WASHINGTON — Hard-hearted cynics call it a bloated marketing ploy.
Yet for others it’s a chance to make friends with a florist, crack open the bubbles and gorge on Belgian chocolates.
Whatever your take on St. Valentine’s Day, there’s no shortage of options around the world to mark it in memorable ways.
Here are 10 unique ways to say “I love you” on Feb. 14.
Champagne baths in Italy
Italy probably does romance better than anyone — Verona may well take the overall prize as home of legendary lovers Romeo and Juliet.
Luxury hotel Palazzo Victoria is in the heart of the old city but steps away from the elegant cafes of Piazza delle Erbe.
It offers an extravagant “ultimate bubble bath experience,” in which a butler fills a bath with the guest’s choice of Prosecco, Spumante or Champagne.
Oh, there’s also a bottle to drink, though the starting price of €9,000 ($10,100) may take some of the fizz out of the evening.
Temples and tigers in India
Khajurao in India’s Madhya Pradesh state is a city of temples, some as old as 950 AD.
The most famous temple features multiple sculptures from the Karma Sutra.
The Lalit Hotel overlooks the UNESCO World Heritage Site and offers a package that includes a tour of the temples and an evening safari to look for tigers in Panna National Park.
Lantern-lighting in Thailand
Dhara Dhevi (formerly managed by Mandarin Oriental) is a luxurious retreat in Chiang Mai, northern Thailand, offering 60 acres of grounds in which couples can stroll.
But only if they can pull themselves away from the deluxe pool villas, spa and award-winning Farang Ses restaurant.
Handily, this year the Chiang Mai Flower Festival takes place just before Valentine’s Day.
Guests can light lanterns and let them soar skyward along with their romantic intentions any time they like.
Stargazing in Kenya
There’s something about sleeping under the stars that should define romance, even if the reality is often that you end up wishing you had a roof.
Not so in Kenya, thanks to Starbeds.
Smartly, these wooden platforms are partially covered with thatch and beds can be wheeled around for maximum exposure to those breathtaking night skies in the bush.
They’re available at Loisaba, a private wildlife conservancy, where elephants may provide a wake-up call on February 15.
Mount Everest private chopper in Nepal
For high bragging rights on the 14th, a private flight around Mount Everest would take some beating.
A charter helicopter flies passengers around the mountain before stopping at one of the world’s highest lodges for breakfast — champagne included, naturally.
Just hope for a clear day.
At $6,900 per couple, it’s nice to know that fees to enter the national park are already included.
For more info, contact Indianoutskirts.com.
Making peace in Australia
If there’s a more appropriately shaped island for Valentine’s Day, we’ve yet to find it.
The heart-shaped oasis of Makepeace Island is Virgin boss Richard Branson’s Australian home, but if he’s out of town then the spot on Queensland’s Sunshine Coast can accommodate up to 20 guests in chic luxury.
Although just minutes from the upscale resort of Noosa, it’s distant enough to have that wilderness feel.
Bike-building in London
What could be more romantic than building a bicycle from bamboo?
OK, a number of things spring to mind.
But London’s Bamboo Bicycle Club reckons it’s a surefire way to mark the 14th — build your own artisan wheels before a date cycling around the achingly hip streets of east London.
It’s certainly different and, if couples can get through the workshop without arguing, then surely it’s an easy ride from there.
Bamboo Bicycle Club , Autumn Road Studios, London; +44 74 4693 0945
South African flower safari
Few experiences are as unique or unusual as a flower safari.
Located a couple of hours from Cape Town, the five-star Grootbos Lodge offers a unique window on the Cape Floral Kingdom.
The region’s extraordinary diversity means it’s got three times as many floral species as the Amazon jungle, while guided tours by renowned naturalists and botanists allow visitors to check out some of the thousands of plants, known collectively as “Fynbos.”
One warning: After an experience like this a dozen roses will never cut it again.
Glacier-spotting in Antarctica
Maybe the one place to trump Mount Everest would be Antarctica, especially so on a day trip.
Antarctica Flights is chartering a Qantas 747 from Melbourne on February 14th for a special journey designed to melt even the hardest of hearts.
Passengers fly over pristine landscapes, icebergs and glaciers in a trip that takes four hours to reach the magnetic South Pole, while possible sights include the breathtaking Trans-Antarctica Range.
Dinner and drinks are included, as are insights from experts on board.
Lingerie fitting in China
A steamy Valentine’s Day seems guaranteed at the Temple House Hotel in the Chinese city of Chengdu, seeing as it’s teaming up with British lingerie retailer Agent Provocateur.
A special package features a bespoke private lingerie fitting, signature Agent Provocateur cocktails prepared by JING Bar and a choice of massage or facial with rose petals.
A bottle of Moet and Chandon rosé Champagne helps end the evening.