Countries, Culture, Deals, Europe, Uncategorized

Cruiseday Tuesday – Cruise year resolutions

This is the year you’ll go cruising… now you’ve said it there’s no going back.

It’s never been cheaper according to our friends at Click&Go

They reported a 23% increase in 2019 with prices down by €136pp year on year.

Most popular destinations are Barcelona, Copenhagen and Palma.IMG_4161All of which I know a thing or two about… and The call of the fjords. The most popular month for cruising is October, followed by September and November. And seeing that our wedding anniversary is September and I only went and worked on our 25th then I probably owe her big!

Keepers of the Flam

35D95376-E141-409C-9808-6C9617E55E57.JPGMy father-in-law taught Casey Jones all he knew.

And then passed it onto his daughter, often at the end of a wind and rain-splattered platform.

Copying down train numbers.

Which is why we keep finding ourselves seeking out all manner of train-related nonsense when we’re away.

A lot of which is pretty good it must be said.

Such as Flam Railway in Norway on our MSC trip up the fjords.fjord_boat.jpgOf course dipping our toes in the fjords only left us wanting to submerge ourselves in the whole country.

Travel Department will complete the odyssey with Oslo as well as Bergen which I’ll be only too happy to revisit.

So you’ll cruise (let’s make that we’ll) along the UNESCO World Heritage site of Naeroyfjord.

You’ll see the glaciers and waterfalls of the former Viking stomping ground of Hardangerfjord.

And stand on a mountain top to take in the Eidfjord.


Before you enjoy the Flam Railway, one of the world’s most besutiful and steepest normal-gauge railway lines.

It was foggy when we went (it won’t be when you go) so we couldn’t see those mischievous trolls!

Prices start from €1569pp for seven nights including return flights.

B&B/half-board accommodation, guided excursions, a fjord cruise and a Flam railway journey.

Depart April-October 2020. Visit

Cruise with my first love

You’d think after 30 years she’d know me better.

That’ll be my first Travel love, TUI, whose newspaper branch I started this scribbling.

Or perhaps they know me too well with their list of five Travel New Year Resolutions they have set for me this year.

So they suggest that I do this:

Explore somewhere new. Tick.

Be more prepared. Mmmm… I thought that’s what you had people for!!!

Eliminate the stress. See above.

Pack smarter. Now, I am ahead of the eight-ball here having only taken on hand luggage, a rucksack, to go to Tobago.

Try it, you don’t need that DJ or cocktail dress, or full kilt.

Look your best. Again one change of clothes and the washing facilities of where you stay.

Or take something that you can leave and exchange for some clothes you buy,

11So we’re all prepared let’s go cruising.

TUI is offering a saving of €200 per booking for seven nights in an inside cabin with Spanish Delights from Cork to Majorca on the Marella Dream. 

From €1,079. Use code CRUISE200. For sailings from May-October 2020.



Cruiseday Tuesday – Sphinx I know her

‘See the pyramids along the Nile’.

Herself has been holding out for the real Egypt, passing up on the chance to go to Sharm El Sheikh a few years ago.

And that’s exactly what Travel Department will offer you with their Egyptian Adventure with Nile River Cruise.

You will begin your holiday in Cairo with a full-day city tour.

And there will also be the chance of half-day guided tour taking in the Pyramids of Giza and the Great Sphinx.

And before you know it, it’s time to rest back on your seven-day cruise.

Where you’ll enjoy all the luxury of the NS Radamis II meandering down the River Nile.

You’ll have a range of excursions along the way taking in the Temple of Horus, the Valley of Kings, the High Dam and the Temples of Karak and Luxor.

Of course while we all love a bit of Egyptology we also like the oil’ beach.

And to finish it all off you’ll get a three-night stay in Hurghada on the Red Sea coast.

Now because I’ll always find any old excuse to trot out this picture again, here’s snorkelling in the Red Sea in Jordan earlier this year,

While here’s a reminder of what else happened out there…

Prices start from €1799pp for 12 nights including return flights, transfers, full-board Nile river cruise B&B or half-board in hotels.

