America, Countries, Ireland

Escape room to victory with Universal Orlando

Now I could lose myself in a telephone box so I’d deffo need some help with this one, an escape room to victory with Universal Orlando.

I’ve been in escape rooms before.

And some would say the story of my travels has been one of trying to escape from various scrapes and detours.

Thankfully though I’ve been rescued by any number of Good Samaritans.

And holiday providers, to get me back on track.

I got the hump: The dinosaurs

Chief among them are our friends at Aer Lingus.

I suspect too the Irish national airline carrier might have been having fun with me.

And that’s why they set their media partners an escape test challenge in Dublin a couple of years back.

Aer to go

The Great Escape: The Aer Lingus Escape Room

I was grateful to my old colleagues then, Eoin and Danny.

For coming up with the Crystal Maze solutions to get us outta there.

Although we were slower to get to the end than the other teams.

And hence we missed out on the big Transatlantic flight prize.

Mind you though, I have always been brought up to share the love.

And Aer Lingus have been nothing but generous throughout my Travel years.

In facilitating my journeys to the Land of the Free.

Escape to the movies

Here Dino, Dino: At Universal

For other reasons, this year I was unable to join my fellow Travel professionals in Universal Orlando for IPW, the American Travel Fair.

But I am happy to report the bounceback in the States and particularly in Rollercoaster State.

The latest innovation this autumn is Universal’s Great Movie Escape which channels Jurassic Park and Back to the Future… read on.

Concepted and designed by the same creative masterminds responsible for the wildly immersive haunts of Halloween Horror Nights.

Universal’s Great Movie Escape will bring two distinct and extraordinary escape adventures to the heart of Universal CityWalk.

Through interactive state-of-the-art missions, captivating storytelling and intricately detailed sets.

How do I get outta here? The Back to the Future Escape Room

And guests will be swept into the dinosaur adventures of Jurassic World or the time-traveling chaos of Back to the Future.

Solving as they do, their way through a multi-sensory experience like no other.

Universal’s Great Movie Escape will open later this year and tickets will go on sale in the months ahead.

Scare us up some more fun

White face, fright face: Halloween

Talking of Halloween Horror Nights which our pals from out in Halloween have toured around the UK and Ireland on media nights…

Halloween’s relentless slasher Michael Myers makes his vengeful return to Universal Studios’ Halloween horror night.

All kicking off on September 2 and September 8, the show sizzles in haunted houses inspired by the classic 1978 film

The franchise’s latest trilogy concludes with Universal Pictures’ release of Halloween Ends on October 14.

And guests will venture back to where it all began.

Inside eerily authentic haunted houses that depict the most chilling moments from the critically-acclaimed original film.

On both coasts, this year’s harrowing experiences will transport guests to Haddonfield, Illinois on Halloween night

When Michael Myers first donned his notorious mask to embark on his brutal rampage.

As guests make their way through his dilapidated home.

They’ll narrowly dodge attacks from the knife-wielding Myers as he stalks their every move.

Lie back and think of scaring: Michael Myers

Both events will run on select nights through Monday, October 31, and additional details and haunted houses will be revealed soon.

Tickets are available via a number of travel partners including AttractionTickets.com (our old friends from West Hollywood, LA and Anaheim).

And Floridatix, Orlando Attraction Tickets, Travel Republic and Ocean Florida.

What though if you’re having so much fun you don’t wanna leave?

Well, maybe you can get stuck in that Escape Room to victory in Universal Orlando.

 

 

America, Caribbean, Countries, Europe

International Women

International Women don’t you just love ’em? I even married one.

On today’s International Women’s Day a shout-out then to some of the international women who took me under their wing.

Of course, the international woman of mystery whose oxter always gives me shade is my own English rose.

Boss woman: Mum’s the word, and Sadie too

And there are many more women from our nearest neighbours in Travel who have guided me on my path than I have room here to mention.

Now if anything underscores this year’s message on International Women’s Day #BeattheBias it is the success of those who occupy the biggest positions in our trade.

And so ladies take a bow, I would be nothing without you… you are all worthy Bandanettes.

White knight

Power women: Bandanaman, Jo, Cathy and United Airlines’ Aoife

Organising my life is hard enough left to just one man which is why I leave that job to my aforementioned English rose.

But when you’re on your travels to the good old Oo Es of Eh you really do need someone on the ground.

