Swimming in the sky: the world's best rooftop pools

A blog for Wordsmith, the blog of luxury travel company, Mr & Mrs Smith. 

 

Ask any hotel architect what’s better than lazily lounging in a beautifully designed infinity pool, and they’ll tell you the same thing: lazily lounging in a beautifully designed infinity pool ON TOP OF A BUILDING. For the urban hotelier of today, from Los Angeles to London, the rooftop pool is no longer a luxury extra; it’s an essential part of the package, giving guests a place, to relax, cool off, admire the view, and take insufferably smug Instagram photos as they like. Here’s our summer hit list of sky-high swimming holes.

For all-night pool parties
Downtown LA in the summer can be a heady experience. When the mercury starts to soar, some are tempted to flee the city, but those in-the-know head to the pool atop The Standard. Find a waterbed pod (akin to a shiny red spaceship – the Standard is never one to be hold back on showmanship) and order a pretzel and beer from the Biergarten. By night, expect to get swept up in some poolside debauchery (with a heavily liquored cocktail in hand) and enjoy the hotel’s impressive roster of new and established DJs.
What’s the view? The concrete jungle of DTLA.

For the effortlessly on-trend
Cult hotelier Michael Achenbaum makes his London debut with latest project, The Curtain, an edgy and indulgent urban hangout smack in the heart of Shoreditch. Cited as the opening of summer 2017, the hotel is capped with a beautifully mosaicked rooftop plunge pool that is sure to see some jostling for sunbathing space as things heat up in London town. Once you’re done lounging alongside a few music industry moguls and the nonchalant East London creative crowd, dine at the poolside Mediterranean eatery, Lido Brasserie, and enjoy the buzz of this of-the-moment private members’ club.
What’s the view? Gloriously grimy Shoreditch.

For sea-view serenity
Summer in Santorini is made for gorging on feta me meli (feta fried in filo and drizzled in honey), copious amounts of tzatziki and platters of seafood. But let’s face it, beyond the food, a large portion of any trip to Santorini should be steadfastly dedicated to remaining horizontal on a sun lounger. And why inconvenience yourself more than necessary by heading out of your white-washed abode when you can languidly make your way to the roof of Perivolas? Your challenge of the day: work out where the pool finishes and the sky begins. Or is that the ocean?
What’s the view? Azure sea and sky by day; fiery sunsets come evening.

For city-view solitude
The refreshing plunge pool nestled in Spanish gardens on the roof at Corral del Rey may be small, but swimming won’t be on your mind once you catch the views over Seville, a low-lying skyline dominated by that gloriously Gothic Unesco-listed cathedral. The pool is an essential amenity for the Seville summer when the temperatures skyrocket (the city’s not known as the frying pan of Spain for nothing). After a morning weaving through the dizzying maze of ancient streets, devote an afternoon to cooling off with your toes in the pool and a chilled cava in your hand.
What’s the view? Seville’s old quarter and beyond.

For design buffs
Architecture aficionados will undoubtedly appreciate the design of the modish Hotel Habita in Mexico City. Its exterior is wrapped in glass that glows at night, transforming the building from its past life as an unremarkable apartment block into the jet-set design destination it is today. Inside, it’s all glossy white minimalism, radiating glamour and attracting a discerning, well-heeled crowd. When the designers were indulgently befitting Hotel Habita with its stylish interior, they didn’t stop at the ceiling; they crowned it with a sparkling set of rooftop pools – two infinity-style piscinas flank a buzzy pool bar and make the most of the cityscape lookout.
What’s the view? The Sierra Madre Mountains from one pool; Mexico City from the other.

For sky-high yogis
From the rooftop infinity pool of Fresh Hotel in Athens, you can soak up the entire cityscape as you swim. Nine floors high, with boldly monochromatic decor and dotted with olive trees, the glossy poolside terrace is always a hive of activity with poolside yoga sessions to stir your chakras and start your day with a dose of om.
What’s the view? The whole of Athens, including the Parthenon and the Acropolis.

For sublime siestas
The bird’s-eye view of Barcelona from the seventh floor of the opulent 1920s-style Grand Hotel Central means you can pretty much plan your route around the city from the rooftop infinity pool. Let the cliché’s wash over you with the water and order a sangria and tapas from the adjacent SkyBar, then find a shady spot to savour that smug feeling while you look down at the sweltering midsummer tourists bustling below. The pool, bar and ever-attentive staff are exclusive to hotel guests until evening, when the water lights up in a rainbow of colour and a cocktail party ensues under the stars.
What’s the view? Play a game of sightseeing bingo – you can catch all the major Barcelona landmarks from up here.

For uninhibited luxury
Although its position in London hotel aristocracy is all but unassailable, The Berkeley has an extra string on its luxury-hotel bow – an unrivalled and unabashedly lavish rooftop pool. Circled with some of the comfiest loungers known to man, it’s heated (a prerequisite given the unreliability of actual sunshine in a British summer) and even welcomes the smallest members of the family, so couples should take note of the child-friendly hours if they’re looking for low-volume lounger time.
What’s the view? The glorious green expanse of Hyde Park.

For designer decadence
Philippe Starck’s slick Rio de Janeiro hotel Fasano Rio has its style-smart clientele sussed. Not only are they surrounded by an elegant Mad Men-esque interior (a homage to Brazil’s Bossa Nova era), but they are also treated to a transcendent view over Ipanema Beach and the city’s skyline from the white marble infinity pool eight floors up. Dedicate a day to hanging out on top of this high-rise beauty – the roof is also home to a fitness centre, sauna, massage area and coffee shop. If you’re feeling virtuous, order a freshly squeezed juice from the obliging bar staff and sip it reclined on a squishy lounger, clad, of course, in improperly skimpy designer swimwear and impossibly large sunglasses – this is Rio, after all.
What’s the view? Ipanema Beach, the Corcovado and Dois Irmãos Mountains.

Where to take your kids for New Year's Eve

A blog written for Mr & Mrs Smith.

When tiny tots factor in the family equation, just seeing the clock strike 12 on New Year’s Eve might be a celebration of stamina in itself. Exhausted parents of babies might have forgotten what such an hour looks like, unless it’s dragging themselves from the cosiness of their duvet for the first feed of the night. But as mums and dads emerge from the haze that is raising little ones through the unrelenting cycle of sleep deprivation in the first years, they might find they have enough energy to once again celebrate the beginning of a new year…

 

Go all out – the only way is NYC


New York sure knows how to do a lot of things in style, and New Year’s Eve in Times Square is among the most famous. So for a truly blockbuster night watching the ball drop, get yourself into the midst of Manhattan. But after the madness of NYE NYC style, make sure you have somewhere opulent and cosy to retreat to – especially as New York can be so very chilly this time of year. A stay at The Surrey will not disappoint: this Upper East Side pad will make sure you are pampered from start to finish and will welcome your brood with open arms – they’re equipped with tot-sized robes and handy kitchenettes for their bottles and snacks. If you’re a total Christmas nut, New York manages to extend the festivities as long as possible, so you can enjoy the lights and eek out every last bit of Christmas too. Experience a classic family NYC Christmas, perusing the window displays along Fifth and taking the kids ice skating (you know they won’t let you leave the city without doing it).

 

A countryside jaunt to Bucks


Parents: remember all those blissfully carefree years ringing in the New Year, champagne in hand, footloose and fancy free? No dread of a killer hangover and no fear that you haven’t had enough sleep to get through the next day with you and your offspring fully intact? Well at Stoke Park, in the Buckinghamshire countryside, they want to help you relive your hey-day by lending a hand and taking care of your kids, with children’s entertainment included during the evening on 31 December and – most importantly – in the morning on 1 January (genius). So you can dance the night away at Stoke Park’s elegant masked ball, ring in the New Year with gusto, and the following morning you gingerly sip your Bloody Mary solo and gently start to feel human again.

 

Hop to the Med instead


Portugal in December isn’t exactly balmy, but its Mediterranean location means it isn’t cold at this time of year either. It’s less than a three-hour flight from the UK meaning you don’t have to go far for milder climes and to extend your littles happiness beyond the thrill of Christmas. This New Year’s Eve, the Martinhal Sagres is planning an epic party with cocktail and canapés, followed by a gala dinner with live music and fireworks at midnight. Kids are entertained between courses, meaning a fun and relaxing time is had by all. Either side of the big night, this fabulously child-friendly resort has got you covered with brilliant kids’ clubs, design-led rooms and suites, and a top-notch spa that includes a choice of Mum & Child options for some indulgent together-time and exclusive treatments for tweens and teens too.

 

Family-friendly Boston


As US cities go, they don’t get much more family-friendly than Boston. An easy hop across the pond from the UK, Boston puts on a brilliant New Year’s Eve celebration, ‘First Night’, thats popularity since 1976 has inspired numerous similar events across the States. It’s designed firmly with families in mind and as such, it’s an alcohol-free event. Expect music and dancing, ice skating on the Common, an early evening parade down Boylston Street and midnight fireworks over Boston Harbor. And it’s free! During your break in the city, don’t leave without visiting the world-renowned Boston Children’s Museum for hours of fun. The city has its own Legoland Discovery Centre too. Family breaks made easy, right?

 

Go long-haul for a proper escape


Post-Christmas, sometimes only the warm sun on your skin and a cocktail in your hand on a beach will do to truly relax and rejuvenate. Where better to give yourself a big pat on the back for surviving Christmas than in the Maldives? And if you’re bringing the clan with you, Per Aquum Niyama should be a top choice. Let’s break it down: you’ll be in the Lime spa, being restored to your pre-Christmas best in an over-water treatment room while your toddler is racing hermit crabs on the beach, your child is kayaking and your teen is content playing Xbox in an uber-cool hangout. Seriously, everyone will be so happy you’ll return to the UK ready to start 2017 utterly refreshed.

 

Arguably unbeatable London Town


London, like New York, doesn’t hold back on its New Year fireworks – it’s a proper knees-up at this ticket-only display. Your kids, whatever their age, are bound to get excited (even if they are blasé teens that won’t admit it). Before the countdown, most of London’s festive attractions are open late too, including ice skating at the Natural History Museum and Somerset House. And there’s always a trip on London Eye (with obligatory champagne for parents) with views that will have everyone ooh-ing and aah-ing. Post-celebration, a stay at Claridge’s is a good bet for kids – despite its oh-so-fancy appearance, it welcomes all ages exceedingly well. Including, happily, a great selection of DVDs and board games to keep young ones busy so you can indulge in a 1 January lie-in (here’s hoping…).

 

Pretend it’s not happening in Sweden


Hey, you survived Christmas with kids – well done, you. So now it’s time to wave goodbye to random relatives that only seem to emerge at the festive time of year and seek some calm and solitude. Retreat and recover at Treehotel in Sweden and you’ll leave every last trace of chaos behind. No more irritating Christmas music that’s been going around your head since November – it’s time to press the reset button in your very own treehouse den in the forest. Treehotel is the type of place that’s perfect to pretend New Year’s Eve isn’t even happening without neglecting the cosy, wintery loveliness of the season. There’s snowshoe tours, dog-sledding, horse-drawn sleigh rides, skijoring (where a horse pulls you along on skis) and snowmobile safaris to reconnect as a family and have fun. 2017 can wait for you to catch up when you’re back…

Featured image is Treehotel

Breakthrough Cruise Ships Of 2016

This blog was created for Imagine Cruising.

