The Diagon Alley dragon

The Wizarding World of Harry Potter

Having shopped until we dropped at Macy’s, we decided to grab a couple of hours at Universal Orlando (well, seeing as we were so close…).  I was desperate to visit the new Diagon Alley section of The Wizarding World of Harry Potter, so we headed straight to Universal’s Islands of Adventure on the complimentary shuttle bus from the Cabana Bay Beach Resort and headed straight to Hogsmeade Station to wait for the Hogwarts Express:

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Wonderland logo

Dining options on board Quantum of the Seas

So last time I told you all about Quantum’s incredible technology.  It really has transformed nearly every aspect of the guest experience, from super speedy check in and luggage tracing, right down to the dining.  Guests can reserve at iQ stations, by the new app, by phone or in person and with 18 restaurants and 14 bars to choose from, there’s something for everyone. Table staff take orders on a tablet, keeping them where customers need them most, in the restaurant,  and this technology will track you no matter where you eat, so if you love a glass of champagne while you order, or if you have any specific dietary requirements, this will all be logged and the information will be available to each restaurant when you arrive.

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Macy's Kids at Macys, Mall at Millenia

The UK does Macy’s: family shopping in Orlando!

I’ve been SO busy whizzing around all over the place, and have so much to tell you (I’m aware I always say this, but it’s generally true!).  So last week, lovely Macy’s, the famous department store in the USA, invited me to their store in Orlando at the Mall at Millenia, and also to visit the new store in Sarasota.  I’ll just let that sink in – I was invited to AMERICA to GO SHOPPING.  And also, because it was his special birthday (not allowed to say but you know the one), they invited Mr English too!

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Chandelier in Adventure Ocean

The Royal Caribbean Quantum of the Seas – the world’s first ‘smartship’

This weekend, I was lucky enough to join the inaugural voyage of Royal Caribbean’s brand new Quantum Class vessel: Quantum of the Seas.  This is the first of the class, to be joined shortly by Anthem of the Seas.

These days, everyone has a smartphone, so Royal Caribbean have ramped up their latest ships into, well, smartships. Here’s what to expect:

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The gardens at Le Manoir

The Raymond Blanc Cookery School at Le Manoir aux Quat’Saisons with Kenwood Chef Sense

Last week, I was lucky enough to be invited to Raymond Blanc’s beautiful Le Manoir aux Quat’Saisons in Great Milton, Oxfordshire.  I’ve wanted to visit for ages, so I was beside myself with excitement.  As I drove up, I dithered outside the front gate in my car, not really knowing what to do, and instantly, a friendly gentleman in an immaculate suit rushed out to help, escorting me to the reception and driving my car off to park it for me.  First impressions?  Pretty darned good.

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Chip and Dale

Video: fabulous Disney dining and the free dining offer – just one week left!

So if you’re a regular reader, you’ll know that I headed over to Orlando last month to check out the fantastic dining options at Walt Disney World.  Here’s my video report from my trip.  Remember, you’ve only got one week left to book your 2015 holiday and take advantage of the free dining offer.  Read all about it here!

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The signature warm chocolate-banana torte at Citricos

Free dining with 2015 Walt Disney World holidays!

Our lovely visit to Walt Disney World in Orlando seems such a long time ago now.  I’m already pining for the sunshine, for Anna and Elsa, and, more importantly, all that amazing food.

Once upon a time (see what I did there?) I think most people thought that all you could probably eat while you were at Walt Disney World parks and resorts was junk food, or maybe Mickey-shaped ice creams.  Now, people are starting to realise that Walt Disney World features some of the best dining in the world, whether you’re after a snack, quick-service, grab and go option, or proper fine dining with table service.

So what can you expect?

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English Heritage - Stonehenge

Giveaway: win one of two English Heritage family memberships *closed*

What have you got planned this autumn?  It’s the perfect time to get out and about, I always think – crunching through piles of golden leaves and wrapping up, getting out and discovering new places, all looking beautiful in their glowy autumn colours.  To give you a bit of inspiration, I’ve teamed up with English Heritage to give two lucky winners a fabulous 12 month English Heritage family membership.

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Frozen cupcake topper

How to make Disney Frozen cupcakes – a masterclass with Chef Jeff

One of my absolute favourite adventures while we were in Walt Disney World was a special, money can’t buy visit to Chef Jeff, Executive Chef at Disney’s beautiful Contemporary Resort, one of my top five Walt Disney World resort hotels.  Chef Jeff and his team are responsible for all the patisserie for the resort, from gorgeous special occasion cakes, to the wonderful cupcakes available in the café.

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The Twilight Zone Tower of Terror

The incredible Hollywood Brown Derby at Disney’s Hollywood Studios

So as I mentioned recently, I’ve been in Orlando for a few days with my friend Laura, experiencing the fabulous food (plus the odd ride, parade, and other lovely things) available throughout Walt Disney World.

