5 Reasons You Should Take A Luxury Cruise To Hong Kong


Hong Kong is a blend of old and new, with gleaming skyscrapers set against the backdrop of lush green mountains. As a destination to visit, it’s unique; not only does it offer some of the best shopping in Asia, but some incredible nature is just a twenty-minute boat trip from the harbour.

The reasons why you should visit Hong Kong are endless, but how should you get there? Here are five jaw-dropping reasons why you should visit on a luxury cruise.

1: The harbour is one of the best parts of Hong Kong

Since Hong Kong’s earliest days, it has served as a centre of international trade. This is because of its location, positioned on the Pearl River Delta and the South China Sea.

Over the centuries, Hong Kong has undergone many metamorphoses, with its population and architecture also transitioning. The once sleepy network of fishing villages has now transformed into a thriving business, transport and shopping hub. Taking a luxury cruise like an NCL cruise to Hong Kong allows you to experience it as it was first imagined: as an awe-inspiring port to sail into, filled with culture and vibrancy.

Victoria Harbour is where the life of Hong Kong really resides. There’s never a quiet moment by the harbour, as it bustles with people both day and night. The light show at night is one of Hong Kong’s top attractions, but the skyline itself is something that never ceases to amaze. In Hong Kong, there’s no better place to stay than the harbour, where you can enjoy the view every morning from your cabin room window.

2: A luxury cruise can save you money

As both the pound and the dollar have declined, Hong Kong has become the most expensive city in the world for expats and the most expensive city in Asia to stay for business. The cost of hotel rooms, food and transport are rising sharply, and a coffee in Hong Kong can now cost you as much 60HKD, which is $8 or £6. If you can get a last minute cruise deal, you’ll save a lot of time and expense by choosing not to fly.

On all-inclusive luxury cruises, there are no hidden costs and fees, and no surprise expenses when you’re just trying to satisfy your morning caffeine cravings. Even if you don’t get a cruise deal on a luxury line like NCL Cruises or Holland America, it’s still possible to cruise in style and save money. You can stay in a luxury hotel room and enjoy the best views in the city without having to actually stay on the island. You can get your coffee on the boat and spend your money enjoying Hong Kong’s fabulous shopping opportunities.

Another bonus of a flight-free cruise from the UK or the US is there’s no need to worry about your airline baggage restrictions, so you can shop to your heart’s content.

3: You’ll see more than just the city

Hong Kong is so much more than just one city. Hong Kong city spreads onto Kowloon in mainland China, but Hong Kong itself has 234 islands surrounding it. Lantau Island, famous for its giant Buddha, and Hong Kong island are the two largest. Including the islands, the entire territory is six times larger than Washington, DC.

And yet, unless you go through these islands, you’ll never have an idea of the size or unique beauty of Hong Kong. With a luxury cruise, you can not only visit some of these islands while avoiding the crush of the boats for tourists and commuters, but you can also see the ones most people miss. If you cruise from further away, like a cruise from the UK, think of how much more you’ll see. The entire area of Hong Kong has stunning natural beauty, so why miss out by just staying on the main islands?

Victoria-Harbor-Hong-Kong city skyline

4: A luxury cruise is a quiet retreat from the buzz

In Hong Kong, it’s not just humidity you feel around you; the buzz in the air is almost tangible. Bridges have been built above the sidewalks because the streets themselves have become so congested with people. It’s a city that never sleeps. You can’t replicate the atmosphere of Hong Kong; it’s a unique and contagious feeling that has led to it being dubbed the greatest city in the world. However, at the end of the day, what if you just want to switch off?

Royal Caribbean, Silversea and Holland America are just some of the great luxury cruise lines that cruise to Hong Kong. Each of these, or any other luxury cruise, will offer you a quiet and peaceful haven at the end of each day — away from the hustle and bustle of the city. Unwind with a yoga class, or indulge with a spa treatment to pamper your pores after a day exploring the fascinations of the city. Overwhelmed by the sights, smells and sounds of Hong Kong, there’s nothing better than a chance to rest for the evening in a luxury cruise ship.

5: Hong Kong cruise packages give you so much more

While you can fly to Hong Kong and just cruise around the islands, it’s well worth considering a cruise from the UK or America. Not only do you avoid flights and extra expenses, but you take in many other incredible destinations on your way to Hong Kong.

Whether you’re into exploring as much of Asia as possible, checking out Dubai, or relaxing on an island on the way, you’re bound to find a route for you. Why just see Hong Kong when you can also explore Japan, cruise on to Australia, or even hop off at India along the way? If you’re undecided, just look at last minute cruise deals and add some spontaneity to your trip while saving money.

With all these incredible advantages to entering Hong Kong the traditional way — through its world famous harbour — there’s really no reason not to choose a cruise as your travel of choice.

Posted in Destinations

Eavesway Cruise Link Service 2017


For over 80 years, Eavesway Travel has been focused on providing quality travel across the UK. They are trusted by thousands of cruise passengers each year (including me) to get them to and from their cruise ship on the CruiseLink service, and I wanted to share some updates and news with you for the 2017 service.

First of all, Eavesway are holding their prices yet again! That’s 2017 journeys at 2015 prices – you really can’t go wrong! They also have a variety of new coaches arriving in 2017 that will be exclusively for the CruiseLink services.

In 2017, Eavesway will be the official CruiseLink service for Norwegain Cruise Line, as Norwegian Jade sails out of Southampton for the first time in over 5 years. You can find out all about this service on the Eavesway website. The site shows available pick-up locations for this service and there is hope that more will be added in the near future.


Routes are still being operated out of Scotland & North West, Newcastle & Yorkshire, North and South Wales for Royal Caribbean International, Celebrity Cruises, P&O Cruises and Princess Cruises.

The CruiseLink service for Fred. Olsen Cruise Lines is running to Southampton, Dover and Newcastle, but unfortunately Tilbury and Harwich are no longer available.

FREE Wi-Fi is now available across 75% of the Eavesway fleet. Onboard you can also find reclining seats (with a large amount of leg room!) and a washroom facility. All of Eavesway’s coaches are also fully air-conditioned.

