Sent by Chris James
Based in Surrey
I’m an independent travel consultant and river cruise specialist.
(Call: 07989420702 01483651044 Email: email@example.com)
My aim is to take the hassle out of booking holidays and help to create unforgettable memories for you and your family.
We will personally manage the whole travel experience from discussing your first thoughts on where you want to go, right up to supporting you until the day you get home.
I have travelled extensively, researching and organising some amazing itineraries. I will pass on all this knowledge to you as well as arranging all those additional elements such as car hire, private transfers, airport hotels and excursions and tours.
I have a particular interest in river cruises and as a Cruise Line International Association Master, I can offer you all my knowledge and expertise in this area.
But whatever kind of holiday you’re interested in, I can help. I have planned a wide range of trips including skiing holidays, Disneyland, Europe, the Caribbean and the Maldives as well as cruises and river cruises. I can also help when some additional assistance, for a member of your party, is required
Your holiday will be tailor made, blending my own personal experience with that of the Travel Counsellors team and our wealth of local contacts around the world. And of course, any booking will benefit from our Travel Counsellors complete financial protection.
Please get in touch with me to chat about your ideas on where you’d like to go on your next holiday.
….I'm one step ahead so you can relax :)
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.
27 January 2023
Porto is a colourful, vibrant place with the Douro running through the centre towards the ocean. The city is now one of the most popular destinations in Europe and is protected by UNESCO. Churches, plazas and colourful shop front facades are a few of the features of this historic gem. The beautiful Scenic Azur river ship was waiting for me, and I settled into my balcony suite, my home for the week. We were docked right in the centre of this enchanting city. I’ve been to many cities around the world but rarely had views like this from my hotel. The cafes and riverside restaurants were buzzing with activity in the autumn sunshine. A historic tram ride takes passengers to the sea front and a cable car provides stunning views in all directions. Our tour included the incredible Palacio da Bolsa, stock exchange palace, a neoclassical-style building that started construction in 1842 and took over 65 years to complete. It is a national monument and classified as World Heritage Site by UNESCO. Autumn sunshine, vibrant colours and a warm breeze greeted me as I took in the beautiful scenery along the Douro valley, with vineyards lining the riverbanks. River cruising must be the best way to explore this often overlooked region of Portugal. But then I am biased, I am already a big fan of this method of traveling. I love the fact that I only have to unpack once and can keep the same room but get to travel and explore the countryside. A Douro river cruise itinerary includes lots of daytime sailing. As we travelled, I joined a traditional, Portuguese tile painting class. It was an opportunity to chat to my fellow travellers and to discover my creativity as well as taking part in a traditional art form. A highlight of this itinerary is the incredible combination of the river’s natural beauty and human engineering capabilities. The Carrapatello Dam has a lock with a water level change of *35 metres, making it one of the tallest in the world. With just enough space for the ship, it was like sailing into a cave, the scale is awe inspiring. Water poured in and the ship quickly rose to the top. The gates were lowered, and we continued on our journey along the beautiful river Douro. I joined an excursion to Provesende, one of the most picturesque villages in the Douro wine region. Tasting delicious traditional Folar de Chaves (Portuguese meat bread) and visiting the village bakery with its bread oven and tempting aromas were highlights. We also sat in an ancient wine cellar, surrounded by barrels and sampled the local Port. We heard about rural life and why so many young people have exchanged village life for the cities. The local guide shared many interesting stories about her life, growing up in the area and returning with her own family. Other excursions included a chance to travel to the beautiful, ancient city of Salamanca, known for its ornate sandstone architecture and the historical University of Salamanca, a visit to the Portuguese village, Freixo de Espada à Cinta for a guided tour and visit to their silk museum and ‘Tastes of the Côa Valley’ excursion where guests sample some of the regions traditional produce including jams, marmalades and sugared almonds. Every day, the cuisine on board was first class, with opportunities to taste locally inspired, regional specialities. One of my favourites being Pastéis de Nata - have you tried one of these? It’s a delicious, crispy, custard tart…yummy. The beautiful weather enabled us to enjoy a Portuguese BBQ on deck to celebrate the captain’s birthday and thank all of the fantastic, Scenic Azure staff. One of the great things about river cruise is the opportunity to explore different places but return to the same room each night. It was a very relaxing week with opportunities to go on interesting excursions or stay onboard and enjoy the ship. The Douro River has a special place in my heart, and I will return. If you would like to explore this beautiful region of Portugal, then get in touch and I can help you find the perfect option.
