THINK honeymoon or couples' holiday and you'll immediately envisage long-haul flights, jetlag and a hefty chunk out of your mortgage deposit.
But the dream destination is closer than you think -- and at a cost that won't dent your wallet. All-inclusive is all the rage with our thrifty European neighbours, but it's been slower to take hold among the Irish. Which is odd, as having all your food, alcohol and soft drinks included in the brochure price gives you plenty of peace of mind and all you have to worry about is packing as much fun as possible in.
And on our first couple's holiday we didn't need to head to the far-flung Caribbean for turquoise seas or south east Asia for an amazing cultural experience -- we found it all on the edge of Europe in Turkey.
The Suntopia Imperial -- exclusive to holidaymakers with tour operators Thomson (sister company of Falcon) -- is a slice of heaven situated across a stunning bay from the bustling resort town of Marmaris. The region's not on the Irish radar yet -- and I'm still scratching my head over why. It's easily one of the most stunning areas of coastal Turkey, a mix of Montenegro and Croatia's lush coastlines and the soaring peaks of northern Italy.
Once inside, you're in a paradise peninsula dedicated to pampering couples, from early 20s up to retirement and beyond. And best of all, it's exclusive as well as inclusive -- so the beaches and waters are all to yourself.
Situated in a woodland area, each room is like a miniature mountain cabin. Modern inside (thankfully with air conditioning), the rooms are sleek and all have balconies; many, like ours, with stunning views over the multi-million euro yachts of the adjoining marina.
All-inclusive can sometimes mean buffet food, with no originality or choice. I was glad to put that fear to bed during our first dinner. Turkish cuisine is one of the world's finest -- and underrated. Here, I enjoyed an eye-popping array of mezes, tzatziki, salads, fresh fruit, local cheeses, cous cous and freshly-baked pitta bread.
That was just the starters. Mains included Turkish staples such as kebabs, lamb and freshly cooked fish, including mackerel, red snapper and sea bream. But everyone's catered for here -- every night there was a choice of pasta, pizzas, meats, burgers -- you name it. Theme nights included Indian and Chinese cuisine, or Turkish fusion. And breakfast and lunches were also substantial feasts.
Ok, we're Irish. Beer for lunch -- the waiter will soon know your order. Bottle of white, red or rose? As little or as much as you like. A G&T sundowner (you have to see the sunsets to believe how beautiful they are), well it's all included. Being a couples resort, the staff were a bit reserved at first, but if you fancy a yap, or want to practise your Turkish, they'll be your friends for the stay.
The main pool has beautiful vistas of the surrounding bay, and it's a haven for sun-lovers. If you want a little more shade (it hit the 40s every day we were there last week), head for the waterfront sunbeds. Suspended over the lapping waters of the Mediterranean on a wooden waterfront, it's a place to forget your cares.
Fancy a dip in the Med? Just walk two steps and slip into the man-made lagoon which is shallow enough to stand in as you share the waters with shoals of fish.
Just around the corner is the hammock area, so peaceful, so private and your own little slice of solitude as the water ebbs and flows just inches away from your slumber area. At the other end of the hotel, there's the beach area, with sunbeds and a bar which is, you've guessed it, all-inclusive.
Fancy even more pampering? The on-site spa has treatments at half the price of Ireland and I got scrubbed and soaped up with a Turkish bath and massage in the full-sized hammam. And older ladies, will, I'm sure, appreciate the topless Turkish masseurs with only a towel to preserve their modesty.
If you fancy a thrill, the hotel has its own watersports centre, run by the friendly and knowledgeable Sirdar. Feeling a bit James Bondish, we hired out a speedboat for the day. Holding four, it costs €115 for four hours, and budget another €35 or so for fuel. Sail around the bay, explore the caves -- and, like we did, stop for lunch.
Sirdar's kayaks are available free of charge, but it's worth trying parasailing, jet-skiing or taking off in a catamaran given that it's at your doorstep. If you really need to dip your toe back into reality, you can get a water bus or local dolmus (the latter costing only €1.50 each way) into Marmaris. Its infamous Bar Street is open until 4am, while the range of restaurants along its boat-filled harbour is astonishing.
Downsides? Dalaman Airport can be packed and is notoriously expensive. Just grab yourself a big hotel breakfast before you go. All-inclusive? Love it...