With regret, Eavesway have had to withdraw the Norfolk and North London Services to Southampton for all cruise lines due to it being uneconomic to operate largely due to passenger numbers.  The company will also no longer offer any services for Cunard Line, again this is due to passenger numbers being low.

I’ve used the Eavesway CruiseLink service since 2010 and I have never had a single issue. The drivers are polite and helpful, the coaches are always clean and offer a superb amount of leg room, and I have never been late arriving to my ship. If I can travel with Eavesway, then that is exactly what I do. It’s much easier than getting the train, especially from Newcastle, and the comfort stops en-route are enough to make the overall journey comfortable.

If you usually leave your car at the port, then consider leaving it at home next time and book a return journey with Eavesway. It’s easier and probably a lot cheaper!

Posted in Cruise News, Eavesway Cruise Link Service

Eastbound Transatlantic Voyage Aboard Queen Mary 2


Image Credit: Andrew Sassoli Walker

As my two incredible weeks in America came to an end, it was time to once again head for the Brooklyn Cruise Terminal and say a big hello to Queen Mary 2. As much as I love to be on ships, the sight of her on August 9th was bittersweet. I knew she was waiting to take me home, and would bring a close to one aspect of my trip, but I didn’t know at that time what the next week would have in store for me, as I crossed the Atlantic Ocean back to Southampton.

Check-in and security in Brooklyn was incredibly fast, I’d expected a huge queue of people, and in that heat I couldn’t think of anything worse, but it was quite the opposite and the lady that checked me in was so sweet. I wanted to take her with me, but I’m not sure how she would have felt about that. I was onboard and heading for my stateroom in absolutely no time at all.


For this crossing, I had a single outside stateroom and when I opened the door, I was gobsmacked. Beautiful décor, lovely bedding, huge windows and a bathroom that had a massage power shower. The stateroom was twice the size that I thought it would be and I certainly hadn’t expected windows as big as they were, or two of them for that matter. I really did like it and felt very spoiled. If you are a solo traveller, then I highly recommend that you speak to your travel agent regarding the solo staterooms on Queen Mary 2 before you book your next cruise. My room was nestled down a little section of Deck 3 – right next to the Britannia Restaurant at one end and straight into The Queen’s Room at the other. There were only 6 cabins on this section of the deck and there are closed doors at either end, so it’s rather quiet as a lot of people don’t realise it’s a public access route. I must say though, I heard 2 ladies conversing as they walked down the corridor one day, one said to the other “oh, I wonder if this is where the people that live onboard stay”. I didn’t hear what her friend said but I was tempted to open my door and say “yes darling, that’s correct” – maybe next time!😉



I sat down on my bed (which was bigger than a single but smaller than a queen) and told myself this week would be all about some much needed rest, writing and enjoying all of the sea days with my book. Oh, how very wrong was I!

My heart felt quite heavy to be leaving America and TravelShopGirl behind, so I took myself up on deck to enjoy the pre-sailaway festivities. It was then that I met a young couple from the UK whom had also just finished a U.S. road trip and had decided to sail back home instead of flying – we had something in common straight away! An hour after that, I got talking to an Australian lady and her son, she told me that they (her husband, son and herself) had left Sydney on a 24-night cruise to Los Angeles, they’d then driven across America and here they were, aboard Queen Mary 2 heading for Europe. Basically, they hadn’t been anywhere near an airport and I loved the sound of their adventure! Another set of people that had my way of thinking. Needless to say, we would become great friends and our little group blossomed into an army day by day.

We left New York with an NYPD helicopter escort and minute by minute the Manhattan skyline got smaller. Finally, we were heading right out to see and the sunset was stunning – I could have sat there for hours just watching the sky changing colour. Moments like the one shown below, for me, are absolutely priceless. You could have the best entertainment in the world onboard, but Mother Nature and her blessings will pull me in every time.



I was on Deck 3 in the Britannia Restaurant for dinner during this crossing, again on a table for 6 (although they squeezed an extra place in and made it 7, but there were only ever 6 of us). There were 4 single ladies – I know, I had that same urge to start singing like I was Beyonce – and 1 couple – a husband and wife. It was another nice mix of people and I looked forward to dinner, although some nights I did venture into the Kings Court instead – I like a bit of variation in my venues. The food in both restaurants was just as good as it had been on the westbound crossing and there was equally as much choice. I didn’t see a single dish eastbound that had been offered on the westbound. I ordered quite a lot from the CanyonRanch section of the menu on this crossing and there was one dish that was so incredibly simple, but it hit every taste bud in just the right way – Sauteed Garlic Shrimp with Wilted Spinach and Jasmine Rice. I also recommend the pan-seared Orange Roughy, I’d never tried it before and aside from it being a fish, I had no idea what it was. It turned out to be my overall favourite dish of the trip!



After dinner, on the first night, I met up with the Australian lady and the British couple I’d met earlier in the day, we spent the evening in G32 – Queen Mary 2’s onboard nightclub – and that would be how virtually every night of my crossing would play out. I’d never imagined for one second that I’d meet so many people in such a short space of time and that we would all instantly click – it usually happens on the last day or two and you spend the rest of the cruise all saying that you wish you’d met each other sooner. I think by the end of the cruise there were around 16 of us and they included Brits, Aussies, Americans, Mexicans, Italians and a few Scots.

Unfortunately, I didn’t get to enjoy the Planetarium on my eastbound crossing, which disappointed me. The movies playing were the same ones that had been showing on the westbound, as were quite a few of the movies that were offered in the cinema, so instead of my space fix, I enjoyed the fresh air and my book on the open deck, or I sat in the comfort of my lovely stateroom, writing.


I purchased a soft drinks package on this voyage, something that hadn’t been offered to me on the westbound, which including the service charge of 15% was roughly $53. I really like pineapple juice and could easily drink it by the bucket full, so I thought the safest option was the package. It also included other juices and soft drinks such as Coke and lemonade. I think in all I saved around $40 – so it was certainly worth it.


