Based in Guernsey

Fiona Sarre

It's Nice To Meet You

Hello and welcome to my website!

I have lived in Guernsey for most of my life, but have also spent time living in London, before travelling the world in 2003.

Before becoming a Travel Counsellor I was an Accountant for 22 years but my passion was always in travel. I decided to follow my dreams and in 2019 I joined Travel Counsellors through their Academy.

I have been to a lot of places in the world, but my favourite place to visit in the whole world is Disney World in Florida, because I am a Disney fanatic! My aim is to visit every Disney theme park in the world! I also love to cruise and have done Caribbean, Norwegian Fjords and Mediterranean cruises with my family.

I am married with two gorgeous girls, Chloe and Holly, who are now 15 and 12. Holly is as passionate about Disney as I am, but Chloe is more of a Harry Potter fan!

The best thing about being a Travel Counsellor is that every time a new enquiry comes in, I get that same excitement that I get when I am booking my own holiday. I have such a passion for travel that I take as much care in finding the perfect holiday for you as I do when I am planning my own holiday. It doesn't cost you anything extra to book your holiday through me, but you do get my expertise and I do all the work for you, so you don't have to. Because I appreciate that your time is precious I will save you the hassle of trawling the internet for your perfect holiday.

So please consider me for all of your holiday plans, I cannot wait to help you plan your perfect trip.


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My Blog

I absolutely live and breathe travel and I love to write about my experiences! Please take a look through my posts - you might find your own holiday inspiration.

Cunard's Queen Mary 2

20 June 2023

I was fortunate enough to be invited to spend 7 nights on board Cunard’s Queen Mary 2 on a Norwegian Fjords itinerary to experience the Cunard brand, the ship, and the shore experiences that are on offer. I was pleased when I received this invitation because after cruising a lot with Royal Caribbean with my family, I wanted to see for myself how different Cunard is, in terms of service, ship facilities and customer demographic. I had heard people talk about Cunard being ‘stuffy’ and ‘posh’ and I wanted to see if this is true. I was pleasantly surprised… I arrived at the port just after 11am and waited briefly to drop my suitcase off at the bag drop point. I then had to queue to enter the terminal building, just after 11:30 – something I had not experienced with any other cruise line. Check in was smooth however and we were told where to sit. Around 12:30 they started calling passengers according to their booking status (Queens Grill guests first, then Princess Grill, and then everybody else). I was on the ship not long after 1pm and my stateroom was ready so I went straight to it. My stateroom was a Britannia balcony stateroom, which had 2 single beds (I could have requested a double if I had wanted) and a sofa and coffee table. There was also a desk and area for making tea and coffees (they even give you biscuits!). Underneath that was the fridge, and to my delight, a full size bottle of sparkling wine! This is complementary for all guests no matter what loyalty status you are. Also in my stateroom was a bathrobe, slippers, hairdryer, plenty of hangars in the large wardrobe, and a safe. The plug sockets are UK 3-pin so no need for adaptors. My balcony was what they call a ‘sheltered’ balcony. It is designed so that you can still sit outside when you are crossing the Atlantic without being windswept. Two chairs and a table were on the balcony and it was spacious. In my bathroom was a shower which was good, with full sized Penhaligon’s toiletries – Shower gel, shampoo and body lotion. I spent a while exploring the ship and I found the top deck is full of activities. They have a golf simulator, you can play shuffleboard, paddle tennis, there is an indoor pool with jacuzzi’s, then at the back of the ship on two different levels you have two pools, a splash pad for kids and a couple of hot tubs on each level. There is a beautiful spa and the pool in there is actually very big. There is a regular sauna plus a thermal steam room. You can get all of the usual treatments like massages, manicures, pedicures etc. There is a huge library with thousands of books, and computers for you to use if you need to. Moving on to eating, I ate breakfast, lunch and dinner in the Kings Court buffet restaurant a few times. There was plenty of choice and it was all very nice. I also ate breakfast and dinner in the Britannia restaurant – we had the same table each evening and the same servers. They were fantastic, they remembered who had dietary requirements (and that person was given the next day’s menu to choose what she wanted so that the chef could make it to her needs). They also remembered who was drinking what, who liked to eat double portions (yes you can do that!) and the food was delicious. I had the nicest beef wellington that I have ever eaten. One evening we had complimentary prosecco. I also ate in ‘Steakhouse at the Verandah’ which was delicious. Again the service was amazing, and the food was absolutely fantastic. It was a 3 course meal and you do pay a supplement of about £25 for lunch in here but it is most definitely worth it. Just for the sticky bread with bbq butter! There is another restaurant on board which is different on each sailing depending on the destination. So I was on a Norwegian Fjords cruise so this restaurant was temporarily called Nordly’s and you could try things like seafood and reindeer. There is plenty of entertainment on board the Queen Mary 2. Most evenings we stopped in The Golden Lion (the pub) or The Chart Room (the cocktail bar) for pre-dinner drinks. When you order drinks here they bring out snacks – a bowl of crisps, olives, mixed nuts etc. which is a lovely tough. Every evening there was live music – a young female singer with a young male guitarist who were absolutely fantastic and played a huge range of songs to suit all ages. Other options include trivia or dance classes. There was dancing every evening in the Queens Room (the ballroom), and there was even a nightclub, where you could do karaoke or a silent disco. One thing I really enjoyed was the signature Cunard afternoon tea. This was held every day in the Queens Room at 3:30pm. The waiters all file in accompanied by piano music, carrying their pots of tea and coffee! Then they bring you round little sandwiches, cakes and scones with jam and cream. It was definitely an experience! They do also serve afternoon tea in the buffet restaurant as well which of course I tested and it was just as delicious. The afternoon tea is also complimentary. You can also have room service delivered to your stateroom and this is also free. I had breakfast one morning, and lunch another day. It came quickly, and it was very good. Another thing to do on this ship is go to the Planetarium. There are several showings each day and you sit under the dome and they project the stars and the planets while they talk about it. There are different options to watch but one of them is narrated by Sigourney Weaver, and the other is narrated by Morgan Freeman. And then obviously you’ve got the actual destinations to visit as well. On this sailing I visited Stavanger, Olden, Andalsnes, and Bergen. Most of them you can just get off and wonder around but it is definitely worthwhile doing a shore experience. We did a scenic coach tour in Olden where we took in the beautiful scenery. The fjords are beautiful and I would definitely recommend a cruise here. It was June but there was still snow on the tops of the mountains. There were 2 formal nights on this 7 night sailing. The first one happened on the 2nd night, and it was ‘black and white’. You don’t have to take part, they just encourage it, and they are not strict about enforcing it. However most of the people we saw did make an effort to dress up. The second formal night was ‘Masquerade’ which was a lot of fun. All in all it was a great trip with lots going on, amazing food, and amazing service. I would definitely recommend.

Disney's Port Orleans French Quarter review

19 September 2023

Disney’s Port Orleans Resort French Quarter – review Port Orleans French Quarter is one of the smallest resorts on Walt Disney World property and is classed as a Moderate resort. The theming is based on the romance and pageantry of New Orleans historic French Quarter with cobblestone streets, gas lamps, wrought-iron balconies and mardi-gras characters. This resort is very relaxing and laid-back! Walking around the sounds of jazz music fills the air. It is located on the Sassagoula river and they provide complimentary friendship boats to Disney Springs which is a relaxing 20 minute boat ride away. There is one large pool with a fun waterslide, plus a splash park for young children. Towels are provided and there are plenty of lifeguards on duty at all times. There is an entertainment team putting on fun and games throughout the day. There is also a large hot tub set back behind the pool bar which is usually relatively quiet and lovely to use in the evening. There is a food court providing a multitude of options throughout the day from Mickey waffles at breakfast time, burgers, pizzas, salads, fruit, and various hot and cold options to choose from. You can get yoghurt and fruit pots, as well as Walt's famous chilli (served in a bread bowl!). There are also a few different drinks stations where you can get hot and cold drinks including Hot Chocolate! If you purchase a refillable mug you can access the soda machines, tea, coffee, hot chocolate, as many times as you like, and there is a mug wash area too. The resort consists of 7 accommodation buildings with the furthest building being no more than a 5 minute walk from the lobby and food court. Each building is 3 floors with lift access to each floor. You can also access ice and a vending machine in each building. The hallways are external so your rooms don't technically have a balcony, but you do have a window out onto the pathway or hallway. As well as the food court you have Mardi Grogs pool bar where you can purchase cocktails and other beverages. You also have Scat Cat’s Club which is a lounge bar where you can listen to live music, get a drink or a beignet – this is always top of my list when we stay here! If you’re not off to one of the parks for the evening you can watch a movie under the stars, and toast s'mores around the camp fire. In the large gift shop they have a great selection of merchandise, including plushies, luggage, homeware, pins, caps, clothing, along with various things that you may forgotten to bring, such as toothbrush, toothpaste or painkillers. There’s also a small area selling drinks, snacks, ice creams etc. There is even a small Pandora jewellery shop as well. You can do laundry while you relax by the pool too – the laundry room is behind the pool bar at the side of the pool, and there are plenty of washing machines and dryers to use. They usually take around an hour each. The cost the last time we were there was about $3 per machine. You can also buy detergent which is around $2 if I remember correctly. There is a large arcade games room with plenty of options for your children to waste your money and a good few hours!! There is a bus stop outside of the main entrance to the hotel where you can catch a bus to all of the parks, Disney Springs and the water parks. These usually come every 20 minutes or so but there are live times on the screens at each bus stop. The rooms are styled in that typical American way, with dark wood furniture. The beds are so comfortable and the rooms are air conditioned plus you also have a ceiling fan as well. You have a small fridge and a coffee machine with speciality coffees. You have an ironing board and hairdryer, and a safe large enough for an ipad or small laptop. The bath with overhead shower and toilet are in a separate room to the sink area, which can also be screened off with a privacy curtain. There are 2 sinks in the sink area and a large mirror on the wall. Toiletries include bar soap, shower gel, shampoo and conditioner. These are no longer in mini sizes, they are attached to the wall and are refillable so no taking these home with you at the end of your stay! You have enough large and small towels for each person, and there is a hanging rail in the vanity area with plenty of hangers for your clothes. Underneath your TV is plenty of drawers for other bits and pieces and there is a bedside table with USB ports and telephone. There are various USB ports around the room as well as the usual 2-pin plug sockets. Rooms here sleep up to 4 people. For a change you can walk along the river up to sister hotel, Port Orleans Riverside. This is a much bigger resort with many more buildings, but also more pools, more bus stops, a larger food court and also a table service restaurant as well. You can also take the boat here too. And if you want you can even rent a Surrey Bike and pedal around both resorts. Overall this is a great moderate resort to stay at for your Disney World holiday and I would highly recommend it.

Staying at Universal Orlando's Loews Royal Pacific Resort

17 October 2023

This is a ‘Premier’ hotel at Universal Orlando Resort, which basically means it is one of the top 3 hotels on site, and when you stay here you receive the Express Pass for free which allows you to skip the lines in the Universal Parks. This was our 2nd stay here (with the first being 2017) and there had been a few changes. The lobby had moved around a bit and the grab and go marketplace had also changed location! The rooms have gotten a little worn out since 2017 so hopefully they will be doing a refurbishment sometime soon. The rooms are very tastefully decorated with a colourful feature wall behind the beds, a large picture window, large unit under the TV which houses your fridge, coffee machine and some drawers. The bathroom has a separate sink area to the room with the toilet and shower in it. It has good lighting with grey woods and a large mirror. Toiletries are provided including shampoo, conditioner and shower gel. The hotel itself is big with lots of rooms. If you can afford it you can upgrade to club level, which gives you access to the Club lounge where you can get a light breakfast, and snacks and drinks during the day and early evening. There are a few restaurants within the resort, we have eaten in 2 of them. There is the Islands Dining Room which is Polynesian inspired, and they do a character breakfast on a Sunday morning. We met the Simpsons, the characters from Scooby Doo and the characters from Despicable Me. There is also Jakes American Bar which is diner-style serving really tasty food. There is also a sushi bar (not experienced this personally), a bar at the pool which does the most amazing nachos and cocktails, and then the little market as well. There is a gym, a gift shop selling Universal goodies plus it also stocks some essential items that you may have forgotten. There is another shop on the pool level, which sells clothing and swimwear. And close by is the games arcade. In terms of location, the Royal Pacific is less than 10 minutes walk from Universal Citywalk, or you can take one of the complimentary water taxis. The walk is so nice though, along the river, I would highly recommend. When you get close to Citywalk you actually go through security there, which is much quieter and quicker than the security located at the main entrance to Universal Orlando so you avoid all of that with an onsite stay. Same with the boats, if you get the boat to Citywalk you actually go through security at the boat dock before you board. Very convenient. The pool is fantastic – large, with multiple entry points, beach balls are provided for your pleasure, and there are plenty of sunbeds all around the pool and you can grab a towel as well. Overall, I really love the Royal Pacific and wouldn’t hesitate to stay there again.

