Based in Midleton

Imelda McCarthy

It's Nice To Meet You

My name is Imelda, your Personal Travel Counsellor. I live in Midleton, East Cork.

My roles over 30 years in travel have included Sales and Customer Service and I pride myself on providing a professional, unbiased, and confidential service. I am passionate about travel, and I love to create bespoke itineraries, whether it is a honeymoon, a family holiday or that once-in-a-lifetime trip. I can assist with flights, city breaks, sun holidays, skiing, camping and cruises. I am there for you from your initial inquiry, throughout your holiday, right until you have printed those holiday snaps.

I have been lucky enough to visit many destinations over the years including Australia, USA, Mexico, Peru, Africa, Thailand, Vietnam, Cambodia, Laos, Malaysia, Bali, Maldives, Sri Lanka, Dubai, Abu Dhabi, Tanzania, South Africa, Turkey and many destinations in Europe, including France, Germany, Switzerland, Austria, Italy, Spain, Portugal, Hungary, Czech Republic, Cyprus and Greece.

Southeast Asia is a personal favourite of mine. I have travelled extensively in this area and worked as a destination specialist for this region for 14 years. I would be happy to share my first-hand knowledge of this unique and exciting part of the world. Whether it is to spend a night on a traditional Vietnamese junk boat on Halong Bay, see the sun rise over Angkor Wat Cambodia, get up close to elephants in Thailand, or participate in an alms giving ceremony at dawn in Luang Prabang Laos, I can help make that trip extra special for you.

Being a Travel Counsellor allows me access to award winning technology and a direct connection to thousands of suppliers, enabling me to offer holidays at very competitive prices. Working with all the major airlines, tour operators, cruise & car hire companies, I can offer you an excellent range of choice that cannot be matched in a travel agency or online.

Travel Counsellors is licensed and bonded in Ireland giving you that peace of mind knowing that you are financially protected.

As I work from home, I am available outside normal office hours, at a time that suits you, including evenings and weekends. Please feel free to give me a call as I am more than happy to help you choose the perfect holiday destination.


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Camping in Carnac Revisited

13 May 2022

My family and I travelled to Carnac during Easter holidays back in 2018. This year we decided to go back, with a new campsite and a new list of things we wanted to do again and things we never got to see before! We sailed across from Ringaskiddy to Roscoff on Brittany Ferries. We arrived on Easter Sunday morning and started into the 2 hour drive to Carnac. When arriving in Carnac we made an extra stop to the local market. The market is on every Sunday and offers a range of food options from numerous cuisines, as well as other nic nacs for holiday memoirs. We finally arrived at Camping Tohapi La Grande Métaririe just after lunch. We spent our evening in Carnac having dinner by the sea as well as sampling some ice cream at L’igloo, which has freezers upon freezers of different ice cream flavours! La Grande Metairie: Camping Tohapi La Grande Metairie is the campsite we stayed in for the week. It is a short 5 minute drive away from the centre of Carnac and has Carnac’s most popular attraction, The Standing Stones of Carnac, just at it’s footstep! The mobile home we stayed in was a real treat as we had our own hot tub, which got plenty of use during the week. The mobile had three bedrooms, one bathroom, a living space with a TV and a kitchen. The campsite had loads to offer on site, a covered heated pool, an indoor pool, soccer goals, basketball courts, a skatepark, mini golf, ziplining, an on-site supermarket, restaurant, an Animations programme, the list goes on! Standing Stones of Carnac: On Monday we checked the Standing Stones of Carnac off our list, as well Chappelle Saint-Michel de Carnac, which is something we hadn’t seen before. There are plenty of walkways between the fields of stones and the chapel, it is the perfect thing to do on a sunny day. The campsite is conveniently right next to the stones, so everything is right on your doorstep! In total we clocked up 9.5km across the day, so a cool drink and an ice cream was well deserved at the end. Quiberon: On Tuesday we were off to Quiberon, a short 25 minute drive away from Carnac. The drive in itself is beautiful, once you hit the peninsula and the sea is on either side of you! We walked through the town and down onto the beach. The sea was turquoise and clear, so inviting… but it was about 10 degrees too cold for a swim! Vannes: Wednesday was a busy day. We started our morning in Vannes. Our journey was lengthened with our search for a parking space, which we later realised was due to the market on that day. After a look around the market and the historic buildings of the old town we stumbled across these beautiful gardens just outside the walls of the town centre! We had been to Vannes before but had never come across them. We admired the bright and blooming flower patches before heading on our way home. Foret Adrenaline: However that was not the end of the adventure of the day for the others, they were off to Foret Adrenaline, an adventure ziplining park just outside of Carnac. I’m not too pushed on heights myself so I sat this one out. They had 2 hours to get through as many courses as they could. The kids are big fans of ziplines so their feedback was a 10/10! Bike Hire: On our last full day we rented bikes from the campsite for the day at €13.00 each. The coastline is about a 5km cycle away from the campsite and from there is a cycle path all along the coast to the next town over, Trinite. Along the path are numerous beaches, boulangeries to refuel and places to stop and take in the views. Getting bikes was a whole new way of seeing Carnac, we found places we were surprised we had never seen before! Kingoland: The final attraction we visited was Kingoland in Plumelin. We made a slight detour on our way back to Roscoff for the ferry on our last day. We expected it to be too childish for the kids (aged 14 and 16) but were pleasantly surprised when we arrived that there were plenty of things suitable for their age. The entry was €19.00 per person (adults) which included admission to 40 attractions when we got inside. The kids loved it, their favourites were definitely the rollercoasters and, unfortunately, the rides which involved getting splashed with water. A lot of the rides were made for young kids so they couldn’t go on them but it was a 10/10 for the ones they could go on. I think it is safe to say we did not let a day slip by without doing something or seeing something new. My favourite part of the holiday was by far spending time with my family and making all these happy memories together. So if you are interested in a trip to Carnac, please keep me in mind or contact me with any questions!

