Oh Vancouver… you weren’t on my list but you absolutely should have been. My first time in Canada and you were where we landed to begin our adventure. You see Canada was way down my travel list I’m ashamed to say. My other half had it at the top of his list so that’s how come I found myself there.
This coastal cosmopolitan city in western Canada did not disappoint. I’m not a massive city lover… I mean don’t get me wrong, I loved Rome for its architecture, New York for simply being New York but what was there to love about Vancouver? Everything.
It’s sooo clean!
It is not often I say this about a city but I found I found Vancouver to be so clean. We actually stayed in the downtown area on Granville street which was probably the least clean area but still it was clean as far as city’s go. Wandering around in the sunshine, between the gleaming buildings and litter free streets was just lovely.
The Canadians are so nice!
In Vancouver I had my first interactions with the Canadians and let me tell you they were so polite and helpful. Nothing was too much trouble for them from the hotel staff bus drivers, even to people in the street who we stopped to ask directions. They were all so nice! I officially love Canadians ha ha!
It’s all about the food!
Vancouver has no shortage of great places to eat. It is actually known for its seafood predominantly and we passed plenty of sushi restaurants. We enjoyed a meal in Black and Blue steak house which had a lovely ambient setting, impeccable service and a fantastic selection of steaks on the menu. Staying somewhere you can cook for yourself? No problem! Granville Island is the place to shop for all things food or even just go for a browse and indulge whilst there.
Just look at the scenery…
Vancouver really has it all when it comes to scenery. Stunning mountain ranges, pretty parks, the sea, harbours and beaches. It’s found itself listed as one of the most beautiful cities in the world in many publications and it’s easy to see why.
It’s the great outdoors
Vancouver has a lot to offer in terms of outdoor pursuits. Visit in winter and you can enjoy skiing and snow sports. Summer hiking is popular along with camping and water sports are on offer. Not forgetting biking! Did you know Vancouver has more than 279 miles of bike routes. We loved our time riding around Stanley Park.
I only spent 3 days visiting you but I would of happily stayed a week! I would of loved to explore more of the city and soaked up its vibe. Our itinerary was jam packed as to get the most out of our time so we didn’t really have much down time. On the plus side I have a few more detailed Vancouver posts coming up so stay tuned!
Vancouver… you were my first taste of Canada and what a fantastic place to start. I will be back at some point to see more of you for sure! Thanks for the memories.
Have you visited Vancouver? Do you think it’s worthy of it’s beautiful city title? I think it’s safe to say I think it is.
Rachael 🙂 x
Check out Black and Blue Steak House and book a table here.
This is 18 things I learnt by my second cruise… because do you really learn everything from your first? I realise I am still at the beginning of my cruising life but none the less now I’ve done two cruises on two different lines I feel able to give you advice and good tips. I recently cruised on Royal Caribbeans Rhapsody of the seas and previously on the Disney Fantasy – which you can read all about here.
So if your yet to book or go on your first cruise then these 18 tips may help you ace it the first time instead of like me what will be my 3rd time (when I book again, not any time soon!)
1. Do your research… which cruise?
All ships are different, that’s in size, amenities, ports of call, on board entertainment programmes. What’s most important to you? I don’t think you will be disappointed on any cruise to be honest but choose your most important box and make sure that’s ticked first.
The first time I cruised it was simple… I wanted to experience a Disney one. Second time I picked based on ports of call. Fairly well travelled in Europe I wanted to make sure I was hitting places I hadn’t yet been. Also for me I didn’t want a massive ship. Travelling with my tween I knew he would clear off… I wanted half a chance of finding him! I chose Royal Caribbean’s Rhapsody of the Seas – capacity 2000.
2. Embarkation day is busy
When we got on this recent cruise we were hungry and headed straight to the buffett restaurant, same as everyone else. It was pretty stressy finding a table etc and I was going mad! Not a fan of all inclusive at all (no judgement if you are) it had that feel to it. Please know it never felt like this again! Consider booking a speciality dining for when you board to avoid this rush… I did but missed it! Whoops! Which brings me to my next point…
3. Don’t underestimate boarding time…
This latest cruise took longer to board then the previous Disney one. The port felt huge, the queues were long (we didn’t queue thanks to some VIP thing I booked) it did take a while to actually get on the ship. Not stressful but we did think we would pretty much walk on and we didn’t hence missing our lunch. We had actually been exploring that morning but in hindsight maybe box off the first day to just get on board if you want to make the most of it.
4. Pack a day bag
Seriously… don’t get caught out without things you might need straight away in your case. Aside from obvious things I mean your swimwear, sunglasses etc. Your case can take a while to be delivered to your stateroom and the last thing you want is your kids going mental because they can’t get in the pool!
12. The pools are not big
Okay so I’ve only done two cruises but as far as I can see this is across the board. Think of them more as a quick dip to cool off not swim! The main one will be overrun with kids who don’t seem to notice they are sharing it with 50 other people ha ha! Most ships will also have an adult only pool which is great to escape. Some have water slides like the Disney fantasy, that actually had a water coaster running around the outside, it was so fun!
5. Which Stateroom?
Another thing to think about here is how much your on the boat. I did a seven day cruise and was off the boat 4 days exploring, not utilising my drinks package. Funny story though… my son made lots of mates who had no package (so you just get water, orange, lemonade, tea and coffee) he spent all our cruise getting everybody’s drinks! Ha ha! So you could just make a friend with a package 😉
Both my cruises I’ve booked the cheapest state room with no window based on knowing I won’t be in it much. The only thing that’s tricky about them is the lack of space for all your stuff! You need to be highly organised to not end up getting frustrated keeping on top of things. Disney hace magic portholes in their cheapest rooms which give you a real time view of outside (off a camera) and you might just see a few of your favourite characters appear in it too – magical!
6. The initial cost is not all you will spend…
Cruises are masters at getting you to part with your cash or should I say credit card. That’s right… everything on board you pay for with your room key (which is linked to your onboard account and credit card), swipe here, swipe there, few cocktails later… erm how much am I up to!! Do I even care?! Ha ha!
Best way to keep the cost down is pre pay everything you can. We had a deluxe drinks package (£345 for me, £150 for the soda one for my son) we prebooked our two excursions that we chose. Also pre pay your tips!! This is huge, if you don’t you will end up with a bill in excess of £200 (in my experience) before disembarking. If your British and not use to compulsory tipping you probably won’t enjoy parting with it at the end. I didn’t pre pay on my first cruise and I racked up £1500 I think between tips, drinks, a special meal and a few souvenirs, yikes!!
7. Drinks packages…
Ahhh the dreaded drinks package! Do you want it? Is it worth the money? Okay I will let you into a secret… I didn’t pay those prices above, thank god! They were the prices but because I booked early I got my drinks packages included, winner! However I spoke to a couple who booked about six months in advance and they paid less than me but no drinks… maybe they just charge you and say it’s free?! Who knows… Consider booking early non the less.
Are they worth it?
If you don’t get a drinks package for free consider how much you actually drink!! If it’s 2-3 drinks a day it may be worth paying as you go. I think I worked out that to make it worth it in my cruise I would need to drink at least 5 cocktails a day! I drank seven cocktails when I first got on board and was giddy… let’s just say I don’t remember much of the speciality restaurant I dined in that night!
You won’t be drinking if your off the ship…
Only you can answer this. First off ask yourself how much time do you plan on spending in it? If you will be out and about maybe it’s not worth the extra cost? If you like your own space book one with a balcony where you can enjoy time out watching the ocean. The suites are utterly fabulous if you can stump up that kind of cash.
