What a way to celebrate a 60th. A group of friends and family on one of the most Iconic rail journeys of a lifetime. From Ulan Bator in Mongolia to Moscow with several stops en-route. A special band performance for our arrival into Lake Baikal. Whizzing across the world’s largest frozen lake to have vodka shots a canapes around an ice throne especially made for the occasion. Another week of themed dinners and events in Moscow and St Petersburg with more friends arriving to help celebrate!
I can’t say that I was overly enthusiastic about cruising or Antarctica before I went on this trip.
How wrong I was! Expedition cruising on a small ship is great, really active and I cannot rate highly enough the quality of the on board lecturers and the professionalism of the staff – young bilingual and so passionate about the polar regions. Every day brought a new experience, be it cruising silently amongst popping and cracking icebergs, walking through vast colonies of smelly penguins, visiting the polar stations, bathing in the warm waters on the volcanic shores of abandoned whaling stations or watching whales breaching alongside the ship.
To Cruise or not to Cruise?
How do you choose? My rule of thumb – Keep it smaller if possible – Under 250 is good. And choose the cruise for its destinations. If you cannot get there any other way then it’s a good option to consider. This cruise began in Bergen (Norway) and travelled via the Shetland and Orkney Islands and down to Skye and Oban on the West Coast of Scotland. Got to do the famous Harry Potter train to Fort William and visit the amazing Island of Heimay on the way to docking in Reykjavik. Iceland by car is amazing and easy! Expensive BUT easy! And book early as accommodation is at a premium as Iceland is now officially discovered and on everyone’s bucket list.
I was so surprised with what Dubai had to offer, so misinterpreted. Very cosmopolitan, you could stay a week or two or just a stopover on your way to Europe. I would suggest staying within the city if you are just doing a 2-3 day stop. Two major shopping centres within the city are the Dubai mall and Emirates Mall, both are out of this world and house every shop you could possibly think of. I wouldn’t say it was any cheaper than Australia but you can find brands that we do not have at home. A trip to the desert is a must an amazing adventure to see the sunset over the sand dunes. A visit to the Burj Khalifa (the world’s tallest building) is also a must where you can get A 360 degree view of the city.
If you have a little longer a stopover at the beach resorts on Jumeirah beach is beautiful. You can stay at many resorts on the palm including Atlantis which has a great water park. My favourite was the Fairmont hotel. Each hotel just oozes style, class, service and the attention to detail is amazing.
A visit to the old city of Dubai to the souk’s is also an experience not to miss, if you like gold or silver, here is where you will pick up some bargains.
Catch a boat across the creek and walk amongst the shops, listen out for the chant of the prayer time. It is such a beautiful sound.
Dubai has so much to offer whether it is a 2 day stop or a 7 day holiday. I am sure you won’t be disappointed, everything is bigger in Dubai and they are determined not to be beaten, I found the Emirate people to be very friendly and accommodating.
Travelled with the family to Orlando with United Airlines via Los Angeles. Couldn’t fault United their new aircraft was more comfortable than previous flights we had been on and we paid a little extra for their premium economy which was pretty much just extra leg room but worth the $125.00 per person.
As we were only visiting Universal Studios as we had previously done Disney we opted to stay at a Universal Hotel, the Portofino Bay Hotel is one of the nicest hotels we have stayed in as a family, could easily of stayed here for a couple of weeks. They rooms were large, and the property had many different eateries in their piazza area that were reasonably priced. Universal Studios was accessed either by a short walk or by a ferry that left the Portofino harbour area. The only way to get early morning entry to Universal Studios is by staying at a Universal Hotel, this was such an advantage as we were able to get onto the rides in Harry Potter world before the park opened and the lines became long.
Orlando is quite spread out with Disney at one end and Universal at the other, but both parks are easily accessible from either side. Orlando also has some good outlet centres for shopping and has one of the lowest tax rates in the US so even more appealing.
We hired a car and drove to Miami which takes around 3 hours, then checked into our accommodation in South Beach at the Beacon Hotel. The Beacon Hotel is part of the art deco area of South Beach and located directly across from the Beach, most of the Art Deco Hotels are a little small in size but wouldn’t stay anywhere else in South Beach, SOB really comes to life of a night with amazing sidewalk restaurants, clubs and bars and by day the of beautiful white sandy beach goes for miles. Miami is a great spot post or pre cruise or just a destination in itself to explore, Shopping, tours of the city and canals, alligator swamps, Art Deco area, sporting games, and the Southern charm makes Miami a great place.
My Bali holiday started over 30 years ago, I fell in love with the culture and have been back over 20 times. Bali is a place special to our family where we have met lifelong friends and had many celebrations in this beautiful place.
I personally prefer to travel Garuda when flying to Bali as they depart in the morning and arrive at a reasonable time, I have travelled business class and economy with Garuda and find their service impeccable.
I have stayed in many hotels in Bali mostly around the Kuta/Legian area, for a family hotel you cannot beat the Padma but at the last few times have enjoyed staying at the Camakila as this is a smaller property centrally located close to restaurants and shops. The staff are amazing and always eager to please. I recently had my 50th Birthday celebration at the Camakila with 50 guests and nothing was a problem.
There are many day tours you can do whilst in Bali such as Mountain biking through the rice fields, trekking to the top of Mt Batur to see a sun rise, white water rafting, snorkelling or visiting the zoo. I have experienced all of these so can give my recommendations.
Dining in Bali can be an experience in itself, anything from local delicacies to 5 star restaurants, there are so many to choose from that I find myself wishing for more days just to fit a few more in.
The reason I love Bali besides the people and the culture, is that it is such a diverse destination that allows for you to have a different holiday each time you visit, whether you want 5 star or you are on a budget Bali will never disappoint.