Cruise holidays have evolved to appeal to all sorts of holiday makers, from those wanting a big resort style ship to those looking for an enriching experience among like-minded individuals travelling and exploring. The new cruise ships making their maiden voyages in 2016 each offer something new and different. And it’s certainly the year for the very biggest and the very best, with Harmony of the Seas to host a record 6,410 passengers, and Seven Seas Explorer claiming to be the world’s most luxurious cruise ship ever built.

1. Konigsdam
First of the new ships to hit the waves is Konigsdam, the latest addition to Holland America Line’s fleet. Its elegant ships are still large enough to offer enormous variety in terms of activities and restaurants on-board, but all-in-all it’s a more refined experience with its Culinary Arts Center, digital workshops and Explorations Café, where guests are invited to relax with a coffee and crossword puzzle.

Despite the demure exterior of Holland America Line cruise ships, kids are welcome and Konigsdam will embrace its younger guests more than ever, with new family cabins accommodating five people and Kids Club facilities to keep children and teenagers occupied and entertained on days at sea between destinations. Family cruise holidays don’t have to mean choosing from the large and lively super ships and Konigsdam’s inaugural itineraries exploring the Norwegian Fjords are appealing to families looking to introduce their children to a variety of culture and spectacular scenery.

Konigsdam will host over 3,000 guests on each voyage and will be based in the Italian port of Rome for her first set of cruise holidays from April 2016. She then moves to Amsterdam for a series of cruises exploring the Norwegian Fjords before sailing over to the blue waters of the Caribbean for her winter season. The length of her itineraries vary from a week or two, sometimes up to three weeks or more.

2. Harmony of the Seas
Carrying a record-breaking and mindboggling 6,410 passengers in 2,747 staterooms – as well as 2,300 crew – Royal Caribbean’s new ship, Harmony of the Seas facilities possibly exceed any hotel on land. Harmony of the Seas features a staggering array of activities, aiming to provide epic family holidays where everyone is sure to find something they love. Most of the favourite features on her sister ships are also found on Harmony, including a bionic bar where robots serve the drinks, surfing simulator Flowrider and a beautiful old-fashioned and full-size carousel. But now there’s even more: a trio of waterslides that promise thrill-seekers an exhilarating ride and another flume, Ultimate Abyss, that plunges guests down ten storeys from the top of the ship. A water play park, a much gentler affair than the adrenaline-pumping flumes, will provide hours of fun for littler ones.

Debuting in May 2016, Harmony of the Seas will make an inaugural cruise from Southampton, England, but then spend the summer exploring larger ports around Spain, France and Italy for around a week each time. In October, she’ll cruise over to Florida where she’ll start a calendar of itineraries around the Caribbean for the winter months.

3. Carnival Vista
Carnival ships always prioritise the fun factor, which is what makes them so great for families looking for enthusiastic crew, a variety of enjoyable and easy-going places to eat and loads of activities to keep everyone fully entertained from start to finish. Carnival Vista will carry almost 4,000 passengers when she sets sail around Italy, France and Spain in May 2016 for a week or two at a time.

Boasting the first IMAX cinema at sea, showing the latest movie releases, as well as a suspended bike track on the top deck for the highest and most enviable views afloat, Carnival Vista is unashamedly loud and proud. WaterWorks, the on-board splashpark is a brightly coloured fun-factory, perfect for a cool-off in the hot Mediterranean summer sun. It features a first-at-sea kaleidoscope water flume that is lit from within with multi-coloured lights for sensory overload. And the colour doesn’t stop there. Inside Dr Seuss’ Bookville, Carnival wackiness continues, even in this chill-out children’s library space.

4.Seven Seas Explorer
Regent Seven Seas has made no secret that they believe their new ship, Seven Seas Explorer, to be the most luxurious cruise ship ever built. Her mere 750 guests will be treated as ultimate VIPs and Regent Seven Seas boast an all-inclusivity to their cruises, from shore excursions to fine dining and wines.

One of the jewels in Explorer’s crown is the spa, a prestigious Canyon Ranch SpaClub with a focus on total relaxation offering high-end spa experiences. No detail is overlooked and the spa is luxuriously appointed with Swarovski light fittings. Treatment rooms, relaxation areas and thermal suites mean hours can be whiled away in an immersive and indulgent setting. Connected to the spa is an inviting terrace with plush lounge chairs surrounding an infinity plunge pool, hugging the stern of the ship for the ultimate wow-factor.

Seven Seas Explorer sets sail in July 2016, based in the Mediterranean and sailing around glittering ports like Monte Carlo, St Tropez and Ibiza, usually for around ten nights each cruise, before heading over to the Caribbean for winter.

5.  Seabourn Encore
Seabourn ships are an unmistakably luxury option and ideal for leisurely, romantic breaks where indulgence comes top of the ‘must have’ list. Forget the traditional notion of a stateroom, it’s all suites on-board the new Seabourn Encore. And only 300 of them at that, each with a veranda for enjoying the ever-changing sea views. Guests experience unsurpassed attention to detail from the crew and every personal preference is discreetly noted, so guests can expect touches like their complimentary mini-bar to always be stocked with firm favourites and coffee always served to exacting personal taste.

Seabourn Encore debuts in December 2016, heading down the Suez Canal from Greece and exploring ports around the Arabian Sea, undertaking fairly lengthy voyages of up to 61 days each time she sails. Encore’s modest size means the opportunity to visit ports smaller ports that the mega liners simply can’t squeeze into.

To speak to a cruise expert about holidays on brand new cruise ships, call 971 4 389 8918 or visit www.imaginecruising.ae for more inspiration.

Choosing a Mediterranean Cruise

This blog was created for Imagine Cruising.

A Mediterranean cruise offers much for the discerning traveller. Boasting beautiful scenery, historic cities, sleepy villages and sun-drenched islands, a Mediterranean cruise affords the chance to explore a diverse region that is ripe for discovery. Enticing destinations are dotted along the coastlines and their proximity to each other means a new port can be reached easily by cruise ship overnight, so you can wake to a new view and a new adventure most mornings. All this combines to make a superb choice for a holiday – whether you’re a first time cruiser or a long-term fan looking for a luxurious upgrade, a Mediterranean cruise can work for everyone. Which Mediterranean cruise is for you?

Fantastic for first timers

A mini Mediterranean cruise is ideal to discover cruise holidays for the first time. A holiday on Costa Favalosa this summer starts with a two night hotel stay in Barcelona, exploring the beachfront city that’s famous for Gaud’s iconic architecture, delicious tapas and the hustle and bustle along Las Ramblas.

Costa Favolosa sets sail on a three-night cruise from Barcelona in the late afternoon, arriving at Marseille in France the following morning. Here, the picturesque harbour of Le Vieux Port can be discovered with its variety of market stalls and local fishing boats alongside impressive superyachts. But to maximise your time in this destination, venturing further into France on an organised excursion to scenic Provence will give you a real flavour of this region. A visit to the historic city of Arles, with its ancient amphitheatre and cathedral, and then a stop at the beautiful town of Saint Remy offers an authentic Provencal experience.  

Next day, it’s on to Italy, stopping at Savona on the Italian Riviera. For a beach day, head away from the port to the island of Bergeggi to snorkel in the crystal clear water. For a true taste of Italy take a trip to Genoa, the birthplace of pesto, to sample some heavenly pasta, or just an hour and a half drive from Savona is the famous Italian port of Portofino – molto glamour! Then it’s back on board Costa Favolosa to return to Barcelona. As there are no sea days spent travelling between destinations on this mini Mediterranean cruise adventure, time is well spent on land discovering Spain, France and Italy. This cruise runs in April and May 2016.

Fabulous for families

In August and September 2016, Disney Magic will be sailing the waters on a seven night Mediterranean cruise. This ship is a natural choice for families who will love her child-friendly facilities and thoughtfully designed family staterooms. But the destinations on this cruise are also great for families. Disney Magic sets sails from Barcelona, a safe and welcoming city with a sandy beach and delicious tapas to sample.

 First stop is Naples but journeying outside of this Italian metropolis is where the real beauty of the area can be found, with the Amalfi Coast not far away. Along the winding coastal road away from Naples is Sorrento where, on an excursion accompanied by Disney staff, kids can participate in a pizza making class while their parents enjoy the stunning views of Vesuvius from this beautiful clifftop town.

Onwards to Civitavecchia, the port for Rome, and there is a Disney tour designed especially for families to discover the famous sights including the Vatican and the Colosseum. There’s even a puppet show stop en route to keep little ones entertained. La Spezia is next, where Pisa is in within easy reach for a fun day trip to see the famous Leaning Tower – awkward photos obligatory! Last stop on your Mediterranean cruise is Villefranche, the port for Nice, where the whole family can enjoy an open-air tram ride around Nice, taking in the flower market, the coastline, and famed landmarks including Promenade des Anglais.

After busy days in port, Disney Magic is a haven of relaxation in the evening with a choice of restaurants and entertainment – depending on how active you wish to be. A couple of whole sea days travelling between ports offer welcome reprieve to rest weary feet and take advantage of the abundance of facilities on board, from the spa and pools to the waters slides and shows. This is a Mediterranean cruise with the perfect balance of exploration and relaxation.

Even small ports are possible on a Mediterranean cruise

Intimate ships are able to dock in smaller ports that larger ships cannot navigate, so can be ideal for seasoned cruisers who may have experienced the bigger ports on previous holidays and want to visit lesser-explored coastal towns. A nine night Mediterranean cruise in May 2016 on Star Clipper offers something extra (and completely unique) because the ship is so special too – a fully-masted tall ship that makes the journeying between ports as much of the holiday as visiting the destinations themselves. Passengers are invited to try knot-tying and take part in a navigation class to immerse themselves in the maritime experience.

You’ll embark in Athens, perhaps having visited some of the world-famous historical sites like the mighty Acropolis. Then it’s on to three Greek islands: picturesque Mykonos, the tranquil beaches and hidden coves of Kos, and the quietly cool island of Patmos.

Sailing on from the Greek Islands the ship heads to Turkey’s Anatolian Coast and the buzzing esplanade of Kusadasi before voyaging on to Dikili, a little coastal town surrounded by mountain scenery and idyllic olive groves and vineyards that epitomises the laid-back Mediterranean lifestyle. Canakkale is next, the closest cruise port to historic Troy, before finishing the holiday in vibrant Istanbul. This cleverly-designed itinerary means there are no whole sea days travelling between ports so you can spend your days exploring islands and towns and evenings enjoying the laid-back elegance of this iconic ship.

Luxury is a way of life

For those with a little more time to spend to explore the region, Celebrity Silhouette’s cruise of the Med is something special. Cramming in as many Mediterranean sights as possible, this luxurious Mediterranean cruise stops at an impressive 12 ports during a 15 night cruise and the destinations are a mix of city stops, islands, beaches and sleepy coastal towns.

Setting sail from Rome, Celebrity Silhouette journeys south to Naples, stopping at Salerno on the Amalfi Coast before heading to Messina, a Sicilian port. Spain comes next, to visit Palma on the island of Mallorca before voyaging on to Cartegena, Gibraltar, Lisbon and Seville. Beautiful Ibiza follows, and then a vibrant city stop at Barcelona. Toulon is the last port of call before Celebrity Silhouette’s Mediterranean cruise returns to Rome.

