Based in Ashford

Karen Dormady

It's Nice To Meet You

Hello, my name is Karen and I live in Ashford, Kent with my husband, and would like to thank you for taking the time to visit my webpage.

Ever since my first school trip to Paris aged 10, I have had a passion for travel. I have enjoyed seeing new places, cultures, sharing experiences and making many wonderful memories along the way.

I have been fortunate enough to visit many destinations in the Caribbean, Baltic, Mediterranean, Africa and Europe. I have been lucky enough to see the Northern Lights in Lapland, swim with dolphins and stingrays in the Caribbean, go on safari in Africa, but have been equally fulfilled relaxing on a beach!

I have been on numerous skiing holidays and more recently got the cruising bug which has opened up a whole new world of seeing cities around Europe, Russia and also completing the transatlantic crossing to the Caribbean.
My most memorable destination will have to be Chateau Lake Louise in the Rocky Mountains, Canada because I got married here in the ice castle on the frozen lake!

I know how precious time is to everyone! That is where I can assist in organising every aspect of your travel arrangements for you, whether it is a short haul flight, a UK break or a bespoke holiday of a lifetime. You can also be confident in the knowledge that you will be 100% financially protected through Travel Counsellors Financial Trust and ATOL.

I am available anytime when convenient to you, to discuss your travel arrangements, nothing will be too much trouble. With over 30 years of experience in customer service, I pride myself on meticulous attention to detail and the highest level of professional and personal service.

I look forward to hearing from soon and to discuss your travel plans!

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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.

Not a Rum deal

23 February 2020

Looking out through the wet windscreen on an early December morning, crawling along the motorway counting the cones to pass the time. A quick look on the phone and the TC app says only 3 hours until our flight and then a check of the weather, 30°c with slight chance of a shower (warm rain!) The Dominican Republic is only 8 hours away. The same amount of time as a normal working day but with a better ending! Landing in Punta Cana at sunset was wonderful, as the doors opened and the topical heat filled the cabin, we knew we were not Kent! There are some excellent resorts on the south of the island, but we had a 4-hour transfer to Samana in the north east of the island. The private transfer gave an opportunity to see island life, well their road skills at least! The numerous motor bikes dotted in and out of the traffic and people. The traffic soon subsided as we drove away from the capital Santo Domingo and headed into the mountains and the national park. Industry was all around us on the journey, the vast sugar cane fields on the south of the island and as we exited the national park, we were surrounded by the flooded rice fields of the north. It was now dark as we drove through Samana, which was lit up for Christmas with a statue of a humpback whale forming the centre piece along the promenade. The Samana bay hosts thousands of Humpback whales during their winter’s mating season. As morning of day two dawns and we opened the curtains to what was truly paradise, the warm morning sun, the palm trees swaying gently in the breeze and the turquoise ocean tumbling onto the sandy beach. With the all-inclusive holiday, the choice from the buffet breakfast and the other a la carte dining options was excellent. Whether you wished to fill your plate and go back for seconds or have a healthy smoothie shake, there was something for every taste. The hotel staff couldn’t have been more helpful whether it be arranging an excursion or just bringing you a cocktail by the pool. Then there was the entertainment team who could fill your time with daily bingo, golf, beach games, traditional craft making sessions or relaxing sessions learning Tai chi, Pilates, Yoga and if you wanted something more energetic Zumba, Aqua spin (in the pool), Martial fitness, TRX, GAP, which all helped to stretch those forgotten muscles and of course how could you go to the Caribbean and not have a go at Salsa or Merengue! The evenings slipped into a relaxed routine of a cocktail at the sunset bar listening to a piano and saxophone playing Arthur’s Theme, then an excellent meal either at the themed buffet or one of the three a la carte restaurants, followed by a show, whether it be traditional dancing, singing or an amazing circus act. To finish it was then time to practice our newly learnt moves on the dance floor. As usual, when you are having fun, time flies and it was soon time to fly home, relaxed and ready for Christmas.

Tales of the Unexpected

23 December 2019

Ever wondered about a Warner’s Leisure break? Coach loads of retirees looking for a quiet location, lots of food, an afternoon tea dance with tunes from days gone by. Well that’s what I thought it would be anyway! My parents wanted to go to celebrate their 75th birthdays, so we booked a four-day trip to Hayling Island on the south coast near Portsmouth for one of their Turkey and Tinsel weekends, as Christmas was just around the corner. What to pack? Not having a clue of what to expect I went for what I would take on a mini cruise, plus a few extra layers and swim wear as there was a heated pool and leisure complex. The gods must have been on our side because as we left home the skies cleared from all the recent rains and blue sky appeared which we hadn’t seen for a few weeks. It was a little fresh, but it was the end of November! The drive through Surrey and Hampshire reminded me of how beautiful the British countryside is. The numerus brown signs on the roads also reminded me of how many places there are to visit that are just a stone’s throw from home. Sinah Warren is situated on Hayling Island, an exclusive inlet reached by a causeway from the Hampshire coast. A large, elegant, modern hotel on a location that was originally a health farm in the 15th Century, it has many rooms overlooking Langstone Harbour, with balconies or garden patios. There was much the same feeling when we arrived at the hotel as you get when you get to the docks for the cruise. The helpful assistant made sure we were on the list, asked if any accessibility needs required, directed us to the bag drop off and then directed us to reception, all familiar experiences, which put us at ease. The check-in was very efficient and the festive décor helped set the ambiance in the hotel, which was further enhanced with welcome mince pies and champagne, served by some of the entertainment team in festive outfits with a cheery smile. The rooms are well presented and spacious with good lighting and enough hanging space for your evening and day attire. The lay out still felt like a cruise ship with the long corridors and rooms off to the sides with bags by the doors waiting for their owners to arrive and unpack! To be honest we jokingly did discuss for the same money we could have had a cruise from Southampton to Bruges for the Christmas markets, which was echoed by the helpful assistant at the entrance to our first Warner weekend break! Adding to the theme was the daily entertainment guide which we found in our rooms. So, after a quick gander, pun intended, the weekend ahead looked like it was going to be full of activities. Fitness walks, line dancing, Zumba®, quizzes, aqua fit, ballet fit, singing lessons, bell ringing, live music sessions, rifle and archery shooting on the ranges, outdoor bowls, snooker and pool. There was also live football and a cinema screening of some new releases, and our favourite, Ballroom and Latin dancing. Most of the activities were new to me but what came across over the whole weekend was a ‘have a go’ attitude. Everyone we spoke to whether they were seasoned Warner’s guests or new to the experience, had a positive outlook and were willing to try something new. The hard work the staff put in for the guests was also noticeable, especially the entertainment team, as they seemed to be everywhere from morning til midnight. They were leading the morning mile walk around the site and still delivering a fub-u-lous show mid-afternoon and again another show in the evening. The recent investment into the hotel was high-lighted with a behind the scenes tour, again lead by some of the entertainment team. There has been a recent complete refurbishment of the theatre with a new stage, seating, lighting, sound and increased bar area. One of the great things about this hotel is the location, whether you just want to sit and look out over the sea or immerse yourself in the history of the local area, the choice is yours. A coach trip was available to the Historic Dockyards in Portsmouth, which was hosting a Victorian Christmas weekend. But of course, you could also go out exploring on your own. Attractions nearby included Portchester Castle, Fort Nelson or the new D-Day Story Museum in Southsea, which we chose to visit. It was a short drive from the Hotel, ample parking and easy access. The museum tells of the D-Day landings and has personal stories about the beginning of the Liberation of Europe. One of the highlights of the museum is the "Overlord" Embroidery tapestry designed by Sandra Lawrence and made by the Royal School of Needlework to commemorate D-Day and the Normandy landings in 1944. Inspired by the Bayeux Tapestry, it traces the progress of Operation Overlord and the events preceding it. The tapestry is 272 feet long and took five years to produce. The scenes it depicts are based on wartime photographs held by the Imperial War Museum. The weekend was a great surprise to me, my initial trepidation was turned into some good experiences along with getting to know new people, all with a ‘have a go attitude and make the most of today’. The facilities and entertainment were excellent - as well as the in-house team, the guest acts were also excellent. All in all, a very enjoyable few days.

