Sent by Tracy Parkes
Based in Scarborough
Looking for help with your business travel? Find out how I can help here
If you are reading this, the chances are you are contemplating booking your perfect holiday or short break very soon. So let me tell you a little about myself...
My name is Kay and I live on the beautiful North Yorkshire east coast in sunny Scarborough.
Being brought up in my parents’ family-run hotel, I learnt at an early age the importance of customer service. This continued throughout my career in hospitality. I have worked in 5* hotels in London and Harrogate, I was an Event Manager in Sheffield and also a Business Travel Consultant with a large manufacturing company. Here, I had to source the best and most cost-effective way of travelling from A to B, booking worldwide flights, negotiating hotel rates, trains, ferries, car hire - creating itineraries to ensure busy schedules were adhered to.
I have been on interesting holidays - driven across the volcanic landscape of Fuerteventura and micro climate Gran Canaria, ridden through Holland, Germany, Switzerland, Italy, France and Spain on a motorbike, dog-walked through stunning Southern Ireland, enjoyed family holidays in Egypt, Kos, Lanzarote, Croatia, Crete, Corfu, Cyprus, Mexico, Dubai and shared the ocean with great whites in stunning South Africa!
I have trapezed with Club Med in Greece, skydived in Florida, cruised the Med, driven along the PCH in California, seen the Northern Lights in Norway, lazed on beautiful Barbados beaches, experienced a traditional Hammam in Kalkan, enjoyed the culture of Bangkok, Koh Samui and Phuket and swum with dolphins in Walt Disneyworld, Orlando - one of my specialist areas of the world!
So why book with me? Quite simply, ‘it’s personal'. I care about ensuring your holiday is perfect from start to finish - there is no charge for my expertise and I'm available at a time to suit you including evenings and weekends. Rather than selling you a standard tour operator package, I can quickly search through hundreds of different flight, accommodation and transfer alternatives to find a bespoke holiday that suits your needs exactly. I also offer you 100% financial protection through the Travel Counsellors Financial Trust - guaranteed peace of mind.
Travel Counsellors is one of the largest independent travel agencies in the UK. We are the only UK travel company to have been awarded the Queen's Award for Enterprise - three times now!
So, if you are interested in a luxury Maldivian escape, a short fun European city break, a skiing adventure, meeting Mickey and Minnie in Disneyworld or taking a cruise or an African safari, contacting me will only cost you the same as a local call - alternatively just text, tweet, instant chat, Facebook or email me!
I look forward to speaking with you!
Volume up and Mind open.... have you missed exploring the world with the people that mean the most to you? Take a moment to watch and breathe in the emotion.
Creating your perfect Honeymoon is something I love to do - it is a privilege that you put your trust in me to find THE most amazing destination!
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.
19 July 2023
Funnily enough, my husband doesn’t like to fly….. but seeing the Northern Lights was high on his bucket list. So, one chilly January morning we set off from Humberside Airport to the small, but perfectly formed Enontekio airport in uncommercial true Lapland! We were staying in the remote village of Karesuando which is 150 miles north of the Arctic Circle and straddles both Finland AND Sweden where city light pollution is non-existent. Travelling from the airport for around an hour, it was clear to see we had been transported to another world – Narnia! Driving on the snow-covered roads seemed absolutely perilous to us… but completely normal to our driver! We stayed in a cabin at the Davii Arctic Lodge which is a simple hotel, set on a hillside with a beautifully designed restaurant in the shape of a Sami reindeer corral. Here, you could enjoy your freshly prepared buffet meals with panoramic views toward the Swedish border. The main hotel has 25 rooms split over 2 levels, all basic but well furnished with en suite, tea and coffee and access to the hotel’s sauna. Just a short walk away are the timber built semi-detached cabins which was our choice. Slightly bigger rooms, with a heated boot room and your own sauna and ensuite shower, some with 2 & 3 bedrooms. Upon arrival you have a welcome meeting and split into 2 groups and stay within those groups for the duration. This is for meal times and activities and ensures there is no confusion along the way. We were kitted out with our thermal suits and boots and ready to face the elements! After dinner, we decided to have a wander up the hill to a fabulous viewpoint with a clearing which was the best place to view the Northern Lights. Nothing on our first night… but you can register your number with reception and they will alert you to any Aurora manifestation. Day 1, the Reindeer Camp in the morning and then some free time before our Snowmobile Safari in the evening. The minibuses collect your group and take you about a half an hour away to meet the reindeer at the herding corral and get a chance for a sleigh ride across a vast frozen lake which was incredible - so beautiful and quiet – just the clip clop of hooves and stunning scenery. Then warm up around an open firepit in a traditional Sami kota. Back to the hotel for lunch, then we wandered down to the local shops for a bit of souvenir hunting. Nordic countries are expensive for food and drink, so it was nice to find the local store that sold beer and wine to consume in your room before dinner. It was a very good spread each evening, always buffet and plenty to choose from with soup/salad starters, choice of 3 main courses and hot/cold pudding each day. If you mention to the chef any dietary requirements, he will look after you. Inside the hotel is toasty so all you need is a lightweight top and jeans – leave your thermal suits at the door! At 7pm we met at the Snowmobile area for our bike training before we were off through the forest tracks, over the frozen lake, into Sweden (!) and then up to a high vantage point in the wilderness where we saw the faint lines of the Aurora forming. My husband drove whilst I took photos on the back of the snow mobile - quite precarious at 30 mph on the bumpy track in the freezing cold! It was exhilarating, incredible and we were buzzing!! Back at the hotel we walked again up the hill and were rewarded with a fantastic display of swirling, dancing, spinning green Aurora which enveloped us in its awe inspiring majesty, illuminating the Arctic skies. I had been fortunate enough to see the lights before, but my husband had not – and it was quite emotional. On Tuesday morning we had an introduction to Snowshoe – you get this included on the 4 nights stay only. I wasn’t quite sure if I would be fit enough, but I loved it! What made the trek was our fantastic guide, who answered questions about the terrain, wildlife and weather. We trekked into the forest via the well-worn paths above the hotel. For those that wanted, the thigh-deep snow between the trees proved to be a challenge with snow shoes and I was out of breath from laughing with the rest of the group - far more fun than I was expecting! That afternoon we decided to walk to Sweden….! Down the hill, across the bridge and you enter a different time zone – 1 hour behind – so keep an eye on the clock if you have an evening excursion! The small village has a Tourist Centre, a shop selling souvenirs and stunning church which is famous for being in the Coca Cola advert. We were very much looking forward to our final day which was the Call of the Wild Husky Trek. The noise of the excited barking broke the silence of the morning and after a quick show round of the sled, we were paired up with our teams. The huskies’ excitement is infectious, and they’re raring to go at your command. Driving the sled is simple, although make sure you know where the brake pedal is!! It is a two man sled, so we took turns to mush. It was another incredible experience and one which I will never forget! Once the dogs started running the only thing you could hear was panting as they contentedly galloped through the narrow paths in the snow. We went in formation, following a lead guide through the beautiful wilderness until eventually we arrived onto a huge frozen lake. Absolutely amazing! All the dogs were happy, well fed and looked after – this was obvious. If we had no evening excursion after dinner, it was great to sit by the fire enjoying a late-night drink in the lounge area and getting to know our fellow adventurers! The staff were all so friendly, warm and helpful, genuinely interested in making sure you had a great time. For the darkest skies, try to book between January to March which is a popular time for aurora spotting, because of the very long and extremely dark nights. If you are lucky, the Aurora could last for an entire night or just for ten minutes if you are less fortunate. Having said that, just ten minutes of this extraordinary natural phenomenon is enough to make memories that will last a lifetime. Included in your overall price are flights, transfers, Full Board accommodation, the main activities and loan of a thermal suit and boots. You can add on additional activities such as Ice-Fishing, a night in an igloo or a glass cabin on a reindeer reserve, a visit to the Ice Hotel or cross-country skiing. Please drop me a message for more information.
21 December 2022
On our return from Kalkan, we flew with Turkish Airlines via Istanbul so decided to overnight in the popular city. Considering the airport is only 30 miles from the Old Town of Istanbul it took us a couple of hours to get to our hotel due to the traffic! We stayed at the beautiful and traditional Sultania Hotel which features lavish bedrooms, plush fabrics and ornate furnishings along with oil paintings of Ottoman sultan’s wives – in fact all the rooms are named after a different one! We enjoyed another Hammam and a bite to eat before we had to meet with our guide – remember we only have 24 hours! We met our private guide at Karakoy Pier as we were booked on a 5-hour Food & Culture Tour. This was a fascinating insight into one of the most colourful, vibrant, exciting cities I have ever visited. We sampled foods on both the Asian and European sides of the Bosphorus Strait (the ferry across was included in the tour). Our guide was passionate about the history of the city and pointed out various landmarks explaining their historical references. We had 8 food stops and 4 drinks starting with the fish market in Kadikoy, diving down the maze of streets, popping into local shops selling all kinds of product and visiting cafes frequented by locals for more culture, food and drink. If you like mussels then you’d love Midyeci Yasin who serve stuffed mussels with their own spices – eaten on the street - one of the best in the city! We had a quick pit stop at The Bristol Pub which is a micro-brewery in the hip and cool area of the city. We tried the organic beer which had a smoky flavour and was 5.2% so also had a kick! Heading back to the European side on the ferry, we admired the twinkling evening lights of all the bars and restaurants as the city came to life. We stopped at Hasif Mustafa for a superb dessert of baklava with ice cream and Muhallebi served with Turkish Tea. We were suitably satisfied and ready to retire!! An early morning start as we wanted to visit the Spice Bazaar before we had to leave for the airport. This is the most famous covered complex after the Grand Bazaar and the building itself built in 1664, is absolutely stunning. So colourful and fragrant, the atmosphere was buzzing with locals and tourists alike and just about every spice you can imagine on offer. Also lots of tea! Rosebud, Jasmine, Pomegranate, Bergamot & Orange plus herbal remedies and olive oil soaps and also lots of dried fruits hanging from the rafters such as apricots, figs, dates, kiwis and chilli! Not forgetting of course, Lokum better known as Turkish delight. Haggle away! Dazed by the sights, sounds and aromas of the last 24 hours, we headed back to the airport to discuss dates for our next visit!
21 December 2022
Funnily enough… I have never been to Turkiye so it was definitely on my hit list! I had the opportunity to stay for a week in a Villa along with 3 other Travel Counsellors - you don't need to ask me twice! Kalkan is an historic town and lies along the gorgeous Lycian Coast. Flying into Dalaman, our private transfer took around 1 hour and 30 minutes. It is a totally charming area, with the rental villas sitting high in the hills giving breath-taking views of the bays below and the majestic Taurus mountains as a backdrop. There is a beautiful mosque close to the harbour and we could hear the Call to Prayer every morning as it echoed around the town. The quaint harbour is full of wooden gulets and small fishing craft bordered with waterfront restaurants and beach. After dusk, the winding streets which are full of traditional houses, fabulous restaurants with roof top terraces, small boutiques and local shops offering hand-made items, teem with people being enticed by the wonderful aromas of the local eateries. Kalkan dining is so memorable, the views, setting sun, friendly attentive service, and of course the food and drink! The Blue Terrace, Kalamaki, Trio and LAL are all highly recommended! If you don’t fancy dining out every night then why not take-away?! Most fast-food restaurants deliver to villas and you can order anything from Pide (like a cheesy pizza!), pasta, kebabs, burgers, guvec (casserole), salads and desserts such as baclava and sutlac. Our stunning 4-bedroom villa (Villa Sapphire) was perfectly located for the sensational views although quite a hike uphill in the summer! However, the local taxis are very reasonable… ranging from £3 down to the local store, to £6 depending on where you want to be. The local Dolmus (shared minibus) is the most cost-effective way of getting around Kalkan and the surrounding areas. They will take you to places such as Kas, Patara, Kaputas beach and Xanthos. There are also apartments to rent in the Old Town which is just a 3-minute walk from the beach. I would generally say ‘no high heels’ though as the whole area is very hilly. If you need accessibility then there a couple of hotels down at the harbour on the flat so it is possible to visit the town and still get around. Alternately you could book the gorgeous Likya Residence and Spa – a sublime adult-only boutique hotel with amazing views and an award-winning restaurant but again this is a fairly hilly area of Kalkan too. Beach clubs are popular… in fact there are about a dozen within close proximity to the harbour. We chose ‘Zest’ which is a new club and is accessed by complimentary water taxi from the harbour. This family friendly beach club provides direct access to the sea from various platforms and also has a large swimming pool on the terrace surrounded by sun loungers. There is an excellent restaurant onsite and the cost was around £30 per person for the day plus lunch. We also took a full day boat trip along the coast with family run Eylul (Captain Ramazan). The tour included a wonderfully freshly cooked lunch plus afternoon tea and cake and the boat had plenty of seating / beds with or without shade. We anchored at 3 different bays and were able to snorkel in the azure blue sea. We even had a little ‘shopping at sea’ retail therapy time! Relaxed atmosphere, first class service and wouldn’t hesitate to recommend. One experience I would say not to miss is a traditional Turkish Hammam! We chose the Elixir Hotel where Nur & Hakan operate a Turkish Spa. Laying on heated marble slabs, we opted for the starter package which consisted of a body and heel scrub, foam wrap, hair wash, massage and clay mask – all for £45 which we all thought was extremely reasonable for this wonderfully relaxing experience. Thursday is market day and we were recommended to pop down for breakfast where the locals cook pancakes with savoury or sweet fillings for you and squeeze fresh orange juice along with Turkish tea – all served within the colourful and busy market place where you can buy anything from hand cream to spices to knives to 'designer' clothing! Kalkan enjoys typical Mediterranean weather with long, dry, hot summers and short, cool winters. If you are not keen on hot weather, I recommend traveling in May/early June or September/October, as the weather is cooler in the evenings and pleasantly warm during the daytime. In fact we were lucky as temperatures reach almost 30 during our week in early October. I wouldnt say this was a family friendly resort - more appealing to a girls holiday, couples or a group of friends that could hire one of the larger villas. Call me for a chat if you think Kalkan could be your next destination of choice!
