Secluded picnics on a sandbar in the Maldives, strolls along the Seine at sunset – trips offer plenty of opportunities for couples to compose romance. But what happens when Cupid’s arrow fails or something goes wrong? We asked travel time journalists to share the moments they prefer to forget.
Main photo: Limassol Marina in Cyprus, scene of a writer’s accidental romantic nadir (Getty Images)
Death from boredom on the Ganges
I took my partner to India for a romantic cruise on the Ganges. The whole trip was a disaster. One excursion involved 13 hours on a bus with no toilet stops, returning in the dark, at which time the guides could not find the ship. The bar on board was locked as we traveled in a dry state.
For lack of anything to do, we visited a brickyard
There were endless delays because the river was blocked by a series of seasonal bridge dams. In the absence of anything to do, we visited a brickyard. A noticeable depression occurred when the ship hit one of the booms and we had to take the lifeboats, abandoning the cruise. We slept in five beds in seven nights. By the time we arrived in Varanasi, we were too traumatized for romance. Then I caught a Covid type bug on the way back.
Read Sue’s pick of the world’s most luxurious cruise ships
on your bike
When I was still at university, I spent a few crazy summer months doing an internship in Barcelona. I arrived in Lost City with nowhere to stay and my phone battery died. On the first day, I met an Australian bike guide (swoon). We got on well. It was a summer romance in its own right. He showed me the best areas of Barcelona, we went to the beach everyday and great bars every night. It wasn’t until towards the end of my trip when I bumped into a group of his friends at a terrace bar and joined them for a drink that I realized something was wrong with the all. Then my guide arrived and kissed a girl from the group. His girlfriend. It put me off bike rides for life.
Read Katie’s travel guide to Newcastle
The power (cut) of love in Albania
Fifteen years ago, I met my husband in a shared dorm at a hostel in Krakow, Poland, when our journeys through the Iron Curtain met in the middle. We picked up a Zubrowka vodka from the basement bar which looked like an Anderson shelter, well – the rest is history. We then, rather awkwardly, continued with the shared dorms. A memorable Valentine’s Day was then spent at a hostel in Tirana, Albania, long before she approached a planet alone listing. It was back in the days of regular power cuts, which meant that instead of cuddling, we found ourselves cuddled up against each other on the fan heater. Romantic indeed.
Read Cathy’s tips for traveling with a baby
A lone wolf on Honeymoon Island
Sometimes you have to go out into the world and be true to yourself. Follow your dream, or you’ll spend your whole life looking over your shoulder at what might have been.
Well, that’s what I thought to myself when I left my girlfriend Vera in London for a fortnight and went surfing in French Polynesia. It wasn’t until I got on the plane that I realized how much I was going to miss her. And my agony was compounded when I arrived to find that I had booked a vacation on Honeymoon Island. I exhausted my jaw trying to explain to sweet American newlyweds why I left the woman I loved halfway around the world.
Then, halfway through the trip, I nearly drowned. Good job too, because I finally woke up from my lone wolf fantasy. I went back to London and asked Vera to marry me. Can you guess where we went on our honeymoon?
Read Sean’s pick of the best family ski resorts
When gondolas go wrong
In my twenties, I had a boyfriend who was universally hated by my friends and family. Even I wasn’t too sure of him, and I was surprised when he spontaneously offered me a weekend in Venice. Seeing it as a watershed trip, I agreed, and once there we somewhat rallied, our relationship buoyed by Bellinis and the dazzling beauty of the city. On our last day my boyfriend suggested a gondola ride and as we drifted from under the Rialto Bridge we fell on one knee and proposed, ring in hand. Completely failing to conceal the horror on my face, I let out a “no”, and we both fell into an eerie silence for the rest of the trip. The poor gondolier did not know where to look.
Read Orla’s list of the best hotels in Venice
Honeymoon Hell in Siem Reap
My husband and I arrived in Siem Reap Cambodia two days into our married life – so recently married that the phrase “my husband and I” still seemed hilarious and new. We dropped our bags in the luxurious hotel room we had booked for a few nights and headed straight to explore the city, via noodles at the market and candy cane juice from a street vendor. A few hours later, we felt the rumblings that told us we were going to pay dearly for this greedy enthusiasm. You don’t want the details, but let me tell you, over the next 24 hours, that luxurious room came into its own. Or rather his bathroom did: having a bidet as well as a toilet meant that in the event of a (frequent) emergency, none of us had to wait. It couldn’t have been less romantic, but it might have saved our marriage. Or, as my disco-loving husband would have said, last night a bidet saved my wife.
Read Liz’s interview with a Army Trumpeter Barmy
The forgotten crime scene in Thailand
In 2001, while traveling with a classmate, I fell in love with a Swedish backpacker from Umea. We first met in Nepal, met in Thailand in Bangkok a month later, then arranged to meet for a Christmas adventure on Koh Phi Phi, the island where the version was filmed. film by Alex Garland. The beach. And yet, the day before our big date, things couldn’t have been worse. After several buckets of ephedrine-rich Sang Som rum, my boyfriend collapsed on a glass bottle in my room, completely cut his thumb, and needed immediate reconstructive surgery.
Made it back to Koh Phi Phi in time for our date, but forgot one sobering detail
I’ll spare the horror show, but what happened next involved a two-hour kamikaze speedboat ride to Phuket in pitch black, an overnight stint in A&E, and then a race against hungover on Koh Phi Phi in time for our date. Defying all odds, I did, but forgot one sobering detail: my room at the crime scene, with bloody handprints on the wall and sheets soaked in deep red. It took a lot of explaining to the clueless girl that I wasn’t Patrick Bateman from American psycho.
Read Mike’s list of the best beaches in the Philippines
A breathtaking sunset cruise
One evening, during a solo press trip to Cyprus, I was presented with two potential evening plans: a dinner alone at the hotel restaurant or a sunset cruise – and I foolishly chose this last. When registering the name of the boat, Seaduction, I knew immediately that it was the wrong decision. My evening was spent supporting the only solo table on the ship, surrounded by loving couples clutching roses, and avoiding the eyes of violinists who smiled sympathetically at me as if I were an abandoned bride at the altar. The evening culminated when an elderly saxophonist took pity and asked me if I wanted to join him on the dance floor with the other couples.
Read Lucy’s travel guide to Sri Lanka
Couples spa treatments in Vietnam
Baths or beds strewn with rose petals are not my idea of romance. Nor are common spa treatments. My husband refuses them but I experienced one during a stay at Six Senses on the former prison island of Con Dao in Vietnam. Coated in a turmeric-infused scrub that turned us sickly yellow, my friend and I couldn’t look at each other without laughing. We had to bury our faces in the sponge beds.
Read the Jenny’s London travel guide
Dinner disaster in Deia
I had planned a dream weekend at La Residencia in Deia on the north west coast of Mallorca with my boyfriend at the time, but already on the drive to the airport I felt clearly peeled. I settled my stomach with a packet of cookies and several of the truffles left in our gorgeous suite by concierge service, and by dinnertime, I was on my best. The dining room was cozy and formal, and we were placed right in the center, miles from the nearest exit. When two servers in livery arrived, carrying plates covered in silver domes, set them on the table and made the choreographed big reveal, it was already too late. Vomiting into my linen towel, I jumped up and ran, reaching the poolside patio—thankfully deserted—just in time to vomit undetected.
Mia Aimaro Ogden
Read Mia’s travel guide to Naples