QUESTION: My girlfriend is a workout queen, I like to lounge on the beach. Can you suggest a holiday that would make us both happy?
THE CONCIERGE: Well, besides separate vacations? Fortunately, there are plenty of yin-yang destinations and if you're hankering for some sun and sweat, try Aruba. This desert island, part of the Dutch Antilles, is consistently warm and sunny and there's plenty to do beyond sip an umbrella drink.
Pick one of the big hotels along Palm Beach, a short drive from the capital of Oranjestad. The usual suspects are here - Hyatt Regency, Radisson, Westin, and all have beachfront property. (Or if you crave something quieter, book in along Eagle Beach, at, say, the Bucuti Beach Resort, a kid-free getaway.) Then stake out your spot on the white sand and let the warm breeze flip the pages of The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo while your mate goes windsurfing with the hot instructor, er, the trade winds at Malmok Beach. Then she can jump on a boat to snuba (that's a snorkel/scuba combo, lazy bones) over the Antilla, one of the largest wrecks in the Caribbean. Finally, she can top the day with a hike among the cacti and rattlesnakes in Arikok National Park. And, as the sun goes down, you can reconnect and discuss how opposites attract on this island favoured by honeymooners.
QUESTION: My parents want to go on a family cruise, ugh, to celebrate their retirement. We range in age from 6 to 60. Is there a ship that would suit us all?
THE CONCIERGE: That's the joy about cruising these days. It's nothing like those family road trips when the only entertainment was I Spy and your father's Anne Murray tapes.
The cruising industry has spent a zillion dollars on fancy ships - and a good chunk of change on advertising its makeover - to offer something for everyone. And by something we mean: zip lining, ice skating, rock climbing, horticulture lessons, wine tasting, waterslides, stand-up comedy, casinos, bowling, boxing, tennis, Pilates on deck, FlowRider surfing and high-diving shows, to name a few. All this, without leaving the ship.
To satisfy three generations, pick a big ship, says Denis Lim, president of Vancouver-based Canadian Cruise Experts. And it doesn't get bigger than Royal Caribbean's 6,000-passenger Oasis of the Seas, which sails the eastern and western Caribbean.
"They actually go to fewer ports because the ship is so big, there's really no need to go anywhere," says Lim, who has been on 60-plus cruises. "The ship is the destination."
But if casting off with thousands sounds daunting, Lim suggests a smaller ship from Celebrity Cruises' Solstice class, which sails the Caribbean and Europe. These upscale ships offer more intimate hideaways on board (if your idea of intimate is in the 2,800-passenger range), but still offer plenty of options from a video arcade to the martini bar to please the lot of you.
The only drawback: Your folks might be so busy playing bocce or watching the ice-skating show, they won't be free to babysit.
E-mail The Concierge with your family travel questions.
Karan Smith is a former Globe Travel editor. Special to The Globe and Mail
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