21 December 2022
Norwegian Cruise Lines launched an exciting and spectacular brand-new ship ‘Prima’ in September 2022 and I was invited to spend 4 days on her to be able to promote the ship and also NCL which is the sister brand to Oceania and Regent Seven Seas… so has a great reputation of rapidly becoming a premium cruise line. We sailed out of Amsterdam travelling south to Belgium and France until we disembarked in Southampton. The ship exudes the look and feel of a premium cruise ship with more intimate and upscale areas. Norwegian Prima offers an expansive outdoor deck space - perfect for sunny climes. You can walk over water on the glass bridge, wander through the traditional observation lounge wrapping the perimeter of the forward top of the ship or take a 360° seaside stroll along the breath-taking Ocean Boulevard and discover wonderful experiences in every corner. On both sides of Ocean Boulevard, you will find an infinity pool, loungers, and some day beds with ocean-facing views. The service on board is one of those that puts you first with the highest staff levels, you will always feel prioritised. The main pool area on deck 17 pool is smaller than I would expect for a ship of this size but there are 2 infinity pool hot tubs either side. Still, it is conveniently located between other popular public spaces, including the Observation Lounge and the Surf Side Café and Grill. On Deck 18 you will find the small Kids Aqua Park, plus the feature water slide — The Wave, a tidal wave style waterslide which is a fun and complimentary family activity. This deck is also home to the entrance for the two new dry slides. First is The Drop, the first drop dry slide at sea. Here, you plunge 10 stories as hitting g-forces equivalent to an F1 race car. Second, The Rush. These dual racing dry slides pit cruisers against each other for a race to the alfresco decks of level 8. Of course, I had to try this and it was so much fun! For those looking for a more exclusive experience, there is the Vibe Beach Club. For a current price of $249 per person, this reserved sun deck is a private oasis. With a variety of lounging furniture, a bar, and two infinity hot tubs, this adult only retreat might be worth the upgrade for many cruisers. Perhaps the most popular sports deck activity is the exciting Prima Speedway. For $15 a ride, up to 15 racers can see if they have the driving skills to rank at the top of the leader board. NCL have pulled out all the stops and built a three-level go-kart racetrack atop the ship on Decks 18-20! That’s right, you can race go-karts at sea on the Prima Speedway! I had a go while the Prima was traversing the North Sea and, safe to say, my 20-minute slot was exhilarating!! While the slides are free, the additional activities on Norwegian Prima’s sports deck will cost money. This includes the fun and creatively themed Tee Time. This mini-golf course is set to cost around $15 for a 9-hole round. At about $45 for 45 minutes (for up to 6 players), the Bull Eye’s is the first of its kind dart lounge at sea. This al fresco loune area is where guests can challenge each other in interactive games like 301, Cricket, and more. Indoors, the attractions at the Galaxy Pavilion on Deck 17 are immersive and fun as well, with a total of 14 virtual reality experiences including simulators and games. This Norwegian Cruise Line ship is home to several new dining concepts. Where to begin? With over 15 bars and lounges, five complimentary restaurants and eight specialty dining options to choose from, it’s highly unlikely you’ll ever go hungry onboard the Norwegian Prima. What is most impressive is the way in which NCL has tapped into the trend for street food and market-style dining with its Indulge Food Hall. With several ‘stalls’ offering all sorts of cuisine from India to Italy and Latin America, we ordered an endless supply of dishes via an iPad direct to our table. Step outside the Indulge Food Hall and you’ll also find the Soleil Bar. This was my favourite outdoor seating space thanks to the variety of hammocks, loungers and daybeds reminiscent of a beach club. Upgrade your package to NCL's 'Free at Sea' current promotion where you can enjoy Premium Beverages, 2 meals at any of the Speciality restaurants (per 7-night sailing), excursion discounts and 150 minutes free wi-fi. In the evenings when you are not dining in a speciality restaurant head to Hudson’s (enjoy amazing views while dining) or the Commodore room. Of course, there are also shops, a casino, a fitness centre, and the Mandara Spa. This fabulous area features another two therapy pools in addition to a series of sublime steam and ice rooms, dry saunas, experience showers and a relaxation room — itself another forward-facing observation lounge full of heated and padded recliners. During our sailing, we were able to see Summer: The Donna Summer Musical. The show featured a phenomenal cast, including three powerful singers playing the lead character at different stages of her life. Following the second showing of the Musical, the Prima Theatre comes alive as Studio 54 - this space transforms from a theatre to a three-story nightclub, complete with disco balls! Several other venues all feature a variety of live music as well. A guitarist played sets in the Local and Penrose Atrium. In Syd Norman’s Pour House, the house band was a Fleetwood Mac tribute band who were excellent! If you want to attend this show, make sure to arrive early as this venue gets packed. I stayed in a balcony cabin where the décor is modern and sleek with beachy wood tones, a neutral colour palette, and pops of blue. I appreciated the number of power outlets in the cabin. For a bit more luxury….. Why not upgrade to The Haven which is Norwegian Cruise Line´s most premium and spacious accommodation where you will enjoy the personal service of a 24-hour butler and world-class amenities, private dining room, a sundeck with an infinity pool all exclusively reserved for Haven guests. They call it a ‘ship within a ship’ as it feels so private. Norwegian Cruise Lines have five more ships being built (and christened) over the next five years - keep an eye on my Facebook page for more information!
21 December 2022
In May 2022 Virgin Voyages exclusively invited select UK travel agents to sample their brand-new ship in the fleet 'Valiant Lady', sister ship to Scarlet Lady. This was a fantastic opportunity for me to expand my knowledge of this brand and experience exactly what my clients will experience on a Mediterranean sailing. We flew to Barcelona and once we had checked in and been handed our recycled ocean plastic wristbands (this is how you pay for any drinks and services on board), we boarded quickly and our bags were taken to our cabins. We then had chance to look around the ship and meet up with colleagues whilst shouting an obligatory ‘Ahoy’ to all the crew! During our week we looked forward to visiting Marseilles, Cannes, Olbia and overnight in Ibiza before disembarking back in Barcelona. Sail away was in a perfect area of the ship.. The Dock Bar on Deck 7, sipping on complimentary Prosecco listening to chilled tunes, watching the Spanish sunset. Virgin set out to shake up the cruise industry. An adult only cruise line for people that don’t cruise…. No buffets, no dressing up for dinner…their ships are stylishly designed, combining the luxury of a super-yacht with the feel of boutique hotel. Cruise fares are all-inclusive covering all onboard dining, wifi, evening shows and fitness classes. They also include soft drinks otherwise known as ‘basic bevvies’. Sailors can additionally purchase a ‘sailors loot' bar tab which is an alcoholic beverage package. You can also upgrade to a ‘Rock Star’ package which gives you access to VIP areas on the ship including Richard’s Rooftop plus a beverage package in your suite, personal butler, priority boarding and early access to events and restaurant bookings. Once you have booked, I can help you manage your booking through their app. This covers everything from completing the pre-cruise admin to booking the onboard restaurants and shore excursions. Of the 1408 cabins, most are spacious, smart and sexy – cabins on Virgin Voyages’ Valiant Lady certainly have an extravagant flair to make your cruise experience even more memorable. I was allocated a Sea Terrace (Balcony) cabin with a with a full-size bed which can convert into a day settee if you request it. Plenty of storage space and Virgin’s signature red hammock on the balcony. From the Insider cabins all the way to the aptly named Massive Suite, Virgin offers an array of sizes, amenities and extra privileges (63 in the Rockstar Category) to fit every budget. With every cabin including a rain shower, 4K TV, plenty of plugs/usb sockets, hairdryer and minibar, all the basics are covered and more. The clever room also features intuitive mood lighting and a personal tablet so you can tailor your room to your complete preference. There are also 16 accessible balcony cabins onboard, so if you need the extra floor space and bathroom adaptations then you don’t have to miss out on a balcony view. The fabulous dining options really set Virgin Voyages apart from the other cruise lines. There are no main dining rooms, buffets or speciality restaurants with extra charges here. Instead, there are more than 20 eateries covering different cuisines (Italian, Korean, Mexican, Vegetarian, Steak/Seafood) plus an interesting food hall where you can choose from burgers to go, taco, noodles, breakfast, paninis and salads. There is a wonderful Mezze lounge, a pizza place, an ice cream parlour, sun deck with healthy bites and a social club diner. All this is included in your fare. The odd item may incur a small extra charge in one or two restaurants but those are easily avoided. Food is fresh, made to order and the quality is superb with the service outstanding. Entertainment is another area where Virgin does things differently. Instead of the traditional theatre, there is an arena like space called the Red Room that can be configured depending on the show or event. While I was on board there was a dance party and a spectacular acrobatic show called Dual Reality which retold Romeo and Juliet with a modern street dance twist. The final night, the space was turned into a huge nightclub. Valiant Lady’s official nightclub, The Manor, is a two storey, three bar space named after Richard Branson’s first recording studio. I suspect pretty much everyone who has ever been onboard a Virgin Voyages ship gets a social media worthy photo in the mirrored optical illusion ‘infinity room’ entrance to the club. Me included! In a nod to the Virgin brand’s music history, there is also a record store where you can listen to some classic albums plus a tattoo parlour and casino! As there are no formal nights on Virgin Voyages, you don’t have to worry about bringing your best black-tie outfit on this cruise. Instead, wear a splash of red on the infamous Scarlet Night pool party evening and you’ll be good to go! Wellness is a big feature of Virgin Voyages - from gyms to spas to yoga and meditation, however you work out or relax there is something for you. Facilities include a huge indoor gym, a basketball court, exercise spaces on deck, boxing ring, hot tubs and the Redemption Spa (extra charge) with indoor pools, a steam room, thermal zone and a mud room. Group fitness classes are included in your fare. The running track hangs over the ship like a bright red halo where 6 laps is equal to a mile. Shore stops were lengthy – you can either pre-book an excursion of just go with the flow…. jump on the tender or walk off the ship and go and investigate! Just ensure you know what time you need to be back on board. We had an overnight in Ibiza so this gave us a full day to wander around the town, have lunch, dinner and dancing and not be back until the early hours! The crew members were fantastic, very individual characters and friendly - always happy to help with any questions or have a chat. Wifi was included but was a bit hit and miss and the Virgin App needs a little more tweaking to be able to work perfectly. All in all, this is a fantastic option for a cruise with a difference. Caribbean sailings out of Miami are selling like hot cakes with the Americans being first in line. Virgin Voyages will be launching Resilient Lady in 2023 – she will sail the Greek Islands in summer and then Caribbean and Australia in winter. Please get in touch if you would like to book one of these fantastic itineraries!
21 December 2022
After an exhausting 2021 and moving into Post-Covid January 2022 in the UK, we decided to jet off to Mexico for a week’s sunshine to start 2022 in style! Myself, husband and son (18) flew from Manchester to Cancun on TUI’s direct service (the only one from the north) and I upgraded us to Premium on the Dreamliner. The cabin was spacious, food and drink plentiful and service fabulous. After the 11-hour flight, our private transfer whisked us down the coast to Riviera Maya (about 90 minutes) and onto the 5* Hard Rock Hotel which is located between Playa del Carmen and Tulum and built around impeccably kept gardens and grounds. The all-inclusive resort is almost two hotels in one…..a family side ‘Hacienda’ and an adult only side ‘Heaven’. As this was a work connected trip, we were allocated a Deluxe Gold Room in Hacienda with 2 double beds and plenty of space for the 3 of us. The room had a spa tub, balcony with hammock, mini bar, bathrobes & slippers and a lovely garden view. There are many different room categories to choose from, like special ones for families equipped with games and even a special mini-bar for kids. For instance, the Rock Royalty Deluxe offers a personal assistant (butler), and the room price includes complimentary services like couples’ massage, shoeshine, and more… This vast resort has a restaurant for every day. The main buffet restaurant on each side has plenty of choice but for an a la carte dinner or breakfast option, you just need to pre-book once you arrive and all are included. There is literally a restaurant from every country…. Brazilian, French, Italian, Japanese, Argentinian, Thai and of course Mexican. Everything we tried was super fresh and tasty, the service was great and we felt like we had so much choice! We spent most of our days over at the adult section, preferring the quieter, calmer pools, swim up bars, lagoon and man-made beach – but you had a choice on both sides of live music throughout the day (of course – it’s a Hard Rock Hotel!) and live DJ. Plus, there was the added advantage of the on-site Rockaway Bay Water Park where a family could literally spend the full day with plenty of slides ranging from small slides in the water splash park to high speed adult/teen slides. There is a poolside snack bar also available and entry of course is free. If the kids still want entertaining, there is the Hard Rock Roxity Kids Club – all sorts of exciting and fun games to keep 4-12 year olds happy. Not to be forgotten, there is a Teen Lounge with Xbox, Arcade Games, pool table etc. There is also the fabulously cool Rock Shop, Rock Spa and local golf course for the adults too! Both lobbies of each resort are of course amazingly decorated with musical instruments and personal belongings of famous rock, pop and rap artists. The evenings had entertainment in either Heaven Lobby or Club Heaven – a fantastic adult only area where the nightclub bar is designed around the pool itself, which is anchored by a DJ booth, flanked by two hot tubs and surrounded by cabana style seating pods. Lots of young adults from all nationalities loved this (including our son!) and are encouraged to wear their swimmers in the club! Over on the family side, there was always some live evening entertainment going on in the Hacienda Lobby and the Sports Bar. At certain times of the year they have huge outdoor concerts, you can also get married in the cute chapel by the beach and dance the night away in the event centre. Did I mention that you can also get an electric guitar delivered to your room? During our week, we booked an evening at Coco Bongo’s in Playa del Carmen – an adult only non-stop Vegas style show and not to be missed! Definitely recommend upgrading to the Gold VIP ticket which gives you priority entry, served drinks all night and seating as well as a snack meal! We also booked a day trip to Tulum where we explored the history of the ancient Mayan civilization with a visit to the archaeological site of Tulum and learnt more about the former city and its landmark monuments from our guide. Followed by a local lunch and a refresh at a beautiful outdoor and indoor cenote where you can swim in the natural sinkholes and caves. Another interesting day trip you can pre-book is the Xcaret ecological park and Xplore Adventure site with its zip lines, buggy trails and underground rivers. It’s apparently an adrenalin filled day! There is wi-fi access everywhere around the resort, the service is superb (tip well and the waiter will remember you and as soon as you glass is empty it has been refilled!). I would say the Hard Rock Hotel is a great branded hotel with an extra touch involving music, but music in general, not just one genre. Although the music theme and music itself is present everywhere, I never felt that it was disturbing or overwhelming and there was always a quiet place to retreat to in the hotel grounds. The best weather is between December and March and the temperature was around 25 degrees for us in January. May to October is generally regarded as the rainy season but temperatures can be in the thirties. If you would like any more information or want to Rock out on your next holiday – please get in touch!
