Adventure, America, Countries

Say hi to Donald from me

Are you in America now it’s open again to UK and Irish visitors… if so, say hi to Donald from me if you’re in Orlando.

Orlando will be the first stop for visitors from these, and Irish shores, as our favourite US holiday destination.

We hooked up with our friends from Roller Coaster City.

And they took just enough time off the rides to update us on the thrilliest, spilliest place on Earth.

Stars in my eyes

Now in a Galaxy’s Edge far, far, away in Disney’s twin centre in Anaheim… well, two years ago I got a glimpse into the future in the first party to try out Star Wars world. 

And the future is here now in the present and ready for y’all to see it both in California and here in Orlando.

Of course Mickey, Donald and their pals have been celebrating since last month their 50th birthday (well, not theirs, they’re much older but Disney World’s).

On a theme

Rat-a-tat-tat: Food for thought

And the four theme parks and beyond have been in fine song.

Among the most anticipated attractions, and the ones we’ve zeroed in on are:

Disney Enchantment, a new all-new nighttime extravaganza at Magic Kingdom Park, featuring captivating Disney music, enhanced lighting, stunning fireworks and immersive projection effects that extend from Cinderella Castle down Main Street, U.S.A.

And we’ve danced along to Mickey’s In Da House party on that very street and can advise that you lose all inhibitions (or was that just me, Mickey and Donald?)

Then there’s Remy’s Ratatouille Adventure at Epcot, where guests shrink to the size of Chef Remy and race through Gusteau’s restaurant on a wild adventure.

You like your French gastronomeee, oui? 

Then La Crêperie de Paris is a new restaurant located in the France pavilion at Epcot which offers both table and quick-service options and features a menu from celebrity chef Jérôme Bocuse.

The Showbiz Lion and I

Scots wahey: With Bev in Orlando

Now as a veteran of the Orlando theme parks I know how nothing sits still (well, it wouldn’t with you twirled this way and that).

Personally, I prefer a wet one, as my old sparring partner, Lady Lyons, Bev, of Showbiz Lion fame, would say.

And so we both loved Aquatica Orlando. AO can now boast Florida’s first-ever duelling waterslide, Riptide Race, which opened in the spring.

You’ll start atop a 68-foot tower and race side-by-side at top speeds, navigating tight loops and accelerations through indoor and outdoor sections.

While Florida also loves its natural as well as animated animals. And it has those in abundance, particularly flamingos.

In the Pink

Pickin’ ma pocket: Flamingo time

The Flamingo Mingle at Discovery Cove is a new, exclusive animal experience where guests can feed and learn about our pink friends in an outdoor setting. 

Another old pal I met back then in Anaheim is The Jurassic Park VelociCoaster which opened in June at Universal’s Islands of Adventure.

The ride sends you catapulting up to 70mph and over 150ft in the air with the swiftest of prehistoric predators.

If you like your fun irreverent and green and ogre-like then you’ll love Shrek (guilty).

And his DreamWorks friends. So you’ll be excited about DreamWorks Destination, an all-new, interactive character experience, opened in the KidZone area of Universal Studios Florida.

Guests can interact, dance and be photographed with multiple beloved characters from DreamWorks Animation’s hit film franchises, including Trolls, Madagascar and Kung Fu Panda – all in one location.

And seeing it’s all about you in ’22 then here’s what’s still to come. 

Wet, wet, wet

Twirl power: SeaWorld Orlando

Ice Breaker, SeaWorld Orlando’s first launch coaster, will open in February and riders will shiver through family-friendly adventures featuring four launches, both backwards and forwards.

It all culminates in a reverse launch with a 93ft tall spike with 100-degree angle, the steepest vertical drop in Florida.

Aquatica Orlando’s newest water slide, Reef Plunge, will launch in spring with guests sliding through translucent cutouts and rings.

You’ll get to twist and turn though 330ft of fiberglass; and zoom past a vibrant array of marine life.

Commerson’s dolphins, leopard sharks, sardines, and a variety of other cold-water fish will be part of the new dynamic habitat.   

Peppa party

Hamming it up: Peppa and pals

Again, they like it pink in Orlando and LEGOLAND Florida Resort will open the world’s first Peppa Pig Theme Park  on February 24.

The standalone theme park will feature multiple rides, interactive attractions, fun live shows, themed playscapes and water play areas.

Phew, and you’ll be looking for somewhere to stay, but not just somewhere but the best Star Warsy place of them all.

Starry hotel

In control: Star Wars time in Anaheim

Walt Disney World has unveiled plans for its immersive Star Wars-themed hotel, Star Wars: Galactic Starcruiser, opening March 1.

Guests will “board” the starship Halcyon for an all-inclusive experience that puts them into the immersive world of Star Wars.

The hotel will debut as part of the new Disney 360 vacation concept that gives each guest a storyline upon arrival. 

