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    Where you should travel in 2019 based on your star sign

    For those of us with a constant urge to explore the world, picking a yearly adventure can be difficult. We could throw a dartboard at a world-map or consultant a travel magazine. But there’s another way to decide where we take our annual holiday – and that’s looking at the stars.
    Whether you think astrology is a fun feature at the back of a magazine or something a bit more serious, it’s always amusing to see what your star sign says about your personality. So we’ve analysed the stars, compared them to a globe and decided what destinations match which sign of the zodiac.
    Aries (March 21 – April 19)

    Australia is perfect for adventurous, fun-loving, high-energy Aries. Book yourself an escorted tour where you can explore the many sides of Australia – whether that’s climbing the Sydney Harbour Bridge or diving in the Great Barrier Reef.
    Taurus (April 20 – May 20)

    Taureans are smart and ambitious but also appreciate sophisticated surroundings – so we recommend Italy. Whether it’s the ancient sights of Rome or the fine-wines of Tuscany, there’s plenty to keep a cultured Taurus happy.
    Gemini (May 21 – June 20)

    We know how easily-bored Geminis can get, so we reckon a multi-stop escorted tour, twin-city or cruise would suit this energetic sign. Especially if the cruise ship is packed with activities: such as Royal Caribbean , Carnival, or NCL .
    Cancer (June 21 – July 22)

    Cancer’s like their creature comforts and – just like their animal counterparts – enjoy relaxing on the beach near the water. So we recommend a stay in a luxury Caribbean resort, such as Sandals where everything is included!
    Leo (July 23 – August 22)

    It might seem a bit predictable to suggest that the sign represented by a lion embarks on an African safari, but it fits. Leos are outgoing and the life of the party, so an adventurous safari is definitely up their street.
    Virgo (August 23 – September 22)

    Highly organised Virgos don’t really need any help planning a holiday as they probably already have a spreadsheet mapping out their next five adventures. However, we know how much Virgos appreciate the beauty and finer things, so we recommend none other than Paris !  
    Libra (September 23 – October 22)

    Libra represents balance and – with Venus as their ruling planet – they are also romantics at heart. However, they don’t like anything fast-paced and can be a bit superficial. So we recommend Lake Garda, where there’s beautiful scenery, delicious food, and low-key adventure.
    Scorpio (October 23 – November 21)

    Discovering the occult in New Orleans – where else for the dark and mysterious Scorpio?
    Sagittarius (November 22 – December 21)

    Symbolised by the archer constellation and ruled by the solar system’s largest planet, Sagittarius is the natural explorer of the zodiac. So we recommend a cruise out to the Galapagos Islands.
    Capricorn (December 22 – January 19)

    Capricorns are ambitious and always intimidating people with their curated knowledge – so it has to be a holiday destination that offers world-class museums, and fascinating culture. We recommend either the world powerhouse of Washington DC or the USA’s original capital of Philadelphia .
    Aquarius (January 20 – February 18)

    Free-spirited Aquarians will love the adventure that awaits them in Thailand . Whether it’s balancing their mind at a spiritual retreat, exploring ancient temples, or partying on the beach – this independent sign will love exploring this South-East Asian gemstone at their own pace.
    Pisces (February 19 – March 20)

    You’re the dreamer of the zodiac with a lot of creative, romantic and spiritual energy. The Islands of Tahiti can be found in the South Pacific and boasts many Pisces-friendly activities from long walks on the beach, delicious food, luxury resorts, and some of the best scuba diving on the planet (home to over 1000 species of fish).

     

     