Danube River Cruise

03 November 2019

We had an early flight from Heathrow to Vienna on Austrian Airlines, whom I had never flown with before, but was very impressed with. The plane was spacious, and the staff were very friendly. On arrival in Vienna we had a short transfer to the ship, The Amadeus Queen. A few minutes to drop our luggage into our cabins and then we were off into the centre of Vienna for a couple of hours walking tour. A beautiful city but 2 hours was certainly not long enough, but it just gave us a taster, I would love to go back. On our first evening on the ship we had an amazing 5 course meal and were then treated to a private recital by a quartet of musicians from the Vienna Philharmonic Orchestra. The following morning, we enjoyed a delicious breakfast before arriving in the idyllic village of Durnstien. We enjoyed a couple of hours wandering around this beautiful place before heading back to the ship to sample a Bavarian Favourite Snack called Bavarian Fruhschoppen whilst enjoying the lovely weather on the sun deck and taking in the stunning scenery as we began cruising along the picturesque Wachau Valley, a famous wine-making region. After yet another delicious lunch we were taken a short way by coach to Melk Abbey, an 11th century Benedictine Abbey which stands on a rocky outcrop overlooking the Danube and is home to the Abbey Church, considered one of the most beautiful Baroque churches north of the Alps, where we were given an extremely informative guided tour. As well as, yet another 5-course meal, this evening we enjoyed taking part in a music quiz ‘with a difference’. An early start today. We disembarked in Linz and were taken by coach for a full day tour. Whilst we were ashore the ship sailed during the day and met us further along the river. Our guided tour started with a short stop off by a beautiful lake and a little village called Mondsee, where the church which was used for the wedding in the Sound of Music is. We were then driven into Salzburg, known as the birthplace of Mozart, where we were taken on a guided sightseeing tour which revealed the city’s internationally renowned Baroque architecture, a UNESCO World Heritage site. During the walking tour we visited some of the places where the Sound of Music was filmed in addition to seeing some of the buildings that had connections with Mozart. We also had some free time to explore on our own. After a great day, we then headed back to meet the ship, and yes, yet another 5-course evening meal. It was a good job that we had done lots of walking that day! After dinner we headed up to the Panorama lounge and enjoyed some friendly competition with the Around the World Picture Quiz. Next stop was Regensburg, a beautiful old medieval town that contains many buildings that testify to it’s history as a trading centre and to it’s influence on the whole region from the 9th Century onwards, the most important sights being: The Stone Bridge, the Cathedral, the Porta Pretoria, the Old Town Hall and the Patrician Houses with their impressive towers. We were then back on board in time for a late lunch and then some free time to relax. Our final evening was the Captain’s Gala Dinner (yet another 5 courses, including a Baked Alaska parade!), where we had the opportunity to dress up if we wanted to. We were introduced to all the hardworking crew who had looked after us so well during our few days, it was really lovely to be able to show our appreciation. After breakfast the following morning we disembarked the ship to begin our rail adventure back to the UK. We had a short coach trip to Passau station where we boarded our train to Frankfurt which just over 4 hours, a very comfortable and enjoyable journey. Next train was from Frankfurt to Brussels Midi, which was just over 3 hours, again a very comfortable and easy journey. The next leg was on Eurostar from Brussels Midi to St Pancras, which was just under 2 hours. It was then homeward bound. If I’m totally honest I wasn’t particularly looking forward to the train journey however it was so easy, stress free and very relaxing, I would definitely do it again! So, if anybody is not keen on flying then this is a really great alternative. We had a tour guide with us for the whole journey from Passau to St Pancras, so they were always on hand if we had any questions or queries.

Rocky Rails and Fishy Tails part 3

23 December 2019

Meanwhile back on the ship, the rest of the family happily carried on cruising. Here are the tales from the family: All of the family went to The Great Alaskan Lumberjack Show in Ketchikan and said it is a must see. The history of the logging towns bought to life with real lumberjacks, Axe throwing, Pole climbing, Log running and speed cutting with chainsaws. There are many wonderful excursions from this cruise and whale watching is always a favourite, some of the family did this. Depending on the time of year different whales and other creatures can be seen. As with all wildlife it’s on their terms so it’s a game of chance. Humpbacks are always around but the Killer whales migrate up and down the coast. If you have the opportunity, as my husband did, then the helicopter tour around the glaciers is excellent and for the more adventurous even grab your ice axe and crampons once on the glacier and after a short walk then why not climb the face of the glacier! One thing the helicopter tour gives you is the scale of the area and the local knowledge from your pilot. They can really emphasize the fact of how the landscape has changed in recent years and the work they are doing in glaciology research. As the cruise continues along the inside passage the evening entertain is in full swing with quiz nights, the casino, cinema and of course the theatre shows. Fun packed evenings lead to a great night’s sleep and refreshed and ready for the next port and excursions. If you are the adventurous type, then why not try the high wire zip lines in the tall fir trees or paddle the ocean inlets with sea eagles soaring just above you and sea lions keeping a close eye on their kayaking friends. Or maybe just be amazed by the scenery and the culture as the coach takes you through from sea to summit, through alpine forest to tundra or you can even be standing in a desert all on the same trip. This Alaskan cruise has it all. One of the highlights is the tour through Glacier Bay. Entering the bay, you will be amazed by the grandeur and majesty of the scenery. Sea otters can be seen, as you advance into the bay. Once on the edge of extinction in the bay from hunting, their numbers have risen to nearly 1000 now. The Forest Service send aboard some of their rangers who give a running commentary as the ship journey’s deeper into the bay. Always on the lookout for something with their trained eyes, they see an eagle siting on a beach, a seal lazes on a piece of ice that has floated down the bay from the mighty glaciers and there is an occasional glimpse of a whale, diving once again into the darkest depths of the ice waters. The day is all the more atmospheric as there is a haze over the distant mountains. This was due to over 60 wildfires blazing away in the north of the state, another reminder of these changing times. The rapidly receding glacier is a worry for researchers, but for those on board it is the opportunity to see the face of the glacier crumble and fall, ever decreasing its size. Seeing and hearing that crack of the ice as it falls into the bay is a moment to remember. The trip ends at Whittier, a town of 300 residents with over 700,000 visitors a year. As you leave Whittier through North America's longest tunnel, the panoramic view of the ocean, mountains and glaciers surround you. An amazing opportunity, experience and memory.

Rocky Rails and Fishy Tails part 2

23 December 2019

As we got all the bags packed into two taxis to pick up the BC Ferries Connector coach to head back to Vancouver to the Cruise Terminal, memories of the past few days were discussed and the excitement of what was to come was evident. The expression of wonder on the children’s faces as we approached The Royal Princess, was another memory to cherish. 142,229 Tonnes, 1,083 feet long, 217 feet tall, 19 decks and 3,560 Guests, 1,346 Crew and most important, free ice cream for them all week! For the first time on a ship of this size it does takes a while to get to grips with where everything is. Which side of the ship, left, right, port, starboard, front, back, forward, aft, mid-ship. At least the atrium is always in the middle and has a bar and coffee shop so you can take a moment and check out where to go. A great help on the Royal Princess is the introduction of the medallion. For families this is great as you can keep track of where everyone is, the children could nearly always be found by the ice cream stand! The interactive screens around the ship were also a great source of entertainment, as well as information, as they can plot your route to your cabin or the theatre and be an aid to track the family. Once settled, our first evening consisted of a good dinner in our allocated restaurant and then a show in the theatre. The children made great friends with our waiters who bought them whatever they asked for, (as long as it was on their drinks package). Service was excellent as ever and the food was varied and plentiful. All was going to plan, the family together around one table from different parts of the world, having a great meal. Too good to be true you may say, well then unfortunately you would be right. My mum had a knee replacement several years ago and has never had any problems with it until that evening. She does also have arthritis so when she said that her leg was hurting we thought it may just have been the culmination of the last few weeks on and off the Rocky Mountaineer and the walking around Vancouver and Victoria. However, the pain was like nothing she had experienced before. We finally got her back to her cabin and the following morning there had been no improvement, so we took her to the medical centre on the ship. I cannot praise the care that she had by all the staff in the medical centre enough. The prognosis was that it would be best for mum to leave the ship at the next port, Ketchikan and get hospital treatment. So, from a relaxing holiday, the trip turned into a repatriation exercise. The care Mum received at the hospital was also fantastic, as were Mum’s travel insurance company in helping with the repatriation. Of course, all the time our amazing 24/7 duty office were there helping me too. Sadly, our holiday had come to an end and the following day Mum and I flew back from Ketchikan via Seattle to Heathrow and then back to hospital in the UK. Even after disembarking the ship, Princess Cruises were in touch with me until we arrived home to check that we were OK. Amazing customer service all round!