Tent With a View, Zanzibar and Istanbul

11 February 2020

I was lucky enough to be invited to Tanzania, Zanzibar and Istanbul in November by Tent With A View, Peak DMC, and Turkish Airlines on a familiarisation trip with some of my colleagues. We flew ex Dublin via Istanbul with Turkish Airlines. Turkish Airlines operate 2 daily flights from Dublin to Istanbul and offer connections to 315 destinations in 120 countries. Their new airport in Istanbul which opened in April of this year is very impressive in it’s size and boasts countless shops, restaurants and bars. The 4 hour flight to Istanbul and 8 hour flight to Dar Es Salaam was very comfortable and we were well looked after by the friendly crew. Their in-flight service left us all very impressed and the catering was excellent. Our early arrival time in Dar Es Salaam (02.40am) meant we were able to complete the Visa process without any lengthy delays, the process taking much longer during the busier day time hours. Here, we met up with David Guthrie, founder of Tent With a View. His safari company is operating in Tanzania since 1995 and was set up by David and his friend Masoud Kilanga, both of whom we were lucky enough to meet on this trip. Our first port of call was Serengeti National Park in the North of Tanzania, one of the greatest wilderness areas in the world. We accessed the park by small aircraft from Dar es Salaam, landing at Kogatende airstrip. Once on our way, we soon realised that our transfer is a game drive as we spot zebras, impalas and wildebeest in the one-hour journey by land rover to our accommodation, the Bush Rover Suites. The Bush Rover Suites are full working Land Rovers that transform into your overnight accommodation with an elevated bedroom and balcony looking out to the wilderness. The beauty of this camp is, it moves with the Migration, so when the wildebeest migrate, so does the camp moving between 3 different camps all strategically located in the heart of the best wildlife! Our camp was located close to the Mara River and a popular crossing point for the wildebeest. Once settled into our surprisingly luxurious accommodation, we relaxed on our balconies, taking in the splendour of the vista and the views of the Mara River. Later that afternoon, we were alerted by David to move quickly to the Land Rover, as he suspected the Wildebeest were about to cross over the river. We clambered in and made the short drive to the river crossing. We parked up at a distance from the crossing, so as not to distract the animals, and what we witnessed will stay with me forever. Hundreds of wildebeest coming in lines from various directions all converging at the same point in the river and making the dangerous crossing over. It was a moment that will stay with me forever. We witnessed other land rovers getting in the way of the animals, so was reassured that Tent With a View take the more subtle approach and don’t interfere with this amazing phenomenon. The following morning, our game drive took us to a different area of the park where we were lucky enough to see a lion up close, feasting on the remains of its recent kill. Again, there were hoards of wildlife to be seen, from zebras to elephants. After a delicious lunch prepared by the very attentive staff, we left for our next destination which was Little Okavango on the shores of Lake Victoria. The property is located close to a network of little waterways resembling the Okavango Delta in Botswana, hence the name. During our stay there, we took a trip to a fishing village and met some of the local villagers there, who even showed the braver of us how to perform a traditional dance! From there, we took a leisurely boat trip back to a viewing tower, from which we were able to see a variety of bird life. We had a hearty brunch there, enjoyed the views out to the lake and watched the wildlife in their natural habitat. Out last stop on our itinerary was the island of Zanzibar, which we reached by flight from Mwanza via Dar Es Salam. We were able to spend the next 24 hours relaxing in the peaceful and friendly surroundings of the Zanzibari Hotel which is located in the North of the Island, approx. 1 ½ hours drive from the airport. We waded in the warm waters of the Indian Ocean, swam in the infinity pool, got massages in the Spa and soaked up some rays. Our time there was short, but we made the most of it until our transfer to the airport for our flight to Istanbul. Our final 2 nights were spent at the Galata Istanbul Hotel MGallery. The hotel is conveniently located within walking distance of Galata Tower and the Old city. During our time, we visited the Blue Mosque, Hagia Sophia, and of course the Grand Bazaar to pick up a few souvenirs. It is a magical city where East meets West, and so many hidden gems to be discovered. Even though our time was short, we packed a lot in, experiencing an authentic and immersive Tanzanian safari, dipped our toes in the emerald waters of the Indian Ocean in Zanzibar and soaked up the historic sights of Istanbul.