Royal Caribbean's new ship, Wonder of the Seas, part 1

12 May 2022

Let me introduce you to Royal Caribbean’s latest ship – Wonder of the Seas. The new largest cruise ship in the world. Just taking the record from their previous ship, Symphony of the Seas. Fortunately I have already spent a week on sister ship Symphony of the Seas back in 2018 – her first season in service – so I kind of knew what to expect when I met Wonder, given that they are the same class in Royal Caribbean’s fleet – Oasis class. As you arrive in Barcelona, you can spot the cruise ships about 10 minutes before you arrive at the port! Wonder of the Seas dwarfed the Regent Seven Seas ship that was docked in front of her! The boarding process was simple, provided you had completed the online check in, in the Royal Caribbean app, prior to arriving at the port. Check in opens 45 days in advance, and you can enter all of your passport information in there. Then the day before, you must complete the health declaration. We did have to arrange a supervised lateral flow test the day before sailing, which meant that on arrival at the port, we queued for no more than 20 minutes – and the only reason it was this long was because there was a problem with my details – typical! But this was quickly resolved and then we were allowed to board. Once on board – you enter on the Royal Promenade, a fantastic area filled with shops, bars, and eateries and is the main hub of the ship - We found our cabin easily enough via the deck plans located next to the lifts. They even tell you which is the fore and which is the aft of the ship. Our cabin was the same grade as the previous cabin I had stayed on Symphony so I knew what to expect – luxury furnishings and tasteful décor, with THE most comfortable bed! And I wasn’t disappointed, in fact, the bathroom had a little update with a touch of colour. The tiles around the mirror were very tastefully decorated. In the shower you are provided with a shower gel / shampoo combo. And a bar of soap next to the sink. We had an oceanview balcony stateroom, and the bed can be separated into twins if required. A very comfortable sofa converts into a sofabed if you have a family with children. You have a large tv at the end of your bed on the wall, on which you can find information about what’s on board, where to eat, where to ship, where to be entertained, you can view your onboard account, and you can look at the map which details exactly where you are, the temperature and sea depth! Also in your room are wardrobes with plenty of hangars, a safe, fridge, hairdryer and plenty of USB sockets as well as regular (US) plug sockets. You also have bedside tables (admittedly these are very small, big enough to put a glass of water and your phone) with a couple of shelves underneath for maybe a book or something. We were hungry so as it was after 2pm already we headed straight up to the Windjammer Marketplace. This is the buffet-style restaurant. Having experienced this on every Royal Caribbean ship I have been on, it is a firm favourite. On our first cruise in 2016 we noticed there was always a staff member directing you to wash your hands before entering, and there would be 4 or 5 sinks to wash your hands at. This is obviously a very important part of cruising now, even more so after Covid, and that is obvious on Wonder. As you enter the Windjammer, the whole of the entrance area is filled with about 20 hand washing stations. It was like walking through a very beautifully furnished bathroom. With no toilets, thankfully. Once you enter, the Windjammer splits into 2 identical sides of the restaurant. Each side has the same amount of seating, and the same number of food serving stations. With a huge selection of food to choose from, and with a different theme at each meal. The usual staples are there at every meal for the fussy eaters – hot dogs, chips, burgers etc. But if you do like to eat a varied diet you will be impressed. Our first meal was all about seafood. I am not a seafood fan but I didn’t go hungry. On the next serving station was fillet steak, pork chops, vegetables, potatoes… there is always gluten free options, and now they have a whole section devoted to kids. This will have a mixture of healthy foods made to look fun, plus a load of treats as well. You can also make a salad up – just pick up a bowl of salad leaves and you can add whatever dressing and toppings you like. I do like to try a bit of everything so it’s nice just going up and helping yourself to small amounts of the things you want to try. There is also a drinks section where you can help yourself to iced water, flavoured waters, tea, coffee etc. Then for dessert there is always a hot options, such as bread and butter pudding with ice cream or custard, or there are a million different miniature dessert options, little cheesecakes, tarts, brownies etc. Delicious! I rolled out of there that day… After lunch we explored the ship – on the pool deck there are 3 pools, many hot tubs (I lost count), a children’s play area, and 3 fun flumes. Pool towels are free and you can take as many as you like (within reason!). There is also an ice cream stall where a staff member will serve you an ice cream and you can choose from vanilla, chocolate, vanilla and chocolate, I’m trying to remember if there was strawberry, but I can’t! Also at the top of the ship you have the Flow Rider where you can body board or surf (or rather attempt to!). Up here is where you access the Ultimate Abyss, where you slide (fully clothed, this is not a water slide) from the pool deck down to the Boardwalk several decks below. You can also go on the zip-wire from here across to the opposite side of the ship (over the Boardwalk many decks below!). It’s not very far but it definitely gets the adrenaline going! On Wonder there is a new ‘playscape’ for the children. It’s like a soft play area almost, but outside and has slides and climbing areas. Great for kids up to around age 10 I would say. Always a fun experience is being on the pool deck for the sail away party. They play fun, Caribbean style music and the crew dance while you drink cocktails and sail away into the sunset. That first evening we watched the Ice Skating show in Studio B where around 13 professional ice skaters put on a spectacular performance in time to music. I would highly recommend. With 13 of them on the ice, and it's not a huge space, I did have a few moments where my heart jumped into my mouth! Read more in part 2...

Royal Caribbean's Wonder of the seas - Part 2

15 May 2022

Following on from part 1... We ate in the main dining room this evening. I was not hungry after a rather large, late lunch in the Windjammer! But I forced myself to eat a 3 course meal in here purely for research purposes ?? It did not disappoint. I had the French Onion soup for starter, which was one of the nicest I have ever had, with so much flavour and of course the delicious cheesy topped crouton on the top! For main I had salmon which was a very large fillet, served with snow peas and mash. So tasty. For dessert I had the carrot cake, which was recommended to me by the waiter. It was all delicious, and quick. We visited the Schooner bar later on for another cocktail and to listen to the piano and vocal entertainer, who was great. There was so much entertainment to choose from – we could have gone to the Mason Jar to listen to country music. Or there was Latin music in Boleros. There was a guitarist and singer in the Cask and Clipper pub, plus they had a band on the Royal Promenade as well. Plenty to keep you entertained. There was too much to do, we never experienced the silent disco, or the karaoke bar, or the Tap Factory – a production put on in the Royal Theatre, or the concert in the music hall, or the comedian in The Attic! Needless to say, we slept well that night! Day 2 – for breakfast we went to the Main dining room. You can't beat a cup of tea from a teapot! We probably ate less because it was all served to us, rather than if we'd gone back to the Windjammer we would have wanted to eat everything we saw! I had chocolate chip pancakes, which were fantastic, with fruit and maple syrup. They also brought us a selection of sweet pastries, and freshly squeezed orange juice. After breakfast there was a parade aimed at children on the Promenade – with pirates and floats, and plenty of music and swashbuckling! My kids would have loved it. Because we were onboard as agents, they did open up a selection of cabins for us to view. So we spent a couple of hours going around and viewing the cabins. We viewed a couple of inside cabins, which can be interconnecting if you like, if there are more of you or if you are holidaying with multi-generational families. We viewed an accessible Boardwalk view balcony cabin, which generally gives you more space, but also has automatic doors, and a ramp out on to the balcony. We viewed a Central Park balcony cabin, an ultra-spacious family cabin, which is perfect for a family of up to 6, with the main large double bed, a sofa bed, and also a set of bunk beds. It offers plenty of space inside as well and doesn’t feel like you would be squashed. Moving on we saw a Junior Suite, which sleeps 2, but offers more space and luxury. We then saw the Grand Suite, which sleeps up to 4 and offers a much more luxurious stateroom with his and her sinks, a bath, and a larger balcony. After that we saw the Owner’s Suite. This sleeps up to 4 as well and has a separate bedroom, bath and shower, his and her sinks, sofa that converts into a bed, and a proper lounge area and balcony. Sadly we were not able to view the Ultimate Family Suite because it was occupied by guests! But we saw the entrance (see picture) and it looked fun. I know that in here you have a fun slide and plenty of gizmos for kids. We did see the Royal Loft Suite which sleeps up to 6, which has 2 levels. There is a king bed in the master bedroom upstairs, with a bathroom, and then a twin room downstairs also with it’s own bathroom. There is also a piano in here! And a very large balcony with hot tub, bar area, and dining area. We saw a Crown Loft Suite, which is also on 2 levels and sleeps up to 4. There is a bathroom on both levels with a hot tub in the master bedroom. If you are staying in a Suite you have a special restaurant specifically for Suite guests, called Coastal Kitchen. We did have a look in here and it looked lovely with a great selection of food all day long. One of the area’s (or neighbourhoods, as they are called on Royal Caribbean) we explored is Central Park. This is a beautiful area filled with live plants and greenery. As you wind along the pathways you will see a great selection of speciality restaurants. These are the ones that you have to pay a surcharge for. Chops Grille is one of them, the on board steak house. Giovanni’s Table is another option, where you can enjoy authentic Italian food. There is also Park Café, which is a complimentary food and drink place where you can sit and enjoy a coffee and a sandwich, or cake. It’s one of my favourite places. The Rising Tide bar (which starts on the Royal Promenade and rises ever so slowly up through the decks until you get to Central Park) also stops here. Occasionally there will be live music, a guitarist, say, which you can listen to whilst enjoying a drink at Trellis Bar. The Boardwalk is a fun ‘neighbourhood’ containing a carousel, Playmakers sports bar, the Aqua Theatre, Rock Climbing walls, and Sugar Beach, where I would advise you to try and avoid if you have children! Once they see it, they will want to go in there and empty your bank account by purchasing a ridiculous amount of sweets! There are a few arcade games here too. Speaking of arcade games, we did visit the games arcade up on the pool deck. In here you can play the usual racing car games, air hockey, basketball, ski-ball, and various other arcade games that I am not familiar with! It’s not massive, given the size of the ship, but I guess with the excellent kids clubs available, a bigger arcade is probably not required. We ate our lunch today at El Loco Fresh, Mexican food that was freshly made in front of you. Even the tortillas were made there. You choose whether you want a burrito, or a wrap, or a quesadilla, and you help yourself to tortilla chips, dips, and a salad bar. It was delicious. We still popped into the Windjammer for an extra pudding… And then went and sat out by the pool where I then had an ice cream… And then a strawberry daiquiri… All in the name of research you understand! After heading back to the cabin to shower and change for the evening, we went to the Royal Theatre to watch an A Capella group which was incredible. I could have sworn there were drums and symbols, but no, it was all done by the performers. They were amazing. The quality of the singing was fantastic. And I can't fit anymore in here so you'll have to read part 3 for the final instalment on this trip.