Rocky Rails and Fishy Tails part 1

21 December 2019

A trip of a lifetime to celebrate a 50th wedding anniversary With family across two continents, not knowing where the party should be, the grey skies of the UK or the sun scorched African plains. I spoke to my sister and she said “just ask mum” so that I did! The decision was Canada and Alaska! Organising Mum and Dad - easy, getting my sister and family from Zambia to Alaska - a little more effort! A special trip deserves some iconic moments so what better way to start a holiday of a life-time than landing in Vancouver and spending the first night in the Pan Pacific hotel near to the Vancouver Lookout which gives fabulous views over the city and out into the Pacific Ocean. We then embarked on the Rocky Mountaineer - one of the oldest and most scenic rail journeys in the world. Travelling in Gold Leaf class in the glass roofed carriages as a special treat, from Vancouver through glacial feed canyons to gold rush towns like Whistler, Jasper, Lake Louise, Banff and Kamloops. For mum, it was about the scenery and wildlife. For Dad, the history and engineering, knowing how they managed to get around or through the awesome mountains. We stayed at some of British Columbia’s best hotels, Fairmont Jasper Park Lodge, Fairmont Banff Springs, Fairmont Château Lake Louise and Fairmont Vancouver. Château Lake Louise being a special moment as this was where Mum and Dad could finally see where I got married even if the snow and ice had melted! Phase one completed, relaxed and ready for the rest of the party to arrive. Excited messages going back and forward and following an extra-long haul flight for my sister and her family (Lusaka-Heathrow–Vancouver), we all met up in the hotel lobby in Vancouver where the joy on Mum and Dad’s faces was a memory that will last a lifetime, the whole family together celebrating this special occasion. Although the boys were quick to find the bar and catch the last moments of the match, which unfortunately the Lionesses lost to the USA 2-1. There is so much to see and do in Vancouver, the hop on hop off bus is a great way to see what the city has to offer and as the ticket lasts 24 hours, we were able to do the full tour the first afternoon and then over dinner, decide which stops best suited the whole family for the next day. The aquarium, Gas town, China town, Stanley Park or just stay on and enjoy the commentary. One great thing to do is the Capilano Suspension Bridge, either a quick drop off and walk around or stay longer and enjoy the tours, music and tree top walkway. Another benefit of starting in Vancouver is that it’s only a stone’s throw (76 miles) to Victoria on Vancouver Island. The 90-minute ferry journey is a trip in itself, travelling through the islands watching bald eagles, seals, sea lions. Dolphins have also been known to ride the bow wave of the ferry. A quick stop on the island gives you time to experience island time. If you thought Canada was laid back, then the Island is another level. Life is good, many locals have migrated from the Canadian east coast for the warmer climate of the Island. This warmer climate is great for the flora and fauna and a must see is The Butchart Gardens, just 25 mins from downtown Victoria. There’s street entertainment, excellent restaurants, museums and not to forget the wildlife. Whether it’s by boat or bike, plane or train there’s plenty to see, even if there’s rain! The Island certainly needs more time to explore.

The Maldives - Paradise part 2

05 November 2019

Once in Male the seaplane check in desks are right outside the arrivals area. We were met and taken there to check in our luggage and then taken on a 10-minute bus ride to the seaplane terminal. The seaplane experience itself was amazing. It only seats 13 people, is a little cosy and noisy, but the views were absolutely stunning. Niyama Private Island is spread over 2 islands, Play and Chill connected by a little bridge. Once again we received a very warm welcome and were taken to our amazing beach pool villa by our own personal Thakuru (butler). The room was a very generous size with a king-sized bed, private deck and pool with direct access to the beach, it even had a popcorn making machine. The outdoor bathroom was absolutely amazing, an indoor shower, an outdoor shower, a very large bath and lovely amenities. Each villa also had their own bicycles, which our Thakaru put our names on. I absolutely loved my bicycle. It was such fun just jumping on the bike and cycling to breakfast or the water sports centre or even just cycling around the islands! After settling in, we headed to Dune for a delicious lunch after which we had some time to explore the islands and enjoy the beautiful weather and surroundings. Our dinner this evening was at the offshore restaurant call Edge, after which we went 6m underwater to Subsix, the underwater bar for a glow party. Breakfast the following morning was in one of the other dining venues, Epicure, where they offer international cuisine in a casual chic setting by the infinity pool. After breakfast we were taken out snorkelling to try to find turtles – which we did! How amazing was it to be swimming with them! The afternoon was spent around the islands finding out all the different array of accommodations that are available, from the beach pool villas which we were staying in to the crescent which comprises of 5 over water secluded villas with their own walkway, private chef and butlers as well as many other benefits. We also learnt about all the activities available and visited the Kids Club. After our tour of the islands it was time to try another of the restaurants for dinner. Nest is in a surreal tree top setting and serves Asian avant-garde cuisines. The following day, we had the whole day to ourselves. We tried a bit of relaxing by the pool, took park in aqua Zumba, which was great fun followed by yet another delicious lunch in Dune, the open-air lounge bar on the beach. After lunch I went off cycling around the islands on my bicycle just to get more of a feel for the place. Our meal this evening was in Epicure, which again didn’t disappoint. Our last day in paradise was for us to spend at leisure. We enjoyed out aqua Zumba so much the previous day that a few of us decided to have a go at the Zumba class in the Gym. Not quite the setting we are used to at home. We were in an open sided area with views of the ocean! On our final evening we were treated to a Management Cocktail party in Fahrenheit, a rooftop bar with clear views of the Indian Ocean where there is also live music by night. We then enjoyed our last supper in Tribal restaurant, which as you can probably guess is African, Central and South American cuisines. This was by far my favourite restaurant, everything was superb, the food, the service, the atmosphere. A wonderful way to end the most amazing trip. I always thought that the Maldives was going to be special, but my preconceptions that it was just for honeymooners and for laying on a beach, have been well and truly changed. It has so much to offer everyone, whether you just want to relax or if you want lots of activities. There really is an island and resort to suit everyone.

The Maldives - Paradise part 1

05 November 2019

You can either fly direct from London, which is a 10-hour flight, alternatively, if you wish to break the journey up you could opt for an indirect flight. We took an indirect flight via Dubai with only a 1 ½ hours layover. You arrive in Male where you either pick up your speedboat or seaplane transfer or a domestic flight. The first destination we stayed at was Anantara Dhigu. After being warmly greeted at the airport we were taken to our speed boat which seats about 35 people, and then driven ‘James Bond’ style for about 40 minutes to the island. The first thing that we noticed was the stunning colour of the crystal-clear water and the beautiful white sand of the beach. The welcome we received on the jetty was truly amazing. We were quickly whisked to our beach villa which, when entering we knew this was going to be an amazing trip! After settling in, we then headed to the over water spa to experience their 60-minute signature massage. It was absolute bliss! Prior to dinner, we watched the sunset from the Aqua Bar, one of the many options available for dining. Dinner this evening was at Sea.Fire.Salt specialising in freshly caught Maldivian fish and prime-aged cuts from Australia – absolutely delicious. Even though we had only been on the island a few hours, it felt like we had been there for ages. It certainly is a very relaxing atmosphere. Breakfast the following morning was buffet style in Fushi Café with lots of international favourites. We then had the opportunity to tour the resort and visit Anatara Veli, a hideaway adult only resort and Naladhu, a small exclusive private island. We then had some time to swim in the beautiful sea before having lunch by the pool. In the afternoon we were taken out on a snorkelling trip, where we spotted sea cucumber, a turtle, yellow puffa fish as well as lots of other beautiful fish. If you are not someone who likes to lay and sunbathe all day there are so many activities that you can do whether it be on land, on the water, or below the water. There is also a fantastic club for children with indoor and outdoor activity spaces. This evening we sampled another of the dining venues, Origami Japanese restaurant and were certainly not disappointed! If you are celebrating a special occasion the resorts ‘dining by design’ program offers a choice of unique and intimate dining experiences from torch lit beach side dinners with movie to 2 experiences to an on the water private floating pontoon. The service levels at these resorts are like no other I have ever experienced. Thomas and his staff go above and beyond. Sadly, after an amazing 3 days, it was time to head back to Male by speedboat to then catch a seaplane to our next resort.