So, plenty of stories of your own to tell, like mines the week I met His Royal Quackness.

So, say hi to Donald from me if you’re in Orlando.

And remember all our favourite airlines, Virgin, British Airways and TUI . And, of course. Ireland’s national airline carrier, Aer Lingus.

And Attraction Tickets who will look after your every care when you book with them. 

 

 

America, Countries, Culture, Deals

Remember, remember 8th of November

Remember, remember the 8th of November when there will be fireworks in America when the US allows us all back in again.

As soon as I’d taken the decision to park Vegas, which hosted a very successful American Travel Fair ) without me (imagine!) thoughts turned to Orlando.

Then again they always do in the winter, with Orlando the most visited destination in the US.

And with theme park holiday events and outdoor shopping with flights/hotel packages starting at just £729.

Now the theme park capital of the world has been spinning throughout the year for American visitors.

And now that we can return, it promises to be even better than it’s ever been.

So let’s have a scoot around Disney, Epcot and Universal Orlando.

Walt Disney Resort

Ears looking at you Mickey: Disney time in Orlando

Beginning 8 Nov., Disney Very Merriest After Hours will debut at Magic Kingdom Park.

Running for 24 select nights through 21 Dec. from 9pm. to 1 am.

It is the separately ticketed, after-hours holiday event which will bring festive food and drink offerings, dance parties, nighttime spectaculars.

And “Mickey’s Once Upon a Christmastime Parade.” And my pal Donald will be front and centre, no doubt.

Epcot Festival of the Holidays

International family: Epcot

The Epcot International Festival of the Holidays (26 Nov. to 30 Dec.) takes guests on a global holiday celebration.

With costumed performances, seasonal food throughout 11 World Showcase nations.

Along with wondrous sights, sounds and flavors of the season celebrated by cultures near and far

Universal Orlando Resort

Ticket for Murty: The magic bus

Grinchmas at Universal’s Islands of Adventure (13 Nov. – 2 Jan.) will bring holiday charm to Seuss Landing with The Grinchmas Who-liday Spectacular.

It’s a live retelling of the classic tale starring the Grinch.

Wizarding World of Harry Potter

Christmas in The Wizarding World of Harry Potter™ (13 Nov. – 2 Jan.) will bring festive decor to both Hogsmeade at Islands of Adventure and Diagon Alley at Universal Studios Florida.

Guests can cap off their evening in The Wizarding World of Harry Potter – Hogsmeade to enjoy “The Magic of Christmas at Hogwarts Castle”.

It’s a spectacular transformation of Hogwarts castle with a stunning projection.

Macy’s Balloons

Ogre madness: I’m the one on the right

Universal’s Holiday Experience featuring Macy’s Balloons (13 Nov. – 2 Jan.) is a festive walk-through experience bringing Universal Studios’ guests closer than ever to larger-than-life Macy’s balloons and colourful Christmas floats.

With all our favourite characters from Shrek, Madagascar and Despicable Me, along with Santa.

SeaWorld Orlando

During SeaWorld’s Christmas Celebration(12 Nov. – 2 Jan.), over 3 million sparkling lights will shine throughout the theme park.

Festivities include live performances, seasonal food and meet-and-greets with Santa Claus and Rudolph the Red-Nose Reindeer.

And entertainment like the Winter Wonderland on Ice.

So remember, remember the 8th of November… and the fireworks to come this winter in Orlando.

 

America, Asia, Caribbean, Countries, Culture, Deals, Europe, Ireland, UK

WTM Holiday Snaps and a beautiful wrap Donald

And the last word is from Donald, a bit of a scoop from your favourite Travel blog.

While the rest of the world has been trying to talk to the Big Mouth we got him… well, we are old pals.

And Donald has a message for the world: ‘I love you all and I want you all to come and see me again soon in America.’

The Happiest Place on Earth is now also the Safest on Earth with reservations, social distancing, alternate rollercoast carts and new hospitality measures.

While Mickey, Minnie, Donald and the Gang aren’t about to let the virus turn their smile into a smell.

And are dancing, waving and welcoming us all in their own inimitable way.

Watch this space for new Disney features coming along soon.

While Visit Orlando also flagged up what’s happening up at Universal Orlando and particularly their Jurassic World feature.

All of which, and SeaWorld and Busch Gardens I’ll give you a taster of what’s in store… in my rollercoaster whizz around Florida.

Golden vision: Florida Kets

I had all planned to take a whizz around the Florida Keys before the other Donald closed America off in March but hope to put that right when I get the chance.

And it’s those areas with natural distancing like the Keys and island nations (and yes a lesson here to the UK and Ireland too) who have an advantage.

Sail away in Croatia

Water wonderland

And when you’ve got 1200 islands then there’s ‘one for everyone in the audience.’

