Category Archives: Lifestyle

Project Get Me Home

Project: Get Me Home (Trigger Warning)

Trigger Warning: This blog post mentions sexual assault which some may find disturbing.

My Story

What is Project: Get Me Home? For those of you who don’t know me, my name is Flavia Gray, I am 48 years old (born 1972) and am a single mum of two with 13 years between them. Yes it took me 12 years to find someone else who wasn’t prepared to support their child.

This is not a pity party. I am sharing my story to help inspire others to follow their dreams and that it is never too late.

Abused

The reason I fell in love with guys who didn’t love me as I deserved, was because I was sexually abused at the age of 13 by a 21 year old man that I knew. Some of my older male and female “friends” where in the room next door and were fully aware of what was going on. My virginity was violently taken away from me on the floor of a squat in Weybridge, and I told myself that was how things were meant to be. There is a scientific explanation as to why that occurs.

When something traumatic happens to us, our brain has a coping mechanism that kicks in that tells us “this is ok, this is supposed to happen”.  It does that because the brain knows we are unable to cope emotionally with the reality. The brain is protecting us.

So from the age of 13 to 29, when my daughter was born, I firmly believed that I had done a disgusting act and hated myself. Victims of sexual abuse will go one of two ways. They either abstain from sex completely or, as I did, have sex with anyone who will have them in the hope to feel loved and/or erase the memory of what happened.

The trouble with the second choice is that it gives the impression that the person is confident and “up for it”, rather than the truth which is a sad little girl desperate to be loved.

A Brush With A Serial Killer

When I was a big boobed, blonde 21 year old, I used to hang out at Rocky’s karaoke bar in Cobham. The club was famous for one of its doorman, serial killer Levi Bellfield. Everyone liked Levi. He was cuddly in an overweight sense and spoke with a high squeaky voice, so no-one took him too seriously. One evening he offered me a lift home to Weybridge. I was drunk on Hooch (remember that). I felt really special that Levi drove me home because he was a popular guy. Before we left Rocky’s I remember people said to me “Be careful. If his Mrs finds out he’s given you a lift home, she will kill you!” The irony!

So Levi drove me home in his white Vauxhall Astra. I think we stopped for a kebab. It was an uneventful journey and I thought no more of it. Later when it came out about his crimes, I looked into the older victims and it seemed that they were big boobed and blonde and they had turned him down for sex. (Disclaimer: I have read this somewhere and cannot verify that is accurate information but am using it to prove a point). My reaction was to joke about it and say “well I was safe then because I never say no”. That was my way of dealing with things. Other people had labelled me, so I had assumed the label. But deep down I just craved to be loved.

Having said that, I had some lovely boyfriends in the past, but because of the programming in my brain, nice guys just didn’t seem strong and manly enough. I know it’s messed up.

Getting My Mind Right

So I guess you are wondering how I went from that way of thinking, to the clarity I have now. Well it’s taken nearly 20 years and will never end because the day you stop learning, growing and developing is the day you die. The answers only come to those who are actively seeking the truth and who are strong enough to deal with it. In my case I had tried everything in my power to get the life I wanted, but nothing ever worked. I felt like I was stuck in a never ending series of Only Fools and Horses. (For those of you who don’t know, the main character Del Boy is always trying to “make it big” but never succeeds)

When the news of Jimmy Saville (celebrity peopdophile) hit the media, it stirred up a lot of emotion for me. Eventually I felt the right thing to do was to contact the police about the incident in 1986. I was absolutely petrified, but I kept thinking, what if there are others. What if he is still abusing children?

Going To The Police

I contacted the police and they sent two female officers to my house to talk to me. We sat down and I told them what had happened, the circumstances leading up to it and during, and they said without a shadow of a doubt that what took place was wrong. I cried. Hearing that from the police was the moment I truly accepted it into my soul. That was my healing.

The police did locate the abuser and he was questioned. He denied knowing who I was. Apparently he was in a bad state healthwise and the police didn’t feel he was a threat to anyone at this point in his life. I gave the police the names of people who knew what happened at the time, but none of them had any recollection of it. So that was all that could be done.

Counselling

As a result of contacting the police, I was able to qualify for specialist counselling by RASASC which was life changing! This was the first step of my restoration.

Since then I attended the Landmark Forum which is an intense weekend of getting your head straight. I highly recommend it, but you must to be emotionally strong enough to cope with a big mental shake up. I also listen to Tony Robbins, Les Brown, Grant Cardone, Joseph McClendon III and other mentors who help keep my mindset right and raise my standards.

Florida – Finding My Home

Why is Florida my home? Well, in 1993 my Dad paid for a 6 week trip for me to go and “find myself” in St Petersburg, Florida. He chose the destination based on the fact that he had a very good friend living there that I could fall back on in an emergency.

The day I was driven by my new found friend Mark, to Sunset Beach on the Gulf Coast for sunset, was the day everything changed for me. Have you ever had one of those moments when you say “this is where I want to be”? Well that was my moment. That was 28 years ago! Since then I have visited countless  times and always wanted to live there.

There is not a day that goes past without me thinking of that sunset.

Here’s to Project: Get Me Home

The Epiphany

I ended January 2021 with opening up about my past experience of sexual abuse. This lead to me feeling a sense of acceptance and freedom. It also opened the door to new feelings and thoughts.

I heard a voice that said to me “If Florida was your home, what would you do to get back there?” Wow! That was a revelation and it suddenly felt achievable.

The Fear

What about medical insurance, what about seeing my family, what if, what if, what if? Ok THIS is the kind of stuff that kills dreams, this is what keeps us in our little box leading an average life.

If your goal doesn’t scare you, it’s not big enough.

Dig The Ditches

I have heard this message so many times. Act like you are ready to receive what you want. Don’t worry about the how, just visualise it, expect it and prepare for it. I thought I had got this figured out, but it was only when I watched the Class of 2020 video by Sir Anthony Hopkins, that it really became clear.

Sir Anthony relayed a bible verse 2 Kings 3:16 “And he said, “Thus saith the Lord: ‘Make this valley full of ditches. ‘Ye shall not see wind, neither shall ye see rain; yet that valley shall be filled with water, that ye may drink, both ye and your cattle and your beasts.”

In other words, prepare to receive it and don’t worry about the how.

Project: Get Me Home

Even as I say it I feel sick with nerves. That’s how I know this is the right thing to do. It scares me because it is a big goal, but success is found outside of your comfort zone.

So now I am preparing to move to Florida. I will apply for my ESTA visas, a pet passport and start getting ready to go.

At the same time, I will continue to connect with likeminded people who have a dream they want to follow. My vision is to be part of a community of people who lift each other up. A community who are positive, kind, loving, honest and willing to stand up to make a difference.

Today I am starting from zero point with no money but a vehicle (my business) to make a good income. I have no working visa or green card, but I will figure it out as I go. Dig the Ditch!

Be Epic

This isn’t just about me, in fact that is the last thing it is about.

I know there are thousands of others out there who are going through exactly the same thing as me. Thousands of people are settling for a mediocre life because they don’t know HOW to make their dreams a reality. Thousands of people who are unhappy because they don’t understand that they have been brainwashed to think this is the best that life can be.

More than sitting on a beach in Florida, my goal is to help as many other people as possible, be truly happy. By using my story and my journey as an example, I want to inspire many others to do the same. Not only to inspire, but to lock arms and show them how they can do it step by step.

If you want to find out more about what I do click here Find Out More

Ships and Champagne

The Ships and Champagne community is changing. It is no longer a platform to promote the cruise industry.