Cruise Lines International Association Annual Conference 2019

30 May 2019

For me, the excitement and anticipation of the new Celebrity Cruises ship ‘Edge’ at the Travel Counsellors annual conference back in November 2018. Despite being launched around the same time, it wasn’t until May that she reached the UK – six months later - and I was one of the lucky ones to get the chance to go on-board to have a look round. It was an early pick up on the Wednesday morning to get us to the cruise terminal in Southampton to board Edge, but it was most definitely worth it. She is a beautiful ship, different to any other ship I have been on. The colour schemes are very calming and everywhere feels very spacious. We were given a tour of the ship including a visit to the unique ‘Magic Carpet’, treated to a section of one of their shows in the theatre, which was excellent and experienced a delicious lunch in one of the restaurants. This ship really is amazing. In the afternoon, we had the trade fair, which gives us an opportunity to visit lots of our cruise suppliers to learn about any new ships, itineraries etc which is really is very useful as there is always something new going on in the cruise industry. In the evening, we attended a river cruise event, again lots of opportunities to meet River Cruise companies to find out all that is happening in the river cruise sector. Not quite such an early start on Thursday, but nevertheless a busy day ahead. Regent Seven Seas cruises were hosting our coach pick up from our hotel to take us to Portsmouth for the main conference day. On boarding our coaches, we were all given a little event ticket with a number on, and we had absolutely no idea what it was for. We were sitting quietly waiting for the coach to fill up ready to leave for Portsmouth when our hosts asked if everyone had a ticket. They then gave a number out and said that whoever had that number on their ticket needed to get off the coach and go with them. Amazingly, it was my number! And even more amazingly, my transport to Portsmouth was not a coach but a stunning white Rolls Royce courtesy of Regent Seven Seas Cruises. I couldn’t believe that I had actually won. I was served champagne and chauffeur driven to Portsmouth – not a bad start to the day! During the conference, we had numerous updates from different cruise lines, one of which was from Virgin Voyages about their venture into the cruise industry. Part way through the session we had an unbelievable surprise guest walk through the auditorium to the stage – Sir Richard Branson himself, to tell us all about Virgin Voyages! In the evening, we attended the Gala Dinner at the Southampton Guildhall, a fun evening for us all. Friday morning, we were taken to board the Cunard ship Queen Mary 2, the grandest ocean liner ever built. She is the only passenger ship operating as an ocean liner. Our welcome at the cruise terminal by the Cunard staff was fabulous, we were really spoilt. Once on board we were able to do a self-guided tour. She has a spacious interior, soaring columns and sweeping staircases, she embodies the essence of luxury but makes you feel at home. There are luxurious staterooms, impressive bars and restaurants and offers great entertainment, some of which we were treated to, during the closing of our conference which took part in the stunning Royal Court theatre. This also has the only Planetarium at Sea! The highlight for me was the beautiful Queen’s room, the largest ballroom at sea. I was very honoured to be given the opportunity dance there during our tour. Our conference ended with an exceptional lunch in one of the main restaurants, the food and service were outstanding. It is invaluable attending these events and ships as nothing beats first-hand knowledge and experience.

Stunning Sicily

13 April 2019

For my husband's birthday we spent a few days with lovely friends who live in the south east of Sicily, in the hills between Siracusa and Noto. Sicily is a fascinating island, the largest in the Mediterranean, with a mild climate, colourful history and a wealth of visitor attractions. The first couple of days we spent relaxing at their house, enjoying the beautiful scenery and walking the dogs. We then all took a little road trip to the north of the island to the beautiful town of Cefalu. We drove through the spectacular central regions of Sicily, passing majestic Etna and the hilltop town of Enna and skirting the Madonie mountains. At the end of our scenic journey, we arrived at the Kalura hotel, peacefully set on a striking stretch of coastline just outside characterful Cefalu. The view from our room was just breath-taking! The hotel has its own stretch of private beach, where you can swim, snorkel or dive from or just relax! They have a lovely outdoor swimming pool and offer a whole bunch of sports facilities such as, tennis, cycling, basketball, pool billiards and table tennis (which I absolutely love), should you wish to take advantage of them. Whilst we were there, a yoga course was also running, such a great location for yoga! Our first evening we took a 20-minute stroll into Cefalu, where we had a fabulous meal at a small family run restaurant called La Botte. We definitely needed the 20-minute walk back after everything we had eaten! The following morning, we embarked on an exhilarating climb to the top of the Rocca, rewarded with breath-taking views of the north Sicilian coastline and over the terracotta rooftops of picturesque Cefalu. Once back in town, we relaxed in the shadow of the cathedral (there are stunning mosaics inside not to be missed) and enjoyed a tasty arancina, a risotto ball coated in breadcrumbs and deep fried. A little language lesson for you - in this part of the island, this delicious speciality has a feminine name, ending in -a (arancina) while in the south it becomes masculine and ends in -o (arancino). We then headed back to the hotel to enjoy the beautiful weather lounging by the pool, however I couldn't resist a few games of table tennis too! That evening we decided to sample the restaurant at the hotel. What can I say? Everything about it was great; the food, the service, the views, the only downside was that I would definitely need to do a lot of exercise to work off what we had consumed. Unfortunately, we had to leave this beautiful area of Sicily and make our way back down to the south of the island. Our first stop was the Sanctuary of Gibilmanna, which was about 800 metres above sea level leaving Cefalu. We then headed up into the Nebrodi mountains where we stopped at a small village and found an amazing little restaurant for lunch. The views from up in the mountains were spectacular. Our next fantastic view was that of snow-covered Etna. We then stopped at the Medieval town of Randazzo for a wander round. The town is the closest to Etna’s crater on the north side. The architecture here is noticeably different to other Sicilian towns as there is a lot of black lava stone used in the buildings. Just before leaving to drive back to our friends’ house, we found a traditional café and had a Sicilian hot chocolate – it is so thick that you can stand a spoon up in it. We had a lovely few days in Sicily and on our next visit are hoping to explore the western side of the island.

Family Fun in Zambia

06 March 2019

Our first task was to create costumes for my niece and nephew for their show jumping show which took place during our first weekend. The theme was movies. My nephew decided that he wanted to be Maverick from Top Gun and my niece wanted to be one of the pink ladies from Grease. It was a team effort, my sister, my mother in law and my husband set to work to transform a horse into a fighter jet and to make a fighter pilots costume for my nephew. The effort was very worthwhile as they came first! My niece’s costume was a lot easier, other than she wanted to dye her pony pink as well! All in all, a busy, but great fun weekend. The next few days were spent on the farm, just doing family life, however there is never a dull moment with all the animals to look after! After our first week we took a short 1-hour flight on a 29-seater plane to spend a few days in Livingstone at Victoria Falls. We stayed at the AVANI Vic Falls hotel which is very close to Vic Falls and included in the rate is entrance to Vic Falls as many times as you like. After checking in, it was just a 5-minute walk to Vic Falls – a breath-taking experience. It was then time to have a relaxed lunch sitting around the pool at the hotel. Our first evening we went on a breath-taking sunset river cruise on the mighty Zambezi, we saw the most spectacular sunset as well as the abundant wildlife. The evening finished off back at our hotel, sitting by the pool listening to Havana music and watching my husband, niece and nephew swimming under the big African starlit sky and trying to recreate the iconic Dirty Dancing lift! The following morning, after a delicious breakfast, we took a walk back to Vic Falls, this time we walked to the end of the Zambian side and witnessed some spectacular scenery and the awesome power of the mighty Vic Falls. Our next little adventure was a trek down into the gorge to a place that has been named ‘The Boiling Pot’. The scenery again was amazing. After our trek, a well-earned relaxing lunch and swim back at the hotel was needed! Our afternoon was an experience we will never forget. We visited a conservation and breeding project for lions and cheetahs where we were very lucky to be able to interact and walk with the cheetahs. The cheetahs we walked with will soon stop interacting with humans to prepare them to be released into the game reserve. To top off our day we enjoyed a fabulous meal at the Royal Livingstone hotel next door, overlooking the Zambezi river watching the sun setting with the odd zebra or two wandering around! Back to the farm, where we spent the remainder of our time, there was always something going on. The orphan kudu called Shambi, who roams around the back garden is still given a bottle of milk twice a day, she doesn’t really need it now, but it is her treat! Then there is Zippy, the orphan Zebra, also roaming around the back garden, who one afternoon decided he wanted to be a horse and jumped the electric fence into the horse paddock. The next couple of hours was interesting, spent rounding him up to get him back into the garden! We regularly wandered up to the lion enclosure to see the now 2-year-old lions, who we were fortunate enough to spend 10 days with when they were 12 weeks old and help hand rear them. They hold a very special place in our hearts for the once in a lifetime experience, they gave us. They are of course now too big to have on our laps, but when we go to their enclosure and call them, they do still come to see us and rub themselves against the fence to be stroked. The giraffe, on the other hand were very difficult to find! Every day we drove past the area where they lived on the game farm and never saw them, they are very good at hiding themselves in the trees. On a couple of occasions, we took a drive into the game farm to try to spot them, but still didn’t find them. Early on our last morning, my brother in law and I drove into the game farm and finally I saw them, they are such beautiful majestic animals. One morning, I had a lovely ride out in the game farm, just my niece and I, a special auntie and niece couple of hours in a beautiful setting, spotting wildlife along the way. We spent a fun evening with the neighbours, having a gingerbread house making competition, which was rather messy but a lot of fun and then a delicious traditional African Braai (BBQ!) We did also have to venture into town for shopping, even though there has been a tremendous amount of development over the last few years with big shopping malls, they still haven’t caught up with our facility of on-line grocery shopping! We also ate out in town a few times trying some of their newly opened restaurants, which were great. Life is very different out there, but I absolutely love it. If you have always thought about a safari in Africa, then I can’t recommend it enough. It is a truly amazing experience.

