Sent by V. Welsh
Based in Whitstable
Do you like to travel to new places but don’t like the hassle of all the research? Or maybe you just don’t have the time? Entrust your travel plans to me instead!
With over 15 years in the travel industry and a passion for exploring new places, I love nothing more than turning dreams into reality.
I pride myself on a very personal and tailor-made service, always going the extra mile to ensure that I understand exactly what you are looking for, offering suggestions and then fulfilling the criteria to give you the best possible holiday. Being independent, I can be truly impartial, whilst you benefit from the unrivalled financial protection of the Travel Counsellor Financial Trust and ATOL bonding.
After travelling to more than 55 countries and all seven continents, my wanderlust is stronger than ever. I am frequently asked my favourite destination - and it's impossible to answer! Suffice to say, my most memorable trip has to be South Georgia and Antarctica, for the sheer remoteness and untouched beauty, as well as the opportunity to get close to the wildlife. Closer to home, I’ve visited the USA and Canada many times and love exploring the open road on a fly drive trip, taking in as many National Parks as possible. I also frequently visit Asia, often en-route to Australia, and enjoyed experiencing the different cultures in Myanmar and Thailand; and a fly drive in South Africa left me wanting to see more of this vast country. As I said, impossible to pick just one place.
Please get in touch, I’d love to hear from you. As I’m not restricted to office hours, I’m available at a time convenient for you to discuss all your travel requirements – from luxury island paradise to city break, from fly drive to escorted tour, from a safari to a cruise, from your honeymoon to the retirement trip of a lifetime.
Travel can change lives - are you ready?
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.
30 April 2019
Do you think of the Polar regions, the Arctic and Antarctic? Of intrepid explorers like Amundsen and Scott who, in relatively recent times, reached the South Pole? The thrill to follow in their footsteps, leads to these cold areas being a ‘wish list item’ for many people. Yet expeditions aren’t just to cooler climates. Why not follow the Spanish explorer Francisco de Orellana, who completed the first known navigation of the Amazon River? Or Abel Tasman, the Dutch navigator who charted much of the Kimberley coast in northwest Australia? Or the popular Galapagos Islands, well known for Darwin’s exploration, yet initially discovered in 1535 by Tomas Berlanga, bishop of Panama. As technology moves on the world seems to shrink. The remote areas become more accessible, which poses further questions. Should we really be visiting Antarctica? Is tourism contributing to the destruction of the last wild places on our planet? Tourism is, in fact, a good thing, when controlled and properly regulated. In 1991 the International Association of Antarctica Tour Operators (IAATO) was founded, with the primary goal being to “advocate and promote the practice of safe and environmentally responsible travel to Antarctica”. A similar Association exists in the Arctic, and the Galapagos Islands have a National Park fee, helping the Ecuadorian Government to maintain their pristine environment. TV programmes like Blue Planet, have shown us the beauty we can experience whilst raising awareness of the fragility of these eco-systems. The knowledge that these places of wonder may be lost to future generations is a good thing. It’s causing us to change everyday habits. You may never visit Antarctica but reducing the amount of plastic you use is helping to preserve the wildlife here and in all our oceans. Each ship to visit these areas abides by strict regulations, like vacuuming your jackets and trousers before going ashore. Yes, seriously! A seed, caught in the Velcro on your jacket cuff, and deposited on shore in Greenland, could be responsible for an invasive species taking root. It’s recommended to buy new outer clothes before an expedition cruise, and most companies issue a jacket that you may keep. The ships also loan gumboots (always request a larger size to fit a couple of extra pairs of socks!) and you walk through an anti-bacterial wash before you leave the ship. You do this on return too, as you’ll often pick up some fishy smelling penguin guano whilst ashore. In addition to the regulations, cruise lines are developing their new ships with incredible environmental features, such as hybrid engines, whilst also moving to eradicate all single use plastics onboard. Hurtigruten are pioneers in this field, with the first of their new ships, MS Roald Amundsen, joining the fleet this year. The hybrid technology, combined with the advanced construction of the hull and effective use of electricity on board, will reduce fuel consumption and CO2 