    A beginner’s guide to Jamaica’s music scene

    Music is a very important part of Jamaican culture. Music helps punctuate certain time periods in the island’s history, and is an incredibly important part of telling the nation’s story. As such, many of its genres were born out of times of struggle or celebration and some of its music festivals run alongside anniversaries and celebrations.
    Music is so woven into the fabric of Jamaica that you’ll hear its unmistakable beats around every corner. So it’s well worth swotting up with your handy guide before you visit this gorgeous island. 
    The genres
    Reggae
    Without a doubt, reggae is the most famous music genre to originate from Jamaica. It has even been credited as the original influence for hip-hop in America.  
    Reggae music at its core, however, is synonymous with both hardship and a good time, both the endurance of and the celebration of overcoming a struggle. Closely linked with the Rastafarian religion, reggae invokes a sense of upliftment and an appreciation of life in all its forms.
    Mento and folk
    Folk is the earliest music form in Jamaica and remains one of the most influential aspects of the island’s musical heritage. The music is characterised by three main groups: tunes for work and entertainment, religious melodies, and dance music. Each group has its own harmony, but all share a commonality in the types of accompaniments used, primarily the drum and small wind and string instruments.
    Towards the turn of the 20th century, the music industry created a vibrant Jamaican music form called Mento. Its medley of banjos, hand drums, guitars and rhumba boxes created a fascinating beat with light-hearted and often times comical lyrics.
    Ska
    Ska was a genre that emerged when Jamaica became independent during the 1960’s and is the predecessor to rocksteady and reggae. It is characterised by a walking bass line accented with rhythms on the off-beat, and takes influence from Caribbean mento and calypso with American jazz and rhythm and blues. Ska also managed to make its way to the UK in the 1980s thanks to bands such as The Burial and The Hotknives.
    Dancehall
    Dancehall emerged in the late 80s and early 90's as an outgrowth of reggae, and is one of the most popular sub-genres of reggae with the younger generation. One defining feature of dancehall is the use of Jamaican Patois, instead of Jamaican Standard English. There’s also a big focus on the instrumental composition of the song as well.
    Examples of Dancehall deejays include King’ Yellowman, Shabba Ranks, Shaggy, Beenie Man, Buju Banton, Lady Saw, Capleton, and Bounty Killa.
    Music Festivals
    Accompong Maroon Festival
    The Accompong Maroon Festival is a cultural celebration that commemorates over 200 years since the signing of the peace treaty between the Maroons and the British. The festival marks the victory of the First Maroon War against the British in which they fought for their freedom, led by their late hero Cudjoe.
    The festival takes place in Accompong each year at some point in January.  
    Emancipation Jubilee
    Emancipation Jubilee honours the contribution of Jamaica’s ancestors through song, dance, drumming, drama, food and fashion. The highlight of the day is the signature cultural concert beginning at 8pm with the midnight reading of the 1838 Emancipation Proclamation, which granted freedom to slaves on the island. There’s also a farmers’ market, craft village, and food court offering traditional Jamaican cuisine.
    The annual event, under the theme ‘Emancipation Jubilee: The Genesis’, will be held from July 31st into Emancipation Day on August 1st.
    Jazz N Cabaret in the Gardens
    Jazz n Cabaret is a bi-monthly concert series that features performances from acclaimed Jazz performers. It has been running for 17 years and the line-up includes some of the most skilled jazz musicians from the USA, Canada, the Caribbean and South Africa. Aside from the incredible music, there is also food and drink available as well.
    The Jazz n Cabaret Recurs monthly on the 1st of every month at the Jamaica Pegasus Hotel.
    Rebel Salute
    Every year Organic HEART Group of Companies stages what has become a staple on the live music events calendar. At home at the Richmond Estate in Priory, St. Ann, Rebel Salute delivers the greatest roots reggae show on earth.
    Even more, Rebel Salute serves a strict vegetarian menu complimented by a diet of cultural roots rap from Reggae’s finest. In tandem with this, is the concept of a drug-free, violence-free and non-alcohol event. Combined with the warm hospitality and abundant culture of the Jamaican people, this event is not one to be missed.
    Next year’s Rebel Salute will happen in the 18th of January at Priory, St. Ann.
    Reggae Sumfest
    The year 2019 marks the 27th anniversary of Jamaica's biggest summer reggae festival, Reggae Sumfest. To mark this occasion, the organisers have expanded the event to a 6 night line-up of activities that will include an All White Blitz party, A Sound system Explosion, Beach Party and along with the 3 main concerts.
    The 2018 event featured Damian ‘Jr. Gong’ Marley, Beres Hammond, Maxi Priest, Cham, Capleton, Jesse Royal, Raging Fyah, Fanton Mojah, Naomi Cowan, PopCaan, Bounty Killa, Sizzla, Spice, Tommy Lee Sparta, Agent Sasco, Ding Dong, I Octane, D-Major and many others.
    Next year’s Reggae Sumfest will take place between July 13th and July 20th at the Catherine Hall in Montego Bay.
    Are you a fan of Jamaican music? Which genre is your favourite?