8. You will not be able to do everything
FACT! my first cruise I assumed after a manic week in Florida I would be nice and chilled on board, wrong! The ships have extensive entertainment programmes which are delivered to you each evening for the next day. You will want to do loads but don’t! Pick the things that jump out at you and don’t spend your time running round the ship (like I did!) trying to see and do everything. On my second cruise I accepted I would not be doing everything and felt more like I had relaxed – it is a holiday after all!
9. Dining in the restaurants every night is a mistake
Much like the above dining in the restaurants every night is hard work. Again all ships are different but your tied to a specific dining time. You might just be having a great time on deck and not feel like going and getting dressed for dinner again. Then don’t! Skip the restaurant and go to the buffet/more relaxed dining room a few evenings. They have no end of choice anyway!
10. Formal night is not as formal as you may think
Personally I loved formal night, all those tuxedos and beautiful dresses and the band playing. However if your not a dressy up person don’t sweat it. Many men are just in a shirt and long trousers, ladies in nice dresses – not full length ball gowns. Check what it says for your ship but it’s unlikely everyone will go all out, so don’t stress! My son and I were not dressed to the nines on our recent sailing and we fitted in fine.
11. Stay on board when in port to enjoy peace
This is not something I have done but other cruisers have told me it’s great. I’m a get off and see the world kinda girl but if your there for the cruise life and not too then stay on board and enjoy a chilled day with less people.
13. Bring clips for your towels
How did I miss this memo?! Your out at sea… of course it can get breezy!! Pack towel clips to ensure your towel stays put when you trot off to the bar.
14. Excursions with the cruise company or independent?
I’ve always booked through the cruise company through fear of not making it back to the ship. Bottom line… if your out with them they can’t leave you. However I won’t be doing it in the future. At some ports of call I felt our excursions were rushed. For example when we had a beach day they dropped us off at 10am and picked us up at 1:30, despite the ship not leaving until 4:30pm and it was only 20 minutes return journey. If you want to run to your own schedule make your own arrangements (which may also be cheaper) but don’t cut it fine getting back to the ship.
15. Kids club is a godsend
Let me repeat that… KIDS CLUB IS A GODSEND ha ha! They usually run 3 sessions a day, morning, afternoon and evening. They will keep your little treasures safe and amused when they have burnt you out. Nursery age kids? No problem… they have that covered as well. Teens, literally have a ball! They have a cool place to hang out rather than a supervised club. Activities are still put on and it’s there choice if they do them. You will find they make friends and hang round the ship together breezing in and out of the club.
You can dine in peace thanks to kids club… take the kids to the buffet and drop them off to kids club then head to your chosen restaurant, they will thank you for it and you won’t have indigestion! Disney go one step further and actually pick them up from the restaurant if you prefer. So once they’ve eaten they go… meaning no rushing out for you. Ahhh yes I will have a 3rd glass of wine!
16. Your kids won’t like getting off the ship
True story… no kids want to get off!! Why would they? They are having a ball and now you want to drag them round Rome or whatever… they will moan and you will here when are we going back to the ship?! My tip here is bribe them ha ha! If your good now you can stay up a bit later… or you could use ‘I swear to god if you don’t behave you will stay in the cabin!’ That worked for me! Try to pre-empt this and keep it interesting for them too.
17. Consider working out on board
Cruises are full of yummy food, tempting treats and sugary cocktails! Your on holiday so your going to indulge. On my first cruise I didn’t work out and put on half a stone! Ha ha! This time I was wise… I still indulged a bit but I headed to the gym 4 times onboard. Not into that? There were yoga classes, spinning and exercises classes on board. Why not simply take the stairs every time instead of the lift? Or some brisk walking laps round top deck whilst taking in the sea air.
18. You will want to book another cruise!
You agonised over booking the first… will I like cruising? Will it be too busy? Will my kids be bored? I’ve not met anyone yet who’s been on one and hated it. That’s not to say those people aren’t out there. But don’t be surprised if when you come off your already planning your next. You can actually book your next whilst on board ha ha! Very clever… get them whilst they are in the moment. My son BEGGED me to do this but I already have next years adventure planned.
So there are my 18 things I learnt by my second cruise. I hope you enjoyed reading it and if you are going on a cruise I hope I gave you some points to think about. Seasoned cruisers… is there anything else you would add here? Let me know!
This is your ultimate list for surviving a flight – what to pack for the plane! I never use to have a list but as time has gone on I’ve realised if I don’t I always forget something! I’ve really pushed the boat out so to speak with holidays this August with not one but two big trips. I am beyond excited!! I’m going to have so much to share with you guys.
With my first trip to Canada and America less than a week away I have been packing. I am loving how super organised I am (okay so this has taken planning) but I thought what better time than now to share my list with you all. Now I’m flying long haul but this list is great for any trip. I guarantee it will have things you didn’t think of, So here goes…
Let’s start with the obvious essentials… passport, any paperwork, money, bank and credit cards. I like to keep all these together in a cute travel wallet. Glasses… I don’t wear glasses but if I you do they are essential obviously. Also ladies if it’s that time of the month don’t forget your lady products.
2. Phone & Tablet
Surviving a flight without these? Don’t think so! Don’t forget to ensure they are fully charged.
3. Big Scarf
Planes can get cold so a big scarf is great as this can double up as a blanket. Okay, I hear you, they give them out… did you know that they don’t rewash them every time just repackage them if they look clean… yuk! Use your own 😉
4. Paracetamol & Medication
Self explanatory, you don’t need a banging headache on a flight. Also be sure to organise and pack medication you might need to take whilst in the air.
5. Dehydration Tablets
Okay so this will maybe apply more to long haul but flights are sooo dehydrating. Dehydration tablets I have used before but not on a flight. I am prone to getting water infections so on my 12 hour journey I will be having 2 of these. They are a scientifically balanced formula of electrolytes and glucose. Just dissolve them in 200ml of water to keep you hydrated.
6. Facial Mist
Speaking of hydration I love to take a facial mist to spritz my face through out the flight and keep my skin hydrated and fresh.
7. Ear Plugs & Eye Mask
Absolute must for surviving a flight! Want to get some shut eye? You might not if the cabin is particularly noisy and I for one can not sleep with light blazing. A good eye mask and ear plugs are a must particularly for long haul.
8. Fluffy Socks or Flight Socks
First thing I do when I get on the plane is take off my shoes and put on my warm fluffy socks. You may prefer flight socks though if you have circulation problems.
Obviously you need these to watch films and maybe listen to audio books or podcasts (I’m totally obsessed with pod casts right now!)
10. Travel pillow
If you find a good one they are amazing! I have tried a good few now and really rate memory foam ones. The trick is to choose one that comes quite high on your neck so when you flop your head to the side it really supports it.
11. Book or Magazines
Your going to need a entertaining especially if it’s a long flight. When your done with the films reach for some reading. Books are actually a genius way to send me to sleep ha ha! Bonus on a flight.
12. Magic Painting
Move over colouring it’s all about magic painting now for me now. Aside from your book all you need is water! I find this even more therapeutic than colouring. Maybe you prefer to colour… don’t forget your pens then!
Snacks on planes are so annoyingly expensive. I try to take a few things with me that I bought at home (not in the airport, they are extortionate in there too!)
14. Eye Drops
I couldn’t be with out my refreshing eye drops on a flight now. The cabin air can be so dry I always have them to hand but I particularly like to use them just before we land. No red dry eyes for me, only fresh and sparkly!
