Cross the Atlantic the Old Fashioned Way!

Have you ever wanted to travel with the modern conveniences of today but in the style of centuries ago? It’s entirely possible if you opt to take a Trans Atlantic cruise ship instead of flying!

It’s perfect for anyone who cares more about the voyage than the ultimate destination because it gives you plenty of time to relax and enjoy your surroundings. On board a vessel like the Queen Mary II you can have a great time stuffing yourself silly on fabulous food and taking part in all the leisure activities provided as you cross the wide open ocean from the UK to North America. Along the way you’ll stop in a number of different port cities, giving you a chance to see some of the local colour before heading on to your ultimate destination – it wouldn’t be a proper cruise if you did it any other way!

For a geek like me, I enjoy the idea of doing something a bit out of the ordinary, particularly in an age of cruises that only do the same old thing. I love heading to the Caribbean as much as the next bloke but after you’ve seen one tropical island they all start to look the same. Taking to the sea in this way seems to me like a connection to the past… but with swimming pools, fantastic cuisine and a lack of scurvy.

To celebrate the 200th Trans Atlantic crossing in July 2013, the Queen Mary II has a fancy little infographic drawn up to give you some information on the ship and its workings. If you’re in the market for a holiday this year and fancy taking a bit of a sail across the Atlantic, why not hop on board and give it a go? You’ll be in good company if you do!

(click on image for larger view!)

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Yet More Neighbourhoods of Copenhagen

One of the most attractive and interesting cities of Europe, Copenhagen gives much to its visitors. There are so many varied neighbourhoods that will allow exploration of different elements of the city. While most people will stay around its main district Indre By there is so much beyond that. Whether you want to soak in the opulence of Slotsholmen, see the bohemian Christiana, or explore the bohemian qualities of Nørrebro and Vesterbro the choice will be there for you. Yet more neighbourhoods of Copenhagen include.

Holmen and Islands Brygge

To the North of Christianshavn are two artistically oriented communities – Holmen and Islands Brygge. Holman’s was formerly a navel base that has been transformed into an artistic community which houses several artistic institutions such as the Danish Film School and the Danish National School of Theatre. Beyond art at Holman there still are remnants of the areas naval past as naval enthusiasts can visit Torpedo Hall and other naval sites.

Island Brygee is a small district to the south of Christianshavn that houses a variety of trendy galleries and restaurants. The area is considered a haven for up and coming artists to present their works.

Vesterbro

To the southwest of Indre By is Vesterbro. This area use to be the slum of Copenhagen, but in a true example of gentrification, it has become an up and coming spot for artists, students, and the yuppies that follow. Filled with a great variety of bars, ethnic restaurants, cafes and live music venues this area of Copenhagen is often compared to the East Village of New York City.

Nørrebro

To the North of Vesterbro is Norrebro an area that has large immigrant roots and is more ethnically diverse than anywhere in Copenhagen. Norreborro exudes both an exotic/Middle Eastern and a bohemian/ artistic feel at the same time. Home to a massive student population this district boosts a diverse night life and art scene. Filled with opportunities for fun, Norrebro also has Assistens Cemetery which is a resting place for several famous Danes including Soren Kirekengarden and Hans Christian Anderson.

frederiksberg-have-slotFrederiksberg

Frederiksberg is one of Copenhagen’s main residential and business areas and a place that is well regarded for its restaurants and bars. Having a large park, Frederiksberg Have, in its centre there are also plenty of other attractions including massive Frederiksberg Castle and Copenhagen Zoo – the latter of which is one of the world’s largest and best maintained zoos. If you are a beer lover the world famous Carlsberg Brewery is also located in this district too.

Osterbro

Osterbro is the largest of the cities districts. A rather well maintained and posh district it is mainly residential. Other than the Danish National Stadium and the wonderful Fælledparken – the largest park in the city and the host of many of the city’s festivals and events – there isn’t a lot of reason to come down to this part of town.

More Neighbourhoods of Copenhagen

Copenhagen is certainly an interesting place that has so much culture, architecture and varied activity for visitors to enjoy. No activity is better than wandering the different sections of the city, each of which offers up a unique experience to visitors. Different parts of Copenhagen highlight both the city’s wealthy and conversely its bohemian sides. Some more of the neighborhoods of Copenhagen include.

