Autumn has officially hit the UK and the cooler nights are setting in. So you’d be forgiven if you find yourself browsing holiday destinations looking for winter sun.
If you are looking for a quick holiday to break up the darker nights, we thoroughly recommend the island of Lanzarote. It’s fantastic all year round, but there are a few things that make the winter season extra special.
1. The weather
The most obvious reason to visit Lanzarote in the winter months is the weather. Daytime temperatures in winter vary from 19 to 26 degrees, falling only to 16 to 19 at night. Even the surrounding ocean doesn’t dip below 19 degrees. There’s also a chance that you’ll get a better tan during the winter too, as the UV factor isn’t as fierce so you can stay out in it longer.
Lanzarote is an outdoor enthusiasts dream, and many energetic visitors prefer the later months of the year when the air is a bit cooler. Hillwalking and hiking are especially popular in the winter.
Lanzarote loves watersports, and they are available all year round. Windsurfing, kayaking, and paddle boarding are especially popular.
4. The landscape
Lanzarote is famous for its breath-taking lunar-esque landscapes. But something changes about them in winter, aka the start of the island’s growing season. The hills tend to blossom with the most amazing wild flowers, and you’ll see blossoms and fruit all over the hills.
More than 26 species of whales and dolphin reside in the warm waters of Lanzarote – many of them permanent residents.
February is Carnival time in Lanzarote. It is a huge affair with outlandish costumes, music, dancing in the streets, drag queen competitions, a Carnival queen contest and performances. A new theme is selected every year, but there’s always a float and the Burial of the Sardine Parade - where locals pretend they are actually at the ‘funeral’ of a sardine, where it gets cremated in a huge bonfire, marking the end of the Carnival celebrations.
7. Gastronomy-themed festivals
The island’s biggest food festival, Tasting Lanzarote Enogastronomic Festival, is held every November in La Villa de Teguise with many visitors booking their holiday to coincide with the dates. Lanzarote boasts a delectable local foodie scene – including fresh Atlantic seafood, award-winning cheese, and volcanic wines – so it’s well worth visiting when the locals bring it all together.
8. The Three Kings Parade
Christmas works a little differently in Lanzarote. On the 5th of January, Lanzarote has a camel procession that includes the Three Wise Men (who bring the children their gifts) who will go through the towns handing out sweets to children. You’ll also find a variety of cakes available, some with a king hidden inside and some with a bean. If you get the king you get the cake for free (but pay if you find a bean).
Have you ever visited Lanzarote in the winter? What was your favourite thing about the island in the later months?
It feels like it’s been a long time coming, but the Celebrity EDGE is finally here. Our Cruise Business Development Director, Catriona, was lucky enough to be invited along to her recent Naming Ceremony. Here are her thoughts on the futuristic new ship.
Did you know that the 5 points of distinction of Celebrity Cruises are:
On Celebrity Edge all 5 are not only met but exceeded.
The design of the ship is unlike anything I have ever seen in that the attention to detail in everything they do is exceptional. The ship feels like a Luxury Hotel at Sea. Their position of Modern Luxury is unique and ‘on point’.
The ship feels like a hotel. The ceilings are higher and the flow of the ship is easy and everything is accessible. The soft furnishings are exquisite and - if you were inclined - you could spend your entire holiday just looking at the artwork, the sculptures and the chairs.
The accommodation and ‘Edge balconies’ are not the traditional builds and that is what makes them so special. The staterooms look longer and more spacious. At first, I have to say I wasn’t sure but you know what? I love this design.
The food is exceptional and the venues are entirely different and special from each other.
This ship is so different: it pushes the boundaries of cruising. So who is it for? Luxury land lovers looking for a new experience or experienced cruisers looking for a blow-your-mind experience.
You need to see this ship, once the secret is out I’m sure it will be inundated with guests trying to secure their ‘Edge experience.
Today we have a very exciting guest blog that comes all the way from Jamaica. Natalia Welsh is Founder & Head Cook of Hungry Eyes Vegan Foods, a vegan catering service in Kingston. She's here today to introduce you to all the tasty vegan and vegetarian food available in the Caribbean. Take it away Natalia!
The connection between palate, people and culture is the bedrock of Jamaican gastronomy. Our food tells stories about Africans, Spaniards and Asians who have migrated their own spices and cooking methods with them to the island since the 1800s. These influences infused Jamaica’s culinary culture with effervescent flavours that tantalize taste buds and mirror the spirit of our people. Building community, sharing stories, and exploring common ground is at the heart of it all.