I’ve had a lot of people tell me that they didn’t realise you could do a trip like the one I have been blogging about with Cunard (including at least 5 people who have now said they are going to do it themselves) and that’s exactly one of the reasons I decided to highlight every aspect of it. Unless you book a transatlantic roundtrip voyage (with maybe 1 day in NYC) your voyages are completely separate bookings, which means you can do whatever takes your fancy – you don’t need to just go straight there and come straight back again! For my fellow Brits, an ESTA allows you to stay in America for up to 90-days in one trip, so you can book your Cunard westbound, travel wherever you wish in the U.S. and then sail back on your eastbound. The middle of your trip has nothing to do with Cunard, you can set this up yourself, but it means you can sail there and back, and have an extended stay in the middle, should you wish. I simply browsed the transatlantic crossing options and noted down what would work best for me. It just so happened that there were 2 which allowed me 16-days in between and that was perfect. There were some crossings that would allow 5-days in between – if you just wanted to visit NYC and go shopping – and some that would let you have up to 89-days, if you wanted to really explore North America. You could even venture further and explore Canada, maybe take a cruise somewhere or head down to Mexico, the choices are endless. If you wanted to have a longer experience, then you’d have to apply for a VISA.


Both of my voyages with Cunard were wonderful and they have each left a lasting impression. Within just a few days of me being back in the UK I was looking at other transatlantic voyages for the future, so watch this space because something big might be coming…and a Cunard food blog!😉

See more of our road trip…

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Posted in Cunard Cruise Line

American Road Trip: New York City Part 2

Day 3 was a little less hectic, although we still had big plans and we still ate a ton of pizza! TravelShopGirl and I left Yotel and walked along to Times Square to pick up our tickets for the Big Bus Tour. For the first time, we had a real human being as a guide. I always find on these tour buses that the narration is pre-recorded, but standing right in front of us was a lady with lovely, long curly hair and she was the life and soul of the bus.

We drove through New York, past the Flat Iron Building and a few other notable landmarks and finally we reached our destination – the 9/11 Memorial and Museum and One World Trade Center. When I first visited New York back in 2001, the Twin Towers stood in all their glory and it was heartbreaking to be back there, standing on the very ground where so much death and destruction had taken place 15 years earlier. I can’t exactly describe the feeling and I certainly didn’t understand the people that were taking smiling selfies in front of the memorials at the North and South towers. Although there was a lot of hustle and bustle, and noise from all the tourists, you could still feel the heaviness in the air and the sadness in your heart.


The National September 11 Memorial is a tribute of remembrance to honour to the nearly 3,000 people killed in the terror attacks of September 11, 2001 at the World Trade Center site, near Shanksville, Pa., and at the Pentagon, as well as the six people killed in the World Trade Center bombing in February 1993.

The Memorial’s twin reflecting pools are each nearly an acre in size and feature the largest man-made waterfalls in North America. The pools sit within the footprints where the Twin Towers once stood.

The names of every person who died in the 2001 and 1993 attacks are inscribed into bronze panels edging the Memorial pools, a powerful reminder of the largest loss of life resulting from a foreign attack on American soil and the greatest single loss of rescue personnel in American history.


I have to say that the museum was a fitting tribute and it was very moving. I couldn’t really find many words whilst we were in there. I just listened to the narration, read the plaques and observed what was around me. I didn’t really know what to say if I am honest – it was all so overwhelming on the inside.

This fire truck was recovered after 9/11

This fire truck was recovered after 9/11

The Museum’s 110,000 square feet of exhibition space is located within the archaeological heart of the World Trade Center site—telling the story of 9/11 through multimedia displays, archives, narratives and a collection of monumental and authentic artefacts. The lives of every victim of the 2001 and 1993 attacks will be commemorated as visitors have the opportunity to learn about the men, women, and children who died.

The monumental artefacts of the Museum provide a link to the events of 9/11, while presenting intimate stories of loss, compassion, reckoning, and recovery that are central to telling the story of the attacks and the aftermath.


We left the 9/11 Memorial and Museum and re-boarded the Big Bus – our next stop would give us some exercise as we decided to walk the Brooklyn Bridge.

It was still incredibly hot, the humidity and heat never let up the entire time I was in America, but we decided we would tackle the bridge and off we went. I have to say that it’s not the best sign posted attraction in NYC – we just walked towards the bridge until we found a sign that pointed us in the direction of the stairs leading to the public footpath. Literally. Had I not happened to look up and to my right, we would have walked straight passed it.





I’m pleased that I can say I walked the Brooklyn Bridge, it was absolutely fantastic and offered great views of NYC. I’d do it again in a heartbeat, but ideally in much cooler temperatures. When we got to the other side I was hungry, thirsty and feeling the heat, so instead of walking back across the bridge, we ordered an UBER and made our way towards the Rockefeller Center – we figured it was a central spot and we could easily grab food and drinks in the area. Yes, you guessed it, more pizza!


It had been a great day and although we were both quite tired, we ended up having a rather late night. We found ourselves back at Boxers in Hell’s Kitchen and this time a friend came to join us – I blame this sign for leading us ladies astray!


New York City Day 4

This would be our last full day in the Big Apple and we were determined to make the most of it. We had been using a CityPass each for some of the attractions (Circle Line Cruise, American Museum of Natural History, Top of the Rock and the 9/11 Memorial & Museum), these are the official passes that you can pick up at various places in NYC and they are absolutely worth it! You can save a small fortune, especially if you are travelling as a family! TravelShopGirl and I kindly had our passes given to us complimentary by NYCGO – The official tourism board for New York City.

We started our last day with a visit to the American Museum of Natural History. The queue was long and we waited for what felt like a lifetime to actually get in, but it was worth it, even though our visit was quite brief!


You could easily spend an entire day in the museum. We didn’t quite have that long, so we targeted the things we really wanted to see, including Hall of Ornithischian Dinosaurs, Hall of Saurischian Dinosaurs, Hall of Plains Indians, Hall of Pacific People, Hall of Asian Mammals, Hall of African Mammals and the Hall of Ocean Life – and that’s not even half of them! The ones I have mentioned are permanent exhibits, so no matter when you visit, these sections will be on display.