Langelinie

The northeastern corner of Frederiksstaden is an area called Langelinie. An upscale neighborhood, noted for its gourmet restaurants and posh boutiques. Langelinie is perhaps best known for having Hans Christian Anderson’s famous Little Mermaid Statue in it.

117386-004-60252B0D Rosenborg

To the Northwest of Frederiksstadenis is Rosenborg. Rosenborg is best known as home of the Rosenborg Castle; a castle which was built in the Dutch Renaissance style by the early 17th century king Christian IV who made it his royal residence. In modern times the castle is now open to the public to visit – giving access to its many halls and ballrooms as well as the King’s Garden – and is home to the Crown jewels.

Christianshavn

Christianshavn is the community built on the half moon shaped island that separates the Islands of Zealand and Amager. An area that has always been cheaper than other part of the city it draws artistic types and has been called by Danish writers the Amsterdam of Denmark. The name also sticks because of Christianshavn’s many canals that fill the area. Known for also having Renaissance-style architecture many people suggest taking a canal boat tour in order to best experience the district. A few of the landmarks that are in Christianshavn include the Danish Film Museum and the Our Savior’s Church.

Christiania

Perhaps the most iconic location of Copenhagen is Christiana, which is located just to the northeast of Christianshavn. Created as a hippy commune back in the 1970’s on an old military base Christania has long gone by its own rules. Cannabis is openly sold and smoked here and Christiana refuses to fulfill certain elements of Danish law like forcing people to pay the 25% national sales tax. Perhaps beyond rule breaking, Christiana shows visitors a wonderful splice of creativity and artistic openness. Well inside Christiana there are many great restaurant, galleries and arts and crafts markets to visit.

More Things to see and do in Auckland

Auckland is a city that effortlessly combines nature, city life, and proximity to some great beaches. Opportunities are abound to enjoy the unique New Zealand topography and animals one day during your stay and to wander around stylish Queen Street in central Auckland the next. New Zealand is a nation that has much charm and provides a bit of everything to do catering to all interests. More things to see and do in Auckland include:

GibbonsWaitakereWaitakere Ranges 

Waiatarua | Auckland

 Options are limitless for hiking, fishing, surfing, bird watching inside the majestic and lovely Waitakere ranges. Around an hour away from central Auckland the ranges provide great opportunities to hike, fish, surf and bird watch all while being surrounded by picturesque nature. Noted both for its black sand shores such as Whatipu and its roaring waterfalls like Fairy Falls and Cascade Kauri the Waitakere Ranges has been hailed by other travelers as being just what New Zealand is about. The range is open to the public at all times and does not cost any type of entrance or usage fee.

Queen Street 

Queen Street | Auckland

A great way to connect with the more cosmopolitan elements of Auckland life is to take a trip down to Queen Street. Filled with notable stores like the Diamond Shop and Billabong as well as some of the iconic buildings of Auckland like the Bank of New Zealand Buildings and Auckland Town Hall this street is great for shopping and even just a walk along. Running parallel and one street back of Queen Street is High Street, which has a variety of different shopping options. Loaded with bars, cafes and clubs as well as some interesting galleries and book stores High Street is more alternative than Queen Street and worth a look too.

Auckland Zoo

Motions Road Western Springs | Auckland

The Auckland Zoo is a place that visitors can enjoy the opportunity to interact with authentic New Zealand animals as well as world wide exotic animals like hippos, lions and fur seals. A fascinating section of the zoo is the Te Wao Nui’s six habitats native to New Zealand. These habitats approximate different natural conditions in New Zealand and the animals that live within them. Be sure to check out “the Night” which is a cave that houses different nocturnal animals like the short tailed bat. Many tourists call the Auckland Zoo one of the highlights of their time in Auckland. Admission to the zoo is around $18 US dollars for adults and $9 US dollars for kids.

