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World's most romantic hotels 2005

/ Source: Forbes

It doesn't get much more romantic than spending Valentine's Day in a beautiful hotel. For one thing, there is the anonymity and privacy. For another, there's a great big bed. Even if all you do is lie around ordering strawberries and champagne, the feeling that all of your needs are taken care of makes Valentine's Day that much more special for you and your sweetheart.

According to the National Retail Federation's 2005 Valentine's Day Consumer Intentions and Actions Survey, this year the average consumer will spend approximately $97 on Valentine's Day. Total estimated spending is predicted to be $13.19 billion, which is up just over 1 percent from last year. The most popular gift given on Valentine's Day is a greeting card, followed by flowers, candy and an evening out.

But let's face it, a dozen long stems, a box of chocolates and an overpriced dinner -restaurants shamelessly hustle "special" Valentine's Day meals - cannot compare with a weekend in, say, Paris. Sure, the cost for a couple days at the Ritz, including airfare, can easily exceed $5,000, but the gesture is almost certain to be appreciated. The decline of the dollar versus the euro notwithstanding, no one ever said that romance comes cheap.

Of course, money still can't buy love, so it's not always how much you spend: Where you spend is equally important.

Whether sequestered in city elegance or nestled on a remote beach, the most romantic hotels have been designed with privacy and seclusion in mind. Places where the rooms have something special about them, whether it's a private plunge pool set within a walled tropical garden in Bali or an elegant terrace overlooking Venice's Grand Canal. Places where, for the most part, no one has a laptop slung over their shoulder or wants to know where the business center is, but where meals and champagne and wine can be delivered 24 hours a day and you never have to leave bed to get it.

Bobby Bowers, an analyst with Smith Travel Research in Hendersonville, Tenn., predicts that this Valentine's Day will underperform last year's in terms of hotel occupancy. This is not due to a sudden decline in America's romantic proclivities, however. "Valentine's Day falls on a Monday this year, making it more difficult for couples to book a trip," Bowers says. Last year all of the stars were aligned, as Valentine's Day fell on a Saturday and a long weekend. For the week of Feb. 9 through Feb. 15 in 2004, U.S. hotel occupancy was 62.9 percent, compared with 54.6 percent the previous year.

But if you haven't already booked a romantic weekend, don't get out your suitcases just yet. Even with this year's holiday occurring on a Monday, many of the hotels on the following list have been booked solid for weeks. It's not too soon to start thinking about next year, though. Count on using some of your vacation days - and the following list - to help plan a romantic Valentine's Day trip for next year. And so you know, Feb. 14, 2006 falls on a Tuesday.