     

    3 escorted tours that give back to local communities

    Barrhead Travel and Travelsphere have a long history. When our Travel Consultants have a customer looking for an escorted tour, Travelsphere is one of the suppliers we get in touch with. This is especially true when the customer is looking for an escorted tour that goes off the beaten track and allows the customers a chance to travel like a local.
    Travelsphere also has their own charity brand, Travelsphere Cares. When customers book specific tours, a donation is automatically given to a good cause – whether it’s conserving wildlife or building a school. On some tours you’ll even be able to see how the money has been spent when you visit the places or meet the people who have benefited.
    Here are three tours with Barrhead Travel and Travelsphere where some of your money will go towards a good cause.
    1. Grand Tour of India
    Since 2011, Travelsphere has given support to the Salaam Baalak Trust. This non-profit charity has provided care and assistance to the street children of Delhi and Mumbai for nearly thirty years.
    The vulnerable youngsters of these inner cities are helped by the Salaam Baalak Trust in a multitude of ways, including: both formal and informal education, drop in shelters, mental and physical health care, sports clubs, vocational training and also job placements. Its activities have resulted in over 5,000 children per year benefiting from the Trust’s activities.
    Whilst in Delhi, travellers will have the opportunity to walk with some of the inspirational former street children who now work with the Salaam Baalak trust themselves.
    2. Epic Peru
    The Schools in Need project is a school improvement project as part of Travelsphere’s Peru tours and in partnership with Condor Wings. With no impact on the children’s learning, we have supported the construction of an additional toilet block facility at the Choco School.
    This is a very small school in the rural community of Choco and the help that has been given has been hugely important and warmly received. On this tour several groups have visited the school and seen first-hand the positive effect that simply the availability of an extra functioning toilet block can have.
    3. Tanzania Serengeti Safari and Kenya & Tanzania Grand Safari
    The Masai Clean Cookstoves scheme has been designed to tackle the dangerous effects that some traditional cooking methods have, producing large amounts of smoke in enclosed spaces. This affects the health of millions of people and causes many deaths each year.
    Through Travelsphere’s support, funds are given that allow local women to both construct and fit new cookstoves in their communal buildings. After seven days on safari, travellers on these tours will have the chance to visit a community where this innovative work is taking place and making a massive difference.


     

    Top 10 holiday destinations and inspiration for 2019

    We witness a lot of holiday trends here at Barrhead Travel. Every year we watch certain iconic destinations (such as New York City and Orlando) getting booked in droves, along with the family-friendly, sun-drenched destinations of Majorca and Turkey.
    But every year we also spot a few places climbing in popularity, and 2018 was no different. We’ve had a look at our bookings (and holiday trends, generally) and we’ve compiled a list of 10 holiday destinations that we reckon will become more popular in the next 12 months (so get in there now!).
    Lisbon

    If you’re looking for a European city break that is popular enough that it has loads to offer but still boasts a lot of native charm – we recommend Lisbon. The quaint Portuguese capital is a great spot for seafood, architecture and history (from Roman imperialists to exotic Berber pirates).
    Atlantic Canada

    For decades, Vancouver, Toronto, Niagara Falls, the Rocky Mountains, and the Calgary Stampede have typically battled it out to be Canada’s top destination. But Atlantic Canada is now creeping in there. Collectively made up of New Brunswick, Nova Scotia, Prince Edward Island, and Newfoundland & Labrador, Atlantic Canada offers history, low-key adventures, and copious amounts of seafood. Plus, Halifax is only a six-hour flight from the UK!
    Perth, Western Australia

    Australia has always been a popular holiday destination, but we’ve seen a rise in the number of people travelling to Western Australia. Which isn’t surprising given that it offers everything that makes Australia a great holiday destination: surf, unique wildlife, incredible landscapes, and a bustling cosmopolitan capital.
    Egypt

    Tourist numbers to Egypt have increased in recent years, especially for resort-style holidays. But in 2019 there’s an extra special reason to visit the capital of Cairo: the grand opening of the 5.2-million-square-foot Grand Egyptian Museum (which is set to be the world’s largest museum devoted to a single civilisation).
    Tahiti

    Bora Bora gained mainstream attention in 2011 thanks to the Kardashians, and interest in the luxury Islands of Tahiti hasn’t disappeared. The islands boast incredible scuba diving opportunities (1000+ species of fish and 30m of visibility!), high chances of spotting a humpback whale, and the world’s original water bungalow! It’s ideal if you’re looking for a luxury break with your other half (it’s also an incredible destination for a honeymoon or wedding).
    Galway