Growing up in Gordon Town, a rural district in the foothills of the Blue Mountains, bush life offered much in the way of homegrown fruit, produce and the freedom to go outside and pick what you need at that moment. Coffee, mint, bananas, tangerines, the juiciest pineapples, and the biggest, creamiest avocados were among the bounty. Real food, grown the way nature intended, is the normal way of life for many people in Jamaica. Living in the countryside, where you literally eat what you grow, ‘organic’ is the only option. If you grew up with your grandmother, you’ll probably never taste something more delicious than dinners she slow-cooked in a dutch pot over her outdoor fire.
Caption: Farm fresh whole foods grown in Jamaica, including breadfruit, yam, plantain and coconut. (IMG_7784)
Today, the evolution of Jamaican cuisine is in full swing. Traditional ingredients are being combined in new ways and infused with global flavours. New eateries seem to pop up every month, and the menus are proof that chefs are reimagining conventional Jamaican fare. There’s also an increase in the availability of plant-based fast-food - and I’m not just talking about Ital Stew. So, if you’re wondering how you’ll maintain your plant-based lifestyle while visiting Jamaica, fret not...yuh nice. These are some of the foods you have to look forward to:
Ackee is one of the main ingredients in Jamaica’s national dish. It’s a yellow fruit that’s relatively bland and really versatile. Ackee is available almost all year-round. We love it!
Ground provisions, which include yam, potato and cassava, are collectively called ‘food’ in the Jamaican vernacular. This is our way of referring to produce that keeps us grounded and full for hours. So, if you go to a cookshop and see ‘food’ as a side order for your ackee and saltfish, you know what we’re talking about.
Greens and leafy veggies like callaloo, pak choi and cabbage are in abundant supply and are popular breakfast dishes.
Other vegan delights you’ll find at the market and in most local supermarkets are pumpkins, breadfruit and avocado (which Jamaicans call pear).
Fruits and fresh herbs are also in abundant supply. Be sure to try coconut water to ‘wash off yuh heart’ (with the jelly!), jackfruit, guava, guinep and star apple if they’re in season.
Jamaica is abundantly blessed with foods that taste good and are good for you.
Caption: A traditional (vegan) Jamaican breakfast with sautéed ackee and callaloo, boiled banana, fried breadfruit and ripe plantain served in a calabash bowl.
We’re seeing a rise in the number of farmers’ markets focused on providing fresh produce. They’re growing some interesting things too, like oyster mushrooms, swiss chard and a variety of other greens. Farm-to-table dinners are also popping up everywhere. When it comes to eating out, Kingston has a few dine-in vegan restaurants, while most offer take-out only. Browse this “Vegan Jamaica Directory” compiled by Marianna, blogger and author of Nana’s Kitchen, for an islandwide listing of plant-based restaurants and caterers.
>When it comes to street food, look out for giant soup pots atop roadside coal stoves. Order boiled corn with a piece of dry coconut. Be sure to ask what the corn was boiled in though! Crayfish and chicken feet are regular suspects. When you’re driving the streets of Kingston, listen for a loud, piercing whistle then look out for a man pushing a cart of freshly roasted peanuts. If you’re lucky, you’ll spot a coconut vendor around the corner and just like that, you’re fueled up for another couple of hours. Don’t skip dessert! A slice of sweet potato pudding with ‘hell-a-top, hell-a-bottom and hallelujah in the middle’ is enough for two people - trust me, they’re huge.
Look beyond the cruise ships and all-inclusive resorts. If you’re vegan or vegetarian, the shop painted red, green and yellow is the one you’re searching for.
People tend to fall in love with Chicago very quickly – and it’s not hard to understand why.
The city has plenty to do: including sports, shopping, fun fairs, museums and even a beach! But there’s a vibe about Chicago that you can’t mistake. It’s buzzing, but it’s also friendlier than your average large metropolitan. We recommend that every city-lover stops by Chicago at one point in their life – and here’s our guide to making the most of any visit.
What to see and do
Chicago’s vast size can be daunting for first-time visitors with so many attractions to pick from. While we’d encourage you to research everything Chicago has to offer and decide what’s right for you, we’ve pulled together a selection of Chicago’s best sights.
One of the most relaxing ways to take in the beautiful sights of Chicago is on a boat tour along its river and lake. Choose between Chicago’s First Lady and Shoreline Sightseeing, or get adventurous with Kayak Chicago.