05 November 2021
October is perhaps not the best time to visit Greece as the weather can be unpredictable…but numbers are lower so the island is not quite so busy - however this was a work/leisure trip and so dates were already planned. Flying from Manchester I was glad we had sorted all our paperwork. Some passengers were being turned away from airport check in due to not having completed their Greek PLF forms. I had everything printed (TIP) don’t rely on Tech! the NHS App had been going down too.. so again people had to get a Covid Test before being allowed to board. I always advise my customers to print documents out. It was a good flight and we landed in the evening at Corfu Airport. The hotel we were staying for the first 3 nights was the Labranda Sandy Beach in Agios Georgios. Just 20 miles south of the airport (about 45 minutes), it is a huge 4* family all-inclusive resort. We were welcomed with drinks and a sandwich (it was 11pm) and shown to our room. The resort has many family rooms and are currently undergoing room refurbishment so the new 2-bedroom family suites are beautifully decorated with plenty of space. There is one main buffet restaurant which adheres to safety protocols very well (gloves and masks) plus an Italian and a Greek which need reservations. The pools are large with plenty of sun loungers and you can walk straight out to the beach where there is an abundance of water sports on offer and a couple of beach bars along the coast. On site they have their own mini waterpark with 4 slides which is a massive hit with children! The Wellness Spa is an added bonus to the hotel for the adults too. We then moved over to the sister property the Kairaba Sandy Villas for 2 nights. This is a 5* adult only, all-suite, all-inclusive offering. A beautiful layout offers pool view rooms, swim up suites and some with private pools. The main restaurant is beautiful, very Versace in style and the service was not rushed, effortless and discerning. It was buffet style but superb with show cooking on offer. You can also dine in the Labranda speciality restaurants too as part of your package. There is a lobby bar and pool bar – the pool is a great size and has cabana style beds around one side. There is a car hire area in the Labranda so getting wheels for our stay was an easy process. Unfortunately, after 3 gloriously sunny days with temperatures in the twenties, the weather took a turn for the worse and the rain greeted us, so away we went in the car for the short 45 minute drive up to Corfu Town. We had a lovely wander around the Fortress area and had a coffee in one of the quaint cafes, after a look around the narrow streets with bustling shops selling local goods. We took a different road back and it was incredible to find some beautiful houses up in the hills! The roads are not like the UK.. narrow, crumbling, no road markings.. so we did have to be careful especially with so much rain. I used my google maps for directions which was a godsend! We also visited a beautiful little resort called Liapades with the most stunning small coved beach - well worth a drive out. Our final stay saw us move to Messonghi to the fabulous, brand new 5* Olivar Suites. Set on 200m of sandy beach, the sprawling low rise resort was once an 18th century olive mill and now offers an all- suite experience, oozing with character. It is not adult only, but I would say more adult focused. The majority of the suites have their own small pool and offer compete privacy. We stayed in an Ionian Suite which faced the sea on the ground floor level with private pool. Fabulous modern interior with a separate lounge (sliding doors) and bathroom with free standing tub. Your own cabana awaits you on the beach if you book into one of these rooms. Literally right outside the hotel are buzzing local tavernas and bars – a particularly special restaurant on the beach I highly recommend ‘Bacchus’ which has been owned and run by the same family for years. Having said that, the hotel’s own restaurant ‘Flya’ serves a very high-end evening meal and definitely an experience to try. We thoroughly enjoyed getting to know Corfu – it was a shame the weather wasn’t on our side, but we found plenty of places to visit. Parking was free, there was wi-fi everywhere and the Greeks are so friendly. They have really had it tough during Covid and are relying on us to bring back their tourist trade so that they can continue to prosper in the future. Contact me to book your Greek getaway today!
05 November 2021
During the summer of 2021, with many ships still restricted as to where they could sail, numerous cruise lines offered 3 & 4 night taster sailings around the British Isles to the UK market. Having never sailed with Disney Cruise Line before, it is one I really wanted to research and in particular the adult only side of the ship. If you are sailing out of Newcastle and want to ensure early arrival, I highly recommend staying in Whitley Bay which is only half an hour from the port and having a pre-cruise meal and drink in the fabulous Spanish City! Following our strict pre-testing prior to boarding Disney Magic, we were welcomed aboard the beautiful Art Deco styled ship by a song and dance from Mickey and Minnie. Designed with families in mind, our Deluxe Family Oceanview Stateroom with Balcony was very spacious for 3 adults but can sleep up to 5 people. It had a large queen bed, single sleeper sofa and wall or upper berth pull down bed too. This area could be separated by a curtain. A decent size balcony with table and 2 small chairs, i-pod docking station, ample wardrobe space, safe, hairdryer, premium towels and bathroom products. There was actually a small bath with shower over which is unusual in cruise staterooms, along with separate WC. Plug sockets are US but there are USB ports. We disembarked from Newcastle on time and the weather was incredible! The dining experience on board is amazing – the 3 main restaurants; Lumiere’s, Rapunzel and Animator’s Palate, are all themed and the food is fabulous. Your waiter is assigned to you from the off so gets to know your personal preferences whichever restaurant you are allocated to. We chose to dine a bit later, as most families would have eaten and be at a show by then, making the restaurants a little quieter. The ‘Disney Dreams’ main theatre show is very professional and Broadway standard. No reservation required and they repeat this 3 times a day. Character meets can be pre-booked, however the Mickey ‘team’ plus Marvel and Toy Story characters can be seen by chance around the ship. So, for the adult only areas… there is a separate pool with hot tubs, bar and coffee lounge on Deck 9 to enjoy the sunshine as well as areas on Deck 3 for drinks tastings and evening entertainment. There is also the spa, gym and adult only restaurant ‘Palo’. Via the DCL app, we pre-booked a mixology class, wine tasting and took part in the evening quiz show in the adult only nightclub. The app is a great way to find out what’s going on each day and restaurant / bar opening times, character meets and most importantly (TIP) the ‘drink of the day’ which is amazing value! Food and soft drinks are included on the cruise but you do have to pay for alcohol. You can also sit on the pool deck watching some iconic Disney films on the big screen! They show movies here after dinner too, so you can snuggle up under a blanket with a hot chocolate for a ‘Movies under the Stars’ evening! The ‘water park’ is fabulous and I can imagine how wonderful for children when you are sailing in the Caribbean. There are 2 slides – a relaxing kid-friendly waterslide and a thrilling body slide that extends over the side of the ship! Plus, a pool with a ‘beach’ area with geysers spraying jets of water and a splash zone for the younger ones. As with most ships, it operates a cashless system and you can charge drinks or gifts to your stateroom card. The prices are in dollars just to be aware. Normal sailings on Disney’s 4 ships have now resumed in the Bahamas, Mexico and the Caribbean and you can visit Disney’s own Castaway Cay with itineraries on sale now up to 2023! Why not twin a stay in Orlando with a Disney cruise? Contact me to arrange your next magical family Disney experience!
05 November 2021
I always wondered what the Channel Islands would be like…will it feel like I’m abroad or still in the UK? So, we set out during the midst of Covid in July 2021 to find out! At the time of travel, we were double vaccinated so just needed to complete the entry PLF into Jersey, have a Covid test upon arrival and nothing on return as Jersey is part of the UK Common Travel Area. The flight from Leeds was about an hour and the check in was very quiet. Once we arrived, it took around 40 minutes for us to get our bags and clear security after we had been given our free PCR test in very organised surroundings. We were advised by text around 12 hours later that we were negative and could travel around Jersey freely. The weather was amazing when we arrived, in the late 20’s and yes, I did feel like we were properly overseas!! The island is just 9 x 5 miles, has 12 parishes with 13 police forces. Average speed limit is 20mph - even though I have never seen so many supercars in one place! I found St Helier to be a bustling continental town, filled with cafes with outdoor seating, designer shops, amazing restaurants and narrow streets. We were staying just outside the capital where we found some super beach food shacks and local bars. In our hire car, we travelled up the west coast of Jersey along the 5-mile road and found the most fabulous beaches. At low tide, the water is so far out you can see an almost lunar landscape and when it’s high tide (sometimes 11m!) everything is covered completely! A visit to the Military Museum in St Ouen was quite enlightening learning more about the history of the German occupation, castles and forts. We took a short drive to the stunning Corbiere lighthouse where we walked across the causeway paying attention to the notice regarding tide times! I also wanted to have a quick look at my 2 ‘go to’ hotels in Jersey, the Golden Sands and L'Horizon Beach Hotel & Spa at Brelade’s Bay where we have direct contract prices. It’s a gorgeous beach resort, with a flat promenade, buzzing with bars and restaurants - felt almost normal! We always like an adventure, so on our final day, I had booked an exciting seafari trip around the north coast on a rib. Riding the waves, we stopped at various bays and caves, enjoying a running commentary from our knowledgeable guide about the history and geography of the area. This was followed by ice cream at the Jersey Lido and our final night dinner at The Quayside in St Helier. It’s easy to navigate Jersey by car and absolutely recommended. You’ll find stunning beaches, bays and coves around every corner - although be careful of the very narrow winding roads in the north! You can get around the island and see plenty in a couple of days. From beach shacks to Michelin starred restaurants, touristy resorts to quaint villages…. there’s definitely something here for everyone!
28 April 2020
It is safe to say that Virgin Voyages very first ship, Scarlet Lady lived up to the anticipated hype! I was invited to the UK launch in Liverpool to view this amazing and innovative adult only cruise ship.. the first in Sir Richard Branson’s fleet, with Valiant Lady to launch soon. Scarlet Lady will sail out of Miami to the Caribbean. She will have itineraries starting from 4 nights, so a great way to twin with a Miami or Fort Lauderdale city break. From 2021, Valiant Lady will offer Mediterranean sailings – more accessible to the UK market. Adult only, gratuities included with 20+ eateries, an amazing spa and gym, guest DJ’s and a cool nightclub. This ship will appeal to the younger party going crowd - she has a cool, funky vibe with rockstar service and if you can afford it.... Rockstar Suites! I loved the atmosphere on board. Easy going, with some fabulous restaurants where you can have waiter service fine dine or just grab and go with vegetarian and vegan options. Sunrise yoga, a bout in the boxing ring or take your morning jog around the upper deck track then chill out in Richard’s Rooftop bar. I stayed in a Sea Terrace Cabin. The Cabins are functional, if a little basic. As you walk in you will see the room seems to be missing something important – a bed! In typical Virgin innovative fashion, they have designed the cabins to be convertible. In the daytime, there is a large sofa area. Magically, when you return to your cabin at night you find it transformed into a bed, which was very comfortable and a good size for a cruise ship. The décor felt a bit ‘Ikea’ in the colour scheme and furniture and there is an open wardrobe with floor-to ceiling cube shelves too. Not a great deal of storage, but plenty for the 4 and 5 night itineraries – actually, as there is no real dress code – no posh frocks or tuxedos needed to be hung up! The higher grade Rock Star suites were huge, some with music rooms and marbled bathrooms. Some of the balconies were massive - the largest I've seen at sea and also come with a private hot tub. Where Virgin Voyages have really excelled at is the public rooms and restaurants on Scarlet Lady. All the food I tried was excellent and worthy of a six-star ship, with inventive menus too. The multitude of bars were all more the type of thing you would see in a smart city location than the sprawling cruise ship lounges you usually see. I loved the unusual entertainment, drag queens, and pop-up “happenings” around the ship. Interestingly, the Crew (First Mates) have all been hand-picked, so were all individual and quirky in their own way – think tattoos, hair colouring and piercings – great personalities and they were all genuinely friendly – from over 60 nationalities. In fact there is also the first-ever tattoo studio at sea which offers a selection of exclusive tattoo designs created specifically for Virgin Voyages.. as well as piercings and permanent makeup. The Virgin philosophy of bringing your personality on board was very much in evidence! The Manor Nightclub with its fabulous mirrored entrance, is a two-story, three bar space which was named after Richard’s first recording studio. The night club has fun laser and special effects lights. Virgin aspire to have the best nightclub at sea and from what I saw they are doing a great job! They have a number of very well-known DJs that will be doing sets on board on certain voyages such as Mark Ronsen and Diplo. There is a main pool plus a smaller jacuzzi pool and a super spa in the theme of an underwater cave, with hydrotherapy pool, mud room, salt room, plunge pools, quartz beds and spa treatments. This ship is not for everyone and I'm sure Virgin Voyages make no apologies about that. It will be a divisive product aimed at a new-to-cruise market that always thought cruise was boring and stuffy. Virgin have clearly listened to what people dislike about cruising and tried to do things differently. No buffets or formal dining, a more relaxed less mass-market atmosphere without the stuffiness of the ultra high-end ships. Perfect for young at heart couples, singles and friends who enjoy the south beach lifestyle with fitness and healthy food options thrown in, but who also enjoy good food and a party lifestyle in the evening. I really enjoyed my time on board and will definitely consider a Virgin Voyages cruise in the future after this little taster - please get in touch if you feel this style of cruising will float your boat too!