And there are excursions with expert local guides departing April-November,

My not so little Princesses

What’s better than a little Princess? Seven little Princesses. that’s what.

Princess Cruises has upped its deploymenent of ships to the UK and Europe for 2021 to seven.

The line has announced that its smallest ship, the 670-guest Pacific Princess will join six other vessels over here.

Pacific will set sail from June to October on a series of Med voyages departing from my favourite city Rome and Venice.

In the UK nearly 500 nights will be available across three ships – Grand Princess, Island Princess and Crown Priincess.

Princess Cruises’ three newest vessels, Sky Princess, Enchanted Princess and Discovery Princess will be based in Northern and Southern Europe.

They will have a series of cruises departing from Copenhagen, Barcelona and Athens.

And guess what? I know a thing or two about Copenhagen from catching up with my old mucker Tom on a stop-off on the way to the fjords… and

Rome I’ve told you about. But there’s also Barcelona…

Athens is one of the world’s great cities, and you know it goes at a slower pace as is evidenced by its most famous site…

While you all know by now… I am Medallion Man. And that serves me well on a Princess ship.

Princess Cruises has a 12-night Mediterranean Connoisseur cruise on Pacific Princess, departing August 15, 2021.

Sailing from Rome to Venice, calling at Portofino, Monte Carlo, Valletta, Giardini Naxos, Kotor, Split, Rijeka and Ljubljana (Koper).

Prices from €2529pp cruise only or from €2991pp inclusive of onboard savings package.



Cruiseday Tuesday – Stena and Wales

And because one day is never enough I’m tempted to introduce a Thank God it’s Ferryday too.

To shoehorn in news from our friends from Stena

Who have taken possession of Stena Estrid from the yard in China.

Which is now on its way over to Ireland.

To sail the Dublin to Holyhead route next year.

It was poignant to see the Hong Kong-based Reverend Stephen Miller, of the Mission to Seafarers, bless the ship.

And here’s hoping that someone is listening to his prayers too for the plight of Hong Kong.

Black Friday

Black Friday is all about the sales (sorry, sails).

And Travel Department is offering:

€75pp off River Cruises departing next year.

Use promo code VP-BLACKRIVER.

€50pp off any holiday of seven nights or more.

Use promo code VP-BLACK50.

€25pp off any holiday of six nights or less.

Use promo code VP-BLACK25.

The offers are available until December 2.

Liberty on the seas

Photo by TheUknownPhotographer on

It’s how my emigrating Donegal uncles first saw America… on a big ship.

You can upgrade, and deserve it, on the Cunard Queen Mary.

Click and Go have a 14-night New York Fly/Cruise. Stay from €1599pp.

Two of my favourite places in the world… and Let’s rumba in Barbados and My kiss with Rihanna.

And after pushing my blood pressure up booking return Ryanair flights Dublin-London I’m getting ready for Tobago next month.



Holiday Snaps – Going solo

When nobody else will go with you, or you don’t want to go with anyone, then you go solo.

It doesn’t make you Johnny No Mates, in fact you leave with more friends.

Our friends at Travel Department like to do their homework before setting on programmes for us. Obvs!

And so they have conducted a survey into ours and our UK neighbours’ habits.

Pilgrims on the Camino

Irish people are three times more likely than the British to go solo.

And four out of five solo travellers are female.

Wendy, or Mrs Always Right, a nickname she revelled in and one I think she gave herself at the bank she managed, is one such solo traveller.

Who I, another solo traveller, met ten minutes into my Camino.

I always find a cat on my Caminos

When I asked if she wanted me to take a photograph of her at a bridge.

We went on to spend the next four days with each other and a range of international friends we picked up along the way.

And that despite me swatting a wasp she alerted me too onto her foot and stinging her.

Just 12kms into the 100km CaminoWays trek… A pilgrim’s prayer.

With Francesca on the Via Francigena

While I only spent a couple of days with Elke I almost hugged her when we first met.

A friend in need

I had been three days on the Via Francigena, had got lost obviously and hadn’t come across a human being for three days.

Other than at my billets. Until I met Elke.

We broke bread together, washed our feet in the stream and arranged to meet one another above Rome.