Stroll through Millennium Park
You’ve probably seen the pictures of a bean-like structure in Chicago? You’ll find it here in Millennium Park. Amongst the 25-acres of public space, you’ll find FREE art installations, outdoor concerts, film screenings, outdoor workouts, and tours. In winter there’s also an outdoor ice-rink.
Shop along Magnificent Mile
Chicago is home to a very eclectic and stylish shopping scene, with the Magnificent Mile as its epicentre. This cosmopolitan, history-packed strip on downtown Michigan Avenue (between the Michigan Avenue Bridge and Oak Street) is home to department stores, multi-story megamalls, luxury boutiques and brand name retail chains.
Visit larger-than-life galleries
The world-renowned Art Institute of Chicago hosts one of the biggest collections of late-19th-century French art in the world. While the Museum of Science & Industry is the largest science museum in the Western Hemisphere. Oh, and The Field Museum is home to Titanosaur, the largest dinosaur to roam the Earth.
You could spend a week just exploring the museums and art galleries. There’s museums that document and celebrate African-American heritage, Jewish tradition, Mexican art, Lithuanian culture, Ukrainian history, Puerto Rican culture, military history, maritime history, and even an American Writer's Museum.
Catch a sports game
Chicago loves its sports, particularly soccer, baseball, football, basketball, and hockey. There’s always a game happening in Chicago so it’s worth searching for one while you’re in town.
Chicago is famous for its deep-dish pizza, and while there is more to the city’s food scene than this – you will still find a lot of pizzerias. Lou Malnati in the River North area is generally regarded as the best place to stop by for a slice of this famous dish.
Other foods that are quintessentially Chicago include their own style of hot dog (it’s topped with vegetables), Italian beef (a style rarely found outside the city), and steak (Chicago is the meat-packing capital of the world). For something a little different, you can visit the old haunts of Al Capone, such as the Green Mill Cocktail Lounge or the Green Door Tavern.
Chicago was once awarded "City of the Year" by GayCities.com, and its gay district Boystown was named “best gay neighbourhood in the world" by Out Traveler magazine. It’s no wonder though as Chicago boasts a rich and proud LGBTQ history, which you can learn all about with an LGBTQ+ Landmarks Tour, or by strolling the Legacy Walk in Boystown. There’s also a selection of LGBTQ+ businesses, ranging from bookstores to nightclubs.
Getting to Chicago and finding your way around
Chicago is the home of United Airlines, so there’s no shortage of flights. There are several flights to Chicago a week from the UK, including a new service from Edinburgh to O’Hare International Airport. O’Hare International Airport is home to an on-site hotel, a yoga room, mother’s room, and an aeroponic garden.
Once you’re in Chicago, The El (short for the CTA's elevated train, which also includes subway trains) offers a quick and inexpensive public transportation option. If you need to get out to the suburbs, Metra Trains from Union, Ogilvie, and La Salle Street stations provide several convenient routes.
If you’re not going very far and just want to explore the city centre, it’s easy enough to hail a cab. Lyft and Uber also have a presence within the city.
If you’re a keen cyclist, you can also make use of the city’s bike-share service, Divvy. Their bike rental stations can be found across the city, where you can pick up one of their unmistakable blue bicycles. If you’re walking, Chicago’s streets are laid out in a handy grid system.
Other important information:
Chicago is at its best during the summer months (though we recommend wearing layers)
You’ll need a US Visa and US Dollars
Tipping is customary in Chicago
The perfect family destination is somewhere that expertly combines excitement and relaxation. In Tampa Bay on Florida’s Gulf Coast, you’ll stumble upon a pleasant mixture of both. Whether it’s roller coasters, museums, or nature – families will discover plenty of attractions where they can create memories that will last a lifetime.
1. Busch Gardens® Tampa Bay
Busch Gardens® Tampa Bay offers the perfect blend of theme park and animal adventures. Within its 300 acres, you’ll find thrilling rides, one of the country's premier zoos with more than 12,000 animals, live shows, restaurants, shops and games.
Admissions: Adult tickets are $84.99, while children aged 3-9 get in for $76.99 (children 2 and under are admitted for free).
2. Adventure Island®
Just across the street from Busch Gardens® Tampa Bay you’ll find Adventure Island® waterpark. It’s perfect for all the family with thrill-seeking water-rides like Colossal Curl™ (the tallest ride at Adventure Island® at nearly 70 feet and 560 feet in length) and private cabanas where quieter members of the family are able to relax with a book.