    Dublin has always been a popular choice for Brits looking for a cheap and easy city break – but the west coast city of Galway has gained increased interest recently (thanks to a certain Ed Sheeran song). If you’re after traditional Irish pubs (with dancing!), medieval city walls, and some of the best oysters in Europe – then you’re in the right place.
    Jerusalem

    Jerusalem is one of the oldest cities in the world, but modern touches (including a high-speed train) have been popping up across the city. Not to mention that in 2019 the city will be hosting Eurovision!
    Turkey

    If you’re looking for a sun-filled, all-inclusive family holiday we recommend Turkey. Last year it was one of our most popular (and cheapest) short-haul breaks for families. Dalaman and Antalya are the most popular places in Turkey.
    Deep South of America

    The USA was as popular as ever in 2018, with Florida, Las Vegas and California coming out top. However, the Deep South is creeping in with an increased number of visitors to the cities of New Orleans, Atlanta, Memphis, and Nashville.
    Hong Kong

    If it’s Asia you’ve turned your attention towards this year, Hong Kong was one our most booked destinations last year. Part of its appeal is its easy access to other areas of South-East Asia, making it a great base for a wider continent-wide itinerary (it’s also a popular stop off before Australia and New Zealand).
    Where will 2019 take you? Let us know in the comments!


     

    10 things you’ll find at Atlantis the Palm in Dubai

    Atlantis the Palm is one of Dubai’s most iconic hotels. If you’re not familiar with the name, you will be familiar with the photos. This palace-like resort hotel sits at the end of the manmade Palm Island with coral walls and a giant archway. And, like everything else in Dubai, it offers luxury and excitement throughout. Not sure what is on offer at Atlantis the Palm? Here are 10 things you can expect.
    An on-site waterpark
    Aquaventure Waterpark is considered one of the best waterparks in Dubai. That waterslide that shoots through a pool of sharks, which you’ve probably seen images of? It’s here, along with 16 other attractions.
    Beach-front location
    Atlantis the Palm looks out onto Royal Beach, a 1.4 kilometre stretch of pristine sand. From the water, you can look back at the shore and witness the stunning architecture of Atlantis the Palm itself and the striking Dubai skyline.
    23 restaurants
    No matter what food you’re craving, you won’t need to go into Dubai itself to find it. Whether it’s Japanese, Steak, Lebanese, or a good old-fashioned buffet – you’ll find it at Atlantis the Palm.
    Including celebrity branded restaurants
    Celebrity chefs Gordon Ramsay, Giorgio Locatelli, and Nobu Matsuhisa all have restaurants at Atlantis the Palm.
    And you can dine under the stars
    If you’re visiting Atlantis the Palm with your sweetheart, book yourselves a romantic sunset dinner along Royal Beach. Including a bottle of Champagne, set menu and some romantic stargazing. Group bookings are also welcome.
    Its own Aquarium
    Home to over 65,000 marine animals, this aquarium might be one of the largest you’ll witness. So large you can book yourself a diving tour of it - or you can opt for a relaxing yoga session from the viewing floor.  
    Exclusive activities for children and teenagers
    On top of all the family-friendly activities we’ve already mentioned, there are also activities just for the little ones. There’s a babysitting service, a kids club for 3-12 year-olds (which includes PlayStations and an underwater theatre), and the teen-only Zone.
    Boutique shopping
    Whether you need to pick up some stylish swimwear, souvenirs, or even some high-end jewellery – you’ll find it in the on-site shopping mall.
    ShuiQi Fitness Centre
    You can also maintain your fitness regime while staying at Atlantis the Palm. The state-of-the-art fitness centre includes fitness equipment, exercise classes, and even one-to-one personal training sessions.
    Elegant rooms and suites
    Atlantis the Palm offers some of the most luxurious rooms in Dubai. Their Guest Rooms offer either views of the ocean or of Dubai itself, and include a walk-in shower with separate bath, 24-room service, and complimentary WiFi.
    Or if you require extra space, you can opt for a suite. These range from the Terrace Club Suite, which includes a balcony for sunbathing or alfresco dining. Through to the Two Bedroom Family Suite, which can accommodate up to 6 guests.