15. Make up
I’m not a fan of much make up when flying… it’s not a great look when you wake up with mascara down your face. Plus give your skin chance to breath. That said I know arriving at your destination bare faced isn’t appealing either. Pack your essentials is a clear zip lock bag. Mine would be touché eclat, mascara and lipgloss.
16. Eco Friendly Wipes
You can read all about my eco friendly mission here but biodegradable wipes are a must. I like to wipe down my tray table etc when I get on the flight with them (don’t judge!) also good for sticky hands etc.
17. Bamboo Toothbrush & Toothpaste
Bamboo toothbrush because its eco friendly of course! Some flights provide a toothbrush and toothpaste but always good to have your own. If you’ve been flying a long time or asleep its nice to have the option to freshen up your mouth.
18. Elizabeth Arden 8 hour Cream
I bought some eight hour cream many moons ago on a flight to New York and ever since it’s been a must. Where do I start? Dry lips? this will sort it out. Bit of highlight to your cheeks? No problem. That mascara that ran down your face… this will swiftly remove it. Taming your brows? Yes. Not to mention that it’s oh so amazing on sunburn. Holiday staple indeed!
18. Portable Charger
Just a back up for any devices that may need a recharge if you plane doesn’t have that luxury. I once forgot to charge mine and let my son run my battery real low thinking I had back up. We ended up stranded in a remote part of Italy with not a taxi in sight! Don’t forget to change it!
19. Travel Journal or Notebook
So this may not be applicable to everyone but if your a blogger this definitely comes in handy! Even if your not you may find a notebook and pen handy in your holiday bag. You never know if you might need to note something down!
20. Hairbrush, Dry Shampoo & Bobble
Last but not least I always have a hairbrush and bobble. I typically travel with my hair freshly washed and down but I may want to tie it up during the flight. Dry shampoo is great to spray in before you land for a freshen up!
So there we have it! With this list you will be well on your way to surviving a flight! Is there anything you think I missed? I’m all ears!
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A day trip to the Aeolian islands is a great thing to do whilst visiting Italy. These are several islands of Volcanic origin are located off the northern coast of Sicily. Easily accessible from Sicily the islands can also be reached from the town of Tropea, south Italy. Several companies offer the trip within the town departing from the local harbour. If my memory serves me right we paid around €40 (slightly less for a child) for our day trip to three of the islands.
Departing early morning from the harbour in Tropea, the sun was glistening on the water whilst we excitedly boarded our boat for the day. There were several boats leaving from here but finding the tour we booked was easy as there were plenty of people around to guide you.
We were embarking on a 12 hour round trip to see three of the islands in total – Volcano, Lipari and Stromboli. I have to confess here that my memory is pretty sketchy with timings of this trip, as in can’t really remember how long we spent sailing to each place and how long we were there (this is why I’ve just bought a travel journal for future trips). I know we were quite a while reaching the Aeolian islands, well over an hour.
As we left the port we were soon treated to a view of Tropea town. I wished at this Point I had taken my DSLR for some better shots. But I still managed to get a photo that captured just how magnificent it looks perched on the rocks of the Calabria coastline.
Aeolian islands stop 1 – Volcano
First stop on our day trip to the Aeolian islands was Volcano, an island known for its sulphur and wild panorama. Volcanic activity here has been going on for thousands of years and as we got off the boat you could smell a strange smell of sulphur in the air.
We wandered along past a few little shops and restaurants until we reached the therapeutic mud baths and hot springs the islands famed for. Unfortunately you have to be over 16 I think they said to bathe in them. I have to be honest though I wasn’t really feeling it anyway so the fact my son is only 11 was a bonus. That said they are suppose to have many beneficial healing properties for skin conditions.
Aside from climbing the creator and a bit of wandering there wasn’t alot else to do. So we stopped for pizza before boarding the boat to our second destination.
Aeolian islands stop 2 – Lipari
Lipari is the largest and most populated of the Aeolian islands. It makes a great base if you want to visit all the islands in your own time. We arrived in a busy port with a lovely looking pastel seafront.
We meandered up the winding streets admiring local art work displayed in the shops. I am always interested in independent artists when I travel, you can pick up some lovely art pieces to remind you of your trip. I bought a wall hanging made from washed up pottery pieces and driftwood found on the beach.
We soon stumbled across Lipari Cathedral, Known as Basilica Concattedrale di San Bartholomeo di Lapari in Itallian (a bit of a mouthful!) Located right in the heart of Lipari, the cathedral is the oldest and largest church on the islandIt stands proudly at the top of a large staircase. Myson lazily waited mid way up protesting that he could see if very well from where he was ha ha!
The rest of the afternoon was spent wandering some more. Lipari is a pretty town and as we were there the end of May it felt very laidback much like Tropea. I expect in Julyand August like most places it is muchbusier. Out of the three Aeolian islands we visited, Lipari was myfavourite.
Aeolian islands stop 3 – Stromboli
Back on the boat we headed to our third and final Aeolian islands of the day, Stromboli. Stromboli contains one of the three active volcanos in Italy. Most eruptions consisted of small gas explosions creating lava to run down the rim. For this reason night tours are popular in hope of seeing the lava glowing. It is said that Mount Stromboli has been in continuous eruptions for the past 2000 years.
Stromboli has recently hit the news (a week ago) after it errupted sadly causing a fatality to a hiker. In a guided group it is possible to hike up the volcano. We were only there less than two hours so just had a short look about and some more pizza! (How I didn’t turn into a pizza on this trip I don’t know?!!)
There was just enough time for a few quick photos at the foot of the island before we boarded the boat for the trip back to Tropea. My son picked up a small piece of volcanic rock as a souvenir.
Would you like to visit the Aeolian islands? We think a day trip was perfect. Have you visited one of the islands I haven’t? I would love to hear.
Next stop on my Italian travels will be Venice…. stay tuned 😉
At the end of May I travelled to Italy for a week in Tropea. Tropea? Where’s that? A common response from many when I shared where I was going. Tropea is located in south Italy within the Calabria region and it was instagram that lead me to this destination. I follow many travel pages and Tropea just looked oh so dreamy but could it be as nice as Positano?
Getting to Tropea
With no flights from Manchester I had to fly from London Stanstead. Tropea can’t be that popular a destination for us Brit’s as there appears to be very few direct flights a week. I took a Ryanair flight to Lamezia Terme, a short bus ride to the station and finally a train to Tropea.
Where we stayed
With Tropea being a town there are very few options of places to stay with pools unless on the outskirts. However is a pool really necessary in a beach town? After initially booking a hotel just outside Tropea I had a last minute change of heart and decided to stay in a boutique hotel centrally located instead. Colomba D’Oro met all our needs, spacious rooms, modern whilst retaining an Itallian charm , a good selection at breakfast and friendly staff.
In a world of editing apps, tweaking and filters would this seemingly picturesque place really live up to my expectations in real life? Well I have to confess that the first few days the weather was less than desirable. But as the grey clouds lifted and the sun shone down if you had dropped me off on Tropea beach and told me I was in the Caribbean I would probably of believed you. Clean golden sand and turquoise waters that needed no filter at all.
As if that wasn’t enough the backdrop was something else… the stunning majestic houses of Tropea perched right on the cliff edge. I tried to do some research on the buildings but struggled to find much information other than Tropea town dates back to Roman times.
Tropea town sits around 70 meters above sea level meaning you must descend down several steps to enjoy the beach. However before making your way down you are treated to this stunning view of the sanctuary of Santa Maria Dell’lsola. It Sits high upon a large rock outcrop with the Tyrrhenian Sea sparkling in the sunlight behind it. An iconic image for the town of Tropea – it’s picture perfect.