Different Things to do in Auckland

Auckland is a world class city that is surrounded by New Zealand’s great nature and fantastic beaches.  Whether you are a city slicker that likes visiting galleries, dining in fine restaurants and people watching in great cafes or a lover of nature in all her glory there is something for everyone to enjoy during their stay in Auckland. A few different things to do in Auckland include:

Bethells Beach 

Bethells Beach | Auckland

If you’re a lover of sand and surf a trip to Bethells Beach while in Auckland is definitely a must! A beach that has been described as both isolated – from the usual throngs of beach goers – and wild –  as there is little shade and the winds and huge waves off the ocean hit the beach unabated – New Zealanders rate Bethells Beach as one of the best in their country. Decorated naturally with dark sands people enjoy this beach for the chances to swim, surf (with the previously mentioned strong winds) trail walk and even paraglide. Surrounding the beach are a variety of resorts and the restaurants and bars that service them. Bethell’s Beach is about 30 kilometers from Auckland and takes less than an hour to get there.

One_Tree_Hill,_AucklandCornwall Park 

1051 One Tree Hill | Auckland

Auckland’s own answer to New York’s Central Park is Cornwall Park. Much like the nation itself, Cornwall Park is a fusion of cultures as Japanese cherry blossoms and magnolias sit next to New Zealand Purri trees. There are fantastic vantage points in the park to look over the city and enjoy splendid views. Other amenities in the park include the observatory, a kid’s animal farm, a park restaurant, and great walking trails to use.

Auckland Art Gallery Toi o Tamaki 

Corner of Kitchener and Wellesley Streets | Auckland

Any art lover coming through Auckland simply must spend some time in the Auckland Art Gallery. The gallery is composed of two sepperate buildings, seen by many as architectural pieces of art themselves, that house more than 15,000 pieces of art spanning from the 12th century to the present. The art pieces that draw the most attention are the fantastic Mari – the originally native population of New Zealand – works of art. C.F. Goldie and Gottfried Lindauer portraits of Maori chiefs are of particular acclaim and interest. The gallery is open daily from 10 a.m to 5 p.m. and, except for special exhibits, admission is free.

Things to Keep in Mind if You Propose on Vacation

Getting married sure has gotten complicated in the last few decades. Things that were previously reserved for the super wealthy or exceedingly creative are becoming expected as commonplace. It’s not enough to do things simply, they have to be done to impress and you can be sure that will cost a decent amount!

The same goes for the actual proposal. There may be the temptation to just pop the big question at any random time, or else wait until it’s forced on you to do so (how romantic!), but guys, most girls have been dreaming of this moment for a very long time – wouldn’t it be nice to make it a bit magical? What would be more awesome than doing it while on vacation?

Here are some pointers on what to consider before asking someone to marry you on vacation because you can really never have enough advice on the subject.

Be Sure She Will Say Yes

There really is no way to be certain of this, but you should have a decent idea of her response before making the decision yourself. If you’re a long way from home and you propose but she says no, well, I can’t really think of a more awkward situation.

Plan an Appropriate Vacation

Some holidays are more appropriate for proposals than others and more often than not it has more to do with you as a couple than it does about the destination. Make it somewhere that really speaks to who you are – but even still, the destination is still important!

Keep the Ring Secure

Carrying around a small expensive piece of jewellery can be a very nerve wracking experience and one that you may wish to be rid of as soon as possible. From pick pocketing types to your own foolishness, you may feel like you never feel comfortable the entire time you have it in your possession. Try to keep it on you at all times but not in a place so obvious to thieves or to its intended wearer!

imagesFind the Right Spot

Proposing on vacation is tricky for a number of reasons but it’s very tough to know where and when the right time and place is. More than likely, you’ve never been to this place before so you don’t know about the overall mood of the place (which is probably the most important part of the timing). If you propose at the beginning of the trip it might feel too rushed but if you wait too long, you’ll probably be too stressed out. Be sure the time is right just by how you feel, which is another reason to always keep the ring on you!

Ensure you Have… Privacy

Following the proposal, you may want to ‘celebrate’ and that is very difficult if you’re staying in non-private accommodation. Again, be sure you plan ahead!

Water World: Cruising the Globe by Sea

Okay, taking a cruise ship vacation, pros and cons – go.

Cons first: choppy seas, touristy ports of call, no real sense of place, someone else micromanaging your travel options, too much food, being in the middle of the ocean, being uncool.