Admissions: Adult ticket prices are $44.89 plus tax, and children ages 3 to 9 are $40.61 (children ages 2 and under free).
3. Florida Aquarium
The Florida Aquarium is one of the most celebrated aquariums in the United States. Here you can immerse yourself in interactive programs like Dive with the Sharks, Shark Swim and Swim with the Fishes or take a Wild Dolphin Tour on board the Bay Spirit II (a 72-foot powered catamaran). And after exploring all the exhibits inside, make sure you visit the Aquarium's new water play area The Splash Pad!
Admissions: Adults are $24.95, seniors (60+) are $22.95, and children under 12 are $19.95 (Children 2 & under are Free).
4. ZooTampa at Lowry Park
ZooTampa at Lowry Park is home to more than 1300 animals and famous for having one of the most beautiful, tropical zoological settings in the world. The Zoo brings together animals and visitors to create unforgettable, natural connections. Guests get closer to wildlife than ever before by touching a giant tortoise, feeding a giraffe, getting nose-to-horn with an Indian rhino, hand-to-fin with slippery stingrays and more! Families can also splash in water play areas, feel thrills on rides and take in educational shows.
Admissions: Adults are $34.95, and children 3 to 11 $25.95.
5. TECO Manatee Viewing Centre
Manatees are a unique marine mammal local to Florida – but they are endangered. This viewing centre is a state and federally designated manatee sanctuary. During the centre’s open season, Nov. 1 through April 15, displays, interactive exhibits and more educate visitors of all ages about the life cycle of the manatee and the challenges this animal faces.
Admissions: the centre is run by volunteers and is completely free.
Have you been to Tampa Bay with your family? What attractions do you recommend they visit first?
Paris is a delightful city full of stylish boutiques, striking architecture, and cobbled streets lined by coffee shops. It’s also expansive and, without proper planning, it can be easy to miss some key monuments, attractions and sights.
One of the simplest ways to explore Paris is by using the Hop on-Hop off bus, where you’ll be provided with headphones with an audio commentary. The tickets are usually valid for 48 hours so you’ll have time to explore the city at your own pace. There’s also a well-maintained Metro system, which we’ve written a How to Guide on before .
As we’ve said: it’s a big city with a lot of offer. In order to make the most of it you need to decide for yourself what sights you want to see the most. But if you need some inspiration, we’ve rounded up this two-day itinerary.
Explore the Louvre
You can’t visit Paris and not stop by the world’s largest museum. A slight inconvenience, however, is that this is the opinion of everyone else who visits Paris. So you need to make it your first stop before the crowds build up. For extra speediness, book your tickets in advance and avoid entering through the famous glass pyramid and instead opt for one of the side doors. We also recommend researching which pieces you would like to see in advance, instead of getting lost within the eight miles of corridors.
Admire the Notre Dame
You’ll find the famous Notre Dame Cathedral just 20 minutes away from the Louvre. This 853-year-old church is considered the country’s finest example of French Gothic architecture. The Cathedral is open every day of the year from 7:45am to 6:45pm, entry is free and tours are available.
Lunch in Le Marais
La Merais is one of the oldest areas of Paris and remains one of the most striking. It’s the sort of place you spend a few hours strolling, but its Jewish Quarter is home to some of the best food in the city. We recommend the world famous Falafel Special Sandwich from L’as du Falafel.
Experience the nightlife along Canal St. Martin
After all that exploring, you’ll need to let your hair down in the evening. Canal St. Martin is one of the best places to do so thanks to its selection of bars, restaurants and street performers. You can choose to pack it in early with a meal and a few drinks or stay out dancing until the early hours.
Catch the sunrise from Montmartre
The walk up towards Montmarte is tough but well worth it. At the top, you’ll find a charming collection of cobbled streets that will make you feel as though you are in a sleepy French village, rather than a bustling capital city. The view from here is also second-to-none and is at its best in the morning.
Once you’ve watched the sunrise over the Paris skyline, take your time to explore the streets of Montmarte before you head back down into the city. They are buzzing with artists (perfect place to get a quick caricature), street art, and quaint cafés.
Shop like a Parisian
Paris is known as a fashion capital, so spending some time engaging in retail therapy is a must. Walk down the ever-glamorous Avenue Montaigne, the streets of Saint Germain and the Champs Elysées for a great Parisian shopping experience.
