Saturday, August 2, 2014

Why the Med is perfect for last-minute cruises

Cruise Ship Infographic: 9 Superb Mediterranean Holidays In 1 Cruise
Cruise Infographic by Bolsover Cruise Club

Why the Med is perfect for last-minute cruises

We all know how it can be - life gets in the way when you’re trying to organise a getaway and before you know it the summer is upon you and you don’t have a holiday booked. Rather than scrabbling with everyone else for the best available package at a standard sun, sea and sand resort, go on a cruise.

We know what you’re thinking - ‘cruises are for old people’; ‘I don’t want to be stuck with lots of people I don’t know’; ‘won’t I get bored when I’m not visiting a port?’; ‘where can I even go on a cruise anyway?’.

Stop and throw all those preconceptions out of the window because not only are last-minute cruises fantastic value for money, but they could also introduce you to destinations you’d never otherwise have explored.

The Mediterranean is a classic example of a region that’s home to many hidden gems. Incredible beaches, cultural cities and fascinating heritage sites all await if only you’d give yourself the chance to try something different.

If you’re going for a last-minute deal, the Med is a particularly good choice because it’s so close to the UK. You won’t need to travel far, even if you opt for a fly-cruise option, before you meet your ship. Thanks to the wide-scale adoption of the Euro, you’re also unlikely to have to worry about exchanging your currency multiple times. And, of course, it’s an incredibly varied place to explore too.

For plenty of variety, go on an itinerary that takes in some of Europe’s most sophisticated cities and beautiful landscapes - a 14-day journey around Italy’s coastline, on to Croatia, Montenegro, Corfu and finally Corsica.

This particular trip really does feature a little bit of everything, with cities like Rome and Naples providing history in abundance. Florence and Venice, meanwhile, are renowned for being creative hubs and home to some of the world’s most spectacular artworks.

Spend time in Dubrovnik and you’ve got fantastic beaches just a short distance from the city’s amazing Old Town. Kotor in Montenegro is one of the most breathtakingly beautiful fjords you’re likely to see. And in Genoa and Corfu you can sample classic Mediterranean delicacies. Ajaccio in Corsica is the ideal place to relax, with its seafront promenade perfect for a gentle stroll and a profusion of pavement cafes where you can sip a coffee and watch the world go by.

As if fitting nine holiday destinations into one trip (without any stress or hassle on your part, we might add) wasn’t enough, you’ve also got several days at sea during which you can enjoy the delights of your cruise liner.

Modern cruise ships are huge and boast plenty of entertainment for all kinds of travellers. There are theatre shows, clubs, casinos and chic bars to keep you amused after dark, while the day time is reserved for leisurely trips to the spa, refreshing dips in the pool and working on your tan on the sundeck.

So, a cruise is part package holiday, part independent travel with a whole lot more thrown in. You’ll still come home from your break with a tan, but you’ll also have visited far more fascinating places than any of your friends who opted for a single-centre break - and you’re likely to be the envy of all of them once you tell them about your adventures on the high seas.

Wednesday, April 30, 2014

Top Things to Do in Larnaca

Have you ever heard of Larnaca? It’s not at the top of many traveler’s lists, but it’s an incredible destination off the beaten path and one you should definitely hit if you’re an adventurous traveler! Not only is it the oldest city in Cyprus, but it may be one of the oldest cities in the world. This rugged and charming town has a mysterious and seductive feel that will have you wanting to explore its every nook and cranny. There are plenty of things to do, and this will surely be a visit you won’t forget. You can book your holiday to Larnaca through Thomas Cook. So read on for the top things to do while you’re staying in Larnaca:

Ayios Lazarus
This site is notable as a church built on the site where St. Lazarus’s tomb is kept. Lazarus moved to Cyprus after being chased out of Israel, spreading the news of Christianity after Jesus brought him back from the dead. He was named Bishop of Kition and reigned for years. This church is fascinating to explore and is a remarkable historical site to visit while in Larnaca.

Salt Lake
The “Salt Lake” is in fact a group of four salt lakes that are interconnected and fill with water during winter months. When they are full, flocks of flamingos come to make their home here and feed on the shrimp living in the lake. As the weather warms and summer comes along, the water dries up and leaves a crusty salt layer that can be up to 10 cm thick.

