America, Caribbean, Countries, Cruising, Europe, Food, Food & Wine

Hungry and Thursday – the end of buffets?

Buffets are like marmite (and you can get that too) so the prospect of no buffets is just another thing to pile on our COVID tray.

First off, a history question? Who introduced the buffet?

Padova in north-west Italy actually.

I discovered this on a trip to the Veneto region…

Boney’s Italian adventure

Napoleon, it transpires, was responsible for the introduction of the buffet when he held parties for his pals in the Italian grand casas.

Well you don’t think he got that girth from croissants do you? Visit

Here’s where I’ve stood in line for my food asking for more. And there’s always more!

Carry on Cruising

Cruising: And one of the draws of a cruise for many is their food.

And you can eat around the world on a cruise, and go back and do it all over again!

Get there early for breakfast, lunch and dinners on MSC Cruises and The call of the fjords

Particularly when the food-mad Italians are around!!!

Of course where you go on your cruise can inform your choice of foods.

And on the Celebrity Cruise Edge maiden voyage I’m A Celebrity, Get Me Out To Here from Florida to the Bahamas they like to spice it up.

And that’s my five a day

If you want though a taste of home then Royal Caribbean are the cruise for you.

When you can visit an authentic British Fish and Chip Shop.

Authentic that is for being on the top deck with a cocktail in hand and A Royal Party and

Caribbean cruising

Barbados: And seeing we’re talking about the Caribbean (and aren’t we always?) then a Caribbean buffet always has something special?

Yes, rum!

Because bread, cakes, pancakes, bacon, you name it they have it, and it will be on the hot plate in Barbados and Let’s rumba in Barbados and My kiss with Rihanna.

Der buffet

Dresden: And for Germans, eccentrics that they are, that means doing things differently.

And the Saxons in Dresden Dresden’s renaissance at the German Travel Mart put out all their meats at one side of the room and the veg at the other.

Guess which one I went for!

America’s a rollercoaster

Orlando: You’ll pay for it if you were overdoing the Hurricanes at Pat O’Brien’s

Because in American hotels bigger is better.

And there will always be a chef waiting with a frying pan offering an anything you want omelette.

As well as the plethora of sweet treats.

But remember you have theme parks of loop the loops awaiting you.

And believe me you don’t want to make the Hulk angry. You won’t like him when he’s angry.

See, And Aaawlando… Orlando, the rollercoaster capital and See off Voldemort, then for a beer at Moe’s.


America, Countries, Sport

My Sporting Weekend – your adopted team

And when I dunked that foam ball into the desk basketball hoop this week I channeled my inner Curly Neal.

Curly having just passed to the great court in the sky.

For many Fiftysomethings on our shores, Curly, Meadowlark and his Harlem Globetrotters pals were our first introduction to basketball.

The Globetrotters had a virtual monopoly in the Sixties and Seventies here before we got the NBA on our TVs.

Not a hair out of place

And it wasn’t just excitable schoolboys the Globetrotters had in their thrall with their antics.

Pope Paul VI got the full routine with tricks, tickertape and holy water sprinkled on him in a private game back in the day.

All of which fun you can replicate from your home office… if you don’t have a desk hoop then you can adapt.

Of course as a schoolboy I wasted many an hour sinking balls of paper into a bucket when I should have been learning my trigonometry.

All of which stuff and nonsense is a replacement for the real thing.

Having a ball: In Memphis

And isn’t it often the case that the game isn’t on when you get to town in your travels across America?

And you are left larking about in Memphis when the Grizzlies are supposed to be playing The Promised Land, The story of the Blues and The King of Kings.

American dream

Which brings us to the thorny question of which American sports team to adopt.

Because when you land up in town the quickest way to learn about how things are done is to find out about the local sports teams.

My sporting buddy: Mickey Mouse

Orlando FC were in their infancy when I first met up with Harry Potter, Homer and Bart Aaawlando… Orlando, the rollercoaster capital and

Taking the Mickey

And The Donald, Mickey, Minnie and Goofy Why I love The Donald and

While Memphis saw me picking up their love of basketball, I was pitched straight into the Eastern seaboard’s love of all the Big Four American sports on another occasion.