23 May 2021
Five More Reasons To Try A River Cruise.... Part 2, following on from my previous blog 'My five top reasons to try a river cruise'... 1. Be In The Heart Of The Action River cruise ships are relatively small compared to ocean ships, so when you’re in a city, you really will be ‘in’ the city. River cruise ships will tend to dock in the centre, so you can be right in the heart of things. You can go on organised tours or you can wander off and explore the city on your own. 2. All inclusive The major extra cost when you’re on holiday is usually food and drink, so it’s very reassuring to know that all your on-board meals are included. Many of the river cruise lines also include return flights, transfers, excursions, complimentary drinks, tips, Wi-Fi and much more too, representing great value. 3. The World Is Your Oyster, Ostra, Auster, Huître, Mahar, Con Hàu… As well as many European rivers, including - the Rhine, Moselle, Douro, Danube, Rhone and Seine, you can also take a river cruise further afield. The Amazon in Brazil, the Yangtze and Li rivers of China, the Nile through Egypt or Mekong in Vietnam. Steamboats also cruise several rivers in the USA including the Mississippi and Columbia. The great cities of the world have always been built on rivers, so river cruising is always an excellent way to travel and see the world. 4. There is something for everyone From amazing five-star luxury to three-star river cruise ships, there are a wide range of options to choose from. Various cabin choices are available too, including spacious suites with full height glass doors flooding light into the room. Some rooms have twin balconies, both a French and outside balcony so that you can enjoy the ever-changing scenery however you want to. Whether you want a quieter more adult feel or a family feel, there are different ships to fit the bill. 5. If You Don’t like Flying, Take A River Cruise (No-Fly Options) Having a relaxing experience is important when it comes to river cruise holidays and this includes getting to the ship as well as the holiday itself. If you don’t like flying or the stress of waiting around in the airport, don’t worry. For some itineraries, you can travel to the embarkation point via train with all transfers arrangements made for you. I absolutely love river cruise myself and would love others to discover it too. If you have any questions or like to find out more, please get in touch. Email: firstname.lastname@example.org
30 January 2021
1. A room with an ever-changing view One of the reasons so many people love river cruise is the view outside your window, or from the deck. Not only have you always got a view (which many hotels charge extra for), it’s also always changing. You can open the sliding doors and settle down with a good book and watch the world go by. I love siting on deck with a drink, relaxing and taking it all in. 2. A holiday where you can relax and explore Something that’s unique about river cruises is that while offering the opportunity to unwind and watch the world go by, they also offer you the chance to visit many different historic cities and towns along the way. Each day is a new adventure. 3. It’s like a floating boutique hotel One of the best things about a river cruise holiday is the ship. With most of them carrying around 120 passengers it makes it a very intimate experience. With each ship having about 50 staff on board, you get fantastic and very friendly service as well. It never feels crowded. The ships all have great facilities and often have an outdoor swimming pool, spa facilities and a gym, as well as bikes to use in port. 4. You only have to unpack once Usually if you want to see more than one European city on a trip you have to keep re-packing your bags. Checking-in, checking-out. Getting on and off a coach or train. It’s not enjoyable, it takes precious time out of your holiday and it’s tiring. When you’re on a river cruise, you unpack once and then all your time is your own to relax and enjoy yourself. 5. Immerse Yourself In The Culture There is nothing better than a river cruise for really getting an in depth feel for a region. Not only do you call at lots of ports and see lots of sites, the delicious cuisine of the region is brought on board. The chefs use local produce in their cooking and aim to reflect the region in their menu. Local wines are often paired with meals. Most river cruise lines also bring on board local speakers and local entertainers to really get you feeling part of the local culture. I absolutely love river cruise myself and would love others to discover it too. If you have any questions or like to find out more, please get in touch www.jenny.cookman/travelcounsellors.com Email: email@example.com
19 July 2020
There are two very different camps when it comes to holidays. Some people want to relax and do nothing, while others want to have things to do and interesting places to visit. The difficulty comes when you’re a “relaxer” and your partner is a “doer”, or vice versa. The answer then, is to find a holiday that would give you both, and for me that’s a European river cruise. You can soak in the sunshine on deck as you cruise down one of Europe’s famous rivers, but you also get to enjoy the cultural highlights that the old European towns and cities on its banks have to offer. Visiting four or five major European cities in a few different countries will certainly be interesting, but it really can be relaxing as well. With a river cruise, there’s none of that packing and unpacking, checking in and checking out of hotels. You unpack once and that’s it. The size of these river cruise ships is also a great reason to choose them. They’re big enough that you shouldn’t feel any sort of motion sickness and that they can offer you some great facilities like a gym, spa and outdoor pools. But they’re also small enough that they feel intimate. With most ships carrying only around 100 to 180 passengers, as one of my clients said, you actually get to know