Ships and Champagne’s mission statement is to inspire anyone and everyone to go after the life they deserve. To reach for the moon, not to settle and to believe that anything is possible.

Are you with me?

Great Gifts For Cruisers from £3 – £50

Cruise Themed Presents

Here are a few of my top picks that I think make great gifts for cruisers. They are all available on Amazon, so you don’t need to spend a day searching the shops for ideas, just a few minutes of online shopping and you will be putting a big smile on that cruise loving face of theirs.

£10 and Under

1. Cruise Ship Lapel Pin Badge 

A great little cruise ship lapel pin gift for adults, but the kids love to put these on their lanyards too.

2. Home Is Where The Anchor Drops – Wall Sign 

This wall sign serves as a reminder of the beauty of cruising.

3. World Famous Ships Top Trumps Game for Kids or Adults 

These top trump cards make a great Christmas Day game or to prevent boredom on long journeys.

4. Life Ring Light Pull (Red) 

Another nautical reminder when you turn on the light with this life ring light pull.

5. Nautical Socks 

The perfect gift for first time cruisers, to navigate around the ship with these port and starboard socks. Just makes sure they are on the right foot.

 

6. Beaded Lanyard 

Add a touch of class with this pretty beaded lanyard and keep your cruise card away from your phone.

 

7. Wooden Tissue Box Cover 

I think this is a lovely gift for the home or office. More details can be found here

£20 and Under

8. Baby Girls Sailor Dress 3 – 24 Months 

This cute girl’s sailor dress and hat comes in white or navy and is totally adorable.

 

9. Propeller Cufflinks 

These cufflinks just make me want to wear a dress shirt.

10. Captain Wine Bottle Holder 

Put this Captain wine bottle holder on your table at a dinner party to get the conversation going on your cruise adventures.

 

11. Maxwell & Williams porcelain mug in gift box 

Enjoy your morning brew in one of these gorgeous porcelain mugs. 6 designs to choose from.

 

12. The Joy of Cruising: Passionate Cruisers, Fascinating Stories

13. Poop Deck Door Sign

A bathroom sign with a difference.

14. Anchor and Compass Sterling Silver Pendant 

Just remember we are looking at gifts for other people. But why not  grab one for yourself while you are at it. Order here to get it before Christmas

 

Under £25

15. Anchor and Wheel Design Braces 

Hold Up! These nautical braces will put a smile on your ship mates face. Available in two designs.

16. Dancing Days The Vice Sailor Anchor Vintage Ladies Handbag

 

Recommended Reading Allure of the Seas Christmas Cruise Review

Champagne Delivery at the Shake of Your Phone

VIRGIN VOYAGES “SHAKE FOR CHAMPAGNE” ON-DEMAND CHAMPAGNE DELIVERY SERVICE

Also unveiled for Scarlet Lady is Sip, A Luxuriously Effervescent Champagne Lounge and Caviar Bar

Virgin Voyages announced its exclusive on-demand champagne delivery at the shake of your phone. Shake for Champagne enables Sailors to request champagne, anywhere on board Scarlet Lady.

Click play to watch Virgin Voyages Shake For Champagne trailer.

SHAKE FOR CHAMPAGNE

When the Virgin Voyages Sailor App is shaken, a secret Champagne button is revealed

Once pressed, a bottle of Möet Chandon Impérial will be delivered to the Sailor.

Delivered in an eye-catching, gleaming Virgin red champagne bucket, the service includes a 750ml bottle of Möet Chandon Imperial with two glasses. Möet Chandon Imperial is a blend of over 200 crus, mingling the full body of pinot noir with the suppleness of Meunier and the finesse of chardonnay – the perfect pairing for a day or evening sailing in the warm Caribbean sea.

Also Revealed. Luxurious Champagne Lounge and Caviar Bar – Sip.

Sip is a decadent lounge featuring a diverse curation of champagne labels, including Moët Chandon – Virgin Voyages’ featured champagne house. A glass of bubbles compares well to other cruise lines at just $9. For something more lavish, a sailor can splash out on a $1,000 vintage bottle. With Virgin’s quintessential British heritage and eccentricity in mind, Sip will also offer a signature afternoon high tea.

The glamour and effervescence of champagne inspired the design by Virgin Voyages and HKS Hospitality. Sip features a long marble bar with rose-gold inlay, and encourages Sailors to indulge in one of the most luxurious pairings of them all, champagne and caviar.

The colour of the champagnes that will be served is echoed in the gold and rose-pink hues offset by deep watery blues, with carrara white marble bars and tables. The deep ocean blue banquette wall and carpet that wraps through the space, will create a chance to revel or relax at all times of day as the ship sails through the ocean’s blue waves.

LIMITED-TIME BOOKING OFFER 

Sailors can toast to Virgin Voyages’ inaugural season now through November 30, as those who book April or May sailings will receive a complimentary special Virgin Voyages limited-edition bottle of Möet Chandon Imperial in their cabin upon their arrival. Sailors who book now can also snag their voyage with half off their deposit. Future Sailors and First Mates are invited to check out Virgin Voyages by visiting www.virginvoyages.com.

Recommended Reading Virgin Voyages – Dining Venues

How To Start Your Own Cruise Blog

8 Steps To Your Own Cruise Blog

First you need a name that is going to be easy to remember and describes what your blog is about. It is a good idea to have the word cruise in it, to help Google find you. Buy your domain name at a website like Go Daddy and type in the name you want. Do this before you go any further, as the name you want may not be available. It is always best to get a .com address as people tend to trust them more and if you are writing a travel site, why limit yourself to the UK? Having said that, it’s a good idea to buy the .co.uk site aswell and you can redirect it to the .com site when you are up and running. Or at least it ensures no one else copies your idea and creates a website with the same name.

Setting Up Your Cruise Blog

You can go to sites such as WordPress or Wix to start building your blog. They are both really easy to use if you allow some time and patience to learn them. There are plenty of tutorial videos on their support pages and on YouTube. This is going to be the most stressful part if you lack patience (like me), or are not very good at picking up this kind of stuff. You can hire a Web Developer to do it all for you and you can get these fairly cheap at Fiverr.com If you want to go down that route. I suggest you write up 20 blog posts with high resolution images and a plan of how you want your blog to look. Then get the developer to do it all in one go, rather than keep reverting back every time you need another post added. Once you are set up, you will probably find it a lot easier to just add a post yourself.

Cruise Blog Writing Tips

Firstly, always write your draft post in a word document backed up by a virtual folder. I have seen many posts from frustrated bloggers who have somehow lost hours of work due to the website or internet crashing.

If you want Google to rank your site as a good source of information, you need to make sure you write in a specific way. This is called SEO (Search Engine Optimisation). It’s not something to get too hung up on, but it’s worth learning to write in such a way to increase your chances of being seen. You can get plug ins that give you a traffic light indicator as to how readable your text is. I use Yoast as it also gives you tips on where you are going wrong. Sometimes it can be the formatting where you just need to split a large body of text up with a new heading. All of this adds up to making it a better read for your audience, so it’s going to benefit you in the long run.

Some bloggers are also contributors to cruise publications. If this is something that appeals to you, it is imperative that you get your punctuation, spelling and terminology correct. Always read over it. If you took heed of my first writing tip and started in an external word document, use the spell checker!

Sharing Your Cruise Blog on Social Media

Chose a blog theme that has social media share buttons on each post. This will make it easy for readers to share your content. You also want to encourage readers to follow you on social media, so ensure you have follow buttons somewhere on every page.