Royal Caribbean's Wonder of the Seas - Part 3

15 May 2022

Following on from Part 2, after eating all the food and drinking all the cocktails... We ate our dinner tonight in the Windjammer, on the basis of we’d had a large lunch, so we could just have a small amount to eat up here… I still had to be rolled out! I opted for the freshly made stir-fry with noodles which they made in front of me. I chose what I wanted in my stir-fry - chicken, baby corn, beansprouts, noodles, sugar snap peas, Teriyaki sauce, and they made it for me! It was delicious. There was an unbelievable selection of cakes and desserts, that I did have maybe 4 small desserts… After dinner we went to the Aqua Theatre, where we saw the ‘inTENse Aqua Showcase’ which was super impressive. With high-divers, high-rope walkers, slack-rope acrobatics, synchronised divers / swimmers, featuring world champions, all choreographed to the most amazing musical score. I think this was my favourite show out of the whole trip. We ended our night at Boleros for a cocktail (or two) and Latin music, before heading back to our cabin, but not without stopping at Sorrentos to get a slice of pizza! Then it really was back to our cabin to pack up and prepare to leave the ship in the morning. We were given the option of leaving out suitcases outside the cabin to be taken off the ship for us, but we decided to keep them and just carry them off ourselves in the morning. The following morning we showered and packed up, before having one last breakfast, this time in the Windjammer. Pastries, pancakes, waffles, cooked breakfasts (the full works) for all diets and tastes, plenty of fruit, coffees, teas, juices, so much to choose from. We filled up before we had to leave the ship and head back to the airport. So who would I recommend Wonder of the Seas to? I would absolutely recommend to any families with children – with so much to do on board, you won’t even need to leave the ship. Whether you've got toddlers, tweens or teens, they will not be bored, ever. There are kids clubs designed for all different ages from really young children up to teenagers, with plenty of age-appropriate spaces. I also think it would be perfect for groups of friends as well, with bars and nightclubs on board, you will have a great time. It is a very large ship, which is important to remember if you have mobility issues. Although you are allowed to take mobility scooters on board so as long as you are happy with one of these, you will be fine. I haven’t even mentioned the adult’s only solarium, which is a great space if you want to be away from the noisiness of the pool deck. So even if you don’t have children, this ship would be fine for you too. And don’t worry about not being able to exercise on board because there is a fantastic gym, a running track, there are fitness classes, and also there is a spa and beauty salon with a juice bar too. There really is something for everyone on board this ship. I think I’ve covered everything, but if you’ve got any questions or want to find out more, then please let me know and I would be happy to answer any questions. This was the 5th Royal Caribbean cruise that I have been on, all on different ships, so I feel I have got a great range of experience of the different classes of ship that you are on offer from Royal Caribbean. They are actually all quite different, but every single one of them has fantastic crew members providing the highest lever of service you could imagine. Ultimately, I would 100% recommend a cruise with Royal Caribbean.

Cancun trip - part 2 - Grand Fiesta Americana Coral Beach Resort

07 December 2021

After 5 nights at the Moon Palace Grand we checked out and headed up the coast right to the top of the hotel strip, to the Grand Fiesta Americana Coral Beach Resort. As we approached this part of the coastline, we were met with the most stunning turquoise blue sea that I have ever seen. This area of Cancun is definitely different to where we had just spent the previous 5 days. For a start there are a LOT of hotels up here. It is a lot more touristy, with shopping centres, restaurants and hotels all the way up the coast. And whereas the Moon Palace Grand was a low-rise, spread out resort nestled amongst plenty of lush greenery, this Grand Fiesta Americana was one, tall building. Very attractive looking, with a completely different style to it. As we entered the lobby I noticed how elegant it was. Not modern or contemporary like the Moon Palace, but very ‘grand’ and impressive. We were given room keys (as opposed to a wrist band at the Moon Palace) plus we had to pay a tourist tax on check in, which we hadn’t had to do at the Moon Palace. But the most impressive part of all was when we first entered our room, which was on the 9th floor. We opened the door, and I could see through the room, past the balcony, our view was simply stunning. It didn’t look real! We had a view overlooking the large pool area and the sea beyond that, which was the most amazing shade of blue. It was simply beautiful. The room itself was smaller than the Moon Palace but felt more luxurious. No hot tub this time, no double sinks, no optics in the room, and no hair straighteners. But we did have a lovely relaxing lounge area with L-shaped sofa and large coffee table, as well as a desk to work at if you wanted to. And two bathrobes each! Yes, one silkier, thinner one and one thicker, more luxurious, a bit like a towelling robe but much nicer. We also had a bath in the bathroom with L’Occitane products. The bathroom was very nice with large mirrors and great lighting, and plenty of amenities including toothpaste and body lotion. The turndown service was fantastic – they placed a soft fluffy rug in between the two beds so that you don’t get out of bed onto a cold tiled floor! And Ferrero Rocher chocolates on the pillow… bliss! The biggest difference at this resort was the fact that not all of the restaurants were open every night, due to Covid restrictions. Plus you couldn’t book a restaurant for your first night, only nights after that. So on our first night, there wasn’t a lot of choice as to where to eat, and we ended up eating at the Italian Restaurant, not inside the main restaurant but outside (basically in the inside promenade area of the hotel) which was fine, the food was fantastic and the service impeccable. They took our temperature as we entered the restaurant area, plus when we were seated at the table they handed us a long, thin brown bag (a bit like the bags you put a little baguette in from the bread section at Waitrose!) and this was to put your face mask in! During the day we went to the beach, which absolutely did have that powder white, soft sand, and warm blue sea. They delivered cocktails to our sunbeds even on the beach. You could even order food from the pool bar to be delivered to your sunbeds too. The pool area was also beautiful, with one very large pool that was sort of split, so one was on a lower level with a waterfall dividing them. Each end of the pool was a swim up pool bar where you could order food and drinks. There was a Taco bar next to the pool where you could go and choose whatever you wanted to go in your Tacos and they would make them right there in front of you. On our second evening we had wanted to book into one of the restaurants, but they only had really late sittings (9pm and later) so we couldn’t actually book anything that evening, and instead ended up going back to the Italian restaurant again. Which was fine, we got to try something different from the menu, which was equally as delicious as the night before, and they kept the wine flowing so we were happy! After dinner we saw a fire show in the theatre, which was very impressive. They then had live music in the bar area so we just relaxed in there for a while before going to bed. Breakfast was served in the buffet restaurant. It wasn’t quite as impressive as the Moon Palace, however they did have a smoothie station where you could pick whatever you wanted and they would make you a fresh smoothie. You could also get freshly made omelettes and other types of eggs. They had Mexican offerings too along with the usual cereals, pastries, and other cooked breakfast items. And of course they offered us a Mimosa with our breakfast, which obviously we had to have. One thing I noticed is they weren’t quite so good with reducing plastics, and we were given plastic straws in all of our drinks. We did have more USB sockets in our room though, and they allowed us to check out of our room at 3pm at no extra cost, which is very unusual. I was also surprised to see no hot tubs around the pool at this hotel. I don't know if it's just me, but I've come to expect hot tubs now wherever I go! On our last day before checking out we did go and eat in the outdoor restaurant, which is just along from the pool and juts out over the beach. It was a beautiful location, and the food was fantastic. I had a wrap, which was green! But it was delicious! This was another all inclusive that again included all you can eat and drink. I didn't see a huge amount of activities by the pool, but there was an entertainment schedule so they definitely do have a lot going on, it just wasn't happening at the times I was around the pool. There was also a gym and fitness area, which wasn't as new and modern as the Moon Palace Grand but suitable for the short amount of time that you would be there. We didn't see inside the spa but we did look at the spa menu and it looked great. Overall, this hotel was just as impressive as the Moon Palace Grand but in a very different way. I would definitely return to this hotel, but I’m not sure I would go back with my children as I think they would be bored here. I would recommend this hotel for couples, whereas I would recommend the Moon Palace Grand for both families and couples alike. I definitely felt more ‘spoiled’ at this hotel with our stunning view from our room and how luxurious it felt!

Cancun trip, part 1 - Moon Palace Grand

07 December 2021

In November 2021 I had the opportunity to travel to Mexico and stay in two different resorts in Cancun – The Moon Palace Grand, located about 10 minutes drive south of Cancun International Airport, and The Grand Fiesta Americana Coral Beach, located right at the very top of the hotel strip. Both resorts are very different, and the areas that they are located are also very different too. Firstly let’s take The Moon Palace Grand. A large, sprawling resort with lots of low-rise buildings and plenty of swimming pools so that your room is never far from a pool! My favourite pool was of course the adult’s only pool, where cocktails are delivered to your sunbed, and you can order food from one of the two bars. You can book a Cabana (at a cost) which has it’s own tv, swinging sofa and sunbeds. The sunbed cushions are luxuriously thick and comfortable. Other pools include a full size Olympic pool, ideal for getting those laps in if swimming is your thing. There is also an activity pool where they do spinning and Zumba (both IN the pool!) and there is even a swim-up bar so you can drink your cocktail without even having to get out of the pool! As for the food, there were more restaurants than we could experience in our 5 nights here! We ate in the Mexican, where I tried Cactus for the first time (wouldn’t recommend, sorry!). We also ate in the Italian Restaurant (5/5), the Steak restaurant (5/5), the French restaurant (5/5) and finally the Caribbean restaurant (5/5). So as you can see I gave all of them 5 out of 5, because the food was absolutely amazing in every restaurant and the service was top notch. All of these restaurants bar the Caribbean was located in the main lobby building. Also in the building are a few shops (gift shop and a jewellery shop) and plenty of guest services desks where you can go to for help with excursions or if you have anything you need help with. There is also a games arcade, several bars, a Peruvian restaurant, a Nepalise restaurant, and a Grill by one of the pools which we did have lunch in one day and had a fantastic burger. For breakfast we ate in the Grand Buffet, which offered plenty to choose from including stations where the staff would make omelettes / fried / scrambled eggs all fresh in front of you with toppings of your choice. You could also help yourself to many different types of fruit, bread, pastries, cereals, waffles, pancakes… there really was so much to choose from, plus it was nice to see a lot of Mexican offerings as well. The rooms were very spacious with a large bathroom with double sinks, a large shower, and luxury amenities including hair straighteners and a hair dryer. In the main room we had two large double beds, a tv, plenty of workspace for your belongings, a fully stocked fridge, coffee machine, alcohol dispensers (optics), snacks, and then two desk areas and a large jacuzzi bath located down a few steps. From there you could go out onto a very large balcony with sunbeds and chairs. Our room was a standard garden view room, but as far as I know all rooms have the hot tub, if this is something you like the idea of. We had a view of the greenery which was still nice. We did spot some rooms which had swim up pools, and these looked stunning. This is the kind of hotel you would go to if you weren’t fussed about leaving the resort – you wouldn’t need to with all of the activities, entertainment and restaurants on offer. So what else is there to do? Did I mention there was a water park here?! With water slides, a Flow Rider, and even a lazy river, children will be entertained all day long. There’s also an area in the middle of the water park called The Playroom, which is a kids club for all ages. They can play neon mini golf, bumper cars, a labyrinth, lazer maze and more. There is a 10 pin bowling alley too. For adults there is a fitness centre which I tested out, and is filled with plenty of new gym equipment and is in a large space so can fit lots of people in. There is also a spa for those looking for a little pampering. There was also a beach at this resort, with hammocks and sunbeds. They also had a seaweed net out to sea to try to reduce the amount of seaweed coming to shore. The sand does get raked here so you do get that tractor tyre effect on the beach. It wasn’t the powder soft white sand I was expecting, and the sea wasn’t that gorgeous turquoise blue I had expected either. But to be honest I’m not overly fussed about the beach anyway and was happy with the amount of pools there were to choose from! At night there are bars galore, there’s even a nightclub. And in the theatre they hand out free popcorn and they put on a different show each night. We did pop in almost every night, and we saw a Michael Jackson tribute act one night, then another night we saw dancers in suits with coloured LED lights that were synced to the music, it sounds bad but it was amazing, I really enjoyed it! They had a magician another night, circus acts another night, there really is something for everyone. How about travelling during Covid times? The rules at this resort were that you had to wear a face mask in all indoor venues, except when you were eating and drinking, and there were sanitising stations everywhere. Most people were following the rules, but I did notice on the last night there were quite a few people walking around in the main building with no masks on. All of the hotel employees had masks the whole time – I never saw anybody without one. Other than that there were no restrictions – all of the restaurants were busy and they didn’t seem to be at reduced capacity. This is an all inclusive resort, so you can eat and drink whatever you like. There was even a little café offering milkshakes, ice creams, chocolates, macaroons, sandwiches etc. All of the drinks were included, unless you wanted speciality wines, but there was a good selection of wines included. This hotel was great at not giving out plastic straws, in fact if you wanted a straw you had to ask for one, and then it was a paper straw as opposed to plastic. And the last thing to mention, there were tons of golf buggies on hand to take you from one place to another if you didn't fancy the walk! All in all a fantastic resort, with amazing food and great service. I would come back here again, I'd bring my family back for sure, plus it would also be a good place to come if you were wanting a break away with friends too. There is something for everybody here.