the other passengers. And with the ships having about 50 staff on board, you get fantastic and friendly service as well. Something else that helps make it relaxing is not having to worry about money. The majority of your food and drink is paid for, as well as the excursions. I always find this reassuring. There is something about paying for things with a foreign currency that doesn’t feel real, but the shock you get when get home and see your bank balance certainly is. After all, holidays are about taking your mind of things and having to think about money every time you eat is the last thing you want. But whether you’re a “relaxer” or a “doer” what I think everyone finds special about river cruises, is the magic. I always ask people what they thought of their cruise and I remember one person recently said, she thought it was “amazing seeing towns and cities pass by”. Now, this might not seem like such a big deal, but having experienced this myself, I know exactly what she means. As you slowly glide out of a famous European city as the sun sets, you realise you’re seeing it in the same way as people have for hundreds of years — from the deck of a ship. And then when you wake up the next morning, you open the curtains and you’re somewhere completely different. Each day is a new adventure. So, if you do like the idea of not just booking a room with a view, but a room with an ever-changing view; I can offer you advice and answer all your questions to help you find the perfect river cruise for you.
24 May 2020
Going on holiday has some great health benefits. We can’t travel at the moment, but that shouldn’t stop us looking forward to taking a break when we can. We will explore more below as well as showing you some fun examples of how you can holiday at home, whilst you can’t get away. 1. Escapism from your everyday routine Do you sometimes feel weighed down by the everyday routine? We all have so much to juggle in our lives, from work, relationships, home life and anything else we have signed up to. It’s no wonder that, every so often, it all becomes a bit much. When you need a break, a little holiday getaway is just the medicine. It is so important to take a break and pause from all those daily demands. Holidays create escapism from everyday routine, helping you relax and recuperate They create pleasure and a much-needed distraction, especially if you live a hectic lifestyle. Upon your return home, you should feel newly energised and ready to tackle everything life throws at you. 2. You can avoid burnout Burnout can affect anyone. When work is hard and you are always giving to others, it can feel closer than ever. You begin to feel drained and unmotivated. By giving yourself a regular holiday, you can avoid feeling rundown and give yourself a chance to recharge. When you’re emotionally and mentally exhausted, do you function at your best? The importance of taking regular breaks during your working day is well known, helping maintain brain function and ensure we are productive as possible. The same can be said for holidays; not only should we take regular breaks in a working day, but we should also take a prolonged holiday to let our minds switch off completely. When we return to work or studies, our mind will be sharper and more creative again. 3. It gives you that positive ‘boost’ How great is that feeling when you book your next holiday? When you have the dates in the diary, it gives you something to count down until and look forward to. It is also a way of rewarding ourselves and boosting our self-esteem too. We are reminding ourselves that we are worthy of a holiday. 4. Being active aids mental health and wellbeing We all know the perks of exercise on our bodies physically, but it’s just as important for our mental health too. A calming regular daily walk does wonders in boosting our mood and calming our anxieties. Going on holiday usually gives us a chance to be more active, whether that’s exploring the local culture or going for a swim in the pool or sea. You can take in, appreciate and enjoy the sights at your holiday destination; this is such a great activity to aid a positive mindset. 5. It dampens stress levels and opens your mind to new horizons If stress is something you experience regularly, then it is worth knowing than scientists at the University of California and Harvard have found evidence that just six days away causes genetic changes which dampens stress and boosts your immune system. Travelling and taking a holiday really can reduce stress and depression. It opens your mind to new horizons; when you are on holiday you are absorbing the sights and experiences around you using your five senses. You become more culturally aware, learning about the place you have chosen to visit. This will lead to personal growth and an increase in creativity that also reduces anxiety. What if I can’t go on holiday right now? So, what can you do to have fun, feel relaxed and enjoy all the things you already have around you? How about a ‘staycation’. Book a week off work or studies and get ready to boost your mental health from a much-needed vacation without having to travel. The best thing is, you won’t need to pack or wait at the airport. You can relax straight away. Here are some ideas on what you can achieve from home: Become a tourist in your own hometown Do you really know the sights in your own hometown? Why not go on a trip, walking around your local town or city and really take it all in. Go down roads and alleys you may not have before; you’d be surprised at the hidden local gems you can find. If you’re out in the countryside or forest, try and explore new pathways and walks. Host a themed cooking night Treat your household to a special themed cooking night. You could whip up a Mexican dish and serve up Margaritas. Or what about a beer and curry evening? Research the country you have chosen to learn some fun facts and try and include some themed games too. You could also share this experience with others