Some of the pros: being in the middle of the ocean, all-you-can-eat culinary adventures, handing your travel arrangements over to experts in service and entertainment, an adventurous sense of nomadic travel, great bargains, scenic destinations, endless activities, free room service, free ice cream (look it up!), walking around with a drink in your hand, ballroom dancing, endless options for amusement, being free to be uncool!

Boiled down to what many real-getaway seekers are, well, seeking, cruise ship travel stacks up pretty well. Bucket-list-worthy, in fact – especially when you consider all today’s swanky, hip, practically limitless cruise options in addition to the list of traditional reasons travellers choose these fun, ease-and-comfort getaway packages.

The stereotypes are mostly true: lots of people on board and so many things to do it’s sometimes dizzying. But when did you last get to enjoy a sweet game of bingo with interesting strangers and enjoy a conversation-friendly round of Henry VIII’s beloved shuffleboard in the same day, sipping free-flowing mai tai’s all the while and punctuating each random activity with a dip in a beautiful pool as you look out at the majestic open sea. Plus, you can learn to ballroom dance!

U5 28276 SHIP_9Cruise ship lines have been charting some pretty spectacular travel routes since they started ferrying passengers around in the 1800s. You can choose from Nordic fjords to the tropics of the South Pacific to just about anywhere in between – including intimate wine-soaked river cruises through Bordeaux. Nary a stretch of water is uncharted, from Africa to Australia, Antarctica to Alaska, the Mexican and Caribbean Riviera, the Far East, Hawaii, The Iberian Peninsula – the entire globe is there for the cruising.

And while land-based travel has its flexibility perks, there’s certainly something to be said for traversing the seas of this ocean planet, while also getting opportunities to disembark in beautiful cities. Plus, you only have to pack once!

There are, of course, ships that cater to just about any demographic experience you’re looking for: family cruises, singles cruises, gay cruises, gambling cruises, art cruises – you name it and it’s probably there among the five hundred types of ocean cruise adventures

Whichever version of this uniquely pampering mode of travel you choose, pick one and go for it – put it on, then check it off, that bucket list of yours.

Ahoy, and enjoy!

Get to Know the Locals in Crete

Crete is the largest of the Greek Islands and the fifth largest island in the whole Mediterranean Sea.  It is more like a small country than a part of Greece, such is the depth and diversity of the island.  Crete is host to a quarter of Greece’s tourism and is therefore well equipped for the holiday season and the visitors this will bring from across the globe.  Knowing what to expect when you travel to Crete can make your trip even more enjoyable and certainly give you more of an insight than just what the tourist board tell you.

Crete-Agios-Nikolaos-provided-by-Directline-HolidaysThe language spoken in Crete is Greek, although there is a Cretan dialect spoken in some remote villages.  This dialect is no longer widespread but most locals will understand and be able to use it if asked.  It is interesting to hear this dialect spoken as not many variations on the mainland Greek still exist.  Most Cretans also speak near perfect English as they are taught it in schools from first grade, due to the economic reliance on tourism.

Cretans largely follow what’s referred to as the Mediterranean diet, which is employed in the UK for it’s many health benefits.  It consists largely of fish and fresh fruit and veg, with meat only being eaten about once a week.  The many restaurants in Crete serve a mixture of meals following this diet, and also many other traditionally Greek dishes which are richer in taste.  Cretans tend to eat late, at around 10 or 11 so wait up if you want to experience Crete like a local.  Most bars and restaurants do still allow smoking, whatever the signs say to the contrary, so if this is likely to bother you it’s best to opt for a table outside.

Heading abroad armed with a little knowledge on your destination can make your trip much more enjoyable as you can plan ahead and decide what to do.  Holiday in Crete this year, but do your research first, there are many hidden gems you will miss if you stick to the well-trodden paths.

Sunshine in the City – Top Ideas for a City Break in Majorca

It can be difficult to decide whether to spend your precious time off enjoying the culture of a city or heading for some chill out time at the beach. With holidays to Majorca the choice is simple – do both.

The capital city Palma is perfect as it is located right on the Mediterranean coast with views out across the glistening blue sea. Although there are beaches all over the island there are also some within walking distance. Great if you know there is only so much sunbathing you can do before needing entertainment.