01 May 2020
Thailand is such a best seller for me, that I needed to see some hotels and resorts for myself to glean more information to pass onto my customers. We flew via Doha with Qatar – super airline, great food and crew. Upon arrival at chaotic Suvarnabhumi Airport in Bangkok, we were met by our local representatives who whisked us by buggy straight from our gate to the luggage collection and then onward to our hotel in an air-conditioned minivan with massage seats in the front! A god send when you arrive on a full-to- capacity flight and have to negotiate the vastness of this airport. Our home for one night was the luxurious 5* Siam Hotel. Frequented by the likes of David Beckham and Sam Smith, this wonderful property sits on the banks of the Chaopraya River and offers a free shuttle boat to the piers of central Bangkok. The hotel is filled with exquisite art and antiques and set amidst 3 acres of peaceful and lush gardens – it really is an urban haven of tranquility! All of the rooms in the hotel are suites and they also have Villas with private pools within the grounds. The hotel’s own riverboat took us into Bangkok for the afternoon, but it was lovely to sail home to escape the hustle and bustle of the city. We ate in the Deco Bistro for late lunch and dined al fresco in the evening to taste traditional home-cooked Thai cuisine prepared by award winning chefs. Here, I delighted in the snow fish red curry which was a taste sensation! You can also arrange to partake in a Thai cooking class, immortalise your stay with a famous Sak Yant tattoo or arrange a sunset cruise… we chose to spend the morning in the gym, with a lesson on Muay Thai Boxing – what an experience! Day 2 saw us back at the airport for our second flight onward to the beautiful island of Koh Samui. I was quite entranced by the most amazing, quaint little airport I have ever seen – one which I will never forget! Our hosts took us the short journey through lush countryside, past Fisherman’s Village in Bophut onto the beautiful 5* Santiburi Hotel. Elegant and refined, this resort is beachfront and set in 23 acres of tropical greenery. With a huge centrepiece swimming pool and 5 restaurants this was really a special place to stay. Various accommodation facilities here, from main hotel suites to Beachfront or Garden Villas with private pools and then the spectacular area known as The Reserve which is where I stayed. Contemporary living with bright indoor spaces and floor to ceiling windows opening directly onto your private garden and pool (floating breakfast optional!). Complete luxury and privacy. Dinner at the Beach House was superb and I was very much looking forward to waking up in Paradise. In the morning, after a hotel show round, a 60-minute full body aromatherapy massage had been arranged in the Spa. We then had some free time to explore the hustle and bustle of the local shops outside the resort and also Fisherman’s Village, where we watched an amazing fire show at Coco Tam’s from bean bags on Bophut Beach. The following morning, the hotel had arranged a Thai Cooking Class for us. We started by meeting the Head Chef, Adrian who walked us through his pride and joy culinary garden. This was amazing to see and understand how the hotel is as self sufficient as possible. Chef proceeded to let us loose in the outside kitchen by the beach which was a sublime setting. Once we had mastered our Pad Thai, Som Tam and Tom Kha Gai – we then sat down with some fine wine and ate alongside the Chef. Another memorable experience! Sadly, we bid farewell to Santiburi.. back to my favourite ever airport for the short prop hop to the island of Phuket. I was quite surprised at the amount of cars, people and mopeds we encountered on our 1.5 hour private transfer to Kata Beach. We took the coastal route however which was quite stunning on one side, driving past Surin Beach, Patong Beach and Karon down toward our hotel for the next 2 nights – the 5* Kata Rocks. I have never seen a place quite like this – iconically built into the rocks, modern, funky, very instagrammable… the 34 beautifully appointed rooms are known as Villas. 1 to 4-bedroomed with full kitchens, lounges, private infinity pools and incredible views over the Andaman Sea. Along with innovative gourmet dining and an award winning Spa, this hotel is a definite ‘bucket list’ stay. As it is so steep, a buggy will take you from Reception up to your Villa and bring you down to the restaurant for breakfast and dinner. They will also take you down to the bottom of the hill to Kata town, leave you with a mobile phone which you call for a pickup back to the hotel. There are 2 main dining areas along with poolside dining by the resort’s main infinity pool, or you can arrange an alfresco dining experience Tapas on The Rocks at sunset! Once again, our hosts had arranged for spa treatments which were incredible, followed by a Cocktail Making class! Fun and creative, we learnt how to shake Bloody Mary’s and mix Kata’s secret Signature Gin cocktail by their on-site mixologists. This was followed by happy hour and dinner in the Clubhouse. The accommodation here is almost self-catering so is sold on a room only basis, giving you the flexibility to dine in or out. Breakfast by the pool was incredible, the Eggs Benedict with Tom Yum sauce to die for. If you are staying elsewhere in Kata, I would recommend pre-booking a Day Pass to Kata Rocks just to experience this amazing venue! So, a fleeting visit but very educational for me. Thailand was as beautiful as I expected, the people lovely and the hotels I visited outstanding. The weather is variable dependent upon where you are visiting but peak time tends to be between November and April. Food and drink is reasonable. You can consider a twin centre holiday with Bangkok and Hua Hin (land transfer) or perhaps a triple centre as I did. Whatever your plans are, please get in touch today – I would love to guide you through all the options available.. NAMASTE!
09 April 2020
The Garden Route was always on my bucket list…so I was very excited to book my family holiday in 2019 to South Africa. We flew from Newcastle to Cape Town via Dubai. Good connections meant only a couple of hours layover and a chance to stretch our legs in between flights. 7 hours to Dubai then 9 hours to Cape Town. Our home for 3 nights in Cape Town was the Southern Sun Waterfront – a 4* modern hotel with a lovely bar, pool, 2 restaurants and within walking distance to the V&A Waterfront. They do offer a regular free shuttle service which we used each day finishing at 11pm. We used the hop on hop off city bus service – this is a great way to get around. We used it to get to Table Mountain (tickets were included and definitely recommended to book in advance); expect queues during high season. We also took the bus down to Camps Bay too. I booked a full day to visit Stellenbosch and Franschoek including 3 wine tastings – highlight being the running of the ducks at one of the vineyards! On Day 3, we collected our car which had GPS so the city was easily negotiated – plus you drive on the right-hand side so no difficulty there! First stop, Betty’s Bay (less commercialised than Boulders Beach), a natural penguin habitat. Then a stunning drive down to Hermanus where we spent 2 nights self-catering at the Windsor Hotel, a fabulous cliffside location. We enjoyed the many restaurants (Char’d and Bientang’s Cave are highly recommended) and dolphin and whale spotting here! Being close to Gansbaai, I booked a great white shark diving experience with Marine Dynamics – these are the experts and we had an incredible up close and personal cage dive! Continuing along the N2, after a 4 hour drive along the most spectacular scenery, we arrived at Wilderness, a lovely seaside town. Just a quick overnight here, before driving towards Plettenberg Bay. We had a Skydive on the agenda, but unfortunately this was cancelled due to high winds. So we stopped at Bloukrans Bridge which is the highest bungee jump in the world. An incredible sight and you can have a cup of tea whilst watching from the bridge! Our next 2 nights were at the very special Hog Hollow – a beautiful and peaceful lodge hotel, set overlooking the Tsitsikamma Mountains with breath-taking views. As our son is 16, we had booked 2 adjacent lodges. Welcome glass of bubbles, canapes before group dinner, our rooms had tea/coffee, biscuits and popcorn and NO TV... FABULOUS! To end the night, they leave a bedtime story book on your pillow and the following morning after a scrummy hot breakfast you wake to find your car has been cleaned! Here, we also visited the Elephant Sanctuary at The Crags. I wanted to see for myself what this interactive experience offered and if it was ethical to sell on to my customers. I was not disappointed, the elephants are all orphaned or rescue, their dedicated handlers were so happy and enthusiastic to show us around their night shelter and forest area. We had a ‘hand in trunk’ walk and were able to feed these gentle giants and learn about the anatomy, touching their huge feet and bristly tails. We ended our African adventure with 3 nights at the 5* Pumba Private Game Reserve. Just a 3.5-hour drive from Hog Hollow, we wanted to arrive for the 430 game drive. After an unusual drive down a dirt track for a few miles, we left our car for the duration at the main entrance, were welcomed with a drink and taken by jeep to our lodge. Pumba is one of the most highly rated safari destinations in the world, let alone in South Africa and we could see why. I had booked the family chalet, Bush Lodge side, which consisted of a private entrance hall leading off to 2 separate rooms, both with glass enclosed lounge area, huge bed, roll top bath, shower (inside and out!) with a huge wrap around balcony with plunge pool overlooking the spectacular savannah. Perfect. This is an all-inclusive resort and both rooms had fully stocked bars, with beers, wine, chocolate and treats. The Bush Lodge here has 11 luxurious chalets and the Water Lodge has 12. Both lodges each have their own restaurant, bar and lounge. Our game drives were at 0630 and 1630 each day. On the morning drive we had a mid-safari stop for hot chocolate, tea or coffee (with a dash of Amarula!) with flapjack and melon. In the evening, we stopped for G&T, wine or beer with wraps and biltong. One of the good things about Pumba was that the ranger who takes you out on each game drive is the same throughout, so you get to know each other well and crucially they know what animals you have seen and have yet to see. The jeeps are sparsely occupied so everyone has a fantastic view and these guys are experts in tracking and tracing the countless animals in such a huge open expanse. Our ranger Denise was super interesting and full of information. Highlight was seeing the beautiful and rare white lions, a herd of elephants up close and a baby hippo just weeks old! In between game drives, you can indulge in the Spa and also take part in Archery, Bird tracking, Fishing and Star Gazing which are included. Breakfast is served on the game viewing deck and then a 3-course fine dining meal is served in the main restaurant, before you retire to the fire-pit under the stars to relive your exciting adventures. A sad farewell on our final day, we drove 90 minutes to Port Elizabeth airport, a short connection to Jo’burg, then onward to Dubai and back to Newcastle. With only 2 hours time difference there is no jet lag even though it is a long flight. The South African roads are easy to navigate, wifi was everywhere and a lot of hotels also have English plug sockets. The people are friendly, however always observe safety rules – do not wander around the city at night (use Uber), keep valuables close, don’t drive the N2 at night (due to wildlife wandering!) and please tip where you can. It is a very poor country and you will see miles of shanty towns along the way. Overall, it is one of the best holidays we have ever had, the landscape is absolutely stunning, the food and drink incredibly cheap. The best time to visit for decent weather is from November to April. We encountered dassie, penguins, lizards, baboons (on the road!) and on safari there were the famous white lions, cheetah, hippo, rhino (with baby), vervet monkeys, giraffe, elephants, wildebeest and warthog to name a few. Please get in touch if this amazing destination is on your bucket list!
28 April 2020
The only touristy Canary I had not yet visited… I just needed a break! So, I hopped on a flight from Leeds Bradford with my 15 year old son and 4 hours later landed on the sunshine island of Lanzarote. It is one of the most northern islands, just 140km west of Africa but belongs to Spain. The main tourist hotspots are Costa Teguise, Playa Blanca, Puerto del Carmen and Puerto Calero. I decided for my week of R&R to choose Playa Blanca, more specifically we stayed at the 4*+ Sandos Papagayo. Just a short transfer from Arrecife Airport, this all-inclusive family hotel has wonderful and modern sea or pool facing rooms and is just 2km from Marina Rubicon and 3km from Playa Blanca centre. The hotel offers a daily complimentary bus into the resort, 4 times a day which we did make use of. There's plenty to do at this hotel, my son enjoyed the daily water polo and pool games – he also had a free snorkelling lesson in the pool too! For younger children there is a kids club (4-12 years), kids pool and playground. Evening entertainment was varied, professional and held in the outdoor theatre. It is a large hotel with almost 500 rooms, but has 4 pools (1 adult only), 7 bars and 5 restaurants including a 24 hour pool snack grill, main buffet restaurant, Mexican and an Italian which are both pre-bookable and are included in your all inclusive package. Free wi-fi, lovely, clean grounds and a super chill out terrace with amazing views! You can also upgrade to the Royal Elite Club – which I would highly recommend. This gives you a nightly turn down service with goodnight chocolate, mini-bar with cava, bottled water and soft drinks. Pool towels in the room and toiletries basket. Breakfast and dinner in a private area. Also included is access to the exclusive Royal Elite Lounge (adult only and family sections) equipped with comfortable sofas, free internet corner, daily press, tea, coffee, refreshments, snacks and drinks including a variety of premium branded drinks. Private chill out terrace with stunning views over the ocean. The location was ideal for us – one day we walked along the stunning coastal path for 20 minutes to the Marina Rubicon. The market day here is every Wednesday and Saturday from 9am until 2pm. We found some unique little stalls selling local jewellery, crafts and homemade goods set to a beautiful harbour backdrop. Before walking home, we stopped at one of the local harbour front bars for a cold cerveza and some tapas in the sunshine! Another day, we took the hotel shuttle bus to Playa Blanca itself and had a wander around the front, with its designer stores and lovely bars and cafes along the promenade. Overall, for a relaxing week in the sun this hotel is a good solid option. The food is fresh and plentiful, staff are happy and helpful and it was just what the doctor ordered. Please get in touch if you are in need of a quick sunshine break too!
30 December 2018
A cheeky pre-Christmas visit to New York was in order so we flew from Manchester via Dublin to Newark which is a great way to clear US Immigration, saving time at the other end. Ireland is the only country outside of the USA to do this. So, with our valid ESTA’s in place, once we landed, we were literally off the plane and into our taxi in no time. You can use public transport, but a taxi is around $80 fixed fee into the city (including tolls) and much easier with luggage. We checked into the Crowne Plaza HY36 W36th Street – a lovely new hotel, good location in Midtown around the corner from Penn Station and Madison Square Garden. It’s a good idea to head straight out on the first afternoon to maximise your time so we had a quick look at the Moxy Hotel Rooftop Bar before making our way through bustling Times Square to Grand Central Station which is an amazing building to see inside. We had a lovely glass of wine and an Espresso Martini at Cipriani in the station, (people watching!), before we wandered around to the Rockefeller Centre. The fabulous tree and Christmas decorations were all twinkling and the ice skaters make this a really magical time of year. I recommend pre-booking your tickets with me to the ‘Top of the Rock’ as it is a very popular landmark. The views were incredible, and it was such a clear night with temperatures of around 3-4 degrees. Amazing! The next morning, we popped into the Wyndham New Yorker – a popular Art Deco styled hotel I sell a lot because of its great location and reviews. Following this we had a meeting at The Refinery – an elegant, boutique 5* hotel, close to Bryant Park which boasts an amazing roof top bar and restaurant with stunning views of the Empire State Building. Beautiful entrance with the most amazing scents, a fabulously chic lobby bar/jazz lounge plus an English style pub/brasserie. A beautiful hotel option. We needed to walk off our super lunch, so we headed for the Highline, an elevated 2-mile long disused railway track running parallel to the Hudson. It is still under re-generation but a great way to spend some time seeing the city from a different angle. We ended up at the funky Standard Highline Hotel, overlooking the river with amazing floor to ceiling windows in each room and its own brewery along with two rooftop bars. In this area, you will also find the HQ’s of Google, Samsung, Apple plus Chelsea Market with its many quirky and individual shops. Day 3 beckoned, and we were walking 20k plus steps by now each day. Using the Subway which was easy and cheap, we wanted to check out Katz Deli famed for the movie ‘When Harry met Sally’. We just wanted a light breakfast but of course, in America, portion size is huge! The area of The Bowery was famous in the 70’s for the age of Punk and New Wave. I wanted to go and see the original CBGB’s nightclub where Blondie first started out. It is now a menswear store but fascinating to see the original walls and all the mementos from that era. We then took the subway under the Brooklyn Bridge, so we could walk back over it, not before stopping to take a look at the restored 1920’s Jane’s Carousel which sits at the foot of the bridge and was a gift given to the city by David and Jane Walentas. We walked back over the Bridge, stopping to view Liberty and then onward toward 9/11. The memorial is vast and strangely atmospheric. If you want to visit the museum, then definitely pre-book your tickets as the queue was incredible. Following this we walked up to Battery Park and made our way to the East Village as we had booked a Craft & Cocktail Tour with Urban Adventures. This was a fascinating 2.5-hour walking tour and our guide was full of speakeasies and gangster stories as we visited several bars and learned how prohibition shaped New York. Our final day and we had to get some shopping in! Just around the corner from Bloomingdales we were recommended to try the quaintest café called Serendipity. The mammoth queues on a Sunday morning confirmed its popularity. Here, they are famous for their frozen hot chocolate and desserts. TIP: Pop in and reserve a table, then go shopping when you will be ready for a sit down! Our taxi from Manhattan back to JFK was $60 or a shared shuttle is $45. We found the JFK Clubhouse Lounge here excellent with waiter service and superb food and drink. Overall, I found New York to be exciting, vibrant, bustling and everything I expected. Drinks can be expensive, depending where you are, but look out for Happy Hours. There’s food on every corner of course but if you don’t want fancy then there is always a Five Guys! Please contact me if you want some first-hand advice and where to stay and what to do in the Big Apple.