Sports-mad Philly

I got to learn about The Curse of Billy Penn’s peak in Philadelphia Philadelphia Freedom and

I was already aware of the rivalries between the Eastern cities and my New York cousins had tried to foist their teams on me.

Kings of Queens

But again there was a schism there which I settled by plumping for the Queens teams, the New York Mets and Jets.

And I picked up the odd souvenir on my peregrinations and Old New York: Hamilton.

Which have come in handy for the desk and house games just now.

Capital stuff

Of course the best place to be, even if you can’t catch a game, is the ball park.

A Nationals institution: In Washington

And I got to try out for the Washington Nationals Easy DC and

And hang out with the Bandanettes in Denver at the Broncos’ Mile High stadium … Go West and

Now if you do get to a game then I guess that’s the biggest motivator.

Wild horses wouldn’t… At Denver Broncos’ Mile High Stadium

And so the Anaheim Angels and are in contention for my vote.

Go Angels: In Anaheim

But so too then are the Toronto Blue Jays

But while all of these cities have left their mark you never forget your first love.

Boston is full of beans

And that was Reggie Clemens and the Boston Red Sox on my summer working trip to Beantown after university.

I was in the midst of planning a visit out to Boston and New England for later this year with my hosts suggesting a tour of Fenway Park.

And a walk along the Green Monster left field wall.

My sports town: Boston Photo by Kristin Vogt on

Home run! Visit

And tell me which American sports team you support. Is it because you’ve been to see them, have relatives there, like the name of the team or the colour.

Let me know and we’ll share.


Adventure, America, Countries, Deals

Holidos and don’ts – Rollercoasters

Every holiday has its ups and downs and rollercoaster holidays have more than most.

Of course you’re probably a big fan of the corkscrews otherwise you wouldn’t have booked this type of holiday.

Well, maybe, but then it could be a family holiday and Himself or Junior are the rollercoaster junkies.

Me, I’m a nervous rollercoaster but I will put myself forward.

Well, someone has to make a dent in it

But as tempting as it is may be you ought to miss out on the bacons, sausages, eggs, omelettes, pancakes and muffins.

Particularly if you’ve been down at the Irish duelling piano bar Pat O’Brien’s in Orlando

And CityWalk’s Rising Star karaoke club. Doing giant Hurricane cocktails and shots.

Been there, done that

In my unforgettable trips Aaawlando… Orlando, the rollercoaster capital and Why I love The Donald with and

Don’t overdo the Duff at Moe’s

Motion sickness tablets: Right you get to the rollercoasters and your tummy starts doing somersaults.

You want to go on but you worry that you’ll bring up your breakfast over that cute excited little girl in front of you.

And that’s where motion sickness tablets come in handy.

Choose your rollercoaster: Don’t be a hero.

My old pal Colin is as tough a bloke as you’ll meet and will run through brick walls on a football field.

But he doesn’t like big dippers. That’s fine, there are plenty of attractions, funky characters and food… on the ground!

While some of us love a corkscrew or a loop the loop while others (me) like a vertical drop.

Harry’s game

And then there are those 4D carts like you get in Harry Potter which tilt and play with your senses.

To give the illusion that you are riding on your broomstick around Hogwarts Castle.

And playing quidditch with Ron Weasley.

The feeling of disorientation will pass, the memories never will.


All that was left were the glasses

For many of us (me) we feel safer if we have water to cushion the fall.

And so for me it was Wet ‘n Wild Orlando which alas closed in 2016.

Dropping down through a trap door down the chute and round some loops

Before thundering into the final splash was one of the most exhilarating rides of my life.

So, Wet ‘n Wild has gone, you’ve still got Aquatica.

And in California

Disneyland Park, Anaheim has it all.

And now something else again which for you Star Wars fans is something else again… Stair Wars

The way to do any of these theme parks, of course, is priority booking.