     

     

    10 things to do in Halifax, Nova Scotia

    Halifax is a beautiful town with a fascinating history. As such, it is home to an incredible assortment of enriching visitor attractions. And the scenic views of the Atlantic Ocean certainly don’t hurt.
    Halifax is also small in comparison to other cities, so you’ll easily make your way around all these sights within a week-long holiday. It’s just a matter of deciding which one to start with.  
    1. Admire Titanic artefacts at the Maritime Museum of the Atlantic
    Nova Scotia is the closest landmass to the final resting place of the ill-fated Titanic. As such, many artefacts washed up on its shores and are now on display in the Maritime Museum of the Atlantic. The Museum is home to a permanent Titanic exhibition, which includes wreck wood, mortuary bags (many of those who perished are buried in Halifax), and a pair of washed-up children’s shoes.
    2. Discover the stories of over 1 million immigrants at Pier 21
    Pier 21 is to Canada what Ellis Island is to the USA. It operated as an ocean liner terminal and immigration shed from 1928 to 1971, and is now the home of The Canadian Museum of Immigration.
    At the museum, you can view the crates Dutch immigrants used to bring all their belongings across the Atlantic, play dress-up in period costumes, and take their Customs Challenge to see which of your items will be allowed or confiscated.
    3. Stroll through the Halifax Public Gardens
    The Halifax Public Gardens is the oldest Victorian Garden in North America. Officially opened in 1867, the Public Gardens has retained their original Victorian character, and organise horticultural and historical tours. During the summer the gardens are usually open between 7am to 1/2 an hour before sunset.
    4. Experience the craftsmanship of hand-made crystals at NovaScotian Crystal
    NovaScotian Crystal is Canada's (and one of the very few in the world) only maker of mouth-blown, hand-cut crystals. They employ the traditional tools and techniques of European crystal makers that were brought to Canadian shores by Irish immigrants.
    NovaScotian Crystal ship internationally, but they have a physical shop along the Halifax Waterfront. You can also watch their craftsman work their magic in the Showroom.
    5. Hike along secluded trails on McNabs Island
    McNabs Island is over 22 km (14 mi) of hiking trails, a variety of forested and coastal settings, historic sites, and interpretive panels. It once played a major role in defending Halifax Harbour, and is home to the fascinating Fort McNab. It is also a hot spot for bird watching.
    6. Eat local produce at Halifax Seaport Farmers' Market
    Halifax is home to an incredible selection of farms, wineries, and local food manufacturers. One of the best ways to sample these delicacies is to visit the Seaport Farmers’ Market, where you can sample and purchase a wide variety of products from baked goods, hand-made soaps, fresh fish, independent jewellery, locally brewed alcohol, and local crafts.
    7. Tour one of the oldest breweries in North America
    Alexander Keith Brewery was founded in 1820 and tours are organised by guides dressed in period clothing. India Pale Ale is the most popular beer brewed at Alexander Keith’s Brewery, but you can also try other brews, like Red Amber Ale, Premium White and Original Cider. Tours of the brewery last around one hour, including tastings (if you are of legal drinking age). After the tour, you can shop in its on-site store.
    8. Appreciate Atlantic Canada’s largest art collection at the Art Gallery of Nova Scotia
    The Art Gallery of Nova Scotia collects, preserves, and exhibits more than 17,000 artworks. It focuses on visual artists with strong ties to Nova Scotia (such as Maud Lewis) and the other Atlantic Provinces. Aside from their permanent collection, they also host temporary exhibitions that, in the past, have included Autism Arts, Shame and Prejudice: A Story of Resilience, and Gold: A Nova Scotia Treasure.  
    9. Become a soldier for a day at Halifax Citadel National Historic Site
    Halifax’s ocean-side location has made it a natural target for military invasion over the years – so obviously a good defence lookout was in order. Completed in 1856, Halifax Citadel National Historic Site is officially called Fort George (named after Britain’s King George II) and is actually the fourth in a series of forts to sit atop what is now known as Citadel Hill.
    The Halifax Citadel National Historic Site gives visitors the opportunity to explore the history of the fortress. Tour the Halifax Citadel Army Museum, which showcases Canadian military history, starting with the First World War and its "Road to Vimy and Beyond" exhibit through to modern-day conflict. Or sign up for the three-hour Soldier for a Day program where you’ll get fitted for an authentic uniform, learn to drill, and fire a rifle (or, for those under 16, play the British Army’s field drum).
    10. Wander along Halifax Waterfront boardwalk at sunset
    To mark the end of your Halifax adventure we recommend taking a relaxing sunset stroll along the Waterfront. While many of the businesses and shops (some of which we’ve mentioned above) will be closed by this point, this the best place in the city to catch an Atlantic Canada sunset.