And that someone is Jo White who heads up the UK & Ireland media delegation for the American Travel Fair.

I know I speak for all of us indulged travellers who have sought her out to help with dodgy dongles, accommodation and transfers.

And who have danced the night away to the best music acts put on by her American counterpart and fellow superstar Cathy Keefe Reynolds.

In return, all they ask is to promote America (you’re welcome) and in particular Washington DC, the Capital Region, Kissimmee, Florida, Oregon and Yukon chief among them.

Bates’ Hotel

Prize gal: Kate Bates

Now hosts have a right, nay an obligation, to enjoy the activities they put on for us.

And after Attraction Tickets’ Kate Bates had asked me for recommendations for our party to take on in Hollywood she’d have expected me to take part.

Alas, the generosity of a stranger (moi) to take a passenger’s ski bag meant I was out of commission.

For the day Kate, Jon, Helen and Heather trekked up to see the Hollywood sign, check out Warner Studios and go on a boat trip.

I did have more to write about my West Hollywood hotel though that day.

And I did bounce back to see old friends at Universal Studios the next day.

Ms Carter

Get Carter: Cheryl and Bim Jim

I love a strong woman, probably as I’m begotten of an Irish Mammy.

And in the Caribbean they don’t come much stronger than Cheryl Carter, Barbados’s Head of Global Markets.

One raised eyebrow will quickly remind you that there will be no going AWOL on her trip.

And so I was left in no doubt when I asked early leave from our dinner to hook up with my half-Scots/half-Trinidadian pal Jevan for Foreday Morning of my obligations.

To be ready for the next day’s activities.

Now what happens at Foreday Morning stays on Foreday Morning.

But when I turned up for our meeting with my leg gashed open I gritted my teeth… the rum through the day helped.

Cheryl is a Bajan through and through, firm, with a heart of gold and I was glad to be her patsy when the Bajans and Scots Travel trade met last year in Edinburgh.

Marsha law

Keep an eye on you: With SLM and Marsha in Tobago

If we’re honest no man likes to take orders (advice) from womenfolk.

But when that woman is the larger than life Marsha Patrick, of the Tobago Tourist board then you’re better just giving in to her.

And so when Marsha quizzed our little group on what occupied us outside work she found a real patsy in your Bandanaman.

Of course it was always going to be tough to follow proud Middlesbrough man and local football club archivist Anthony who only built his own house.

Marsha was less than impressed by my poetry prowess or goat racing ability.

‘Jim, you got no skills,’ she bellowed in her thick Tobagonian patois, rocking the mini-coach with her laughter.

A whole lotta Rosie

Toast of the Alps: Rosie Barcroft

One of the best qualities of women is how forgiving they can be.

And Rosie Barcroft has certainly led the way there after I almost brought the roof down in Switzerland.

Waking late, I’d taken a quick shower before hooking up with a by now impatient park for our trek through the Alps.

Trouble was ahead though when I got back to the hotel.

And I was greeted by a stern hotel owner who informed me that the water had seeped into the breakfast room.

Whether I’d be welcome back in that Interlaken hotel is another question but miraculously the Swiss still come calling.

And even when one wonderful ambassador departs (Sara Roloff for Japan) another old pal Vive La Fran Lambert decamps from Normandy.

Most importantly Rosie is still on side and we’ll be skiing in Val d’Isere later this month.

I’ll be showering outside this time.

Of course, all international women should be celebrated, and not least Daddy’s Little Girl.

And I’m happy to do so.. here’s to you International Women.

 

America, Countries, Culture

Twenty years of Shrek

Of course Happy Ever After can yield another and another and another in the movie fairytale world, particularly when it yields as many dollars as Shrek.

Shrek exploded onto our screens 20 years ago next month and it’s fair enough to say nothing was ever the same again.

More Shrek

And although we thought the release of Shrek Forever After, also called Shrek: The Final Chapter in 2010 would tie up the franchise why give up on the gift that keeps on giving?

They’re part of the audience. https://www.attractiontickets.com/en?gclid=EAIaIQobChMIu7Ol7bLz7wIVlIXVCh1NIgigEAAYASAAEgKsefD_BwE

And so we’ve had the spin-off Puss In Boots.

While Shrekkies were given a real treat when it was announced that there would be a Fifth Shrek film next year.

So where does Shrek live?