Larnaca Fort
This fascinating site was built back in 1625 by the Ottomans, in attempts to defend the city from attackers. But it was actually more often used as a prison! The fort has a gorgeous location right on the shore line so when you go visit, you actually walk around it by a sea wall. In the fort you can see plenty of archaeological exhibits like suits of armor and other artifacts. In the summertime, the fort and surrounding area are often used for outdoor events like concerts and festivals.

Wreck of the Zenobia
Do you love scuba diving? You’re going to go nuts for Cyprus! There is some amazing diving here and you really can’t miss the wreck of the Zenobia while you’re here. The Zenobia cargo ship sunk 30 years ago and is in great condition, with a number of different dive levels and challenges that will appeal to any level of diver. This is actually considered one of the top shipwreck dives in the world. You’ll see things like the colorful carpets in the lounge and even food still in the vending machines!

This is one of the most important Neolithic sites in the world, and a World Heritage Site as well. At first, it might look like a mess of jumbled stones and rocks but in fact this is the ruins of an ancient civilization. A visit to this site will reveal how people lived 9,000 years ago. And the work is still in progress here, who knows what is yet to be found.

Wednesday, April 23, 2014

My Favourite Island Getaways

I have a confession to make. I spend hours and hours online daydreaming about escaping to various tranquil islands all over the world. There is something magical to me about that turquoise water and soft white sand. Last week I was having my usual coffee-club catch up with my girlfriends. We got onto the topic of island getaways and it turns out that I’m not the only island-getaway fanatic. 

Based on the conversation that unfolded, here are the top island getaways on my bucket-list and why I think you should consider them too:
Phi-Phi Islands, Thailand
Best for the ultimate laid-back island escape. Limestone cliffs give way to beach-fronted jungle and sunlit crystal water. Days are a blend of snorkelling, swimming and savouring Thai cuisine. You can even complete your PADI certification and enjoy some scuba diving. Finish off your day with a sunset massage. There are no flights to the Phi-Phi Islands so once you’re in Phuket make sure to purchase your boat tickets – most hotels and guesthouses can assist you with this.
Lanzarote, Canary Islands
Best for a chic, eco-friendly island experience. Take a coach tour and marvel at the lava landscape inside Timanfaya National Park. Explore shipwrecks, caves and magical marine life while taking advantage of the excellent diving opportunities. Indulge your palate in some wine tasting at El Grifo Wine Museum, the oldest winery in the Canaries. Make sure to book your Lanzarote flights in advance.
Green Island, Taiwan
Best for an activity-filled weekend getaway. This small volcanic Island is accessible from Taiwan by boat or plane. Rent a scooter and make your way around this unusual island with its 16.3km round-the-island highway. It boasts impressive snorkelling and diving options. Visit one of only 3 saltwater hot springs in the world.
Best for sightseeing and photography.  Join an adventure in the sky and indulge yourself in a Seaplane photo flight offering you panoramic views and unparalleled photo opportunities. Relax and unwind in a stilted bungalow hovering over the crystal clear waters. Pamper yourself with a spa treatment. The Maldives is easily accessible from anywhere in South-East Asia, the Middle-East and Europe.

One of the go-to wedding locations for its luxurious tropical weather, soft sandy beaches, incredible resorts and high-quality hotels. If weddings or sunbathing isn’t going to be a huge part of your holiday experience, then Mauritius has a load of historical sights, hiking trails along its lush vegetation and almost unlimited water sports in their warm and azure waters.
Turks and Caicos Islands
Set amongst the Caribbean islands in the region, Turks and Caicos offers incredible food such as fritters and stews made from conches, the islands most famous export. The best place to visit is Da Conch Shack that plays smooth and relaxing music, while you eat a creamy chowder made from seafood caught that very morning, the beer should taste so much better in paradise. The island also has great water activities such as kite boarding on Long Bay Beach, fly fishing as well as night fishing. The low-level snorkelling in the shallow waters of Gibbs Bay is incredible, especially that you can swim amongst the rays.

Alright, no more day-dreaming. I need to make a plan to get on a plane and head to all these destinations sooner than later in my office secluded life and island getaways are the perfect places to renew your mind and fill your heart with the sounds and smells of the summer sun.