     

    Getting married in….Jamaica

    With its sapphire waters and white-sand beaches, Jamaica is one of the most romantic locations on earth. So it’s not hard to understand why so many couples choose the island as the backdrop to their special day.
    Not only that, but it is incredibly easy to get married in Jamaica. Only 24 hours need to have passed between arriving and walking down the aisle, and many resort hotels offer wedding packages so you can enjoy your day with ease. Plus, you can immediately start enjoying your honeymoon from the minute you say ‘I Do’ with a wide range of romantic attractions. Here’s our guide to everything you need to know about getting married in Jamaica.
    Resorts
    Jamaica is home to a plethora of luxury, all-inclusive resorts – many of which offer incredible wedding packages. Here are just three of our favourites (that you can book through us).
    Sandals Resorts
    Sandals Resorts require no introduction, but did you know they also offer Free Weddings if you stay three nights or more? This includes preparation of wedding documents, a manicure for the bride, a ceremony location, unlimited guest seating, a bouquet, pre-recorded musical accompaniment of your choice, wedding cake, and reception. Not only that but if you stay 6 nights or longer you’ll receive $500 Wedding Credit to design your own dream wedding.
    Moon Palace Jamaica
    If you’re looking for a modern resort that offers amenities to keep all members of your wedding party entertained, then look no further than Moon Palace. The resort is home to four swimming pools, a wave simulator, five restaurants, 24-hour coffee shop, and nightly entertainment.
    They also offer a Wedding Package that includes a wedding coordinator, a minister, a decorated ceremony location, bridal bouquet, single-tier wedding cake, sparkling wine, recorded music, free honeymoon package, and a wedding registry.
    Hyatt Zilara Rose Hall
    If you’re, however, looking for something quiet and intimate we recommend Hyatt Zilara Rose Hall. This adult-only resort boasts swimming pools, beach butler service, two a la carte restaurants, and an incredible section of watersports. Their Wedding Package includes a wedding coordinator, wedding certificate, ceremony location, bridal bouquet, wedding cake, sparkling wine toast, an audio system for the ceremony, romantic dinner for the couple, and couples massage.
    DIY Weddings
    It is, however, possible to organise a DIY wedding in Jamaica. The Jamaica Tourist Board has an entire section of their website dedicated to independent wedding suppliers. This includes Wedding Planners, Entertainment, Bakers & Caterers, Florists, Bridal Wear, and Photographers.
    Legal Matters
    Jamaica’s care-free vibe extends to its marriage laws. Visitors can be married 24 hours after arriving in Jamaica, providing prior application has been made for a marriage license to the Ministry of Justice. The application must be submitted to:
    Permanent Secretary
    Ministry of Justice
    NCB Towers
    2 Kensington Crescent
    Kingston 5
    Jamaica
    Along with the following documentation:
    Proof of citizenship - certified copy of birth certificate, which includes father’s name Parent’s written consent if under 18 years of age Proof of divorce if applicable (original certificate of divorce) Certified copy of death certificate for widow or widower All documents that are not issued in English must be translated by an Official Translator and subsequently certified by the Ministry of Foreign Affairs of the country of residence and by the nearest Jamaican Mission or Honorary Consulate.
    Overall, the processing fee for the Marriage License is Four Thousand Jamaican Dollars (approximately US$50.00). The marriage license is valid for 3 months and the application is a same day process.
    If you have any other questions about getting married in Jamaica? Leave them in the comments and we’ll answer them for you.

     

     

    Why you should visit Lanzarote in the winter

    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.
    2. Hiking
    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.
    3. Watersports
    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.
    5. Whale-watching
    More than 26 species of whales and dolphin reside in the warm waters of Lanzarote – many of them permanent residents.
    6. Carnival
    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?


     

    Staff Travel: Celebrity EDGE Naming Ceremony

    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:
    Destination Culinary Accommodation Design Service 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.
     

     

    Living vegan in the Caribbean

    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.
     

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