This ship offers plenty to do during the two days at sea during this itinerary. There is a glass-blowing studio on board as well as a real grass lawn on the deck to enjoy. Elegant restaurants and beautiful staterooms make this a perfect choice for those looking for a refined and tasteful ship that is still big enough to offer a huge range of facilities and activities, and a fabulous and lively evening atmosphere.

To speak to a cruise expert about finding the right Mediterranean cruise for you, call 971 4 389 8918 or visit www.imaginecruising.ae for more inspiration.

 

Seven Things To Know About Dining On A Cruise

This blog was created for Imagine Cruising.

Cruise ships are essentially floating resorts, so it’s absolutely correct that you should expect the same variety and quality of dining that you would get in a five-star resort on land. And with such a captive audience, often the choice is even greater, with fine dining restaurants, informal buffets and speciality ice cream parlours, American-style steakhouses and seafood shacks making an appearance across many cruise ships. Dining on board cruise ships has changed dramatically in recent years; if you still like the sound of allotted dining times and a table of friends to join every evening you can still find that on board the traditional cruise lines like Cunard and Holland America, but there are cruise lines like Royal CaribbeanCelebrity and Carnival aiming to shake up traditions and offer a huge array of choices. Here are our seven reasons why foodies will love the food on board:

1.      Dining is (mostly) all included in the price

Cruises are full-board. This means that breakfast, lunch and dinner are included in the price, and that often goes for room service and snacks, too. What it doesn’t mean is that every restaurant is free. More often than not there will be at least one speciality restaurant that charges a supplement because it offers an extra special experience, or has an enviable location on the ship. But fear not: the free dining options are plentiful and you can eat for free for your whole cruise if you choose to.

2.      Celebrity chefs love cruises

Famous celebrity chefs just can’t get enough of cruises. Jamie Oliver on Royal Caribbean. Marco Pierre White, Atul Kochhar and James Martin on P&O. Todd English on Cunard. Arnaud Lallement on Disney. Guy Fireri on Carnival. And an exceptional Nobu restaurant by Nobuyuki ‘Nobu’ Matsuhisa can be found on Crystal Cruises. Don’t expect the celebrity chefs to be there at sea with you, cooking your dishes, although they do make appearances on selected cruises. As well as celebrity-endorsed restaurants you’ll also find a number of your favourite brands on board, such as Starbucks on Royal Caribbean.

3.      The quality is exceptional

Just because a ship might be catering for several thousand passengers doesn’t mean a compromise on the quality of the food. It’s not unusual to dine on fillet steak and lobster tails in the main dining room, included in the price of your holiday. The fine dining restaurants, such as the Grills on board Cunard ships, are renowned for their incredible menus offering amazing variety and exquisite presentation. On board the luxury cruise liners, such as Seabourn and Azamara, you’ll find special evenings included alongside your main dining plan.

4.      The choice is mind-boggling

On some of the mega liners, you can pretty much find any food you want, at almost any time of day. From a casual slice of pizza by the pool to a fine dining experience for true foodies, the choice on the larger cruise ships covers a full spectrum of tastes. The on board buffet, often the most casual option, can feature cuisine from around the world, sometimes freshly prepared at cooking stations. The huge variety of food also means keeping fussy-eaters happy too, just another reason why cruise holidays are appealing to more and more families. Many cruise ships will tailor the cuisine offered on board to the destination you’re travelling through, so you could have sashimi in Sapporo or vongole in Venice – imagine the flavours you’ll discover.

5.      You can eat when you want

Traditionally, cruise lines have imposed set dining times to help handle the large volume of guests that pass through the restaurant doors. And while this is still an option on some ships, there are now alternatives for those who want more flexibility in choosing the time they eat. Expect to find an open-all-hours buffet as well as reservation-only restaurants that operate as their land-based counterparts.

6.      The food hygiene standards are impeccable

Keeping passengers healthy is always a top priority on cruise ships. That means that incredibly stringent processes are in place to ensure the highest food hygiene standards. Different foods, from ice cream to meats, are stored separately at their absolute optimum temperatures. Storage, preparation and cooking are all done in separate kitchens to prevent cross-contamination. Diligence extends to passengers too, with hand sanitisers dotted everywhere throughout the ship, particularly around food outlets and restaurants.

7.      There’s no dining with strangers (if you don’t want to)

Cruise lines are moving away from putting large groups of passengers together to eat. Sometimes it’s still done that way and it’s something that many passengers enjoy as it’s an opportunity to meet new people from around the world and even make lifelong friends. But now it’s possible get a table for two, or dine with who you choose to, just as you would at home.

To speak to a cruise expert, call 971 4 389 8801 or visit www.imaginecruising.ae for more inspiration.

The Geek Guide To Cruises

This blog was created for Imagine Cruising.

Cutting-edge technology isn’t something you’d necessarily associate with a cruise holiday. But cruise ships are becoming smarter and more connected than ever before as well as using technology to provide spectacular entertainment experiences.

Smart wristbands

Royal Caribbean is leading the way when it comes to on board technology. On newer  ships like Quantum of the Seas, Anthem of the Seas and Harmony of the Seas, guests have the use of RFID ‘WOWband’ wristbands (RFID means radio-frequency identification). These clever little devices make on board purchases so guests don’t have to carry cash or credit cards, and the band serves as the room key too. They also scan guests on and off the ship so the crew know whether a passenger has boarded, making for smooth embarkation and disembarkation on shore days and at the start and finish of the cruise.

Refreshments served by robots

Technology powers a Bionic Bar on some Royal Caribbean ships. Here, guests place their bespoke drinks orders via tablets and then have fun watching two robotic bartenders hard at work making two drinks a minute. So if you fancy something zesty, order a fruit juice with ice for a yummy treat that is made to your exact specification. You even get to give your personalised drink its own name.

Virtual views on a cruise

Pioneered by Disney Cruise Line and their ‘magic portholes’, special screens in rooms with no windows give guests a view to the outside. This technology is now found on other cruise lines too. On board Quantum of the Seas, and even some of Royal Caribbean’s older ships like Navigator of the Seas, virtual balconies show real-time sights and sounds of the sea on massive 80-inch LED screens.

Healthy technologies

Cunard’s Queen Mary 2 can be found traversing the Atlantic from the UK to New York. With few places to divert for emergencies, this ship is equipped with a mini hospital on board, complete with an x-ray machine and lab. Rather cleverly, the Queen Mary 2 also uses reverse osmosis to make sea water drinkable.

Interactive restaurants

Menus on iPads can be found in the QSine restaurant on board some Celebrity cruise ships. But interactive dining experiences don’t stop there. The Animator’s Palate restaurant on Disney Fantasy takes technology to another level in the Animation Magic Show. As guests are seated at their tables, they draw a character of their own using a simple template on their placemat. During dinner, Mickey Mouse works his magic and fully animates the drawings onto the screens that surround the restaurant, to dance alongside favourite Disney characters.

Real-time luggage tracking

Worried about your bags going missing? On board some Royal Caribbean ships, guests can track luggage in real time on their smartphones. Luggage is tagged with RFID technology at drop-off, and guests can monitor their bags progress through key points en route to the stateroom.

Time-saving cruise planning apps

Royal Caribbean’s RoyalIQ app allows guests to research and book dining reservations, shore excursions and spa appointments before their holiday begins. For a fee, guests can also call and text each other using the app. Norwegian Cruise Line’s iConcierge app is available for most of its fleet of ships too and offers a similar service.

Interactive touchscreens

On board Norwegian Cruise Line’s NCL Breakaway, there are over 50 touchscreens around the ship allowing guests to find their way around and book restaurants and activities. Expect to find them dotted around the whole ship, sometimes conveniently at tables. Guests can even see how busy other areas of the ship are to help decide where to head first.

Wave phones

On board Disney Cruise Line ships, every room has two Wave Phones so families can call and text each other on board for free without having to use their personal mobile phones. They are great gadgets to keep in touch when family members are off enjoying different activities on board.

Virtual skydiving

Who knew it was possible to sky dive at sea? Using the latest simulator technology, Royal Caribbean has made it a reality on some of its superliners with RipCord, a virtual sky dive experience. This is the next adrenaline pumping activity to be offered by Royal Caribbean, pushing the boundaries further from its surfing simulators, FlowRider.

3D and IMAX Cinemas

It’s not unusual to find 3D cinemas at sea. Even Cunard’s beautifully conservative British ships have them on board. Now, Carnival Vista takes it one step further with a supersize IMAX cinema on board showing the latest releases and classic favourites.

Magic PlayFloor

Disney Fantasy’s Magic PlayFloor is Disney’s way of showcasing its technological expertise, blending the latest in gaming technology with Disney-style storytelling. It’s an interactive floor where movements control the action so children can fly over the streets of London with Peter Pan and race a car like Lightning McQueen.

Green technology

Technology is playing a part in making the newest cruise ships more environmentally friendly. Ship engineers consider the vessel’s energy consumption with efficient hull configuration, engine design and energy saving devices. Ships like Harmony of the Seas have no incandescent bulbs, with all lighting provided by low-energy LED or fluorescents and motion sensors even dim hallway lighting when they are not being used.

To speak to a cruise expert about the right cruise for you, call 971 4 389 8801 or visit www.imaginecruising.ae for more inspiration.

14 Reasons To Choose A Disney Cruise

This blog was created for Imagine Cruising.

Disney do much more than just make films: have you seen their incredible cruise ships?! There’s so much fun little ones (and big ones too!), you’ll never tire of the adventures on offer. Here are 14 reasons why you should choose a Disney cruise for your summer holiday.

1.      All their favourite characters are on board

There are opportunities galore for kids to meet their favourite characters, from the beloved classics of Mickey Mouse and Donald Duck, to the modern day favourites of Elsa and Anna from Frozen. Whether it’s Goofy giving high-fives by the pool, Peter Pan sitting with families for breakfast, Rapunzel up on the stage or a Disney Princess party in the Atrium, be prepared to bump into characters all holiday long.

2.      The jaw-dropping fireworks and deck parties

On a special night on board most Disney cruises, the Pirates IN the Caribbean deck party features a dazzling fireworks show.  There’s a fantastic party atmosphere as passengers and crew dance the night away on the top deck. And that’s not the only party to be had at sea. The Sailing Away party when the ship first leaves port is a jubilant celebration with confetti and streamers to mark start of a very special holiday.

3.      The famous Disney AquaDuck

On Disney Dream and Disney Fantasy, an elevated ‘water coaster’ takes guests on raft ride that goes up, down, around and off the side of the ship, through the funnel and then dropping four decks. On this water ride, there are breathtaking views of the ocean and the ship below before a final splash into a lazy river at the end.

4.      The chance to discover the world of Frozen in Norway

It’s not just the ships that make Disney cruise holidays special. The magical experience is continued in the shore excursions, with Port Adventures designed to offer families authentic cultural experiences with distinctly Disney storytelling. You could join the cast of Frozen in Ålesund, an enchanting storybook village that inspired this hit movie.

5.      The thoughtfully designed family staterooms

Disney knows what it’s like to be on holiday as a family, so they cleverly designed their staterooms to be generally more spacious and include a ‘bath-and-a-half’ where there’s a separate toilet and sink in addition to the main bathroom. Curtain room dividers and extra luggage space are also welcome touches for families. Families looking for even more space can opt for a suite with two bathrooms including one with a whirlpool bath and a TV built into the bathroom mirror. Suite guests are provided with special Wave Phones for use as mobile communicators while on board and kids get their very own Nintendo DS to use throughout their holiday. There’s also access to the exclusive Concierge Lounge with free drinks, snacks and Wi-Fi and a private pool, offering cushioned lounge chairs, complimentary sun cream and cooling face cloths.