emissions by 20%. MS Amundsen will also be much quieter, better for the guests and for the nature around them. New technology aside, expedition cruising differs from regular cruising because the focus isn’t on the facilities on board, it’s truly about the destination. Itineraries are a suggestion of what you may see and can change depending on weather and wildlife sightings. You won’t want to rush to the next landing site if a pod of Minke whales have decided to play alongside the ship. What can you expect to encounter on an expedition? If you want to see polar bears, visit Spitsbergen. Accessible during our summer months, the largest island in the Svalbard archipelago is forged by ice, wind and sea. Experience landings which take you to the ghost towns of early whaling stations, and see spectacular fjords and icebergs, whilst looking for the King of the Arctic. Many people, myself included, would love to see the Northern Lights. I know from personal experience this is never guaranteed. However, give yourself the best chance with a Norwegian Coastal Voyage on Hurtigruten. Sailing from Bergen all the way to Kirkenes, inside the Arctic Circle, you pass amazing fjords and some of the best coastal scenery on the planet. Maximise your chances of the Lights with a round trip, taking time to explore the many tiny ports en-route. This coastal voyage is also a transport provider for the locals, giving you a great opportunity to discover what life here is really like. Take the trip in summer to see how different it is, becoming The Land of the Midnight Sun. If you prefer to be a bit warmer and love wildlife try the Galapagos – islands of the tortoise. (Galapago is an old Spanish word for tortoise). The archipelago of 13 major islands and more than a hundred smaller ones, straddles the equator, 600 miles off the Ecuadorian coast. These volcanic islands are home to unique and extraordinary species such as giant tortoises, iguanas, fur seals, sea lions, sharks and rays, plus 26 species of native birds including the blue footed booby, who looks like he stepped in a paint pot! Travel to the other end of the earth and visit Antarctica. If possible, I urge you to choose an itinerary which includes South Georgia too. The wildlife here is incredible, and penguins really are as funny as they seem. Each species, from chin strap to adelie, macaroni to gentoo and of course the regal King penguin, has its own characteristics and little fear of humans. Whilst there are guidelines to be followed, if you sit on the beach at Salisbury Plain and watch the penguins as they come ashore, you will be approached by the weaned pups of the elephant seals, known as “weaners”. They are the ugly duckling story in reverse. With such beautiful soulful eyes they're very cute, yet grow up to be ferocious fighting machines. South Georgia is also home to Shackleton history. Hike to Stromness, following the Shackleton crossing to experience a fraction of what he did in 1916. Whichever destination you choose you will have guides experienced in wildlife, history and culture, who offer lectures onboard, lead the shore excursions and answer any questions. All the fresh air will work up an appetite and top chefs provide culinary delights made with local produce, where possible. At the end of the day, after relaxing in the bar, return to your very comfortable en suite cabin to recharge for the next day. An Expedition Cruise can change your life. Let me find the right one for you.
17 April 2019
Following on from my Facebook posts, this blog takes a more in-depth look at what Norwegian Cruise Lines can offer you, to create the memories that last a lifetime for your family. So, who are NCL? They are the brightly painted, funky looking ships. Founded in 1966, NCL have broken many boundaries of traditional cruising and revolutionised the industry over the years. Their new concept of giving guests more freedom and flexibility is sure to be a game changer. How many times have I heard “I don’t want to take a dinner jacket on holiday with me”, or “with so many people on one ship the queues must be endless!” NCL have changed this and their fleet of large ships are best described as relaxed and premium contemporary in style. Who would an NCL cruise suit? Anyone who has never cruised before because they were worried about being bored. With a wide choice of things to fill your day, from the very active to pure relaxation – you would never be bored! These ships appeal to families for the same reason, and as the range of onboard activities is so broad, they suit the multi-generational family too - from grandparents right down to youngsters. Solo travellers are often over-looked, but not by NCL - the first cruise line to build staterooms and common areas specifically for the single cruiser. The Studios are perfect sized cabins and the Studio Lounge is a great place to meet other solo cruisers. Perhaps you’ve taken