A few days in Doha, Qatar

20 February 2019

A few days in Doha, Qatar - Karen Dormady An early start, arriving at Heathrow at 5.30am to catch a flight to Doha for a busy but amazing few days. It was my first flight with Qatar Airways, and I can honestly say that it was the best experience in economy class that I have ever had. I was very lucky to be staying at the Grand Hyatt hotel which is on the shoreline of the West Bay Lagoon district. The hotel has a beautiful 400-metre private beach, indoor and outdoor pools and a lovely spa. Our first morning started with a delicious breakfast at the Ritz-Carlton followed by a tour of the hotel. It was then off to the Museum of Islamic Art, where we spent a very interesting few hours. Next stop was a tour and fabulous lunch at Marsa Malaz Kempinski – a really stunning hotel. After lunch, we embarked on an open bus tour of The Pearl and Katara Cultural Village and then we had a very special treat for the evening - a Traditional Dhow Cruise Gala Dinner, which was such great fun! The following morning, we visited the Tivoli Najada Hotel where we enjoyed a lovely breakfast, before a tour of the hotel. This was my favourite breakfast and hotel out of all the places we visited. The hotel is situated very close to the Souq in the city, so due to this, it means that the hotel is a ‘dry’ hotel, but in a fantastic location for exploring lots of the sights. Our next adventure was a drive out to the desert for a fantastic few hours. We were able to ride a camel and were taken on a dune safari, which was great fun and I would highly recommend. We then spent some time where the ‘Desert meets the Sea’ relaxing on the beautiful beach. Finally, we were served a fabulous buffet lunch at the desert camp. If you ever visit Qatar, this is definitely a ‘must do’! After returning to the city, we had the opportunity to wander around the Souq Waqif, which was a great experience. Everyone was very friendly and helpful, and we felt very comfortable and safe here. Our evening meal was at the amazing St Regis hotel, which was absolutely delicious. We also had the opportunity to do a tour of this beautiful hotel. Doha is a beautiful city and very welcoming and hospitable. It is great as a different holiday destination as well as a stopover option for further afield places.

Celebrity Cruises Seminar at Sea

03 January 2019

A beautifully calm evening sailing out of Southampton on board Celebrity Silhouette. On our first evening we were treated to a delicious meal in the main restaurant. We then all headed to the Karaoke bar for a fun evening. Our first day was at sea, spent ‘in the classroom’ learning everything there was to know about Celebrity Cruises and what it has to offer. The different classes of ship, amenities, facilities for couples, families and the kids club, dining options/venues, entertainment etc. In the evening we enjoyed a fabulous show in the theatre. The following day we were docked in Vigo, Spain – such a pretty port. We embarked on a guided walking tour of the town, which included a stop for a tasty local drink and snack. During our tour we were given a lot of information about the town, which was very interesting. Our evening meal was in one of the speciality restaurants ‘Le Petit Chef’. It is an immersive, mind-blowing fusion of entertainment and dining like nothing experienced before! And then there was the silent disco! What a great evening. The following morning was an early start. We were very honoured to be invited onto the helipad for champagne and to enjoy the amazing views sailing into Lisbon. We had a busy day exploring the city using the Hop on Hop off bus, which I would highly recommend, it is so easy to get around. Half way round we decided to have a break from sightseeing and found a restaurant overlooking the sea where we had a delicious lunch. Once back on board, our evening meal was in another of the speciality restaurants – The Lawn Club. We certainly didn’t leave feeling hungry! Our evening finished off in the Sky Bar, another of the great entertainment venues on offer. Our final day on board was amazing. We were very privileged to be invited up to the Bridge for a talk, which was incredible. We were then given a tour and talk of one of the galleys, which was fascinating. Then it was off to the theatre for a backstage tour after which we were also able to meet some of the top crew members for Q&A sessions. We headed to the theatre for another great show before our final evening meal which was back in the main restaurant and it certainly didn’t disappoint. We arrived in a pleasantly warm Lanzarote the following morning where we unfortunately had to disembark and head to the airport to fly back to a chilly UK! An invaluable trip to experience what the amazing Celebrity Cruises has to offer their customers.

Lapland

02 September 2018

The summer holidays are over and soon everyone will be talking about C……..! Which for me is a great reminder of one of our fantastic trips to Lapland. On this occasion there were 24 of us on our annual group skiing holiday! We had two cosy, adjoining catered chalets in the woods, each with a log fire and a sauna. It wasn’t until we had the meet and greet with our reps, that we realised that there were so many other activities to do in Lapland other than ski! We did ski every day, but not all day as we usually do, so that we could go and experience some of the other activities. During our time there we experienced extremely cold weather, the lowest temperature we saw on the town thermometer was -33! We very soon learnt to make sure that we had all our hair completely tucked into our hats or else it just snapped off! On day one we were hoping to go on a Husky safari, however this was postponed as it was even too cold for the Huskies! Every day we had a call to say ‘sorry, it is still too cold’, until our last morning when the temperature had warmed very slightly, so we were able to go. On arrival at the Husky farm, the dogs were all very excited as they hadn’t been out for a week. We were given our sledge and dogs, and to our surprise, we were in charge! One of us drove at the back and the other sat on the front. After being given very brief instructions, we took the brake off and away we went. It was such an amazing experience, being pulled at great speed through the woods. Some of us also embarked on a Reindeer safari around the frozen lake. This was also great fun, but at a slightly slower pace than the Huskies! The next activity, that mainly the ‘boys’ embarked upon, was a snowmobiling adventure. After their initial briefing and getting kitted up, they headed off in convoy into the snow laden trees, along some narrow forest tracks. After an initial cautious start (probably only a couple of hundred metres!), they dropped down onto the frozen lake and they opened the throttles. Their smiles got bigger as they raced across the lake at about 80km/h, with only 5ft visibility ahead, as the snowmobile in front was kicking up snow and ice. They all managed to arrive at the lunch stop in one piece, although a couple of the machines were not quite performing 100% so this was rectified by a couple of the guys for the return journey. Hot lunch was served in the lodge where the fire was blazing, where they also defrosted ready for the afternoon drive. They were warned that police do spot speed and breathalyser checks, so the beers had to wait until their return to the chalets. Next to one of the mountain restaurants was an ice karting track. So, after lunch one day the race was on. There were sibling rivalries being fought as well as personal pride to be upheld. Different techniques were utilised for the 10-lap race, some fast and furious, others driving like Miss Daisy. By lap eight, many of the ‘Fast and Furious’ boys had spun out or crashed into the snow barriers. But Driving Miss Daisy just cruised until the finish line. ‘Slow and steady wins the race’! After another fabulous meal in our chalet, some of us ventured to the well know local Crazy Reindeer bar, where we had a great night with the locals. An experience that we would highly recommend. After the hustle and bustle of the previous days, my sister and I decided that no trip to Lapland would be complete without a visit to Santa. We had not had the opportunity as children, so even though we did not have any children with us, it didn’t matter at all, we still wanted to visit him. After all, we are all big children at heart. We arrived at the edge of the forest and had to walk through the candlelit paths to Santa’s log cabin. We were met by his elves and everyone had the opportunity to partake in snow activities before being invited into Santa’s cabin. It was so magical just sitting and listening to him telling stories. A very special memory for my sister and I. One of our most memorable events of the week was our post-midnight trek to the lake to witness the Northern Lights. We all stood captivated for over an hour watching one of nature’s marvels. This was so much more than our usual annual group skiing trip!