6.      The amazing magic playfloor

In the on board Kids Clubs on the Disney Dream and Disney Fantasy there is a Magic PlayFloor, an interactive floor that blends the latest in gaming technology with Disney storytelling. Children’s movements control the action in a virtual tilt maze, and they can go on an adventure into their favourite films to fly over the streets of London with Peter Pan, ride ocean waves with Crush from Finding Nemo, or race Lightning McQueen around a racetrack. The Magic PlayFloor is just one feature in an entire deck dedicated to entertaining children from morning to night.

7.      The brilliant Animator’s Palate Restaurant

Watch Disney sketches come to life on the walls in this interactive dining experience inside a restaurant kitted out like an animator’s studio. As diners enjoy their food, they can expect a visit from some favourite characters through digital animation and puppetry. On longer cruises, there’s even the opportunity to draw a character then watch as it is animated and becomes part of the show, dancing alongside Disney characters on the screen.

8.      The chance to visit a private island

Many guests extend their Walt Disney World holiday in Florida with a Bahamian cruise from Port Canaveral, just one hour away from the Parks in Orlando. These cruises usually include a visit to Disney’s private island, Castaway Cay. Here, guests can snorkel in the crystal clear Bahamian waters and laze on the white sand beaches. But the kids will probably spend most of the day cooling off in the huge water play parks.

9.      The splashtastic water parks and playgrounds

It’s a haven of water play on the top decks of Disney ships, with interactive water playgrounds, slides and family pools. Kids of all ages will love the pop jets, geysers and bubblers in this giant water play space. When it’s time to relax, movies are shown on Funnel Vision, an outdoor poolside movie screen. Or parents can escape to Quiet Cove Pool, an adults-only retreat.

10.  A day of dog mushing in Alaska

Only Disney Cruise Line guests get to live the life of an Iditarod champion during the Glacier Dog Musher for a Day Port Adventure. On this excursion, guests get to see the massive Juneau Icefield by helicopter, before arriving at a husky camp to prepare their new canine companions for an unforgettable day of mushing. Once the dogs are fed, harnessed and cleared for the trail, mushers take guests on an exhilarating adventure across the gleaming snow-capped glacier.

11.  The magical portholes

Disney gives all its guests a sea view from their bedroom, even those staying in bedrooms without a window or a balcony. How? It’s all thanks to a Magical Porthole, a wall-mounted monitor showing real-time video views from cameras outside of the ship. Oh, and don’t be surprised to see the odd character swimming by to say hello…

12.  The unmistakable Mickey Mouse ships

Disney is famed for ensuring perfection in the detail, and that goes for their cruise ships too. Disney ships use the iconic first notes of the When You Wish upon a Star song as the horn signal. Ships are painted in the Mickey Mouse colours of black, white and yellow with two giant red funnels, each with the Mickey Mouse logo. And of course, each and every family is welcomed on board by Captain Mickey himself. But Mickey is just one captain on board, the others are the ship’s captain, Captain Jack Sparrow and Captain Hook.

13.  The beautiful Buena Vista Theatre

The décor of the Buena Vista Theatre was designed to emulate the elegant movie houses of the 1920s and 1930s. This is the place to catch the latest movie releases, including in 3D, as well as the best-loved Disney classics. In The Walt Disney Theatre, there are spectacular and unmissable stage shows, like Tangled: The Musical.

14.  Kids pizza-making classes in Italy

On a Mediterranean cruise on board Disney Magic, guests can visit the Amalfi Coast town of Sorrento, where Disney Cruise Line staff join kids in a pizza-making class in a local Italian restaurant. Meanwhile, adults can enjoy a guided tour of Sorrento or choose to kick-back and simply enjoy the warm Mediterranean sunshine.

To speak to a cruise expert about Disney cruise holidays, call 971 4 389 8918 or visit www.imaginecruising.ae for more inspiration.

The A-Z Of Cruise Holiday Sea Days

This blog was created for Imagine Cruising.

Sea days. You’re booking a cruise for the first time, perusing your exciting itinerary of destinations when you notice the phrase ‘day at sea’. Most cruise holidays have them. It’s a day travelling between ports to get to a destination that cannot be reached overnight. But it’s not wasted time, it’s a chance to explore and enjoy the facilities and activities on your cruise ship or simply relax. Here’s our A-Z of top things to while away your days at sea.

Abseil

Try something new and test your strength and nerves on the abseiling wall on board some of Norwegian Cruise Line ships. It’s an exhilarating way to get the most incredible view way up on the top deck and get your heart rate going on your sea days.

Buy

OK, so you won’t find a full-size mall on board, but you might find enough shopping to satisfy your retail cravings for an hour or two, especially on board superliners like Harmony of the Seas that has Michael Kors, Tiffany, Guess and Coach boutiques on board. Cruises can be excellent places to acquire new pieces of art too and there may even be an art auction during your sailing.

Cook

On some cruises by Holland America Line and P&O, guests have the opportunity to learn to cook alongside professional chefs, learn new kitchen skills and get a hands-on culinary experience. It’s a fun activity that whiles away your sea days.

Dance

Take part in a dance class like the ones offered on Celebrity Cruises Let’s Dance series, or on board Carnival Cruises, and learn to salsa, jive and ballroom dance.

Eat

With most of your dining included in the price of a cruise, a sea day is the perfect time to relax over some delicious cuisine. Indulge in a leisurely afternoon tea on board Cunard’s Queen Victoria, a quintessentially British experience. Sample some sushi at the Bonsai Sushi restaurant on Carnival ships or indulge in a top-quality Relais & Chateaux restaurant on a Silversea cruise.

Fitness

If a holiday is no excuse for a lapse in your exercise regime, fear not: a gym is an almost certain feature on board. There’s usually a good range of fitness classes on all cruises, from aerobics to Pilates. To breathe in the sea air, jogging tracks can typically be found around the perimeter of the top deck of most ships.

Golf

Even the biggest ships aren’t large enough for a full 18-hole course. But mini-golf can often be an on board option for fun family competitions. And for true golf fanatics who simply can’t be away from the green for too long, driving nets can be found on board ships like Norwegian Pearl.

Haircut

Sea days often coincide with formal nights. Book an appointment at the on board hair salon to achieve perfectly coiffed locks for a black tie evening. A sea day could also be an ideal opportunity to indulge in some ‘me time’ with a hair treatment at the salon.

Ice Skate

Imagine ice-skating in the Caribbean! Whether you want to take part or watch the pros in an ice show, skating can be a fun and unexpected part of a family cruise.

Jump

Norwegian Breakaway and Norwegian Epic have bungee trampolines for laugh-out-loud exercise at sea, as well as brilliant sea views. The trampoline is part of the massive sports complex on board where guests can also enjoy a challenging ropes course, rock climbing wall and the chance to ‘walk the plank’ two metres off the side of the ship.

Karaoke

Love it or hate it, you might find there’s the opportunity to belt out a ballad on board your cruise ship. In fact, karaoke is something Carnival cruises take very seriously – you’ll even have a live band and backup singers.

Learn

A cruise holiday can be the perfect opportunity to listen to world-renowned academics, astronomers, politicians, explorers, chefs and celebrities and on a range of topics. SeabournRegent Seven Seas and Cunard offer some of the best learning and enrichment programmes afloat.

Movies

Outdoor movies on giant screens can be a fun and relaxing way to pass the time on the top deck, found on ships by Princess and Disney, among others. These poolside screens offer you the chance to catch a flick while enjoying all the deck-side activities and refreshments. Who said you can’t have it all? And don’t forget, 3D, 4D and IMAX cinemas can be found at sea too.

Nursery

Even the smallest guests can have a sea day to remember with the excellent on board nurseries. Disney Cruises naturally offer some of the best childcare options, and the It’s A Small World nursery has an abundance of books, toys and games. Trained supervisors are on hand to ensure your little one has the best possible time.

Oversleep

Well, you’re on holiday after all. And a sea day could be the perfect opportunity to snooze. Perhaps order breakfast by room service and embrace a leisurely day at sea.

Pools

Splash pools, aqua parks, whirlpools, indoor pools, outdoor pools, lap pools, saltwater pools and freshwater pools. All manner of swimming pools can be found on board cruise ships. And don’t forget the twisting flumes that can be found on the superliners by Royal Caribbean, Carnival and Disney.

Quiet Time

With cruise lines offering beautiful and relaxing staterooms with balconies, a sea day is the ideal opportunity to put your feet up in the seclusion of your own balcony to enjoy the world go by as you sail on to the next port.

Read

Some cruise ships boast incredibly well-stocked libraries. There are over 6,000 titles in Queen Elizabeth’smahogany-panelled library and there is a dedicated librarian too.

Surf

Adrenaline junkies will love Royal Caribbean’s FlowRider, a simulator that mimics what it’s like to surf on the ocean. Great for first-timers and experienced pros alike, it also makes an entertaining spectator sport!

Ten-Pin Bowling

Have a family ten-pin bowling game on board Norwegian Cruise Line’s fun and family-friendly ships. But don’t let the competition stop there. There are soccer and dodgeball games to be played, or giant chess for the less athletic.

Unwind

There’s a spa on almost every cruise ship. And on some, they can be expansive, multi-deck emporiums of relaxation. You may find spacious thermal suites, laconiums, tepidariums, steam baths, relaxation rooms with panoramic ocean views and top spa therapists offering the latest treatments.

Views

The North Star capsule on the newest Royal Caribbean ships propels you nearly 100 metres above sea level for panoramic ocean views. Who knew a cruise was going to give you the chance to fly?

Walk

Take some time to have a leisurely wander around your floating resort. On board some Royal Caribbean ships, stroll through Central Park, modelled on New York’s finest green space. Or, on a more traditional cruise, a lap of the promenade deck will afford the opportunity to breathe in the refreshing sea air.

XBox

Tearing teens away from their favourite video games can be a challenge. But Celebrity Cruises have fitted some of their ships with dedicated Xbox stations to provide some of the largest digital game and entertainment experiences at sea. And on some Norwegian Cruise Line ships, there are humungous two-storey Wii screens. Their gaming will never be the same again and their sea days will fly by.

Youth Clubs

There’s never been a better time for kids to join their parents on a cruise, with fantastic activities for all ages. Your children will love sea days as they’re entertained from morning to night and get the chance to socialise with other kids of their age.

Zip Lining

Royal Caribbean’s Oasis of the Seas was the first ship to offer a zip line at sea. At nine decks high, guests fly a thrilling 25 metres from end to end. Exhilarating!

To speak to a cruise expert about cruise holidays and finding the right option for you, or to find out more about sea days, call 971 4 389 8801or visit www.imaginecruising.ae for more inspiration.

 

Four Of The Best Family Suites On Cruise Ships

This blog was created for Imagine Cruising.