One of the highlights of Walt Disney World for me is Disney’s Hollywood Studios.  I adore the showbiz theming – it feels like a real movie set, with all the main areas seamlessly blending into each other.

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Say hello to the Best Cruise Blogger 2014 (hint: it’s me)

So after all the begging and pleading, yesterday I finally got to slip on my new favourite LBD (thank you, Mint Velvet) and my gorgeous sparkly new necklace from Alice’s Wonders, lash a load of concealer over my hideous jetlaggy eye bags, and head off to London for the Cruise International Cruise Awards 2014.

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Arriving home to Heathrow

APH airport parking

One of the huge perks of my job is all the travel.  I get to visit some wonderful places and cruise on amazing ships.  I’m always pinching myself at how lucky I am.  One of the bits that I enjoy the least, though, is getting to the airport.  We actually only live about half an hour from Heathrow, but depending on how things are on the M25, that half hour can magically change into an hour or even longer.

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Pool area at Wilderness Lodge resort

Disney’s Wilderness Lodge Resort

So as you’re reading this, I’m out in Orlando at Walt Disney World, catching up on the latest in food and wine (and tackling the odd ride, obviously).  During my last trip to Walt Disney World, I was lucky enough to stay in Disney’s Wilderness Lodge Resort.  I love the theming of the Disney resorts and this is one of my favourites.  Based on the old American Northwest, the hotel sits on the shores of Bay Lake, nestled within beautiful forests.  The interior is like a big old log cabin, with wonderful outdoor areas and access to the Magic Kingdom via the lovely boat service (or of course the free Disney coach service) that takes you to Seven Seas Lagoon (click on the gallery to see my pictures):
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Charlie in the Bahamas

5 reasons why you should take your teenagers on a Caribbean cruise

Every parent of teenagers knows that feeling when you start to wonder exactly how long your children will keep wanting to come on holiday with you.  As they grow up, they naturally develop their own tastes, likes and dislikes (and even more naturally, these will tend to be the exact opposite to yours), so agreeing on a holiday destination (and indeed, persuading them to dump their mates and come on holiday with you) is never easy.

Enter, the Caribbean cruise.  Here’s why:

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Penguin selfie!

Kidnapping Red Pandas. A day out with the Samsung Galaxy K Zoom

As a family, we’re pretty divided when it comes to phones.  Mr English is a sworn iPhone devotee.  The rest of us are mad on Samsung.  At the moment, Charlie and Sam both have a Galaxy S4, and I’ve got an S3 (I did have an S4 too, but then Sam dropped his in the sea on a Biology field trip and he was so gutted I gave him mine – motherly love eh?).

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The Honda Civic Tourer

On test: the Honda Civic Tourer 1.8i-VTEC SR

We’ve tested a few cars in the past, most notably the Honda CR-V that we drove around France, and really love doing it (basically, a lovely man appears on your doorstep with a brand new car and gives you the keys, leaving the car with you for a week – what’s not to love?).  This time, Honda asked if we’d like to try their new Civic Tourer 1.8 i-VTEC SR manual and, being a big car loving family, we jumped at the chance…

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Cruise Awards

The Cruise Awards 2014 – vote mum!

I’ve always written about travel.  But over the last few years I’ve been writing more and more about cruising.  I adore cruise holidays and have become almost evangelical in my attempt to get the word out to everyone just what a FABULOUS holiday you can have aboard a cruise ship. Last month, as part of my job as an ambassador for Royal Caribbean (follow us on Twitter and Instagram – our hashtag is #RoyalMums) we travelled to the Caribbean on the largest cruise ship in the world, the Allure of the Seas

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Artist's impression of The Four Seasons Resort Orlando at Walt Disney World Resort  (pic courtesy of Four Seasons Hotels and Resorts)

The new Four Seasons Resort, Orlando

Regular readers will know that I adore a Walt Disney resort hotel (click here to see my top five) and there’s much excitement in Orlando at the moment as there’s a new hotel opening very shortly.  This one’s a bit different as although it’s placed within the boundaries of Walt Disney World, it’s actually a Four Seasons.  The Four Seasons Resort Orlando at Walt Disney World Resort to give it its full title (bit of a mouthful, admittedly) is shaping up to be an absolute beauty.

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SCANDAL LOGO

5 mad things about the Scandal, Series 3 event in London

So recently I got invited to a very swish private screening of the third series of Sky Living’s drama, Scandal.  If you’re not already hooked (bet you are), it stars the gorgeous Kerry Washington (who we all remember most as the blind lady who dated The Thing in the Fantastic Four, but who was also amazing in Django Unchained), as White House fixer Olivia Pope. It’s full of intrigue, secrets and cover-ups and is seriously good.

So how did the evening pan out?  I’m not sure you’ll believe it…

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