24 June 2018
I have been to Florida several times, but never to the south west so I was really looking forward to this educational trip with Travel Counsellors. Brushing up on my product and destination knowledge, meeting suppliers, visiting hotels and experiencing some of the sightseeing excursions the famous sunshine state has to offer! We flew indirect with Delta via Atlanta and I was impressed with the Delta aircraft, seating, service and food. After a 2-hour layover, we boarded for Fort Lauderdale which was another two-hour flight. Our base for three nights was the Hotel Morrison at Dania Beach which is a well-located hotel for the airport. Huge bedrooms, a small quiet pool, good bar and self-serve breakfast. From here we could venture out and investigate the area including a fabulous Segway tour of Fort Lauderdale (well recommended), an Everglades airboat ride at Sawgrass Recreation Park (very interesting and exciting), and a tour of Bonnet House Museum, Flamingo Gardens and Sawgrass Mills Mall. We had a site inspection and a fabulous lunch in the waterfront Bistro Restaurant of the super 4* Sonesta Hotel which is situated on Fort Lauderdale Beach with all rooms facing the ocean. Followed by a tour of Pier 66 Hotel & Marina with its fabulous tower, grill and leisure options. Our group had a little downtime one evening in Las Olas which is known as shoppers’ paradise and I think higher end than Miami. Lots of beautiful restaurants, bars and a great nightlife. Following our city base, we then moved across the state to Fort Myers which is just a three-hour drive from Lauderdale. Our base for the next two nights was the Pink Shell Beach Resort & Marina. Located directly on a beautiful white sand beach with paddle boarding, kayaking and other water-sports available, this 4* hotel offers studios, one and two-bedroomed apartments with beach views and three restaurants. A perfect family getaway! We had lunch at the Pinchers Crab Shack in Fort Myers, followed by a tour of the Edison & Ford Winter Estate which is a ‘must see’ attraction in south west Florida. Walking around the inventors 1886 14-acre riverfront estate, laboratory and experimental gardens including the winter home of Henry Ford, with its display of Ford vehicles, was a treat. Day five of our trip started off with breakfast on Sanibel Island at the Island Cow restaurant followed by a site inspection of the magnificent South Seas Island Resort on Captiva with its 13 pools, six restaurants, marina, spa and golf course. Most accommodations are self-catering, so you can make the most of the resort and area, which is surrounded by a 330-acre wildlife preserve where dolphins and manatees are regular guests. There’s also lots of activities to keep you busy including kayaking, sailing, boating, bicycling, golf, and tennis. We then boarded the Lady Chadwick and cruised the Gulf up to Cabbage Key Island to enjoy a ‘Cheeseburger in Paradise’ at the island’s only restaurant. The highlight of the day was seeing manatees and dolphin - the dolphins love playing and jumping in the wake of the boat! It was awesome to see them so close to us! Another site inspection of the 4* Sundial Beach Resort & Spa with its fully equipped condominium accommodations and panoramic views of the Gulf of Mexico. A quick inspection of the Outrigger Beach Resort which is a mid-range, comfortable hotel located right on the most amazing beach in Fort Myers ended the day then a fantastic dinner at the Fresh Catch Bistro. Flying home direct with Virgin Atlantic in Premium Economy enabled us to get some sleep on the overnight flight with extra leg room and reclining seats. This was a whirlwind tour of Florida’s south east and south west coasts and we packed a lot into five days. The service everywhere was friendly and efficient, and Wi-Fi was readily available. The weather was very humid (almost the 40’s) and the rainy season is normally June to October. Sanibel and Captiva Islands are just a four-hour transfer from Orlando and can easily be combined to make a perfect twin centre Disney/Beach holiday. Please give me a call if you are thinking of planning your next holiday to Florida and hopefully I can give you some valuable guidance on the best areas to visit!
09 April 2018
One of my bucket list trips was finally achieved in March 2018. I have always wanted to road trip from San Francisco along the Pacific Coast Highway, so we set off on a cold March morning for Heathrow. The train is easy from York to London KX then the underground is around 50 minutes straight into Heathrow. We stayed at the Novotel the night prior and used the Hoppa shuttle in the morning which was quite painless. Our 10.5-hour flight with Virgin was good – I would always recommend pre-booking your seats in advance to guarantee where you sit, especially if you prefer window or aisle. Upon arrival at San Francisco, be prepared for a long security clearance at Customs which is usual in the US. Our wait was about 1.5 hours and then we booked an UBER to Fisherman’s Wharf. We stayed for three nights at The Argonaut Hotel, a welcoming and smart 5* in a great location walkable to Pier 39, next to the Cable Car turn, Ghiradelli Square and several restaurants. Breakfast was pricey but very good, however just around the corner is the Buena Vista Café (famous for Irish Coffee) or the 8am Café, both offering super breakfast but very busy! During our stay we cycled the Golden Gate Bridge across to Sausalito and caught the ferry back (allow three hours and be prepared for hills!), saw the wild sealions at Pier 39, went into Union Square and Chinatown, shopped at the Ferry Buildings which is foodie heaven plus they have a Farmers Market on a Saturday until 2. We visited Alcatraz (I can pre-book your tickets for this, always sold out on the day) and wined and dined in various restaurants. We collected our Alamo hire car on the Monday (again I would recommend I pre-book with all insurances paid for PLUS definitely book a GPS, this was invaluable on our trip). Driving away from the city on US1 we reached Monterey after a stunning coastal drive. Quite a seaside town, famous for the Sardine Factory restaurant and Cannery Row. Onward to the beautiful Carmel which was our first night stay at the Carmel Bay View Inn. We used decent motels and inns during the road trip as this is the most economical way and many breakfasts were included complimentary. Upmarket Carmel is a joy, clean streets, boutiques, the beach beautiful and the art galleries aplenty. We ate at Dametra, highly recommended but there are restaurants on every corner and all a high standard of cuisine. We set off early the next day as we wanted to get as far along the Big Sur coastal drive as possible to Gorda which is where the mudslides have unfortunately closed the road. This is due to reopen in September 2018. The drive is of course stunning with plenty of pull in places to stop and take your photo opportunity. Instead of travelling back up to Carmel for 40 miles, we turned onto the infamous Nacimiento Fergusson track which takes you up high through the hills and drops down to hook up with the highway again. If you are nervous don’t do this, however lots of cars surprisingly were on the road. No lines, very twisty, passing places and no barriers so a bit scary but passable (only in good weather) if you drive slowly! Next stop, Pismo Beach. Superbly located on the cliff top, the SeaCrest Oceanfront Hotel was lovely. I would recommend paying a little extra for the front facing sea view rooms – what a view! We walked along the beach into Pismo and along the pier before setting off to our next destination. Just an hour and a half south is the stunning Santa Barbara with its lovely Marina and fishing pier. The Inn by the Harbor gave us the most welcoming reception on arrival and the owner was lovely, giving us lots of information on the area. They held a cheese and wine party at 5pm for all guests which was a treat! This hotel is walkable to the marina which is where we ate. On our final day we took Highway 1 via Ventura up to Coalinga (a 4-hour drive) stopping en route for a bite at the famous 24th Street Café in Bakersfield! We stayed that evening at the splendid Harris Ranch Inn, where the Harris family are California’s largest beef marketeers, famed for their amazing steaks. On site they have a Bakery, Bar, three restaurants, Country Store, an airstrip and a gas station. The pool was the best we used, and the weather was fabulous. Just a short 3-hour drive and we returned the car back to San Francisco airport for our journey home. Overall, I wished we had more than a week as there was a lot of driving so 10 days would be perfect. Food and drink was fairly expensive, after all - this is prime tourist country! Wi-fi was readily available in all the hotels and the Americans hospitality lives up to its reputation. If you want to know more about the areas I visited, please give me a call to discuss your next bucket list trip!
07 July 2017
Having been to Disneyworld several times, driven down through the Florida Keys, across the everglades, to Sarasota and Naples before, I wanted to spend time in Florida, but have a more laid back family holiday. Club Med Sandpiper Bay seemed the perfect choice. Knowing the reputation of Club Med across Europe and Worldwide I was interested to see how Florida’s ONLY fully all-inclusive resort matched up. We flew long haul with Thomas Cook from Manchester direct to Orlando with James Martin menus and soft drinks included. Alcohol is extra on board. 5 movies, 4 TV shows and plenty of music is available for free but if you require the Premium package then you can upgrade for £5. Plenty of leg room, it was a comfortable flight. Premium Economy class would offer more space and free drinks. Our Club Med private transfer from the airport was efficient, the resort being 2 hours south of the Orlando or 2 hours north of Miami in an area called Port St Lucie on the east coast. The resort sits on the St Lucie River, just 15 minutes from the coast and Jensen Beach which is an 8-mile stretch of amazing sand and turquoise sea. First impressions were good – reception greeted us with cold cloths and a refreshing lime water drink. The Resort has 337 rooms, located in 7 different 2-storey buildings (with lift). Our bags were taken to our room which was a Deluxe Family. Immaculately clean, this 2-bedroomed apartment was huge at 550 sq ft with a his and hers bathroom sinks, shower, bath and 2 toilets. A separate twin room for our son and our room had a large King Size bed with a lounge area that opened out onto a patio with 2 sunbeds and a chair. The Club Family rooms are similar but feature bunk beds and are not as large. It is all about the view though, with most rooms having spectacular views over the river or marina. Well worth paying for an upgrade to guarantee this. This unique resort offers gorgeous and meticulously maintained grounds, along with sports facilities with state-of-the-art equipment, top professional instructors and exceptional group lessons for all skill levels. Here you can enjoy Golf, Beach Volleyball, Tennis, Sailing, Kayaking, Paddle boarding, Yoga, Zumba, Flying Trapeze, Basketball, Water polo, Gym & a Spa by L’Occitane. All of these activities are included in your total price. Basic Wi-fi is also included, but you can upgrade for a better service. Club Med Kids have dedicated areas from the Baby Club (4 months – 2 years) up to Latitude Teen Club (11-17) which is where our 13 year old spent most of his time and met plenty of American friends! There are 4 pools: Adult Only Infinity, Lap Pool, Main Pool and mini-splash kids pool. The Marketplace is the main restaurant where you will find breakfast, lunch and dinner served. There is an adult only section and it is all self-service. The food is really amazing! The evenings were themed with an optional dress code and we sampled delicious meats, fresh fish, pasta and salads, as well as local specialities. An amazing array of food is available here complimented by superb wine (Chilean Sauvignon Blanc and Coors on draught as standard) and fantastic views over the bay from the terrace. All diets catered for from baby food up to an English roast but essentially typical Club Med, very fresh, show cooking and extremely tasty! The ‘famous’ white chocolate bread must get a mention too - it was heavenly!! The Riverside Grill & BBQ is the a la carte restaurant where you need to reserve a table – here they also offer late breakfast, lunch and dinner. The Slice Bar is open all day for a refreshing drink, in the evening for a pre-dinner drink with live music and then after dinner each evening is music and dancing! Each evening there is some form of entertainment performed by the hard working G.O’s who are the Club Med Staff. They get to know you by name, sit with you at dinner and look after your children. Next, you see them in a theatre show or musical, acting, singing, dancing, circus cabaret or trapeze show. They are a very talented bunch of people. We did hire a car for a few days as we drove an hour north to Skydive Sebastian where I did a tandem jump to celebrate our 20th Wedding Anniversary! They were fantastic and a great place to go for a day if you fancy that kind of thing! We had a drive out to Jensen Beach and into Port St Lucie too both of which are on the doorstep and Reception will kindly arrange for car hire for you. My husband is a fisherman, so bought a cheap rod from Walmart and fished around the resort. He caught a few catfish and snook. He also saw some wild manatee in the estuary and a bull shark! The river is a conservation area so all manner of wildlife live there. No alligators were seen on this occasion though! We spent 10 nights in June at Club Med Sandpiper Bay and enjoyed every second. The weather was great (a little humid) plenty of sunshine and cloud. Food excellent, fantastic staff, amazing facilities and we all agreed great value for money. If you think this could be the place for your next holiday – we often have special rates available to us and of course I have contacts in resort - don’t hesitate to call me on 01723 817570 and I can make it happen!
05 July 2017
For my special 'big' birthday, we decided a trip to Paris would be perfect and very romantic! Flying from Leeds is great, very quick journey for myself and husband into Charles de Gaulle. We decided to take public transport from the airport into the city, which is fairly easy (using the free city maps you can pick up from the airport). Overground train, then the subway and it is very inexpensive too. Our hotel for three nights was the Rochester Hotel on the Champs d'Elysees. a beautiful 4* hotel, great central location, impressively clean, super modern bedrooms, wifi, lovely buffet breakfast and a traditional Parisian bar on site too. There is no restaurant, however there are plenty of local eateries within walking distance. In fact, we had dinner locally around the corner at Le Comptoir de l'Artoise. Typically Parisian, privately owned, super food. I had booked the 2CV Paris Tour - a relatively new way of seeing as much of the city as possible! Our driver collected us from our hotel and then we set off in an original 2CV with open top! The driver also runs a commentary so you learn a great deal about Paris history and the amazing buildings. We saw all the sights and nipped through alleyways and one way streets really getting a feel for the buzz of the city. After 2 hours, you can be dropped wherever so we chose the Eiffel Tower as we had tickets for that day. Definitely pre-book your tickets for the Tower, they allocate so many per day and if you don't buy in advance, you could end up being disappointed or waiting in a 2-hour queue! We went straight in and up in the lift without waiting. Fabulous views as you would expect and we paid the extra few euros to go to the very top where there is a champagne bar waiting for you! After this we walked up towards the Arc de Triomphe where you can pay to climb the 284 steps to the very top - but what a view! Down to earth, back to our hotel and we had booked the Hard Rock Café for dinner which was great as expected. On my birthday morning, my husband arranged a champagne breakfast in bed and the hotel did not disappoint! Feeling full, we took the subway down to the River and boarded the Bateaux Parisiens Seine Cruise. This was a lovely hour spent for only €15 each. After a brief lunch at a creperie, we had a walking tour booked of the Montmartre. Our local guide was amazing, very knowledgeable - we started at the Moulin Rouge and ended up at the Sacre Coeur. Dinner that evening was at Le Mesturet - which was a highlight as our evening meal was fabulous! Our final day saw us paying a visit to the Montparnasse - a structure in Paris which does not seem to fit as it is a modern day skyscraper. Again we bought tickets in advance to avoid the queue. In 38 seconds, the lift takes you to the 56th floor. The outdoor panoramic observation deck offers a 360° view overlooking the whole city of Paris, and the view of the Eiffel Tower is the highlight of the show! There is a Café and a souvenir shop on the floor below which also has floor to ceiling windows and amazing views! By this time, we were ready for our flight so went back to the hotel, collected our luggage and called an Uber to take us to the airport. Overall, I felt very safe in the capital, the subway was cheap and easy to use, Wi-Fi in most areas and the people were very friendly. If you have any questions about my trip or would like to book any of the excursions and sights I have mentioned, please get in touch!