To get that home away from home feeling on a cruise holiday, family suites can provide space, luxury and enhanced services. Many of the family-friendly cruise lines have tackled the need for roominess, comfort and practicality head-on by designing some seriously lust-worthy family accommodation. What’s more, the option of interconnecting staterooms on board most cruise lines means there is an ideal setup for all families, however large. Here are four of the biggest and best family suites afloat:

 1. Family Harbor Ocean Suite on Carnival Cruises

On board the newest Carnival Cruises ship, Carnival Vista, they’ve created Family Harbor, an exclusive area for families with a variety of stateroom options all sleeping up to five people. It’s the Family Harbor Ocean Suite that offers the most for families; two bathrooms, a walk-in closet and a separate sleeping area for parents for a bit of peace and quiet. With fun and fresh nautical-inspired décor, the Family Harbor Ocean Suite has a walk-in closet for all the paraphernalia that comes with travelling with the brood and the suite’s veranda is a perfect retreat for parents to enjoy the ever-changing vista with young children that still nap.

The added extras make Family Harbor staterooms worth some serious consideration: access to the exclusive Family Harbor Lounge that offers food, movies, games and a concierge service to help book excursions, restaurants and generally assist with making holidays run smoothly. Children eat free at the on board speciality restaurants that other guests will pay a premium for, and parents benefit from one free evening of babysitting as residents of Family Harbor rooms. Carnival really do put kids’ needs first and the child-friendly toiletries, mini bathrobes and slippers are thoughtful additions to make even the littlest of guests feel welcome and pampered.

The Family Harbor area is available exclusively on Carnival Vista, making her debut in 2016, sailing European and Caribbean itineraries.

2. Family Connected Junior Suites on Royal Caribbean Cruises

Royal Caribbean is upping the game when it comes to super-luxury family accommodation. On the brand new Harmony of the Seas – as well as her sister ships, Ovation, Anthem and Quantum – guests opting for a Family Connected Junior Suite, can expect impeccable service on their cruise holiday, including complimentary speciality dining, preferred restaurant seating and luxury amenities like Hermès, Ferragamo and L’Occitane bath products. With two bathrooms – including one with a bath tub, ideal when travelling with toddlers – and three bedrooms, this is a spacious and luxurious option. This configuration means a proper bed for everyone, rather than sofa beds or pull-down options. Available to all cabin types is Royal Caribbean’s Babies 2 Go service that allows you to pre-order nappies and organic baby food to avoid having to bring bulky baby items in luggage.

2016 sees Harmony of the Seas make her maiden voyage, spending her summer cruising the waters around France, Spain and Italy before heading to the Caribbean for her winter season.

3. Concierge Royal Suite on Disney Cruise Lines

Disney Cruise Lines top family suite on board both Disney Dream and Disney Fantasy is the Concierge Royal Suite, a humungous, decadently-appointed stateroom when only the very best will do. Rivalling the high specification of the best hotel suites on land, the Concierge Royal Suite features a master bedroom, two bathrooms, whirlpool, living room, media library, dining room, a stocked pantry, walk-in closets and private veranda with whirlpool. The Concierge class of stateroom is designed for those who wish to experience the very best of service and luxury Disney has to offer, so guests should expect to be treated like a VIP. But as a cruise line ultimately dedicated to the smallest family members (although the industry standard minimum age of six months still applies), all staterooms with Disney Cruise Lines can be considered family friendly.

Disney Dream and Disney Fantasy cruise three, four and seven night itineraries from Port Canaveral, Florida, just an hour from Walt Disney World. Sister ship Disney Magic ventures to Europe too, and Disney Wonder can be found exploring Alaska, as well as Disney Cruise Lines’ home waters of the Caribbean.

4. The Haven Family Villa on Norwegian Cruise Lines

Norwegian Cruise Lines Family Villas are two-bedroom apartments at sea set in the exclusive Haven area on board, conveniently close to the main kids’ facilities. Sumptuously decorated, they accommodate up to six people each and children have a separate bedroom and bathroom, along with their own TV. This is a good option for families with older children to consider, without opting for a completely separate or adjoining room. As part of the Haven area, a dedicated 24-hour Butler is on hand for the duration of the cruise and will unpack luggage and attend to every whim, handy when contending with the mess that children can leave in their wake and making the holiday wholly more relaxing for parents. The Haven is for guests who want a true VIP experience for their family, priority restaurant and entertainment bookings and to be the first on and off the ship. Many NCL ships also feature Family Balcony Staterooms and Family Mini-Suites too for a little more space without the additional benefits of being within the exclusive Haven area.

NCL’s newest ship, Norwegian Breakaway, sails year-round from New York to the shores of the Caribbean and Bermuda. Haven Family Villas are also available on eight other NCL ships, including Escape, Getaway, Epic, Gem, Jade, Jewel, and Pearl.

To speak to a cruise expert about more family accommodation options, call 971 4 389 8918 or visit www.imaginecruising.ae for more inspiration.

Back to Ack: The Island Of Health, Wealth and Happiness

Cast 30 miles off mainland USA, out in the Atlantic Ocean, there's a quaint pair of islands with micro-cultures that reject the stereotypical USA fast-food-and-mega-malls way of life. Historically cobbled and tree-lined streets straddled with boutique shopping and not a chain restaurant in sight, the islands attract a glossy crowd in pursuit of a low-key yet high-end holiday. Both islands are flooded with wealth, with its coastlines peppered with impressive clapperboard New England mansions with private jetties for mooring their gleaming super yachts. 

The first (and arguably more famous) island is Martha's Vineyard, notorious for being the holiday spot of choice for US Presidents. The second is Nantucket, affectionately known as Ack, the cooler, more informal sibling to grand old Martha's Vineyard and the one that seems to takes life a little less seriously, especially considering Nantucket's gritty maritime past as one of the whaling capitals of the world. In the decades since then, life has lightened up considerably as Nantucket became a draw for second-homers and tourists, attracted to its remote-enough location, nautical charm and sandy beaches. Now, holidaymakers potter around the towns of Nantucket and Siasconset (just 'Sconset, to those in the know) in their yoga wear, perusing the tiny shops that were once homes to whalers and their families.  

In summer, as temperatures rise and the Atlantic fog lifts, Nantucket comes into its own. Shops and restaurants throw open their doors for the season, the atmosphere becomes excitable and palpable with long beach days, boating, and eating and drinking in the months ahead.

EXPLORING NANTUCKET ON WHEELS

Although cars are generally discouraged by the cost of ferrying them over to this diminutive island, an influx of 4X4s hit Nantucket in summer, the ideal vehicle to bump over the cobbles then head over the sand to find a remote picnic spot on the beach, perhaps somewhere on the far-reaching slender finger of the island, pointing north-west toward Cape Cod. Thanks to an impressive network of cycle trails all over the island, traffic of the two wheeled variety spikes too and the local bike hire vendors do a roaring trade renting out all manner of bikes, from funky fat tyre bikes to mountain bikes with trailers and tag-alongs for families. 

If you hear the clanging of a vintage fire bell, that will be The Nantucket Hotel's unmistakable 1940s fire truck passing by, ferrying its guests from the resort to the beaches in its mirror-shine red livery. The hotel also has a vintage bus, immaculate as the day it entered service, that transports guests around the island and adds to the historic charm of Nantucket with its cheerful chugging engine.

The Beaches Of Nantucket

Children's Beach, as the name suggests, is an ideal spot for a family to spend a day on. The sandy beach and gently lapping water aren't the only kid-friendly aspects of this beach - a handy playground, with different areas for different ages, keeps the fun going once the sandcastle competition is sewn up. There's a bandstand that attracts entertainers in the height of summer to while away long summer afternoons, and Children's Cafe for refreshments. This is a bustling little spot with a lively atmosphere, thanks to the pretty boats that come and go and the red, white and blue flags and bunting that festoon the houses that overlook the bay. 

Jetties Beach, also with its own playground, is another family-friendly option, this one with a more expansive sand beach and livelier surf, but still calm enough for little ones. For choppier seas, head to Surfside Beach on the south of the island, where you'll still find beach amenities like food trucks, public toilets and lifeguards.

The Heritage of Ack

Even when the warm sunshine beckons you to a sunny terrace, try to resist it to spend an hour or two at The Nantucket Whaling Museum. This is a carefully curated, excellently presented museum describing the intriguing history of Nantucket's whaling past. A 46-foot sperm whale skeleton takes centre stage in the main atrium - akin to the dino at the Natural History Museum in London - that will please adults and children alike. Kids will also enjoy the dedicated kids playroom, filled with learning activities to give them a more hands-on experience. 

Thankfully a ban on commercial whaling means there is an abundance of whales in the seas around Nantucket. So whale watching to spot Humpback and Finback whales is one of the most popular activities for visitors to the island between June and October. Whale watching isn't the only reason to get out on the water, there are fishing trips and seal cruises too. Or, for a real hands-on experience, a clamming excursion will have you thigh deep in water to learn how to catch clams - and you'll keep the ones you catch! Try Shearwater Excursions for a variety of on-the-water fun. 

Such are the historically tricky waters around the island, lighthouses were lifesavers in the long, fog-filled months of the days of whaling off the coasts of Ack. Now, although in service, they are also pretty backdrops to photographs, their presence encapsulating Nantucket's nautical heritage. There are few more idyllic than Brant Point Light, that even boasts its own Instagram

Cisco Brewers is part of Nantucket's more recent history, but none-the-less part of the fabric of this island. The brewery is more than just a contribution to American's craft beer movement, it's become an entertainment hub on Nantucket where visitors are treated to live music and a host of food trucks - including raw bars and lobster trucks. Tours and tastings are on offer all through the summer season. However satisfying the local ale is, there's a vineyard and distillery if wine and spirits are more to your liking.

Shopping on Nantucket

Housed in the pristinely painted shops behind picket fences and with window boxes bursting with pink and blue hydrangeas are boutiques selling beautiful clothes, galleries with original local paintings and photography, and apothecaries luring you in with enticing promises of health, beauty and wellness. Browsing the beautiful shops of Nantucket is an activity to dedicate serious time to.

The Skinny Dip, found on Old South Wharf, sells an eclectic mix of clothes and accessories and is the perfect stop off if you find yourself on Nantucket with a far-too-formal wardrobe than what's considered appropriate on this laid-back isle. Expect cotton sundresses, towelling blazers, oversize tote bags and preppy t-shirts. 

After a few hours on the island, you may twig a general penchant for bright, neon prints. A little outlandish and overtly chirpy at first, these blindingly happy prints will grow on you as they feel at home on this vibrant little haven. Chances are the prints that are dazzling you are from Lilly Pulitzer, another homegrown 1960s American brand that's growing into a fashion powerhouse and can now be found up and down the States. 

Nantucket is the kind of spot where sporting some Polo Ralph Lauren will never be out of place. And to that end, Polo has a loud and proud (but none-the-less, aptly beautiful) presence on the main street in downtown Nantucket. With a steady stream of shoppers heading in, the big wigs at Polo must feel Nantucket ticks a lot of boxes when it comes to targeting their prime demographic - the casual-wearing, big spending, logo-loving type.

Away from the abundance of fashion boutiques, if you're a bookworm with a little time to curl up and relax, on Main Street will be right up your alley. Sure, you'll find the bestsellers here if you need a holiday read, but you'll be impressed by the local books on offer in this cosy little nook of a bookshop. It even has a smoothie station tucked into the back corner. 

Where To Eat On Nantucket

Juice Bar - sounds pretty healthy, yes? Don't let the long queue heading out of the door of this establishment on Main Street fool you into thinking that all those kids are waiting for fresh fruit smoothies, although they are on offer. Juice Bar is the place to go for the island's most delicious ice cream. Walk through the door and you're hit by the sickly sweet smell of warm waffles too.

