Queen Mary 2 Transatlantic Food Blog


One of the biggest aspects of cruising, aside from the destinations, is the food that is served onboard. If a cruise line gets the food wrong, it can lead to a lot of unhappy passengers. One thing that Cunard have absolutely nailed, however, is the food. The options available on Queen Mary 2 during both of my transatlantic crossings were absolutely superb, even the room service menu offered a whole host of culinary delights. I looked forward to dinner in the Britannia Restaurant every evening and not once was I served a dish that I didn’t like. I even got to try a few new protein options – Orange Roughy and Guinea Fowl – and they were delicious, I especially liked the Orange Roughy although I am glad that I had no idea what it looked like as a whole fish before I ate it. It’s not the most attractive creature on the planet.

My Queen Mary 2 food blog offers a glimpse at just some of the dishes that are available in the Britannia Restaurant, Golden Lion Pub, on the room service menu and in the Kings Court Buffet. No drooling, please!


Baby prawn and grapefruit salad

Scallops with artichoke puree and tomato confit - CanyonRanch menu

Scallops with artichoke puree and tomato confit from the CanyonRanch menu

Grilled aubergine, tomato and mozzarella roll with roasted pine nuts and basil pesto

Grilled aubergine, tomato and mozzarella roll with roasted pine nuts and basil pesto

Potted shrimp with soused cucumber and mixed greens

Potted shrimp with soused cucumber and mixed greens

Chicken Tikka Masala - Golden Lion Pub

Chicken Tikka Masala in the Golden Lion Pub

Chateaubriand with a wild mushroom turnover and gratin dauphinoise.

Chateaubriand with a wild mushroom turnover and Gratin Dauphinoise.

Pan-roasted Guinea Fowl breast grand mere, creamed potato and Madeira jus

Pan-roasted Guinea Fowl breast grand mere, creamed potato and Madeira Jus

Ham and cheese panini from the room service menu

Ham and cheese panini from the room service menu

Sauteed garlic shrimp with wilted spinach and jasmine rice - CanyonRanch section of the menu

Sauteed garlic shrimp with wilted spinach and jasmine rice from the CanyonRanch section of the menu

Caprese salad from the room service menu

Caprese Salad from the room service menu

Fish and chips from the Golden Lion Pub

Fish and chips from the Golden Lion Pub

Grilled beef mignon with a cajun and herb butter lobster tail.

Grilled beef mignon with a cajun and herb butter lobster tail.

Pan-seared Orange Roughy with creamed parsley potatoes and wilted spinach.

Pan-seared Orange Roughy with creamed parsley potatoes and wilted spinach.

Thai Green Curry with prawns from the room service menu

Thai Green Curry with prawns from the room service menu

Conchiglie pasta with mushrooms in a whitw wine and mascarpone sauce

Conchiglie pasta with mushrooms in a white wine and Mascarpone sauce

Seared sirloin steak with bourbon BBQ sauce, western fries and corn on the cob

Seared sirloin steak with bourbon BBQ sauce, western fries and corn on the cob

Prawn skewers, chicken skewers, peanut sauce, rice and sweet and sour chicken from the Kings Court Buffet

Prawn skewers, chicken skewers, peanut sauce, rice and sweet and sour chicken from the Kings Court Buffet


Steak and fries from the room service menu

Chocolate Marquise with bitter orange coulis

Chocolate Marquise with bitter orange coulis

Low sugar black forest cake with cherry compote

Low sugar Black Forest Cake with cherry compote

Chocolate chip pancakes from the Kings Court Buffet - they were SO good!

Chocolate chip pancakes and syrup from the Kings Court Buffet – they were SO good!

I hope you enjoyed that little culinary journey. It took me a few days to put together because it kept making me feel so hungry! I ended up having my lunch as brunch one day – I have no self control at all. I really was impressed with the food on Cunard, only 2 other cruise lines have left me REALLY looking forward to dinner every evening: Saga and Fred. Olsen. Cunard has given me a hat-trick.







Posted in Cunard Cruise Line, Food and Drink

7 Reasons Why You Should Visit Antarctica On A Expedition Cruise


Antarctica is a difficult place to describe to potential travellers. It’s a place that needs to be felt to be understood. The wind howls, the snow falls and the wildlife plays at your feet. Yet despite being the driest, windiest and coldest place on earth, Antarctica captivates people with its wild and untamed beauty.

For cruise lovers with a sense of adventure, Antarctica is the ultimate destination. Forget calm seas, sunbathing and nightly shows, an Antarctica cruise is an expedition to the end of the earth.