When you share a post on social media ALWAYS, ALWAYS, ALWAYS tag the cruise line. That way they can see that you are supporting them. It’s also a good idea to use their hashtags.

Timing is everything. There are various ways to find out the best times to post. You can Google ‘best times to post on social media’ for insights. If you find you are not able to post at the recommended times, you can use a scheduling website such as Hootsuite, which give you additional benefits such as insights and reports.

Organising Your Cruise Blog

Just because you know where to find your posts, it doesn’t mean your reader will. It’s a good idea to enlist a few friends and family members to look around your site to see if it is easy to navigate. If not, tweak it until it does. The best way to do this is to categorise topics using the menu bar at the top of the page. Look at what other bloggers have done and take the ideas from the ones you like best.

Cruise Blog Mailing List

You will want to give people the option to sign up to your mailing list. This will help grow your audience as you can notify them every time you have a new post. Some people prefer to put a sign up box somewhere discreet and others like to use a pop up (like me). It’s up to you. This is a bit of a minefield as there are many options available. If you prefer, just get the one that comes with your website theme and fine tune it when you are more familiar with the workings.

Consistency

You will grow a much steadier audience if you are consistent. It is useful to have a content calendar to help you plan what you will blog about each week for the next 4 – 6 weeks. This doesn’t have to be rigid, but having a basic plan is always good.

You might want to blog more than once a week, but you will have press releases from the cruise lines you may want to publish in between times. Some bloggers simply copy and paste these, others change them slightly. Ideally,  you should rewrite it in your own words, but in reality our busy lives don’t always allow time for this. My opinion is that it’s better to get it out quick, than be sending out a well written piece of ‘old news’. The more you do it, the easier it becomes and the seasoned journalists can turn a press release around in about 15 minutes!

Making Money From Your Cruise Blog

There are a number of ways to make money from your cruise blog. Some are more lucrative than others, but ultimately how much you earn depends on you.

Google Adsense

Once your blog has been up and running for a while, you can apply to Google Adsense for a publisher account. You see the ads on my blog? They are Adsense ads. Some people like them and some people don’t. You won’t earn a lot of money from these unless you are driving hundreds of thousands of people to your blog each month. However it’s quite nice when you get that little bit of extra cash just for adding a bit of code onto each post.

Affiliate Links

Affiliate schemes are where you sign up to the brands you feel fit well with your blog. I have Princess Cruises, Royal Caribbean and Florida Tix. If someone makes a booking using one of these links, the publisher (you) earn commission. This is the second best way for bloggers and influences to earn an income.

You can also sign up to Amazon Associates and when you buy something from Amazon for your cruise, just write up a review with a link to the website. If someone clicks onto your Amazon link and makes a purchase, whether it’s the product you linked to or something else, you will get paid commission.

Sponsored Posts

This is where the money is. Once you have created your audience, you may be approached by brands to write a review about their product. This is one of the reasons bloggers get free cruises. It is instead of payment from the cruise line. However other brands may be willing to pay you for working with them. I have had posts from £60 to £600, just for writing 300 – 500 words with a link to their website to book. Obviously don’t work with brands you don’t like, because your audience will see through this. I have turned down offers purely for that reason. Don’t sell yourself out.

Recommended Reading 5 Tips on How To Get Free Cruises

5 Tips on How To Get Free Cruises

So You Want To Cruise For Free?

There are a few ways to get concessionary cruises which I will cover in later posts, but with the exception of being a Captains’ wife, a cruise ship Godmother or winning a free cruise in a competition, there is only one way I know to actually cruise for free.

Free cruises are usually given by the cruise line to members of the press or media. This falls under five categories. A journalist, a photographer, an influencer, a blogger or a vlogger.

So let’s take a look at these in more detail.

1. Journalists and Photographers

The first two are really career paths. Something you have to train for and work your way up to over years of hard work.

Even then, only the creme de la creme will be selected for press trips. So there is no guarantee, if you do become a journalist or photographer, that you will ever get an invitation to cruise for free.

If you do want to take this route, there are plenty of resources online these days, so you can learn remotely. You don’t necessarily have to attend a college or university anymore, and if you really put in the work and have a natural flair, you may get there quicker. It’s a changing world and if you can prove you have exceptional writing or photography skills you don’t necessarily need a degree. You will, however need a platform to showcase your work and this is where your own blog can help.

2. Cruise Line Employee or Travel Agent

Most cruise lines will offer their staff stand-by cruises. These are free cruises but you do have to pay port taxes, fees and gratuities. I managed to cruise on Allure of the Seas and Liberty of the Seas when I worked for Royal Caribbean.

You also get familiarisation cruises when you are a travel agent as well as working for the cruise line. These are usually a portion of a whole cruise which is part of an escorted group by the cruise line. It gives staff and travel agents the opportunity to experience the brand for themselves, which helps them sell it more effectively to customers.

3. Blogging

Blogging is a great way to put yourself in the game, if you have a serious passion for cruise. However, I don’t recommend you start blogging with a sole aim to get free cruises. If you do this, your content will be flat and uninteresting and your audience will see through it.

Do it because you have a burning desire for cruising. Your passion and your experience is what makes you unique, and this is how to grow a loyal audience.

You don’t have to be an amazing wordsmith or a whizz at building websites. It’s all done-for-you these days. You do need the patience to learn by your mistakes and the determination to see this through until you succeed.

Why do some bloggers get invited on cruises and others don’t? You need to have two things. Good engagement with your cruise audience, which gives you influence, and a good relationship with the cruise lines’ Public Relations or Media team (use Google to find these but don’t do it until you have something worth showing them). Pick up to five cruise lines in your niche and build up your relationship both online and offline. Ask to be added to press distribution lists and share the cruise lines’ updates with your audience.

It is important to note that PR and Media Teams get bombarded with email requests, as you can imagine. Get your blog right first. Start getting them to notice you by posting your content and tagging the cruise line in it. Once you have built up your audience, you need to put a media pack together and then send this along with a covering letter introducing yourself and explaining why you see that cruise line as a good fit for your blog.

4. Vlogging

Imagine being able to invite someone onto your cruise ship and in return they create an amazing video that shows off your ship, and then make it available to millions of cruise fans. Why wouldn’t you want them on your ship? Look at the value the cruise line is getting by giving them a free cruise.

Who are you most likely to trust when it comes to getting honest cruise reviews? The cruise line or a cruiser? That said, there are many cruise vloggers nowadays, but in my opinion only 2 or 3 really great ones. So if you have a keen interest in videography and editing, this could be your niche.

5. Influencers

If you think being a blogger requires dedication and commitment, you ain’t seen nothing yet. An influencer is someone of virtual celebrity status on social media. Generally they are the people who take 500 photos to get that perfect selfie.

They are experts in social media algorithms and work, work, work to grow their audience, consistently and relentlessly.

So now you know how to get free cruises, you might want to check out my post on  How To Start Your Own Cruise Blog

A Cocktail From Barbados for National Rum Day

Celebrate National Rum Day with a Cocktail from Barbados

The Birthplace of Rum

Today is National Rum Day so why not celebrate with a delicious cocktails from Barbados, the birthplace of rum (see recipes below). Barbados is the number one destination for all rum connoisseurs and heritage enthusiasts who want to discover the fascinating story of the spirit of the Caribbean.