Which inevitably I missed and found myself in another grove. Still I got there and this is how…

Splash hit: Thanks for the pic, Elke

Even when you are supposed to be on a couples holiday you can sometimes find yourself going solo.

I had been invited out to Barbados with Tropical Sky to stay at Club Barbados

And while the invite was for me they had given me the option of a plus one at our own expense.

Which I had put to the Scary One at the time but which she returned to a week before I left… my mistake for not having it written down in triplicate.

Ruby’s rules: Her kitchen at the Club Barbados

Of course everywhere I looked there were couples. on the dance floor, in the swimming pool, on the terrace, at the bar, and the turtles in the sea.

Still, again, there is no such thing as a stranger in the Caribbean, only a friend you haven’t met yet.

And there was Andy, Ben, Jena, Patsy, Geraldine, Ruby, Bubba, Maradona (no, not that one), Lyndon and a host of others.

Here’s how a Scotsman in Barbados got on…

Lean into it: Me and Andy in Barbados

Go solo with Travel Department. They have new 2020 Solo Traveller tours on offer.

These include a Danube River Cruise, a Bavarian Winter Break, a Milan City Break, a 12-night South Africa adventure, including a safari, and a Nile River Cruise.



Cruiseday Tuesday – Trolls and the fjords

You never forget your first love which is why I make no apologies in revisiting our unforgettable trip to the Norwegian fjords last year.

Me, The Scary One and MSC.

It was our first dip into cruising as a couple (no, not that and again why has that word been hijacked?)

I swam in the fjords… well, not exactly the deep blue sea but in a swimming pool on board.

As the mists enveloped the mountains and inlets and hid the trolls from view.

Of course there’s plenty to do inside should you want to stay out of the soft drizzle.

And it doesn’t always rain, it was just that we went in September which made it all the more dramatic.

There are a host of spa, gym, food and drink and restaurant options and great bars.

And if you want to unleash your inner karaoke singer you can do that too, although you’d have to be really lucky to be there when Bandanaman is singing Chuck Berry’s Memphis, Tennessee.

The Scary One wasn’t!

Now, of course there are wonderful on-shore excursions in Norway and a day in Copenhagen too. Wonderful!

So, here’s the deal:

7 Night Norwegian Fjords Fly + Cruise on MSC Meraviglia from €899pp, departing May-August 2020.

Balcony cabin upgrades from €200pps.

Itinerary: Copenhagen, Denmark – Hellesylt/Geiranger, Norway – Alesund, Norway – Flaam, Norway – Kiel, Germany – Copenhagen, Denmark.

Price Includes:

Return flights from Dublin, seven-night cruise, all meals and snacks, entertainment, service charge,

Visit Click & Go

Christmas on the river

Christmas Market Dusseldorf Marktplatz – with a Christmas tree as a backdrop.

Just 71 sleeps until Christmas so plenty of time to escape…

Our friends at Travel Department will help you get away from Auntie Mary and Uncle Joe and all those annoying little nephews and nieces.

Not to mention your own family!

Christmas Rhine River Cruise (Cologne-Cologne)

Hop on-board the 4 star MS Amadeus Silver II and sail through Germany.

Visit Cologne, Dusseldorf, Koblenz, Strasbourg and Mainz along your cruise.

Beat the drum: Dresden and the Elbe

Stop in Speyer where you will have free timBe to explore the former imperial town or attend Christmas Mass before a Christmas party on-board the ship with dinner and entertainment. 

Departing December 22. Visit

Cruising in Germany is a delight which I should have done more of, but here is Dresden, a boat trip and much, much more…


Cruiseday Tuesday – Nile’s better

Ancient conquerors and empire builders get a bad press – they were really just adventurers who wanted to see your land.

Now if only they had put away the slaughter they’d have been very welcome.

Julius Caesar and Napoleon Bonaparte were among the most successful and like most emperors they cut a dash.

Jools and Bony would have sailed into Egypt back in the day in a very different vessel than the one you’ll be going on.

Sphinx I know this. Photo by Pixabay on

But Luxury Gold want you to use your imagination as they flag up walking in the footsteps of the two military geniuses.