Shrek’s home

Well, when he’s not in his swamp, Universal Resort Orlando is where you’ll find him hanging out.

The dynamic duo

There are other action heroes who will leave you sickly green at Universal with their stomach-churning rides.

I’m talking you Hulk, my first corkscrew ride in Orlando with Attraction Tickets

Which makes you regret that omelette and stack of pancakes you took at breakfast.

He’ll be all right

No, Shrek 4-D is a tamer, more family fun interactive experience, but no less fun for all that.

Shrek’s ride

When we last left the layered one in Shrek Forever After he was grappling with fame in a Shrek lite theme park.

Before Rumpelstiltskin tricks him into giving it all up for just one day of his old life.

Big in Japan

Spoiler alert here.

But our favourite author extricates himself from his sticky moment and we caught up again in Universal Studios Hollywood on our superheroes’ get-together.

And both being of the Scottish variety, and both sharing some nasty habits we both got on like a swamp on fire.

Hear them roar

He’s invited me back so, of course, with a new film coming and Universal Resorts cranking up again for visitors.

With something new all the rime… I’m talking about you VelociCoaster me.

Shrek around the world

And because Shrek is beloved around the world and is big in Japan, our friends over there are enjoying him too.

Now for 2021 I’m thinking because it’s the Fifth Shrek we can have 5-D!

I’m on my way from misery to happiness ptoday, uhu-uhu-uhu-uhu!

America, Countries, Culture, Deals, Ireland, UK

Orlando’s Dinosaur Rollercoaster

What do you get when you cross a paleontologist with a coasteroligist? Universal Orlando’s VelociCoaster that’s what?

Great news from our old pals in Florida that the coaster we’ve been we’ve been waiting a year for is ready and snarling.

Jurassic Park VelociCoaster will roar into life next summer and we’ll be first in line.

But let’s go back in time for a minute… to Spring 2019 when I met Veloci at A VIPs event in Universal Studios Hollywood.

Hello sailor

Maybe not at my best having shaken off 24-hour sickness bug to make my meeting.

Although, I wasn’t quite ready for rollercoasters then – and I know you have to be at your fighting weight from my past visit to Orlando.

You want a sneak preview of VelociCoaster… well, that was it.

A world of wonders

I caught the rollercoaster bug on a mostly-Irish trip there… Irelando, if you will.

And have been back there and up the road to The Donald’s place.

So here’s what our holiday providers have lined up for for us for 2021…

The American Holidays Hot Offer is a seven-night Universal Orlando Resort Stay including Park tickets from €975pp.

And, of course, you’ll get the run of three theme parks and a water theme park.

Harry’s Hollywood

You’ll have a wizarding time, we promise you.

Contact Tour America who have been serving you for 25 years which is all the recommendation you need and they’ll sort out your beat deal.

While I would always direct you to Attraction Tickets who took this young dinosaur to Orlando and then Hollywood.

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America, Countries, Deals, Music

Rainy Days and Songdays – the real Hotel California

You can check out any time you like but you can never leave

If only! Whether it is the steel pan band at Sunday Service on Tobago or the soft rock house band on the Maldives.

It’s how we would want every holiday to end… not ending that is.

The epic Hotel California by the Eagles with its riff which was voted the greatest of all time by Guitarist magazine has spawned an industry in itself.

Around what the lyrics actually mean, where the hotel is that inspires the song, and the hotel that was used for the cover.

The band credit the legendary Beverly Hills Hotel, the hang-out for party people, as being the vibe for the song.

Celeb hangout

Visit nearby West Hollywood where the celebs go these days and you’ll be on Beverly Hills‘ doorstep.

Rainbow crossing at West Hollywood

Turn left out of your WH billet, the Kimpton La Peer Hotel, and you’ll be going in the general direction.

You’ll know you”re in Beverly Hills when you pass the arty sign.

The Beverly Hills Hotel, which predated the town’s existence, was the place to be under vice-president of Bank of America Hernando Courtright.

Galaxy of stars

And Fred Astaire, Cesar Romero, Carole Lombard, the Rat Pack, Humphrey Bogart and Marlene Dietrich were all regular visitors.

Santa Monica

Amazon Marlene even got the Polo Lounge to change its policy on women having to wear a skirt.

I picture Marlene wearing a trouser suit and dominating the room in her husky cigarette drawl.