If you like your shops local and independent, we recommend heading to Rue de Charonne. Over the last few years, a wonderful shopping village of fashion boutiques has gradually emerged here. The quirky boutiques include wares for girls, boys and little ones!
For lunch, we recommend eating at Le Souk: a North African restaurant that will make you feel like you’ve been transported to a Moroccan market.
Watch the Eiffel Tower glitter at night
Did you think we weren’t going to include the iconic Eiffel Tower in our itinerary? Crowds can build up quickly, which is why so many travel guides recommend getting there first thing. And while you can totally do that if you want, we still think it’s worth waiting until Paris’s most famous building is lit up at night. We reckon that it’s the perfect way to end your 48 hours in Paris.
>Hi Rachel, tell us a little bit about yourself and your role at Barrhead Travel?
Hi my name is Rachel and I am the Recruitment Assistant Manager. I have been at Barrhead Travel for more than a year now. I first started as a Modern Apprentice within the recruitment department and have since progressed on. I oversee the recruitment team and manage the end to end recruitment process.
What does an average day look like for you?
Every day is different in the recruitment department. We work with candidates, agencies, hiring managers, schools and colleges. My day can vary from speaking to candidates, making an offer of employment, running reports and supporting my team.
When did you join the company?
I joined Barrhead Travel back in July 2017.
What did you do as part of your Modern Apprenticeship?
As part of my apprenticeship, I learned how to telescreen candidates for different positions, I talked them through the recruitment process and I learned how to make offers of employment. My duty was to look after all apprenticeship applications and liaise with the hiring manager to ensure we are bringing on the right people.
What was it about working in recruitment that appealed to you?
I knew when I was leaving school that I wanted a career within the recruitment industry. I love speaking with people and giving advice when needed. No two days are the same and I knew I wanted a new challenge and the best part is I get to help change people’s lives.
What kind of person would you say is suited to a career in recruitment? And what advice would you give them?
I think you need to be a confident person, resilient and you need to be able to take constructive criticism as things can change instantly. My advice would be to not give up at the first hurdle and keep at it. Recruitment can be tough going but if you work hard, it can be extremely rewarding.
And finally, what’s your favourite thing about working at Barrhead Travel?
My favourite thing about working for Barrhead Travel is defiantly the people. I never knew how many times I would need to ask someone for help in the social media or IT department.
There are also great progression opportunities for people who want to work hard and achieve the best as there’s not a limit at Barrhead Travel.
Every passionate traveller’s worst fear is the thought of not getting to visit every destination on their bucket list. Which is understandable given how many incredible destinations there are in the world.
A solution to ticking every place off is a rail itinerary that takes you through multiple cities and towns within one holiday. We’ve recently teamed up with Railbookers to create some new multi-stop rail journeys that include hotel accommodation and transport (including return flights to the UK). Here are six itineraries that you can book now for 2019.
1. Venice via the Alps
You’ll firstly make your way to Paris via Eurostar, where you’ll transfer to your onward rail travel. Then it’s time to enjoy one night in Geneva, before setting out on your journey through the Swiss Alps, riding along the Simplon Pass. Your final destination is Venice, where you’ll get to enjoy the beautiful sights for three nights. To return to the UK you can choose between flights or a return rail journey.
2. Switzerland’s Lakes and Mountains
Explore Switzerland at a leisurely pace with this five-night itinerary. Start with an overnight stay in Montreux before you continue along the Golden Pass Line to Interlaken. Take a quick detour to the highest railway station at the top of Jungfrau Mountain, before travelling through the Swiss Alps on-board the Glacier Express to Chur. Complete this incredible journey with a day trip across spectacular viaducts past impressive glaciers on the Bernina Express to Tirano.
3. Ultimate Canada Coast to Coast
On this itinerary, you’ll start with a flight to the Atlantic Canada gem of Halifax in Nova Scotia. Then, using the VIA Rail network, you’ll enjoy stops (and hotel accommodation) in Quebec City, Montreal, Toronto, Jasper, Banff, and Vancouver. The flight back from Vancouver to the UK and three meals are included.
4. The All American
This journey highlights some of America’s most popular destinations. Starting and finishing in New York City, you’ll travel on-board Amtrak® to New Orleans, Los Angeles, San Francisco, Denver, and Chicago. Overall it is 18 days including flights, with 10 nights spent in hotel accommodation and 5 nights on-board the train.