Day 2 on Iona, P&O's newest, most eco-friendly ship!

17 August 2021

Waking up on day 2, we hadn't been told where we were sailing to on this 2 night trip, all we knew was that we weren't stopping anywhere to get off during this time. We just so happened to be moored just off Weymouth, alongside two other P&O ships. We got up and went to Horizon, which in non-Covid times, would be the buffet restaurant. We were shown to our table, and then went straight to the food stations, where we were served our breakfast. I chose a waffle, some sliced fruit, and I also had a small cooked breakfast consisting of a fried egg, a slice of bacon, some baked beans, a hash brown, and a sausage. You could also choose from scrambled eggs, black pudding, grilled tomatoes, mushrooms, cereals, toast and porridge. I also grabbed a mini pain au chocolate and a mini muffin! I have to admit, the waffle didn't taste fresh. The hash brown also looked like frozen ready-made ones you can buy from the supermarket. And the muffin also didn't taste fresh. Other than that, the food was actually delicious. After breakfast we went back to the cabin and got into our swimsuits, then headed up to the pool deck to find a couple of sunbeds. This wasn't difficult as there are sunbeds located all around the outside decks. We chose two sunbeds next to a hot tub and stayed here for a couple of hours. Whilst we were sat here, we spotted a couple of dolphins just off the side of the ship. It was amazing to see, they were just playing with eachother for ages. There are a lot of hot tubs located around the ship so no need to worry about not being able to get in one. After a couple of hours we were ready to go down to the Skydome, where we went to Taste 360, which is a quick service food spot serving up pizza, hot dogs, burgers etc. There was a long line but it moved fast. And it was worth it - so tasty! We went back to the cabin after this to have a shower and get ready for the rest of the day. The room attendant had cleaned up our room and it was like new again (not that we had made much mess!). Soon it was time for Bingo! We went down to The Clubhouse where we purchased our booklets. We paid for the most expensive option - 10 chances, and there were 5 games. This cost £30 but we were able to split the booklets so we had 5 chances each. We also purchased two dabbers at £2 each. So in total it cost us £34, but we had so much fun, and we did win one of them. The prize would have been £110 but another person got a full card too so we had to share it with her, so we actually won £55. This was fine because it meant we covered our cost! It was now time to get ready for the black tie evening. We got dressed up, and wondered to the Grand Atrium, where we were given a complimentary non-alcoholic cocktail. It was delicious. It was really nice seeing the effort that everybody had gone to as well, ladies in beautiful dresses, and men in fancy suits. A lady played the grand piano. At one point a band played shanty music. Sounds like a strange combination, but it worked. We had made a reservation in one of the formal dining rooms, however this was the biggest teething problem that P&O experienced while we were on this tester cruise. The reservation booking system just wasn't working. It just wasn't working and after waiting an hour, we walked up to the restaurant to find out what was happening. They said they were experiencing problems, and offered to give us a pager, but we decided to go back up to Horizon and have our dinner up there. On the menu tonight was beef bourguignon. This was absolutely delicious. Also on offer was sweet potato fries, plenty of veg, new potatoes. There was also a chicken option, and a veggie option. You can also order cocktails and various other beverage options in Horizon and it will be brought to you. After dinner we went up to the Skydome to watch the aerial show that they put on up there. I don't want to give too much away but 9 very talented performers gave a first class performance including acrobatics, aerial acts, lasers, dance, music... it was amazing. I would highly recommend. By this time it was time for bed for us. There was plenty going on around the ship for those who would want to stay up much later. I know there is the 710 club (inspired by Gary Barlow) with live music and a sophisticated bar. There are many other pubs, bars and lounges on the ship to choose from. I also haven't mentioned the spa and fitness centre. We took a look inside the gym and it is filled with plenty of cross-trainers, bikes, treadmills, weight machines, basically plenty to satisfy those of you that like to exercise whilst on holiday. Every salon and spa treatment you could imagine is on offer here too if you would like to get pampered. This seemed very popular in the short time we were on board. As it was our last night we were instructed to pack our cases and leave them outside our cabins to be collected overnight. There was a letter in our cabin telling us what time to disembark, and where we needed to wait at our allotted time. Luckily for us we were able to fit in a very luxurious breakfast in Pearl, one of the formal dining rooms. Here I was able to order proper coffee, pancakes, fruit, toast, basically everything you might want. It might be a bit more formal, but nothing beats being served tea from a teapot, and eating your breakfast on a tablecloth! Call me a snob, but it was the perfect end to our trip. My only gripe was that the muffin that i ordered in the hope that it would be better than the one I'd had the day before, tasted exactly the same, and definitely wasn't made fresh that morning. The disembarkation process was absolutely seamless. We left the ship, scanning our cards on the way out, and entered the terminal building at Ocean cruise terminal, Port of Southampton, where are suitcases were there waiting for us. Simple as that. It was a fantastic couple of days, there were definitely teething problems, but that was the whole purpose of the trip. To put the staff and the ship through it's paces. I did have an issue with the Wi-Fi in that I paid £12.50 for 24 hours of Wi-Fi but I couldn't access it at all. I did speak to Reception about this twice, and they said I would be refunded, which I am still waiting for. But all in all, I was very impressed with the ship, the crew, the decor, the amenities, it was all beautiful. There are kids clubs on board, but I would probably recommend this ship for families with young children, and couples (of all ages).

First to sail on P&O's Iona, part 1 (travelling in Covid times)

13 August 2021

Arriving at the port of Southampton I did feel a little emotional. After cruises being cancelled for 16 or so months, dropping our cases off at the bag drop point made what had previously felt very surreal, feel very real! I couldn't believe I was actually going on a cruise after all this time! It has been 2 years for me since I last went on a cruise ship, and after having several holidays cancelled over the past 2 years, I was desperate to get away. I know 2 nights isn't really a holiday, but anything is better than nothing! Relieved of suitcases, we joined the line for our Covid tests. This was the longest queue of the day, taking approximately 30 minutes to receive the tests, before then joining the actual check-in line. Just outside the entrance to the terminal building were two ladies on stilts dressed as sailors who you could have your photo taken with. The entrance was decorated with balloons, and a large ‘Iona’ sign, and live music. The atmosphere was electric. Once inside the building (where it was face masks on) we were directed to staff who went through our health declarations. We were then asked to take a seat until we received our test results. This took pretty much 30 minutes exactly. And boy did we feel relieved to get that text message advising us of our negative results! We excitedly joined the queue for the check-in desks, which was very long but it did move quickly and before we knew it, we were all checked in, through security, and boarding the ship. The first thing we had to do once on board was check in at our muster station. In the past this used to be a frustrating (but necessary) and time–consuming (time-wasting?!) exercise, but this new way, as a positive result of Covid, is so much better. Our muster station was the entrance to the theatre, so we went straight there, checked in with a staff member, who gave us very brief instructions about what to do in case of emergency, and then we were free to go. Current rules state that you have to wear a mask moving around indoors on the ship, but if you are walking around outside you are free to remove it. Also, when inside your cabin, or seated at a bar or restaurant eating or drinking you are also allowed to remove masks. So it wasn’t as bad as I feared, because it is not often all you are doing is walking around inside the ship! We went straight to find our cabin – deck 11, cabin number 11138. There is something about being on a brand new ship, the carpets are plush and luxurious. The furniture sparkling. The cabin numbers very stylishly lit up. Our cabin attendant came straight over to us and introduced herself to us. Inside our cabin we were pleasantly surprised. Small but perfectly formed, with beautiful contemporary furnishings, an abundance of storage, and a smart bathroom with decent sized shower. We had a balcony cabin, with twin beds (which could be converted to a double), a good sized sofa with a coffee table, a large flatscreen tv, a fridge, safe, and tea and coffee making facilities. We were even given complimentary water, in a can! After unpacking we went off to explore the ship. Starting at the top deck, the plan had been to work our way down each deck. We didn’t get very far, we came across the Beachcomber Bar and Pool, and decided to sit down and order a cocktail! I was very surprised to see the prices - £6.95 for my Mai Tai (which is cheaper than what I would pay back home!). Current circumstances mean that it is table service only on board, even at the bars. For obvious reasons they don’t want crowds at the bars. We did have to wait a while for our order to be taken, but as we were some of the first guests on board, and this was the first time Iona had taken passengers, I will give the crew the benefit of the doubt and put it down to teething problems. Cocktails in hand, we continued on with our exploration. We explored the top outside decks, filled with giant chess boards, table tennis tables, shuffleboard and plenty of other activities to keep you occupied on sea days. The two infinity pools at the rear of the ship are stunning, they are on different decks so if one is a bit busy you could try the other. Both are accompanied by a bar, obvs. For dinner on this first night we visited The Quays, where you can choose from 3 different styles of food each day. Today it was either fish and chips, fried chicken and chips, or Thai vegetable Massaman curry. We both went for the fish and chips which was amazing, with a chunky piece of cod. You can also order cocktails and other drinks in here, so we had to test out another cocktail. I would recommend The Quays for a delicious and quick meal. After dinner we saw the show in the Headliners theatre – called ‘Festival’ it is a fantastic mix of 80’s and 90’s music, with a sweet storyline about two groups of friends at a music festival in the UK. It is colourful, humorous, and filled with great music to sing along to. After the theatre we decided to get a second dinner! This time we visited Horizon, which is a buffet style restaurant. On this occasion, due to Covid, we did have to make a reservation on My Holiday, P&O’s web-based app which you can access for free on the ship’s Wi-Fi (please note you cannot access anything else on this Wi-Fi, only My Holiday. If you want to pay for Wi-Fi it costs £12.50 per day). We didn’t have to wait long though, and we were shown to our table and then told we could go up to the buffet to get our food. We had to keep our masks on whilst walking through the restaurant, but we could remove it to eat and drink. At the buffet, it wasn’t the traditional ‘help yourself’, there were servers who loaded your plate for you. This was fine, and possibly helped us to not overload our plates! The food was delicious and I would definitely recommend Horizon for a quick meal. After our second dinner we went to The Club Lounge, where we saw a comedian – Tucker. He was fantastic and definitely made us laugh out loud. One more cocktail to test out in here and then we were ready to head back to our cabin. What an amazing feeling it was to be the first person to sleep in that bed! It was so comfortable, and the duvet was the perfect thickness! The cabins are perfectly soundproofed and considering they play music in the hallways, you don't hear any of that once the cabin door is closed. There is no turndown service at the moment but this will resume once things are more back to normal. Keep an eye out for day 2, coming soon.

Which cruise line is right for me?