via zoom. Go camping! Pitch a tent in your garden and toast marshmallows on a campfire. This is such a fun idea for families and allows children to get used to camping, especially if they have been unsure about the idea. Having the house within reach will reassure them but still give a wonderful experience. Host your own festival Whether it’s film or music, you can host your own festival. You can get a projector and play films in the garden and lay out blankets and cushions to watch them on. Or, if the typically British weather is spoiling plans, relocate to the lounge. You can do the same for music. Get onto Spotify and choose live music playlists. You never know, you may find some great music you’d never heard of before! You could also get some glow sticks for the evening. Get tropical in the garden Just because you can’t go to that tropical beach location that you’d been dreaming of, doesn’t mean you can’t recreate the effect at home. Set up a paddling pool, invest in some sand and create a beach look at home. You can lay and sunbathe, enjoy a cocktail or two whilst the children splash about. Why not invest in some Hawaiian dressing up gear? You’d really look and feel the part then. Create a spa at home Why not get your pampering products out and set up your own spa from home? This is the perfect way to have some time out and make yourself feel pampered. You can get some great foot spas for home use, and as you won’t have to splash out on a proper spa day, why not invest in one of these? Prepare some healthy snacks and a jug of your favourite cool drink. Holidays really are great for your mental health. They give that much needed break from our modern, hectic lives and provide a chance to open our minds to new experiences. Holidays boost our happiness and provide pleasurable experiences. But, when you are unable book a holiday, there are other ways to achieve this break and boost your mental health and wellbeing at home.
25 November 2019
A great advantage of river cruising is the ability to dock in the centre of the city. I watched the whole process from my cabin, and looked on at the backdrop of Rotterdam, wakening to a sunny autumn morning. It was then time to embark on an adventure round the city. I collected my ‘whisperer’ tour device – a useful gadget that keeps you in radio contact with the guide, and gives some interesting information, but gives you the freedom to stop and admire your surroundings or take advantage of photographic opportunities. Rotterdam is vulnerable to flooding because 90% of it is below sea level, but this didn’t concern our guide as he assured us that the Dutch are world leaders in water level management - in his words – ‘pump or swim’. The Netherlands has river dikes to prevent water flooding into the country, and a system of ditches, canals, and pumping stations (that replaced the historical windmills) to keep low areas dry. The city has a comprehensive plan that includes areas for water to collect during heavy rain, roof gardens, water absorbing roofs and even buildings that can float. Our guide is so confident in the Dutch ability to manage water levels and swamps that he believed it possible to reclaim and inhabit the North Sea – although he doubted that it would be politically acceptable. The canals provide fantastic opportunities for reflection photography, which I made the most of. First impressions; clean and modern with lots of carefully designed attractive buildings. The architectural style is ‘steel and glass’ with an absence of any ornate or overly decorated structures. There are few historical buildings, due to significant war damage in the centre of town. There is, of course, the usual abundance of Dutch bikes. Interestingly, there was not a helmet in sight. Apparently, the Dutch find helmets restrict their sense of freedom, although motorcyclists are obliged to wear them. Our guide says – it’s your choice if you want to think about safety… Rotterdam is the second biggest city in the Netherlands, and is of huge economic importance because it has the biggest port in Europe. The economic emphasis can be seen in the cityscape, which is not of a classical style but a modern and ambitious centre for business. Rotterdam’s economy is almost completely based on shipping. Our guide’s belief was that: in Amsterdam people ‘live to live’, and in Rotterdam they ‘live to work’. During our exploration of the city we were guided to the startling yellow ‘Cube Houses’, an example of architectural innovation where architect Piet Blom wanted to design high density housing with lots of space on the ground level. One of the houses opens its doors to interested visitors daily. An intriguing concept that doesn’t look particularly comfortable or practical and requires bespoke furniture. From the cube houses we could also see one of the few remaining older buildings in Rotterdam (and a National Heritage Site), the Witte Huis (White House) in the Old Harbour area. It was constructed in 1898 in the Art Nouveau style. It is 43 meters tall and has eleven floors and was referred to as Europe’s first skyscraper. In Rotterdam, according to our guide, football is hugely important (and is the most popular form of art) with the highest number of professional football clubs in the Netherlands: Feyenoord, Sparta and Excelsior – our guide, however, was a fan of the Ghent team. The market hall (Markthal) was the first indoor market in the Netherlands. Interestingly, it incorporated apartments and offices in the curved structure with the stalls in an open area underneath. Food offerings include an abundance of Dutch cheese wrapped in a wide range of coloured wax skins, waffles and doughnuts. There was also a tempting array of chocolates (which needed to be sampled). We wandered round taking in the sights and sounds, and then sat with a coffee and watched the world go by. I would recommend a guided tour of the city to hear the stories, appreciate the architecture and gain an insight into Rotterdam life.