City Break to Baltimore

14 July 2018

After a very comfortable flight in Business Class we arrived in Baltimore, where we were met by our host and taken to our hotel, The Lord Baltimore. This is an historic hotel in the downtown area. The rooms are spacious, with a good-sized bathroom, plenty of storage space and very comfortable beds! After a quick change we headed up to its Sky Bar on the top of the building for a cheeky cocktail and a delicious snack whilst admiring the views of the city. Next morning, we were taken for breakfast at Iron Rooster. Wow - there was so much choice and it was delicious! Next stop was the American Visionary Art Museum where we were taken on a tour by one of its founders. I am not a big fan of art, but this was amazing and most definitely worth a visit. We enjoyed a ‘light’ lunch at Encantada, the restaurant at the museum. After lunch we were taken on a guided tour of the National Aquarium, where there is such a lot to observe and learn about, very educational but also fun. We then headed off to Top of the World Observation Level on the 27th floor of the World Trade Centre. There are 360-degree breath-taking views of Baltimore’s skyline, the harbour and beyond. There is plenty of historical information provided as well as very moving memorials to those residents of Baltimore that lost their lives in 9/11. Next it was a quick refresh and change at our hotel before being spoilt at Bygone, a stylish bar at the top of the Four Seasons Hotel with fabulous views over the harbour. We were given the most delicious seafood platters to enjoy whilst sipping our cocktails. We were then whisked off to a beautiful restaurant called Tagliata. The food and service here was exemplary. The following morning breakfast was at Miss Shirley’s, yet another tasty meal was had by us all. After breakfast we were lucky enough to be shown around a few hotels in the city all of which were beautiful in their own way, but very different. The Kimpton Hotel Monaco is incredibly sophisticated and stylish. The Sagamore Pendry is on the historic recreation pier right on the harbour front. It is rich in history and character and the quality is fabulous. We then took a water taxi directly from Sagamore Pendry on a relaxing trip across the harbour to our next stop which was Rye Street Tavern where we were treated, yet again to another ‘light lunch’ with beautiful views over the harbour. After lunch we were given a tour of the Sagamore Spirit Distillery, which is next door and had a sneaky taste of some whiskeys. It was then time to head back to our hotel to change before heading to Hotel Revival for a look round and a cocktail in their rooftop bar. Hotel Revival was formerly a mansion which has been converted into a boutique hotel but has kept the feel of a mansion. It had a very different feel and vibe to the other hotels we had visited, but equally as beautiful. It would probably be very appealing to younger travellers. We were again spoilt with some canapes and cocktails at their roof top bar, with beautiful views of Washington monument and the surrounding area. We were then taken on a dinner cruise. This was fantastic, great food and atmosphere whilst cruising in the harbour and watching the sunset. On our final day we had breakfast at our hotel, which was delicious and then took a short drive to walk up Federal Hill to admire the beautiful views of the harbour. We then took a drive out into the countryside to Frederick, a pretty town with lots of history and a beautiful creek which we took a walk along en route to lunch at the Wine Kitchen. Yet again the food was amazing. Last stop after a drive through some beautiful countryside was some wine tasting at Black Ankle Vineyards. It was then time to head to Dulles Airport for our flight home. Baltimore is a beautiful city, with amazing hospitality. I would certainly recommend visiting and would love to return one day to explore some more.

Norwegian Bliss Inaugural Cruise

01 June 2018

After an early flight from Stanstead to Hamburg, where I met one of my colleagues, and then a couple of hours on a coach through the beautiful German countryside, we arrived in Bremerhaven early afternoon, where The Beautiful Norwegian Bliss was waiting for us. Norwegian Cruise Lines had only taken delivery of her at 9.30am that very morning! We stepped on board and the first thing that I noticed was that ‘new’ smell – how lucky were we to be in the first group of passengers on board. We found our cabin and, of course, we were going to be the first passengers to stay in it. We unpacked and off we went to explore. We wandered out on deck into the glorious weather, incidentally it was the most beautiful weather we had had so far this year! There were musicians playing on the quayside in preparation to send us on our way. Such a great atmosphere. Of course, we had to attend muster, as you do at the beginning of any cruise, which was in a cosy bar area, another place ticked off the list to explore. We spent the remainder of the evening exploring/experiencing what was on offer and were certainly not disappointed. There are 27 different places to eat! The following day we were lucky enough to have a full tour of the ship and I can honestly say that the standard of every stateroom type is excellent. This is a beautiful ship, amazing food, fabulous customer service and wonderful entertainment. There is even a go carting circuit at the very top of the ship. They offer Premium All-Inclusive rates which means there is a wide choice of premium alcoholic drinks, soft drinks and bottled water, selected speciality coffees with meals and service charges and gratuities included in the price of the cruise! This ship has been so well thought out. Even though it’s passenger capacity is 4004, you’ll enjoy a tranquil space in which to relax and unwind if you desire. Whether you are travelling alone, as a multi-generational group or as a couple seeking a romantic escape, Bliss offers options to suit your tastes and budgets. There are cosy studios for solo travellers to connecting staterooms for families to well-appointed Spa Suites and sumptuous luxury and 24-hour butler service in The Haven. Unfortunately, all good things come to an end, and we had to disembark the ship in Southampton where the next passengers were eagerly awaiting to embark on her first transatlantic crossing! I am very much looking forward to cruising on Bliss again in the future!

Flotilla Holiday around the Greek Islands

23 March 2018

Our friends have progressed from kayak to dingy to a small touring sailing boat and now they are lucky enough to have a 30-foot sailing yacht. Having been out with them for a couple of exciting trips around the north Kent coast and across the Thames to Essex, although the Kent coast is a beautiful area to sail, there was a certain appeal of a flotilla holiday in the Mediterranean around the Greek islands! On one of these trips a plan was hatched, possibly with the help of a few glasses of wine! The plan was put into action on a cold winters morning, to find a week’s sailing holiday in September. Our friend, and now new skipper, found a great flotilla holiday for novices but it also allowed him to skipper a larger boat, with the help of an excitable, but inexperienced crew of four! It wasn’t long before winter turned to spring and into summer and at the beginning of autumn we were ready to have some extended summer sun in the Med. Flying into Preveza on the mainland, we were only an hour’s bus drive from our new home for the week. Starting in a small fishing village on the north coast of Lefkus, our week would take us around the Ionian seas and the islands of Lefkus, Kefalonia and Ithaka. Blue skies, warm sun and clear waters – what more could we want! Being novice sailors, we asked for a skipper for the first day to “show us the ropes”. He was excellent and within an hour we were sailing on our own. The days were well organised with a breakfast team meeting for the flotilla and when we knew where we were to meet that evening, we were off. There was no set route, so we could leave when we wanted and choose how to get there. Each day we chose an idyllic bay to stop in for lunch and have a swim. Even if you happened to get lost or got caught out with the weather, the experienced team in the support boat were never far away, which was lucky for us, as one morning we did have an issue. We set off after breakfast and after about an hour we could smell something strange. It was coming from one of the cabins and it smelt like rotten eggs! After asking a couple of delicate questions, we decided it was not a crew member, but was the battery. Within 30 minutes of radioing our issue, the lead crew boat pulled alongside, the engineer jumped on board our boat, replaced the battery, had a quick catch up and a “cup of tea” and we were off. The flexibility was great, we had the freedom to sail at our own pace, but there was always help nearby if needed. We found some deserted bays for lunch and once moored at the end of the day, we were able to pop into the towns to pick up fresh supplies from the shops and have a wander around. In the evenings we had a wide range of restaurants and bars to choose from or we could stay on board and cook. In a bar we visited one evening, there was lots of memorabilia from the filming of Captain Corelli’s Mandolin. The cast and crew apparently spent a lot of their time at this bar! One special evening we had a beach party, the whole flotilla rafted up together in a bay and then tendered to shore. As the sun set over the distant hills, the Barbeque was lit, the wine was opened, and a fabulous evening was had by all!

Snowmageddon

15 February 2018

The winter snows may be melting away, but the fond memories of snow-capped mountains are never far from my mind. For many years I have always wondered if I can still fit into my stylish ski wear and every year I manage it, just! Some of the best holidays have been with our close friends whether it has been a small family group with the niece and nephew or to the epic group holidays of 24+. There is something magical about the cold crisp air biting at your extremities that makes these holidays something different from the norm. When in a bigger group, the evenings around the dinner table are a boisterous affair as everyone has a story to tell, whether it was the first time they got to the top of the nursery slope on those seemingly impossible button lifts or the top speed they achieved down their favourite red run, recorded on their newest bit of technology. One thing in common was the rosy sun burnt faces and beaming smiles. But all too often the holiday seems to be at an end - time flies when you’re having fun! It was on one such occasion that the snow in La Plagne, France was too heavy for the organised Bobsleigh trip, so it was cancelled. Not to be beaten by the weather, and it was our last night after all, half of the group decided to venture into the village to say a fond farewell and thank-you for a wonderful week with our hosts. Meanwhile the remainder of the group stayed to tidy the chalet and pack the skis and boots for the early morning pick up at 4am. All was going to plan until the first snowball was made! Then another and another, before we knew it over 300 snowballs were ready for action. Not only had the home team stock piled an arsenal of snowballs, they had built snow walls, bunkers 6’ deep and every available shovel was locked and loaded with snow. It seemed like the longest night until the first of the ‘away’ team could be heard singing and laughing as they negotiated the 200 plus steps from the road to the chalet - one of the compromises for a ski in ski out chalet! When they were in range, the first snowball was let loose. With a swish and a splat above their heads, none of them even noticed it. The away team were having too much of a good time. The first snow wall was a bit confusing to the revellers - this wasn’t here when we left? Has it snowed that much? Then they had the realisation that this was no ordinary snow wall - it was an ambush. It was at this moment that the home team, including the chalet owners unleashed ‘snowmageddon’. Snowballs rained down from every window of the four-storey building, there was no hiding place. One brave chap decided he could jump the wall, only to disappear into a 6’ hole, where he was quickly covered with snow from the shovels. The epic battle lasted a good half hour before the defences were breached and the arsenal was depleted. Still with rosy sun burnt cheeks and snow everywhere and I mean everywhere, we all got together over a large mug of “hot chocolate” and decided that this was one of those holidays which would stay with us for a very long time!