On a seven days visit January to March of next year which they are pitching at €2,345pps, down from €2595pps.

You’ll float down the Nile on board the River Tosca and visit the Temple of Luxor, the necropolis of ancient Thebes and the temple of Queen Hatshepsut.

Oh, and the Sphinx and the Pyramids. No wonder Jools and Bony went sight-seeing. http://WWW.LUXURYGOLDVACATIONS.COM.

Alluring Sunway

Now that’s an entrance

There are few things more opulent than arriving into port on your grand cruise ship.

It’s just that my Royal Caribbean cruise experiences have never actually seen me decamp at port…

I guess they never trusted me to get back on board.

A jaunt around the English Channel and a trip from Florida to the Bahamas that were truly memorable but without the stop-offs.

Still relive them with me here… And

Barcelona is the answer to your prayers

Well, something to look forward to, and you will be full of anticipation too for the Sunway Classic Med Fly Cruise on board Allure of the Seas

Departing from Barcelona on September 6 next year you will call at Palma de Mallorca, Marseilles (for Provence), La Spezia (for Florence and Pisa) and Civitavecchia for Rome and Naples. From €1145pp.

Down by the riverside

Passau skyline during sunset, Bavaria, Germany.

Sailing down the river in Germany is one of the great pleasures afforded to our Teuton friends.

Which I had the pleasure to enjoy with them on my trip to the German Travel Mart in Dresden where I enjoyed a jaunt down the Elbe

So I’d say you’ll enjoy taking in the old town of Passau with its historic 17th century towers and St Stephen’s Cathedral.

Which is just one of the highlights that Travel Department is offering as part of its five-day Discover the Delights of the Danube taster cruise package.

Next you will sail to Vienna, where a guided walk will show you the sights of the city.

Vienna for a whirl. Photo by Pixabay on

Following this you will dock in Budapest where you will be escorted on a guided tour of the historic centre.

The next stop is the Slovakian Republic capital of Bratislava.

For your last full day on board you will visit the Austrian city of Milk. Before heading back home you till revisit Germany and join a morning tour of Munich.

Prices from €1099pp including return flights, transfers, five night full-board river cruise, and guided excursions, departing on September 25.

Book before September 20 and receive €25 off per person with the code VP-SEP25. For more information or to book, click HERE or call 01-6371600.


Holiday Snaps – UNESCO sites and bike treks

Mariaclaudia kept us on a tight leash which is as it should be and is fiercely proud of her Padova.

Which is why her antennae pinged when I asked to be dropped off at the train station during free time.

Of course she drew out of me that I was going to spend the afternoon in Venice.

And that I would be taking two Venice tyros with me.

Against type I took a clean shirt and tie with me in my rucksack for the official function at the Padova Botanical Gardens, the world’s first, opened in 1545..

For emergencies… and yes, the train was late and so were we.

‘The Dragon’ wasn’t so preemptive and drew withering glances for wearing a t-shirt and boardies.

There are other ways to traverse the Veneto region that you’re more in control of such as on your bike.

Freedom Treks have the field covered and to celebrate the 75th anniversary of UNESCO they are flagging up Bolzano to Venice among others.

seven-night Bolzano to Venice Hotel & Bike self-guided tour, taking in Padova, departing this month, costs from £746 pp (two sharing) and includes B&B accommodation in four-and-three star hotels.

You’ll have luggage transportation, travel guide with maps and route notes and GPS tracks available on request.

Get on your bike in the Veneto region

There will be a welcome meeting, local contact number for assistance, four-hour ferry cruise on Lake Garda, entrance to Villa Valmarana ai Nani and ice cream in Vicenza.

Return flights, transfers, bike hire, cycle helmet and local taxes extra.
Freedom Treks (01273 224 066,

And for a reminder on all that Padua and the Veneto region has to offer

Travel in our footsteps

Typical street in Vejer de la Frontera, Andalusia, Spain

The effervescent Eva (and you’ll be hearing a lot more about mine hostess) had put our group to bed in Tenerife.

And was already thinking of her next group in Tenerife.