a cruise before and would like to try a more relaxed and informal style? Or do you like a more intimate feel to your cruise experience and worry the ship is too big? If so, ‘The Haven’ is perfect for you. Where do they sail? NCL cover a lot, but not all, of the oceans. Miami is a big port for them, with their ships sailing much of the coastline of the Americas, including Hawaii, and going as far west as Australia and New Zealand. Heading in the other direction, Barcelona is another large hub, offering a lot of European destinations, before heading further east to Asia. Can’t decide between Japan, Russia or Alaska for your next trip? Take a 15-day Transpacific Cruise from Tokyo which gives you a taster of all 3! What onboard facilities do they have for families? What don’t they have! Families of all ages are well catered for – with everything from Aqua Parks to Ball Sports, from Video Games to Laser Quest, Rope Courses to Go Karting to Rock Walls. Splash Academy (ages 3-12, reduced to smaller groups of Turtles, Seals and Dolphins based on age) and Entourage (ages 13-17) are two complimentary supervised clubs for those times when the kids want to get away from the grown-ups. The fleet wide Guppies Programme is for parents and babies (6 months – under 3yrs) and offers hosted activities as well as open play. For a fee, the Guppies Nursery has been introduced as a drop off nursery on Norwegian Escape. Parents looking for a romantic evening can take advantage of the late night group sitting offered by the certified youth staff, for a small charge. What can adults do onboard? The Mandara Spa…just the name sounds relaxing! Equipped with Finnish saunas, steam rooms, a Thalassotherapy pool and heated relaxation chairs this really is the place to unwind and enjoy some ‘me time’. The Norwegian Breakaway and Norwegian Getaway have the first Salt Cave at Sea, and Norwegian Escape offers a snow room! There are different packages available for each ship, and discounts for pre-purchased 5 or 7-day passes. For anyone concerned about the amount of amazing food they’re eating the gym is complimentary, with treadmills, bicycles, steppers and more, and open daily from 06:00-23:00. If you’re not self-motivated take part in a class for yoga, pilates, spinning...classes vary from US$12-$20. Or hire a personal trainer and go home fitter than ever before. Whilst you’re still pumped from the gym workout, why not head to the casino, where you can dabble in slot machines or try the table games like Black Jack and Roulette. When you’re hungry… …there’s a choice of dining options, no set times, no set restaurants – you choose when, where and with whom. From buffets with live-cooking stations to pan-Asian restaurants and casual eateries, as well as up to three main dining rooms with daily changing menus and a la carte service, not to mention 24-hour room service. On top of the included choices you have speciality dining for an extra cost – which could be Japanese, Brazilian, Italian, French or a good old Steakhouse. Check out the “Free at Sea” package to have these included. When the sun goes down… Award-winning entertainment is found on all the ships. Enjoy Broadway shows, live music, comedy, dancing and much more. Cirque Dreams is a theatrical dining experience, or watch a steamy display of Ballroom and Latin dance theatre with Burn The Floor, sing along to some great tribute acts at Legends in Concert or enjoy one of the Party Nights on deck. With live music at Fat Cats Jazz & Blues Club, rock’n’roll in Howl at the Moon and a Beatles cover band at The Cavern Club, there really is something for everyone. Prefer a quiet place to retreat to? The Haven by Norwegian is an exclusive enclave hidden away at the top of the ship. It’s home to the most luxurious accommodation and a place where guests can bask in the tranquillity of The Haven Courtyard with a private pool and sundeck. Personal service is provided by your butler and concierge, who will take care of everything for you. You’re just steps away from all the unique restaurants and activities, yet you feel a world away in your peaceful bubble. As this is ‘luxury all included’ the entire Free at Sea package is also yours. “Free at Sea” – a great new addition! From as little as £99 extra per person, on a 7-night cruise, you can choose two offers from a choice of five – Premium Beverage Package, Speciality Dining, WiFi, Shore Excursion Credit or Family & Friends Offer. With all of these things to do you could almost forget that every day you are in a new port with many opportunities to explore incredible destinations…but that is a whole other blog! Finding the right cruise. As you would expect, not all ships have every facility and amenity mentioned above, so if there is something that really appeals it’s important to ensure you’re on the right ship. That’s where I come in. Let me know your wish list and I’ll find the one for you.
