valentine's Day next month, Royal Plantation is offering themed extras like beachside massages for two and secluded picnics at the nearby Mahoe Falls.
The holiday promotion is standard practice in the hotel industry. From Las Vegas to Phuket in Thailand, hotels and resorts are wooing guests with special dining menus, romantic turn-down services and chilled champagne. These hotels are catering to couples who prefer to mark the occasion with a grand gesture instead of the traditional flowers or piece of jewelry. And this can mean big business for hoteliers.
"A lot of hotels get very creative in offering Valentine's Day packages," says Duane Vinson, vice president at Smith Travel Research. "They market the holiday and [it brings] an increase in occupancy rates."
When Feb. 14 falls close to a weekend, like this year, it can be especially lucrative for a hotel, since weekday occupancy rates often dip to 60 percent or lower and then rise to 80 percent on Saturday.
Consumers are expected to spend $17 billion celebrating the holiday this year, exceeding spending for Mother's Day and Father's Day, according to the National Retail Federation. The Federation also estimates that the average person plans to spend about $80 on their significant other or spouse. The average male is estimated to spend twice that amount, or $163, largely on flowers, cards, candy, jewelry and an evening out.
What your money buys
Though hotels, inns and resorts might throw in added amenities come Feb. 14, the overall cost for a couple's trip this time of year is anything but a bargain. At the luxury hotels and resorts we selected for a Valentine's Day retreat, $150 barely covers dinner a deux.
An intimate meal at the St. Regis Grand Hotel in Rome, for example, costs 95 euros per person, or about $138. That's steep, but it buys four glasses of wine, calvados-flavored lobster, potato and pecorino cheese ravioli, fillet of veal on vegetarian cous cous and a chocolate dessert.
A room at the rustic Carneros Inn in Napa Valley, which starts at $1,055, includes a gift basket of truffles. The Las Vegas Red Rock Casino, Resort & Spa offers more affordable room rates at $199, but sweet extras will set you back hundreds; a dark organic chocolate facial and body scrub costs $315. The Gansevoort Hotel in New York loosens the inhibitions of couples paying $505 a night by providing a bottle of chilled Vueve Clicquot along with a book of erotic games.
For those on a budget, there are affordable quality hotels. These include accommodations in cities like Las Vegas, New York, Chicago, Miami and Honolulu, among the most popular Valentine's Day destinations last year, according to lastminute.com, a travel Web site that specializes in short-notice airline and hotel bookings.
The site is searchable only two weeks in advance, so it truly is for procrastinators or those who decide to travel belatedly. The bargains can be worth the wait, however. A trip billed as a romantic escape to the California coastline includes airline tickets from New York to Monterey, Calif., and a three-day car rental for about $450 per person.
Giovanna Garlati, a spokeswoman for lastminute.com, says that packages like these may indicate something about consumer preferences.
"Valentine's Day is just another occasion to go away for the weekend," she says. "They don't care if they go somewhere romantic, they just want to get away."