5. Jazz Blues and Rock ‘N’ Roll
If you’re a big music lover, then this USA rail itinerary will be up your street. Start your journey in Chicago, with its famous blues scene, before heading down the colourful Deep South. Here you’ll stop by Memphis, the birthplace of rock ‘n' roll and home to Graceland. Then you’ll move onto New Orleans, where you can enjoy a jazz brunch at the famous Court of Two Sisters restaurant.
6. Ultimate Berlin, Prague, Vienna and Budapest
With this itinerary, you’ll enjoy 2 nights each in Berlin, Prague, Vienna, and Budapest – as well as rail travel in between. In Berlin, Prague, and Vienna you’ll also be treated to a Hop on Hop Off bus pass, while in Budapest you’ll be invited on-board a Danube River Cruise. Eurostar transport between London and Brussels and return flights from Budapest are also included.
If you’re looking for somewhere in Abu Dhabi that will keep every member of the family happy, then we recommend Yas Island. Whether you’re a thrill-seeker, sun worshipper, or a parent with young children – you’ll find something in Abu Dhabi’s premier entertainment district. It’s only 30 minutes from downtown Abu Dhabi, too! Here are 10 unmissable things on Yas Island.
1. Yas Marina Circuit
Yas Island is home to the venue for the annual Formula 1 Etihad Airways Abu Dhabi Grand Prix. But it’s much more than just a motorsport venue. It also offers a series of track day packages, including Driver Experiences, Passenger Experiences, Private Driving Tuition programmes, and Racing License Courses as well as a unique - and free - venue for both running and biking.
2. Yas Hotel, Abu Dhabi
The circuit’s centrepiece is the breathtaking Yas Hotel - a five star, luxury hotel with the distinction of being the only one in the world to straddle an F1 race track!
3. Yas Marina
Yas Marina is the centre of Abu Dhabi’s yachting community. The 227-berth marina features seven licenced restaurants and lounges that cater to all tastes and budgets, with every outlet along the waterside promenade boasting iconic views of the Yas Hotel and race track.
4. Ferrari World Abu Dhabi
Ferrari World Abu Dhabi is the world’s first Ferrari-branded theme park. The park tells the Ferrari story and features more than 20 rides – including the fastest roller-coaster in the world and the ride with the highest loop in the world. It also boasts interactive activities, exclusive shopping and authentic Italian dining experiences.
5. Yas Waterworld
Yas Waterworld spans an area of around 15 football pitches, with 43 rides, slides, and attractions – five of which are one-of-a-kind, including the 238-metre long, hydromagnetic-powered, six-person tornado waterslide. Adrenaline seekers will also find three-metre high waves at Bubble’s Barrel, which has the world’s largest surfable sheet wave for flowboards and bodyboards.
Then there’s the Bandit Bomber, the first water-coaster with onboard water and laser effects. Riders can shoot jets of water at targets, drop water bombs and trigger special effects, while people below can spray them with water as they pass.
6. Warner Bros. World™ Abu Dhabi
If you’re a fan of DC Comics or Looney Tunes then you’ll love Warner Bros. World™ Abu Dhabi. The theme park is split into five immersive lands: Metropolis, Gotham City, Cartoon Junction, Bedrock, and Dynamite Gulch. The theme park also includes retail outlets featuring a wide collection of merchandise inspired by Warner Bros. franchises as well as a full range of dining options from full-service sit down to ‘grab and go’.
7. Yas Links Abu Dhabi
On the western shore of Yas Island you’ll find Yas Links Abu Dhabi - an award-winning golf course, designed by Kyle Phillips, one of the world's leading golf course architects. Voted amongst the 'Top 10 New International Golf Courses' by the Golf Magazine, Yas Links features a 7,450-yard par 72 course, with beautiful ocean views as a backdrop.
8. Yas Beach
Found on the island’s southern shore you’ll find Yas Island’s only beach. Open daily from 10am – 7pm, it is a great spot to relax and enjoy sun, sea, sand, food and drink. It also features a full range of watersport activities for all ages and proficiency levels.
9. Yas Mall
Yas Island also houses Abu Dhabi’s biggest (and the UAE’s second largest) shopping centre; Yas Mall. This shopping mall offers three floors of leading international and regional retail brands, with 370 stores and more than 60 indoor and outdoor restaurants and cafes. Yas Mall also offers endless entertainment, with a 20-screen state-of-the-art cinema operated by VOX Cinemas and a family entertainment zone by Fun Works, as well as direct access to Ferrari World Abu Dhabi.