15 March 2019
“Cruising really isn’t for me.” “Being stuck on a ship for all that time – what do you find to do?” “I don’t want to be on a ship with several thousand people.” These are just some things my friends said when we discussed cruise holidays. There is a huge mis-conception of what cruising is like amongst those who’ve never tried it. I know – I was one of those people! I’m now a firm advocate, and becoming more so, as I learn about the incredible variety of ships, experiences and destinations. There is truly something for everyone. I’ve enrolled on Travel Counsellors inaugural Cruise Accelerator Programme, enabling me to learn about the many different cruise lines and unique points of each, about the ships and facilities they offer onboard, and of course the many wonderful destinations they visit. To say I’m excited is an understatement! If you would like to hear more of where my journey is taking me, be sure to follow my Facebook Business page as each blog will be posted there. I can’t wait to share all that I’m learning and potentially open-up a whole new world for you. Around two million people in the UK enjoy a cruise each year, with 9 in 10 taking another within 12 months. This is a rapidly expanding industry, as each new ship stretches the realms of what’s possible with one innovation after another. 2019 is seeing a cruise extravaganza, with 18 new ships due to launch. Each one raises the bar regarding standards, facilities, and also passenger expectation. Which cruise line will have the first roller-coaster at sea? It’s coming soon! Recently launched, MSC Bellissima didn’t disappoint fans with their sparkling Swarovski Staircase. So why take a cruise? A cruise can be luxurious, inclusive and adventurous, yet it’s also easy and very safe – suiting everyone from honeymooners to families with young children or teenagers, from friends to couples to retirees, solo travellers and even providing for professionals who need to stay connected to the office, with excellent Wi-Fi on most ships. Large resort ships carrying upwards of 5000 passengers cater to every need from the spa to the sundeck, the casino to climbing wall, and a basketball court that becomes the disco at night. If big and busy isn’t for you, consider one of the sailing yachts carrying less than 200 passengers, offering a more intimate experience on a ship perfectly sized to reach those ‘off-the-beaten-track’ ports of call. Or for something exuding character and period charm why not try a sail-cruise on a fully rigged Clipper Ship, giving you the opportunity to help steer the ship, or climb the rigging to the crow’s nest? More and more people are choosing to take a ‘solo trip’ and looking to do it with likeminded people, exploring far-reaching places without the worry of getting from A to B – it’s all done for you. Like the idea of South-East Asia? Why not fly to Siem Reap and visit Angkor Wat before joining a cruise along the Mekong River to Ho Chi Minh. Or experience the history of the mighty Mississippi as you cruise on a Paddle Steamer? Sustainability. As global values change more travellers are aware of the world around them and their impact on it – which is something the cruise industry has been focused on for some time. Hurtigruten ships, amongst others, are already free from disposable plastics. Their new expedition ships are also hybrid powered, taking that extra step to protect the environments they visit. When to cruise. Whenever you like to travel and whether you prefer a warm climate or cold, there will be something to suit you. Maybe a short cruise to the Christmas Markets to recharge the batteries before the festive season? Or a warmer cruise in the Southern Hemisphere in our winter months? Personally, I love a sunny holiday yet each of my 3 cruises have been in cold climates – more on those in the weeks to come. Mini-cruise. If you still have your doubts, how about a 2 or 3 night ‘taster cruise’, to sample the onboard experience. Relax and enjoy the facilities on the days spent ‘at sea’, perhaps with a treatment in the Spa or catching up on the reading you don’t have time for at home. Sail from Southampton to Hamburg, stay a couple of nights and fly home, or take a round trip sailing to Belgium. If you’re visiting family in Liverpool, cruise up from Southampton and take the train home. The choices for cruising are endless, worldwide, and to suit all tastes. Give me a call if you’d like to know more.
22 August 2018
I love architecture, history, the sea, and my favourite hobby is photography – which makes Barcelona a great choice for a short break. The second largest city in Spain, it has so much to offer and is just a two-hour flight away. You can’t miss the influence of Antoni Gaudi all around the city – from the still unfinished, gothic cathedral La Sagrada Familia, to the Casa Batllo representing his more whimsical side, and the colourful Parc Guell which surely belongs in a fairy tale? Gaudi is just one artistic influence on Barcelona. Pablo Picasso spent his formative years here, and five medieval palaces on Montcada Street are now a museum showcasing an incredible 4,251 pieces of his artwork. I’m guessing he never took a day off. As well as the art, Barcelona has much to appeal to everyone. You can visit the Nou Camp Stadium home of Barca football team and relax on the beach. Or if you prefer some retail therapy take a stroll along Las Ramblas, the main avenue of the city. This area comes alive at night with a wide choice of bars and eateries. Tapas restaurants are everywhere and are a very sociable way to spend the evening by sharing several small plates of food. Summer is naturally a popular time to visit, and Cruise Ships at the Port significantly increase the number of daily visitors. If you prefer fewer crowds why not consider January or February which will be cooler, though rarely cold, and give you more value for your Euro. For more information or to book a Barcelona break please get in touch.