Photo Credit: By Aneil Lutchman

Cheryl Carter UK Director of BTMI says – “Rum is not only a part of our history but in our way of life, many friendships are made and arguments resolved over and/or with, a rum cocktail.  It’s deeply rooted in our history and culture and is a favourite with almost everyone on the island. We encourage our visitors to explore the many varieties and, several rum distilleries on the island, as each has its own unique, fascinating story to tell.”

Barbados was built on the business and culture of rum and has been producing the spirit for over 350 years. From as far back as the 1600s, sugar – and the rum which was made from it – dominated the economic development of Barbados, right up until the 1990s. Barbados was known as “the richest spot of land in all the European colonies in the Caribbean region”, all made possible by a thriving sugar industry, and booming rum production.

St Nicholas Abbey – Barbados

On island visitors have the unique opportunity of seeing a working sugar plantation at St. Nicholas Abbey; here they can witness the grinding of the sugar cane, the traditional distillation process and the oak barrels where the rum is stored, giving the St. Nicholas Abbey rum its magnificent flavour.

Mount Gay Rum Visitors Centre – Barbados

Considered to be the oldest rum brand in the world, the Mount Gay Visitor Centre enables visitors to discover the secrets of the Mount Gay rum making process; by delving into the history of the brand and, sampling its award-winning spirits.

The Foursquare Rum Factory though modern is yet another award-winning factory on the island. This factory offers free self-guided tours and tasting sessions and, it also houses a heritage park with picturesque landscaped gardens.

Visitors can also embrace this magical elixir in the islands first rum vault, hidden on the platinum west coast at the prestigious Colony Club. The Rum Vault boasts the largest collection of rum in Barbados with over 150 varieties to choose from.  There, guests can also enjoy Rum pairing dinners, Rum themed mixology demonstrations and Rum inspired culinary classes.

Great Rum Cocktail Recipes for National Rum Day

Why not try your hand at a few great rum cocktails? Here are a few recipes shared by Visit Barbados.

3 Star Mojito

2 oz Plantation 3 star white rum

6 mint leaves

1 oz simple syrup

1 oz lime juice

Top with soda water

Pepper my Corn!

1.5 oz Plantation 5yr Rum

1 oz GuavaJuice

1 oz Passionfruit juice

Manuka Honey Tea

½ oz Simple Syrup  with a pinch of Black pepper

1 oz Fresh Lime Juice

Garnish: Citrus Wheel with Red Pepper Corns

Fancy That!

2 oz Plantation Pineapple Rum

Orange Cinnamon Clove Tea

1 oz Lemon Juice

2 oz Passionfruit Juice

1/2 teaspoon of apple cider vinegar

2 dashes Orange Bitters

Other Blog Posts Related to Barbados

Corky’s Garage – The Best Bar In Barbados

Experience an evening of mixology at the sophisticated Corky’s Garage – Barbados

Barbados – Sustainability for a Greener Future

5 Ethical Commitments From Fashion Brands

5 Ethical Commitments From Fashion Brands You Need To Know About

Who doesn’t enjoy a bit of pre-cruise shopping? This guest post by Wayne Thomas gives you a few things to consider if you want to make ethical choices.

Ethical concerns are becoming an integral part of the way fashion retailers do business. As more information comes to light about the negative impact fast fashion has on the environment and those who work in the industry, consumers are driving demand for ethical commitments from the brands they know and love.  

From raising money to fund causes they care about to addressing human rights issues in the manufacture of their products, we are asking more than ever of the world’s biggest producers and retailers. In this post, we look at five ethical commitments from brands you need to know about.  

Fundraising  

One of the simplest ways brands can commit to a more ethical way of working is by raising money for causes their customers believe in. Did you know that high-street giant Debenhams has a £1 million fundraising target each year? This is alongside the many other steps Debenhams have taken in recent years to make their operations more ethical.  

Reduction In Landfill  

Much of what we buy and wear ends up in landfill. It is a sad byproduct of our throwaway culture, but one which brands are now starting to address. Clothing brand Nobody’s child have committed to reducing landfill as much as possible. They only manufacture their collections in small runs, reuse fabric where possible and donate any excess fabric to local colleges. Also, at & Other Stories, Monki, and other H&M Group brands, customers are able to recycle old textiles in store and receive discounts and incentives.  

Ban On Animal Testing And Use 

Some of the biggest brands have now committed to banning animal testing, fur (including feathers) and angora in all of their productions. Big names which have recently committed to stopping the use of angora wool include Gucci, Calvin Klein, Gap and Ralph Lauren.  

This is not only reserved for the fashion space, but in the beauty industry too. There has been a significant increase in the number of vegan and cruelty free brands on the market which has forced even the biggest beauty houses to consider their animal testing practices and the ingredients they use in their products.  

Eco Packaging  

It is not just the goods themselves, but the production and disposal of packaging that is causing major disruption to the environment. You may have already noticed how much excess packaging comes with your favourite parcels, but did you know many brands are now taking measures to reduce the packaging used? For example, the cult skincare brand Glossier now allow you to decline their signature pink ziplock and sticker pack to reduce the carbon footprint of their packaging.  

Sustainable Supply Chains  

Ethical concerns go further than the store you buy from. Brands are now committing to ensuring that their ethical commitments extend through to manufacture and sourcing of materials. According to charity The Chain, who monitor supply chain practices, Adidas, Lululemon and Primark are leading the way when it comes to rectifying human rights issues, listening to the voices of workers and overall monitoring of supply chain practices. For example, Adidas has long-term relationships with most of its suppliers. 

What commitments do you like to see from your favourite brands? Let us know. 

Here are some of our favourites;

7 Ways MSC Cruises Is Reducing Plastics

World First Hybrid Electric LNG Icebreaker

Fred Olsen Guests Fund Fifth RNLI Lifeboat



Barracudas Activity Day Camps Review

Kids Just Wanna Have Fun

Despite Josh being home schooled, I still like to take advantage of holiday clubs. I think it’s a great way for kids to socialise and learn new skills. One of the things that first attracted me to cruising, were the onboard kids clubs. My son and daughter both loved them, but finding something of equal calibre on land is not so easy.

Why Choose Barracudas ?

Barracudas Activity Day Camps offer really cool activities and they can choose from two different activities per session. The timetable changes daily and here is an example of the variety of activities they offer.

The staff at Barracudas are really lovely. The application process to become a team member is rigorous. Most of those chosen to be part of the team are either already working with children, or working towards a relevant qualification.

Barracudas Activity Day Camps Staff Emma and Georgie with Josh.

I booked Josh into the Woking camp, which is held in the stunning setting of Gordon’s School. There is ample room to host all the indoor and outdoor activities.

Gordon’s School in Woking is a stunning venue for Barracudas Activity Day Camps

As you can see, Joshua loves swimming. Barracudas provide a trained lifeguard at all times and they have plenty of armbands and floats should your child need them.

Joshua’s favourite activity was the electric karts, as this gave him the chance to put his driving skills to the test.

Barracudas still have some early booking rates on certain camps this summer. For details call the Parent Line: 01480 467 567

For locations and prices go the barracudas.co.uk

Want to know what’s on a cruise ship for kids? Joshua loved Sapphire Princess, MSC Magnifica, and Allure of the Seas



How To Make The Sapphire Princess Cocktail

Cruise News

As Sapphire Princess returns to Southampton for the summer, Princess Cruises has announced the ships’ namesake gin-based cocktail will be served exclusively onboard the vessel.

The ‘Sapphire Princess’ was created in partnership with the Bombay Sapphire Distillery, located in nearby Hampshire at Laverstoke Mill.