On a casual morning stroll, such is the way of life on Nantucket, make sure your route includes a wander along Center Street to visit the idyllic Petticoat Row Bakery. If you've got kids in tow, they'll undoubtedly request one of the bright blue whale biscuits, but choose a Morning Bun for yourself, if you don't mind a zero-nutrition option. These baked pastry-come-doughnut domes of deliciousness are gooey, sugary, sticky and cinnamony and one is plenty for two to share. 

The chaps at Nantucket's bACK-yard BBQ are a proud bunch. And rightly so - their establishment of smoky and tasty BBQ meats freshly prepare each and every sauce - no jarred or bottled mass-produced flavours here. The New England menu stalwarts of Lobster Mac & Cheese, Lobster Roll and Clam Chowder are on offer, but it's the House Smoked Kielbassa and Heritage Pulled Pork Shoulder and other meaty options that really makes this restaurant stand out.

Summering on Nantucket is relaxed and outdoorsy, so regular picnics on the beach are  obligatory. Which is probably why Something Natural, a sandwich store selling all manner of breads, fillings and accompaniments does a roaring trade. Couples, groups and families all swing by on their bikes in the morning to pick up their essentials for the day ahead. 

Despite being the home nation of Starbucks, it's not always that easy to find a truly decent coffee here. For a coffee that's worthy of a contribution to your daily caffeine quota, a pitstop at Handlebar Coffee on Washington Street is a must. Plus it's good place to catch up online with super speedy wifi. 

On at least one occasion during time on Nantucket, your dinner needs to come out of a box (a pizza box, to be precise), with your feet dangling over the edge of the wharf as you watch the boats coming in and out of the harbour. Don't settle for anything less than a pizza from Oath Craft Pizza, these guys are serious about their pizza, controversially putting cheese on before the sauce (thus maintaining the crispiness of the base - sensible, no?) before blasting in a pizza oven for 90 seconds. The result? Probably the best meal out of a box you'll have in a long while. 

CHOOSING WHERE TO STAY ON NANTUCKET

Although it's not exactly brimming with hotels, with many opting to hire a summer vacation home instead, there are some typically New England-style inns for cosy getaways, and a couple of outstanding resorts for those after the ease and comfort of a hotel.

But forget opulently sumptuous five-star abodes - life's too laid back for that sort of thing on Nantucket. And not a multi-national in sight, you'll leave Four Seasons, Mandarin Oriental and the like back on the mainland. The Nantucket Hotel, a relatively recent addition to the Nantucket hotel scene is charmingly nautical and its own version of luxury. Guest rooms - varying from typical doubles to suites and apartments with kitchenettes -  are comfortable and individual, with definite nods to its location with suitably seasidey furnishing and decor. Expect sea rope tables, Breton-striped cushions and maritime artwork. If you like a pool, but your budget doesn't extend to a mansion with its own, The Nantucket Hotel boasts two, surrounded by comfy loungers. You'll also find complimentary yoga and a decent gym - health and wellbeing is a recurring trend on Nantucket. 

White Elephant Hotel is probably the most famous resort hotel on the island with a plethora of facilities and a loyal clientele that return season after season to enjoy it's waterside location. This hotel also offers lofts off-site along Main Street to be away from the resort and in amongst the hustle, and cottages for family getaways.

Veranda House is a boutique option overlooking the harbour. With just 18 rooms, this is a cosy inn where you'll find yourself in the heart of Nantucket, stumbling distance from her best bars and restaurants. Ideal if you're a couple travelling sans children.

Getting To Nantucket From the UK

Nantucket has its own airport, so you can fly here from Boston or New York. For a more leisurely journey, hire a car from Boston and spend a few nights on Cape Cod before hopping on a Steamship Authority ferry for an hour from Hyannis. 

 

48 Hours In Boston With Pre-Schoolers

Widely renowned as a kid-friendly city, Boston doesn't disappoint when you need plenty of options to entertain energetic children. Push the idea of leisurely shopping along pretty Newbury Street to the back of your mind and save those buzzing bars and restaurants for another visit - Boston is an a activity-stuffed destination to share as a family. 

Boston's Children's Museum

Undoubtedly one of the best children's museums in the world, Boston Children's Museum is a place to set aside a whole day of your trip for. With three expansive floors of immersive, interactive and just plain fun "exhibits", hours will be spent getting hands-on with science completely through playing. Their idea of museums will never be the same again - here, everything can be touched and played with, and isn't there simply to look at. 

The ground floor of this playtime paradise has a climbing structure that is bound to get kids enthused  from the off. Crawling in and out and exploring higher and higher safely to the ceiling of the three-storey museum, there will come a point where parents are keen to get on and explore more but the kids are more than happy in this vertical maze. But once you manage to coax them out, they don't have to stumble far to find the ever-popular bubble exhibit, where vats of bubble mixture to create enormous bubbles will have them totally captivated (just try and prise them into a waterproof overall first). Everything is at kid height, cleverly thought-through with helpful guidance for parents too to make sure their children really get the most out of the play experiences. 

Bubbles at the Boston Children's Museum. Picture from bostonchildrensmuseum.org

Bubbles at the Boston Children's Museum. Picture from bostonchildrensmuseum.org

Next to the bubbles is a discovery zone where the focus and topic changes throughout the day. Expect anything from a demo about wind, to the chance to handle a real snake. Kids love the turtles in this section, especially as they can lie on a mat beneath and look up into the glass bottom tank. 

There's a whole section dedicated to under-4s, with a dedicated soft-play space within the zone that especially for crawlers - an often neglected age group at children's attractions. In this special pre-school area, little ones can enjoy their own water play, messy play section, a train track and toys without the risk of any bigger kids taking over. An extension of the under-4s section is the Countdown to Kindergarten room, a model classroom to introduce little ones to what life will be like at school. 

Much of our time was spent in the Construction Zone, pushing diggers and rocks around tracks, building towers (and destroying them!) and climbing over bridges. All with obligatory hard hats and hi-vis vests to bring the whole thing to life for them.  

Older children will enjoy the Kid Power exhibit, learning about how the power we put in affects the power we put out, with hands-on experiences to learn physics through having fun. Pedal power, dance mats and power pump seats bring the science to life for them. 

Boston Children's Museum is open Monday to Saturday. Children under one are free, everyone else is $16 each. 

Visiting Fenway Park With Little Ones

The famous Fenway Park Ballpark. Picture from Fenway Park. 

The famous Fenway Park Ballpark. Picture from Fenway Park. 

Getting in on the local sports action is a good way to absorb the atmosphere and excitement of a city whether you're travelling with children or not. A trip to Fenway Park, the charmingly painted wooden stadium that's home to the Boston Red Sox, is a family-friendly activity to join in the joviality of Bostonians as they proudly cheer on their famous baseball team. Tickets in the CVS Family Stand mean a no-alcohol policy and the assurance that you're surrounded by other families just wanting a fun evening out and to take it all in. Popcorn, candy floss and ice cream are sugary snacks available to keep little ones in their seats for as long as possible, and an obligatory foam finger could help too. But although the whole game might still be too big an ask depending on the age of your children, it's still a worthwhile adventure to experience the vintage charm of this historic Ballpark. 

Visit Fenway Park online to see if there's a ball game on during your visit. If not, there are daily tours of the stadium.

Legoland Discovery Center, Boston

One of the indoor rides at Legoland Discovery Center. Picture from Legoland Boston.

One of the indoor rides at Legoland Discovery Center. Picture from Legoland Boston.

In the Somerville area of the city, adjacent to the Assembly Row outlet shopping centre, is Boston's Legoland Discovery Center. Unlike our Legoland in the UK, this is an indoor play centre that's a good two or three hour activity, depending on the age of your children. It's most suitable for kids aged two to ten. There's a couple of indoor rides, a 4D cinema, opportunities to build lego structures throughout, and an impressive Lego Boston construction that's completely interactive. Especially for pre-schoolers, there's a small Duplo farm section with soft play and a slide. Certainly worth a visit if you're unlucky enough to get rain on your visit, or if you've got some time between other activities. 

Legoland Discovery Center is open seven days a week and under twos are free. Older children are is $18.50 and adults are $23, although savings can be made by booking online in advance.   

Boston Common

In the summertime, Boston enjoys warm and sunny days and locals and tourists gather in Boston's biggest open space to sunbathe and play, giving the park a lively and friendly atmosphere. The tadpole playground within Boston Common has a magnetic effect on children with its water jets and sprays to cool off in. Parents can enjoy the 360 degree Boston skyline from this spot. There are plenty of kiosks serving cold drinks and ice cream - much like New York's Central Park on a smaller scale. Boston Common is also the starting place of the city's famous Freedom Trail, a 2.5mile red line that you follow through the city with 16 major historic landmarks on the way.  

Best Family Hotels in Boston

The Freedom Trail Family Suite at the Omni Parker House hotel, Boston. Picture from Omni Parker House.

The Freedom Trail Family Suite at the Omni Parker House hotel, Boston. Picture from Omni Parker House.

Choosing a city hotel that's suitable for a young family isn't always the easiest task. The room has to be spacious enough for the brood, suit mum and dad's personal taste and be welcoming to little ones. And crucially, the location has to be the perfect spot for exploring. Fortunately, Boston is a compact city that's easy to get around so choosing a neighbourhood to be the base isn't quite as important as in other cities. Staying around the Seaport area, close to the Boston's Children's Museum, is a sensible choice. There's the excellent InterContinental Boston and the luxuriously elegant Boston Harbour Hotel, that both welcome children and overlook the water and are conveniently opposite the museum. The Omni Parker House hotel has a children's Freedom Trail Suite that has bunk beds for kids, toys, and a separate sleeping area for mum and dad.

The Loews Boston is an excellent choice for families, house in the old Police Headquarters. Picture from Loews Boston.

The Loews Boston is an excellent choice for families, house in the old Police Headquarters. Picture from Loews Boston.

The Loews Hotel is Boston is housed in the old Police Headquarters. Kids are most welcome, despite the trendy Precinct Kitchen and Bar that attracts a big after-work crowd to its outdoor basement terrace. It still has a great menu for children and families are always accommodated and prioritised with a warm smile from staff, even during very busy times. Plus the food is fantastic. Although The Loews is decidedly business-like hotel, true of a lot of city hotels, the rooms are highly-appointed, spacious and relaxing with particularly luxurious bathrooms. Its location in the Back Bay area is lovely, as well as very handy. Although consider their Park and Stay package and let the valet take care of your hire car - you won't need it to explore this city. Most attractions are easily accessible by food, or by the simple metro system for tired little legs.  

And if you've got more time....

The slick, business-style rooms of the Loews Boston are elegant and roomy enough for young families. Picture from Loews Boston.

The slick, business-style rooms of the Loews Boston are elegant and roomy enough for young families. Picture from Loews Boston.

If you've got more than two days to explore the city, there's plenty more to keep you all occupied. Duck Tours are a hugely popular attraction to explore the city by land and water - a great way to get your bearings around the city too. Then of course, the famous Boston Freedom Trail that starts in Boston Common - this self-guided tour is something many can't miss when they visit Boston. Of course, Boston has a richer history than a lot of US cities so time could spent around the Seaport area finding out more at the Boston Tea Party Ships and Museum, although it may be better if your children are a little older. Faneuil Hall is an expansive, atmospheric market hall stuffed with shops and restaurants and worth a visit if you have the time.