We also stopped for a look at the Titanosaur Exhibit and it was incredible! The 122-foot long dinosaur is said to have been a herbivore and weighed around 70 tons. The remains were found in the Patagonian Desert region of Argentina and it is one of the largest dinosaurs ever discovered. Although the exhibit features a cast of the bones, there are actual femurs and thigh bones on temporary display in the exhibit.


We spent our last evening enjoying the stunning views across New York City from the Top of the Rock observation deck at Rockefeller Center. It really was a fantastic end to what had been an epic adventure in America. The weather was perfect and you could see for miles in all directions. Central Park was a bright shade of inviting green among all the towering buildings around her. The views across to the Empire State Building and One World Trade Center were also pretty impressive. When I visited NYC in 2001, I went to the top of the Empire State Building and admired the city from above. I’d heard a lot of people say that the views from Top of the Rock were better and to an extent, I agree, but I think they each offer a unique view of the city and I would suggest that you actually do both!



We had returned the car to AVIS when we arrived in NYC, so this had been a non-driving aspect of the trip. I think we did the right thing by ending the road trip in New York instead of making that our first real destination. If you are thinking of doing something similar then I would definitely recommend keeping the hustle and bustle of NYC until the end of your trip.

We checked out of Yotel and made our way towards the Brooklyn Cruise Terminal…it was time to say goodbye to TravelShopGirl and the U.S., and hello to the Queen that was waiting to take me home. I felt like Rose from Titanic when she said “the ship was taking me back to America (or in my case, England) in chains”. I really didn’t want to leave…

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Posted in Destinations

American Road Trip: New York City Part 1

NEW YORK CITY…where it had all started and where it would all end, but before I joined Queen Mary 2 again, I had 4 days of exploring to do! I had last visited NYC when I was 17 years old and so much had changed since then, but there were still some things which were instantly recognisable and made me feel like I had never been away.

Our hotel choice for our city stay was the Yotel in Hell’s Kitchen and if you are looking for something fun, vibrant and fresh, then this is definitely the place for you. It’s also in a great location, within walking distance of Times Square and many famous landmarks. It was a perfect hotel choice for TravelShopGirl and I. The cabins, as they call the rooms, were ideal. I liked that my bed could be moved up or down at the touch of a button in order to give more space in the room and support for my back, should I want to sit and read.

Image Credit: TravelShopGirl

Image Credit: TravelShopGirl


The views from my room were great – I was on the 24th floor! I could even watch the cruise ships come and go, I spotted Norwegian Gem trying to sneak in unnoticed one morning!


Yotel has a fantastic Terrace Bar (the largest hotel terrace in NYC) and although I thought the drinks were a little pricey, the atmosphere was great and it was a nice way to spend a few hours in the evening. On site you will also find a restaurant and gym. Yotel also offers free tea/coffee and muffins every morning and the Wi-Fi is free – and fast!



It had been quite a long day and we didn’t want to do anything too strenuous, so we had a walk through Times Square and then stopped off for refreshments in a few bars – my favourite being a gay bar called Boxers. It was a nice, relaxing evening with no real plan – probably the first time for the entire trip that we didn’t have one. We also grabbed a slice of pizza from Famiglia. Little did I know at the time, that would be pretty much the only thing I ate during our time in NYC – was I complaining? I don’t think so!😉



New York City Day 1

Day 1 was absolutely jam packed with adventures (it was also TravelShopGirl’s birthday!) and it started with a Movie and TV tour with OnLocation Tours. It was approx. 3 hours long and we drove around New York taking in famous sights and places from some of TV’s best loved shows and Hollywood’s blockbusters.

They included:

  • The Friends building on Bedford Street – Friends
  • Washington Square Park and Arch – I Am Legend, Big Daddy, Blue Bloods, Friends, Sweet Home Alabama etc.
  • The Plaza Hotel – Home Alone 2, Crocodile Dundee etc.
  • The Original Soup Man (55th Street) – Seinfeld
  • Hook and Ladder 8 (North Moore Street) – Ghostbusters, Hitch and Seinfeld – Just a note to anyone hoping to visit here. The building is under heavy renovation at the moment and you can’t see any of the famous façade because of covered scaffolding.
  • Empire Diner (10th Avenue) – Men in Black II, Home Alone 2, Manhattan etc.



There were so many other sites included on the tour, but the above is just a small taste of what you can expect.

In the afternoon, we took a Landmark Cruise with Circle Line Cruises and again, another fantastic hour and a half of my day. It was quite windy, but after the sweltering temperatures we had experienced in the few days before, it was well-received. Our boat glided along the water, taking in the Manhattan skyline, Statue of Liberty, One World Trade Center, Brooklyn Bridge and more. If you like the idea of a cruise as a way to take in the sights of NYC, then give Circle Line a try, but you must arrive early as it can get very busy. We took the 4:30pm cruise and it was quieter than I had expected it to be.



Circle Line offer a ton of cruise options, including Best of NYC Cruise, Landmark Cruise, Liberty Cruise, Bear Mountain Cruise and the BEAST Speedboat Ride.

We ended our evening with a walk around the city (more pizza) and a peek inside Grand Central Station – which was absolutely incredible! You may have caught glimpses of it on some of your favourite movies and TV shows, but you need to see it with your own two eyes to really appreciate it.



New York City Day 2

Day 2 in NYC would also start with OnLocation Tours, this time it was our Sopranos tour! I am a huge fan of the TV series and I had been so excited about this trip – it didn’t let me down! It was one of the best tours I have ever done, made even better by the fact that it started with a meet and greet from Joe Gannascoli, who played Vito Spatafore. If that wasn’t enough, when we officially met our guide, it turned out he had been an extra in several episodes of The Sopranos and knew just about EVERYTHING that ever went on, on and off camera. His name was Marc and he was brilliant! I wish I could have spent a few more hours with him, just to listen to all his stories.

Marc is the guy you see serving Carmela and Meadow when they had tea at the Plaza Hotel (he was actually working as a stand-in for Paulie Walnuts that day), and he was also used as a stand-in for Phil Leotardo in season 5. Marc is going to be directing his own feature in the not too distant future, you can find out more about it at MegaBallsMovie.com.


Marc as the server at The Plaza when Meadow and Carmela went for tea.

