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.
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.
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.
If you follow me on Vivino (if not, please do – I love to chat about wine), or if you’ve read any of my wine writing, you’ll know we’re huge fans of American wine. My obsession properly started after tasting the fabulous American wines available at some of my favourite restaurants at Walt Disney World, especially Citrico’s at Disney’s Grand Floridian Resort & Spa where the award winning wine list runs to several pages and the Sommelier can recommend some really fabulous wines. It was at Walt Disney World that I first got a taste for delicious, medium bodied floral Oregon Pinot Noir; and rich, peppery, fruity Californian Zinfandel. From there, we went on to buttery brioche Chardonnays too. I love tasting and learning about wine and you can imagine my delight when I found out that during our recent foodie trip to LA, we were going to be visiting Temecula wine country with Virgin Holiday Experiences.
Yesterday, I was lucky enough to be invited to Disney’s fabulous Halloween party in London. As you can imagine, there aren’t many parties better than a Disney one and sure enough, there were spooky drinks (served by even spookier characters), pumpkins and witches amidst lots of swirling dry ice and, of course, Mickey and Minnie in all their Halloween finery! I know you all love to hear a bit of Disney news too, so I thought I’d update you on a few new pieces of news for 2018 and beyond: from brand new Disney Cruise Line cruises in 2019 to the exciting Marvel announcement for Disneyland Paris made yesterday at Comic Con in London. Read more
So you’ve booked your dream holiday: you’ve chosen a great hotel, maybe scoped out a couple of decent restaurants (you know how important this is to me) but what’s the best way to really get under the skin of your destination? Well, Virgin Holidays has come up with the brilliant idea of Virgin Holidays Experiences: a breathtaking range of over 300 experiences for everyone from foodies and shopaholics to the thrill-seekers and outdoorsy types, and even those in search of the perfect Instagram shot. These fab new experiences will enable all of us to create a bespoke holiday experience that truly reflects our interests and obsessions. So whether you’ve always dreamed of shopping with your own personal stylist in New York, fancy taking surf lessons in San Diego, a seaplane trip over Horseshoe Bay in Vancouver or discovering Chinatown in San Francisco, the world really is your oyster! I was lucky enough to travel to LA and San Diego with Virgin Holidays earlier this month to try out a few of the amazing new Virgin Holidays Experiences. First up, an incredible foodie tour of East LA.
If you’re anything like us, one of the biggest considerations when you’re planning a holiday (along with: ‘will there be enough to do?’ and ‘what’s the pool like?’) is ‘are there loads of great places to eat?’. Food is a huge part of our family holiday budget – it’s a big part of our family life at home, so that naturally carries through when we go away together – we want to enjoy gorgeous food in beautiful places. I’ve been thinking for a while now that I really should create a little (well, quite large, actually) guide to dining at Universal Orlando Resort, so if you’re considering a Universal family holiday, you can do a little advanced planning (plus, you know I like taking photos of my food). This is by no means an exhaustive list, but I’ve tried to include everywhere I’d dined in and enjoyed as well as a couple on my still to do list.
October is a super exciting month in the cruise industry. It’s when everyone who loves to cruise comes together to celebrate Plan a Cruise Month: a whole month devoted to everything to do with cruising and the perfect time of year for you to plan your own cruise – especially as there are loads of fantastic offers and incentives available throughout the whole month. This year, the theme of Plan a Cruise Month is ‘destinations’, and I thought I’d tell you about Grand Cayman, one of my very favourite cruise destinations, by having a reminisce of my own lovely trip there, on assignment for Cruise International with Charlie.
If you’ve read my top ten tips for visiting Halloween Horror Nights, you’ll know that we had a fabulous trip, and this time – thanks to Dixons Travel – I get to truly share it with you as we made our first GoPro video! Yes, there was some jerky camera work (and rather a lot of screaming) but I’m actually really proud of our Halloween Horror Nights GoPro movie. GoPro have an excellent editing app called Quik that’s simple to use and allows you to edit your movie, blend clips together and add music too.
- Deliciously simple empanadas April 26, 2018
- 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