Below I have listed the top 7 reasons to visit Antarctica.


Antarctica is a paradise for wildlife. Protected under the Antarctic Treaty, the penguins, seals and marine life that inhabit the continent are totally unconcerned with humans and you’ll be able to get up close and personal with many of the cute creatures. Many Antarctic cruise itineraries also visit South Georgia and the Falkland Islands where penguins and seals inhabit the beaches in their millions!


There aren’t many places in the world where one can view icebergs. However, there are even less places on earth where those icebergs dwarf full sized cruise ships! Don’t panic though, navigational technology has moved on since the days of the Titanic and these majestic landscapes of sculptured ice can now be viewed in comfort from the deck of your ship. If you get lucky you might even spot a ‘flipped’ iceberg

Lack of tourists

We all know the feeling of disembarking our cruise ship to find that we’ve landed in some Disneyland tourist town jam packed with loud travellers doing there best to ruin your nice day. There is literally zero chance of this happening in Antarctica. Strict Antarctica tourist protocols state that only one ship at any time can be in a landing location. This effectively means that you and your fellow cruisers have each site to yourself. The peace and serenity is a thing of beauty!



Zodiac Tours

One of the best things about visiting Antarctica is taking the daily zodiac tours. Most cruise ships in Antarctica will have a fleet of zodiacs to allow travellers to explore the region in more detail. The small motor boats can navigate narrow channels and inlets that are otherwise inaccessible. You’ll be able to sail past lounging seals, get up close to stunning blue-hued icebergs and make numerous shore landings to explore the coastal regions.

The weather

This one may sound a bit odd, but experiencing the cold and windy extremes of Antarctica is one of the highlights that makes the whole experience so memorable. You’ll get caught in blizzards and deep snow, yet you’ll also experience the crisp clean air and witness some incredible sunsets during the continent’s long days.

Extra activities

Most Antarctica cruise ships offer a whole host of extra activities that make the cruise that much more special. Sea kayaking is one of the most popular as you venture out into the ice-floats and icebergs to explore the landscape and nature up close. Skiing and snowshoeing is often offered during shore landings and the notorious ‘Polar plunge’ is one of the most heart-racing activities one can experience!

The Drake Passage

Often termed a ‘rite-of-passage’ for Antarctic travellers, the Drake Passage is one of the most notoriously rough stretches of water on earth. Although it can sometimes be dead calm, the passage is more often referred to as the ‘Drake Shake’ because of the choppy seas that prevail in the region. Once again though, the passage simply adds to the overall adventurous nature of the cruise and leaves you feeling totally buzzed to arrive on the White Continent.

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Posted in Destinations, Expedition Cruising

A 7-Night Cruise Aboard MSC Splendida


It had been quite some time since I travelled down to Southampton the day before a cruise, but for my MSC Splendida sailing, that’s exactly what I did.

I spent the night pre-cruise at the IBIS Budget in Southampton on West Quay road. I’ve stayed in a few IBIS properties and I’ve never had a bad experience, so I thought it would be the ideal choice, and it was! The reception staff were very friendly and very helpful, and within a few minutes I was checked in and on my way to my room. I had a twin room on the third floor and it was huge! The bathroom was also massive – a wet room perfectly adapted for those who may be wheelchair users. As soon as I’d walked through the door it was clear that the air conditioning in the room wasn’t working, and on this particular day it was almost 30 degrees in the south, so before leaving for the evening I made reception aware and was promised that if it could not be fixed, fans would be placed in the room to lower the temperature. When I returned, not only was the air conditioning working, but there was also a fan in the room and the temperature was somewhere between cold and Arctic – just how I like it! It was a massive relief. A continental breakfast was offered the following morning, which consisted of various pastries, cheeses, yoghurt and fresh fruit. Hot drinks and juices were also available and at just £5.50 per person, you really couldn’t complain.



