Sunday, 1 November 2015

Norwegian Cruise Lines Jade to Greek Islands Sep 2015

Greek Island Cruise on the Norwegian Cruise Line Jade Sep 2015
We started our trip with an overnight stay at the Airport Inn which was a very good hotel with spa facilities and included a deal with overnight parking at the hotel and parking at Purple Parking formerly Airparks.  We left our car key and boarded the shuttle bus to the airport (runs every 20 mins so allow extra time)
We set off on our dawn flight with eayjet flight from Gatwick to Venice and were met and transferred by the Norwegian Cruise line shuttle bus to the port for check in.  We were allowed to board from midday and our luggage was delivered within an hour of boarding but they do say that they can take up to 8 pm so bear that in mind to have things in your hand luggage that you may need while you are waiting.
The cabins were a generous size and the bathroom had a walk in shower and separate toilet with basin in between (larger bathroom than average cruise ships)
We set sail from Venice at 6 pm and travelled through the Grand Canal in Venice which passes St Marks Square and you can look at many canalside hotels and roads, walkways etc. as well as gondolas, watertaxis and the local waterbus.  This is an amazing experience and from the port through the busiest part of the Grand Canal past St. Marks Square etc. , you have to be towed by tugboats.

At this time the skies opened and we experienced an amazing electrical storm which passed over very quickly. 
We chose to eat at the Garden Café when we arrived as it was a buffet and the easiest option and the food was varied and very good. We settled into our cabin and enjoyed our buffet meal and the evening entertainment, followed by an early night. 
The following day was a full day at sea which gave us chance to catch up on our sleep and familiarise ourselves with the ship.  There was plenty going on throughout the day for us to do from towel sculpting, cinema, gym classes or we could just relax and slow down the pace of things.  There was a large well equipped gym which we made use of, along with the stairs, to make up for the increase in calories consumed with the lovely and extensive choice of food available to us.

Day 2 and our first port was Corfu and we used Cruising Excursions for our tour of Corfu which included Paleokastrista (a beautiful bay on the north of the Island and a trip to the Kuom Kouat distillery for liquer/wine tasting. The cost of this excursion was considerably less than that offered by Norwegian but they did have a couple of tray tables broken and the seats belts were not working on a couple of the seats otherwise the tour was good and the tour guide knowledgeable and informative.  They finished at Corfu Town so that we had a short time to shop before returning to the ship.  This was only a 4 hour tour and felt a bit rushed only having about 20 minute stops but we did cover a lot and it was very enjoyable.  Corfu was reasonable for shopping and souvenirs but we did not have enough time to shop.

Day 3 was to Santorini where we had tenders (shuttle boats) taking up to the port as the ship was too big to dock closer and we took the cable car to the top to meet our cruising excursions representative.  She got caught up in the traffic so was a few minutes late but we were soon on our way and this was more relaxed as the island was smaller and had longer to look around on our stops which included the capital Oia and a wine tasting (this was chargeable and you could chose a variety of packages from 1 glass to 12 or so glasses)  Spectacular view s from here which seemed popular for weddings with 2 being held at that time.  The tour guide was excellent and we could not fault the tour bus which was a newer and more luxurious one than that in Corfu.

The next few pictures are taken at Oia

wine tasting close to the capital Oia

Day 4 was in Mykonos where we had no tour and free shuttle buses into town.  This was very pretty with narrow winding cobbled pedestrian streets/alleyways with lovely little shops throughout and there was also a sandy beach to relax with some nearby restaurants.  I did walk back to see how far it was and it took me 20 minutes and a stretch was with no pathway so probably best to make use of the free shuttle buses.  The prices in the shops were noticeably higher than other islands and there is a good selection of designer shops.

Day 5  was to Olympia where the first Olympic games were held.  We took a tour as it was 30 minutes drive to the famous archeological site at Olympia again with cruising excursions and was faultless once more with a comfortable and newer style of coach and a very good and informative tour guide. This day was forecast for thunderstorms but we managed to complete our tour of the archeological site just in time to miss the rain.  We then ended up in Katakolon for shopping which was just 5 minutes walk to the ship and this was where the prices of souvenirs were the most competitive of all our trips.

Day 6 at sea
Day 7 arrival in Venice and flight to Gatwick with Easyjet
Overall the tours were very good through cruising excursions and we saved ourselves almost 50 percent on the costs.  It is worth noting that the cruise companies probably have the best coaches but it is whether you want to pay the higher prices or save a bit of money that can go towards your bar bill or on board spending. 
The weather throughout after the thunderstorm in Venice was of sunshine with some cloud with temperatures in a comfortable mid 20s and our last day at sea was cooler as we travelled north and with a bit more cloud cover but we were able to enjoy a period of relaxing sunshine by the pool before our arrival in Venice on Saturday morning.
Norwegian have the freestyle dining  which means you can eat when you want, where you want and can opt for a buffet or served meal and there were a few specialist dining options with a cover charge of up approximately £15 per person.
Our favourite choice was the buffet at the Garden Café because of the ease and casual dress option but we also enjoyed the sit down and oriental options where the dress code is less casual.
There were poolside options for food which was best whilst relaxing at the poolside and there was constant entertainment of singers, groups or poolside games.

  The evening entertainment was excellent and received standing ovations on several nights.  These included a magician, Bee Gees tribute act and Twice as Nice with an ex member of the Stylistics.
Overall this is a fun ship with a friendly and relaxed atmosphere which would appeal to all types liking plenty of activities and things going on.  There are good kids clubs with plenty going on for all age groups so this would be a great choice for families.  There was 1 large slide for children or young at heart!  I confess I just had to try it but Norwegian also have ships with lots more going on for the more active.
I took my daughter on this trip for a well earned break as she had just graduated and now going on for a phd and she thoroughly enjoyed all Norwegian had to offer and I think is sold on cruising herself.

For more information call sue at Emsworth Travel on 01243377211. 

Friday, 30 October 2015

Sweden Helsingborg Sep 15 BWIF World badminton championships

It was an amazing experience to be able to represent England in the World Championships this year and though nerve racking, I am more determined to try to qualify and do better in the European Championships next year. There were over 50 countries represented. This is a few photos of my trip.
We flew into Copenhagen and transferred by train to Helsingborg which was just over an hours journey.  We found some good restaurants and were able to eat at quite reasonable prices compared to usual Scandinavian prices and similar prices to the UK.
opening ceremony at the Helsingborg Arena


It was a large arena and it was difficult to get used to seeing people playing behind you and the drift that everyone talked about due to the size of the venue

I am definitely playing with this racquet next time!!

The following are pictures in and around Helsingborg

A few of the England team

A few pictures of the marina and beach

The team stayed at the Marina Plaza hotel which was central just 15 mins walk to the area and next to the train station.