And the people to do it with are Attraction Tickets



Eat my shorts… it’s Voldemort and Bart

How do you explain to US customs why you need to take a brick through?

Just say it’s because you’re rebuilding Diagon Alley brick by brick.

Our guide tells us that’s what a member of the Harry Potter film team did to ensure everything met with JK Rowling’s approval.

The very same JK would visit the Wizarding World of Harry Potter in both Universal Orlando theme parks to make sure everything is as she wrote it.

And here we are standing outside the Leaky Cauldron in Diagon Alley, near Gringotts Bank with its imposing fire-breathing dragon frontage.

I am in need of some butter beer after escaping (just) in one piece from the clutches of the Dementors.

Those Dementors have been besieging Hogwarts Castle, situated in Universal’s Islands of Adventure.

Wet your whistle: The Leaky Cauldron

Wizards get taken to Dragon alley by Ernie Prang and Dre Head, the dreadlocked skull drivers of the Knight Bus.

Ably conducted by assistant Stan Shunpike whom we meet. Muggles though must use their feet.

Us Muggles are allowed on the Hogwarts Express from Kings Cross Station, London, to Hogwarts Castle.

But watch out though for those Dementors silhouetted in the carriage window. There are enemies everywhere.

The Forbidden Journey

It helps, of course, that Harry and Ron are there to help.

We are on the Forbidden Journey 3-D cart ride at Hogwarts Castle.

The dynamic duo lead us on our broomsticks.

And we skirt the cliffs on a dizzying simulator ride which puts us right at the heart of the battle.

We were well prepared though.

Read all about it: The Daily Prophet

Because we had already been to Olivanders to discover who would be selected for a special wand.

These wands as everyone knows pick you, not the other way around.

And Emma Jane was the lucky recipient of a shiny new one given to her by the sage Garrick Olivander.

It was not dissimilar, it must be said, to Harry’s. His is 11in long, made of holly, with a phoenix feather core.

You can buy your own keepsake from the store for a competitive $36.95 (€33).

And I got to see the Dark Arts show in Hollywood

Empowered, Emma Jane leads the way through Gringotts Bank on to our carriage for a dual with the Dark Lord.

Our anaemic and hirsutically challenged nemesis and his shaggy-haired accomplice Bellatrix are not so easily shaken off.

Our group must tangle again with them in the Gringotts vaults.

It’s a banker

Gringotts, it is said, is the safest place to be.

And the animatronic goblin chiefs do leave you with a sense of comfort that they would guard your worldly possessions with their life.

Lockers with thumbprint recognition do the rest.

Saving wizards and half-bloods is thirsty work though and this muggle needs refuelling.

And me either: Bringing you all the news

Only one place for it… Moe’s Bar.

Universal Orlando is all about family fun and The Simpson, as we all know, are the family who put the fun into dysfunctional.

On the way to a thirst-quenching beer in Moe’s you can get a meet, greet and snap with Homer and Bart.

Tuck in at Moe’s

Pass the Krustyland stalls, Lard Lad Donuts and Duff Gardens.

The lure of a Krusty Burger takes precedence over The Simpsons Ride.

All ready for the Knight Bus

Krusty’s piece de resistance sees the clown coming under threat from Sideshow Bob is a seat-of-the-pants six-minute ride.

My pants though were firmly wedged into a seat into a sat in Moe’s and my lips wedged into his signature burger.

It looks a lot like a normal 6oz burger with cheddar cheese sauce, a giant tomato slice, iceberg lettuce, served on a speciality bun.

But with an extra special sauce ingredient.

One of the family: With Bart and Homer

That it’s served in Moe’s. Well, worth ten bucks.

If you’re feeling adventurous you can try the chicken waffle sandwich (so wrong, it’s right).

You feel as lazy as Homer, and you’ve every right to be, you’re on holiday after all then while away the afternoon at Moe’s.

But if you’e got kids tugging at you to hit the rides – then you better sup up and get back over to the Islands of Adventure.