06 January 2021

Have you always been wanting to try a cruise, but been overwhelmed by the amount of cruise lines there are and don’t know which one is for you? Well here is my guide! Are you worried about getting seasick? Out of all of the cruises I’ve taken, I’ve only felt seasick once, and that was on the way back to New York from the Caribbean we had to take a detour due to a storm and so we were skirting around the edge, causing swell in the ocean. It lasted a day or so and wasn’t overly pleasant. But that is the only time. If you do suffer from seasickness maybe a river cruise might be better for you, that way there is no ocean swell and you are always right alongside land. Potential river cruise lines are: AmaWaterways (5*), APT (4*), Croisi Europe (3+*), Emerald (4*), Fred Olsen (3+*), Riviera (4*), Scenic (5*), Uniworld (5*) and Viking (5*). Bear in mind that river cruising does tend to attract an older market (average age is around 50). River cruising is ideal for those of you wanting to get right into the heart of a city. Most river cruise lines carry electric bikes on board and you can take these off for the day. They are usually all inclusive too so no need for carrying cash on you. Do you want to try an Expedition cruise? If you are someone who prefers a ‘hot’ holiday rather than a ‘cold’ holiday, this isn’t the cruise for you! Having said that, expedition cruising is fast becoming very popular and attracts all ages. Expedition cruise lines include the following: Aurora (4*), Hurtigruten (4*), and Ponant (5*). These lines all specialise in expedition cruising, although there are some more mainstream cruise lines who do cruises to Alaska as well. You can also take an expedition cruise to the Galapagos, a destination where only a limited number of ships are allowed at a time so if you're looking to escape the crowds this is the cruise for you! On an Alaskan cruise the ships usually have experts on board who will chat to you about what you are seeing, and the environment around you. Are you wanting an adult only cruise where you can relax knowing that no little bundles of fun will be running around disturbing your peace? Cruise lines to try would be Azamara (5*), Crystal (6*), Cunard (5*), Oceania (5*), Ponant (5*), Regent Seven Seas (6*), Saga (4*), Seabourn (6*), and Silversea (6*). Alternatively, if you are looking for a family holiday, and cruising really is for everybody – from amazing kids clubs for those with littlun’s, to adults only areas for those who want their space, to family friendly stage shows. Every taste and age are catered for. I recommend the following cruise lines for families: Carnival (4*), Celebrity (5*), MSC (4+*), Norwegian Cruise Line (4*), P&O (4*), and Royal Caribbean (4*). There are other cruise lines who accept children, but don’t really cater to them as such so this is my shortlist of the most appropriate for families with children. I have shown the star ratings of all of these cruises because some cruisers have larger budgets than others, so the ultra-luxury cruises will be the 6* lines shown above. Other factors to take into account are age (some lines cater more to those aged 50+ so you probably wouldn’t want to be choosing one of these if you’re a couple in your 30’s), size of the ship (larger ships have more on board to keep everyone entertained, but smaller ships can get closer in to port and can access some ports that larger ships can’t), accessibility (most lines cater for passengers with disabilities these days, but some are better than others), food - some ships have just one or two restaurants, but the larger ships could have 25 eateries on board1 No more having to be in the formal dining room at 6pm and being seated with people you don't know. Eating on a cruise ship these days is all part of the fun (and one of the things I enjoy most about being on a cruise!). And finally the destination (so many ships visiting so many destinations, there is so much to choose from, from Caribbean to Mediterranean, Asia to Australasia, Europe to South America, and Alaska to the Galapagos, and everything in between!). You could go on a World cruise for 6 months, or a taster cruise for 3 nights. You can cruise out of Southampton meaning no flights required, or you can join a cruise ship from Florida, or Barcelona, there are so many embarkation points. You can tie in a trip on the Rocky Mountaineer with a cruise to Alaska to celebrate a special birthday or anniversary. Or even a trip to Disney World with a Disney Cruise. There are so many options out there! I could go on and on about cruising, so if you have any questions, just ask, and I will find the perfect cruise for you. Above is just a snapshot of some of the cruise lines out there, but there are so many that I can't list them all here. Whatever you decide, you will not regret trying a cruise.

Deluxe options for a family holiday to Orlando

12 October 2020

A holiday to Orlando is expensive when you factor in park tickets, food, merchandise etc. Some people think your hotel is just a place to sleep. I disagree. Visiting the theme parks is exhausting, and we like to factor in rest days, so for us, a nice hotel with decent facilities and a great pool, is very important. Personally we like to stay in a moderate resort (see yesterday’s blog for ideas of moderate accommodation options) but if you can stretch your budget to stay in a deluxe resort, perhaps you are going to Orlando to celebrate something special, or this is your once in a lifetime holiday, then a stay in a deluxe resort is the perfect addition to your holiday. Here are some onsite and offsite deluxe resort options… OFFSITE There are loads of offsite options to choose from, but here is my selection: 1. The Grove Resort Orlando – situated closer to Disney World than Universal, it has great pools and water slides, restaurants and bars, and has 2- and 3-bedroom suites so is perfect for larger families. 2. Four Seasons Orlando – this is extremely close to Walt Disney World, in fact is on WDW property, so an excellent location if you are all about the Disney parks! This is a holiday destination in itself, with multiple pools, bars, restaurants, a spa and a luxury golf course. The best bit – the 5-acre water park! 3. Hilton Orlando Bonnet Creek – This is on the cheaper end of the deluxe offsite resorts, with great pools, a restaurant and a bar, jacuzzi, hairdresser, waterslide, standard rooms, and the biggest benefit of all is that it is a Disney partner hotel, so you receive all of the same benefits as if you were staying onsite at Disney, such as extra magic hours, access to fast pass at 60 days instead of 30, and regular transport to the parks. If you don’t think you’ll be spending all of your time in the parks, there are shops and restaurants nearby to try out. ONSITE – UNIVERSAL ORLANDO RESORT There are 3 options for staying in a deluxe resort at Universal. All of them have the same perks – early access to the parks, in-resort room charging, complimentary water-taxi transport and buses to the parks, and the best perk – the skip-the-line express pass is included with your stay (normal park tickets to be purchased). This perk alone is worth approx. $125 per person per night, so for a family of 4, this more than pays for itself! Here are the 3 deluxe Universal resorts: 1. Loews Royal pacific Resort – themed to the pacific obviously, this resort is stunning. We stayed here in 2017 and wish we had spent more time here. Several restaurant choices, pool bar, pool, jacuzzi, gift shops and within 10 minutes’ walk to CityWalk, this is a great option for your deluxe stay at Universal. 2. Portofino Bay Resort – with an Italian theme, you have some fantastic restaurants to choose from, and with several different room types from standard rooms to kids suites decked out in a Minions theme, you will not be disappointed. There are 3 pools to choose from and a water slide, games room, and an ice cream shop, you won’t want to leave. 3. Hard Rock Hotel – you get to live that Rockstar life when you stay here! With underwater music in the pool, to special kids suites, plenty of bars and restaurants to choose from, and a wonderful pool. You can even order a Fender guitar to practice on in your room (from a menu of 12 guitars!). There is a gym, games room, and every month they put on a rock concert, just for you. You can even get married here! ONSITE – DISNEY There are so many deluxe Disney resorts now, that it would be difficult to choose which one to stay at! All of them have complimentary access to all of the Disney transportation, whether that is the Skyliner, the Monorail, the buses, or the friendship boats. You also get access to the Fastpasses at 60 days (as opposed to 30 for non-Disney resort guests). Plus there is Extra Magic Hours too for access to the parks when they are a bit quieter. These resorts often have signature restaurants, amazing pools, you can have all of your in-park purchases delivered back to your resort, and you can use your magic bands to pay for anything you buy in and around Walt Disney World including Disney Springs. There are too many to put all the details, so here is a list, and if you want to know more about any of these resorts, just let me know: 1. Animal Kingdom Lodge – closest to Animal Kingdom park, you could wake up to a view of giraffes out on the savannah. 2. Polynesian Village Resort – themed as you would expect, this resort is close to the Magic Kingdom with access via boat, monorail, or bus, it is very convenient. It also has the famous restaurant ‘Ohana’. 3. Grand Floridian Resort & Spa – close to the Magic Kingdom, again it is on the monorail loop, and you can get there via monorail and bus. 4. Wilderness Lodge – a stunning resort in the Magic Kingdom area again with boat and bus access to the park. 5. Beach Club Resort – in between Epcot and Hollywood Studios, a fantastic location with an amazing waterpark that it shares with Yacht Club. 6. Contemporary Resort – famous for having the Monorail station inside the hotel you can see it entering and exiting the hotel at each end! You have the California Grill (a signature restaurant) on the top floor where you can see the spectacular firework and projection show ‘Happily Ever After’ on the Magic Kingdom Cinderella Castle at night. They pipe in the music so you can hear it as you watch the fireworks. 7. Yacht Club Resort – next to Beach Club, in between Epcot and Hollywood Studios. You must try the Yachtsman Steakhouse… yum! 8. Boardwalk Inn – on the Boardwalk, with shops, restaurants, and bars close by, just the other side of the lake to Beach Club and Yacht Club. With possibly the scariest pool slide ever… 9. Saratoga Springs Resort & Spa – with treehouse villas, and 1- and 2-bedroom apartments, this option is great for large families. It is also closest to Disney Springs. 10. Old Key West Resort – also close to Disney Springs, with signature golf courses nearby, and with large 1- and 2-bedroom apartments. 11. Riviera Resort – Disney’s newest resort, close to Epcot. You can see both the Epcot fireworks and the Hollywood Studios fireworks from this resort! Also, one of the best character dining experiences here at Topolino’s Terrace. So there you have it, my final blog giving you inspiration for booking that once in a lifetime trip to Orlando! If you have any questions, please do get in touch.

Budget resort options for a family holiday to Orlando

08 October 2020

Over the next few days I’m going to focus on Orlando (as that is my favourite place to go!). I understand different people have different budgets, so I’m going to choose different options for different wallets. All will be based on a family of 4, but I can tailor make these holidays to suit any family, whether you are a family of 5, 6 or even if you are a multigenerational family looking for that once in a lifetime trip to Orlando. They will be based on 2 weeks, but again if you wanted 10 days, or 3 weeks, I can do that too. So let’s get started with the budget trip, staying offsite. Firstly, this is as cheap as it gets. You can get a perfectly good, clean hotel for a bargain price if you stay offsite. You won’t be immersed in the Disney or Universal bubble, but if that doesn’t bother you then why not! You will be more limited with transport, but on the plus side you will be in an area with restaurants, shops, and bars all around you, plus I would highly recommend Uber whilst in Orlando. And of course there is the I-Trolley, which costs barely anything and goes up and down International Drive on a regular basis. So here are my top 3 offsite budget resorts: 1. Rosen Inn at Pointe Orlando – this is a 3 star resort and is basically half way between the Universal and Disney theme parks. It is clean, basic, has a pool and a restaurant and is the perfect place to rest your head. 2. Clarion Inn Lake Buena Vista – another 3 star, this is close to the Disney parks and to shopping and restaurants, and has similar facilities to the above, and is a similar price too. 3. Avanti International Resort – my final 3 star choice, in between Disney and Universal parks. It has a great pool, jacuzzi, restaurants, games room, laundry facilities, parking, and is in a great location. Next up is the budget Universal resort hotels, known as Value resorts here. These are more expensive than budget offsite hotels, but you get perks by staying here, such as free transportation to the Universal parks, early entry and great facilities. Here are all of the value Universal resort hotels you can choose from: 1. First up is the brand new Endless Summer resorts, which consist of Surfside Inn (which opened in 2019) and Dockside in (which was due to open in 2020). These are bright, colourful, and are the furthest resorts from the Universal parks. But these are great for larger families because as well as the standard rooms sleeping 4, you can get 2 bedroom suites as well so are perfect for families of up to 6. This is a 3 star resort. 2. Next up you have Cabana Bay, which is themed to the 50’s and 60’s. It is quite a large resort but it has some amazing pools and even a lazy river! There’s even a bowling alley and plenty of eating options too. Again you have family rooms sleeping up to 6 and standard rooms here sleeping up to 4. This resort is really close to Volcano Bay, Universal’s own waterpark. 3. The Aventura is the next one on my list, and is also relatively new. Families are welcome here but I would say this is where you might want to stay if you are on an adults only holiday, you have a beautiful rooftop bar, pool, restaurant, and it is within walking distance again of Volcano Bay. Rooms here can accommodate up to 5 people. Finally are the budget Disney resorts, also called Value. You definitely get more perks by staying onsite at Disney as there are just so many Disney parks now when you factor in Disney Springs and the water parks too, and when you have access to the Disney Transportation which usually runs like clockwork, plus if you have children, it really is a no brainer that if you can afford to stay onsite at Disney, you really should! So here goes: 1. The All-Star Resorts – these are the cheapest of the Value resorts, and consist of the All-Star Sports, All-Star Music, and All-Star Movies. They are hugely themed, larger than life, in your face Disney! Great for young kids, they will all love it here! They are quite large resorts, are the furthest away from the parks, but all have great themed pools (and several of them), food courts, and plenty of buses to take you to the parks. They all have laundry facilities, games rooms, gift shops, basically everything you need on a Disney holiday. All rooms here are standard and sleep 4. 2. Pop Century Resort – this is the next up in terms of price, and is the smallest of the Value resorts. The theming here is in terms of decades, so you might have a room in the 70’s section, where you have the Hippy Dippy pool, or you might have a room in the 90’s section, where you have a computer shaped pool. It is very well themed, again with larger than life theming and again kids will love it here. It has a great food court and access to the Disney buses, it also has the same facilities as the All-Star resorts. 3. Art of Animation – this would be my choice out of the Value resorts. Standard Little Mermaid rooms are beautiful and sleep 4. If you are a larger family they also have larger suites for up to 6, and are themed to either The Lion King, Cars, and Finding Nemo. There is a fantastic food court here as well as some great pools. The new plus of staying at this resort is that you now have access to the Skyliner gondola system so for this resort, you have more transport options other than just the buses. Those are all of my favourite budget resort options for a holiday to Orlando.