The tour featured some iconic locations from the series, some of which we were able to explore, and others we just drove by and observed from the coach. They included:

  • Satin Dolls – the original Bada Bing! We actually went inside here and it was surreal.
  • Holsten’s – the location of the final ever scene, where Tony, Carmela and AJ are eating onion rings in the diner/bakery. We went inside here too, and I have to say that the onion rings are really good.
  • AJ’s High School
  • Cleveland Auto Body – Big Pussy’s auto repair shop
  • Kearny Avenue (where Satriale’s was located) – probably one of the most famous locations of them all
  • Carmine’s Funeral Home
  • The yard where Tony B picked up stolen cash/drugs – we also got to see the house he ran from
  • Barone Sanitation
  • The marina where they shot the promo image for season 5
  • The Muffler Man
  • Pizzaland
  • The Lincoln Tunnel




If you are a Sopranos fan, then you MUST do this tour!!! If you’re not, but are into movies and TV shows, then I would recommend you have a look at the tour options available on the OnLocation Tours website. I guarantee there is a tour that you would enjoy. If you do decide to do The Sopranos tour, note that it only operates on a Saturday morning – so book long in advance!

After the tour we made our way to Little Italy, well, we had to keep the Italian theme going! We stopped at the Mulberry Street Bar for dinner – The Sopranos was also filmed here several times as well as Goodfellas and a few more. I ordered a chicken parmigiana, the first thing I’d had since arriving in NYC that wasn’t pizza! The food was good and it felt great to be eating in a location that had so much history.


We left the Mulberry Street Bar and made our way towards Canal Street when the heavens opened. We had to take shelter for a good 10 minutes until the downpour passed. From Canal Street we made our way towards the United States Court House etc.. I’m a big fan of Law and Order SVU and Blue Bloods and they shoot so many scenes here, I wanted to see it for myself.


It had been another busy day so we ended the night with visits to a few rooftop bars. The Strand Hotel may only offer a small rooftop bar but it provides the most incredible view of the Empire State Building, and I mean INCREDIBLE!


As we walked back to Yotel we grabbed another obligatory slice of pizza and that was the end of day 2. Day 3 promised another stack full of treats and sightseeing…


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Posted in Destinations

NEW Cruise Ship To Join P&O Cruises Fleet In 2020



P&O Cruises has announced that it is to build a next-generation cruise ship for delivery in 2020. It will be the largest cruise ship to be built specifically for the British market – far bigger than Britannia!

The new ship will exceed 180,000 gross tons and will accommodate approximately 5,200 guests (lower berths). Through an innovative use of space, the ship will offer an extensive range of dining, entertainment and relaxing features.

The new ship will be built by Meyer Werft at its shipyard in Papenburg, Germany and will feature the company’s exclusive “green cruising” design as one of the first generation of cruise ships to be fully powered by Liquefied Natural Gas, shipping’s most advanced fuel technology, which will significantly reduce air emissions.

The number of British passengers taking a cruise in the past five years has significantly increased, boosted most recently by the very successful launch of Britannia. There is still huge potential as more and more people realise the value for money, choice and range of dining and entertainment options available on ships of all sizes. With an amazing range of itineraries, from two days to three months, there is a cruise to suit every budget.

This ship will be the largest in the P&O Cruises fleet, will have a striking new exterior and interior design and will include the company’s classic and iconic features. P&O Cruises are also developing and exploring new signature guest experiences, details of which will be announced soon.

The new vessel will be the most environmentally efficient ship in P&O Cruises history. The ship’s “green cruising” design will use LNG to generate 100 percent of her power both in port and on the open sea, significantly reducing exhaust emissions to help protect the environment in support of the company’s sustainability goals.


Posted in Cruise News, P&O Cruises

American Road Trip: Salem And Boston

I was very much looking forward to Salem. It wasn’t a bucket list destination of mine, but it was somewhere that I had hoped I would visit one day and as it was en-route to Boston, it seemed like the perfect excuse to go!

Salem wasn’t quite what I had expected, but it was still a fun place to visit with lots of things to see and do. I’d envisioned a small town, somewhere that had partly escaped the influx of city life, but it seemed to sit in between both of those.

The majority of attractions are within walking distance of each other, but the Salem Trolley Tour would be a great option for getting around, especially if you are travelling with kids. We spent most of our time on foot, which was nice – exercise and sightseeing. Perfect!

Our first stop was the Witch History Museum on Essex Street, which is definitely worth a visit (it’s also down the street from the famous Bewitched statue). The Witch History Museum reveals Salem’s mysteries of 1692 by way of a live presentation and short tour (downstairs) which tells the story of Tituba and more.


The Witch Hysteria not only enveloped Salem, but all 34 towns and villages of Essex County. Hundreds of accused witches filled the jails awaiting trial. Some died in captivity, 19 were hanged and one old man was crushed to death. A Salem minister, accused by teenage girls of being the devil, was captured in Maine, hanged here, and had his head removed by another minister. Salem’s leading merchant and his wife escaped the hangman, but returned a year later to plot revenge on the accusers and the lawman who tormented the witch victims. These and many other stories of Witch Times are revealed at the Witch History museum.

Next, we made our way towards the Witch House, also known as the Jonathan Corwin House, which is one of the most impressive buildings in all of Salem, and so full of history! It’s actually the only remaining property in Salem that has direct ties to the Witch Trials of 1692 and it is well worth a visit! It’s quite small, it looks much bigger on the outside than it is on the inside, but it is full of history and interesting stories and artefacts. It’s also been investigated by several paranormal investigation groups.


Our final stop in Salem was The House of Seven Gables and this was another impressive sight to see. The house and gardens are absolutely beautiful, and it is in an ideal location – right by the water’s edge.

The House of the Seven Gables was built by a Salem sea captain and merchant named John Turner in 1668 and occupied by three generations of the Turner family before being sold to Captain Samuel Ingersoll in 1782. An active captain during the Great Age of Sail, Ingersoll died at sea leaving the property to his daughter Susanna, a cousin of famed author Nathaniel Hawthorne. Hawthorne’s visits to his cousin’s home are credited with inspiring the setting and title of his 1851 novel, The House of the Seven Gables.