Family Fun in Florida

11 July 2019

To describe this family holiday as hugely anticipated is an understatement, we travelled to Orlando in April 2019 (over Easter) but the planning and excitement started as early as the previous September. With flights booked, the kids (11 & 13) had 8 months of theme park research to fulfil. They approached their task with massive enthusiasm. A compromise however needed to be negotiated, we were not going to spend the full 12 days at the theme parks, so a split stay in Orlando was "agreed", taking 5 days out mid-way, for a Caribbean cruise. In advance of travelling we researched our options and decided to concentrate our theme park visits to Universal Studios, this was based on the kids age and best value. We booked 14-day unlimited access tickets allowing entry to each of the three Universal parks. Anticipating that Easter would be a busy time in the parks, we booked our first four night at Loews Portofino Bay, a Universal on-site hotel. Staying at Lowes Portofino Bay earned us special park privileges including early admission, express pass and easy access. Some tips before travel, download the Universal App, purchase some mobile data and book some Universal restaurants for evening meals. We flew from Cork via Manchester to Orlando, arriving early evening and without an initial need for car hire, took an Uber ($36) to the hotel. Our room keys were personalized, featured different Universal characters, but importantly also served as our express passes at the parks. Unable to curb the excitement for a moment more, we immediately head for the Parks, which from Lowes Portofino is an enjoyable 5-minute boat trip, clearing park security at the hotel was a breeze and saves valuable time later. The boat docks at Universal City Walk (the entertainment and dining centre outside the parks) and a one-minute stroll to the park entrances. The sign over the entrance says "Let the Adventure Begin" and it certainly did, with some of the most desirable rides ticked off on the first evening. A moment to explain "express pass", rides have a standard line, some have single rider line and all have an express line. Waiting times vary depending on time of day or popularity, but almost without exception the express line never exceeded 20 minutes, we saved hours of waiting over the holiday. Express pass is reserved for residents of some Universal Hotels but can also be purchased as an add on to your normal entrance ticket, but at over $100 per day, per person! We topped off the evening with dinner at Vivo Italian Kitchen in City Walk, thankfully our reservations were invaluable, avoiding a lengthy wait for a table. Over the next three days we alternate between Universal Studios and Island of Adventure and each morning take advantage of our early park admission. We did feel that early admission wasn't an enormous advantage. Everyone is allowed through the park’s turnstiles before the advertised opening times and you have access to the shops and restaurants immediately inside. We did need to show our hotel key to proceed further into the parks, before the official opening. However, with only the Harry Potter rides open early, all the early admission folk (who all hold express pass) head straight to these rides and they quickly become busy. We discovered it was better to visit these rides later in the day and use the express line then. Eating and drinking in the parks is expensive and park food is not as good as the offerings in City Walk, we snacked during the day and used our reservations in the evenings at City Walk. Top tip for drinks, we got a single Coca Cola freestyle cup on day one of our visit for about $16 which allows unlimited top ups of Soda's and water at various vending machines situate around the Parks for the full day. Remember to bring your cup on subsequent days and pay about $10 daily for the unlimited refills thereafter. The proximity to our hotel meant we could retire to our room and refresh rather that spending the entire day in the Parks, these sneaky breaks also give an opportunity to get in some all-important shopping. We visited Mall of Millenia and the outlet centers and everyone was delighted with the bargains bagged, Uber was our friend for getting around and journeys to the shops were all less than $10. With part 1 of our Orlando trip complete, we collected a hire drive car to head for Fort Lauderdale. Fast Forward five days and we are back in Orlando, this time choosing to stay on International Drive, the main commercial area of Orlando, in the comfortable and excellently located Avanti Resort, which has ample parking for our hire drive which we had until we departed. The freedom of driving allows us to explore further and check out more shopping locations and restaurants. We had deferred visiting Volcano Bay water park, the third Universal Park until now, they operate a different waiting system and do not have express pass, so this was perfect as we gave up that privilege when we left Loews Portofino. We leave the car at the hotel and took an Uber to the park, a return trip on Uber is half the price of parking for the day and so convenient. Overall top marks to Orlando, it delivered exactly as expected. We enjoyed a perfect mix of relaxing, park madness and shopping bliss. In the kids own (American) words "Best Vacation ever".

