Barcelona, the capital of Catalonia, is a sumptuous feast of sights, sounds, smells and tastes. The region of Catalonia is not quite Spanish nor French but a wonderful combination of both, with its own language and its own way of doing things.
This fun and vibrant city burst onto the world scene during the 1992 Barcelona Olympic Games. The televised events brought Barcelona into our lounges. Soon after, the inspiring duet ‘Barcelona’ was released by Queen’s Freddie Mercury and Montserrat Caballe who sang of the enchantment and charm of this city. This placed it even more firmly in our collective consciousness and the obsession with Barcelona was born.
Whether shopping on Las Ramblas, visiting the beach or a bar at Barceloneta, having a seafood and tapas lunch washed down with sangria or taking the cable car ride up to Montjuic, all are equally gratifying ways to experience and enjoy this incredible city.
Not only is Dubrovnik an ancient walled city of incredible beauty but it is also bang up to date as a destination. It will be recognizable to many as the film set for the hit series the Game of Thrones.
It is nearly impossible to picture just how pure the sparking, clear water is that surrounds Dubrovnik. The old city juts out on a small peninsula into the cool Adriatic Sea and this is an integral part of its charm.
But for Game of Thrones fans, Dubrovnik is King’s Landing. If you are a devotee you could be forgiven for thinking that the enormous city walls and rugged fortresses of King’s Landing are all a huge Hollywood back lot stage. The truth is that Dubrovnik, in its ancient past a city state that held both the Venetians and Ottomans at bay, is as spectacular as any virtual or real set that you would see in a film. Stand at the bridge to the Pile Gate which spans the enormous moat (nowadays a grassy park) and you will be spellbound before you even enter the city.
If you don’t see some of the natural wonders around southern Nevada and northern Arizona, you could be missing a trick. Take to the air to get the best views possible. Maverick Helicopters takes travellers on a Dream Catcher Sunset Tour which includes a trip down to the Grand Canyon. Flying over Lake Mead, the famous Hoover Dam and Fortification Hill during the journey guests will see breath-taking views of the Southwest. The helicopter then lands 3,500 feet into the Grand Canyon in Hualapai Indian Territory. Champagne, beverages and hors d'oeuvres are served 300 feet above the roaring, surging Colorado River. Flying back through the Grand Canyon, it is then over the Bowl of Fire with a sunset flight over Downtown Las Vegas and the Las Vegas Strip as it transforms into the "City of Lights" concluding the trip. Helicopter rides with any operator cost from $450 per person.
If you go down to the Grand Canyon in your own hire car, be sure to take in the new Grand Canyon Sky Walk. The Sky Walk is a transparent horseshoe-shaped cantilever bridge on the edge of a side canyon in the Grand Canyon West area of the main canyon in Arizona. This tourist attraction is proving extremely popular as you can gaze down the bottom of the canyon, a vertical drop of 150m to 240m.
A booming metropolis and food lover’s paradise, art deco delight and sporting mecca, Latin enclave and millionaires’ playground…there seems to be an almost unlimited number of ways to describe this ever changing city. At one time, Miami had a rather pedestrian reputation as the retirement centre for Easterners, New Yorkers in particular, fleeing cold and inclement winters. But much of that image has changed as the city has modernised, expanded and been influenced by a large influx of Latin Americans. For those of a certain baby boom generation (me included) the television series Miami Vice meant the city became forever associated with Ray Bans and rolled up jacket sleeves. But beyond superficialities and clothes, the main characters’ mix of urban grit and laid back vibe did seem to set the tone and style for an entire decade.
Mardi Gras in New Orleans must be the best party ever! Its world famous parades feature glitzy floats, scantily clad dancers and musicians to create loud and gaudy processions. Everyone throws necklaces from the floats (green, purple and gold shiny baubles) and different districts try to outdo each other every year to create the best parade. Mardi Gras always takes place on the Tuesday before Ash Wednesday, which is usually in February.
As the most famous street in the French Quarter, Bourbon Street is always one of the best places to watch a parade but there are dozens of them happening all over the city. And the party atmosphere starts before Mardi Gras itself with popular parades like Endymion, Bacchus, Zulu and Rex all taking place the weekend before Tuesday. Mardi Gras also has ‘blast from the past’ aristocratic balls that are, strictly, invitation only. Each ball will have its own King and Queen as well as debutantes. Invitations used to be created in Paris and are so beautiful as to be treasured keepsakes. But for most folks, it is about partying, wearing a mask or costume and soaking up the incredible atmosphere of Mardi Gras.
When people refer to New York they often mean Manhattan. It is, however, just one of five boroughs that form New York City, which in turn sits within the 54,555 square mile state of New York.
Named after the Duke of York when the British conquered the region back in 1664, the city has changed greatly, largely thanks to mass immigration following the American Civil War. Today it is the destination many people flock to from all over the world in search of fame and fortune as part of the American Dream. If you can make it there you can make it anywhere to paraphrase the great Frank Sinatra.
Bordering the Atlantic Ocean on the east coast of the United States of America the weather can be varied day-by-day. Summers are often hot and glorious while winter is usually laced with bitter freezing winds. It does not stop the resilient New Yorkers who simply carry on as normal nor does it deter the estimated 50 million tourists that visit each year.
New York City has long had a strong affinity with ocean-going travel and today passengers use one of three key cruise ports. Manhattan boasts the New York Passenger Ship Terminal in a prime location on the bank of the Hudson River, adjacent to the USS Intrepid aircraft carrier that is now a floating museum. Brooklyn Cruise Terminal, a former freight terminal that opened its doors in 2006, sits opposite Govenors Island. Cape Liberty Cruise Port is often referred to as a New York cruise port but is in fact in Bayonne in neighbouring New Jersey.
Rome, ‘the eternal city’ that continues to captivate and ignite the imagination of its visitors. Bursting with history and impressive monuments, it's easy to visualise how vast and significant the Ancient Empire was hundreds of years ago when you walk along the cobbled streets towards the Colosseum.
They say all roads lead to Rome and that's almost the case for Mediterranean cruises thanks to its central location in mainland Europe. Rome is accessed from the port of Civitavecchia, around one hour away from the coast by road. It's an ideal starting/ending point to a cruise holiday as you'll likely want to spend more than just an afternoon here soaking up the culture. If, however, you don't have the time or you’re taking a cruise that stops for the day in Rome, it's worth getting a feel for this fascinating city with some sightseeing on foot.
As mentioned you'll often call into Civitavecchia for your day in Rome and the cruise line you’re travelling with will likely have a variety of itineraries to make the most of your day here. A benefit of taking up one of the cruise line tours is that everything is organised for you and they guarantee that the ship will not depart without you. The downside is this can be costly, particularly if you're travelling in a large group (although out of all the stops on your cruise this may be the one where you’ll want to splash out a bit).