Image Credit: TravelShopGirl.com

Image Credit: TravelShopGirl.com

If you are ever in Salem, then you HAVE to visit here. My favourite aspect of the house was the hidden staircase, which is awesome! And yes, you get to climb it! It’s quite a narrow staircase, but it really is something out of a storybook. I also really enjoyed the gardens, they were in full bloom and smelled wonderful. If you’re interested in knowing more about the house, then read the history section on the website by clicking here.


We had wanted to do so much more during our time in Salem, but time really wasn’t on our side. Still, I learned a fair bit about the Witch Trials and I can now say that I have been to Salem! I’m sure I’ll have the opportunity to visit again one day in the future.

Boston was our next stop and what a city it is! I have to say that TravelShopGirl is so lucky to live there. I really, really enjoyed our stop there. On our first night, we walked around the Fenway Park area and had dinner at Yard House. It was such a huge bar/restaurant and the food was fantastic. I had been craving fried chicken, mash and corn since we were in Lancaster and when I spotted it on the menu, I knew I had to have it! Once we were re-fuelled, we walked back to TravelShopGirl’s apartment, taking in sections of the Boston Marathon route as we went, including the finish line. It is such a great city to explore at night, lots of things to see and do, and lots of happy people simply enjoying life. Everything there had a good vibe.



The next day, we made our way towards the aquarium where we would get our tickets for the Boston Trolley Tours. It was a quick and easy way to get around the city and the trolleys were incredibly frequent. If one bus was full and the driver told you there would be another bus in 10 minutes, that’s exactly what he meant – but usually two came instead of one. Bonus!

We drove by the original Cheers bar during the trolley tour, but we stopped for a drink and quick snack at the replica bar located at Quincy Market – of course, we had a walk through the market, too. That was fun! Food and more food!



As we continued with the trolley tour we drove by/stopped at Boston Common, the Omni Parker House, Boston Public Library, Old North Church, Old State House and many more. It really is great value.




All of that exploring was hungry work, so we stopped for dinner at the Union Oyster House, located on the Freedom Trail, near Faneuil Hall. It’s noted as America’s oldest restaurant and started serving food way back in 1826. It was quite busy, but we managed to get a booth right away and decided to order from the lunch menu. I ordered the pan seared shrimp and scallops which were served over a sundried tomato sauce and rice – it was delicious!! I had been craving some good seafood and the Union Oyster House fulfilled my needs. I did intend on having lobster during my time in Boston, but I just didn’t have the taste for it when we actually got to the restaurant.



That evening, we simply enjoyed the warm night air (and beautiful sunset) from the top of TravelShopGirl’s apartment building. We had quite a long drive to New York the following morning, so it was nice to just relax and not have anywhere to be.




Posted in Destinations

American Road Trip: Bear Mountain And Lexington

We left Lancaster and drove to Bear Mountain in New York state beneath a blanket of rain and cloud. It was such a shame because some of the scenery was stunning, but we couldn’t stop for photos or we would have been soaked to the skin.

I adored Bear Mountain from the second we arrived, although the check in process was a little odd. We had reservations for 2-nights at the Overlook Lodge, which was actually located down the road from Bear Mountain Inn, where you had to check in. It was a really beautiful lodge and I only wish the weather had been better for us. I was so looking forward to exploring the park, walking alongside the lake and taking a few photographs of the carousel, but to do all of that would have involved a soaking to the bone, so unfortunately we missed out.



As it was such a long drive to Bear Mountain from Pennsylvania, we made reservations at the onsite Restaurant 1915 before we left for the trip – looking back at how bad the weather was, that had been a very wise move indeed – this way we knew that once we arrived, we had a good place to unwind and eat. The food was very good, there was a standard menu and a tapas menu, we opted for the tapas and the portion sizes were huge, far bigger than typical Spanish Tapas, but we certainly weren’t complaining. I also had a bowl of the corn chowder from the standard menu, which was very tasty. The restaurant has a large interior space but it also has a nice outside area with covering. We decided to dine outside, beneath the warm night air and sound of the rain. Sometimes it’s the little things in life that really are the best.




After dinner, we drove back down to the lodge and enjoyed a few drinks in the common area. The lodge and stone cottages are on the same winding road, but the lodge certainly has the best spot and the views from the outdoor patio and our room were wonderful. I even loved the sounds of the grasshoppers that filled the night air. I would absolutely stay here again, and in a way, I feel like I must go back at some point because I didn’t really get to experience everything that this wonderful area has to offer. Maybe next time I’ll take a heavy rain coat and some wellington boots, then I am fully prepared regardless of the weather.



A shopping day at Woodbury Common was next on the agenda and we actually enjoyed it so much that we went back the following morning for a few hours before driving to Lexington in Massachusetts. Woodbury Common is the biggest shopping outlet in the world and you definitely need at least 7 hours to get around all of the outlets. It’s about an hour or so from New York City (although just a few minutes from Bear Mountain) and several companies offer day trips there from the city for as little as $40 per person. Something for you to think about if you want to grab some good bargains and get out of the city for a while.

The plan for our final evening had been to just relax and order pizza, but as it was still raining heavily outside, nowhere at all was prepared to deliver. We eventually bit the bullet and ordered a “Sexy Pie” for collection from The Historic Old Oak Inn. It may have been a nightmare to get there and TravelShopGirl got absolutely soaked in the process, but it was REALLY good pizza! If you stay in the area, you must try it! They will usually deliver to the lodge and inn, we were just unlucky that night.


The next morning we left Bear Mountain, had a few hours at Woodbury Common and then hit the road again, this time for our journey to Lexington in Massachusetts.

Before we arrived in Lexington, we made a stop at Diner I84 for some food. We were both quite hungry and ordered some mozzarella dippers to share and then a grilled sandwich each – possibly the biggest grilled chicken sandwich I have ever seen in my entire life. It was good, but I couldn’t eat it all.



The Inn at Hastings Park was where we would spend the night and what an absolutely stunning property it was. I can’t say enough good things about this place and I only wish we’d had 2 nights there instead of just 1.