Get them in: At Moe’s

There are seven themed islands:

The Wizarding World of Harry Potter (a magical escape)

Marvel Super Hero Island (pumped-up action)

Toon Lagoon (a water ride extravaganza)

Jurassic Park (prehistoric mayhem)

The Lost Continent (myths and legends

Seuss Landing (childhood wonders)

Port of Entry (the shop-centred enhance).

Spider-Man proved a particular favourite of the group, a 60ft freewill, emulating the webbed one’s descent.

Green monsters

Your correspondent meanwhile was taking a breather after unleashing his inner Hulk.

The Hulk is a vengeful superhero (so, they all are, yes).

But he has taken out his anger in a particularly brutal manner.

With one of the regulars

Launching you 150ft in the air, with an acceleration of zero to 40mph in two seconds flat, it reaches speeds of 67mph.

The Hulk has seven inversions and turns you upside down in a weightless zero gravity before sending you crashing back down to earth.

If lots of inversions send you loop-the-loop it may be best staying off this one.

And it wasn’t just the Hulk who was green about the gills after this one.

I met up with Shrek in Hollywood…

A friendlier green monster is Shrek.

There is no better way to sign off your trip to Universal Orlando than to sit back and join everyone’s favourite ogre and his sidekick Donkey as they battle the evil Lord Farquaad.

Shrek is a 4D cinematic experience, you’ll go on a thundering gallop through a haunted forest ride on a fire-breathing dragon.

You’ll plunder over a waterfall.

All in the quest of Princess Fiona.

You’ll have ‘spiders’ fly out at you and be sprayed in the face and be tilted back forward and back in your seats.

Kick-ass entertainment and few do it better than Shrek and the magical cast of Universal Studios.

Relaxing: The Loews Portofino in Orlando

Fly me there

How to get there: Aer Lingus fly from Dublin to Orlando four times weekly; Tuesday, Wednesday, Thursday and Saturday.

Fares start from €259 each way including taxes. Visit for more information.

Aer Lingus customers can pre-clear US customs at Dublin airport.

Where to stay

Where to stay:  On-site at Universal Orlando at the 5* Loews Portofino Bay Hotel with American Holidays, from €1,109 per person.

Price includes return direct flight with Aer Lingus to Orlando, Florida.

Seven nights’ accommodation at Loews Portofino Bay Hotel. Selected dates September & October 2015.

The providers

Go with Attraction Tickets Direct Check out their latest packages.

This article was first published in the Irish Daily Mail.


Hogwarts and all… Harry Potter

They’re the stuff of fantasy, Sleeping Beauty, Beauty and the Beast, the Wizard of Oz and Hogwarts Castle.

They are the castles of our imagination, so think about the chance of seeing them come to life.

Hogwarts School of Witchcraft and Wizardry, to give it its proper name, rises majestically from the pages of JK Rowling’s books…

Cheers: All the fun of Universal

And into the magnificent Hogwarts Castle in Universal Resort Orlando.

All fantasy castles are based on real ones and every Potterhead knows that JK Rowling was inspired by Alnwick Castle.

In Northumberland which is in the north-east of England.

But back to Orlando.

And the village of Hogsmeade where young wizards bedecked in cloaks, and brandishing wands, sing and dance for our entertainment.

School was never this much fun.

Loews Portofino Hotel, Orlando

You’ll get right into the heart of the castle where the pictures follow you and even rifle around Dumbledore’s study.

Just an aside here, I wouldn’t have minded the Great Bearded One being my headmaster.

At my school the teachers were never on our side!

I mean Harry and Ron never had to feel the thwack of ferula leather on the palms of their hands.

Sports are better too. And quidditch is a far better option than freezing your whatsits off in cross-country.

And I was good at that.


Universal will give you the chance to join in the fun and games with our heroes on a broomstick ride around the castle.

In the 4D ride Harry Potter and the Forbidden Journey.

You’ll get the feeling of ducking and diving thrillingly close to the turrets.

It can be a little disorientating for the senses (well, yeah) but there are few things that are truly unique.