13 August 2018
The Canadian Rockies offer different things with each season. However, why not consider the brief shoulder season between autumn (popular for the autumnal colours) and winter (the start of the ski season). It doesn’t last very long, the first three weeks of October, yet you will be rewarded with fewer crowds and lower prices. If the night sky and planets are your thing, then include the Dark Sky Festival in Jasper, with a chance to see the Northern Lights if Mother Nature is feeling generous. The route and the weather I visited last October and got far more than I planned. After starting in warm and sunny Calgary for a couple of nights I headed west to beautiful Banff where some autumnal leaves were still clinging to the trees. A slight detour took me to Emerald Lake for my next stop. After seeing many stunning photos, I wanted to experience it for myself, although I hadn’t anticipated the 15cm of snow that fell overnight, closing the Icefields Parkway, which was my quickest route to Jasper. The Parkway, which runs 180 miles north from Banff to Jasper, has its own weather patterns, with the altitude reaching over 2000m in places. The mountains seem to trap the clouds, so one moment you’re driving in sunshine and the next through a snow storm. Eventually the snow ploughs cleared the road and I reached Jasper in time to experience the Dark Sky Festival, before heading back to Calgary and home. Highlights The Calgary Tower is a great place to enjoy brunch and the views from Sky 360 revolving restaurant – the wide plains in one direction and the Rockies on the horizon in the other. The observation deck ticket is included with your meal, making it good value. A very walkable city, Calgary is worthy of a day to explore the many pieces of art and sculpture dotted around the streets and enjoy a walk along the Bow River in Prince’s Park, to the unusual architecture of the Peace Bridge. Driving between each location is one of the main highlights, enjoying the scenery, looking for wildlife and stopping to stretch your legs with a walk at places such as Ghost Lake or Johnston Canyon. In Banff, the gondola takes you to the top of Sulphur Mountain with a boardwalk leading to the summit and a panoramic view of the mountain ranges surrounding you. At the bottom of the gondola station are the Hot Springs, and on the outskirts of town Lake Minnewanka is great for a cruise, if the boats haven’t stopped for winter. Pause at Lake Louise to photograph the iconic and usually turquoise water, which is much less turquoise at this time of year, although crystal clear. Further up the Parkway, take a walk to the highest point at Bow Summit, for one of the best views you will see – Peyto Lake. The Colombia Icefield and the Skywalk are between Lake Louise and Jasper. These close in early October for the winter, so plan your dates well if you don’t want to miss them. Designated a Dark Sky Preserve in 2011, Jasper National Park is one of the best places to try to see the Milky Way, yet you do need clear nights. Sadly, I didn’t have these due to the early snowfall, although the Northern Lights were seen several times at 2am – just not by me! It’s not all about the night. During the day you could take a kayak out on one of the lakes, hire a mountain bike, or drive out to Medicine Lake and Maligne Lake – the latter looking like a winter wonderland on this occasion. Look out for moose and deer searching for food at the roadside. Enjoy a walk at Maligne Canyon on the way back, before taking the SkyTram up Whistler Mountain for a view of the sunset. Accommodation The iconic Fairmont Palliser, Calgary has been welcoming guests since 1914. It’s location close to the Calgary Tower and within walking distance of Prince’s Island Park make it a comfortable base to explore the city. Brewster’s Mountain Lodge, Banff is a cosy hotel with hand crafted log furnishings and a fireplace in the lobby. Their included continental breakfast really sets you up for the day. Emerald Lake Lodge in Yoho National Park is stunning. Even when the cloud cover is low, due to the snow, it still has a magical feel. The rooms have their own fireplaces and I highly recommend the upgrade to a lakeview. The only downside is that it’s very popular for day trippers, with coachloads arriving by 9.30am, although usually leaving by nightfall. Marmot Lodge in Jasper is perfectly placed for the Dark Sky Festival as the Jasper Planetarium is on-site. The rooms are motel style, large and recently re-furbished. It’s a 15minute walk to the town centre and a choice of restaurants. The total distance covered was 670 miles in 9 days.
Market Harborough 23/07/2019
Wye, Ashford 04/02/2019
Herne Bay 01/12/2018
Herne Bay 25/09/2018