29 November 2016
With a group of other Travel Counsellors, I was very excited to be invited to this fabulous Caribbean destination by Elegant Hotels to stay at and view their hotels on the island. We flew from Gatwick on a cold November morning for the eight hour flight and I was lucky enough to be upgraded to Club World with British Airways. If you ever have the chance to do this, then it is highly recommended. With their lie flat beds, executive dining and personal attention it really is the way to travel! Arriving refreshed, we headed to Turtle Beach, St Lawrence Gap on the South Coast where we would be staying for two nights and had a lovely ocean front dinner with cocktails. An all-inclusive resort, the hotel sits on a beautiful white sand beach and is within walking distance to St Lawrence Gap. Our rooms were smart, clean and modern and had large balconies. The hotel offers complimentary non-motorised water sports for guests, there are two pools and three onsite restaurants, one on the beach with evening entertainment. A good location, friendly staff and a great breakfast is on offer at this 4* hotel. Our first day took us to Harrison Caves, situated in the centre of the island – a subterranean environment filled with the most amazing stalactites and stalagmites. You are driven deep down into the caves by vehicles, stopping at various places to view the incredible cavernous areas. Following this, we were whisked away to St Nicholas Abbey, Cherry Tree Hill - a 17th Century plantation, now owned by the Warren Family and still only one of four distilleries on the island producing the most fabulous Rum! We had a simple but delicious lunch and also a tour, talk and rum taster session. The following day consisted mostly of hotel site inspections. The 5* Sandpiper (SLH) Hotel, an exclusive privately-owned boutique hotel on the west coast, was my favourite - within walking distance to fabulous Holetown with its designer shopping and super restaurants. Set in seven acres of tropical gardens, and with only 50 bedrooms, you really can feel the privacy of this lovely hotel. Moving onto the 5* Coral Reef which is the sister hotel to Sandpiper and just slightly further up the coast – again set in acres of gardens, this colonial style hotel has very traditional features. Both hotels have a spa and intimate restaurants on site. We had lunch at the Fairmont Royal Pavilion, again a lovely 5* property, typical of the group and close to Holetown. Beachfront restaurants seem to be the norm for these hotels and we enjoyed a lovely lunch al fresco overlooking the fabulous white sands. For the final three nights, we stayed at the Waves Hotel & Spa. A 4* Elegant Hotels all-inclusive property, focusing on the mind and wellness. We all had spa treatments and I chose a fantastic shoulder/back massage. There are eight treatment rooms set around the Serenity Gardens and also some of the hotel bedrooms are situated in this annexe area too which is adult only and has an amazing Asian Restaurant ‘Shiso’. The main hotel block features an open plan, sea facing buffet restaurant ‘Seascape’, a coffee bar/deli and also when staying at this hotel, you have the ‘Dinearound’ option where you can sample the restaurants at the other Elegant Hotels – over 15 restaurants! Some of which can be reached by complimentary water taxi. We then visited another Elegant Hotel - 4* Crystal Cove where we had a super lunch. Barbados Tourism Marketing had booked for us a private sunset Catamaran Cruise. The ‘Cool Runnings’ team took us out of Bridgetown harbour and the cruise began with a stop to swim with the magnificent Sea Turtles, followed by another snorkel stop over a shipwreck with tropical fish. We sailed along the beautiful coastline and anchored up by the famous Sandy Lane’s private beach where we were left breathless admiring the spectacular colours of the tropical setting sun. As night fell, a sumptuous barbeque dinner was served complete with wine and dessert followed by music and dancing. What an amazing evening! The following morning, we were again taken to Bridgetown to board ‘Atlantis’ - our submarine for the morning. The sea was fairly choppy as we were taken out to the sub by a ferry boat. Not recommended for anyone that suffers from sea sickness! Once on board the sub, however, we drifted gently down under the sea to 130 feet. Quite a small area that can seat around 20 people back to back. Again, I would not recommend if you suffer from claustrophobia! The view was amazing – up close to a shipwreck, sea turtles and lots of different types of fish, along with a hilarious running commentary, we were down for around 30 minutes before surfacing and being taken back to shore. Another fabulous trip - well worth it if you are on holiday. That afternoon, we had a visit to the Mount Gay Visitors Centre with a very interesting 45 minute distillery tour, learning about the history of the world’s oldest rum and tasting the different brands available. Our final evening saw three more west coast 5* hotel visits, The Colony Club – a superb hotel with heaps of character, The Tamarind and The House – which again was a beautiful all suite boutique hotel. It is adults only with just 34 rooms and personal attentive ambassador service. Daphne’s Restaurant, acclaimed on the island, sits in between The Tamarind and The House and provides discerning beachfront Italian dining. I was disappointed to leave this wonderful island with its amazingly friendly locals, superb hotels and delicious food – however I am thankful for the experience of seeing so much in five days. The weather was not great - the rainy season is June to October but November was wetter than usual this year. However, the temperatures were high (30’s) and the tropical rain was torrential but only lasted for an hour or so at a time. During this time, the hotel prices are lower and you could bag a bargain! Please give me a call if you are thinking of planning your next holiday to Barbados and hopefully I can give you some valuable advice on ‘when’ and ‘where’ to go!
19 October 2016
A family holiday to the sunshine state and specifically Walt Disneyworld is probably one of the most memorable times you will have together. If you are hoping to hit the parks and see as much as possible, you do need a plan. If you think you can just turn up and wander along to the rides you need to think again. I don’t mean to make your holiday sound military but ‘planning’ is the key word here! So, arm yourself with as much information as possible. Here, I have compiled my top 20 tips for having a stress-free holiday in Disney! 1 - Once your holiday is booked, sign onto ‘My Disney Experience’ where you can pre-book your Fastpass+ tickets, Character Meet & Greet, Photopass, Magic Bands and book your Advance Dining Reservations with Disney online before you go. 2 - Buy your Theme Park Tickets in advance - Disney/Universal Combo and Discovery Cove Ultimate are the most popular allowing you unlimited access to all the parks for the duration of your holiday. I can book all these tickets and many more on your behalf! 3 Book as far in advance as you can if you want to stay in a Disney hotel in order to qualify for the ‘free dining plan’ offer which normally runs from August to November. 4 - If you decide not to take the dining plan option, pre-order your essentials from www.gardengrocer.com to be delivered to your hotel upon arrival (ensure you have fridge in your room!) 5 - Make use of the free Disney transportation if you are staying on resort. 6 - Pre-order your personalised Disney Magic Bands if staying on resort. They are loaded with your park tickets, you can buy presents and have them delivered to your hotel, use them for fastpass and photopass and ADR’s – order from your ‘My Disney Experience’ page. Even if are staying in a Villa, you can buy these for around £10 each and still make use of the facility. 7 - Make your way around each park anti-clockwise. 8 - If you don’t mind riding alone, make use of the single rider queues – can save hours of waiting in line. 9 - Fastpass+! It’s a free service and you can reserve your space on the most popular rides. 10 - Go to the main office at Magic Kingdom for your child’s first visit or birthday badge – they wear them with pride and get special attention from the Cast Members 11 - Make use of the free Theme Park Wi-Fi and Disney Apps – don’t forget to turn your Data Roaming OFF! 12 - Make use of the early and late Disney Magic Hours. 13 - Pay a visit to the re-imagined Disney Springs – great shops & restaurants. Use it as a hub – catch a bus to Universal from there. Also that’s where Cirque du Soleil is – amazing show! 14 - Don’t visit Magic Kingdom on a Monday! 15 - Take several Plug Adaptors – or a plug board converter is really handy. 16 - Remember to complete your online ESTA – otherwise you won’t be let into the country! 17 - Visit Epcot during the Food and Wine Festival in October/November – eat your way around the world! 18 - Ensure you wear sensible shoes – take a backpack with a change of clothing for the days with water rides involved! 19 - If you’ve never visited Walt Disney World, you should go in with at least a rough plan of attack. Failing that, prioritise the following as the first attractions to do each morning when you arrive: Toy Story Mania, Rock n Roller Coaster and Terror Tower at Hollywood Studios, Test Track & Soarin’ at Epcot, Kilimanjaro Safaris and Expedition Everest at Animal Kingdom, Space Mountain and Seven Dwarves in the Magic Kingdom, Harry Potter at Universal and Hulk at Islands of Adventure. 20 - Finally, please don’t forget to use your super knowledgeable personal Travel Agent (me!) whom you can contact with all your questions at any time of day!
12 September 2016
As this is fast becoming a very popular destination, I wanted to see for myself a little bit of the beautiful country of Croatia. I booked for myself, husband and son to stay in the small town of Lapad, just outside of Dubrovnik. With direct flights from Leeds and just under a three hour flight, this is a great short haul option. I booked a private transfer to take us to our apartment – the Villa Curic. 14 self-catering apartments privately owned and run with amazing views over Graz harbour. Well-furnished, very clean and with the bonus of a private roof top swimming pool! The only drawback is that the apartments are situated on a hill and it is quite a steep walk back up from the town. Not recommended for people with walking difficulties. However, the No.6 bus stops very close by and takes you into Dubrovnik in about 15 minutes for a reasonable £1.20 each (if bought in the kiosk before you travel, £1.50 on board). Lapad is a lovely, laid back resort with a great promenade leading down to the sea and plenty of bars and restaurants open in high season. Many of the larger hotels are based around the coastline here including the 5* Hotel More with its intriguing Cave Bar (open to the public). For children, there is a play area and a fabulous floating water park at Lapad Beach which certainly kept my 13 year old occupied for a while! The boys went sea-kayaking and snorkelling too. Cafes and bars serve laid back lunches al fresco with an Italian influence. You can walk all around the coastline from the Hotel More to Copacabana Beach, which is similar to Lapad Beach, again with a floating water park. We ventured into Dubrovnik Old Town which is completely surrounded by walls and fortresses, including the Old City Port. The history of the fortifications in Dubrovnik goes back to the early Middle Ages. Walking through the Pile Gate, I was immediately impressed by the Stradun, which is the main pedestrian area within the city walls. Filled with a rich atmosphere and history, many cafes, bars and restaurants are hidden within the small side streets. At the other end of the city, before Ploce Gate is the harbour. We hopped onto a ferry and took a day trip to Lokrum Island for around £5 each. Just 15 minutes from the mainland, this is a beautiful uninhabited island, filled with rich pine-wood, subtropical vegetation, natural swimming-places and has an exotic historical heritage. There is also a botanical garden, fort, monastery and museum (including the famous Iron Throne from Game of Thrones - the fictitious land of Qarth was filmed here too). Peacocks and rabbits roam around the island and are very tame. The small, salt-water lagoon is a must-see and my son enjoyed jumping off the cliff into the deep water below. Another day, we walked the two kilometre city walls – fantastic views, but hard work in 30 degree heat. Not recommended for people with walking difficulties or young children as there are lots of steep stone steps to negotiate. After this, we took the four minute journey by cable car up to Srd Hill and were amazed with the breathtaking views of the Old City of Dubrovnik, the crystal clear Adriatic Sea, and the numerous islands. Have a bite to eat in the Panoramic Restaurant, where you can have a glass or two of wine whilst taking in the stunning views. Then, we had booked a Game of Thrones walking tour which was quite fascinating (even though I am not a huge fan!) Our tour guide was an extra in the series and was full of interesting facts about the film locations and actors. After all this we needed refreshment – this was found at the hidden ‘Buza’ bar built into the city walls, where you can stand and watch the incredible sunset whilst sipping the local beer. Finally, we took one of the famous three island fish picnic boat trips. Our coach picked us up in Lapad and we boarded the ‘Tirana’ a replica of an old galleon. We had a relaxed day visiting Kolucep, Lopud and Sipan enjoying a lunch of bread, fish and vegetables along with a bottle of wine and local entertainment on board. We had a fantastic week in Croatia, enjoyed the weather, the food and the locals were friendly and accommodating. Wi-Fi was available in most places. Please don’t hesitate to contact me if you need any more information on booking a holiday to this lovely destination.
