Memphis, Las Vegas, Miami & Caribbean Cruise

May Swan-Easton on 08 November 2008
This was a surprise 50th birthday holiday for my husband Mick.

We flew with British Airways from the new Terminal 5 at Heathrow Airport to Memphis via Dallas and spent 2 nights at the historical 5* Peabody Hotel.

After breakfast I took a taxi to Gracelands for the ‘Graceland Elvis Entourage VIP Tour’, an audio-guided tour of Graceland Mansion and grounds, Elvis' two custom airplanes, Automobile Museum, Elvis in Hollywood Exhibit, Private Presley Exhibit, '68 Special Exhibit and a special VIP only Exhibit at Graceland Manson which lasted 4hrs in total. We then caught a free shuttle to Sun Studios where Elvis cut his first demo in 1953. The guided tour takes you through the actual recording studio where you hear tapes of other musicians signed by Sun Studios like Johnny Cash, Carl Perkins and Jerry Lee Lewis along with a museum full of memorabilia from famous recording artists. These tours last approximately 1 hour and this was my husband’s favourite part of the holiday.

We jumped back on the free shuttle to Beale Streat ‘home of the Blues’. Measuring almost 2 miles long, this street is full of blues clubs, restaurants and bars. As it was a Sunday afternoon it was pretty quiet but there were a couple of live bands playing – we sat in a beer garden and listened to the ‘Lousiana Mojo Queen Band & Ms Zeno’ (who, if I shut my eyes, sounded just like Tina Turner). It’s a very different place at night and at the weekends – loud and busy, bars are so packed people spill out onto the street. We got back to the Peabody Hotel in time to see the famous ‘Peabody Ducks’ march from the lobby fountain back to their penthouse quarters.

It was a very early start the next day as we took a 4 hour flight from Memphis to Las Vegas and stayed 3 nights at the 5* Caesars Palace on the strip. You either love this place or you hate it. Crowded streets, neon lights, some of the largest hotels in the world can be found here. Mick found it quite overwhelming at first but grew to like it after a few hours. We dined with friends (who had flown secretly to Las Vegas for 5 nights from the UK) in the revolving restaurant at the top of the Stratosphere Hotel and had a fabulous meal with great service and of course 360 degrees of amazing views. It was a late night but an early start with a flight over the Grand Canyon (best time to see it is at sunrise). This was followed by shopping at the Premium discount outlet mall.

The next day the husbands were packed off for a half day bus tour of ‘Hoover Dam’ which they loved, whilst the girls went shopping at the Fashion Mall on the strip! That night I saw one of the amazing Cirque de Soliel shows (there are 6 to choose from) I purchased tickets 6 months in advance whilst in UK. Watched the free ‘Water & light show’ at the Bellagio fountains and fitted in a little late night gambling and won $50.

It was another early start for a 4.5 hour flight to Miami and a 25 minute taxi ride, staying for 2 nights at the very chic 5* Setai Hotel. A luxurious Ocean Front resort offering 130 rooms & suites, set in an oasis of pools and tropical gardens that lead down to a gorgeous stretch of white South Beach sands. I booked a one bedroom suite in The Tower with amazing views over South Beach & exquisitely furnished spacious rooms. This is a top class hotel with service to match. Miami is such a cosmopolitan city with kerb side bistros and cafes, chic bars, an historical Art Deco area with lots to see and do and perfect for a weekend trip or longer with friends, family or partners.

Finally, I can fully unpack my suitcase on the last leg of the holiday; I booked an outside cabin with balcony on the 7 night Western Caribbean cruise aboard the new Ruby Princess sailing from Fort Lauderdale to Mexico, Jamaica, Bahamas and Grand Cayman. Last surprise for my husband - 4 of his friends and their partners joined us for celebratory drinks on the pool deck as the ship set sail on the glistening blue ocean, to the sounds of a calypso band and the clink of cocktail glasses. Hmmm… how am I going to top this for his 60th??