Medium budget options for a family holiday to Orlando

09 October 2020

Orlando is on a lot of people’s bucket list, especially if you have children, and often it is a once in a lifetime experience. My last post was all about where to stay if you are visiting Orlando on a tight budget, so this blog is going to be all about where to stay if you want something a little bit more medium budget. There are so many options, and it comes down to personal choice, and whether you want to be immersed in the Disney or Universal bubble or not. When you stay onsite at Disney or Universal you get the perks of being onsite, such as: • Free transportation between the parks • Meal plans • Access to Fast Pass at 60 days (for Disney guests) • Extra Magic Hours (at Disney) or early entry (at Universal) • In-resort room charging privileges But staying onsite is often more expensive than staying offsite, but in my opinion you get what you pay for, and being further away from the parks plus the not as frequent shuttle transportation to the parks from the offsite hotels, sometimes paying more is worth it. So here goes, first up is medium budget, Offsite resorts: 1. Floridays Resort – this is a 4-star resort about halfway between Disney and Universal theme parks. You can find 1, 2 and 3-bedroom self-catering apartments here which also include laundry facilities. There is also a great pool and kids splash area. There are restaurants and shops close by, so it is in a really good location and great for families. 2. Lake Buena Vista Resort & Village – another great self-catering option with 1- and 2-bedroom apartments, a fantastic pool with pirate ship, bar, restaurant, outlet shopping close by, and it is close to Walt Disney World too. This is another 4-star resort that is great for families. 3. Sheraton Vistana Resort – this is a 4-star resort in Lake Buena Vista, which is very close to Disney World. There are standard rooms and 1-bedroom apartments, so perfect for families. There are several pools, restaurants, a supermarket, laundry facilities, shuttle bus, whirlpool bath and jacuzzi. Next up is medium budget Universal resort hotels (also called ‘Preferred’): Sadly, there is only 1 preferred hotel at Universal, and this is the Loews Sapphire Falls Resort which is themed like an island paradise. You can only sleep up to 4 at this resort but you can choose from a standard room or a kid’s suite where the bedrooms are separate. You are within walking distance of Volcano Bay, and you can get a friendship boat to City walk for both Universal Studios and Islands of Adventure. There are plenty of options for eating and drinking, and there is a great pool and waterslide, and a jacuzzi. There is a shop and a games room too. Finally, here are the medium budget Disney resort hotels, also known as Moderate resorts: 1. Caribbean Beach Resort – a large resort themed to the Caribbean as you might expect. This resort is in an excellent location close to Epcot and Typhoon Lagoon and has complimentary access to the Disney bus transportation and also to the new Skyliner Gondola transportation. This resort has one of the best pools at Disney with a slide, plus numerous other quiet pools and a jacuzzi. There are several restaurant and food court options, gift shop, bike rentals, and a games room. Rooms here are standard or pirate themed and can sleep up to 5. 2. Coronado Springs Resort – here you can find standard rooms sleeping up to 4, plus 1- and 2-bedroom suites. There are plenty of choices for eating and drinking, a fantastic pool with waterslide plus a few other smaller pools and Jacuzzis, you can watch movies under the stars, sit around the campfire and toast marshmallows, take some fitness classes or play in the playground. 3. Port Orleans Resorts – stay at the smaller French Quarter (my personal favourite) for a more laid-back atmosphere, a great pool with a waterslide and a splash pad for the little ones. There is a food court here and a lounge bar and gift shop. Or you can stay at the sister property, Riverside, which is much larger, but has more pools, a restaurant, bar, and bike rentals. Both properties have access to the boat transportation which takes you to Disney Springs, plus the buses that take you to all the parks. So there you have it, my favourite medium budget options for a family holiday to Orlando. Don’t forget I can tailor make any Orlando holiday depending on your family size, budget, and style. Just get in touch, I can’t wait to start planning your holiday with you!

Where to stay in Orlando

10 July 2020

With so many accommodation options to choose from in Orlando, I have put together this helpful factsheet which should hopefully help you to choose the best option for you and your family. Option 1 - stay in a villa Advantages: • Private pool • Freedom and privacy • Your own transport (hire car) • Cheapest option • Great option for large, multi-generational families and groups of friends Disadvantages: • Someone has to drive (1 person if you have a minibus, 2 people if you have 2 cars) • Parking charges at the parks ($25 per day) • Traffic • Not convenient for popping back to the parks for a swim or rest mid-day • Not within the ‘Disney bubble’ • Have to do own cooking and cleaning • No Extra Magic Hours • Fastpass access at 30 days (not 60) • No access to Disney Dining plans Option 2 – staying at Lake Buena Vista Village Resort & Spa (or similar apartment style accommodation Advantages: • No need for car hire – use the resort shuttle to get to the parks, or get Uber’s / taxi’s • Still get the ‘villa’ experience by staying in a large apartment, with self-catering facilities if you want it, with the benefit of a resort style pool and hotel experience • Almost as cheap as the villa option • Convenience of being closer to Disney and Universal than the villa is • Housekeeping! Disadvantages: • Still not in the Disney bubble • Restricted to the resort shuttle timetable (which is less frequent and less convenient than the Disney Transportation if staying onsite) • Still no Extra Magic Hours • Still no access to Fastpass at 60 days • Still no access to Disney Dining Plans Option 3 – staying onsite at Disney Advantages: • Extra Magic hours for resort guests which means early access to the parks before they open to non-resort guests, or late closing. • Access to Fast Passes at 60 days (as opposed to 30 days if you aren’t staying onsite) • Magic Bands (swipe to enter the rides, pay for meals, merchandise etc.) • Resort charging and delivery for purchases so you can buy merchandise and have it delivered back to your room so you don’t have to carry it around. • Disney bubble – the kids will love it • Free Disney Transportation around the whole of Walt Disney World • Free Magical Express which picks you up from the airport and takes you back to the airport • The ability to get a Disney bus or Skyliner back to your resort when you need a break. Disadvantages: • The price! Option 4 – Split Stay (eg 10 nights Disney then 4 nights at Universal) Advantages: • If staying onsite is a preference due to the perks that you get included with an onsite stay, then a split stay is ideal because it gives you the perks for both sets of parks, meaning you can maximise your stay in Florida. This is the most expensive option, but you get the best of both worlds. • All of the perks from Option 3 above Disadvantages: • You would need to pack up and move resorts part way through your holiday • The most expensive option

Disney - Onsite V Offsite Part 1

29 January 2020

Are you planning a holiday to Walt Disney World in Orlando? Are you having the dilemma of where to stay? Onsite on Disney property? Or offsite in a villa or hotel? I have come up with the pros and cons of each option, in order to help you make your decision. Benefits of staying onsite 1. Transportation When you are staying in the Disney bubble, you have access to numerous methods of transportation around Walt Disney World. There are buses that run between the resorts and the parks and Disney Springs. These are regular, no more than 20 minutes wait, air conditioned, and even have USB ports under the seats! They take you directly to the park entrance. Another method is the new Skyliner – you can get this from Pop Century, Art of Animation, Caribbean Beach and the new Riviera resort. The Skyliner will take you from these resorts to Epcot and Hollywood Studios. The final method is the monorail – you can catch this from the Grand Floridian, the Polynesian, and the Contemporary. 2. Meal plans If you are staying onsite, you have access to the dining plans. At certain times of the year these plans are included for free when you book hotel and park tickets. Otherwise you can buy the plans at any time. There are different variations of the plan from basic to deluxe. They can be used within the parks, even the water parks, and in a lot of restaurants in Disney Springs. These plans, if you can get them for free with your package, are worth their weight in gold – you will not go hungry, and you shouldn’t need to pay a cent for food whilst you are on the dining plan! 3. Memory Maker If you book your accommodation and tickets together, you automatically receive the memory maker package. This is worth $200 and is worth having. Dotted around the parks are professional photographers with decent cameras, and they are there to take your photographs. They can even take special magic shots, where they ask you to make a face or stand a certain way, and they will insert something magical into the photo (which you won’t know about until you receive the photos on your phone shortly afterwards!) 4. Fastpass+ access at 60 days Everybody who books Disney park tickets has access to the Fast Pass system. However, if you are staying on Disney Property you can book your fast passes at 60 days out instead of 30 days like everyone else. 5. Extra Magic Hours Each day one of the parks has EMH either in the morning or the evening. It is a different park each day, and one day a park might open an extra hour before the normal opening time, and another day a park might stay open an extra 2 hours after it shuts to non-Disney guests, so you get to experience the park with fewer crowds and lower wait times. 6. Magic Bands If you are staying on property you automatically receive a magic band. Anybody can purchase magic bands but if you are staying on property these are then used as your room key, you can charge purchases to it, Photopass photographers can scan it before taking photos for your Memory Maker, and it is your ticket to the parks, entry to the rides, meal credits etc. 7. Merchandise delivery There are many gift shops located around the parks and it is easy to spend a lot of money and have plenty of bags to carry around with you! If you are staying on site you can make your purchases and then arrange for them to be delivered back to your hotel so you don’t have to carry them around all day! 8. Magical Express This is the shuttle service that picks you up from the airport and takes you to your Disney resort, and then returns you at the end of your holiday. It is free, and each one only stops at a maximum of 3 resorts it doesn’t take long to get you there. Cons 1. Cost – staying on Disney property is expensive! 2. Confined – if you are a family of 4, you might not all want to be in one room. 3. Large resorts – there are many Disney Resorts, most of them are large, with multiple bus stops. This means that if there are 4 bus stops at your resort and you are waiting at the last one, you might not get on the first bus that passes. 4. Addictive – yes, once you have stayed onsite, you won’t want to stay anywhere else! Benefits of staying offsite 1. Cost – staying in a villa, or a hotel in a location not on Disney Property is always a cheaper way of staying in Orlando. 2. Self-cater – there are plenty of supermarkets in Orlando so if you are renting a villa, you can buy breakfast ingredients and even make packed lunches, as eating out in the parks can get expensive. 3. Independence – if you like to have your own transport, and go where you want when you want, then you can rent a hire car for the duration of your holiday. 4. Large family holidays – sometimes you don’t want to be all cooped up in a hotel room when you are a large family. If you rent a villa you can spread out and have your own rooms, you could even have your own private pool. Cons 1. Cost – I know this is a benefit, but it is also a con, because once you have paid for the villa, you also need to factor in the following (which, once you’ve added this up, probably comes to the same price as staying onsite after all!) • Cost of a hire car • Cost of parking in the parks ($25 PER DAY) • Cost of buying food • Cost of fuel 2. Location - most villas are around 20 – 30 minutes away from the Disney parks, so that is a lot of time NOT spent IN the parks. Do you really want to be leaving Magic Kingdom after the fireworks at 10pm with tired children, and then having to drive half an hour back to your villa? 3. Access to the park - if you are visiting the Magic Kingdom and you are driving, the car parks are located either a bus ride, monorail ride, or boat ride away from the actual park. So if it takes you half an hour to drive to MK, it will then take you another 20 – 30 minutes before you can even enter the park. 4. FastPass+ - staying offsite means you only have access to booking your fastpasses at 30 days, meaning you risk not being able to ride the most popular rides. So to summarise, you need to do a lot of research to find the best option for you, factor in all of the above, because what you might initially think is the best option, might not necessarily be the best option for you in the long run. Having the convenience of staying in the Disney bubble is something that I would pay for over and over again, and having stayed both onsite and offsite (twice each), I wouldn’t want to go back to staying offsite again.