I will come back to Tenerife, both in person and on this blog, but I don’t want to ignore the rest of Spain.

After all there are two million visits from Ireland every year.

Every year in Trinity College our travel circuit are treated to the company of the signors and ignores of Seville.

And some flamenco dancing which has me twirling and clicking and swirling all the way home. Filled with vino naturally.

The traffic lights stop on this street: In Andalusia

Travel Department’s trip to Costa de la Luz in Andalusia also includes Seville, the Moorish town of Niebla, a wine museum at Bodegas Andrade. And a walking tour in the vineyards.

Prices start from €659pp for seven nights including return flights, 4* half-board hotel accommodation, transfers, and excursions with an expert local guide, departing this month and next.

Plaza de Espana – Spanish Square in Seville, Andalusia, Spain

For more information or to book, CLICK HERE or call 01-6371600.

The four-hour flight

Moroccan culture. Photo by Nicolas Postiglioni on

A deal maker for many is flights under four hours and Sunway has them aplenty and is happy to share.

Morocco felt like the nearest furthest place I’d visited when I went there 15 years ago. And probably still is.

Marakech, the Pink City, is a hustle and bustle of souks and stall-holders, snakes and spices.

More of which another time but let’s flag up the charms of its little brother, Agadir.

The natives. Photo by Edwin Vossen on

Sunway has seven nights self-catering at the 2*+ Intouriste Apartments from  October 26.

From €399 price including flights/return airport transfers/ accommodation/20kg FREE baggage

Agadir offers several kilometres of beach, kayaking, surfing, hiking, nearby golf clubs, and road trips through Berber villages.

Ah yes, it’s all coming back to me.

Cultural Ireland

Reflections of Dublin. Photo by Mark Dalton on

There are some holiday providers who really get you under the skin of a country and G Adventures are right up there.

As I found out when I took a group trip with them to Jordan And

G Adventures and National Geographic Expeditions are into the fifth year of their joint partnership.

And they have added eight new trips to their National Geographic Journeys collection.

Blarney Castle. Photo by Chris Carter on

There are three new countries to the Journeys product line. As well as us here in Ireland there’s Singapore and Greece.

It doesn’t surprise me that Ireland is included. I remember well a story-telling afternoon in an authentic Irish cottage in Killiney, Co. Dublin when I stayed at the Fitzpatrick Castle Hotel

For those who don’t live in Ireland, why not?

And here’s their package: Iconic Ireland – 9 Days from €2,449. 

Uncover Celtic culture and admire medieval architecture across the stunning countryside, and delve into historic Dublin and the rebel city of Cork. Eat, dance, and sing with the locals.

Of course you’ll also kiss the Blarney Stone.

Croatian delights

The Plitvice Lakes in Croatia

Must split… the Scary One is calling.

But before I go (and I’ll sneak back for more updates) let me tempt you with Split and Croatia.

I’ll be stopping off on my way to Medjugorge where I’ll complete the set of Fatima, Lourdes and Medj next month and sharing.

Travel Department has an Undiscovered Croatia package highlighting the medieval town of Zagreb and a wildlife walk through the UNESCO World Heritage Site of Plitvice Lakes National Park.

See, my ramblings all come around in the end.

You’ll also be charmed by Opatija, Rijeka and Pula.

Prices start from €859pp for 7 nights including return flights, B&B or half-board 4* hotel accommodation, transfers and guided excursions, departing this month and next.

For more info or to book, click here or call 01-6371600.

And if I’ve still got your attention I’m hearing that you want more Snaps. So I’ll snap to it.



Hurry up – sale is in the Cannes

The weather’s lousy here… well, the rain is what makes Ireland so green, I guess.

But I bet it’s nicer down on the French Riviera. In fact I know it is.

Cannes watersports

Travel Department has a flash winter sun sale for customers booking select seven-night holidays until tomorrow.

You’ll get €40pp off the cost of your holiday using the code VP-SUN40.

Let’s pick out Cannes and the Cote d’Azur for you.