When to visit
We visited at the end of May which is deemed to be relatively quiet time. Apparently in the months of July and August it is extremely busy mostly with European travellers. The Italians in particular love to holiday here, I mean why would you not if this was on your doorstep?! May is a nice time to visit but you are dicing with the weather slightly. We had about four overcast days.
A week in Tropea was ample to explore this Italian town. We wandered down the cobblestone streets, explored the pretty alleyways and stumbled across little hidden squares. It is everything you would imagine Italy to be.
The buildings had a charming faded feel about them. Traces of the old town remain and we noticed some beautiful old architecture in amongst the new.
Watching the world go by
Tropea definitely has a laidback feel, nothing is done in a hurry. My son and I chilled out in restaurants, played card games and chatted without a piece of tech in sight which was a nice change. We noticed lots of elderly men sat around on benches through out the day and I learned they are referred to as ‘Noni’ – grandfathers. They looked like they didn’t have a care in the world – how wonderful.
Just when we thought Tropea could surprise us no more we would stumble across another part. It might have been a town but venture just to the edge and you were reminded that indeed you were still in Italy with its lush greenery.
Eating in Tropea
It seemed every corner we turned there was tables set out encouraging you to stop again for a glass of wine or some yummy Italian food. Eating in Tropea is very reasonable. You could pick up a freshly made pizza for less than ten euros.
Lots of seafood dishes are on offer and not forgetting what Tropea is know for – it’s sweet red onions. There was no shortage of them to buy around the town.
What to do
There is no denying Tropea is not a place with tons to do but that is its charm. It’s a seaside town so if sun, sand, relaxing and dining sounds like a dream to you then pop Tropea on your bucket list. We spent our days mostly doing the above. So what else is there to do?
Well Tropea is on a main railway line so exploring in either direction would be an option. However nowhere in the surrounding area looked quite as charming as Tropea so we stayed put.
We did hire bikes to go exploring a bit further one day. Firstly we headed for the port but the hill it was at the bottom of made us decide to just stop mid way down as my son was moaning about having to ride back up!
As we rode out I enjoyed the scenery but we never made it as far as another town. I would have kept going but my son was not happy in the heat. That said Italian drivers are a little crazy! We had to be extra careful on the roads. I think in the height of summer this may not be a great idea when it’s busier.
There were a few trips available out of Tropea. Two of the most popular being a visit to campo vatico and the nearby Aeolian islands. Campo Vatico is essentially a beautiful beach and given we had already spent ample time at the beach we opted for the latter. We visited Stromboli, Lipari and Volcano, but more about this in next weeks blog post.
End of our week in Tropea
As our week in Tropea came to an end I was grateful I was lead to such a stunning destination through Instagram. I felt revived after a week of doing very little, however I was ready to go home. This is a destination perhaps to be enjoyed with your lover not a tween! My son who requires constant entertainment was bored quite often despite my attempts to make it fun. However the quality time did us both good and there is no denying that south Italy is truly beautiful.
Have you visited Tropea or anywhere in the Calabria region? What did you think? If my blog post has inspired you to visit let me know…
Travelling as a single parent with one child wasn’t something I thought I would ever do. It was a decision I was faced with after I split up with my sons dad when he was just 18 months old. As an Aquarius I’ve always had that needing for adventure and excitement and as daunting as it was I wasn’t about to let the fact I was a single parent stop me.
Over the years my son and I have taken many holidays just the two of us and whilst I have a grateful heart and lots of memories it has come with challenges along the way…
This has got easier now he’s older but travelling alone with a writhing toddler, full size suitcase and pram is not fun. But you need so much stuff! I will never forget the time I went to Orlando and shopped way too much… I had to wear wedges to the airport as they wouldn’t fit in my case. My son was just 3yrs old, I also had two full size cases on this occasion plus the pram and a wild toddler. This still unsurprisingly wins my most hellish journey to date. I would not recommend wedges and a toddler full stop, let alone in an airport. Packing light is the answer… these days hand luggage only and a small back pack each win the day. It also helps that he can now manoeuvre his own luggage.
You are the only set of eyes
I guess this is not too dissimilar to at home only throw in anything water related and you are on pins… you are the only set of eyes on him. This has got easier as he’s got older and can swim well but none the less I still can’t fully relax without constantly looking up to check on him. When he was little it was even harder. Want a drink? toilet? This involves battling a wet squirming tantruming toddler out the pool to go with you. Aside from this you have the whole leaving your stuff unattended drama or face loosing your sunbed.
Night times are lonely
When he was little I sat in the kiddy disco on my own with a glass of red watching him join in. I always felt really self conscious and definitely lonely. It was hard sitting around the seemingly other perfect happy families and often I would have a little cry back at the room once my son was in bed. Fast forward to him being older and discos are not his thing. We now get to go wander out and choose somewhere to eat but hanging around after food is not his thing either… once the meals done he’s bored. We end up back in the room relatively early whilst he uses the Wi-Fi to watch some crap YouTuber and I read my book.
I am his entertainment
He’s lonely… I watch other siblings play together in the pool. Chasing each other in and out the sea, they will forever have each other. I watch dads energetically entertain their children with slight envy. I’m his only friend… so you know what that means? I don’t get a minute. He needs me to play and entertain him and I do. Whilst he was small and could jump into the pool and into my arms it was fun, I would chase him round being a shark. But it’s not the same now he’s older… try as I might he calls me boring.
He’s desperate to make friends
Okay so maybe is more due to the fact he’s an only child… but he lingers round other kids desperate to make friends. Talk about pulling on my heart strings. Sometimes he does make a friend and my moaning for 10 minutes on the sunbed soon turns into begging him to spend 10 minutes with me. I can’t win. I’m either at his becon call or he would sooner spend time with some kid he has just met.
Hotel is everything
Get the hotel wrong and your in trouble. My days of wanting to go to a resort where kids entertainment are bouncing round the pool like they’ve drank 10 cans of red bull are long gone. I don’t want to be cohurst into doing water aerobics with 15 people I don’t know who probably don’t exercise all year! No offence. I’m all about the joining in and making the most of it… but that’s not my idea of fun so now my sons older I avoid such resorts. But it’s a fine line… finding a hotel that ticks boxes for him and me is tricky.
Booking excursions is a great thing to break up your holiday. But not always so simple when you are the loan parent. Take recently on a trip to Italy… we booked an excursion to see Stromboli volcano afternoon into evening as we wanted to see the eruptions at night. But I soon realised this would entail us walking back from the port on our own at 11pm at night in the pitch black. Suffice to say we switched to a day one. These are the kind of things you have to consider when holidaying as a single parent… is what your doing safe?
But let’s look at it another way…
He’s my travel buddy
My son, my friend… maybe not forever but I’m grateful of somebody to go travelling with. Just the two of us get to decide on destinations and that’s exciting, we’ve been to some amazing places.
Mature beyond his years
Travelling just the two of us means he’s had to step up and be there for me. Whilst I try to remain the adult I have to confess I do lean on him at times. My son has an outstanding sense of direction and is very mature beyond his years in navigating us around new places, using public transport and communicating with people with an air of confidence I find inspiring. This comes from travelling so much from a young age, these skills will no doubt aid him later in life. I also won’t be worried when he leaves the country (okay maybe a little bit still!)
I can afford more
The cost of taking only one child is less and this has influenced luxury holiday choices. I also can’t actually remember the last time we went away only once in a year. Yep we share so many magical holiday memories that we will both forever treasure.
Life may not always be the journey we planned but never let that stop you doing what you want to do. Going away as a single parent was daunting initially, hard work at times but it’s oh so worth it. We’ve made memories that will last a lifetime.
