Recently, I told you all about my amazing Saturday Night Takeaway adventure, and promised to update you on some of the new openings and gossip from Universal Orlando Resort, Florida. While we were in the park, we were really lucky to be given a sneaky peek behind the scenes at an incredible new attraction (and also the opportunity to eat ALL THE DOUGHNUTS at the fab new Voodoo Doughnuts on Universal’s CityWalk – more news of this very soon). The new Fast & Furious – Supercharged at Universal Orlando featuring the stars of the movie franchise as well as breathtaking original vehicles, is due to open very soon and promises an action-packed ride experience. Here’s what I learned…
I’m sure I speak for many of us when I say that I feel really uncomfortable looking back to past holidays where we’ve interacted with captive dolphins. We all love dolphins (I spotted this one off the coast of Agadir from a cruise ship), and I’ll the be first to admit that the chance to interact with them was just too tempting, but I know I’m not alone in looking back now and feeling quite sad that we played a part in supporting an industry that, even at the time, made us feel uneasy. Now, I feel that times have changed for the better, and there really has been a shift in what we feel is acceptable with regard to the welfare of dolphins and whales in captivity (in fact, in a poll of 1000 UK consumers* last year, 95% wanted to see tour operators change the way they work with attractions featuring whales and dolphins). I wanted to be the first to tell you about a fabulous new initiative that’s going to make you love Virgin Holidays even more than you do already (if that’s possible). Yesterday, Virgin Holidays announced that they’re going to be investing into a wonderful new project: North America’s first dolphin sanctuary. I asked them all about it and here’s what I found out:
In part one of my little love letter to the beautiful Viking Sea, I wrote about how much I loved the beautiful design details and wonderful service that make the ship so special. as well as telling you about the first stop on Viking’s West Indies Explorer itinerary, San Juan. From there, we sailed on, following a roughly south easterly track that would eventually take us to our final port, Barbados. Here’s the final part of my onboard diary, in which we discover even more of the Caribbean on board Viking Sea.
What an exciting week it’s been! In my head, I’m still at Universal Orlando Resort in Florida in the audience at the live finale of Saturday Night Takeaway, laughing at Dec, Scarlett and Stephen’s rowing race at Volcano Bay, boogying to Craig David, learning dance moves with Jason Derulo and singing the Friends theme with The Rembrandts. If you don’t follow me on social media (and if not, why not?!) you might have missed the exciting news that last week I was lucky enough to fly out to Orlando for a behind the scenes sneaky peek at the Saturday Night Takeaway live finale. My Saturday Night Takeaway adventure began when I joined the lucky place on the plane ticket winners and boarded a specially chartered Virgin Atlantic flight to Orlando. As you can imagine, the atmosphere on board was pretty electric, Stephen Mulhern and Scarlett Moffatt were milling around, chatting to the winners and the gorgeous, glam Virgin cabin crew were on hand to make sure we were all safe and looked after.
A couple of weeks ago, I wrote about discovering (or rediscovering) the Caribbean after it was battered by hurricanes Irma and Maria, and promised to tell you more about our ship, the beautiful Viking Sea. So what’s it like to sail on Viking Sea around the Caribbean? Well, it’s a relatively small ship carrying just over 900 passengers, and on board, you won’t find a casino, on board photographers, gaudy kids’ clubs (in fact, any kids) or drum and bass by the pool. The emphasis is on relaxation, and – cliché alert – connecting with the sea, so what you will find are wide ocean vistas, calming colours, friendly staff and breathtakingly beautiful design details. I don’t think I’ve ever loved a ship as much. Everywhere you look there’s another gorgeous, mid century chair in a perfect little corner inviting you to sit and read, or sip a cocktail.
We love flying with Virgin Atlantic. And – not wishing to slate the opposition – but having had some not-so-perfect flying experiences with other airlines recently, we really think their service and attention to detail is second to none. Now, at a time when a lot of other airlines are cramming even more seats onto their planes, Virgin Atlantic are investing more money to make sure flying in economy can be personalised to suit you, so if you want to push the boat out and grab some extra legroom, you can, but equally, if you just want to get there and get the absolute best value flight, you can do that too. Read on to find out all about the three new ways to fly economy with Virgin Atlantic.
It’s not often that you get invited by Disney to go to a special exhibition in Paris, so I was really excited this week to head to St Pancras to be whisked to the beautiful City of Lights. Unfortunately, being the travel professional that I am, I turned up without my passport. My heart sank and I was absolutely convinced that I would have to miss this wonderful opportunity. Happily, my amazing family came rushing to the rescue and managed to deliver my passport to me at Euston, allowing me to hop on the next Eurostar and arrive just in time for lunch (always my favourite bit). Anyhoo, after all that drama, it was time to immerse myself into the wonderful world of Marvel Superheroes and find out all about the plans for Marvel Summer of Superheroes at a special exhibition, live from the Palais de Tokyo in Paris.