Inspired by the 2,670-guest ship and its Mediterranean ports of call, the bright blue-hued drink is the newest addition to the ship’s cocktail menu, complementing the extensive beverage options already available onboard.

New Shore Excursion

Princess Cruises has introduced an exciting new excursion for 2019. The visit to the Bombay Sapphire Distillery will be available on the day of disembarkation in Southampton. The in-depth tour offers guests the chance to learn the process of gin production, taste the signature botanicals for which the distillery is renowned and toast their holiday. For more information on the tour read my post Bombay Sapphire Distillery with Princess Cruises.

I was very fortunate to be invited by Princess Cruises to enjoy a guided tour at Laverstoke Mill hosted by Sam Carter, Senior Brand Ambassador for the Bombay Sapphire Distillery. After the tour we were treated to a very special class on how to make the Sapphire Princess Cocktail.

The drink includes a generous measure of Bombay Sapphire gin, which is itself made with botanical ingredients sourced from several of the countries and destinations Sapphire Princess sails to.

Sapphire Princess Cocktail Recipe

Ingredients:

  • 45ml Bombay Sapphire Gin
  • 15ml Blue Curacao
  • 15ml MARTINI Bianco Vermouth
  • 15ml freshly squeezed lemon juice
  • Splash of Prosecco

Glassware: chilled martini cocktail glass

Method: Squeeze the lemon juice into a cocktail shaker and add all other ingredients (except the sparkling wine) including lots of cubed ice and shake well for 10 seconds. Using a fine tea strainer, strain the cocktail into a martini cocktail glass and add a splash of Prosecco. Garnish by squeezing an orange peel disc over the drink, allowing the oils from the orange skin to rest on the top of the drink. Then using a knife, make a cut 1/3rd of the way through the orange peel disc and place on the rim edge of the glass.

Here’s a video I took from our class with Sam Carter.

The cocktail’s mixers include Blue Curacao to evoke the sea. A splash of Prosecco signifies the fizz and bubbles created by waves in the water.

Sapphire Princess Offers

Sapphire Princess will spend April – October 2019 sailing to a variety of destinations from Southampton including the Mediterranean, Norwegian Fjords and Canada & New England.

The new cocktail is available on sailings including:

An 11-day Canary Islands cruise, departing October 8, 2019 on Sapphire Princess. Sailing roundtrip from Southampton. Ports of call include Vigo, Spain, Madeira (Portugal), Santa Cruz De Tenerife (Spain), Gran Canaria (Canary Islands), Lanzarote (Canary Islands). Prices from £1,099 per person click here for details.

A 14-day Mediterranean Adventurer cruise, departing August 17, 2019 on Sapphire Princess. Sailing roundtrip from Southampton, ports of call include Seville (Spain), Barcelona (Spain), Marseille (Provence – France), Livorno (Florence/Pisa – Italy) Civitavecchia (Rome – Italy), Alghero (Sardinia), Ceuta (Spanish Morocco – Spain). Prices from £1,249 per person click here for details.

To book visit www.princess.com

For a tour of the ship, check out the video of me with Ben and David having a bit of fun onboard Sapphire Princess.

 

Bombay Sapphire Distillery with Princess Cruises

As well as a glass of bubbly, I am also partial to a pre dinner gin and tonic. Gin has become very fashionable in recent years, with many different types available. My first experience of Bombay Sapphire was about 10 years ago. From that very first sip I fell in love with its creamy almond texture and unique botanical blend.

Little did I know, in 2014 my favourite gin’s new home was just down the road from me. I discovered the Bombay Sapphire Distillery when Princess Cruises invited me to try their signature cocktail there. This is a shore excursion now offered to guests cruising on Sapphire Princess from Southampton in 2019.

Laverstoke Mill, Hampshire

Set in the heart of the Hampshire countryside, Laverstoke Mill consists of 3 Grade II listed buildings formerly used for milling corn and paper.

Laverstoke Mill can be traced back to the Domesday Book. It is now one of the most sustainable distilleries in the world.

These cottages were the homes of on site workers.

The Glasshouse

The Glasshouse is home to the ten botanicals that make up Bombay Sapphire’s unique blend. One side has a Mediterranean climate, while the other is a Tropical climate.

The Test is the purest chalk-stream in the UK. It runs a water turbine which generates electricity for the distillery.

Inside the Glasshouse you can see, smell and learn about each botanical.

The Dakin Still House

A tour of the Dakin Still House is a must. Evidence of it’s rich history adorns the walls and brings the romance of the ‘old days’ back to life.

The two Carter head stills used for producing Bombay Sapphire are named after Thomas and Mary Dakin, who were connected with the early recipe used for Bombay Gin.

Sample the aromas of 22 bowls containing various aromatics.

As you go around each table, punch a hole on the areas of the card which you like the smell of. At the end of your visit, you can present this at the bar where your perfect cocktail will be made for you to enjoy.

You will also find a fabulous display of the bottle and label designs throughout the ages.

Enjoying my perfect gin cocktail, The Laverstoke.

We were also treated to a special class to learn how to make the signature Princess Cruises, Sapphire Princess Cocktail. You can read about that in my post How To Make The Sapphire Princess Cocktail

Location

Laverstoke Mill, Whitchurch, Hampshire, RG28 7NR

OPENING TIMES

7 days a week 10:00 – 20:00 (last admission 18:00)

You can follow them on social media and share your photos when you visit

Facebook – Bombay Sapphire Distillery

Instagram – Bombay Sapphire Distillery

Best Pub in Southampton for Titanic Fans

Ever since I first saw the Titanic movie, I have wanted to visit the pub where Jack wins his ticket to sail on the fateful ship. So when I arranged to meet Cruise Miss in Southampton, this seemed like the perfect excuse to find it. Of course, I should have known that Danielle was familiar with the pub and knew the manager! I was pleased to hear Danielle liked the idea of meeting there, so I knew I was going to like it.

The Grapes, Southampton

Southampton’s maritime associations date back to 1838 when the first foundation stone of the dock was laid. In 1840 the railway link to London opened and two years later the first dock was complete. Southampton soon became known as the Gateway to the Empire, and in 1912 The Grapes was a popular haunt with dock and ship workers including the crew of the Titanic.

Original ornate sign of The Grapes, Southampton

As you approach the building, you can see the original ornate sign from 1912. The inside of the pub is huge and refreshingly traditional. There are no airs and graces here, but the management, staff and locals are so friendly and the gin menu would put any ‘swanky bar’ to shame.

As a long shot, I asked one of the bar staff if they would be able to make a ‘Sapphire Princess’ cocktail, which they did.

The ‘Sapphire Princess’ cocktail

The walls inside are adorned with incredible Titanic memorabilia. The star of the show has to be a framed blueprint of the ship.

Story of the Slade Brothers

The story that made The Grapes most famous for it’s connection with RMS Titanic, is the lucky escape of the Slade Brothers. This plaque outside the pub tells the story.

Titanic Memorabilia

Here is just some of the Titanic memorabilia that can be found at The Grapes pub.

Southampton Shore Excursions

If you are visiting Southampton as a port of call, the cruise line probably wont tell you about The Grapes. For obvious reasons they don’t like to mention Titanic, which is a shame because most cruisers have a place in their heart for the ship. We can imagine how the people on board would have been feeling about being on such an incredible vessel for her inaugural transatlantic. We know that feeling of excitement as you embark your cruise ship and the anticipation of making memories.