Mediterranean Cruise

02 February 2018

How time flies – it only seems a couple of months ago that we were enjoying cruising around the Med. We flew out to beautiful Malta to meet our P&O ship Oceana, where glorious warm sunny weather greeted us. We were soon on board, unpacked and it wasn’t too long before we were enjoying our first drink out on deck admiring the beautiful port of Valletta. My husband was soon reminiscing about his ‘lads’ diving holiday he had enjoyed many years ago, however this was going to be a completely different experience as we had our parents in tow! During our two weeks we visited some beautiful places. There were plenty of options, whether it be to explore the ports or cities at your leisure or join an organised tour. Our first port of call was Dubrovnik. I had heard so many great things about this, which was a big influence when choosing this cruise and we were certainly not disappointed. We explored the old city, rich in culture and history with its orange tiled rooftops, bustling markets and busy streets. From the city walls there are fantastic views of Lovrijenac fortress, the site of Red Keep from the TV show Game of Thrones. Venice lived up to all our expectations, from St Mark’s Basilica to the Doge’s Palace, famous bridge of Sighs and of course the must do gondola ride through the Venetian canals. But one of the unexpected highlights was our visit to a Murano glass factory where we witnessed, first hand, the skill and artistry of the glass blowers. In Taormina in Sicily, my husband and mother in law decided to wander through the beautiful town and sat in a café enjoying a coffee and galetta with Mount Etna in the background. He was quietly wondering when it was next going to erupt as my mum was on a tour climbing it! My Dad decided to join a cheese and wine tasting tour, whilst I enjoyed a guided tour of Taormina with some free time to explore the roman theatre with magnificent views of Mount Etna. It was with some trepidation that we chose a long walking tour of Rome on Easter Saturday. However, this was an excellent choice, as we were in Vatican City soaking up the atmosphere as all the preparation for Easter Sunday was taking place. The Trevi fountain was nothing like we were expecting, in a good way! After my husband’s contemplation regarding Mount Etna plus mother in law, he redeemed himself by spending the day walking the Principality of Monaco with her. Although it was Easter Sunday, after mass they were able to visit the cathedral where Prince Rainier and Grace Kelly are laid to rest. My dad and I however, took the hop on hop off bus all around the town. On the second lap round we hopped off at a few places including the stunning Casino. My dad loves his motorsport, so in the afternoon we walked the F1 circuit and visited the Prince of Monaco’s private classic car collection which he absolutely loved. As well as all these beautiful places we also fitted in a visit to romantic Florence, Pisa and Corsica where my husband decided that he needed to work off some of the fabulous cakes he had consumed during our holiday and joined some like-minded people on a kayaking adventure around the coast. The diversity of this itinerary covered a variety of historical cities, scenery and cultures, and has left us with fantastic family memories.

My customer stories

Sent by P Barratt

Karen was fantastic. Karen took the time to understand our needs and family dynamic, and put together a package which was exactly what we were looking for, including our preferred accommodation. Even then, when we asked if a couple of other options could be prepared, Karen was happy to make all necessary enquiries so that we could assess all of the options. We will, without doubt, ask Karen to help us with our future holiday plans.

Sent by P Anderton

Like most people, we have had to change our booked holidays several times during the past two years. For us, this is no mean feat as we are an extended family of 10 so our requirements are pretty complex with three generations of different views. Karen always manages to satisfy every one of us though and we recently re-booked a family cruise (third time lucky). She has been amazing, keeping us updated with the way our future cruise credits would work and ensuring we got the best deals. She knows exactly what we like and doesn't waste our time suggesting things that would not work for us. We have recently recommended her to a few of our friends, one of whom has always been adamant they would never use a "travel agent" - needless to say they have made a booking with Karen and are totally delighted with the service she gave. Karen is not "just a travel agent" - if you are looking for any type of holiday, please contact her - you won't regret it.

Sent by B Wake

Karen has had to help us reschedule our holiday of a lifetime three times, due to Covid reasons, and has been patient, efficient and supportive throughout. I have already recommended her to a friend, and will happily do so again.

Sent by C Du Randt

Karen is so helpful and took all the stress out of booking a much needed family break and holiday. I would highly recommend using her service.

Sent by E Rogers

Karen was very helpful with booking the holiday and made sure to take all of our preferences into account. She responded really quickly to any emails that were sent and we are all very happy with the destination that Karen located. The whole process was made very simple for us and we can now look forward to a well organised holiday.

Sent by Richard Luker

Karen goes above and beyond to make sure our trips run smoothly. I have recommended her to family and friends.

Sent by E Summers

Karen is so friendly and does anything she can to put your perfect package together. We’ve often gone back and forth with quite a few questions which she is always prompt and happy to answer. Highly recommended!!

Sent by Theresa Samworth

Excellent service as ever. With the current travel restrictions in place regarding covid, having Karen on hand to answer questions on the changing rules was absolutely fantastic. Karen provides a personalised, professional and first rate service. I’d have no hesitation in recommending her to others.

Sent by P Hammond

We honestly cannot fault Karen's service, she goes above and beyond to make life so much easier for everyone, especially so in more recent times with the constant changes and rules. She is always there for us even when she is not meant to be like weekends and her own holidays. We get the feeling she does not want anyone to lose confidence in these different times and she is doing a sterling job at that! I will never book a holiday without Karen's advice again, thinking of a Safari next so watch this space!

Sent by E Harrison

Karen was amazing and her attention to detail was second to none. She listened attentively to every single detail and the holiday she has arranged is fantastic. Nothing was too much trouble and even the small requests were sorted. We would highly recommend Karen and the Travel Counsellors company. Following lockdown and two years at home, it is so exciting to have a holiday sorted for 2022. We can't thank Karen enough for all her help and expertise .

Sent by Andrea Trenchard

Karen was recommended by a friend a couple of years ago and since then I have had the pleasure of letting Karen book my holidays ! It is so easy ! I will always book with Karen in the future . The service she provides is outstanding , nothing is too much trouble for her.

Sent by Lindsey Peddle

Always a fantastic service from Karen very informative and incredibly helpful with any queries.

Sent by Marjorie Clare

I have spent a lot of time over the weekend trying to find suitable family accommodation for a few days in 2 weeks time with no luck . I contacted Karen and I couldn’t believe after giving her few details how she found the perfect place for us all . I wished I’d contacted her earlier . Thanks to Karen for such a personal and professional service . She’s a delight to talk to . If you want great service and someone to take the stress of trying to book a holiday I would certainly recommend Karen .

Sent by T Smith

We would like to thank Karen for the amazing service she has provided to help us rearrange the cruise that we had booked this summer and had been cancelled by the cruise line. She showed patience and determination in trying to get hold of the provider and secure a cruise for us for next year. She has also arranged a week in a hotel in England for this summer which was not easy during lockdown and required a lot of time and persistence on her part to try and speak to a member of staff. We have never had a travel agent who has been so committed to their job and worked so hard to deliver such a caring and efficient service. She has consistently delivered on her promises and exceeded our expectations.

Sent by Rachel Feeley

I was recently struggling to book some flights and Karen was a fantastic help. She found the specific flights I needed and booking them with her was so simple. Karen always takes great care and attention from enquiry to booking.

Sent by Gillian Galletly

Karen has done a super job of finding me flights to Australia so promptly, always ready to help no matter what time of day. She is a real treasure.

Sent by Conor Walisko

I recently had to move a booking forward for a family emergency, Karen moved heaven and earth to make sure I was able to travel as fast as I needed to. Can not thank her enough. It really is a personal experience with Travel Counsellors !!

Sent by T Samworth

Karen offers a fantastic professional service. I would highly recommend her to all my friends and family.

Sent by A Moon

Karen was brilliant and we would not hesitate to ask for her help again.

Sent by Maxine Stephenson

Karen was very helpful and has booked our perfect cruise hassle free. We are looking forward to booking through Karen for future holidays.

Sent by S Godden

Karen was wonderful. She made the whole experience extremely easy and stress free. I will most definitely be contacting Karen for any future holiday decisions and bookings I make.