The Inn is just 15-miles from Boston, ideal for those living in the city that want to get away for a weekend, and is made up of 3 buildings. The Main House was built in 1881 and was home to a descendant of one of Lexington’s first families. The second building is the Isaac Mulliken House, named in honour of the spirited politician who lived there in the mid-nineteenth century. And the third building is the Barn, which served as Mulliken’s original carpentry shop. TravelShopGirl and I found ourselves in a Junior Suite located in the Barn and it was gorgeous. We were on the second floor (there were only 2 suites in the barn, so it was nice and quiet, too) and you could smell the freshness as soon as you walked through the door. The suite itself was decorated beautifully, I absolutely loved the American flag on the wall and the light that sat atop the table in front of it. The bathroom was HUGE and offered a wonderful, deep bathtub, walk-in power, massaging, does just about everything but make dinner shower and a large vanity area. The moment I set eyes on the tub, I had visions of the wooden shutters on the windows being slightly open while I soaked in the warmth of the water and watched the snow fall outside – then I remembered it was summer and my vision was shattered!




The main building looked impressive from the outside and that followed through to the inside. There was also a lovely porch area at the front of the building, so you could sit outside and watch the world go by. There was one gentleman who liked to sit there and play his guitar, which added an even cooler vibe to our experience. I would highly, HIGHLY recommend the Inn at Hastings Park. I promise that you will not be disappointed. Breakfast at Artistry on the Green (an award-winning restaurant located at the Inn) was included in our stay and that was very good, too. I ordered eggs and hash browns with toast, and although simple, it was perfectly done.




We didn’t get to do much in Lexington, the bad weather really slowed us down during the drive, so we spent the evening at Waxy O’Connor’s Irish Bar – we even managed to take part (kind of) in the weekly quiz with the locals. It was fun and a nice way to wind down and relax after such a long journey in awful weather.


We didn’t have a long journey at all from Lexington – we were going to Salem, which is about 30 minutes away…

Posted in Destinations

P&O Cruises Oriana To Retain her “Classical Elegance” During Refurbishment


P&O Cruises has unveiled details of the new-look Oriana, due for an extensive refit later this year.

Oriana will undergo a three-week refurbishment in Hamburg at the end of November. The adult-only mid-sized ship will receive a complete makeover of its cabins, restaurants, bars, entertainment areas and public spaces to provide a whole new elegant and sophisticated look.

Details of changes include Oriana’s main dining rooms, the Peninsular and Oriental restaurants, which will each be updated with rich new colour schemes, replacing the carpets, curtain fabric and upgrading the lighting. The passenger cabins will also be transformed with a new palette of natural creams, soft greys and teal. Chairs, sofas, tables and lamps will also be updated with newer classic styles as well as upgraded bathrooms.


P&O Cruises senior vice president, Paul Ludlow, said: “After listening to guests’ feedback, we are investing in updates to many areas of the ship, but what is key is that we are retaining her unique charm and traditional character. With her teak promenade and lido decks, we know that Oriana holds a special place in the hearts of many of our guests and so we will be keeping her most distinctive features, such as her Tiffany glass ceiling and other well-loved classic touches.”


P&O Cruises is collaborating with leading designers Richmond International, who also worked on the décor for Britannia and various luxury hotels across the continent, to provide a modern yet classic look and feel throughout.

Oriana was the first ship I ever sailed on and I am very much looking forward to the changes and to see her given a new lease of life!

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Posted in Cruise News, P&O Cruises

American Road Trip: Philadelphia And Lancaster County

After a night of sporting excitement, it was time to bid farewell to Baltimore and head to Pennsylvania. Our first location would be the Eastern State Penitentiary and what a day and night of excitement awaited us! TravelShopGirl and I had arranged with some friends to do a paranormal investigation in the prison that evening, but first we had a daytime tour arranged, so we could get a feel for the layout and what would await us once the lights went out.



Eastern State Penitentiary was the world’s first true penitentiary, a building designed to inspire penitence – or true regret – in the hearts of prisoners. The original seven cell blocks had running water and central heat before the White House and it held many notorious prisoners over the years, including Al Capone and bank robber “Slick Willie” Sutton. I’d also like to point out that our group was the FIRST all female team to investigate the prison – we were all surprised and quite pleased about that.


We spent around 2 hours in the prison during the day, it was a very different place in daylight, that’s for sure! We stopped by Al Capone’s cell – he had it made during his time in ESP. I’ve added a photo below of what his cell would have looked like during his incarceration, it definitely looks full of home comforts and a far cry from what the majority of other prisoners would have had to contend with.



Once the daytime tour was complete, we made our way back to the Airbnb property to freshen up and grab the equipment we needed for the night. We then enjoyed a pre-investigation dinner and drinks at Frankford Hall – the food there was so good (I do like a good bratwurst) and we all agreed that we would visit there again. The minutes soon ran away from us and it was time to head back to the Penitentiary and get the evening investigation started.

We arrived at the noted time and were met outside by 2 guides, they showed us back into the building and into what they call the Recharge Room (formerly the warden’s office), where we were given some basic safety instructions before beginning our investigation.


It felt quite strange to be back at ESP and in the dark, however some of the lights inside the building were still on. The guide said that they are all on timer, once they go out, that’s it. Eventually, they went out and each cell block was so dark, you couldn’t see a hand in front of your face – good job we had a few torches!

The investigation would last until 1am the following morning and we all, in one way or another, had experiences in there. We had the most interesting response from the dowsing rods, they were literally going wild at one point, but we also picked up a few audio encounters here and there, and one or two photographs we have seem to show some abnormalities. I’ll have to share the audio clips etc. with you in a future post as TravelShopGirl is still editing everything – they make it look so quick and easy on TV, but trust me, it’s not! There’s a lot of sound enhancing and image enhancing to be done in order to be almost sure that what you have is something paranormal and not just a trick of the light or ear. There will be an entirely separate blog post for ESP in the next few weeks, so ghost hunters…watch this space!

I didn’t feel like the atmosphere in the prison was over powering, which is what I had expected if I am honest, but there were a few moments when I felt incredibly uncomfortable and at one point, I refused to walk down a cell block that an hour earlier I’d walked down without a care in the world – it was so odd! But I just didn’t get a good feeling from it anymore, I felt like something had changed and I really didn’t want to find out what that something was.