The Grapes is located in Oxford Street, which is a short stroll from Dock Gate 4 (Princess, P & O and Cunard) and about 15 minutes from Dock Gate 10 (Royal Caribbean, MSC, Celebrity Cruises). There are always taxis available at the port and in the UK you get a standard rate, so no need to haggle like you do in some other countries.

Location

41-43 Oxford Street, Maritime Quarter, Southampton, Hampshire, SO14 3DP

OPENING TIMES

Mon: 12:00 – 22:30
Tue – Wed: 12:00 – 23:00
Thu: 12:00 – 23:30
Fri – Sat: 12:00 – 00:00
Sun: 12:00 – 22:30

You can follow them on social media and share your photos when you visit

Facebook – The Grapes

Instagram – The Grapes

The Naming Ceremony of MSC Bellissima

MSC Bellissima’s Christening Ceremony Highlights

MSC Cruises have been on my list of favourite cruise lines for a few years now, but during the Christening of MSC Bellissima in Southampton I fell in love with them all over again.

Firstly, the ship itself, as her name suggests, is beautiful. The elegance and style that this family owned cruise line is known for, oozes from every detail of the ship. We were given a warm welcome as we embarked the ship the day before the Christening. This allowed everyone the opportunity to explore the ship and experience it for themselves.

The stunning LED screen that changes to suit the mood.

Familiar Faces

The Cruise Line Industry Association (CLIA) held an event onboard for its members, which allowed MSC Cruises to show off their new ship to the other cruise lines. Having worked in the cruise trade before becoming a writer and influencer, I caught up with many people I have come to know over the years. Here are just a few of them. 

I met up with some of the bloggers for a mandatory welcome drink.

Feeling peckish and a bit chilly, we all headed to the buffet for a lovely lunch. Whilst everyone tucked into the freshly made Italian pizza, I tried to put a keto lunch plate together. I think I did a pretty good job here.

After lunch everyone had their own plans, so we each did our own thing and arranged to meet up before dinner. I explored some of the upper decks of the ship, making the most of the sunshine despite the chilly breeze.

The indoor pool area means there is always a place to enjoy a swim or relax in the hot tub, regardless of the weather.

The Sky Lounge on deck 18 gives incredible panoramic views whilst relaxing with a refreshment and some live music.

A Beautiful Gift

Soon it was time for me to head back to my stateroom to unpack and prepare for the evening events. The room was very spacious and well set out, and a lovely surprise was waiting for me.

My brand new bed looked so comfortable. But I would have to wait until a lot later to try it out.

A Wonderful Evening

Dinner in the main dining room was amazing. I was far too busy having fun and chatting with my fellow bloggers to make a note of the menu but the food was the best I have ever had on an MSC ship.

I chose a delicious pate starter.

My sea bass main course was equally delicious.

I couldn’t resist the dessert.

After dinner we went up to the Sky Lounge. It had a lovely relaxing atmosphere, with a great singer and band performing jazz favourites.

Around 11.30pm a big party kicked off in the Sportsplex. The DJ played until the early hours and the dance floor was packed.

At 2am, I knew I had to drag myself away and get some sleep. As I walked to my stateroom I passed the pool which looked stunning under the night sky.

The Big Day

The day of the ceremony had arrived and a huge buzz of excitement filled the air. I went to get a better look at the facilities on board, starting with the Arizona Aquapark on deck 19. This is an amazing place for adults and kids to enjoy waterslides and try the exhilarating high ropes course.

Taking the stairs up to deck 20, the shiny new funnels were so quiet and clean. MSC Bellissima runs with significantly increased energy efficiency and has advanced technology for cleaner ship emissions.

Ultimate Luxury

Spanning three decks, MSC Yacht Club is a ship within a ship experience for those looking for the ultimate luxury retreat. I always feel it inappropriate to walk around the VIP lounge taking photos, but here is a photo of Deluxe Suite #16013.

The MSC Aurea Spa on deck 7 is a massive 1,100 square metre authentic Balinese spa. It’s 20 treatment rooms offer 160 treatments in addition to the hair salon, barber shop, nail treatments and medispa.

The thermal area offers a range of saunas, steam rooms, mediterranean baths, a salt room, ice room, blower pool, emotional showers and water benches.

MSC Bellissima boasts 18 bars and lounges. Despite not being a fan of the onboard pubs on other cruiselines, Masters of the Sea really appealed to me. It became the meeting point for our group throughout the event, and it was here I arranged to meet up with cruise ship photographer and friend, Andrew Sassoli-Walker.

Andrew had some free time between events, so we took a quick tour of the speciality restaurants onboard and sampled some of the food.

A sample of the steak served in Butcher’s Cut, the steakhouse parlour. It was mouthwateringly tender. The desserts looked delicious, but I resisted on this occasion.

Press Conference

At 3pm, a press conference was held in the London Theatre. MSC Cruises Executive Chairman Pierfrancesco Vago, who has led MSC Cruises to over 800% growth, took to the stage and talked about how the family led business is different from other cruise lines. Without having to pay shareholder dividends, they are able to reinvest more of the profit into the ships, which are already the youngest fleet at sea.

He also spoke about their restoration project. Once an industrial island, Ocean Cay is now a marine reserve and private island of the cruise line.

MSC for Unicef

“The contribution of MSC around the world has changed the lives of tens of millions of children.” Mike Penrose, Executive Director Unicef UK.

MSC Cruises are celebrating a 10 year partnership with the Unicef, which has raised nearly ten million euros for the charity. Executive Director of Unicef UK, Mike Penrose came on stage and addressing the Aponte Family, Mr Vago, MSC Cruises and guests, he said “It’s not an understatement to say that the work you’ve done, the contribution of MSC around the world has changed the lives of tens of millions of children.” This was news to me. I had no idea the cruise line had made such a difference. I am sure I wasn’t the person in the room to well up with emotion after hearing this statement.

Mr Penrose was there to introduce the legendary ex-BBC reporter Martin Bell OBE. “I spent 22 years myself working on the front line of humanitarian aid, I’ve worked all around the world and we used to have a joke wherever I worked in conflict, that only three things were guaranteed to get through to the front line, those were beer, cigarettes and Mr Martin Bell” said Penrose.

Image source: twitter @raymond_blanc

First Hand Experiences

Mr Bell took the stage and thanked everyone in MSC for what they had done to “change the fortunes of children all around the world, rescuing children and rescuing childhoods.” Speaking of his 18 years as a Unicef Ambassador, Mr Bell recalled “looking in the eye of an 6 year old girl who was too late at the nutritional feeding station. One of the most heartbreaking experiences was just watching the life ebb away, but certainly other children got there in time. I held the hand of a nine year old girl in Yemen who had been bombed out of her home. The difference between PTSD in a child is that it lasts longer. I’m extraordinarily grateful to what MSC has done. Nearly ten million euros  over the years. May you go on doing it.”

Very Touching

It was a moving moment for everyone in the theatre and as MSC Cruises CEO Gianni Onorato took to the stage, he echoed the feelings of the entire room and said that Mr Bell’s words were “very touching” and acknowledged “how important it is for us to really stop and think how we can improve the life of human beings around the world.”

Creating Luxury That Is Responsible

The press conference continued and Mr Onorato talked about the relationship between MSC Cruises and their work with Celebrity Chefs, saying that “dining is at the heart of the cruise experience”. I think we can agree with him on that one.  Ramon Freixa, Jean-Philippe Maury and Harald Wohlfahrt took turns in coming onto the stage and thanking MSC Cruises for the partnership with their onboard restaurants.