Doha for a Day

11 July 2019

How much can you pack into a day, well if you are focused and enthusiastic, it seems quiet an amount, as we discovered on the return leg of our family holiday to Sri Lanka in July 2018. Rather than just transiting through Hamad International Airport, we planned a one-night stay in this fascinating city. Doha is the capital city of the State of Qatar, located on the coast of the Persian Gulf and has a population of 1.85M. On arrival in the ultra-modern airport, one gets an immediate taste of what's in store from this amazing country, everything is big, organised and immaculate. We used trusty Uber (around €12) and enjoy the amazing view of the city skyline and its enormous buildings growing in front of our eyes as we made the 20-minute journey to our hotel. We booked a club premium suite at the 5-star City Centre Rotana with access to the executive lounge on the 46th floor, our room just two floors under, had stunning views of the city, through the slick floor to ceiling windows. Hotel location was very important in our choice of The City Centre Rotan, with outside temperature in excess of 40 degrees we wished to minimize walking time in the outdoor and so were thrilled that the hotel was connected to the City Centre Mall. We visited the Mall on our first evening and our Kids (12 &10) made a dash to the western style food court, after 2 weeks in Sri Lanka it appears, they were in need of a fast food hit. The Mall was enormous with a terrific choice of shopping, prices appeared on par with home. We returned to the hotel and enjoyed complimentary evening canapés including alcoholic beverages at the Club Rotana Lounge with 360-degree views of the lit up city to relish. Before retiring for the evening, we all took a dip in the temperature controlled swimming pool. After early breakfast, we hailed an Uber to take us to the Museum of Islamic Art, arriving just after opening. The museum is located on an island off an artificial projecting peninsula near the traditional Dhow harbour and houses a world class collection of Islamic Art spanning 1400 years. Admission was about €12, with kids under 16 free. One could easy spend half a day exploring the dimly lit air-conditioned expedition rooms, but we were on a whistle stop tour, so it was on to the next stop. We make our way to Souq Waqif (meaning standing market). Several streets appear as mazes with no defined pattern, we learn this is a typical characteristic of these Middle- Eastern markets. The Souq offers several small shops with a dazzling array of Middle Eastern merchandise. We wander the narrow alleyways and explore shops as we go, always finding the shopkeepers to be friendly and not at all pushy. With the sun hitting its mid-day high, we return to the hotel, take a dip in the pool and then check our luggage into storage before enjoying a light lunch. Still time for one more outing, we head for the Villaggio Mall, enroute our Uber driver pointed out some of the stadium construction for the 2022 FIFA World Cup. The Mall has over 200 stores including all the famous western brands. Gondola rides are available on the manmade canals which cut through the rows of shops in this ultra-modern centre. The indoor theme park wass a hit with our kids and it included a high-speed spin on the roller coaster. After a ride back to the hotel to collect our belongings, we made a dash for the airport, which in 2018 was voted the 5th best airport in the World and it's little wonder, given the 5 star service we experienced there. So that's Doha in a day, I really wished we had more time to enjoy this fascinating city and would highly recommend a break there or at the very least a stop if your travel plans allow.