If your reading this and your yet to make that leap of travelling alone with your child, just go for it. Go explore, discover and try new things. You get 18 years if your lucky before they won’t want to go away with you anymore… make the most of them.
You’ve saved up, you’ve booked the trip, you’ve bought a Mickey tshirt, your excited! But what more do you need to do? Research! Knowing my top tips for Disneyland Paris will make your trip more enjoyable.
What makes me qualified to advise you… 6 trips in total to the park. On my last trip I spoke to several couples who were relatively bewildered and stressed with their first time Disney experience. Whilst Disney is portrayed to be magical it can also be overwhelming so let me help manage your expectations and give you advice!
Top Tips Number 1 – Stay in Disney
First of my top tips -get the most out of your trip and stay in Disney. The magic hours are worth it alone (see below) Disney offer a range of hotels and I’ve stayed in the cheapest Santa Fe most times and Newport Bay once. I keep going back to Santa Fe because, well I’m not in my room… I’m in Disney! If you like me and will spend all your time in the park maybe a higher end hotel is not worth the extra splurge. If your combining a trip to Disney and want to head into Paris no problem you can catch the train right outside the Disney gates anyway!
Top Tip 2 – Two days is not enough
People say you can do Disneyland Paris in two days… I beg to differ. There are two parks – the Magic Kingdoms and Hollywood studios. A day in each in theory would be ideal but honestly to do everything it’s just not possible. The studios is a more manageable size but it has many shows which will see you waiting approximately an hour before they start if it’s busy. The Magic Kingdom definitely requires more than a day to fully absorb all on offer.
In my opinion the perfect time is four days. This will give you time to explore both parks fully and at leisurely pace. You have time to see all the shows, parades and ride your favourites again. Sometimes it’s nice to just be in Disney. We sat off by the castle on our last trip listening to the music playing, people watching and just enjoying the magical feeling of being in there.
Top Tip 3 – Dress comfy!
Okay so I did a whole other blog post about this – what to wear to Disney so it might be worth checking out. But comfy is the name of the game and trainers win the day. I actually wore a long skirt one day as we were going to venture into Paris and I wanted some nice pictures there but we ended up staying in Disney. The skirt was so annoying!! It got caught on a few rides as I exited etc and was so impractical! I went back to the room to change into leggings.
Top Tip 4 – Get the Disneyland Paris app
You can still pick up paper maps at the entrance of the park but Disneyland Paris also has its own app now. It’s definitely worth having as everything you need to know is on there. One of the best things on it is it shows the wait times for rides. We found these to be relatively accurate most the time but there was one time we darted across the park to big thunder mountain as it said 15 minutes only to find in reality it was 50!
Top Tips number 5 – Magic hours are golden, use them!
So your staying in Disney and they tell you about magic hours. This is when all Disney hotel guests are permitted to the park an hour prior to the general public. DO NOT MISS MAGIC HOURS! The trip we’ve just been on we arrived in the park after flying at mid day and it was hell. Over an hour queue for everything!
Head for the popular rides
Fast forward to the second day when we were up and out and in the park for our magic hours and we got on several rides. Do your home work about popular rides and use your magic hours to experience them with little to no queue. Not all rides are open straight away but a good selection are…in Fantasyland Peter Pans flight is a must! Later in the day the queue for that is always in excess of 70 minutes!!
You might be tired come day 2 or 3 and the prospect of hearding your kids to the gate for magic hours might not seem appealing but better this and do several rides then head out later with the crowds and queue endlessly with winging kids anyway. Some days we went back to our hotel for an hour around 2/3pm and had a rest – another bonus of being in Disney accommodation.
Top Tip 6 – Single riding saves time
Some of the busier rides have the option of single rider. This is a god send trust me… take Ratatouille for instance… at one point the queue was 140 minutes… single rider 25 minutes. On rides your rarely talking to the person your next to, your enjoying the ride!
By doing single rider you will queue way less and ride much more. You still queue together, ride separate, then you both get off within 5 minutes of each other anyway. Sometimes you end up in the same cart too as one single rider is at the front and one at the back. One thing to mention though I think 7 is the youngest you can do this.
Top Tip 7 – Dining tips for Disneyland Paris
Where to start with top tips for dining… hmmm. Okay food in Disney is often hard work. Firstly plan and book your evening meal or you will end up eating fast food options. Bistro Chez Remi is hugely popular (see photo below) and any character dining too. But you need to book just somewhere if you want to eat something substantial.
Despite several Disney trips we really messed up this last time… on the last day we had no meal booked and put eating off in favour of fun! By 8:45pm we were starving and pretty much all the restaurants in the park shut bar a few dining options on Main Street. Nightmare! We queued 50 minutes for a hotdog and fries at Casey corner. Arrghhhhh
Dining plans… yes or no?
With reference to dining plans I’m very on the fence about these. Often they are added as ‘free’ but I would never pay separately for them. Why? They just aren’t convenient. Your tied into certain restaurants along with certain choices, not good with fussy kids! However dining in Disney does not come cheap so they may be a good option for some.
Breakfast in the hotel is the best choice if you can make it prior to magic hours. Deciding to get breakfast in the parks on a dining plan will see you stood in a huge queue and unless you want a total carb fest, avoid. Buffet restaurants are the best option for evening meal because then you have lots of choice (yep handy for when your kid decides they don’t like something!)
Dining in the Disney Village
The Disney Village offers lots of dining options too and the food is better than in Disney I would say. The village gets busy at peak dining times. Rainforest cafe remains a firm favourite with families but you can be waiting a while for a table. Bonus is they don’t take bookings so you stand a chance of getting in if you don’t mind the wait. My son has always loved it in there… especially when the pretend storm hits, it’s a cool option for kids and the food is a reasonable standard.
Top Tip 8 – Don’t miss out on character dining
Character dining is a must and you can do it in the Disney village or in the parks. We’ve always chosen to do the breakfast.. I love dining in Plaza Gardens right by the castle in Magic Kingdom. The breakfast is buffet style with plenty on offer for all tastes. Whilst you get your morning fill 5 characters will come around the restaurant to interact with you and pose for pictures.
No trip to Disney is complete without character interaction… it doesn’t matter how old you are despite saying you won’t you inevitably will find yourself hugging a character. Queues in the park to meet characters are long. For Mickey Mouse and the princesses you can expect to queue over an hour. Character dining eliminates this and it’s totally worth the cost and maximising your time.
Top Tip 9 – When and where to shop
Disney have merchandise nailed and I am a sucker for wanting to buy it! Your kids will want stuff inevitably so maybe set a budget per child. Princess dresses don’t come cheap most are priced over €50. If your savvy buy one at home to bring. Dependent on when you go a coat may be essential therefore covering the expensive dress you just bought! I’ve just been in April and most days were still coat wearing weather.
Mainstreet USA shopping
You will find shops through out Disney but the main place to shop is Main Street USA. I love browsing the stores here but there is so much stuff and it’s easy to loose each other if it’s busy as one store often connects into another. Shops on Main Street are open after the park closes for one hour. If your on a short trip save your shopping until then but be aware it’s VERY busy at this time. Just to mention if you are staying in a Disney and make purchases before 3pm you can send them to be collected at your hotel- perfect!
Disney Village shopping
Aside from in the parks you can also shop outside in the Disney Village. This is open late and most people take advantage of that and shop after park hours so that’s when it is busy. In the day it’s relatively quite and nice for a browse if you can spare the time. Much of what you will see is the same as in the parks though anyway. I LOVE the Disney gallery – be sure to check it out.