10. MAD on Yas Island
Let your hair down in the UAE’s biggest indoor nightclub. Over the years it has hosted the biggest names in pop and dance music – including Tinashe, Jeremih, W&W and Tinie Tempah. With 360-degree projection mapping, huge LED screens, and the latest sound technology, it’s the place to dance till you drop.
If you’re looking for a fun, family-friendly mega-liner that is available for budget cruisers, you can’t do go wrong with Norwegian Cruise Line or Carnival Cruises . Both cruise lines offer a generous selection of onboard activities ranging from waterslides to adult-only restaurants. When deciding which cruise line is right for you and your family, the difference really is in the details.
Carnival Cruise Lines currently owns 25 cruise ships, with another two due to set sail next year. Their newest ship is the Carnival Horizon, which cruises to the Caribbean and is homeported in Miami. Its stand-out amenities are the Havana Pool & Bar, IMAX Theatre, Dr. Seuss WaterWorks, Serenity Adult-Only Retreat, Cloud 9 Spa, and Lip Sync Battle. Many of these features are new, but older ships are regularly going back to into dry-dock for upgrades (Carnival Legend, for example, has just returned from dry-dock).
NCL has a smaller number of ships at just seventeen. Their newest is Norwegian Bliss, which sails around Alaska and will move onto the Caribbean. And next year the Norwegian Encore will set sail for the first time and will sail around Bermuda and the Caribbean. Full details haven’t yet been announced, but we know the ship will be home to a 180-degree Observation Lounge. NCL’s ships also regularly enter dry-dock and all its ships have been refurbished within the last 5 years.
Both cruise lines boast nightly entertainment, with plenty of variety to keep your eyes and ears wowed throughout your time on-board.
On-board NCL you’ll enjoy Broadway-style shows, theatrical performances from ballroom and Latin dance company Burn the Floor, dinner while acrobats dance above you, bars with live bands, and comedy from the Levity Entertainment Group (who have worked with Daniel Tosh, Amy Schumer, Gabriel Iglesias and Jeff Dunham). What is exactly available will depend on the ship and the itinerary.
On Carnival, it is much the same though there is more shows aimed exclusively at children. Depending on the ship, there’s a combination of Lip sync Battle, murder mysteries, The Punchliner Comedy Club, the 4D Thrill Theatre, movies on the pool deck, Broadway-style shows, karaoke, and bars with live music. Children will also love the live-version of the Hasbro board game.
Both cruise lines are famed for their adventurous on-board activities, and it’s unlikely you’ll get bored on any of the ships in their fleet.
Norwegian Bliss is NCL’s newest ship, released earlier this year. On-board you will find the largest race track at sea, as well as laser tag, mini-golf, fitness centre, casino, and Aqua Park. While its sister ship Norwegian Escape is home to the fastest waterslide at sea, a multi-level Sports Complex and The Plank - which extends 8 feet over the side of the ship!
Carnival doesn’t boast anything record-breaking, but still has much of the same type of activities. For the adrenaline-junkies, there is the SkyRide (a bike ride high above top deck – but you’re strapped in), mini-golf, a water park, IMAX cinema, basketball, and a video arcade. They also offer low-key activities such as cooking demonstrations, bingo, art exhibitions, a spa, and a library.
Both cruise lines offer great amenities for children, with little difference between the two.
On-board Carnival you can drop your little ones off at Camp Owl, a kids club that is split into three age groups:
Penguins (2 to 5 years)
Stingrays (6 to 8 years)
Sharks (9 to 11 years)
Run by experienced counsellors, your mini-me will enjoy activities like arts and crafts, songs, games, toys, dancing, movies and video games. The kids also eat together and get their own menus. There’s also an evening crèche so the kids can stay up late while the parents enjoy a night at the bar.
Kids (and even adults) will also love the Build-a-Bear Workshop at Sea, Hasbro Game Show, and Cherry on Top candy store.
But Carnival’s unique family-fun feature is Seuss at Sea, which includes a special onboard character parade, interactive story time, arts & crafts activities, and breakfast featuring their favourite Dr. Seuss characters.
Over on Norwegian Cruise Line, families are also well catered for.
Their complimentary youth programme is split into five age groups:
Guppies Programmes (6 months - under 3 years)
Turtles (3-5 years)
Seals (6 – 9 years)
Dolphins (10 -12 years)
Entourage (Ages 13 – 17)
Depending on which age group your little ones fall into, they will enjoy a wealth of activities ranging from circus skills, arts & crafts, sensory play, treasure hunts, and video games. There’s also a nightclub for teenagers.