Beaches near Palma

Cala Major is an ideal beach to fit the combined holiday criteria as the summer residence of the Spanish royal family and a museum dedicated to the works of Joan Miro are close by. This means that you can find a spot on the 200-metre stretch of sand before taking a break for some culture.

There are a number of restaurants in the vicinity as well as the facilities to hire a pedal boat. Cala Major is a safe location for swimming and there are lifeguards on duty during the summer months.

It is situated just a few kilometres to the west of the city itself, so you can take a stroll back into town or hop on a bus and be back in the centre of things before you know it.

Playa de Palma is another good option and lies to the east of the city. It is much larger than Cala Major as it stretches for around four and a half kilometres. If you do not want to lie down and catch some rays there is a pleasant promenade for taking a leisurely walk.

Here there is a much wider selection of watersports to choose from, with jet skiing, water skiing and paragliding all on offer.

Palma-de-MallorcaThe city

When the weather is hot the idea of slogging around the sights and shops of Palma can be quite daunting. Take an entirely different approach and leisurely meander through the streets seeing where your explorations take you.

Build in one or two attractions in a day, but plenty of stops at the charming cafes and stalls selling ice cream to keep yourself cool. The Arab Quarter is a great place for such wanders, especially as the houses were built close together to create cool, narrow lanes.

If the heat does become too much then duck into the gothic cathedral close by. It was built on the site of a Roman temple and before that a mosque and is incorporated into the remains of the city walls. Its stunning interior makes for a fascinating distraction while you enjoy the shade.

For really good window shopping opportunities head to the district of La Llonja where there are a large number of pretty boutiques and exquisite art galleries. The medieval streets in this area come alive at night as its bars and jazz clubs entertain locals and visitors alike.

Family entertainment in Sharm el Sheikh

A holiday in Sharm el Sheikh can be fun and educational for all the family. As well as the famed Red Sea coast with its beautiful beaches and watersports, there is a variety of other entertainment on offer too.

Whether your family is into visiting cultural sites or taking trips to water parks, there is something for every taste on a Cosmos holiday and the attractions don’t have to cost a fortune either. Read on to see what your family can do away from the beach in Sharm.

The-Pyramids-at-GizaCultural sights

The Sharm Papyrus Museum is smaller than its equivalent in Cairo, but this has the benefit of allowing children to enjoy the exhibits without being overwhelmed. They will love seeing all the drawings and writings on papyrus, which was the precursor to paper.

These beautiful creations will also fascinate adults with their Egyptian motifs dating back thousands of years and the opulent gold decoration on some of the pieces.

Children love to climb to the top of Ras Umm Sid lighthouse, which occupies the spot where the very first lighthouse in Egypt was built. Although simple in its design, the view from the top of Ras Umm Sid out across the Red Sea and surrounding beaches is wonderful to see.

Family bonding

Soho Square is a fantastic spot for families to spend some time together enjoying a meal at one of the many restaurants or undertaking other activities. Ice skating may not come to mind when you think about ice skating, but there is a good size rink at Soho Square.

There are lessons available for those who have never tried the sport before and a kids’ arcade complete with soft play area for younger children.

Alternatively, head to Noos Karting Centre for some good old-fashioned family competition. Whizzing around the 1,205-metre track will certainly burn off some steam and the centre has different vehicles for each age group from eight to 12-year-olds and up.

Water parks

There are two main water parks in Sharm el Sheikh: Cleopark and Aqua Park. The first has a selection of pools and slides, many of which are based around themes, for example The Last Temple, which allows members of the family to race against each other and The Lost Pyramid from which three different slides emerge.

Aqua Park is bigger and a newer addition to the attractions in Sharm el Sheikh. It boasts 32 different slides and no fewer than nine pools. All ages are catered for with a special pool for younger children as well as a lazy river and 1,200 sunbeds for when the adults just want to relax.

Shopping

Going shopping is a whole experience in itself in Sharm el Sheikh with plenty of bargains on offer for those who have the patience. So give yourself plenty of time and equip yourself with a laid back disposition that suggests you could take it or leave it.

Haggling is an absolute must as vendors will begin by quoting very high prices and the fun is in trying to bring these down. The kids can get involved too and it can be great to set them the task of seeing who can get an item at the best price.