Top Tips number 10 – Watch the parade it’s magical!
Nothing will make you feel more Disney like than the parade. But get your spot early! You will see people starting to sit down on the kerbs of the parade route at least an hour before. It’s worth the wait! Choose a spot and rest those feet! It’s advisable to get a drink and snack prior to sitting down away from the parade route… queues get silly long for things like popcorn on Main Street at this time. Just to note, if you have already seen the parade then it is a great time to get on rides as queues can drop down a little whilst it is on.
Where to watch
You will get a great view of the parade from anywhere as long as you get there early. But my advice would be to get on a corner then people don’t crane there necks to see what’s coming. Also be careful where the sun is… you want it behind you so it’s not in your eyes. If you can face the castle too that’s a magical bonus!
Top Tips no. 11 – Don’t miss the fireworks!
Nobody does fireworks like Disney… it will forever ruin your firework expectations. I’ve seen them so many times and they still bring tears to my eyes. You can view them from anywhere in front of the castle right down Main Street. They project images on the castle and also on fountains that come up either side. Then of course they have the lasers and fireworks.
The best view
I find the best view to be standing behind a flower bed in front of the castle. You don’t want to be too close but not too far. Further down the street you will struggle to see the fountains. Standing behind a flower bed ensures that if someone puts a kid on there shoulders your view isn’t totally ruined as there is space between you.
Top Tip 12 – Advice on taking the perfect photos
When I come home from Disney I always get asked the same question… “why is it so quiet?” It’s hard to get perfect photos in Disney when it’s busy but not impossible. I would advise on one morning of your trip being there for magic hours and heading straight to the castle to get a picture with less people in. As soon as the gates open to the general public you can kiss goodbye to castle pic you dreams of. But also be clever with your angles too… sometimes you can still get a great photo when it’s busy if you experiment.
Top Tips no. 13 – Don’t get bored in queues
Queuing is tiring and boring and just because your in Disney that doesn’t change. You need to be prepared for this with kids. In this day and age with smart phones and iPads it’s easier than ever to pass the time. But do you really want your kid absorbed in a screen in Disney? I’m not saying don’t do it but use it sparingly.
Games I love still are rock, paper, scissors I spy, games where you describe a character and the other person guesses who it is. We also played an alphabet game where we had to both think of a Disney character for each letter! That was a good one and really got us racking our brains.
Top Tips no. 14 – You will need a portable charger
One full charge on your phone will no way last you a day in Disney. Between taking pictures, videos and your kids rinsing your battery playing games you will need a portable charger. My portable charger would supply two full charges which was handy. Don’t forget to charge it up in the hotel room though as well as your phone between uses… something I didn’t do one night, doh!
Last Top Tip 15 – Take a refillable water bottle
Drinks are over priced in Disneyland Paris and water is no exception. On our recent trip I had a slight meltdown when I all I wanted was a bottle of water and queues were mega everywhere!! Take a refillable bottle as the water is totally safe to drink in Paris and it will save you a fortune and you won’t get caught short like I did yelling “all I want is a bloody drink!!”
So I hope my top tips for Disneyland Paris make your trip more enjoyable. Remember it’s going to be busy so you just need to embrace that, so do what you can and don’t forget to just enjoy being there too. Disney done right is a truly magical experience and you will always look back on it with a smile.
Do you have another tip or two? Let me know any Disneyland Paris tips you think I’ve missed! Got a blog post about Disney? post the link to yours in the comments as I would love to read it.
iPhones and androids… remember the days we didn’t have these? Do you remember a time before mobile phones even? leaving home and not being contactable? I do! Those were the days… ha ha! Having to be on time or literally leaving someone stood waiting for you. None of this last minute changing arrangements or running late texting. Was being uncontactable really such a bad thing? surely we were more efficient and organised?! Now in our fast paced world a digital detox is totally a thing.
Digital Detox… Back to the Days When we Were Unplugged!
I have a love hate relationship with my phone… I can’t imagine trying to live without it now but I look back to the days when I didn’t have one as simpler. Waiting for someone to call the house phone… or calling them hoping you catched them in. Knocking on for your friends… kids these days make all there arrangements via WhatsApp, snapchat or text first.
I accept technology is a wonderful thing… but when I’m swamped with emails, texts, WhatsApp’s in several groups, even the pressure of social media presence (necessary I think if you have a business) it’s all pretty exhausting. Like most people these days I am never completely uncontactable. If I try to be I suddenly remember something I’ve not replied to or worry I’ve missed something important. Definitely time to unplug.
Digital Detox Weekend
Unplugging on a weekend away with my son in a waterfront lodge was the answer… a digital detox weekend. The game Fortnite is life it would seem for a ten year old these days so I knew he wouldn’t be happy . I let him know prior that we would be ‘unplugging!’ No Nintendo switch for him, no going on the phone for me! He accepted it pretty easily to be fair. If I had taken it off him there we would have had serious issues but because I set my stall prior he knew where he was at.
The Perfect Setting
The Waterfront Lodge in Nuneaton turned out to be a little hidden gem. A newly built luxury Bed and Breakfast, over looking to the lake and countryside at the heart of the Midlands.
A warm welcome was granted us on our arrival late in the afternoon. I instantly loved what they had done with the lodge; beautifully finished and equipped with all the mod cons. Lights on sensors, a button to switch to bath or shower and much to my sons delight… Alexa. Neither of us had used one before so our unplugged weekend could be about to go down the plug hole ha ha!
But no… I’m pleased to report I stood my ground (mostly) he talked to Alexa only why I indulged in a bath. He quickly learned he could get on YouTube (this Alexa had a screen!) to watch lasarbeam (I so don’t understand the mentality of watching other people play games… Or watching other people watch funny videos, I must be getting old!) but bath done I told Alexa to shut up and she did!
Ahhh peace… Almost!
Outside on the veranda it was lovely and tranquil drinking my wine. That was except for his protests that it was boring – another reminder of how technology has ruined kids these days… they crave that constant stimulation. I’m well aware he’s no different to most kids his age though in this sense. As dusk descended to the song of birds it was pretty peaceful watching the fish jumping out of the water and I eventually distracted him with chat about friends and school.
You Can’t Beat Board Games!
Born in the 80’s I am a lover of board games… I do wonder how many households still indulge in the pleasure of a Saturday night family board game session? Old fashioned my son may call them but once we actually play he is engrossed. The Game Of Life will forever be a favourite of mine.. I find it engaging all the way round and not never ending like monopoly can be. This was the game of choice for our screen free Saturday evening.
See this is what I wanted… quality time. Yes he won! But not because I let him… we are both very competitive.
After a lovely sleep I woke really early on account of light flooding in the room but as we went to bed at a decent hour I wasn’t too bothered. Confession… I then started writing this blog post your reading right now! Technically not unplugged completely but whilst my son was snoozing away and I was feeling inspired it was a good opportunity to blog – something I love and don’t have enough time for lately.
Finally Feels Like Spring
Although it’s only March the sun was shining… it was not that warm but I quickly regretted not bringing my yoga mat. Yoga on the private veranda overlooking the lake would have been the perfect start to Sunday! At 9:30 breakfast was served and eating outside for the first time this year made it finally feel like spring (except when I was stressing because the napkins blew in the water!)
Checking out mid morning we headed to a surprise go karting session I had booked. I actually realised I had never done it before?! How can this be? Super exciting. I will save the details for another blog post as we had so much fun! It was great to find something we both equally loved… go karting is definitely on the future activity list.