Getting To Boston from the UK

Travelling to Boston from the UK is straightforwards, with a choice of flights from London Heathrow everyday with Virgin Atlantic and British Airways among other airlines. Norwegian has also started flying this route from London Gatwick with very competitive prices. On arrival at Boston Logan Airport, the heart of the city is only a ten minute drive away - Boston is a very compact city with its airport right on its doorstep. Generally, flights home are overnights, which are often the best option for pre-schoolers who can (usually...) sleep the whole six-hour flight home.

For More Information

For more information, visit www.massholiday.co.uk or www.visitboston.org

MummyTravels

Lobsters and Lighthouses: A Family Guide to Cape Cod

Cape Cod, a peninsula kicking out of the east coast of the US, epitomises a glossy American beach break. It’s a sliver of the country with a proud maritime history and a buzzing sailing scene that’s high on typical Americana charm (think general stores and ice cream parlours) and low on big-business multinationals (not a Starbucks in sight). In summer, the Cape is flooded with wealthy Americans and their families escaping manic city life, retreating to their blue-grey mansions by the sea before venturing out to meander the high-end boutiques and indulge in lobster before jumping aboard a super yacht. And occasionally, British families get in on the action too, schlepping across the Atlantic to discover the appeal of this elegant corner of mainland USA and join in its outdoorsy lifestyle, experiencing whale-watching, exploring the pretty towns that pepper the Cape, and partaking in some boating and biking.  There are lighthouses to discover, rocks to clamber over, crabs to catch, and sandy beaches for master castle builders and paddling tots. And New England homes behind white picket fences along leafy streets for mummy and daddy to admire that are so impossibly perfect and so gloriously uniform that it sometimes feels you’re on holiday on a film set.

The Best Family Hotel On Cape Cod

Dusk at The Wequassett, overlooking the idyllic Pleasant Bay. Photo courtesy of The Wequassett.

Dusk at The Wequassett, overlooking the idyllic Pleasant Bay. Photo courtesy of The Wequassett.

The Wequassett Hotel & Resort is the kind of place parents would have enjoyed pre-kids. So the fact that it’s geared up for children too means it’s a winner off the bat. Set on the quiet and aptly named Pleasant Bay with a private beach, accommodation is typically pretty New England and the luxuriously appointed rooms and suites are dotted in clusters around painstakingly coiffed gardens. In fact, it’s so beautiful with views so Instagrammable that there is a steady stream of elegant, high society weddings taking place here all the time. In 2016, the hotel was deservedly awarded its fifth star by Forbes, officially making it one of the top resorts in the US. But despite fantastic facilities and variety of restaurants, room choices, children's programmes and sport and recreation, The Wequassett lacks a spa, a surprisingly hard amenity to find on Cape Cod. Perhaps the salty Atlantic air is enough to soothe away stresses in this part of the world.

The Wequassett Children's Centre. Photo courtesy of The Wequassett. 

The Wequassett Children's Centre. Photo courtesy of The Wequassett. 

The charming Wequassett Children’s Centre is home to organised activities for tots to teens, but its unparalleled facilities are open to all guests when a club is not in session, and that depends on what time of year you visit. The pirate themed playground is sure bet for hours of fun  playing in the water jets and shooting water cannons, whizzing down slides and a burning off energy in the treasure chest ball pit. When the playground is exhausted for the day (it’ll take a while, so grab a takeaway coffee from the hotel restaurant first), the beach and pool offer deep cushioned sun loungers, indulgent cabanas for parents and a chest of toys for kids. Happily, the beach is a few steps away from the pool so both can be enjoyed together. The beach, with the gently lapping water is perfect for paddling (no crashing waves here, surfers look elsewhere) and the sand couldn’t be more ideal for building sand castles.  Hop aboard the Wequassett’s sleek navy speedboat for a quick trip to Outer Beach, a strip of sand out at sea – your very own desert island, in fact – to enjoy a picnic and some exclusivity away from the crowds. The boats shuttles backwards and forwards from the hotel whenever you’re ready.

This is the type of the resort where staff glide around in Ralph Lauren uniforms, on hand to smooth your towel over your chosen sunbed and ask what factor suncream you’d like to select from their complimentary selection. Exemplary service is found throughout the resort, which is exactly what you need when holidaying with toddlers in tow. Even housekeeping is a treat not to be underestimated when travelling with little ones, but it’s the over-and-above thoughtfulness that makes the team at the Wequassett stand out: takeaway coffees and toddler snacks in a mini cool bag appear as if by magic at your breakfast table if they know you’re off on day trip; a movie night with freshly made popcorn and a great film selection arranged tout suite and selections of lovely toys and books in the room on demand. Concierge is as it should be: informative, knowledgeable and genuinely useful in activity planning. Nothing is too much trouble, and if it is, the smiling faces at the Wequassett sure don’t let on. And it would appear that staff are briefed to learn every guest’s name that they call out with a cheery “hello!” as they zoom past on golf buggies.

What To Do On A Cape Cod Holiday

Cape Cod has a lot that appeals to pre-schoolers that are too young to enjoy one of the region’s main draws – whale watching. But for older children, whale watching is a must-do activity to see these magnificent creatures in their natural habitat and learn how whales have shaped this region of the world so pertinently.

The Cape is dotted with idyllic towns, seemingly unchanged since the 1950s and with a notable and welcome absence of prolific high street brands, drawing you into the local way of life with their family run shops, cafes and restaurants housed in picturesque clapperboard and wooden shuttered buildings that are still perfect despite being weather-beaten from the crueller winter weather and bleached from summer sunshine. Ice cream parlours are abundant in these towns, offering scores of flavours, toppings and sauces in portions so enormous that a family could share one serving. All to be enjoyed on the painted benches outside, to watch ambling tourists pass-by indulging in a gentler pace of life away from the city. A hire car is a necessity to get out to explore these little towns - Chatham is particularly lovely, along with its lighthouse and pristine beach.

The Cape Cod Children’s Museum is a good option for little ones, especially for the odd overcast day that is not uncommon in amongst pleasantly warm (and sometimes hot) days. It’s more of a play centre than a museum, but has a deliberately educational tone, and a good couple of hours can be spent exploring the submarine, the train and the boat. Then there's shopping to be done in the play market, ball games to play, books to read and more. It’s small, but well thought-through, with varied activities for children, most suitable for one-year-olds and over.

Cape Cod is crisscrossed with long, smooth and easy bike trails and however old your children, there’s an option to take them along for the ride. Whether that’s an extra seat on the back, a pull-along trailer, a tandem or their own bike, bike rental shops are easy to find in towns near a bike trail. We hired bikes from the helpful staff at Orleans Cycle and cycled ten miles to the Cape Cod National Seashore for a picnic. It’s an ideal half or full day activity, but days on end could be spent exploring the Cape on these old railroad routes for more energetic families.

Day Trips to Martha's Vineyard and Nantucket from Cape Cod

Brant Point Lighthouse, Nantucket

Brant Point Lighthouse, Nantucket

There are two islands south of Cape Cod – Nantucket and Martha’s Vineyard – that are easy day trips by one-hour ferry from the Cape. The former is an uber-cool haven, known to locals as Ack, and draws celebrities and a well-heeled crowd that cruise around the cobbled street in Range Rovers. The latter, famed as a destination for vacationing US Presidents, attracts coach-trippers and retirees, although trendier spots are still abundant on this pretty island once you move away from the tourist traps. For day-tripping families, both islands boast child-friendly beaches and any-fool local buses to get around the islands to seek out pretty towns for shopping (try Vineyard Vines and Black Dog for some typical Islander gear), obligatory ice cream parlours (try Scoops in Edgartown on Martha’s Vineyard, or the Juice Bar in 'downtown' Nantucket), and harbours to admire sailing boats and super yachts and a glimpse into the wonderfully nautical way of life of these Islands.

The two main ferry operators, Hy-Line and Steamship Authority, offer frequent shuttles from Cape Cod to the Islands, especially during the busy summer season. 

Eating Out On Cape Cod

Despite its micro-culture, Cape Cod, much like the rest of the US outside the major cities, appears to exist on a diet of burgers, fries and macaroni cheese and ice cream. Except in the case of the Cape, lobster is part of a standard menu too. For more varied cuisine, seek out higher end restaurants, although we instinctively avoided these with our two noisy boys in tow. Fortunately, we benefitted from the fabulous food at the Wequassett’s Twenty-Eight Atlantic restaurant and its sister eatery, Thoreaus. So not to disturb unsuspecting diners, we decamped to the hotel lawn overlooking the bay for dinner, with the ever-obliging hotel and restaurant staff happy to accommodate our venue choice. This way, we could enjoy exceptional sea view in relative peace.  

When To Go To Cape Cod

There’s a definite 'season' on Cape Cod. Reportedly quiet and shuttered-up in the winter, this is a place that comes alive in late spring as the restaurants reopen and the season in full swing by July when the weather is almost guaranteed until early autumn. Some resorts are open year-round.

Getting To Cape Cod From The UK

Getting to Cape Cod from the UK is surprisingly straight forward. A reasonable six-and-a-half hour hop across the Atlantic to Boston is a do-able flight time with toddlers, especially when you consider pre-schooler holiday stalwarts of Tenerife or Cyprus are a four-and-a-half hour flight. And throwing in the bonus of complimentary meals and drinks (and ice cream with Virgin Atlantic) plus decent in-flight entertainment it’s an option worth weighing up. Hire an SUV for all the family and their luggage at Boston and then it’s only a 90-minute drive to get right to the heart of the Cape.

Useful Information 

To stay at the Wequassett, book directly with hotel by visiting www.wequassett.com. Or for a package holiday including flights and transfers, try www.scottdunn.co.uk. Virgin Atlantic and British Airways both fly direct to Boston. For car hire, www.hertz.co.uk were especially helpful sorting out the necessary car seats we required. And for more information about the region visit www.massholiday.co.uk. To really maximise your time in the region, consider spending a few nights on one of the Islands - Martha's Vineyard or Nantucket - with a pit stop in Boston to make the most of the fantastic children's facilities before returning to the UK. 

 

 

Which brands have mastered their blog?

A significant and growing proportion of companies are investing in their brand blog. For organisations of all sizes, blogs are proving to be a way to get people through the door, to inspire them and convince them that it's a business worthy of their time and money. But what elements make a great blog and which brands are executing them skilfully?

British Gas provide variety

British Gas has got it sussed when it comes to their company blog. It’s interesting, varied and a great source of industry news. Thanks to an impressive roster of credible writers and journalists, the British Gas blog makes a surprisingly good read and establishes them firmly as an industry leader. Interviews with other leading companies on their energy policies, such as Virgin Atlantic and MGM Resorts give interesting insights. Entertaining ‘Could the flux capacitator from Back to the Future really work?’ pieces take a potentially yawn-inducing energy blog and turn it into something pretty cool. Bravo British Gas!

Mulberry lose the hard sell

Your blog is not the place to shout ‘BUY ME, BUY ME!’. Your website does that. Your blog should serve to inspire, inform, and gently coax your reader to spend time with you and consider you. That said, there should always be plenty of opportunities to link back to the main site and your blog should never stand completely alone. Where relevant, links to products within blog posts can be useful to readers too. Just don’t overdo it. Take tips from Mulberry – their super-classy blog employs wonderfully gentle techniques that serve as a brand-building masterclass.