As they like to say in the world’s longest-running TV chat show, Ireland’s The Late Late Show, or whatever the Croatian equivalent is.

But here is a country which, as a Balkans state, dealt better than the rest of Europe with the virus.

And which is perfectly placed to host the tourist’s new requirements during and post-Covid.

One area is in small boat holidays and yachting around the islands, another adventure in the Great Outdoors.

Kayak attack: In Croatia

My go-to people in Ireland for Croatia are Croatia Tours, and I went on pilgrimage with them to neighbouring Bosnia & Herzegovina where I started out on the road to Dubrovnik.

They have a seven-days Rivers by the Sea package, making the most of where the area where the Krka River enters the Adriatic, on June 26 £1255pp.

Where you’ll get to sea kayak, cycle, canoe, rock climb, hike and raft.

The Tuscan Islands

And Firenze too

We’ll also be spreading our wings more next year even when we do visit our favourite cities.

And that’ll help hotspots like Firenze breathe as we explore greater Tuscany, its adventure trails, cycling opportunities and thermal waters.

And its seven islands, chief among them Elba, the first island of exile for Napoleon, and Montecristo, it of Alexandre Dumas’ Count.

Able was I ere I saw Elba.

As every schoolchild, well, at least those of  certain age and lexical bent, will tell you.

And Tuscany was, and is, ere able to thrive in ‘il novo normal’.

And, of course, the Caribbean

Daddy’s Little Girl, as all our little girls do these days, is wont to show me amusing things she finds on the internetty thing.

And one we both find funny is a Jamaican tour guide who extols the benefits of inhaling the island’s plants.

I grab every chance to hook up with my Caribbean friends, Barbados, Tobago, Anguilla (heck, all of them) albeit these days over Zoom, if only to hope that I can draw some sun out from the screen.

And as usual their warmth came flowing us out as they reminded us that in their island their neighbourliness has helped them through this crisis and referred in passing to London where ‘people don’t know their neighbours but had been getting to know each other this year.’

Los Filipinos

For those of us too who in the second half of the century of years some of us are blessed to live, our cultural touchpoint for the Phillipines is the Thrilla in Manila, the nation’s capital which hosted Ali-Frazier III.

And of course the Philippines are knockout and our old friends at G Adventures are all over it.

Manila is on the island of Luzon, one of 7,641 in the archipelago.

And you’ll not be surprised to learn then that out of 7,641 islands that it should have boasted the world’s most beautiful island, courtesy of Conde Nast Traveler in 2016.

The exotically-named Atty. Maria Anthonette C.Velasco-Allones, the Tourism Promotions Board’s COO has an equally lyrical way about her.

As she described her islands and what they have to offer.

‘When the dark night is over and the sun rises, wake up in the Philippines.

 

 

 

 

 

America, Countries, Food & Wine, Ireland, Music, UK

Rainy Days and Songdays – Ten Direction

Can it really be ten years since five fresh-faced kids bounced onto the scene as One Direction?

And five years since five refreshed-face veterans croaked out One Direction to the crowds in Orlando.

And then there were four

At Pat O’Brien’s duellimg piano bar in Universal Resort’s CityWalk.

Where we spluttered out ‘You don’t know you’re beautiful, uh-huh, uh-huh, uh-huh.’

I wanna sing a Classic

Lubricated, of course by Pat’s own signature giant Hurricane cocktail glass.

There were other classics we took on too: Sweet Caroline, oh, oh, oh… and, yes, we were so good, so good, so good.

What are you having? With Bev and Eoghan

And sing us a song, you’re the piano man… He needed no invitation, nor us.

And, of course, in Pat’s, on CityWalk, in the Wizarding World of Harry Potter, across Universal’s attractions you forget about life for a while.

Open for business

Universal, and Orlando’s theme parks have been challenged by COVID, and they have had to be slow in resuming the total experience we all enjoy.

Well, that’s my five a day

So spraying out classics as two pianists who would grace American X Factor duel on their pianos is out for now.

But the parks are open.

Your own park

And CityWalk is partially open. So if you are in that part of the world then get down to CityWalk and the rides.

Even better in Orlando, if you can get them to close off the park through the early hours.

Eat my shorts, and drink a few too

As they did for my friend and Disney host Cory at DisneyWorld.

For the rest of us we can return to the rides and our favourite Disney characters on a reservation basis.

And they bring their own water

Where we can look forward to reduced queues.

The main attraction

And there will be fewer people there to see you squeal like a baby on the likes of the thrilling SheiKra at Busch Gardens, Tampa Bay.

For more squealing we sang on through the night at Rising Star Karaoke Bar which I have the pleasure to bring you here on Rainy Days and Songdays.

And when you do get back out there from the UK and Ireland then Attraction Tickets are the guys to go with.

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.