Last September, we were on the first Virgin Atlantic flight out to Orlando following the airport’s reopening after Hurricane Irma. We met people from the Florida Keys and Miami who had left their homes and belongings behind and been evacuated north to the resort hotels of Orlando. The next morning we walked the empty streets of Universal Orlando Resort, and stepped onto rides with no queues. I remember chatting to our Uber driver, a Puerto Rican who, at the time, was worried about his friends and family at home as the second hurricane, Maria, powered towards the island. It was a sobering time. Fast forward six months, and I’m boarding a flight from Miami to Puerto Rico to join Viking Cruises’ Viking Sea in San Juan for the first leg of Viking’s West Indies Explorer itinerary, sailing from San Juan on a roughly south easterly track that will take us down to our final port, Barbados. I’m curious to know how cruising the Caribbean after Irma and Maria will be, and wondering if, frankly, we’ll be unwelcome guests, strutting around demanding drinks and ice creams while people rebuild their homes and businesses.
There’s no denying it, cruising is big business. CLIA, the Cruise Lines International Association predicts that 27.2 million passengers will take a cruise in 2018, and with so much demand, the cruise lines are busy commissioning more and more new ships. This year sees Royal Caribbean’s Symphony of the Seas, Carnival Horizon, Celebrity Edge, Norwegian Bliss, and many more take to the seas. With so much choice, and so many cruise lines, what’s the best way to choose, and is it possible to get a good deal? Well, if you’re thinking of setting sail on your very own cruise adventure this year, here are my top tips for booking a cruise.
With news just released of the opening date for the brand new Toy Story Land at Hollywood Studios, there’s never been a better time to visit Walt Disney World Resort in Orlando. Toy Story Land is just the beginning of the expansion plans for Disney’s Hollywood Studios, with next year seeing the opening of the 14-acre Star Wars: Galaxy’s Edge. So whether you’re an old-school Disney fan, or if you’re a mad Star Wars fan (or both!), there’s really something for everyone. Read on for all the info on new Toy Story Land.
Yesterday I went into London to catch up with the lovely folk at Viking Cruises (you might remember me mentioning that I wrote the recipes for their cookery book and also for the gorgeous Nordic Style book they have on board). Viking Cruises are the sponsors of a brand new exhibition at the V&A: Ocean Liners: Speed and Style, which opens this Saturday, and I really do recommend that you give it a visit. Whether your interest is history, engineering or fashion, the whole exhibition is a fascinating insight into the glamour of the golden age of cruising. Known for their cool, Scandi-inspired ships and attention to detail, Viking Cruises really are the perfect match for this exhibition.
There’s a standard phrase in our house: ‘I want to move to Marlow!’. It’s uttered every time we see something fabulous happening in this lovely little Buckinghamshire town. We go as much as we can, but it’s an hour from us (though actually, right next to where Mr E works). It’s gorgeous in the summer, and magical in the winter. I’ve even earmarked my perfect house on West Street (you don’t even want to know how much it is). This weekend, we were lucky enough to be invited to the launch evening of The Pop-Up Festival, a unique pop up cinema experience combined with delicious food from the fabulous Tom Kerridge. I’d heard all about the Gourmet Picture Company as my lovely mate Amanda from Online Stylist attended one last summer at Chewton Glen. It looked absolutely gorgeous, so I was so excited to see how the Gourmet Picture Company would keep us all warm and cosy in December!
The run up to Christmas can be stressful. For most of us, it’s a whirlwind of online (and real life) shopping, cooking and planning, and of course my work doesn’t stop either (I’ve already cooked three Christmas dinners and it’s only just December). I decided to take a pre-Christmas pampering trip with a little help from Trainline’s new voice app. Here’s how I got on.
You all know that I love everything to do with Christmas, and once the lights have been switched on in London, I’m always desperate to take a trip to go and see them. Mr E works really hard and we don’t get much opportunity to do things as a family, so I thought we’d plan a lovely festive trip up to London on the train to go and see the lights (and maybe grab some dinner and a cocktail or two) while we’re there. While we were planning our trip, I thought it would be a good opportunity to try Trainline’s new Price Prediction tool to get the best possible ticket price. Here’s how we got on.
So I’ve been telling you about my magical trip to Los Angeles with Virgin Holidays. After our fantastic foodie tour of East LA and a stop off to explore Temecula wine country, we headed to our final destination, San Diego. We arrived quite late in the afternoon from Temecula and went straight to our hotel, the gorgeously colourful Kona Kai Resort & Spa, before quickly popping to our rooms to freshen up before going straight out to dinner. We only had a very limited time in San Diego and were determined to make the most of it, so our foodie day in San Diego strictly started the night before with a visit to Liberty Station, before returning to properly explore the next day.
One year, when the kids were small and we were still living in Ireland, our whole family came over to spend Christmas with us. I remember it as the most magical time: loads of fun and laughter, walks to the pub snuggled up in hats and scarves, the kids opening their presents together on Christmas morning… Years later, we still talk about our lovely family Christmas together, and one of the things we’ve considered is renting a cosy cottage somewhere and decamping as a family for the festive period. I’m thinking The Holiday but with considerably more people. So why am I hankering after getting away from it all? Well, here are five great reasons why we should all be having a cosy cottage Christmas:
- Fast & Furious – Supercharged at Universal Orlando Resort, Florida April 24, 2018
- Weekend wishlist: chic dressing for sunny days April 21, 2018
- News: Virgin Holidays and North America’s first dolphin sanctuary April 19, 2018
- Discovering the Caribbean on board Viking Sea April 17, 2018
- Easy mini Bakewell tarts April 14, 2018