February 14 usually marks the time when hotels rack up their prices and restaurants introduce all sorts of silly seating rules and overpriced special menus, meaning that any sensible couple would stay at home for Valentine's Day. The worldwide recession, however, has meant that this year, hotels have been forced to maintain or cut their normal prices to boost occupancies - meaning that the occasion marks an opportunity for an extended weekend break, or at least a night away.
The Dolder Grand Hotel near Zurich (www.thedoldergrand.com; 0041 44 456 60 00) is offering double rooms on February 14 for $830 (Dh3,060) including tax, or a full one-night package including breakfast, a four-course dinner, a 4pm check-out and a one-hour spa treatment for two people for $1,300 (Dh4,780) on February 13 or 14, with a further 20 per cent off the $830 rate for additional nights. Built in 1899, the hotel was extensively renovated in 2004 and has views over Lake Zurich and the Alps. It has 173 rooms, a 4,000 square metre spa and a Michelin-starred restaurant headed by Heiko Neider.
In Prague, perhaps Europe's most romantic city, the Augustine Hotel, a Rocco Forte property built within seven historic buildings, has put together a three-night Valentine's weekend offer for its exclusive 13th-century tower suite. The suite is on three levels linked by a spiral staircase, with a bedroom at the top with 360-degree views across Prague through eight large windows. The luxurious open-plan bathroom on the second floor includes a large double-ended roll-top bath as well as separate shower and there is a spacious living room on the first floor. The interiors of the suite (and hotel) have been designed by Olga Polizzi.
A three-night stay in the tower suite for two people, including daily breakfast, champagne and chocolate-dipped strawberries, a five-course dinner in the Monastery restaurant, couples spa treatments and a rose petal turn-down, costs $10,100 (Dh37,000) including tax and a classic double room in the main hotel costs $1,203 (Dh4,420) including tax. Guests will also be able to take advantage of the hotel's "bath butler", who will run your bath and light candles at your request. The rates represent a saving of a third on normal room prices. For more information visit www.roccofortecollection.com or call 800 7666 6667.
Closer to home, with a Valentine's Day Winter Wonderland Ski Chalet Package at the Kempinski Mall of the Emirates in Dubai (www.kempinski-dubai.com; 04 341 0000) couples can enjoy a cosy private dinner in their ski chalet overlooking the slopes of Ski Dubai for $1,090 (Dh4,000) including tax for one night, including dinner and a gift. Outdoors, take advantage of both the cool weather and the soft opening of the brand-new Banyan Tree Al Wadi desert resort in Ras Al Khaimah (www.banyantree.com; 07 206 7777) and enjoy three nights for the price of two. Until February 28, the 100-hectare oasis, which contains a 24-hectare nature reserve, is offering a complimentary night with a minimum of two paid nights; rates start at $630 (Dh2,311) per night, including taxes, for a deluxe pool villa. For those wanting a Valentine's Day package, Desert Romance packages are available from February 11 to February 15 and cost from $865 (Dh3,176) for two including taxes. The price includes one night's accommodation in a pool villa, a rose-petal bath, a sparkling beverage, breakfast and dinner. The resort contains a 3,000 square metre Asian-inspired hydrotherapy spa, a private beach club and an 18-hole championship golf course. The resort is set in Wadi Khadeja, a 20 minute drive from Ras al Khaimah city centre. The nature reserve contains Arabian Oryx, gazelles and camels; activities include hiking, camel riding and falconry.
Those who fancy cruising through Valentine's Day can save up to 50 per cent with Italian travel group Costa Cruises (www.costacruises.co.uk; 0044 845 351 0552). The company is offering a variety of February offers, including an 11-night voyage on the Costa Serena to Spain, Morocco and Madeira, stopping at Barcelona, Casablanca, Arrecife, Tenerife, Funchal and Malaga. The cruise departs from Savona in Italy on February 9 and prices start at $826 (Dh3,040) per person based on two sharing, including tax and all meals: a 50 per cent discount on the normal price.
Alternatively, a 14-night cruise through Indonesia, Malaysia and Thailand on the Costa Allegra, stopping in Ujung Pandang, Komodo Island off Bali, Jakarta, Malacca, Phuket and Kuala Lumpur, departing Singapore on February 6, costs $1,330 (Dh4,890) per person based on two sharing, including all meals and taxes. This price has been reduced by $503 (Dh1,850). email@example.com