Walt Disney World - with children or without?

23 January 2020

Walt Disney World, Orlando – Onsite V Offsite Are you planning a holiday to Walt Disney World in Orlando? Are you having the dilemma of where to stay? Onsite on Disney property? Or offsite in a villa or hotel? I have come up with the pros and cons of each option, in order to help you make your decision. Benefits of staying onsite 1. Transportation – When you are staying in the Disney bubble, you have access to numerous methods of transportation around Walt Disney World. There are buses that run between the resorts and the parks, and Disney Springs. These are regular, no more than 20 minutes wait, are air conditioned, and even have USB ports under the seats! These take you directly to the park entrance. Another method is the new Skyliner – you can get this from Pop Century, Art of Animation, Caribbean Beach resort and the new Riviera resort. The Skyliner will take you from these resorts to Epcot and Hollywood Studios. The final method is the monorail – you can catch this from the Grand Floridian, the Polynesian, and the Contemporary. 2. Meal plans – If you are staying onsite, you have access to the dining plans. At certain times of the year these plans are included for free when you book hotel and park tickets together. Otherwise you can buy the plans at any time. There are different variations of the plan from very basic to very deluxe. They can be used within all the parks, even the water parks, and in a lot of establishments in Disney Springs. These plans, especially if you can get them for free with your package, are worth their weight in gold – you will not go hungry, and you shouldn’t need to pay a cent for food whilst you are on the dining plan! 3. Memory Maker – If you book your accommodation and tickets together, you automatically receive the memory maker package. This is worth $200 and is definitely worth having. Dotted around the parks in various locations are professional photographers with decent cameras, and they are there purely to take your photographs. They can even take special magic shots, where they ask you to make a particular face or stand in a certain way, and they will insert something magical into the photo (which you won’t know about until you receive the photos on your phone shortly afterwards!) 4. Fastpass access at 60 days – Everybody who books Disney park tickets has access to the Fast Pass system, however, if you are staying on Disney Property you can book your fast passes at 60 days out instead of 30 days like everyone else. 5. Extra Magic Hours – Each day one of the parks has extra magic hours either in the morning or the evening. It is a different park each day, and one day a park might open an extra hour before the normal opening time, and then another day a park might stay open for an extra 2 hours after it shuts to non-Disney guests, so you get to experience the park with fewer crowds and lower wait times. 6. Magic Bands – If you are staying on property you automatically receive a magic band. Anybody can purchase magic bands but if you are staying on property these are then used as your room key, you can charge purchases to it, Photopass photographers can scan it before taking photos for your Memory Maker, and it is your ticket to the parks, entry to the rides etc. 7. Merchandise delivery – there are many gift shops located around the parks and you will have plenty of bags to carry around the parks with you! If you are staying on site you can make your purchases and have them delivered back to your hotel so you don’t have to carry them around all day! 8. Magical Express – this is the shuttle service that picks you up from the airport, takes you to your Disney resort, and then returns you at the end of your holiday. It is free, and each one only stops at a maximum of 3 resorts therefore it doesn’t take hours to get you there. Cons 1. Cost – Staying on Disney property is expensive! 2. Confined – If you are a family of 4, you might not all want to be in one room. 3. Large resorts – There are many Disney Resorts, most of them are large, with multiple bus stops. This means that if there are 4 bus stops at your resort and you are waiting at the last one, you might not get on the first bus that passes. 4. Addictive – yes, once you have stayed onsite, you won’t want to stay anywhere else! Benefits of staying offsite 1. Cost – renting a villa is cheaper than staying in a Disney resort. 2. Self-cater – there are plenty of supermarkets in Orlando so if you are renting a villa, you can buy ingredients to make breakfast and packed lunches, as eating in the parks can get expensive. 3. Independence – if you like to have your own transport, and go where you want when you want, then you can rent a hire car to get around. 4. Large family – sometimes you don’t want to be cooped up in a hotel room. If you rent a villa you can spread out and have your own rooms, you could even have your own private pool. Cons 1. Cost – I know this is a benefit, but it is also a con, because once you have paid for the villa, you also need to factor in the following (which, once you’ve added this up, probably comes to the same price as staying onsite after all!) • Cost of a hire car • Cost of parking in the parks ($25 PER DAY) • Cost of buying food • Cost of fuel 2. Location - most villas are around 20 – 30 minutes away from the Disney parks, so that is a lot of time NOT spent IN the parks. Do you really want to be leaving Magic Kingdom after the fireworks at 10pm with tired children, and then having to drive half an hour back to your villa? 3. Access to the park - if you are visiting the Magic Kingdom and you are driving, the car parks are located either a bus ride, monorail ride, or boat ride away from the actual park. So if it takes you half an hour to drive to MK, it will then take you another 20 – 30 minutes before you can enter the park. 4. FastPass+ - staying offsite means you only have access to booking your fastpasses at 30 days, meaning you risk not being able to ride the most popular rides. To summarise, make sure you do your research to find the best option for you, and factor in all of the above, because what you might initially think is the best option, might not necessarily be the best option for you in the long run. Having the convenience of staying in the Disney bubble is something that I would pay for over and over again, and having stayed both onsite and offsite (twice each), I wouldn’t want to go back to staying offsite again.

My 10 favourite things about cruising with Royal Caribbean

22 December 2019

1. The service From the minute you arrive at the port to the minute you return to the port. When you arrive at the port the porters take your luggage either from your car if you are driving, or from your taxi where you are dropped off. As you enter the port terminal the staff there greet you and are so welcoming. They make you feel special as soon as they meet you from the staff in the terminal building, to the ship staff that greet you as you arrive on board for the first time. As you explore the ship, try out the restaurants, or enter your cabin for the first time, the staff members who you encounter along your journey are the most friendliest people I have ever met, and they can’t do enough for you. 2. The food When you think about how many guests must be catered for it is hard to believe that the quality could be good. But it absolutely is! Even in the buffet restaurant (the Windjammer) the food quality is amazing, and the choice is unbelievable. From healthy options, to fussy eaters, to guests with allergies and dietary requirements, the list is endless. On some ships you have Jamie Oliver’s, and again the staff, the service, and the food quality is top notch. You have a restaurant called Wonderland, which is a bit quirky, but worth the experience. There are Italian options, steak houses, diners etc. Some of the bigger ships can have 20 restaurants on board. Not all of them are complimentary, but those that you do have to pay for are subsidised. You could easily eat in a different restaurant for each meal of your trip! 3. The entertainment The larger ships have Broadway style entertainment for the whole family. There are usually other options as well depending on the ship, such as an ice-skating show on the oasis class and independence class ships, or an aqua theatre show on the oasis class ships, or even an award-winning robotic show on the quantum class ships. There is something for everybody. 4. Activities All the ships have rock climbing walls, swimming pools, a gym, etc. Most ships have water slides and multiple swimming pools and splash pads. And some ships have so much more. Oasis class ships have a carousel! Quantum class ships have the viewing pod that goes up and out over the ship and they also have Ripcord by I-fly where you can simulate a skydive. There is also the Flow rider (which, believe me, is very fun to watch!) On Anthem of the seas you can do trapeze, roller skating, bumper cars… you could honestly spend a whole week on the ship and not get off! 5. You can visit a different destination every day without having to change hotels! Which means, not having to pack and unpack! You can see so much more of the world, but still be based out of one room. And if you don’t want to get off the ship and just view the destination from on board – you can! 6. Loyalty scheme When you have completed your first cruise you can join the Crown & Anchor loyalty scheme which means you earn points for every night of your cruise. You can start receiving the benefits immediately, but these benefits get better the more cruises you go on, including discounts off the price of a cruise, priority boarding etc. 7. Kids clubs The kid’s clubs on board the Royal Caribbean cruise ships are fantastic. The staff are well trained, and they do so much with the children. Sometimes they can take part in the parades along the promenade, they get to do science experiments, and they get to take part in activities which are aimed at their age groups. 8. Cruise Compass Every night the ‘cruise compass’ is placed in your cabin ready for the following day. This is your daily calendar of onboard activities, and it lists everything that is happening on board each day. If the ship is in port that day, there will be tips for things to do in that port. It will give showtimes, restaurant opening times, pool and gym opening times. It is so useful. And I get excited about getting back to my cabin at the end of the night and seeing this on my bed! I know, how sad! 9. The Cruise Director On board each ship there is a Cruise Director. This person oversees the entertainment side of the ship. Each cruise director is different. For example, on our first cruise the cruise director would have a daily show that he would film from his office, it would be very humorous, you could ask for shout outs for your friends and family, and it would be shown on repeat throughout the morning on a dedicated channel in your cabin. On our most recent cruise, our cruise director also filmed a show each evening, but it was filmed from a different location around the ship each evening, and if you stumbled across them whilst filming, you could appear on the show! Some of them also take part in certain activities, for example one of them took the Zumba class! Another hosted the belly flop competition. Either way, you always feel like you become attached to the cruise director whichever ship you are on because they are so friendly and personable, and they will always stop and talk to you. 10. Free ice cream! My final favourite thing is that on the pool deck there is an ice cream station where you can go and get unlimited ice cream! Sometimes there will be someone there who will serve it for you, but sometimes you can help yourself. And you can either have vanilla or chocolate or strawberry, and sometimes you can have Vanilla AND chocolate or Vanilla AND strawberry! And you can go back as many times as you like!

Cruising out of Southampton

06 November 2019

Having experienced 3 cruise holidays previously, one Caribbean and two Mediterranean, I was keen to test out sailing from Southampton. With no flights to take to meet the ship, and travelling with two children, I couldn’t wait to see how convenient this was (not to mention how much extra luggage I could take!) It turned out to be a dream. We stayed in an apartment near to the port the night before, and when we woke up in the morning, we could see the ship from the window. We were all very excited. Driving to the port was extremely easy. It was very well sign posted, and we found our delegated car park easy enough and there were port marshals on hand to direct us to our parking space. Once parked and unloaded, we handed our suitcases to staff members who met us at our car, and it was a short 5-minute walk to the terminal building. Again, there were plenty of staff on hand to direct people. Off we went to join the check in queue. Through security, we were met by a lovely lady who went through the regular questions (has anybody been sick, are our passports valid etc). We were then asked to sit in a certain row, and they called us up row by row so as not to create a backlog of people waiting to board the ship. This worked more efficiently than any of the other ports we had embarked from in the past and we were on the ship in no time. Prosecco in hand, I sat by the pool as my children enjoyed splashing about in the swimming pools. I would definitely recommend cruising out of Southampton!