Sent by D Whipp

Karen has consistently provided a level of personal service above and beyond any that we have experienced in many years of travel. We will continue to recommend her to our friends and family without hesitation.

Sent by Pippa Hammond

I was recommended Karen through a friend, this was a blessing. Karen has a lot of knowledge and good advice to give, nothing was too much trouble and she spent a lot of time explaining everything we needed to know as 1st time cruisers. The App is amazing and simple to use as are all the links and information that Karen has sent us. I am total relaxed, excited and confident about our first cruise next year. Thank you Karen we will definitely be using you for our safari holiday one day!

Sent by Esme Beardwell

Karen has booked us an amazing honeymoon, which we can't wait to go on. Such a stress free experience! We will definitely recommend Karen to friends and family. Thank you for all you have done! Couldn't wish for anyone better or kinder to arrange our honeymoon and help us!

Sent by Frank Chambers

On Thursday night (29th August) I emailed Karen for help to arrange a flight booking to the USA for a business client visit in 2 weeks time.I happily expected her to follow this up with me the following morning, I Was Wrong! Within 30 minutes of my email (At 9 pm that night!) Karen replied with a list of key considerations for my travel. These were followed up the following morning and my flight was booked! Karen saved me hours of searching giving me the morning back to work! Fantastic service Thanks Karen! I will definitely be a returning customer. Frank Chambers Director Inhalytic Ltd

Sent by J King

Karen was both very efficient and helpful. I would have no problem in recommending her to friends.

Sent by J Newcomb

Karen is first class and I would recommend her to anyone needing a break.

Sent by R Heathcote

Excellent first class service, any request for information is always without delay and gives great satisfaction to arranging a holiday, journey or flight. The information is always clear by phone and followed up by email. Great service.

Sent by Pat Ross

Very impressed by Karen’s friendly, professional service, nothing too much trouble. Would highly recommend.

Sent by Judith Daffforn

Karen dealt with our booking very well, with a friendly approach, expertly dealing with our requests and questions. The whole experience was dealt with quickly and efficiently, we wouldn't hesitate in recommending Karen to friends and family.

Sent by Alex Rawlinson

We arrived back from a 10 day Canary island cruise. We sailed out and in to Southampton on the Royal Caribbean Explorer of the Seas. Karen was amazing from the very beginning, helping us choose the ideal cruise whilst sticking within our budget. We've had an amazing time and thoroughly enjoyed the cruising experience. We will definitely be booking another one as soon as we can. We highly recommend Karen to do this for us and anyone else, she provides a truly exceptional service.

Sent by G Wright

Very willing to help with anything we asked.

Sent by S Gregson

Very professional and personal service.

Sent by S Atherton

It was such an easy experience from start to finish, friendly, informative and professional. We would recommend Karen without hesitation.

Sent by A Walker

Once again, Karen has provided an exemplary level of service. Excellent attention to detail and excellent communication throughout booking. The service we have received from Karen (as a Travel Counsellor supported fully by the Travel Counsellors team) exceeds many recent booking experiences with some other travel companies.

Sent by C O'Neill

Karen was super helpful and very efficient. Flexible about times when she was available to speak to me, and great at providing me with a range of options which might suit my needs - without pressuring me to choose any particular one. Great service!

Sent by Christine Lucien

Karen was very friendly, professional and made herself available when we had questions about our trip. Very much appreciated.

Sent by Paul Pontone

Excellent personal service. Karen paid attention to every detail and demonstrated admirable levels of patience whilst putting together all the elements of our holiday package.

Sent by Darrell Clark

This is the first time we have used Travel Counsellors. The experience so far has been outstanding, can’t recommend them highly enough. I have and will be encouraging colleagues and friends to contact you.

Sent by Stephen Brown

Karen has given excellent advice when asked and no request has been too much trouble. I am very happy with the way she handled our (multiple person/room and flights) booking and it was carried out in a very prompt and professional manner. I would have no problem recommending her to organise a holiday and itinerary for anyone wishing to take the hassle out of booking a holiday.

Sent by R Gordon

Karen has been amazing, very professional and exceeded all expectations. She tailored our holiday to all our specifications and nothing was too much trouble. Cannot thank her enough!

Sent by Sarah Logan

Excellent service, very patient, would certainly recommend to friends and family.

Sent by R Jeapes

Karen was very knowledgeable and was so particular but not pushy.

Sent by J Jackson

Following our initial discussion with Karen, she was able to interpret our ideas into an exciting plan for our two holidays. She managed our changing ideas calmly, this was comforting as our round the world ticket route needed to become our holiday of a lifetime. Nothing was too much trouble. The short break to Rome was also made effortless in the planning. Thank you Karen.

Sent by V White

Karen was so helpful and really took the hassle out of booking a holiday. We will definitely be in contact next time we decide to book a holiday.

Sent by C Davies

Really helpful and pro active in sorting out trip.

Sent by J Logan

Excellent service! Karen is always so helpful and informative.

Sent by Ian Freeth

So far regarding my holiday, Karen has been very helpful and easy to contact. I really appreciate everything she has done for me so far

Sent by Chris Tomlinson

Karen, thank for all your help,saved me a lot of work. Very professional thanks again.

Sent by Debbie Reekie

Karen did a great job in booking and organising our holiday for us. She was calm, thoughtful and reassuring. Everything was Lear and checked thorough. Any concerns I had were responded to promptly - including a last minute ticket panic - which was all fine. A very personal service.

Sent by A Walker

Professional, personal and friendly service - Karen went out of her way to meet our needs and exceed our expectations. We have already recommended Karen to friends and family.

Sent by Valerie Dormady

Very efficient service done in a quick time. All details explained fully at the time of booking. Prompt reminders for payment. A hassle free experience.

Sent by Mark Feeley

Karen’s knowledge has guided us to book a holiday of a lifetime touring Africa. We had spent hours researching options but with help we have an itinerary that is customised and gives us everything we had hoped for but couldn’t find though other travel agents. Every step of the journey so far has been dealt with by Karen in a friendly and professional way that you rarely find on the high street these days. We found Karen’s flexibility and commitment to finding is exactly what we wanted made the decision to book a dream holiday really easy and without any pressure. The Travel Counsellors app makes the booking and payment process really easy. I can’t imagine booking another holiday through anyone else now we’ve worked with Karen. Looking forward to planning the next holiday already.

Sent by David Summers

Very helpful and very knowledgeable. Many thanks.

Sent by Elaine Prime

Most definitely would recommend Karen. She has pulled out all the stops to get our special holiday just right. Even when she was out of the country she had everything covered.

Sent by Gilly Puttock

I am so glad I have found Karen. She is very friendly and professional and my cruise booking went so smoothly in her expert hands. I'm very happy and would recommend her services. Thank you.

Sent by Danny Murphy

Very helpful, prompt and well informed. Sorted out my ticket at 10.00pm

Sent by Erwin Becke

Karen has listened to our plans and advised us of changes that we might wish to consider and we have ended up with a package that we think will be great. We are very much looking forward to our holiday next fall.

Sent by Joanna Porter

Karen was so helpful and very knowledgeable about cruises, made the process very simple, saved me time! Would use Karen again for future trips, thanks so much Karen

Sent by Ray Heathcote

A complete first class service and takes a lot of the pressure off me as I have so many other things to organise at present. We would always recommend your services. We are looking forward to our holiday very much.

Sent by Jodie Mann

We have just booked a trip for six of us to go to Zambia for the first time with Karen. She was so helpful and lovely throughout the whole procedure. Anytime we wanted anything changed to our quote she sorted it quickly and effortlessly - especially as we kept changing our minds on what to do! We can't wait for our trip to Zambia, and we all feel safe and confident with our trip knowing that Karen has organised it all! Thank you so much for all your help Karen, will definitely hear from us again to book another holiday.

Sent by Laurie Buckingham

A wonderfully quick service, the booking I asked for was exactly what I wanted. I am sure that if it had not been it would very quickly have been tailored to suit my requirements. I have already recommended Karen to family and friends.

Sent by Sian Godsave

Personal service, completely tailored to our needs. Fantastic!

Sent by Deborah Pepper

I don't tend to use travel agents as I am well versed in booking loads of holidays myself independently. This is probably a combination of wanting to make sure all the details are covered and building the right package. I can honestly say it has been a joy and a relief with Karen putting together a pretty complex trip to the Far East for us. She was one step ahead of me all the time and covered things I didn't even think of. I would definitely recommend Karen and Travel Counsellors and will be using them again in the future

Sent by Paula Murphy

Karen was so friendly and helpful. Very patient with me when I kept changing my mind about what I wanted and went out of her way to make sure I got the right holiday for myself and my family. We really can't wait for our week in Devon and looking forward to relaxing in the hot tub.