Camping in Carnac

06 September 2018

We travelled over Easter by ferry from Ringaskiddy with Brittany Ferries, arriving early Sunday morning into Roscoff. From there, it was a comfortable 1 ½ hour drive to Carnac. Arriving shortly after 9am, we headed for the local town and stumbled on the weekly farmer’s market. It was a feast of local specialities such as Crepes (sweet) and Galettes (savoury), Moules, and of course their local cider, which they drink out of oversized tea cups! It was a lovely culinary experience. The campsite is within walking distance of a long sandy beach, called Grande Plage. This beach stretches for 2 ½ km, is very clean and popular with families. We spent several hours collecting sea shells and paddling in the water. Carnac is famous for its standing stones, also known as Menhirs – hence the name of the campsite. They are spread over several fields in the outskirts of the town. There are thousands of them, dating back over 7,000 years! We also visited a Dolmen a few miles further out – Dolmens de Mane Karioned. It took us a while to find them, but they were worth the effort. There are 3 dolmens side by side. You can walk down into one of them and see the original carvings on the stones. We spent an afternoon at Foret Adrenaline, a tree top ziplining adventure. Some of the trails were quite challenging, but it’s a great workout. The staff were on hand to assist anyone experiencing difficulties. Everyone was equipped with a whistle to blow if you need to be rescued! There is also a nice café for those that prefer to stay at ground level. The medieval town of Vannes is a 40-minute drive from Carnac. It is a charming, historic town. The town centre with its cobble stone streets and old timbered buildings is amazing. We spent a relaxing few hours ambling around, marvelling at the buildings and wandering in and out of the huge variety of shops. The peninsula of Quiberon is only a half hour drive away from Carnac. It is an area of stunning natural beauty. We spent an afternoon in the area and stopped at Pointe du Percho, which is a natural stone arch that sits between the beach and the cliff. It’s a great opportunity for photos! Continuing along the rugged coastline you reach the town, which is also charming and has lots of nice outdoor cafes. We stayed with Crystal Al Fresco in one of their 2 bed 1 bath Rossini Lounge. The location of the campsite is probably it’s best selling feature, being so close to the beach and town. Even though we didn’t have great weather during our visit, as it was early April, we still were able to get out and about and enjoy many of the attractions and activities on offer in this charming area of Southern Brittany.

Tuk Tuks and Flip Flops

06 September 2018

Now that the blog title has already explained the two main means of getting around (everyone wears flip-flops and tuk-tuks are abundant, used by locals & tourists alike), let me take this opportunity to get some of the other headline facts covered about this amazing country. Sri Lankais an Island nation in the Indian ocean about the size of Ireland with a population of 21 million. There are three distinct seasons, Dec- Apr. when the weather is warm and mostly dry, Monsoon rains affect the country May- Aug. (west & south) and Oct- Jan. (north and east), but the climate remains temperate and warm year-round. I visited with my husband & 2 kids for 12 days in July 2018. It's incredibly easy to fly to Sri Lanka with many options, we chose Dublin - Doha with Qatar Airways and onward to Colombo with Sri Lankan Airways, total flying time 12 hours. Colombo Airport operates at full speed and we immediately get that Asian feeling on entering the arrivals hall. If you have the curiosity or are in the market for a washing machine or fridge, this airports duty free has a selection of shops selling these goods. "Only in Asia" says my youngest, which kind of sets the tone for the many other unexpected wonders this county will throw up. The kids quickly made their way to the waiting mass of drivers and spot our driver/guide holding his welcome sign "Imelda Mc Carthy - Travel Counsellors" - it's always reassuring, when so far from home, to see your name held aloft. We made our introductions to Hiran who will accompany us for the full duration of our stay and headed to our first destination the ‘Arie Lagoon Hotel’ in Negombo. It was early morning when we reached the hotel and we got an immediate check in. This stop had been planned as a short rest & recuperation after our flight. We caught up on a few hours sleep, had breakfast and after a freshen up were on the move again. Sri Lankan roads in the most part are the equivalent to national secondary roads in Ireland, there is only one motorway in the country. Due to the volume of traffic on the roads getting from place to place takes more time that we might expect. By early afternoon we arrived in ‘Sigiriya and the Elephas Resort’. The kids were happy to spend time in the splendid pool and we finished the evening with a buffet dinner and a chat with an Irish honeymoon couple, who had booked through Travel Counsellors, wise people! Over the next two days we experienced the best of what the locality has to offer, including a climb of the famous Sigiriya Rock fortress, sightseeing at Polonnaruwa an ancient ruined city, and an afternoon jeep safari into Minneriya wild life sanctuary. The highlight for the kids was seeing the herds of elephants in their natural habitat. While we enjoyed some down time at the hotel pool, my husband, was off climbing Pidurangala Rock which offers the most amazing views of Sigiriya Lions Rock. With his trusty camera he captured some splendid landscapes. Our next destination was Kandy and en route we visited Dambulla cave temples, which is a vast isolated rock mass, featuring a series of five caves which had been turned into a magnificent rock temple by King Valagambahu. In Kandy, we stayed at the charming colonial styled, ‘Hotel Suisse’, located right beside the historic and picturesque Kandy lake. Top marks for their outdoor BBQ, a vast buffet each evening. While in Kandy we visited the botanical garden at Perdeniya a quiet haven of majestic trees and plants. We also had the privilege of joining thousands of local pilgrims on a visit to the Temple of the Sacred tooth Relic. This is the most revered site in Sri Lanka and every day white clad pilgrims make their way to this hallowed space, bearing lotus blossoms and frangipani for their offerings. Our youngest was the only one deemed inappropriately dressed (usually kids are exempt from Buddhist dress code when visiting temples) and we rent a sarong from a street vendor. On our return to the mini-van we spotted a sign for the "Mc Carthy Guest House", and I thought they were only a Cork clan but clearly have set up roots in this far off land too!! A very special treat is in store for our next transfer to Nuwara Eliya. We boarded a local train for what is considered one of the most scenic rail journeys in the world. We take our reserved seats in the 1st class carriage, but much of our time is spent sharing the space between carriages with our fellow travelers, taking turns in the opens doorways to get an unobtrusive view of the spectacular country side. Our overnight was spent at the unique ‘Hill Club Hotel’, an English colonial style building which has many original features from the 1930s. We are treated to one of two suites in the hotel and the kids are in an interconnecting room. We have dinner in the formal dining room where etiquette requires the gentlemen to wear shirt, tie and jacket. Luckily these can be borrowed from the reception. We retire for the night and to our surprise our beds have been warmed with hot water bottles, I hadn't mentioned that the temperature dropped some 20 degrees as we climbed into this mountainous region. Our journey by road back down the mountains to Yala was just as spectacular as our previous days trip on the train, with the added advantage of stopping on demand to take in the views, including some sublime waterfalls right on the road side. We had lunch in the town of Ella, a well-known hiking destination packed with tourists and where there was a wonderful relaxed buzz. We spent the next two nights at ‘Hotel Chandrika’ and take an afternoon jeep safari into Yala life sanctuary. Our excellent safari guide pointed out an array of wild animals including the very rare Sloth Bear which got all the other drivers very excited, jostling for position, luckily, we were to the fore, and had a perfect view. From Yala we make our way to Waskaduwa, stopping for lunch in the small town of Galle on the south coast. This pretty town has a wonderful Fort and after eating we walked along the Dutch ramparts which offer great views of the harbor and the famous old light house. Later we received a special welcome from the hotel manager at the ‘Coco Royal Resort’ and are invited to a VIP dinner on the hotel lawn where the head chef (who trained at Dublin's Burlington Hotel) presents a specially prepared Seafood curry and accompaniments, a memorable evening topped off with a cocktail or two from the happy hour bar menu! We enjoyed two days at this beach side hotel and feel truly relaxed after our stay. Our final transfer is to Colombo, where we stayed at the ‘Galadari Hotel’. We enjoyed some retail therapy and traveled from shop to shop in the super-efficient and cheap Tuk-Tuks. A swim at the roof top pool followed by dinner rounds off our last full day in Sri Lanka. Hiran completes his duties the following morning and delivers us back to CMB International Airport. We resist the urge to browse the washing machines and fridges in duty free and board Qatar Airways to Doha. Farewell Sri Lanka.