Walt Disney World - with children or without?

08 January 2020

Walt Disney World – with children or without? Disney isn’t just for children; it is for the child within you too. I took my children (then aged 6 and 8) to Disney World, Florida, in 2017. We had an amazing time, came back with some fantastic memories. But it left me wanting to go back without them! Not because I hate them! But because I wanted to take my time and absorb the details. That is what Disney is about – attention to detail. When you are walking around the parks the details are unbelievable, but children don’t want to hang around and take in the details, they want to race to the next ride or character meet and greet, or go back to the hotel and swim in the pool. A few months later, when I was thinking about what to do for my 40th birthday the following year, I decided that what I really wanted was an adults-only trip back to Walt Disney World! And that’s what we did… We stayed at Disney’s Port Orleans Resort French Quarter (which we stayed at in 2017 with the children). The atmosphere here is relaxed and laid back, and it is themed just like New Orleans French Quarter. There is a large swimming pool with a slide for the kids, a splash pad, plenty of sun beds, and a pool bar. Resort amenities include a food court, gift shop, lounge bar, laundry facilities and an arcade. They also have movies at night on the lawn with a campfire and you can toast marshmallows. This resort is the smallest Disney property which is why we prefer it. Your room is never too far away from anything and there is only one bus stop, meaning you usually don’t have to stop anywhere else to pick up or drop off guests. It is also well located, so most parks are within a 20-minute bus trip. As we were there without the children, we only had 6 nights. Was it relaxing? No. But because we only had to worry about ourselves, we were able to get up and out in reasonable time, and we could do whatever we felt like! Day 1: we got an Uber to Walmart and stocked up on some bargains. Then we got an Uber from there to the Vineland Premium outlets to seek out some higher end goods as well as visit the Disney Character Warehouse where you are sure to get some absolute bargain Disney merchandise. After a quick lunch back at the resort we jumped on the free Disney transportation to Animal Kingdom where we spent the rest of the day. My favourite ride here was Avatar Flight of Passage, in the world of Pandora. A highly immersive 3D simulation where you get to ride on a banshee that lives and breathes beneath you. Truly the best ride I have ever been on. We did the safari and walked around the stunning animal encounters. This park is my favourite. The atmosphere is amazing, I love it. It’s not ‘in your face’ Disney, but it is still obviously Disney, in a good way. Day 2: Magic Kingdom. We rode all of the rides we wanted to, saw the parades and the evening fireworks show ‘Happily Ever After’ which tugs on my heart strings every time. This is my favourite show out of all of them. And we tried some yummy Disney treats. Day 3: Epcot, and again we rode all of the rides we wanted to including Soarin’ and Frozen (which did feel a bit weird without the kids…). We also explored World Showcase, each and every world pavilion, which we had just skipped through last time. There is so much to see and do in each one and I wanted to take our time around here. It was the Flower and Garden festival while we were there so there were international food stalls all around the park where you could experience different food and drink from around the world. Halfway through the day here we left the park via the International Gateway and walked along to the Beach Club resort. We had brought our refillable mugs with us so were able to go into the food court and help ourselves to a cup of coffee, and take some time out for a breather. It also gave us the opportunity to experience a different Disney resort – this time a deluxe resort (Port Orleans is a moderate resort). We returned to Epcot and finished off the day with an evening meal in Mexico, followed by the Epcot Illuminations. This is another fantastic evening show however this has now come to an end and there is another night-time show (which is currently only temporary as there is another bigger, better show in the pipeline). Day 4: Hollywood Studios. I was really looking forward to experiencing Toy Story land. This hadn’t been open when we were there previously and I had been looking forward to riding Slinky Dog Dash. It did not disappoint! We were entertained in the queue by the Green Army Men who were fantastic! We ate our lunch at Woody’s lunchbox where I had the beef brisket toasted sandwich (delicious!) and then went and rode Star Tours 3 times in a row due to there being no queue! We also rode Aerosmith’s Rockin’ Roller Coaster and the Hollywood Tower of Terror (never again for me but my husband loved it!). We soaked up the atmosphere and ate some ice cream, before settling down to watch the Star Wars themed evening spectacular. Day 5: Animal Kingdom in the morning, to finish off the bits that we didn’t get to do, and then we went to Disney Springs to mooch around the shops. We had also booked tickets to see Marvel’s Captain Marvel in the cinema at Disney Springs – well that was an experience! The seats are like armchairs, the popcorn buckets are bigger than my head! I would highly recommend! Travel home day was spent relaxing a little. We strolled up to the sister resort Port Orleans Riverside so we could check out the facilities there. It looked really nice, very colonial. Once we were finished there, we got on the boat to Disney Springs to finish off our shopping (at the largest Disney Store in the world!) Then sadly it was time to catch the ‘Tragical’ Express back to the airport for our overnight flight home. To summarise, as much as I did feel guilty going to Disney World without the children, I would definitely recommend it. It is a completely different experience to taking your children. I probably would have felt guilty if I had never taken the children to begin with, but they were fantastic, we Face Timed them every day and they not once made us feel guilty for being there without them. Obviously, we had to promise to take them back, but I think I can handle that…

My customer stories

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i never realised how easy and detailed it is to use. It does help when you have a counsellor like Fiona who has made the whole experience seamless and very easy. my decision was made in less than two days!

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Fiona has been so helpful with Al our requests and we will be using Fiona for all our future holidays and travel insurance.

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I always tell my friends who booked my holiday, and that they should contact you if they plan to go away . Fiona goes over and beyond to meet our needs and budget . Thank you Fiona

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Fiona Is an excellent travel advisor nothing is too much trouble and makes my life a lot easier helping with our travel plans.

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Fiona makes booking a holiday so stress free!

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Fiona, is always happy to help, offering different options and helping to tweak what is needed.

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I'd highly recommend using TC and Fiona as she's always been very knowledgeable and provides useful insights ahead of any bookings. Fiona is also super responsive and flexible in quoting for new trips or changes and additions to existing bookings. We've personally had quotes in less than an hour and whole holidays booked same day.

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Fiona was excellent, very helpful and any questions answered quickly. Booking the holiday could not have been easier.

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Fiona was so helpful and informative. She responded really quickly to any queries and I wouldn’t hesitate to recommend her. Thank you Fiona!

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Fiona was great, she answered our queries quickly (despite it being a weekend) she is knowledgeable, easy to talk to, patient and efficient.

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The trip was painless thanks to Fiona's input. The end destination - Warsaw and the Marriott airport hotel - was a first for both of us so there was a little bit of a learning curve with respect to the airport itself and getting to the hotel, but thanks to an excellent after sales service to back up the trip, all went very smoothly indeed.

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Fiona, was very helpful with booking our next cruise, I would definitely use her again, & also recommended her to friend’s & family.. It’s so nice to be able to either give her a call, or receive quick replies to emails with queries we might have..

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Fiona has been wonderful throughout the process, Very knowledgeable, helpful and efficient. Many thanks

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Fiona was very knowledgeable, conscientious. She was very approachable and easy to talk to providing us with various options and finding us the ideal holiday.

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Fiona has been fantastic throughout the whole process of booking the holiday, all of my questions and worries answered. Makes booking a holiday easy when life is so busy.

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Fiona is incredibly helpful, understands exactly what we are looking for with our holidays and is super efficient with booking everything we need for our trips completely taking the stress away!

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I already have and will continue to recommend you Fiona So very satisfied with your service Thank you

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It was lovely not having the stress of looking for a holiday myself. I will be recommending you to anyone I know who is thinking of going on holiday. Top service.

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Fiona was fantastic, very informative and extremely helpful. Nothing was too much trouble and Fiona was readily available at all times of the day - exceptional, personal and very professional service. I have already told family and friends to go to Fiona when planning future trips. Added bonus, Fiona found us a wonderful holiday that ticked all the boxes at a price that we felt was unbeatable - well done Fiona and thank you

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Fiona was very quick to help, getting straight on the phone to the cruise provider to help sort out corresponding flights. Great, attentive and knowledgeable service. Would highly recommend.

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I have often recommended Fiona Sarre. I’m not the most organised person and we don’t go on many holidays, by using Travel Counsellors we are presented with a few options to choose from and I know that every detail is covered. It’s stress free and we are very much looking forward to our break.

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Great service and i will recommend to my friends

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Fiona was really informative and provided quotations and holiday information promptly and efficiently.

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Fiona responded very quickly and even on the weekend. She provided several options for us and never put pressure on us to make a decision. A great easy stress free way to book a family holiday. Thanks Fiona!

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Have already recommended Fiona to other colleagues. The prompt responses and professional service is always appreciated.

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Excellent service personally delivered!

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I have no hesitation in recommending Fiona to others, she is very helpful, very professional and we have just booked our third trip with her.

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So patient and accommodating and gave lots of options and ideas

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Fiona has done amazing! She has gone above and beyond to help me out

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Brilliant knowledge of our destination and answered queries very quickly.

Sent by D Falla

Brilliant knowledge of our destination and answered queries very quickly.

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I cannot fault Fiona in any way , I believe she goes beyond her job to satisfy and answer all questions for her customers. Thank you

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I have already recommended Fiona’s service to many people!!

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Fiona was brilliant, taking into account our wishes and giving us lots of choices with her recommendations included.

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Fiona has been so patient with all of our questions. Not only that, she listened to what we wanted from a holiday and made fantastic suggestions based on this. I’d definitely come back to Fiona to book a future holiday.

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Fiona was amazing in setting up our honeymoon account and on a very short deadline. We really are looking forward to booking our dream holiday with her.

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Very pleased with the service. Fiona was able to sort out a problem with my return flight in plenty of time for me to return the same day as planned.

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Fiona took all the strain of organising my holiday myself. I am so Impressed with her very helpful and efficient attention to detail.

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Fiona is very efficient, knowledgeable and gives excellent customer service. We weren’t sure what we wanted at first but Fiona guided us with various options and benefits to find us the perfect dream holiday. Thank you

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It definitely makes a difference having someone to discuss options with and just giving the booking experience a personal touch. I’m very grateful for the help thus far. Responses were extremely quick in reply and personal.

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Fiona was attentive and helpful from day one and sorted everything out with a minimum of fuss and can’t recommend her enough.

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Fiona took the time to understand what I was looking for and gave me a good choice of options for accommodation and regions to stay. Made booking a trip so much easier.

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Wish I'd have found Fiona many years ago when struggling to choose a holiday and sitting at Travel Agents for hours on end and not getting their full attention. Will definitely recommend Fiona to my friends and family!!

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The guidance Fiona gave us in helping us book our summer family holiday has been fantastic. The time she gave to us, the quick replies and friendly service has been 10/10. We cannot wait to go now. Thank you Fiona

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Fiona has been brilliant in helping us find and book our holiday for next year - nothing has been to much trouble! We’ve already recommended her to several of our friends and our parents!

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Fantastic service with really responsive turn around times which meant we were able to find, agree and book our holiday in a very short amount of time and everything was sorted for us which is great. Fiona also catered for exactly what we were looking for and considered all aspects including suitability for all family members which meant we found the perfect fit for all.

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So helpful and things all got sorted so quickly

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Could not have been more helpful in 'tweaking' the holiday when we asked for changes. Excellent service.

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Excellent customer service which makes all the difference. Also very enthusiastic and knowledgeable, which helps a great deal. You feel like you are being taken care of. Everyone needs their own Travel Counsellor!

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Fiona was extremely helpful and attentive. She quickly responded to our brief and came up with some great options

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Fantastic service, very impressed with Fiona

Sent by Becky Hall

Thank you for being enthusiastic and willing to go the extra mile!