Wednesday, January 29, 2014

You Too Can Visit Tigers in a Natural Reserve

Granted, tigers are something that most people fear, perhaps out of pure basic instinct. They are fierce predators which often hunt at night. There are many tales going back centuries of unfortunate travellers being ambushed by tigers and as a result, their reputation has grown over time. But there is a Buddhist temple in Thailand where tigers are welcomed and are treated quite humanely. Having become accustomed to their human hosts, they are quite tame and actually respond quite well to visitors. It may sound highly unlikely, but it is true. You owe yourself an opportunity to see this unique environment known as the Tiger Temple.

New and Unusual

Tiger Temple’s official name is WatPhaLuang Ta Bua and is situated on the grounds of a Theravada Buddhist temple in Western Thailand. The monks had an idea 20 years ago that not only should tigers be protected from other predators, especially its most ferocious one, man, but that they could also be somewhat domesticated and learn to live in peace and harmony with humans. By all accounts, the experiment has been an outstanding success. The local monks hope that if the trend continues, they will ultimately be able to release some of the tigers into the wild. Hopefully, they will not have lost their killer instinct, once they are released, so that they can survive in their natural habitat.

One Big Cat

Even as schoolchildren, we learn that tigers are members of the extended cat family. They are in fact the largest of this species and certainly have the largest teeth, which is one of the reasons they are a feared predator. Interestingly enough, they seem to survive about the same amount of time in the wild as in captivity, which typically is somewhere between 24 and 26 human years. Their natural habitat had covered most of Asia, reaching as far as Turkey to the West and Russia to the east. Because they tended to be found in many areas of the world that are largely populated, they often came into contact and conflict with humans. Most of the time, the humans won. Perhaps it goes without saying that as a result, they have lost a tremendous amount of their natural habitat, with some estimates putting the loss at approximately 93%. It is therefore not surprising that the current estimate of tigers that survive in the wild range between only 3,000 and 4,000 total, worldwide. This is a species which is on the verge of extinction, if something is not done to reverse the trend.

Welcome to Tiger Temple

Given this backdrop, it is good to know that there are places such as Tiger Temple where tigers are allowed to breed and live in relative peace and quiet, without too much human interference. If you happen to visit Thailand, you can take advantage of Tiger Temple Tours to visit these animals in a tranquil and serene setting and even have an opportunity to interact with them without fear. In many ways, it could be the experience of a lifetime.

Image courtesy of: anankkml

Tuesday, July 30, 2013

Destination Florida

America is a vast country and so deciding where to choose can be a daunting task. Having been fortunate to spend time as a student ravelling across the States, I would recommend Florida as a great holiday destination. Here are my top choices for a visit to the Sunshine State.

1.     Florida Keys
Key West is an island in the Straits of Florida and marks the southernmost tip of the United States. Only 90 miles from Cuba, Key West is like no other place in America. Famous for its Key Lime Pie, the local atmosphere is laidback, perhaps more Caribbean than American. A perfect destination for couples, the keys offer the ideal mixture of relaxation and activities. Turquoise seas and beautiful beaches are abundant, as is the opportunity to take a canoe through the marshlands to watch the sunset. If you’re lucky you’ll spot a few turtles.  Ernest Hemmingway also resided here, calling it home for over ten years. To reach Key West, fly into Miami and take a 4 hour drive, incorporating a seven mile long bridge.
2.     Miami
Miami is a surprising place. The picture of the place I had in my head was not the place I
visited. It’s located on the Atlantic coast in south eastern Florida. Nicknamed the "Capital of Latin America,” Florida is the second-largest US City with a Spanish Speaking majority and consequently, the cuisine is as diverse as the language. The Miami Beach Architectural District is certainly worth a visit – take this walking tour before enjoying South Beach, often called the American Riviera.
3.     Amelia Island
Named for Princess Amelia, daughter of George II of Great Britain, the island has changed colonial hands a number of times. It is claimed that eight flags have flown over Amelia Island: French, Spanish, British, Patriot, Green Cross, Mexican, Confederate, and United States. What you will find here today is a beautiful resort filled with great restaurants, shops and activities. I prefect for families or couples, this peaceful, relaxed seaport community offers 13-miles of beautiful beaches, abundant native wildlife, and pristine waters.

The weather in Florida is pretty good all year round. However, you can typically get some good deals on hotels and travel in September through to November as this is hurricane season. It might also be a good idea to sign up for flight alerts and as an Amex Cardholder you can normally get some major perks when booking through American Expresstravel online.