To finish the day we went to the skatepark now I have to confess this would usually be somewhere I take the opportunity to sit off and catch up on whatever stuff I think I’m missing on my phone whilst momentarily glancing at my son with a smile. Not today… I had bought him a new scooter (early birthday present) and he proudly showed off his stunts. Then tried to teach me! We had a real good laugh together.
Digital Detox Accomplished
My digital detox weekend complete, I was feeling revived by Sunday evening. It really got me thinking about how much I feel harassed by my phone and being socially present. It’s no secret but sometimes you are definitely missing the true magic of a moment through trying to share it with the world. Digitally detoxing has really opened my eyes… moving forward I am definitely going to be more conscious of how much I’m using my phone and when.
Have you ever tried a digital detox? I would love to hear how it went… if not you should definitely try unplugging for a while and connect with the real world.
Here I share 20 reasons why you should book a Disney cruise but really there are too many to truly mention… I mean anything Disney is always a good idea! In 2015 I was lucky enough to go on a Disney cruise. It was some time ago now but it is still embedded in my mind as one of my best trips ever. Disney cruise ships really are something special.
We cruised on the Disney Fantasy for a week around the western Caribbean; stopping off in Grand Cayman, Jamaica, Cozumel and Disney’s private island in the Bahamas – Castaway Cay. This is based on my experience on the Fantasy but I hear all the ships are out of this world.
1. You Will Feel Like Royalty on a Disney Cruise
From the moment you get on the ship you are treated like royalty. Waltzing down the red carpet to board whilst they announce you by name to a round of applause may not be everyone’s cup of tea but lets just say you definitely feel special. Your waiters get to know you and your preferences personally as they rotate restaurants with you each night. Your stateroom host quickly learns your names and greets you with a smile always asking if there is any more they can do for you.
2. The Interior is a Work of Art
I don’t even know where to start herebut the attention to detail on a Disney cruise is something else. Right from when you step into the ship’s stunning three-story atrium, decked in regal shades of gold and blue with fine details adorning every element inside your know no expense has been spared. It’s an entrance one might expect in a grand hotel… as a first time cruiser I was in awe. From the intricate mosaics around the ship, the themed restaurants, to the beautiful theatre. There is too much to mention… its simply grand and exquisite through out.
3. Door Decorating Fun
Yes this is a thing! Be sure to decorate your stateroom door Disney style. I read this before going so I was prepared. Disney don’t like you to use tape so be sure to use magnets, the doors are metal. You can make life easy by purchasing pre made designs on Etsy (just search Disney cruise door magnets) but I’ve always loved crafting so I had a go myself. It’s fun to explore the ship and look at all the designs.
4. Magic Portholes
So we had an interior stateroom but it was suffice. I mean are you really going to sit in your room on a Disney Cruise? It was a little tricky getting ready some nights with a hyperactive 7 year old though ha ha! I must mention here the magic porthole… a “window” to the world with a real-time view outside the ship. But that’s not all… Disney characters appear in the porthole too! Yes you might just see Tinkerbell fly across… I was freaking out spotting them all. Well done Disney, a great addition for those who can’t stretch the budget to an outside cabin ha ha! I would totally book an interior room again.
5. Delicious Dining Experiences
Ohhh the restaurants… guests have many options to choose from when it comes to dining. You are given a dining rotation and depending on the length of your cruise you may visit some restaurants more than once. You can opt out on some nights like we did if you would prefer a more casual affair like Cabanas. It was nice to have a break from dressing for dinner plus whilst all the guests were dining we enjoyed numerous goes on the aquaduck without queuing. All the restaurants were amazing, not just the food but the decor too. None were quite as delightful as Animators palate though – you get to draw your own character and watch in delight as it comes alive as part of the show.
6. Adult Only Dining
If you want to experience fine dining (I should say even finer dining really) head to one of the adult only restaurants – Palo or Remy. We dined in Palo on our last night and the food was divine… the service again was impeccable. The waiter was very patient explaining things on the menu to us. The setting was very serene and had we of made a reservation prior to getting on the cruise we could have enjoyed a view of the sunset out of the wall of windows (book in advance!) but none the less I fully recommend it anyway.
7. Deck 11 For Sun & Fun
I have to confess I had a slight love hate relationship with deck 11, ha ha! It’s mayhem for parents, heaven for kids! This is where to pool is, the aqua duck (water coaster) can be ridden, back to back Disney movies play on a huge screen. Little ones can splash about in Nemo’s reef and you can if your kid will let you… try and relax on the sunbeds. Also it is home to some of the more fast food options you may want in the day available from the likes of Flo’s cafe and Luigi’s pizza. Deck 11 is super fun but a few hours and you need some headspace! The aqua duck is awesome… be sure to ride it in the dark too as it is all lit up!
8. Characters Galore on a Disney Cruise!
Love your Disney characters? (of course you do!) well I think I interacted more with characters on the cruise than I ever have. You never know when you might bump into them… which is super exciting! also there are plenty of opportunities for character meet and greets. My son met stitch his all time favourite on pirate night, he was so playful and funny, he still talks about it now. I was over the moon to have my photo with Mickey in his captains outfit too!
9. Pirate Night & Fireworks
Who doesn’t want to dress as a pirate really?! Well if you don’t you will stand out! Bandannas were even provided in our stateroom to wear for the occasion. We had taken our own costumes anyway as I am not one to miss out on a dressing up opportunity. As well as pirate themed dining that night there was a stage show where all your favourite Disney characters perform in a ‘Pirates of the Caribbean’ production. Not forgetting the spectacular fireworks as well! Followed by dancing the night away as a DJ blasted popular dance songs. Pirate night was a blast!
10. Disney Merchandise
Be sure to check out the Disney merchandise whilst on the ship… they are pros at making you get rid of your money and the cruise is no exception. Official cruise line clothes, souvenirs, pins, plush toys and more are on display in the stores. I bought a few things to remind me of my trip (yeah like I will ever forget!)
11. West End Worthy Shows
Disney doesn’t mess about when it comes to entertainment we all know that… It’s what Disney does best! But oh my gosh the shows… I LOVED Disney wishes… its encompasses everything Disney is about growing up but staying connected with your inner child. We also saw Aladdin and Disney dreams which were both fantastic.
12. You Can Chill Out
You may be reading all this thinking I don’t know if it’s too much! But fear not… you can escape the mayhem on the adults only deck and it was like a sun trap. I soaked up the rays with a cocktail whilst looking at the ocean. When I was too hot I took a dip in the Quiet Cove pool – pure bliss! where are the kids (if you have them) at this point? In kids club of course. Just to mention as well I met loads of adults on the cruise with no kids too!
13. Kids Club Heaven
I don’t think I have ever wished I was still a kid as much as when I clapped eyes on the Oceaneer club and lab aboard the Fantasy . I swear you will never get your child in a kids club on holiday again after experiencing this… it’s in a league of its own. Children 3-12yrs can immerse in a multi themed activity centre – there’s Andy’s Room, Pixie Hollow and Monsters Academy to name a few. A light up dance floor, computers, reading areas, televisions, video games, dressing up, a sound studio to create music, a craft area… the list goes on. Your favourite characters might just make an appearance too. Got a baby or a teen no problem… no one is left out on a Disney cruise, they cater for all.
14. Indulge in Pin Trading
If your a pin trading fan then you will be pleased to know this is a thing on the cruise to. For those who are unfamiliar with pin trading is buying, selling and trading collectable Disney pins that can be worn on a lanyard. You can trade pins with cast members (which is super fun) as well as other guests. On the last night of your cruise as well a pin trading event is held where you might just find some rare pins so be sure to check that out. Oh and pin trading is totally for adults as well as kids! I literally had as much fun as my son.