Then came a big surprise. Mr Onorato announced a new partnership with none other than world renowned chef, Raymond Blanc. Mr Blanc, who has trained 38 michelin starred chefs, said he was particularly touched to hear Mr Vago talk so well about Unicef and creating a luxury that is responsible. He said it was exciting to be part of that vision and to deliver an excellent experience for the guests and went on to inform the audience that he would be cooking the evening meal for the 170 celebrity guests onboard.

Image source: twitter @raymond_blanc – Harald Wohlfahrt (left), Raymond Blanc (centre) and Ramon Freixa (right)

So with the press conference over with, it was time to get ready for the evening.

The Naming Ceremony of MSC Bellissima

After a few glasses of bubbly on the ship, everyone made their way down to the huge marquee located on the quayside.

MSC Cruises had constructed a beautiful walkway with blue carpet that led us to the marquee keeping us guarded from the elements.

Our host for the evening Holly Willoughby looked stunning as she welcomed everybody to the ceremony.

Andrea and Matteo Bocelli gave an incredible performance of their duet.

The newest cadets currently being trained by MSC Cruises, paraded down the aisles to take the stage.

A video of the incredible charity work MSC Cruises is involved in was shown.

Following this MSC Cruises UK & Ireland Managing Director, Antonio Paradiso took to the stage and invited Nicola Graham founder of Ruben’s Retreat to join him. Nicola told of the tragic loss of her son Ruben and the work they are doing to help families. Antonio announced a partnership with the charity.

The wind outside had picked up and a decision was made to continue the ceremony on board the ship.

Back On Board

Once we were all settled back onboard, Sophia Loren appeared in the galleria with the officers.

After a few words from the legendary award winning actress, the hull of Bellissima was projected onto the LED ceiling. There was a loud 3-2-1 and the bottle of champagne could be seen smashing against the hull of Bellissima.

There was a huge cheer from the crowd and a sea of champagne glasses in the air. Our media group enjoyed a delicious dinner in the main dining room.

Image source: Instagram @fran_in_france

A delicious main course of applewood smoked duck breast salad, orange confit and asparagus pomegranate cherry dressing.

Leee John Performs with Chic

I miss my younger days of going out at the weekends and having a good dance. THIS for me was the highlight. I was ready for dancing!

Leee John performed a non stop high energy 2 hour set with back to back hits. It was totally incredible and I did not stop dancing. For videos of the show please visit my Instagram page @ships.and.champagne and click on the highlight #mscbellissima

Chic singer Folami and bass player Jerry Barnes joined Leee John on stage to perform their hit “Good Times”. Not only was this one of Nile Rogers biggest hit records, but it has appeared as a sample on 192 songs.

Folami, Leee John and Jerry Barnes.

You can read my interview with Leee John or listen and order the latest release from Leee John click here.

Well done MSC UK team for pulling off an absolutely incredible event, that people will always remember.

Cruise with Flavia onboard MSC Bellissima

Who fancies joining me on a cruise onboard MSC Bellissima? I am hosting a group on a 7 night Mediterranean cruise onboard MSC Bellissima. This cruise is suitable for first time cruisers, families with children, or solo travellers who would benefit from travelling within a larger group. The date is 25th October 2019 sailing from Barcelona. The group is being handled by Cruise Specialist Jane Cowley at Travel Counsellors, who’s contact details can be found here.

Christmas Lunch at Coworth Park Hotel

Coworth Park is an 18th Century Mansion House set in 240 acres of stunning Berkshire countryside. Formerly known as Coworth House, ownership has passed through the hands of many Lords and Ladies over the years. Now one of the ten hotels that make up the Dorchester Collection, Coworth Park Hotel comprises 70 rooms, a Michelin Star Restaurant and two additional eateries, an eco spa, 30 stables, a riding school, a helicopter pad and its very own polo club.

I have been looking for an excuse to have lunch at Coworth Park for some time, so when a friend and I were looking for somewhere to enjoy a Christmas Lunch, Coworth Park immediately came to mind.

Royal Connections

Nestled in Sunningdale near Ascot, Berkshire, Coworth Park Hotel is set out of sight and is easy to miss if you don’t know about it. However, the mansion house made the news headlines in May 2018, when Prince Harry and Prince William chose to overnight at Coworth Park the night before Harry and Meghan’s Wedding. This may have been an easy choice for the Princes, as they have many happy memories of playing Polo together at Coworth Park.

We arrived early in order to take in the beautiful surroundings. Everyone at the hotel is so friendly and made us feel welcome the moment we pulled up outside the door.  There is ample parking available however, I recommend getting a taxi as the cocktails are divine.

I ordered a French 75 for each of us. The gin and champagne cocktails were freshly prepared and beautifully presented, served with delicious sweet and savoury popcorn.

I stopped for a quick photo with the main Christmas tree on the way to the Drawing Room.

 

We sat and enjoyed our cocktails with the most beautiful view.

The Restaurant

The day before our visit, I had received a call from the restaurant to reconfirm our reservation. The lady who called me was Andrea. I had emailed ahead to explain that I intended to write about my visit and would appreciate a table with a view if possible. I also said that I would like to take photos and, appreciating the privacy of other guests, would prefer not to be in the middle of the restaurant for this purpose. Andrea confirmed that she had received this information and that they would do their best, and I assured Andrea that I would not impose on any other guests by my photography. I didn’t think any more of it. When we arrived at the restaurant it was Andrea who greeted us. She was lovely. Her positive energy was delightful and she excitedly showed us to our table.

Champagne With A View

We were shown to the perfect table by a window. On the table was a card with my name on it. I opened it and it read:


It’s personal touches like this that really makes you fall in love with a place.

Champagne with a view of Coworth Park

The stunning oak leaf chandelier in the Restaurant Coworth Park

Our Christmas Lunch

We were spoilt rotten with the culinary delights presented to us. Trust me you will NOT be going home hungry.

A delicious wholemeal roll with three assorted butters.

Scallop Cornet with XO Sauce and Coworth Oreo with Smoked Cods Roe

Heirloom tomato, goats curd and garden mint

Smoked and Cured Halibut with Clementine, Rye, Herb Creme Fraiche with a “sprinkling” of caviar!

Norfolk Bronze Turkey, Sage, Chestnut Stuffing with All The Trimmings

A sorbet of sorts

Coworth Park Mont Blanc, chocolate, chestnut, pear

The meal was sensational, the service was faultless and the atmosphere in the restaurant was relaxed and friendly. All in all David and I had an unforgettable experience.

We stepped outside. By now the sun was beginning to set and the clouds and the Christmas lights were starting to glow.

The time had come for us to leave Coworth Park and head home. We had such a wonderful time in the lounge and restaurant.  There is still horse riding, afternoon tea, the Barn, the spa and an overnight stay to experience. So for now, Coworth Park, we bid you adieu but you can expect to see us back again soon.

Coworth Park Hotel Information

Address:

Coworth Park Hotel, Blacknest Road, Ascot, Berkshire SL5 7SE

Hotel and Restaurant Enquiries: +44 (0) 1344 876 600

The Spa at Coworth Park:  +44 (0)1344 756756

Polo and Equestrian Enquiries: +44 (0)1344 756 763

Special Dorchester Collection Offers: Take a look

Or you can visit their website for further information on their Homepage

Interested in other Dorchester Collection Hotels?

You might like to read my post Lunch at The Dorchester

Corky’s Garage – The Best Bar In Barbados

For those of you who know me, and if you don’t you have probably guessed by the title of my blog, I like to enjoy the finer things in life. I do have an inner beach bum, but nothing beats a classy joint with people who know how to party.