Throughout the night we’d heard things, we’d had lots of communication through the dowsing rods, some of us had even had interesting results from the spirit box and so on, but as we brought the investigation to a close myself and 1 of the other girls had the most incredible experience of the entire evening, well, it certainly was for me! We were all in the Recharge Room (with the exception of the 2 female guides who were sitting just outside the door) gathering up our things and chatting about general life. We all reached a point where we were just about ready to leave and as we made the first move toward the door I heard on my left side, without any doubt in my mind at all, a man give what I can only describe as a sinister and smug “hmmhhh” under his breath. The kind of breathy response you would give someone that had argued they were right about something only for you to then go and prove them wrong. I was paralysed with fear and if my eyes had widened any further I’m sure my eyeballs would have probably fallen out. All I could do was stare at Lisa who was standing to my right. I knew instantly by the look on her face and the size of her pupils that she had also heard it, but none of the other ladies did. We just stood there, staring at each other for what felt like eternity but in actual fact was only a few seconds. I eventually opened my mouth and some words along the lines of “what was that?” came out. I could feel the hairs stand up on the back of my neck…I felt so uncomfortable and I wanted to get out of there that second. I was so glad I had that experience at the end and not the beginning!


The overall experience was something that I would love to do again, it’s unnerving and definitely pushes you way out of your comfort zone, but it’s also incredibly interesting and you really don’t know what to expect. I am a believer in something more than the physical body, I think a part of us does stay behind once we die, but I still want that undoubted proof and I want to obtain it myself. I’ve no doubt that if I did actually see something, I’d be a nervous wreck, but I suppose that kind of comes with the territory in this case!

Finally, and much to my delight, we left and made our way back to the house to get some much needed sleep – we had a journey to Lancaster the following morning.

We bid farewell to the lovely ladies that had joined us on the investigation and we once again hit the road. Lancaster was absolutely beautiful and it is certainly a place I would love to go back to for a few days. The weather was perfect, there was such a great variety of things to see and do, and the homemade pretzels and whoopie pies being sold roadside by local Amish families were delicious. This was the BEST pretzel I have ever tasted!!!


We stayed at the Lancaster Arts Hotel for the evening and again, it was another ideal hotel choice. There was ample free parking available, the lobby was totally unique and the rooms were of a good size. There is also an on-site restaurant and bar, so if you’re feeling tired you can get everything you need right there. One thing that I really liked about the hotel, well, two, really, the first one being that they leave a note pad and pencil in your room and encourage you to “doodle”, those doodles then get a spot in the elevator for a while so everyone can enjoy them. The second thing was the piano that was placed outside of the lobby entrance…so you could basically just sit down and play the piano right outside the hotel. I thought that was a unique touch.


Thanks to Discover Lancaster, we had the best time in Lancaster County and got to see and do a whole array of wonderful things. We grabbed a smorgasbord lunch at Millers, which was very impressive and the golden fried chicken was out of this world – huge pieces and so juicy! The corn was also tasty and naturally sweeter than it is at home. It was busy from the moment we got there and it just kept getting busier. They also have a large gift shop selling everything from locally produced jam to wall signs for the home.


In the early evening, we hopped aboard the Strasburg Railroad for a steam train journey to Paradise and back – that’s not a joke, the place is actually called Paradise. I was really surprised by how much I enjoyed it and again it is something that I would definitely recommend. The views were incredible and it was nice to be sat aboard a steam train, riding through the countryside at dusk. TravelShopGirl and I went for the last train of the evening, so we couldn’t take advantage of the stops that are on the route, but should you go earlier in the day, then I would recommend you get off at Groff’s Grove or Leaman Place Grove where you can enjoy old-fashioned fun.


We ended the night with a stop at the Lancaster Brewing Company for a light bite to eat and a drink.

Between Millers and the Strasburg Railway we took a drive through the area, looking out for covered bridges as we went and we found 2 beautiful ones. I’ve always wanted to see a covered bridge, don’t ask me why, and this trip offered me several! My favourite was Siegrist’s Mill Bridge which was built in 1885 at a cost of $1,872.


The following morning, we would leave for Bear Mountain State Park in New York, but first we had a breakfast reservation at Hershey Farm and a bus ride through the Lancaster countryside with the Amish Farm and House.

Breakfast at Hershey Farm was delicious, I even tried some of the shoo-fly pie which was actually better than I thought it would. We had a reservation for 8am and I am so glad that we did as within a few minutes of us arriving it became very busy, it’s obviously a popular choice! They also serve lunch and dinner, and there’s a small hotel should you wish to stay for an evening, or two. It’s located right in the heart of Lancaster County (a place called Ronks), so everything is within easy reach. Hershey Farm is also home to the Whoopie Pie Festival!




We left Hershey Farm and made our way towards the Amish Farm and House. If you visit Lancaster, then you absolutely MUST do a tour with these guys! The full package includes a 90-minute countryside bus ride – stopping at several Amish businesses along the way – a short tour of the Amish House and then free time to explore the large farm, which is home to all sorts of animals. Our driver and guide was absolutely superb, I left the tour feeling like I knew so much about the Amish people and their way of life. It was definitely one of the overall highlights of the trip for me. If I visit Lancaster again, I’ll probably do this trip again, that’s how much I enjoyed it. The Lancaster countryside is absolutely beautiful, I’d go again for that alone, but we didn’t have time to explore all of the farm properly, so of course, I’d go and see the animals, too!



Amish Farm and House Facts

  • The Amish Farm and House was the first Amish attraction in the United States
  • The farmhouse was built in 1805 and served as a home for over seven generations, including Quaker, Mennonite and Amish
  • The property is one of the oldest, continuously operated farms in Lancaster County
  • The farm dates from 1715 and opened to the public in 1955



Just as we were about to leave Lancaster, the heavens opened and it began raining heavily. Little did we know that the rain would then stay with us for several days and cause some severe flooding and damage in the states we had just visited. Conditions weren’t ideal, but we began the long journey to Bear Mountain…

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Posted in Destinations
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