15. Bibbidi Bobbidi Boutique
Yes the royal salon where young guests can be magically transformed into princesses or knights is aboard the cruise too. You hear about the princess make overs lots but not as much the ones for boys. My son was seven at the time and loved the experience. They gelled his hair and put little silver Mickey confetti in it, he was given a sword and shield and declared a knight… we proceeded to then do the ships treasure hunt. This is where you look for clues around the ship (you realise its enormity at this point) and it’s simply magical… you will need a few hours but it’s good exercise and fun!
16. Rejuvenate in Senses Spa
I indulged in a massage and facial at the spa despite it being pretty pricey and it was worth every penny. I didn’t pre book this as the whole holiday was getting ridiculously expensive (did I tell you prior to this cruise I spent a week in Disney too?!) but as luck would have it they do offers once you are on the ship so that twisted my arm (like it was hard!) and I’m glad I treated myself. My advice would definitely wait till your onboard to book this… I can’t remember the price but it was quite a bit cheaper.
17. Visiting Castaway Cay
This deserves a post of its own really but Disney’s private island Castaway Cay is really something special. A tropical paradise in the Bahamas where the fun really doesn’t stop! Pristine beaches to soak up the rays, incredible snorkelling, slides in the sea, delicious barbecue food, bike rentals… just to name a few! You are not going to be bored on this island. Sadly a day there just didn’t feel enough but what an experience.
18. Themed Sailings
Now I can only properly comment on the Halloween themed sailing really as that is what I was on. But if that is anything to go by then taking a Disney cruise over Thanksgiving, Christmas time and New Years Eve should only add to the experience. Halloween on the Fantasy was great, everyone dressed up, the ship was decked out – including the pumpkin tree and even the characters dressed up for Mickey’s Mouse-querade party. Who else can say they been in a dance freestyle circle with Goofy?!
19. Exciting Shore Excursions
If you do decide to get off the ship you can indulge in some shore excursions. Disney makes this super easy for you. You can browse the itineraries before you go and add them to your never ending bill ha ha! You could indeed arrange your own but I like the guarantee that I am not going to miss the boat (honestly my anxiety couldn’t take it!) My experience of shore excursions was unforgettable. In Grand Cayman we swam with sting rays (my son bailed much to my dismay) Jamaica we headed up Dunn River Falls, Mystic mountain and even on a bobsleigh tour (Cool Running’s eat your heart out!) In Cozumel we went on a submarine. Shore excursions enhance your visit when you dock so check out if any take your fancy but don’t be surprised if you struggle to choose!
20. It’s the Holiday of a Lifetime
I hope you are reading this and have already drawn this conclusion… this is one trip you will never forget. Disney always provides ultimate in entertainment and the cruises are no exception. Word of warning though… you will come back slightly exhausted from the non stop fun and excitement but it was oh so worth it.
Have you been on a Disney cruise? I would love to hear anything you would add to this list?
Oh yeah and guys… due to writing this blog post I’m now looking to book another Disney Cruise next year. I am dying to make some more magical memories with Mickey and friends on the high seas. Watch this space!
The last part of our Italy adventure was to be one day on the beautiful island of Capri. We were up early, the birds were singing, the sun was shining… what could possible go wrong?! Let’s just say the day didn’t get off to such an easy start… my son was not in the best of moods as I had bollocked him for losing his new trainers! But as he sulkily wandered down the jete to board the boat I took what would become one of my favourites shots of the holiday. It’s funny how the images we share, seemingly perfect do not always portray what’s really going on in the moment. A photo can say a thousand words but it can also hide them…
Getting to Capri
As mentioned on a previous post we were staying right by the harbour in Vico Equense so this was ideal for reaching our destination. It took around 40 minutes to reach Marina Grande, the busy main port where our day in Capri would begin!
Here there are lots of souvenir shops, cafes and restaurants to choose from. We had a wander about and then decided it was probably best to take a boat tour of the island. It was soon easy to see why Capri is said to be home to some of the worlds most amazing natural scenery…
The islands majestic peaks and rocky terrain contrast with the most turquoise blue waters. Sat peacefully on that boat with the wind blowing through my hair and the smell of salty sea air I was in heaven (Note to self: must buy add buy a yacht to bucket list!!)
One day in Capri? Start with a boat tour!
Our boat tour was about an 90 minutes and had the waves not have been so choppy it included a trip into the blue grotto. This is the famous sea cave where the sunlight reflects off the amazingly blue water illuminating the cave. It can be entered only via rowing boats and is suppose to be spectacular… I was really gutted to not go inside. However the water around the island did not disappoint in general… this photo below was taken at the Emerald grotto.
The Faraglioni rock formation is probably one of the first images that springs to mind when you think of Capri. The rocks jutting out of the sea range from 80-150 meters high. The middle one has an arch which legend says that if couples kiss as they sail through they will forever stay together. The rocks jutting out of the sea are really quite something…
Other sites included Marina Piccolo and Punta Carina lighthouse that’s been there since 1866. If you only have one day in Capri be sure to take boat tour, it really is a must… it’s a fantastic way to appreciate the Island.
We docked back in Marina Grande keen to explore further. Anacapri located on the higher west side of the island was to be our next stop. Catching a bus seemed the easiest way to get there. But let me tell you it was crowded!! They literally stuff the bus but thankfully it was only a short ride.
From the centre of Anacapri you can catch the chair lift up Monte Solaro to the highest point on the island. I was excited but my son decided to sit this one out staying at the bottom with a gelato. Honestly he missed out, it’s not scary!
It was amazing going up, at first you could see people’s gardens below, little vegetable patches, I even spotted some bird of paradise flowers growing. As you get higher the only thing you can hear is the birds singing beautifully then silence… just total peace and quiet. The views you are treated to on the way up are spectacular…
The ride is about 15 minutes long and upon reaching the top you must get off. There is a cafe if you want refreshments or simply take in the views… I didn’t stay up there long at all given my son was waiting at the bottom but my head was literally in the clouds.
Once my feet were back on the ground it was time to explore Anacapri. Said to be much smaller, quaint and authentic than Capri town itself it did not disappoint. We meandered around it’s little streets, browsed some of the boutique shops and stopped for some baked goods and a cocktail (for me only obviously!) by the beautiful church of San Michele.
Conscious of the time we caught the bus back to Capri town. It was much busier, but no less charming to explore. Designer stores and expensive boutiques were plentiful, catering to the rich and famous the island attracts. We stopped off for Pizza where my son actually fell asleep with his head on the table… could I finally have burnt him out? Ha ha!
Time to head back to our ferry. Many use the funicular to transport them between Marina Grande and Capri town but the queue was too long so we braved the descent walking instead… not too challenging but probably not recommended if you have bad knees. Just before heading down one last look at the view…
Stay in Capri!
We were ready to leave Capri as a full day exploring left us hot and tired. But honestly it was a mistake not to stay on the island. I suspect once the day trips depart much like Positano a different more relaxed Capri emerges. I would have liked to have sampled some cuisine, fine wine, done some walking and just soaked up all it has to offer. However if you do only have one day in Capri the above could be the perfect itinerary. We really felt we got a good first taste of the island.
Will I return to Capri? For sure… along with Positano it was definitely the place I loved most on my Italy Adventure. I feel I have only just brushed the surface of this amazing country so guess what?! I return in May but to a different region… stay tuned!
P.S If your looking for a more private experience check out Gianna’s boat tours. I would love to use him next time – https://www.giannisboat.com/