The perfect recipe for romance

THERE we were, me and the man I pass rushing out of the door every morning, at Sandals Whitehouse European Village and Spa in Jamaica.

There’s no-one to disturb us and no piles of washing or trips to the supermarket to eat up the day. Just pure quality time at the resort designed for couples. And it can be a little daunting.

All the other guests seemed so good at being a couple; holding hands at every opportunity, gazing lovingly at each other over their fresh fruit and bucks fizz at breakfast – there was even the odd matching outfit.

But we were getting off to a shaky start. For starters, Simon had packed his 500-page military history tome, which was sure to engross him.

Secondly, we’d already had a row. It turns out kayaking with your partner is as explosive as your dad teaching you to drive. Unable to co-ordinate our paddling, half an hour in and at the wrong end of the beach I downed tools and let him paddle back.

Not exactly a recipe for romance. The resort designed for loving couples certainly had its work cut out.

It’s hard not to be seduced by the setting. Whitehouse, which is one of Sandals’ Signature resorts, is nestled in a tranquil cove fronting two miles of pale gold sand and turquoise sea. A true Caribbean idyll with lush green mountains completing the scene.

wedding feature 160606 - panorama

Located on the relatively undeveloped south of the island, there are no other resorts within sight and the grounds absorb guests well.

It doesn’t take the most experienced agent to work out that if a client wants to stay in an authentically-styled Caribbean hotel, you don’t hand them a Sandals brochure featuring European-style accommodation.

However, if your clients have chosen Sandals, at Whitehouse they will find large, well-equipped and comfy rooms with luxurious four-poster beds and muted tones.

The European Village in a Caribbean context gives the place a slightly surreal feel – a bit like Portmeirion in North Wales, where the 1960s TV series The Prisoner was filmed.

Couples can do as much or as little as they like. There are organised games and activities to join in with and the more they do, the more points they earn towards Sandals-themed prizes such as a trinket necklace.

I suspect most wives and girlfriends, however, were more interested in the glitzy on-site jewellery store.

When not on an excursion, many couples were content to laze by the pool chatting with new-found friends.

After being won over by the near-perfect cove, our focus turned to the resort. We made Paris our first stop, heading to the little French-style patisserie serving coffee and cakes.

Then, I lazed in the hammock with a book, while Simon headed to the gym. Work stress fast disappearing, we later shared a cocktail at the swim-up bar. We were getting good at this couples lark.

By dusk, it was time for the resort to pull out its trump couples card – the Red Lane Spa Scents of Love Massage.

I couldn’t wait for an hour of pampering, but Simon was worried. He’d never been near a spa in his life and was convinced he’d come out smelling like a ‘tart’s handbag’.

wedding feature 160606 - restaurantAfter a bit of cajoling, we had each chosen our scent by sniffing a selection of bottles, and were lying on adjacent beds while lemongrass oils and expert hands were slowly removed any last traces of tension.

That evening, we wanted to go to the Caribbean restaurant, but there was no booking policy and all the tables had gone, so we opted for the Asian restaurant. Although a wide variety of food was offered in resort, the Caribbean was by far the best.

After our romantic dinner for two, we skipped the midnight seafood buffet and walked back to our hotel room along the beach hand in hand – just like the other couples.

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Thomas Cook is selling seven nights at the four-star Sandals Whitehouse European Village and Spa from £1,359 per person twin-share, for departures in November. The accommodation is on an all-inclusive basis and the price includes flights and transfers.

Other couples-only resorts:

Caribtours offers a one-week stay at Couples Swept Away in Jamaica from £1,401 per person twin-share in November.

The price is on an all-inclusive basis including return flights and transfers. It also includes a bottle of champagne on arrival, one complimentary half-hour massage per person, a room upgrade (subject to availability on arrival), and complimentary lounge pass for London departures.

Gold Medal offers seven nights for the price of six at the Superclubs Grand Lido Braco from £1,345 per person twin-share, on an all-inclusive basis. The package includes flights and transfers.

Rendezvous (part of Sunswept resorts) is a four-star hotel on St Lucia. Best At Travel offers seven nights in a garden view room on an all-inclusive basis including flights and transfers from £1,299 per person, twin-share.

ask the wedding consultant

weddings feature 160606 - planner cutoutTa-Marsha Ebanks is weddings consultant at Sandals Whitehouse European Village and Spa.

How many weddings do you do a day?
We do around four, mainly in the mornings when it’s cooler.

What’s the most popular package?
Some of our guests are on a tight budget, so they don’t always opt for the Preston Bailey package. However, a lot of guests who book their wedding with an agent instead of organising it in-resort go for the Preston Bailey packages.

What’s your favourite type of wedding?
I like the Preston Bailey floral elegance package – for me it’s all about colour, and green is my favourite.

What do people wear to their wedding?
A lot of people wear traditional wedding dresses. They do get hot, but they bear with it for the pictures. The only unusual clothes are Scottish people wearing kilts. Whether brides stay in their dresses depends on the time of day. If they get married at about 2.30pm, they will, but if they get married in the morning, they usually start their honeymoon straight away.

What kind of things go wrong and how do you solve them?
The main challenge we face is setting up each new wedding in the tight time frame. We have three consultants, so each couple will be looked after by the same member of staff the whole way through. The couple might see other couples walking about and having some photos taken, but they never feel rushed as the consultant will never be called off to deal with another party.

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