There’s also a Late Night Fun Zone where parents can leave their kids between the hours of 10:30 p.m. and 1:30 a.m. This involves a fee and the centre will close if no kids are registered by 11:30pm.
NCL have long been champions of Freestyle Dining with no fixed times, while Carnival offers both fixed and flexible dining. But all ships in NCL and Carnival’s fleets offer numerous dining options.
Norwegian boasts one of the industry’s largest selections of onboard restaurants, with as many as 25 dining choices. Complimentary choices include buffets, supper clubs, and standard pub grub. But, if you’re willing to pay a fee, you can choose from Japanese teppanyaki grills, steakhouses, Italian spots, Brazilian restaurants, French, sushi bars, and Asian noodle houses.
Carnival also offers 20+ dining options, though it will depend on which ship you are on. Complimentary dining includes the Main Dining Room, a Mexican cantina, a burger joint, a salad bar, pizzeria, ice cream parlour, room-service and a Mongolian restaurant. Complimentary restaurants include a Dr Seuss themed restaurant for kids, a sushi bar, a coffee bar, and a steakhouse.
Carnival also has a partnership with American chef Guy Ramsay Fieri. He has opened three different restaurants on-board Carnival Cruise Line ships: Guy’s Burger Joint, and the Guy’s Pig & Anchor Bar-B-Que Smokehouse. Both of these restaurants are included in the price. There is also a Brewhouse that is an additional cost.
Both NCL and Carnival offers a range of room and suite types.
On board an NCL cruise, you can choose between the following (depending on the ship):
The Haven by Norwegian®
Suites and Penthouses
Mini-Suites and Balconies
Studios for solo cruisers
The first option, The Haven by Norwegian®, is a yacht-with-a-ship concept where can enjoy the perks of an exclusive area with butler and concierge service but still reap the benefits of a superliner. Inside the Haven there is a lounge, restaurant, and sundeck with small pool. There are also six room types to choose from in The Haven, but for something extra special there’s the 3-bedroom Garden Villa that can fit up to 8 guests and comes with an outdoor terrace with a hot tub and a private dining area.
Carnival takes a more no-frills approach to their staterooms with four basic categories: Interior, Ocean, Balcony and Suite. Connecting rooms and wheelchair accessible rooms are also available. There are, however, four other options (depending on the ship) for families who need extra room and couples looking for something special:
Cloud 9 Spa Staterooms
Family Harbour Staterooms
Carnival doesn’t have their own version of The Haven by Norwegian® or any penthouse suites.
Out of the two cruise lines, NCL offers a wider range of destinations with a selection of Caribbean, Bermuda, Bahamas, Mexico, New England/Canada and Alaska itineraries. They also offer seasonal Mediterranean and seasonal Northern Europe itineraries. There’s also occasionally exotic sailings including South America, as well as Asia, Australia, India and the Arabian Gulf.
Carnival Cruise Line, however, only offers standard Caribbean, Bermuda, Bahamas, Mexico, Alaska and Hawaii itineraries. There’s no European sailings or exotic itineraries. They do however offer the occasional Australia itinerary.
Price wise, Carnival is more purse-friendly than NCL and offers some of the most competitive rates out of all the major cruise lines. For example, both cruise lines have a November 2018 Caribbean cruise that leaves from Miami. Our price with Carnival is £391.71pp on-board the Carnival Sensation. While our price with NCL for a similar cruise is £590.05pp on-board the Norwegian Getaway.
Both cruise lines include accommodation, entrainment, and complimentary restaurants within the cost of the cruise. Guests on-board NCL who opt for The Haven by Norwegian® will also enjoy gourmet dining options in speciality restaurants, 250 minutes free WiFi per Suite, and US $100 onboard spending money per suite. NCL do occasionally offer all-inclusive sailings, but it’s not the norm.
So which one is best for my family?
If it’s a fun ship with exciting activities to keep your children busy that you're looking for, both cruise lines hold up.
The two major differences between the NCL and Carnival are the price point and the itineraries on offer. If you want to cruise around Europe, NCL is the only one between the two that offers this. However, Carnival is cheaper if you are looking for a Caribbean cruise.
Minor differences include the accommodation options and the onboard activities. NCL offers a wide range of high-end suites and penthouses (and a 3-bedroom villa) if you are looking to treat yourself. And there are the themed Dr Seuss activities for children on-board Carnival, though NCL still has a lot to offer families.