The journey from the IBIS Budget (and standard IBIS which is directly across the car park) to the City Terminal took around 2 minutes – that’s how convenient the hotel is for cruise ships leaving from the City or Mayflower cruise terminals – and within no time at all I was sitting in the check-in area waiting to begin my European adventure aboard MSC Splendida. A new system was in place today. You would check-in shoreside, but your photograph would be taken once you were onboard and cruise cards were waiting for guests inside their cabins. I don’t know if it made a big difference or not for us passengers, it didn’t take any longer than the usual process, but maybe it moved things along quicker for check-in staff. Also, instead of registering your credit card at check-in, you would do this once onboard either via reception or electronically yourself on one of the machines placed in the atrium. It was pretty straight forward, but it does mean that any money you don’t spend from the pre-authorised amount is then given back to you at the end of the cruise in cash in the currency that is used onboard. So, for example, I put a hold of 100 euro on my account but I didn’t spend it all, so on the last evening I went to reception to get the 29 euro in cash that they had debited from my card, but that I hadn’t actually spent. It was all a bit long winded to be quite honest, so next time I’ll just spend it!😉

Anyway, back to the cruise itself! I had a lovely balcony stateroom on Deck 10 – right next to the lifts which was ideal. One thing you can always be certain of with MSC Cruises is tasteful accommodation, no matter which option you select. I was certainly happy with my abode and relieved to see a full bottle of the signature MSC Cruises shower gel in the bathroom. I absolutely love the smell of it, it’s the same scent that is pumped through the air conditioning units in the public areas, and it’s probably one of only a few shower gels supplied that I will actually use on a ship. Once unpacked, I made my way out to explore the rest of this splendid ship!


Deck 14 mid-ship seemed to be the main hub, it was always busy both day and night, and it was also the ideal place to enjoy a drink and watch the sun go down. That was probably my favourite area onboard but I also really liked The Purple Jazz Bar, Club 33, La Piazzetta and the Sports Bar.




The stairs in the atrium offered the ultimate ‘wow factor’ – I’ve never seen so many Swarovski crystals. Apparently, every step (72 in total) has approx. $40,000 worth of crystals in it. If you haven’t figured it out yet, it means the 2 staircases in the atrium are worth over $2 million combined! The piano in the atrium is also covered in Swarovski crystals.


The itinerary for this sailing was the same as the one I had enjoyed during my time on MSC Opera (Zeebrugge, Amsterdam, Hamburg and Le Havre), so I was looking forward to doing it again. The only difference this time was that the ship had a 24-hour call in Amsterdam and as that is one of my favourite cities, I couldn’t have been more thrilled. I had the BEST time in Amsterdam and met some fabulous people. I stayed onboard in Zeebrugge and Hamburg. Although it hadn’t been my intention to stay on the ship in Hamburg, it was Sunday so everything was closed and as I’d been twice before I knew I wasn’t missing out completely. In Le Havre I took the shuttle bus ashore and enjoyed a casual walk around the city. Le Havre isn’t a big place, but it is quite tranquil and as it was a lovely, sunny day it was ideal for spending time sitting next to the water fountains and watching the world go by.

The day of our call to Hamburg also marked the 100th time that an MSC Cruises ship had called into the port, so upon departure, we were treated to a wonderful music, light and firework show – it was one of the highlights of the cruise for me. It really was spectacular! I’d never seen so many people lining the dockside in Landungsbrücken before.


As with my previous MSC cruises, I had the Allegrissimo Drinks Package and as usual it was a winner! It includes a massive selection of drinks – alcoholic and non-alcoholic – coffee and ice cream, and I would always recommend this package be purchased before you cruise as you really do save a small fortune. Also available is the Allegrissimo Premium, which is slightly more expensive than the standard Allegrissimo but includes premium spirits, beers, champagne cocktails, the contents of your in-room mini-bar and much more. You can read more about all of the drinks packages available here, but please note that some of the prices have changed. The standard Allegrissimo is now 26 euro per person per day.


I had cruised with MSC Cruises twice previous to my voyage on MSC Splendida, so I knew what to expect, and just like MSC Opera and MSC Magnifica I had a fantastic time, but there was one let down on this sailing and that was the food. The salad selections, fruit selections and Mediterranean Corner (cheeses and cold meats) were absolutely brilliant, I really couldn’t fault these at all, nor could I fault the ‘make your own sandwich’ section that was offered late afternoon and evening or the ice cream bar, and pizza station. The rest of the food, however, was pot luck. Some of the dishes were very tasty (I loved the bratwurst that was on offer one day), but more often than not, the food was cold. I met many English passengers during the cruise and the overall consensus was exactly the same: wonderful ship, fantastic accommodation and superb value for money, but the food let it down.



Would I cruise with MSC Cruises again? ABSOLUTELY!!!!! I just love the onboard atmosphere, the mix of nationalities, the smell of the ships, the value for money, the longer port calls, the crew – everything! You know that when you board an MSC Cruises’ ship you are in for a good time!!

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Posted in MSC Cruises

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
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