Disney Magic Cruise Line Ship Visit

05 September 2018

I was one of the lucky agents invited on a tour of Disney Magic on its inaugural visit to Cobh. Modelled in the Art Deco style of the 1930’s and painted in the black, white and yellow colours of Mickey Mouse, the ship’s call to Cork was part of a 7-night British Isle’s Cruise. Sailing at full capacity, there were 2,700 guests and 900 staff on board. So, one member of staff for every 3 guests. It is a stunning ship, which is a subtle version of the theme park on a liner. I loved the décor, the attention to detail from the chandeliers to the handrails and the star printed carpets. It blends classic beauty with modern comforts. Your cruise price includes all your meals, unlimited snacks, soft drinks, tea, coffee and ice cream on deck every day. The three themed restaurants are on a rotational basis, so you have the chance to dine at all 3 on different evenings. Your waiter rotates with you, to ensure that they will get to know your favourites and that you have an enjoyable dining experience. There is also an adult only restaurant called “Palo” which has a cover charge of approx. $25 p.p. We had our lunch in the a-la-carte “Lumiere’s” restaurant, which was delicious! Disney Musicals are featured in the Walt Disney Theatre. “Tangled: The Musical” and Disney Dreams – An Enchanted Classic are staged twice a day in the afternoon and again in the evening. There are Deck Parties such as the Sail-Away Celebration, Pirates Night and even a firework display at sea. There are 10 characters on board including Mickey Mouse, Donald Duck and Goofy and there are lots of opportunities to meet them at various times of the day and evening. For kids, there are lots of options for fun! “It’s a small world” nursery for ages 6 months to 3 years, Oceaneer Club and Lab for ages 3 to 12 and Edge and Vibe for ages 11 to 17. There are also pools, water slides and splash zones, meaning unlimited opportunities for fun! There is also a Bibbidi Bobbidi Boutique offering “magical make overs” for young knights and princesses aged between 3 and 12. For grown-ups, there is an adult only pool area called Quiet Cove where they can chill out as well as the “Senses Spa and Salon” where guests can avail of beauty treatments. The staterooms are very generously sized, 25% larger than the industry average. The cosy family rooms have large double beds and bunkbeds which cleverly fold into the ceiling during the day making for a nice space with sofa and coffee table. There is 24-hour complimentary room service or “Mickey Mouse Keeping” available to all guests. Guests can avail of the Disney Navigator app, so they can view the day-to-day activities and entertainment schedule or just use to chat with their friends and family on board! Handy for tracking the location of your loved ones! The fleet consists of 4 ships currently, Disney Magic being the oldest. This will increase to 7 by the end of 2023. Overall, I loved the casual vibe on the ship, the retro glamour and would recommend to any Disney fans or anyone looking for a cruise with a Disney twist!

