By Bill Buell
Daily Gazette Reporter
Where to go on your honeymoon: How about Mauritius?
Perhaps you’ve never heard of it, but since the late 1980s the small island country just east of Madagascar in the Indian Ocean has become a hot destination for tourists, many of them honeymooners. Even earlier, back at the turn of the 20th century, Mark Twain wrote that “Mauritius was made first and then heaven, heaven being copied after Mauritius.”
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According to Kathy Wood of Wood Travel in Niskayuna, it has something else going for it, too.
“This woman wanted a beach vacation but she was very concerned about the Zika virus,” said Wood, who along with her husband have been in the travel business since the 1980s. “It was an unusual request, so we looked for some place that wasn’t troubled by the Zika virus and we found it. The CDC [Center for Desease Control] said it was not on the list of places that have risks of catching Zika.”
If you’re not looking to go halfway around the world for your honeymoon, there are closer locations, and Barbara Waterbury, co-owner at Empress Travel and Cruises on Upper Union Street in Schenectady, the Caribbean remains a good option, despite some destructive hurricane late last year.
“Contrary to a lot of what you hear out there, the Caribbean is back up and running,” said Waterbury, who has been in the business since 1970 and at her Upper Union Street location for 18 years. “Typically, people want to go where it’s good and warm this type of year, and the Caribbean is the place along with Mexico.”
According to the Caribbean Hotel and Tourism Association’s Caribbean Travel Update, “70 percent of our Caribbean destinations were not affected by the storms and that the majority of hotels across the region are fully operational and open for business.” Speaking for a region that consists of 32 countries spanning 1 million square miles, the association added that “before long those islands, which are currently on the road to recovery, will be eager to welcome you back.”
Waterbury said that honeymoon couples make up about 30 percent of her business, and when she gets a phone call from a woman planning her wedding and honeymoon, many of them aren’t sure exactly what they’re looking for.
“We have people who call and may think they know what they want, but then you talk to them for a while and things change,” said Waterbury. “They’re thinking they want to go to a place that a friend told them about, but when you start talking them through it they realize their likes and needs are not the same as their friends. So sometimes we do help people go in a different direction.”
Talking through your honeymoon plans with a person, rather than surfing the internet, is the smart way to do it says Wood.
“We can save people a ton of time by doing some of the planning ourselves,” she said. “Some people have a clear idea of what they want, and that makes it easier for us to help them. And then there are people who don’t really know what they’re looking for, and we help them by comparing and contrasting different locations. We’re familiar with so many destinations and when they tell us their needs and their budget we’ll know where to look. They won’t have to spend hours on line themselves.”
Along with Mauritius and the Caribbean, Wood and Waterbury said Hawaii remains a popular destination for honeymooners, as does Italy followed by France and England, probably in that order.
“Honeymoons, well, hopefully it’s a once-in-a-lifetime experience, so people are willing to plan and spend more money and take more time,” said Waterbury. “Italy is No. 1, and then you have Paris and London, and then probably Barcelona.”
“From New York, there is non-stop service to Rome, Milan, Venice and sometimes Naples,” said Wood. “Those are popular locations for honeymooners, and while bridal plans are often done long in advance, we can put the honeymoon together pretty quickly.”
If you want to stay in the U.S., Florida and southern California are two popular spots, as well as Alaska.
“Most people want to go where it’s warm, but if that’s not what you’re looking for Alaska is a great place,” said Wood. “And, those who don’t want the beach are often looking to tour the wine country. There are some great honeymoon packages for the wine country in California.”