Wal-Mart demonstrate an authentic side

Showing your readers what the heart of the company is like is important. Especially if you’re an overwhelmingly large corporation like Wal-Mart. They cleverly use their blog to humanise themselves and show the ordinary people behind the corporate machine. Smiling employee faces and first person accounts from staff help foster a warm, fuzzy feeling (with a blatant objective to win you over). Be careful not to try too hard though or it’ll have the opposite effect.

J Crew go behind the scenes

You can show appreciation to your loyal customers by inviting them into your world and showing them behind the scenes at your organisation. J Crew, the American fashion brand, has this tactic mastered. Totally image led, J Crew’s posts introduce you to the designers, explain their thinking and impart their top tips, maximising the opportunity a blog presents to tell your brand story. You get a glimpse into the rooms the products are designed in and the world behind the glossy shop floors, making you feel it was worth the visit.

 

Coca-Cola provide insight from company leaders

How much is there to say about a soft drink manufacturer? A lot, as Coca-Cola’s UK blog, Coca-Cola Journey, demonstrates. They use their blog as an opportunity for company leaders to talk about sustainability, community projects and health and nutrition, as well as wider industry news. Crucially, Coca-Cola UK avoids the risk of being a faceless major organisation by posting pieces from the leadership team, in a chatty, friendly style.

Whole Foods Market know their audience and are genuinely useful

Sure, a company blog is a great place to talk about your products, but that won’t keep readers on your blog for long. By providing useful content and being relevant to your readers, you’ll have them sticking around for longer to find more interesting and inspiring content. Take Whole Foods’ blog for example: yes, they talk about their products, but in the context of recipes, healthy eating and food allergies. Beyond that, posts about food hygiene and safety make the blog a genuinely useful resource. These guys know their audience and speak directly to them about things they want to hear.

The White Company promote their blog and invite people in

The White Company promote their blog very well, including in their customer emails, social media and printed brochures. It makes sense, of course. People might not be looking to buy, but if a tempting blog post on an email catches their eye, they might be inclined to click for more, rather than just delete the email. Fortunately, when people do click through, they won’t be disappointed – The White Company’s blog is full of inspirational editorial and ideas, along with tempting competitions (another blog tactic not to be underestimated).

 

air bnb use inspirational imagery

It’s easy for a travel company to make the most of impressive images on their blog. But air bnb has really seen this advantage and maximised the potential, allowing the images on their blog to do the talking. Think big, screen-filling images. But that’s not to say that the written content on the blog falls short. Posts are relevant, punchy and informative, and frame the air bnb brand perfectly. Two thumbs up for air bnb.

Virgin Atlantic keep them coming back for more

If your content is good, enjoyable and relevant, you’ll become a valued source of information and you’ll see an increase in repeat visitors. Regularly updated content is crucial. Virgin Atlantic know this too, their blog is crammed with fabulous posts, with new ones appearing all the time. This is especially important when your business landscape is changing all the time. In Virgin Atlantic’s case, for example, they need to let their customers know the latest and greatest places in a city which might evolve quickly with new openings and attractions, so being in-the-know is vital to be credible and valued and ensure visitors come back for more.

If you need help with your brand blog, Eloquent Ink can help. Get in touch for more about how.

Hotel Review: Maison La Minervetta, Sorrento, Italy

The busy road from Naples to Sorrento leads you away from the city, through several tunnels until – pop! – out you come on to the famous winding coastal road with daredevil moped drivers and coaches weaving precariously around steep bends. And far beneath that sharp cliff face is the Bay of Naples, twinkling away in the sunlight and the ‘ahhh’ view that gives you that real holiday feeling you’ve been waiting for.

Sorrento is one of the first towns you will happen upon and it’s an ideal base if you’ve just got a day or two to get a flavour of all this region has to offer, with the beautiful town of Positano or a boat trip to Capri in easy reach for a day trip. Famed for its lemons, and of course, limoncello, Sorrento is a pretty town that is larger than its Amalfi Coast town counterparts. Despite the tourists, you’ll get the sense that it hasn’t lost its genuine local heart. And tourists there are aplenty. Especially if you visit in the blissfully warm but packed-to-the-rafters summer season.

There’s a good choice of hotels in Sorrento, but perhaps none quite so charming, nor so stylish, as Maison La Minervetta. It’s the epitome of a boutique hotel; small, chic and proudly run by its owners. What it doesn’t offer in five-star amenities like a spa or full-service restaurant, it makes up for in style, design and total dedication to its guests. 

From the outside, Maison La Minervetta is so wonderfully discrete that when you arrive, you feel that you are privy to one of Sorrento’s secrets, or even arriving at a private members’ club. Which is what makes it even more perfect in the bustling summer high-season where hoards of tourists appear to move around en masse. Maison La Minervetta offers escapism from the crowds where the famous views can be enjoyed away from pushy sightseers.

Maison La Minervetta is built into the cliff side, so there’s no front entrance per se, just the top of an elevator inviting you to descend to the main level below. No matter how many luxury hotels you’ve been to, or how many fabulously opulent hotel lobbies you’ve passed through, you will never forget your first step into Maison La Minervetta. An interiors-enthusiasts dream, the sunlight-drenched lounge you enter into is bright, vibrant and welcoming and lined with glossy and beautiful Mediterranean tiles. Rebelling against the muted greys and sophisticated neutral tones so popular in high-end hotels, Maison La Minervetta is dazzling and colourful yet undeniably tasteful and wholly complementary to its Mediterranean home.

The lounge, spilling seamlessly out onto a terrace, is filled with plump sofas, comfy daybeds and reclining reading chairs, all positioned to give you the best view out to sea. Bright, nautical cushions are artfully scattered and hundreds and hundreds of stylish books and magazines stuff the shelves, are piled high on coffee tables and are propped open on easels. You’ll want to throw yourself onto the nearest sofa, with armfuls of books and order espresso, but an equally beautiful room awaits.

All sea view, the rooms are as colourful as the lounge but oh-so-tasteful, with the attention to detail and painstaking design abundantly clear. Every piece of furniture and artwork has been carefully considered and curated. On the way from the airport, you’ve already been treated to magnificent views across the sea to Mount Vesuvius, but there’s something about your floor-to-ceiling window framing the view that will hold your attention for longer than most hotel window views, however impressive they’ve been.

A set of narrow, twisty steps takes you down the cliff face, past the hotel’s small but perfectly formed pool, past more beautiful art until you finally reach the bottom and find yourself at Marina Grande, where there’s a good selection of over-water fish restaurants, including the excellent Delfino. The heart of the town can be reached from here too. It’s an enjoyable walk through Sorrento’s side streets, passing wine bars, gelaterias, and obligatory souvenir shops.

Breakfast is served in the kitchen at Maison La Minervetta. No, not the stainless steel catering kitchen that may have just sprung to mind. A vibrant Mediterranean kitchen with the surfaces piled high with breads, fruit and only-on-holiday syrupy pastries and sweet treats. Fill your plate — fabulously bright, quirky crockery — then step out onto the sunny terrace, feel the warm sun on your skin and enjoy your morning coffee overlooking the harbour far below alongside only a handful of other in-the-know guests at best. Maison La Minervetta only has 12 rooms after all.

Book Maison La Minervetta with Mr and Mrs Smith from £277 a night and you’ll get rather lovely extras like Prosecco or limoncello on arrival. British Airways and EasyJet fly direct to Naples from London Gatwick. And, at a reasonable two and half hours’ flight time, it makes Sorrento a great option for a short break. 

A Blustery Beach Break In Falmouth

AN OFF-SEASON TRIP TO CORNWALL IS THE IDEAL ESCAPE FOR FAMILIES WITH TODDLERS...

There’s something about a Cornwall break that offers a wonderful sense of escapism not always found from other UK breaks. Perhaps it’s because it’s at the foot of the country, one way in and one way out on the A30. But what that means for us, lifelong fans of Cornwall, is the chance to feel like we’re getting away from it all without having to negotiate airports and aeroplanes. Especially with a 1-year-old and 3-year-old in tow.

Tucked into the south west corner of Cornwall is Falmouth. Recently named by the Sunday Times as one of the best places to live in the UK, it is a bustling and increasingly trendy Cornish town with a rich maritime history and busy working harbour. Its sandy beaches and quiet coves are family heaven for bucket-and-spade days, but together with a pretty town centre, museums, castles and boat trips, it also offers plenty for when the British weather lets us down. Especially when we last visited in chilly March.

THE HOTEL

Falmouth’s hotel scene is an improving one, although not yet offering the luxe options found on the north coast such as the fantastic Watergate Bay and The Scarlet hotels. There’s always been lots of choice in Falmouth, but solid 3-star options, favoured by coach trippers. St Michael’s Hotel, also found along the strip of Falmouth hotels that overlook the sea, is an exception and one of the best Falmouth has to offer. It’s an overtly nautically themed 4-star hotel that ensures its guests know they are in a location proud of its maritime history. The hotel has been extensively refurbished and feels fresh, light and welcoming. It’s also the ideal hotel choice for kids, offering a small range of family suites, including the Giant Family Suite with two bedrooms and a separate lounge area, particularly suited to us as our boys needed early nights and we could enjoy a glass of wine and Netflix in peace.

St Michael’s has a swimming pool that’s heated to a lovely temperature but no slides or water geysers to keep my energetic boys occupied for long. Still, it was the ideal activity for us post-breakfast, before getting wrapped up to hit Gyllynvase beach, just a hop skip and jump from the hotel. As it happens, the Cornish wind in March proved too much so it was a brief visit. Fortunately, Gylly Beach café was a warm and inviting option for hot chocolates where we sat outside under heaters and tucked cosily under blankets to enjoy the incredible view, sheltered from the easterly wind.

 

WHAT TO DO

The majestic Pendennis Castle is a good option for little ones to live out their own knights and princesses fantasies. Perched on a headland overlooking the sea on three sides, its twin castle, St Mawes Castle, can be seen on the other of the water. Under the care of English Heritage, it’s a visit that will keep you occupied for a few hours if needed, with a small exhibition to learn about Pendennis Castle’s history and a small café.

For my two toddlers, the National Maritime Museum was a great choice. With an array of boats on display, the boys loved climbing in and out of lifeboats and pretending to ride a jet ski, before we made our way up to the top of the lookout for a breath-taking view of Falmouth’s working harbour. The lookout also descends two storeys under the sea, and the boys love spotting fish swimming past the windows – a real life aquarium.

As a family, we’re rather partial to a boat trip, and the trip over to the small town of St Mawes worked well for us as it wasn’t too long. We stayed long enough to find seashells on the beach and have a quick ice cream (yes, it was a little chilly, but holidays mean ice cream, whatever the weather) before making the short return journey to Falmouth.

WHERE TO EAT

It wouldn’t be a trip to Cornwall without fish and chips, and Falmouth has some great chippies to choose from. Rick Stein also has an outpost here, opposite the National Maritime Museum. We dined on the obligatory fish and chips, although plenty of other dishes are available. Harbour Lights, another chippy favoured by the locals, is delicious too. And with the added benefit of beautiful views over Falmouth harbour. Kids meals are served in a bucket at Harbour Lights, my boys’ proudest souvenir from their trip.

Thanks to the ever-expanding University, there is an increasing choice of cafes and restaurants in Falmouth’s pretty town centre, so there is lots of choice in the town for snacks and meals. Happily, most of the options are independent too.

MORE INFO

For more information about St Michael’s Hotel, visit http://www.stmichaelshotel.co.uk/. Visit Falmouth has lots of information about special events happening in the town www.visitfalmouth.co.uk