Halong Bay, Vietnam

10 December 2017

Halong Bay is a UNESCO World heritage site and is located approximately 3 hours drive east of Hanoi. We left the craziness of Hanoi behind us and settled into our comfortable bus journey, our guide Dat, chatting to us about daily life in Vietnam as we contemplate all that is happening on the roads around us: motorbikes carrying whole families, livestock such as pigs and cattle are also transported this way! Cars are more expensive in Vietnam than Ireland, and with wages being only a fraction of ours, owning a car is a luxury. Instead the main mode of transport is motorbike. A few hours later, and after a short break to stretch our legs, we arrive at Tuan Chau Island where we are given a warm welcome from the Aphrodite staff and we boarded our junk boat. Once onboard, and after a safety demonstration, we set sail and were served our first meal onboard as we cruised at a very leisurely pace around the bay. The emphasis is on seafood so it’s great if you love fish. They were also able to accommodate our kids who do not like fish! The food was delicious and really well presented. All our meals were five courses (come hungry!). We took the opportunity to participate in as many of the activities we could. We climbed at total of 720 steps to visit Sung Sot cave also known as Surprise Cave with its stalactites and stalagmites. We took a smaller boat to visit Luon Cave which is mesmerising. After sailing through the opening and underneath the cave, it opens into a beautiful lagoon which is spectacular. Later, after dinner (yes, another 5 courses) we watched the sun set over Halong Bay and as it gets dark, the whole Bay is illuminated by the twinkling lights of the other boats, creating a magical vista. After the kids had tried their hand at night sea fishing, albeit unsuccessfully, it was time to retire for the night. The next morning, after a light breakfast buffet, it was back into the smaller boat again, this time, to climb to a viewing platform. Yes, more steps! It was raining quite heavily, but we donned our rain ponchos and ploughed on regardless, the rain making the steps a little harder to navigate. The vista from the top was spectacular. We took a few photos, made our way back down and while some of our group went for a swim at the beach, I chatted with Anna, our very charming hostess. Once back onboard, we were seated again for our final meal. Then it was time to settle our bill for our drinks and disembark. We bade farewell to Anna and the rest of the Aphrodite crew and headed back to Hanoi airport for the next leg of our trip.

Les Mouettes, Northern Brittany

19 December 2017

Our journey began in Ringaskiddy where we boarded the Pont Aven, Brittany Ferries. A very calm sea greeted us as we sailed out of Cork Harbour past Cobh's beautiful cathedral and colourful houses on one side, and Spike Island on the other side. Once we had proceeded beyond Roches Point and left land behind us, we settled into our 14-hour overnight sailing, Roscoff-bound. There is lots to do on-board, so it is very easy to pass the time. There was entertainment in the bar: a 2-piece band as well as a magician who kept the kids enthralled with his clever tricks. We retired to our comfortable cabin which consisted of 2 bunk beds opposite each other and were lulled to sleep by the motion of the ship and the few glasses of wine consumed at the bar. The following morning, we were awoken by Breton music piped into our cabin signalling our imminent arrival in France. Our disembarkation was very smooth and within half an hour of landing, we were on our way again. Our destination was only 20 minutes away, so we arrived at Yelloh Village Les Mouettes on Easter Sunday morning before the bakery had even opened! Our mobile home was not ready for us, but we were able to use the indoor pool and all the site facilities until we got our keys. The site is very well maintained and spotlessly clean. We were there in the off season, but there was still entertainment nightly. It was geared towards the locals, but our kids didn’t seem to mind the language barrier. Also, each morning, the kids went to the Kids Club. It gave a bit of structure to the day and the staff were very attentive. We had 5 days of glorious weather (very unseasonable for April) so we could dine Al Fresco every day. The outdoor pools and slides were all open and operational. They were not heated, so dipping into these pools is not for the faint hearted. The kids didn’t mind! The adults were more reticent! The Acqua Park was a huge hit with the kids. The view from our mobile home was of the beach below us and across the bay we could see the Pont Aven each time it docked that week! We spent a thrilling afternoon at Ecopark Penze, only a short drive away from the campsite. Here, you can zipline through the forest treetops. There are several different routes to take, depending on your age and your ability. It’s a definite adrenalin rush! The staff here were very patient especially with those who were immobilised with fear! There are lots of lovely towns nearby and of course we made a few trips to Decathlon (fantastic range of sports gear at great prices) Our stay came to an end after 6 days and we headed back to Roscoff for our overnight journey back to Ringaskiddy. I would highly recommend this type of trip for families. It’s a very relaxing way to travel. No long queuing or waiting around at airports. The scope of having your own car and not being as limited in what you will being with you. Pack as much as you want! We brought hurleys, tennis rackets, skates. Just make sure you leave enough space to bring back a few cases of wine!