In the iconic Fiat 500

But there’s also:


Highlights of Andalucia,

Costa De La Luz & Seville,


Grenada & Costa del Sol,

Estoril & the Lisbon Coast,

Algarve Coast & Country,

Ancient Greece

And Highlights of Sicily.

What’s on offer

The French Riviera was the first foreign holiday I had on my own with my pals, after school.

And thankfully the gendarme were looking the other way when I returned in style when I became a Travel Editor.

And didn’t remember me holding up la rue in St Raphael 30 years earlier.

Mais oui!

Your Travel Department Cannes trip will include excursions to Monaco and Monte Carlo with entrance to Rothschild Villa & Gardens.

Le Jardin: Rothschild Villa & Gardens

Another day trip will bring you to the medieval town of Grasse, which is the perfume capital of France & the painters’ village of St. Paul-de-Vence.

You will also visit Antibes & Nice, a one-day excursion which includes the Old Town of Antibes, Millionaire’s Quay and the magnificent Nice Promenade.

And there will be some time left to just relax and enjoy the laid-back Riviera life.

History all around you: On the French Riviera

For departures until March 31.

And read all about my adventures in Cannes.

Prices start from €749pp for 7 nights including return flights, 4* B&B hotel accommodation, transfers and excursions with an expert local guide, departing September and October 2019

For more information or to book, call 01-6371600 or click HERE.


Tour de Friends

Back in the day I used to scoot in and out to work to the centre of Edinburgh from my home in Portobello, the Scottish capital’s town seaside resort.

But since relocating to hilly Co. Wicklow I’ve let it slide. Until….

It took my friends at Travel Department to come up with the brilliant and masochistic idea of getting a bunch of travel professionals to cycle one of those multi-cycle trucks around Dublin.

The ghetto blaster might have been boasting about walking 500 miles but we were out of puff cycling 500 metres. Still the playlist of karaoke classics kept us going… Don’t Stop Pedalling as Journey really meant to sing.

The magic bus: And we’re doing the pedalling

We were rewarded though with refuelling stops at the pizzatastic Pizza Yard in Ranelagh with its almost yard-long wooden board of pizza and Keshk Cafe Restaurant on Mespil Road with its array of Egyptian, Greek and Turkish fare.

All of which made us think of the types of exciting foreign destinations TD specialises in.

A bicycle made for two… and a few others: With Ruth Marnell, of O’Hea PR

For 2020 TD is offering cycling holidays with group sizes of 6-16. Imagine then whizzing around Italy, Portugal, Spain and Vietnam.

TD takes care of flights, transfers, accommodation, expert cycling guide and bike hire. Prices start from €2,229 pp for the 8-night Portugal Azure Ocean Cycling Holiday. 

Taking a detour for a minute (and I did, trying to find my way along the canal back to my DART station), let’s talk about Albania and how I wouldn’t have been allowed in when I was a young buck.

It’s my hairy-facedness that was the problem. Then it was only a moustache but Enzer Hoxha, their mad dictator (is there any other kind?) had a downer on furry top lips.

Albania, of course, has changed and has opened its doors to the West (and that means us). We had hoped to get in when we honeymooned in Corfu, a spit from Albania, but their Troubles put a paid to that.

So we’ ve unfinished business there. And TD active Holidays do business there. Result.

Take a horseback ride in Antigone National Park, a visit to the UNESCO World Heritage site of Berat, with its collection of Ottoman houses, and a hike in Llogora National Park. Tours start from €1,399 pp for 10 nights. 

A vineyeard sitting at the base of a mountain in the evening sun.

One of the great joys of travelling is meeting new people and particularly so if you go solo…. as sometimes The Scary one insists I do.

TD knows its solo traveller… It has launched solo twin share options.

You will share a room with a fellow solo traveller (of the same gender) for the duration of the trip. I’m remembering introducing myself to bewildered and befuddled Aussie Harry across the bedroom in the middle of the night recently in Jordan. We became great friends.

This will appeal particularly to value conscious travellers, enabling them to avoid single supplements. The most popular tours for solo travellers booking with TD active Holidays include searching for vampires on the Explore Transylvania trip.

Write your own caption above for this one who has always wanted to go there… in search of her ancestors.

Visit and