A day in the life

I’m taken here by CNN’s description of life in the hotel…

Back in the days when celebrity was worn with the elegance and grace of diamonds and mink the Beverly Hills was where the stars played. Humphrey Bogart and the Rat Pack tippled at the bar, Katharine Hepburn did a back flip into the tennis pool in her tennis clothes and Elizabeth Taylor honeymooned in the bungalows out back – six times.

I belong here!

The biggest star of them all

And perhaps the greatest star of them all, Marilyn Monroe, left her mark, staying at the hotel during the shooting of Let’s Make Love.

Marilyn’s back yard

Her favourite bungalow being No.7.

You’ll be surprised though where and who Marilyn is spending eternity with!

Listen here to The Eagles’ definitive version of Hotel California.

And get out your guitar and practise the riff.

And live like a star

Your Ultimate Staycation Offer at the Beverly Hills Hotel will give you a Superior King Room from €575, or the Stanhope Suite from €860.

When they’re back and open.

I might have to bring my own tennis clothes though!

America, Canada, Countries, Ireland, UK

Happy Fourth of July

Who’d have thought it? The Fourth of July today is as big a cause for celebration (if not more) here in the UK than it is in America.

I did, of course, tell you months ago that today would be the exact day that we would be coming out of lockdown in the UK (except for Scotland, doh!).

And not just in the last couple of weeks but as long ago as April 21 Wuhoo Wuhan.

Still, when all is said and done I would still prefer to be in the Oo Es of Eh today than anywhere else.

As big an Americanophile as I am I have never managed to time it so that I am there on the Fourth of July, nor for Thanksgiving either but I aim to put that right as soon as I can.

My Travel professional friends are projecting 2021 as the year when travel to America will have begun… and see what I’m doing there giving them the slogan…. We’ve Begun in ’21.

So have a nice day and my gift to you is these American dreams courtesy of our pals, the Travel providers:

American Holidays http://www.americanholidays.com has instilled some much needed confidence with their ‘Book with Confidence’ and ‘Travel with Confidence’ initiatives.

And they have backed that up with an expanded portfolio of itineraries to the West Coast, Deep South, Canada, Road Trips and Mexico.

Something for everyone

Now some say the West is Best http://www.visitcalifornia.com and https://disneyland.disney.go.com My Weekend With Marilyn and Stair Wars.

While others that it’s the Beautiful South https://www.deep-south-usa.com and The Promised Land, The Story of the Blues and The King of Kings – Jim Murty’s TravelTravelTravel.

And you can make a great Road Trip out of either and any number of zig-zags across the continent.

Canada has been in full flow all week as they celebrated July 1 with a virtual Canada Day and Irish landmarks went red in unison. And don’t think they’ve stopped because it’s now the American national holiday.

Deal me in!

American Holidays also bring you Mexico with a bit of Miami Fort Lauderdale and Miami – a tale of two sittings and https://www.miamiandbeaches.com thrown in which is always the best way.

Here’s something to get your teeth into for ’21:

Miami and Mexico, February 2021: Spend three nights in hip Miami, taking in Little Havana, South Beach and Miami Beach before kicking back and enjoying seven nights all-inclusive in Mexico. From €1849pp.

Attraction Tickets (http://www.attractiontickets.com): These are the guys to go with for Disney, either in Anaheim or in Orlando https://www.disneyworld.co.uk and http://www.visitorlando.com. Also see Aaawlando… Orlando, the rollercoaster capital and Why I love The Donald.

And they have a Disney and Universal Combo Ticket for £757 for adults and £727 for a child. And you’ll have a wizarding time too or you can Eat My Shorts… See off Voldemort, then for a beer at Moe’s and https://www.universalorlando.com/web/en/us.

For glitz-seekers America is all about New York www.nycvb.com and Las Vegas www.lvcva.com and Tour America know it. As well as all the other great offers they have they can give you.

Hit The Strip in Vegas, from Sunday, January 31-February 4 is from €435pp, based on two adults for four nights sharing one room at the Excalibur Hotel and Casino.

While they’re confident that they can get you over to New York before the year is out.

The Carvi Hotel is from €546pp, based on four adults for four nights, Tuesday, December 1-4.

See http://www.touramerica.ie and Strip… the light fantastic and Old New York: Hamilton.

Where is your favourite place in America? Let us know and we’ll share.