And this is one of them.


Universal never rests on its laurels though.

And this year it has introduced a new experience, Hagrid’s Magical Creatures Motorbike Adventure.

Where you can fly on a rollercoaster as pillion to The Big Fella through the Forbidden Forest.

My next job: The Daily Prophet

Watch out for some strange creatures. As well as the ones you’ve come with.

A fun ride

How to get there: all major airlines fly to Orlando, the world’s rollercoaster capital.

I flew with Aer Lingus from Dublin with pre-clearance.

Once there catch the Hogwarts Express at Kings Cross Station in London in Universal’s Islands of Adventure.

Watch out though through the windows for those scary Dementors.

And, of course, at Hogsmeade Station you can pop around the corner into the world of Diagon Alley.

Killer food in City Walk, Orlando

Universal is a day and a night, a day and a night.

And at night the castle really lights up with a dazzling spectacle with dramatic music.

I was part of the Dark Arts show when I visited Orlando’s sister park in Hollywood.

Read my Hollywood series http://Stair Wars

Diagon Alley deserves its own blog and I’ll return to that but for now here’s my first time in Orlando

A reminder of my return trip to Universal

And here’s my reprise of my first Orlando trip Because you never forget the first time.

There was a second and there will be a third, fourth, fifth…



Cruiseday Tuesday: Bahamian Rhapsody

It’s not every day you get a call from Serena Williams.

My mid-afternoon slumber was disturbed when Serena phoned me from the Bahamas a couple of years ago.

Such is the life of an international globetrotting Travel Editor!

This Serena though was not the tennis superstar as she acknowledges in her emails after her name (no, not her) but a very impressive Serena all the same. She runs a very successful media firm in Nassau http://www.bahamas.local,com.

I was teased with a view of the Bahamas in the distance when I cruised the seas last December but have yet to set foot on land.

I mean to change that.

Bahama Mamma. Photo by Artem Beliaikin on

There are a plethora of cruises around the Bahamas and in the Caribbean. I was taken by this one particularly when they slipped in the two most important words in cruising… ‘party ship’.

Jetline Cruise Ireland is offering 15 nights’ Orlando Fun & Bahamian Sun for four people for a fortnight sharing with inclusive car hire for ten days and then four days’ cruising.

You will stay at the Rosen Inn International or the International Palms Resort on International Drive, Orlando – so make sure you link up with Mickey and Disney and Harry and Universal and

And then the four of you will share the cabin on the Carnival Cruise Line ship.

Sale date November 1, price from €1299.

Jetline Cruise has a number of other sailings. Visit or call (01) 2469576.

The other Tenerife

We’re out there: Tenerife. Photo by Luis Quintero on

I’ve got nothing against people who go to Tenerife to sit beside the pool or on the beach and hit the nightclubs.

You can have that if you like, it leaves the rest of the island and its activities such as hiking and carnival to me.

I’ll be hiking in September and also sitting under the stars with a couple of stars of the Travel industry whom I’ll tell you about nearer the time.

And I dare say I’ll get a taste for Tenerife then and want to go back for the Carnival of Santa Cruz de Tenerife in February…. it’s the second biggest in the world as I was informed when the Canadians visited last year.

In the meantime you can, of course, get there by cruise ship with TUI’s Canarian Flavours package. TUI offers seven nights’ all-inclusive on January 3 on Marella Explorer inside cabin from €969pps.

Visit or call 1850 45 35 45.

Channeling good vibes

I reckon I know what’s in store for Boris Johnson who is about to go around in circles between the UK and Europe… I did it in a cruise ship in the English Channel a couple of years ago.

The difference though is that I loved it.

Of course if you want to get off you can too. Royal Caribbean has a six-night cruise on Allure of the Seas on May 23 (Brexit should be over by then, maybe). It leaves Southampton and checks in to Paris/Normandy (Le Havre) , Bilbao and Spain.

From €1051 per person based on two sharing, €2102. Flight required.

Call 1800 932 662 or visit