18 May 2016
Flying from Gatwick at 0700 on a cold, wet April morning did not fill me with excitement….however, as soon as we took off and flew into blue skies my mood changed! Landing at Crete’s capital Heraklion was an easy experience. Quite a small airport and our bags were released very quickly. I was lucky enough to be on a working trip with 8 other Travel Counsellors to spend 4 nights on this beautiful island. We wandered around Heraklion in the heat of the day – yes, it is quite warm in April. I was surprised to see that along with the lovely old cobbled streets and traditional tavernas, there was a modern feel to the central square, with a Ben & Jerry’s Ice Cream shop and several coffee shops with customers sitting outside enjoying the sunshine. We had an open air lunch at a wonderful restaurant called Peskesi before setting off to our first hotel in Rethymnon. The 5* Sentido Aegean Pearl is a very modern beachfront hotel, about 2km from the old town. There is a fabulous buffet and a la carte restaurant as well as a super wellness centre and indoor pool. The 4* sister hotel Pearl Beach is next door and you can use the facilities here as well. That evening we had a stroll in charming Rethymnon - it's a place that moves slowly but most importantly preserves much of its Venetian and Turkish appearance. The old town streets are kept for pedestrians and you can find some amazing jewellery shops, bookshops and produce being sold. Further into the heart of the town there are many cafes and small restaurants along the narrow streets. We were invited into a traditional bakery where the old baker and his wife keep their ancient door open and are happy to show how they make the traditional "fyllo" pastry leaves. The main meeting place for locals is the Rimondi fountain, with the pleasing cafe Galero to sit at right next to it – which also has internet access, as many cafes do in the centre of Rethymnon. We then walked down to the harbour and on to dinner at a lovely sea front restaurant ‘En Plo’. In the morning we visited the 4* Swell Hotel, a small privately owned, recently completely refurbished boutique hotel on the sea front. With just 27 rooms, the focus is on personal service and they have a small heated pool for guests along with a gym, bar and restaurant serving traditional Cretan fare. Next, was the 4* Antica Dimora Suites – again a small boutique hotel in the centre of town with just 10 rooms. A beautiful old memorial building that was built in the 19th century, the hotel is part of Historic Hotels Worldwide and now boasts 21st century luxuries. The hotel has a dining area, a lift and a small pool with jacuzzi in the courtyard area. Our third hotel visit was to the delightful Rimondi Boutique Hotel, which has 20 rooms and 13 suites. Two buildings comprise the hotel, on one side the Palazzo Rimondi with its own pool, and the other side the 5* Rimondi Estate which houses the suites, a private garden and swimming pool with waterfall. Following a meze lunch in Restaurant Orthonas, we then headed back to the hotel for dinner. Our third day saw us departing for the east side of the island which was about a 2 and a half hour drive along the glorious coastline. First visit was to the 5* Ikaros Beach Resort & Spa near Malia – a super beachfront stone built location, very low rise and pleasing to the eye. With 5 pools (including one heated indoor), 2 restaurants and 3 bars the hotel offers guests an all-inclusive family package. There are also 16 private outdoor pools for the deluxe bungalows and the sea front suites. Next hotel was the Radisson Blu Resort in Milatos, tucked away down a winding road – a huge resort with plenty on offer for every type of guest. Completely refurbished and re-branded this 5* hotel certainly has the wow factor. Choose from among 318 spacious rooms and suites and take in dramatic views of the dazzling waterfront. Sample international fare at The Mosaic Main Restaurant, local cuisine at Ariadni Taste of Crete and Italian dishes at the Italian Deli. The family-friendly accommodation also boasts 7 swimming pools, including a water park and an adults-only pool. The Boutique Spa beckons visitors to indulge in a pampering treatment or to refresh in the hammam, sauna or whirlpool tub. A quick walk around Agios Nikolaos and lunch pit stop, then onward to our home for the next 2 nights, the splendid 5* Daios Cove which is about 15 minutes from Agios Nikolaos and built into the stunning cove. A private beach, 3 restaurants, 2 pools and some amazing bedrooms with individual pools make this a very special place. An evening visit to the stunning 5* Elounda Beach Hotel for dinner and show round meant we had a very busy day! Our final day saw us visiting the Elounda Gulf Villas, an extraordinary building of 18 Pool Villas and 15 Suites, all with breathtaking views over the azure waters of the Gulf of Mirabello. Restaurant dining or private in villa dining is available. There is a children’s club and a private beach (10 minutes away by complimentary shuttle) – this is definitely upmarket accommodation for the most discerning traveller. We then had the most fantastic visit to the island of Spinalonga (or Leper Island) - opposite Plaka. A 10-minute boat ride takes you there and you only need to spend a couple of hours exploring the whole island. With the help of a tour guide, the fascinating history of Spinalonga is told and I didn’t realise the hospital only closed down in 1957. You can visit the graves of the last lepers and view the old buildings and church that they established as a community. Well worth a visit. Our final lunch and hotel viewing was the 5* Blue Palace at Plaka, set on the hillside opposite Spinalonga. Built by the same architect that imagined Daios Cove, a funicular takes guests down to the private pebble beach. This is a super location, you can walk into Plaka or it’s a short taxi ride into Elounda. Overall, this was a well organised trip and we saw many hotels to enhance our knowledge of the island. Surprisingly, wi-fi was readily available and complimentary in every hotel and Crete still remains one of the most popular Greek islands. Call me for a personal quote and more information on 01723 817570
06 December 2015
I was recently lucky enough to take part in a five day Hurtigruten voyage on board the MS Midnatsol along with 16 other travel agents. I enjoyed the trip immensely, with the highlights being whale watching and seeing the incredible Northern Lights. On arrival at Newcastle Airport I spent the night at the Doubletree by Hilton which is just across the road from departures. Lovely to be greeted with a warm cookie on arrival! In the morning I met my group and we were flying with Fly Germania. This was a direct charter flight from Newcastle to Tromso. The service we received on board our flight was good, with hot food, tea/coffee or alcohol being an extra cost. On arrival in Tromso, we enjoyed a walking excursion and visited the Polar Museum, Polaria and also passed by the Mack Brewery which is the northernmost brewery in the world! We boarded our ship the MS Midnatsol and settled into our cabins which are basic (no TV’s or tea/coffee making facilities in the lead in cabins) with two single beds and a shower room. We had a porthole to view the spectacular scenery (even though from 21st November to 21st January the sun does not rise in this part of the world). I would recommend upgrading your cabin to one of the 23 Suites which have a double bed, separate lounge area, tea/coffee and TV with bath and shower. On deck nine there is a Jacuzzi hot tub along with a sauna and a gym. There is a large, two-storey panorama lounge above the bow, two bars, a cafe and a library. Four ships within the fleet are being refurbished in 2016 to include enhanced cabins with double beds and a beautiful new interior with a modern Scandinavian flavour. These are MS Polarlys, MS Kong Harald, MS Nordkapp and MS Nordnorge. On our first night, we dined in the a la carte restaurant on board. The crayfish soup was spectacular and the main course of reindeer was apparently beautiful however I chose the cod which was also wonderful. The meal was accompanied by wine chosen by the Restaurant Manager and we were looked after like royalty. Day two and breakfast is served in the Midnatsol Restaurant located on deck five. Breakfast and lunch are both buffet style with a fantastic choice. For breakfast we had cereals, fruit, yoghurt, cheese, ham, smoked salmon, toast, croissants, pancakes, eggs, bacon, beans and more. Tea, coffee, apple and orange juice are included. We arrived in Honningsvag to join the North Cape Excursion. A 45 minute coach journey along breath-taking scenery, bleak and desolate but beautiful in the polar twilight. Nordcapp is the northernmost point of Europe before you meet the North Pole and the steep mountain cliff rises 307 metres above the Arctic Ocean. Blasted into the mountain cliff is a spectacular panoramic film theatre, historical exhibition, post office, an exclusive gift shop, museum, chapel and a restaurant. We had a ‘Seminar at Sea’ where we learnt more about the Hurtigruten fleet and plans for the future. This evening we passed Finnkirka, a rock formation that is sacred to the indigenous Sami people and now also the site of an impressive light show. After dinner we headed to the bar for a night cap. As we were sitting chatting, the tannoy announced that the Northern Lights were making an appearance. Everyone rushed out on deck and I couldn't believe my eyes. I was sailing down the Norwegian Fjords looking up at the Northern Lights. It was magical and the atmosphere out on deck was wonderful. Everyone was staring up at the sky with huge smiles on their faces. The lights faded in and out and were constantly dancing and changing colour. Day three and onto Kirkenes - as far east as Cairo, further east than most of Finland, a mere 15km from the border with Russia – which we visited for the inevitable photographs. Then onto the famous Snow Hotel. They have 20 bedrooms, an Ice Bar, Gabba Restaurant along with a sauna and also Gamme log cabins if the cold hotel does not appeal! The complex also offers husky dog sledding and snowmobiling in winter along with king crab fishing and midnight sun rafting in the summer months. Another super dinner – I have really been impressed with the food on board, always fresh and tasty. The service is second to none with all of the staff very professional and helpful. Again, luckily for us, the Northern Lights were out and perhaps brighter and more impressive than before! Day four was spent sailing back south to Hammerfest where we visited the Polar Bear Museum and learnt about the history of fishing in Norway. We then had a ship tour which was very interesting and I even found out there is a jail cell on board (perhaps for people who don’t pay their bar bill!) After the switch on of the Christmas lights with mulled wine, we disembarked at midnight in Tromso staying at the Radisson Blu for the next two nights. Early next morning we walked down to the Tromso harbour and joined the local boat which took us out along the fjord to see the amazing sight of orcas and humpback whales in their wild habitat. A fantastic experience and definitely recommended. Included in this excursion is unlimited tea/coffee/fruit and also freshly cooked waffles. This afternoon we visited MS Polarlys - she was docked in Tromso so we had a show round – another lovely ship and I would love to go back on board once she is refurbished. Back for a final group dinner at the Radisson – once again fantastic food and service! Up early and away to the Villmarkssenter on the outskirts of Tromso. Here, we visited the Husky Centre, where we learnt about how much they love to work the sleds. Unfortunately, there was not enough snow for us to go out dog sledding. We were given a light snack of traditional Norwegian reindeer stew, with tea/coffee and a slice of delicious chocolate cake which was being served in a warm and cosy wooden Sami Lavvo (tent) with a roaring fire in the centre. Finally, we had to make our way back to the airport. With its fleet of iconic ships, Hurtigruten has made it possible to visit every nook and cranny of the coastline, from Bergen to Kirkenes, in the pampered confines of its working ships. For most settlements Hurtigruten is the only lifeline, with a 120-year history as a postal, delivery and transport service. The joy of a voyage like this is that you can choose whether you hop on and off, do a five-day cruise or go all the way to the last port. Wi-Fi is available but chargeable – at £10 for 3 days it is good value for money. There is also a wine and beer package on offer as the drinks on board are very expensive as in Norway in general. If you are thinking about taking a voyage to the Norwegian Fjords I urge you to consider Hurtigruten. You will have such a wonderful, unique experience with an authentic Norwegian atmosphere. Please contact me for more information!
01 July 2015
Having been invited by the Spanish Tourist Office to visit Gran Canaria along with 10 other Travel Counsellors on an exclusive 4 day visit - I was really looking forward to seeing this particular island. Travelling down to Gatwick from the frozen north is never a pleasant experience! But having worked in London I am used to the travel system, having left Scarborough at 8am for Kings Cross, underground to Victoria then overground on the Gatwick Express it was much easier than I had anticipated, arriving into South Terminal at 11:30. Our flight with Norwegian Air was comfortable with free Wi-Fi available and plenty of food and drink to buy en route. Upon arrival, we were whisked off to our home for the next 4 nights - the 5* Seaside Palm Beach Hotel in Maspalomas. I was allocated a 4th floor pool view room, very spacious contemporary bedroom, modern bathroom with walk in shower and large balcony which favoured the evening sun. Dinner was splendid - an a la carte choice with very attentive waiters - I love to dine al fresco! After a good nights sleep, we were ready for Day 1 and our rep handed out travel sickness pills....this was because we were going to be travelling the length of the island up 'above the clouds' on a mountainous road towards the north of the island. Breathtaking views of the dramatic volcanic landscapes and deep crater Tejeda. We stopped off at the lovely Parador Cruz de Tejeda for a quick pitstop, then onto the Finca La Laja in Agaete. A Finca is definitely worth a visit during your stay; welcoming hosts, coffee, cheese and wine all made locally onsite along with an orange grove set in a spectacular location. Dinner that evening was back in Maspalomas at the 5* Seaside Grand Residencia, a member of the Leading Hotels of the World, a very boutique and gracious hotel with excellent food. Day 2 saw us visiting the historic town of Vegueta, just south of Las Palmas where we visited the Columbus House Museum and the local food market. Here we had lunch at Experienca Gastronomica - Smile Cooking, where we learnt how to make Mojo Rojo and Verde and cooked our own cod for lunch! We also visited the beach at Las Palmas and saw some of the lovely hotels along the promenade. Great place for a city break. Dinner this evening was at the ultra modern 5* Sheraton Salobre Hotel set inland with outstanding views of the mountains and its own two 18-hole golf courses. A sunset terrace with cabanas completes the picture of this lovely resort. Day 3 took us to Anfi with its micro-climate and Caribbean style white sandy beach. We boarded our boat for the 1 hour journey to Puerto Mogan or 'Little Venice' as it is known - a super little port with lots of fish restaurants and bars along the harbour. Lunch was at the 4* superior Gloria Palace Royal with its stunning views over the bay of Amadores - perfect for a family holiday. Dinner was taken at the 5* H10 Playa Meloneras Palace, another very modern hotel in a great location close to the Meloneras promenade with excellent food. Onto Day 4 and a stroll from our Palm Beach Hotel in Maspalomas to the 2km long promenade of Meloneras with its designer shops, fabulous sea view restaurants and 4 & 5* hotels. We visited the 4* Lopesan Costa Meloneras and the 5* Lopesan Villa del Conde both different types of hotels but a very high standard and great locations. Finally we had some free time spent in our hotel, the Seaside Palm Beach. We took advantage of the saltwater hydrotherapy swimming pool with massage jets and had a lovely farewell lunch. I can certainly recommend Gran Canaria as a holiday destination for families, couples and golfers alike. It has an average annual temperature of 24 degrees, lots of watersports and more fabulous hotels being added as they continue to improve the area for tourists. Please get in touch if you are considering Gran Canaria for your next holiday.
21 May 2015
I was so looking forward to flying with Emirates and staying for a week at this iconic 5* hotel and everything lived up to my expectations! We flew as a family from Manchester direct to Dubai with Emirates, a first class airline with brilliant staff. I had arranged wheelchair access for my mum who cannot walk too far and this was seamless all the way through from check in to arrival in Dubai and onward to our transfer. The airport staff could not do enough for us and we managed to scoot through immigration skipping the queues with the wheelchair which was a bonus!! The hotel is so vast, that I arranged a chair for mum there too - the disabled access is excellent! An evening arrival meant we couldn't see much of the city as we approached Atlantis and the 45 minute air conditioned private transfer brought us to our destination promptly. A speedy check in and we were in our rooms on the 11th floor in no time and ready to have dinner. There are 22 restaurants in Atlantis and on the half board basis, you can dine in 12 of them without supplement. We ate in a different restaurant each night from the Saffron Asian Buffet, the Kaleidoscope International Buffet to the French Brasserie (3 course table service) and TBJ's (Burger Joint) there was something for everyone. Even Roast Beef and Yorkshire pudding for my mum ! The hotel is opulent and very busy with the Aquaventure Water Park and The Lost Chambers being open to the public (but complimentary access to hotel guests) however the two hotel pools are private so much quieter. It is a very family friendly hotel, so you will see children running about and definitely not an adult only - however the Nasimi Beach Bar does not allow children at night and is popular with younger couples. Other activities onsite include snorkelling with sharks (my husband and son did this, no previous training required), swimming with dolphins or having a selfie with a sea lion! I would definitely recommend paying extra to upgrade to the Imperial Club Level. Here you have unlimited access to the Imperial Lounge, where you can take Breakfast, enjoy light sweet and savoury snacks all day including juice, tea, coffee and complimentary soft drinks. Enjoy Afternoon Tea from 3:00pm to 5:00pm daily. Unwind with a selection of complimentary beverages and canapes from 5:00pm to 7:00pm daily and enjoy two 30 minute Back, Neck & Shoulder massages for the price of one, as well as full use of steam, sauna and jet pool facilities at ShuiQi Spa and Fitness. Free wi-fi and complimentary daily access to Kids Club for children 3 – 9 years of age from 10:00am - 6:00pm and Club Rush for teens 13 – 17 years of age from 2:00pm - 6:pm. Also complimentary N’Dulge nightclub access - definitely worth the upgrade! Whilst in Dubai I decided to treat my mum to afternoon tea at the Burj al Arab - an amazing experience. Seven courses including champagne in the Sky Bar with a stunning view! I also pre-booked the Burj Khalifa - the world's tallest building. Again, a spectacular view from the 124th floor. TIP : this must be pre-booked - to get in on the day, the price almost triples! Using the hotel's complimentary shuttle bus to the Dubai Mall we had a lovely afternoon investigating the city and used the Metro/Tram/Monorail to get back. We also took a trip on a dhow across the Creek in Deira to visit some souks in the old town - very interesting. There is so much to do in the city - my husband also went Skydiving, let me know if you need any information on this. I will absolutely go back to Dubai, I need to see so much more. The best prices are between May and September as the temperatures soar...it was 40 degrees in May when we were there. The best time of year to visit however is between October and April. Please call me if you fancy a short break or a family holiday to this amazing destination!