25 November 2019
I have just returned from a 5-night Rhine cruise aboard A-ROSA Flora, disembarking at the annual Cruise Lines International Association River Cruise Conference in Amsterdam. It was fantastic, and I will be back on the river when I next get an opportunity. I’ve summarised some of my thoughts about river cruising in this blog. 1. It is very relaxing. There is something very calming about rivers. The water passing gently as the ship glides along. With the landscape constantly changing around you, there is always plenty to look at. You can take time out on the shore, to discover your own trip highlights, or relax onboard and enjoy all the amenities the ship has to offer. 2. There is a wide choice of rivers to cruise. Destinations include many European rivers -the Rhine, Moselle, Douro, Danube, Rhone and Seine. Further afield, you could choose the Amazon in Brazil, the Yangtze and Li rivers of China, the Nile through Egypt or Mekong in Vietnam. Steamboats cruise several rivers in the USA, including the Mississippi and Columbia. River cruising is an excellent way to travel and see the world. 3. There are some amazing cities, towns and villages to discover along the way. During my recent trip, I enjoyed tours of Rotterdam and Amsterdam, and had a day in Cologne to explore on my own. The range of options available is vast, and there’s something to suit everyone. 4. You will be right at the heart of riverside destinations A great advantage of river cruising is the ability to dock near the centre of the city or town. River cruise ships are much smaller than ocean ships, with around 120-200 passengers, and they can reach so many interesting destinations. 5. There are lots of optional excursions available, for those who want to see the local sights. Experience beautiful and unusual architecture and hear stories about the history or traditions of the area. Excursions are bookable in advance with choices to suit various preferences. I loved the architectural tour of Rotterdam which was entertaining and informative. I used a ‘whisperer’ audio device that kept me in radio contact with the guide, as a source of interesting information, but meant that I didn’t need to stay glued to the group and could stop to admire my surroundings or take advantage of photographic opportunities. 6. The river ship is a floating hotel. You will have a fantastic place to stay in locations that often beat local hotels. Take in a 360-degree view from the open top deck. The beautiful ships often have an outdoor swimming pool, spa facilities and a gym. Some have activities such as putting and giant chess. The staff also made my river cruise very enjoyable; they were so friendly and helpful. 7. Almost everything is included. All food and drinks are usually included (drinks packages vary and can sometimes be upgraded). Some cruise lines include excursions. I can compare cruise lines and go through the options with you. 8. There are lots of no-fly European options. Travel to the embarkation point via train or coach with all transfers arranged and avoid the airport stress. Door to door service is available too. 9. You only need to unpack once. On my river cruise, I settled into my cabin and unpacked my bag, knowing that I could now relax, visit a variety of destinations without having to pack, move my luggage, wait to check in and then settle into another room. River cruise is a great option for city and town hopping. 10. There is something for everyone at a range of budgets. From the amazing luxury experience of Amawaterways, Scenic and Crystal to the four-star hotel style of A-Rosa and CroisiEurope, there are a wide number of cruises to choose from. There are multiple cabin choices available too, including spacious suites. My cabin had a Juliette balcony with full high glass doors flooding light into the room – it was lovely. A-Rosa have a new ship launching in 2021 that has family cabins and a kid’s clubs. On my river cruise we had a wellness leader who ran classes including morning yoga and daily bike tours. I can highly recommend river cruising and will book another adventure as soon as I get the opportunity. I can help you choose and plan an amazing trip. I am a CLIA Cruise Ambassador (ocean and river) having completed many training course modules and eight ship visits.