Charming Laos

04 November 2017

We visited Luang Prabang this year. It was only a little over a one-hour flight journey from Bangkok, but what greeted us couldn’t have been more far removed from the craziness of the Thai capital that we had left behind us. Luang Prabang is a charming peaceful town, which lies at the convergence of two rivers, the mighty Mekong and the smaller Nam Khan River. This UNESCO World Heritage Site is lined with fantastic French colonial style villas, hundreds of temples, great bars and restaurants. We spent five nights here and divided our time between the charming Villa Chitdara which was within the UNESCO area and the Dream Boutique which is a bit further out, and was linked to the town by a bamboo bridge built by the locals and is for pedestrians only. On completing our Visa formalities at the airport, we were met by our guide and transferred to the Villa Chitdara. This guesthouse is ideally located, only a few minutes’ walk from the night market which is the central focus of the town. The following morning, we met our guide for our full day tour of Luang Prabang. We visited the Royal Palace Museum, we travelled by boat to a pottery village, we visited a silk factory, the UXO museum and finally we climbed Mount Phousi where we had amazing views of the town stretching below us. The next morning, we set our clocks for 5.15 to observe the traditional alms giving ceremony. Hundreds of monks proceed through the town at dawn collecting alms from devotees. This is a highly respected Lao tradition that we felt privileged to witness. Kuang Si falls is must for any visitor to Luang Prabang. They are located about 30km away from Luang Prabang. The walk to the Falls take you by a Zoo which houses bears which have been rescued from captivity. The Falls themselves are truly magnificent. There are different terraces, each further up along the path. The main terrace is awe inspiring; the water is an amazing colour. It really was a highlight of our Laos visit. Our final days in Luang Prabang were spent in the Dream Boutique which is a lovely property with lush tropical gardens leading down to the river. A short walk across the bamboo bridge brought us to the town centre where we dined on street food, had some pampering treatments and purchased some souvenirs at the street market. This charming town is a must for any South East Asia itinerary!

Elephant Hills - Thailand

13 November 2017

Khao Sok National Park / Elephant Hills Luxury Tented Camps: Set against the stunning background of tropical rainforest in Khao Sok National Pak, Elephant Hills consists of 35 luxurious tents set in the jungle. This is Glamping Thai style, and is the most unique place I have ever stayed! The tents are spacious, and all have a European style bathroom and shower. The furniture is hand made using natural materials. They have all the facilities you would expect of a hotel bedroom even a safe and hairdryer but with the added sights and sounds of the rainforest around you, like monkeys, crickets and frogs! Note to self, don’t leave the flap of the tent open and the light on unless you want to spend the next few days covered in mosquito bites! We spent an unforgettable, very educational and adventurous three days here and got up close to the amazing elephants! We watched them larking around in their giant mud bath! We helped cut up their food and fed them sugar cane, pineapple (they are very sweet toothed) and bamboo shoots. They were quite picky, quickly spitting out anything they didn’t like! They eat over 200 kg of food every day! With the help of their Mahoots, we assisted in washing them and hosing them down! Wear old clothes, this is a messy task! Aside from the “once in a lifetime” elephant experience, there were lots more activities to enjoy. We took a leisurely canoe trip down the river and could relax and take in the beauty of the park. We visited a local market on route to their second camp which is a floating camp on Cheow Larn Lake. We had lunch on the floating platform and after had time for a swim and kayak around the lake area. All our meals were included, a gong indicating when it was time to eat. We sampled lots of Thai dishes at their breakfast, lunch and evening buffets. There was a cookery demonstration and local school children came and performed a traditional dance. On our last morning, we took a hike through the jungle with our guide who showed us an amazing variety of plants and wildlife. It culminated in a meal prepared for us in a clearing in the forest. The whole experience was awesome especially for the kids who learned a lot about the rainforest and this amazing endangered species. Please call me if you would like to find out any more about this amazing experience.

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