18 March 2015
I was lucky enough to be invited to an agent only event on board P&O's newest and most glamorous ship 'Britannia' before her official naming by the Queen and her maiden voyage. To give an overview of the weekend, I flew with Flybe from Leeds to Southampton which, in my opinion is a much more hassle free way of travelling from the north of England! Just a short train ride from the airport to Southampton Central and then a taxi ride to the Holiday Inn meant we arrived in good time for cocktails! (with luggage I would suggest a taxi directly from the airport to your hotel or the Port roughly £20). I had a lovely room overlooking the water with Britannia rising majestically from the Ocean Terminal. Dining recommendation if you are staying the night prior to your cruise is 'Ennio's' - a super Italian restaurant within walking distance of the hotel. So, onto the boarding day and we were very excited as we approached the Terminal and astounded how super huge the ship actually is! £500 million to build she is the biggest ever cruise ship built for British cruise market. The 141,000 ton ship is 20% bigger than any existing ship. She can carry 3,600 passengers and is more than 1000 feet long..... WOW! Once on board, we were confronted with the amazing Atrium - a fantastic area and centre-piece of the whole ship. Dropping like an enormous glittering stalactite from the ceiling is the Starburst, which centres the 3-storey 1920’s inspired atrium. On the open plan decks around you will find the Market Café, the Glass House and tempting shops, as well as welcoming sofas perfect for resting your dancing feet or meeting up with friends for a drink. Try Brodie's Bar where you can sample 70 different bottled beers, ales and ciders from 56 UK counties - my favourite being 'Wold Gold' from our local Wold Top Bewery in Driffield. We had a quick tour of the ship starting with the James Martin Cookery Club - (with a host of celebrity chefs including Marco Pierre White, Mary Berry, Eric Lanlard, Atul Kochar and the amazing Pierre Koffman who will all be on a number of Britannia’s sailings throughout the year running cookery master classes, book early!) to viewing the 3 main signature restaurants serving breakfast, lunch, afternoon tea and dinner daily. There's also plenty of other eateries to tempt you though from “Grab & Go” outlets and relaxed buffet dining around the clock to speciality restaurants, such as The Epicurian, Sindhu and The Limelight Club. Children are catered for too with The Reef, age-specific clubs, a night nursery, a boatload of activities and enthusiastic Reef Rangers on hand, The Reef is the place to be for under 18s. Once the children are into their PS gaming, you can relax in the amazing Oasis Spa - think of the most opulent and luxurious spas you’ve ever seen – the ones with sumptuous dark wood and the aroma of scented oils – and you’re imagining Britannia’s Oasis Spa! If being indoors isn't your thing, try lazing on Britannia’s Lido Deck with four pools, all of which aim to recall the old-fashioned glamour of an afternoon spent relaxing on deck, plus lots of on board activities. Evening entertainment is second to none, in fact too much choice! From the Headliners Theatre which hosts slick West End style productions, the Crystal Room which will host BBC's Strictly Come Dancing themed cruises (check the dates), The Limelight Club, an adult-only dining and late night dancing venue in sumptuous surroundings to the Live Lounge, a buzzing venue, playing host to singers, tribute acts and live bands. And so to bed... with soothing colours, bespoke artworks from British artists and large flatscreen TVs for films on demand, all the outside cabins have small balconies and there are 27 single cabins, many of which will have balconies. Bathrooms have glass shower screens and pamper packs from The White Company. If you would like any more information about this wonderful British ship, or would like me to check availability for a particular cruise - please don't hesitate to call.
21 January 2015
With the reign of Facebook and Instagram, we’re now able to share our incredible and awe-inspiring travel snaps, but just how do we take a great photograph? Here are some of the best techniques for capturing that great shot: Tip 1) Make the most of the natural lighting Photographers will always advise you to take photos during the “Golden Hour” – this is the time immediately before sunrise or sunset and offers the very best lighting for capturing images of wildlife and nature. Tip 2) Be imaginative You don’t need to have the best equipment to capture a great picture; our favourites are those that have captured the imagination of the photographer. Natural, rather than contrived poses will serve to compliment your surroundings. Tip 3) Invest in a decent lens There’s nothing more irritating than being able to spot a white-tailed eagle dart across the sky, or witness the Northern Lights dance above you, but have a substandard lens on your camera! No matter what camera you buy, be sure to invest in a good lens, as you never know what may lurk beyond your peripheral vision. Tip 4) Try somewhere new The best images are those taken in unusual places. Of course we’ve all seen that beautiful, but typical beach shot, but what about trying to make us green with envy because you’re experiencing something truly interesting? Tip 5) Be Patient There’s nothing more satisfying than witnessing some of the world’s most incredible wildlife than in their own, natural habitat. But like all great things in life, you may have to wait in order to capture something special – don’t worry, it will be worth it! What better way to use your camera than to capture photographs of the magical Aurora Borealis? Call me for a personal quote to see the most amazing once in a lifetime sight!!
26 June 2014
We travelled as a family from Manchester to Sharm el Sheikh on a sunny June afternoon with Monarch Airlines. The five and half hour flight was fine but in-flight entertainment would have been welcomed. Sharm el Sheikh Airport can be quite imposing and crazy when you arrive, with lots of holiday reps and transfer companies shouting and holding signs but they just really want you to buy a Visa. Unless you are going on an excursion to Cairo or Luxor etc you will not need this. Just ignore them and proceed to passport control and baggage reclaim. Our transfer took us to our hotel for the next 10 nights which was the Royal Albatros Moderna in Nabq Bay. This is a new hotel zone in the area, facing coral reefs in the crystal clear waters of the Red Sea and the shipwrecks of the nearby Straits of Tiran. It is quieter than Sharm, a bit further up the coast with nice breezes and a bit of surf. This 5* resort is huge – it was opened in 2004 and fully renovated in 2011. The main building and the attached three-storey building are surrounded by resplendent gardens extending down to the beach. Four pools including a children’s splash area, a relaxation pool, heated and main pool plus an aqua park with eight slides certainly keeps the children busy all day! All 680 bedrooms are air-conditioned and beds have "Select Comfort mattresses", Egyptian cotton sheets, and premium bedding. LCD televisions are equipped with satellite channels and free movie channels. Daily housekeeping is excellent with Ahmed creating some amazing towel art during our stay! The hotel sells all inclusive packages only. There are five main restaurants to dine at in the evening which are all part of the package: Mediterranean, Italian, Asian, Tagine and German. Food was freshly prepared and there is a lot of show cooking, very clean and hygienic. The beauty is you can choose food from any of the restaurants and then sit in any of them – a very flexible idea. In addition, there is a super Thai restaurant which is payable onsite. During lunchtimes the beach bar ‘Club Mac’ was a hit with our son as it served hot dogs, pizzas, chicken nuggets, fries and fish and chips, all freshly cooked. There are lots of salads in every buffet too! Evening entertainment was varied, from singers on the bar terrace to full shows down at the beach bar with dancers, fire eaters, acrobats and singers all during the week. Or you can chill out in the fantastic air-conditioned Columbus Coffee Bar where they serve lattes and hot chocolates to die for. Better than Starbucks! There is also a fabulous half mile long private jetty where you can snorkel on the reef at the end or just sunbathe on the beds provided by the hotel. A gym and super spa with great massages is also available on site. We also took two excursions: star gazing which included a camel ride, traditional Bedouin show, baking bread and ultimately viewing the Moon and Saturn through the most enormous telescopes in the middle of the desert - very surreal indeed! The second trip we did was a boat trip to Tiran Island with three stops for snorkelling, the trip also included lunch and soft drinks and was very well priced. An interesting holiday, it was very hot at 40 degrees most days in a cloudless sky. If that is too much I would recommend travelling in October/November or March/April time when it is much more pleasant in the mid 20’s and early 30’s. So, if you are considering a visit to Egypt, please get in touch! I would be delighted to help and can also book any excursions you may want to do whilst away.
19 May 2014
I was lucky enough to have been invited by Club Med to sample their all-inclusive hospitality at the Gregolimano Resort in Greece. Flying from Heathrow, I stayed the night prior at the Arora Hotel which is 4*, very handy for the Hoppa bus transfer to the airport and adequate for my requirements. The 3.5 hour flight to Athens was trouble free with the Aegean Airways staff polite and helpful. Upon arrival into Athens, we were greeted by a coach transfer which took us north east for two hours to our boat transfer. Another 45 minutes and we were docking at our destination on the island of Evia. The Gregolimano Resort is quite sprawling, a 1960’s built hotel, renovated in 2008 to a high standard not often seen in Greek hotels. The Club Room (standard) has everything you need, super comfy bed, flat screen TV, balcony and a modern bathroom. Towel art is also a nice touch from the ever diligent housekeeping staff whose standards are very high with the whole resort being very clean. I would definitely recommend paying a little extra for a sea view room as that view is incredible! The hotel is an unusual layout with Reception being on the 6th floor and rooms above and below. There are quite a lot of steps (there is a lift, but not all levels) so be warned if you have walking difficulties. ‘Le Panorama’ Restaurant with its breakfast terrace has simply stunning views over the Aegean Sea towards the mountains and a good selection of hot food (bacon, sausages, scrambled egg, omelettes cooked to order) and cold meats, croissants, bread, cereals. ‘Les Pleiades’ restaurant is where lunch and dinner are served with its international cuisine served buffet style and freshly cooked a la carte dishes created in front of your eyes. The evenings were themed with an optional dress code and we sampled delicious meats, fresh fish, pasta and salads, as well as traditional Grecian specialities. An amazing array of food is available here complimented by a superb choice of wine and fantastic views over the beach from the terrace. The Bar Aphrodite sits in the heart of the resort, with spacious terraces overlooking the bay. In the evening, its new open air dance floor is a great place to enjoy the Greek climate and sip cocktails in a relaxed atmosphere. There's also an outdoor lounge with huge sofas with a spectacular view over the swimming pool and sea. We toured this huge resort and saw a selection of rooms from Club, to Deluxe, to Suites and Bungalows which are small buildings with one upper floor, dotted along the headland in the shade of the pine forest. This family resort welcomes children from two years upwards with kids clubs from 4-17 years old. As this is a French company, the majority of guests are French even though all the reps are multi-lingual you may find if the resort is quieter that French is predominantly spoken in the kids clubs. The heated main swimming pool is a good size with a children’s area sectioned off. Aqua aerobics happens here in the mornings and then the whole animation team have a song and dance around the pool – but you don’t have to join in! The sporting activities are one main reason why Club Med have so many repeat clients…where else can you learn to trapeze (I did!), water ski, wakeboard, sail, play tennis and do archery for no extra charge? All these and more are included in your Club Med package. When evening comes and you are feeling full after your splendid 5* dinner, make your way over to the amphitheatre and be entertained by the resort reps – we saw Mama Mia one night and then an amazing circus show on the second night, the staff are very talented and you won’t be disappointed! Then back to the bar for a nightcap and a boogie on the outdoor dance floor, or even walk over to the hotel’s nightclub which is open until 2am and dance the night away. Be warned….bring your wasp repellent – even though they are non-aggressive and you do get used to them, they are quite prevalent due to the nature of the location of the resort. To summarize, I would highly recommend Club Med – after all they are in their 50th year and are experts at what they do. Please contact me for more information on this, or any other Club Med resort.
19 September 2013
We flew with Virgin from Manchester on one of the recently refurbished planes with the touch screen in seat consoles – this kept our 9 year old quiet for the whole trip! The entertainment was very interactive with loads of choice of movies, sport, news and documentaries etc. Orlando Airport immigration queue still takes a long time to process – so please ensure you give enough time if you are collecting a hire car. We took advantage of the free Disney Express transfer to our hotel. Our home for the next two weeks was at the Disney Deluxe resort Saratoga Springs which is themed on the New York racecourse of the same name. A vast, sprawling 26 acre resort with various blocks of apartment type accommodation. If you have walking difficulties you’ll need to be as close to the Carriage House as possible which is the main reception/restaurant area. The resort grounds were beautifully kept, bedrooms immaculate – ours was a 1st floor (lift access) 1 bedroom apartment with queen size bed, Jacuzzi bath, shower room and two toilets. Our son slept in the lounge area on a bed settee. There was also a verandah overlooking the gardens, kitchenette with microwave, fridge and oven. We pre-ordered some basics to be there on arrival (bread, milk, cereal, wine!) with 'Garden Grocer' who deliver to a number of properties in the Florida area. Excellent service. The main pool area has a water slide and a jacuzzi and most of the entertainment was centred around here including movies in the evening. There is a quieter pool a little further away. Shuttle buses run frequently (about every 20 minutes) with several stops at this resort to each park and are complimentary if you stay within Disney. The resort is opposite Downtown Disney for great restaurants and shopping – you can easily walk from the hotel around the lake or take a shuttle bus or a water taxi. Our holiday package also included the Disney Dining Plan which is a great idea. On your room card they load your points which automatically get taken off as you go and you have breakfast, lunch and dinner, snacks and drinks (soft) in over 200 different eateries wherever you see the sign. This really helped as we found ourselves dining in restaurants we wouldn't normally have been able to afford with no additional cost! I would advise you to pre-book your ADR (Advance Dining Reservation) with Disney online before you travel as most restaurants were full and places like T-Rex or Planet Hollywood were already sold out on the night. Also we bought our park tickets in advance as it’s cheaper and as we are roller coaster crazy we hit all the parks during our stay! Take advantage of the brilliant Fastpass system within the parks and also the Disney Photopass photographers which you can sign up for before you travel. Also we purchased in advance Discovery Cove tickets to swim with the dolphins – this was an amazing day which included breakfast and lunch and if you can buy off peak tickets, well worth the cost as this includes a visit to SeaWorld too. We also visited Kennedy Space Centre and were lucky enough to see Atlantis which had just been moved to the centre. My husband even managed to skydive whilst we were there – all in all a fabulous family holiday! Please give me a call if you need any further information on this area or the places to visit.
Port Isaac 21/09/2021
Sidcup, Kent 13/03/2020
Saltburn by the Sea 06/06/2019
Sleights, Nr Whitby 18/03/2019
Melton Mowbray 14/01/2018
Lymington, Hampshire 23/11/2016