As part of my Caribbean Cruise on Viking Sea in March this year, I had the pleasure of spending some time in Barbados. During my whirlwind trip of the Island I met Anna, a lovely Italian lady from Milan. Over conversation, Anna told me how she had moved to Barbados five years ago and was now running her own bar. I immediately felt a huge sense of admiration (with an equal amount of envy), as she had turned her dream into a reality.

Corky’s Garage is located on the west coast of the island, opposite the beautifully historic St. James Parish Church.  Set within a modernised classic Barbadian chattel house, Corky’s Garage offers a relaxing place to enjoy cocktails, cigars and conversation.

Authentic Italian

Anna has brought her Italian flair to the menu’s of Corky’s Garage. Serving authentic Italian dishes including homemade pizza and pasta.

The menu changes monthly, dishes currently on offer include:

Bruschetta (plain, classic, pesto, formaggi or caprese)

Caprese Salad

Creme Brulee

THIRSTY?

At Corky’s Garage you can enjoy a fine selection of craft beers, gins or whatever takes your fancy.

Mixologist

Fancy a cocktail? Liquid Expressions is a regular event at Corky’s Garage where Mixologist Alexnder Davinci shows off his incredible talent for making delicious cocktails that are works of art.

Cigars

If cigars are your thing, Corky’s Garage have a great selection to satisfy any cigar aficionado.

Live Entertainment

A popular night at Corky’s Garage is Sax and Trax with talented saxophonist Mylon Clarke.

Corky’s Garage is open from five o’clock in the afternoon until late. It’s a great place to party until the early hours and local celebrities such as Arturo Tappin and DJ Timeless are regular visitors. Anna’s outgoing and happy personality is what infuses the great food, cocktails and decor is taking this friendly upmarket Barbadian bar well on it’s way to being an island legend.

Anna with local celebrity DJ Timeless.

I can’t wait to go back to Barbados and get myself a Corky’s Cocktail.

You can find them here:

Eliville House’ Trents Tenantry Road
Folkestone Park, Saint James, Barbados
To book a table or a private function contact:
Email: reservations@corkysgarage.com
Call:  +1 246 538 9595

You can follow Corky’s Garage on Facebook here

You may also be interested in my post Viking Sea Cruise – Last Day – Barbados

Mia Tui Travel Bag Review – Jennie and Alex

A few months ago, Mia Tui sent me a couple of travel bags from their extensive range, to try out and review. Their timing was perfect, as the bags arrived just in time for me to take on my trip to the Caribbean with Viking Cruises. 

Mia Tui Travel Bag Review

The Mia Tui Jennie bag was clearly designed by a Mother as it combines style with functionality. It is extremely well made and comes with detachable straps for your comfort. The bag itself is huge and I was excited to be able to fit my laptop into it. There is a pocket on the back of the back which has a strap, allowing it to fit over your suitcase handle. If you are going to and from the airport this is great. However, don’t overload the bag even though it will be able to hold it, you may not.

  • 1 Clear internal bag with hand strap
  • 1 Matching clutch bag with hand & X-body strap
  • Insulated water bottle holders (bottles not included)
  • Key clip
  • Phone pocket
  • Pen holder
  • Hands-free shoulder strap
  • Metal studs on base of bag for protection
  • Turquoise interior

The internal bag is fantastic as you can keep your passport, purse, phone and other little bits in it for easy access.  It can be worn as an across the body bag, keeping your hands free for other things. It’s also great when you are on a flight because you can still keep those things close to you, without having to keep pulling your bag out from under the seat or the overhead locker.

The internal bag that comes with the Jennie bag in rose gold

I took this little bag everywhere with me on the cruise and still do every day.

Lightweight Beach Bag

For daytime by the pool or going to the beach, I used the Alex Folding Bag. I absolutely adored the pattern but there are quite a few options available if you prefer something a bit different. This bag also has the strap that fits over the handles of your suitcase so you can use it for travelling as well. It is extremely lightweight and folds up neatly into a nice little pouch.

The Alex Folding Bag in Green Flower design

Having tested these bags for nearly 6 months now I can give you a first hand, honest Mia Tui travel bag review. I love the design options, I love the quality and I love the fact that they are suitable for vegans (to wear not eat).  I use the internal Jennie bag every day and it shows no signs of wear whatsoever.

Wearing my Mia Tui bag at Mercedes Benz World

Taking my Mia Tui bag out when meeting friends for coffee

Mia Tui even saved the day when I forgot to take Sam’s lead to watch the Farnborough Air Show

To get 20% off your first purchase simply enter discount code SAC20 at checkout.

Home – Mia Tui

Jennie Bag – Mia Tui

Alex Folding Bag – Mia Tui

Taste Of Edge – Celebrity Cruises

Celebrity Cruises have always been known for producing incredible onboard cuisine. The cruise line gave Londoners a preview of what can be expected in some of the 29 dining venues onboard their new ship, Celebrity Edge.

Michelin stared Chef, Cornelius Gallagher hosted the exclusive tastings at the foodies favourite Taste of London Festival in Regents Park last week. Dishes were perfectly paired with wines selected by Amelia Singer from the Wine Show.

I tried dishes from the Cosmopolitan Restaurant which is American inspired new cuisine. The starter of Grilled Carrot and Mozzarella Salad with smoked trout, fresh herbs and a delicious carrot vinaigrette was paired with Hugel Pinot Blanc from the Alsace region. It was a mouthwatering combination and the smoked trout gave a lively kick to the dish.

For main course it was the popular Grilled New York Strip Steak, served with roasted baby vegetables, parsnip puree, caramelised onions. The perfect pairing came with a Sonoma County Decoy, Cabernet Sauvignon.

Celebrity Cruises really have gone beyond borders with the dining offerings on their new class of ship. Check out the video below for more information.

Celebrity Edge will be larger than the Solstice Class ships at a size of 129,500 Gross Tonnes. At 1,004 feet long, 128 feet wide a draught of 27 feet, a cruising speed of 22 knots and a total of 4,694 horsepower, Celebrity Edge will have the capacity to carry a total of  3,373 guests.

Celebrity Edge will spend her inaugural season sailing alternating seven-night eastern and western Caribbean itineraries before transporting guests to the stunning vistas of the Mediterranean with a range of seven- to 11-night sailings from iconic cities like Barcelona and Rome in 2019.

Homeporting in Fort Lauderdale, FL., Celebrity Edge will be making her first sailing November 21, 2018, and will be joined by three sister ships in 2020, 2021 and 2022.

Under 18s Race Free with Great British Racing

Did you know that you don’t have to pay for under 18’s at the races?

Image credit: imagecomms

And did you also know that there is a lot more to do at the races than just watch the horse racing?

Image credit: imagecomms

Well if you didn’t then read on.

As a parent myself, and a single one at that, it can be a challenge to find something fun and affordable to do with the family. You really want a good day out don’t you?

So Great British Racing have launched a series of short films with David Walliams and Billy Jenkins, to show the public what they are missing. Joshua and I were thrilled to be invited to the screening at Sandown Park Racecourse last week, to learn more about it.

Image credit: imagecomms Billy Jenkins, David Walliams, Rod Street or Great British Racing and ITV Sports Presenter Ed Chamberlin talk about making ‘Horsing Around’.

Child actor Billy Jenkins, better known for his role as ‘Young Charles” in The Crown, plays the part of David’s son. The short films are very amusing, and I couldn’t help but laugh out loud at the part in episode three where David reads out the names of the horses, only to discover its actually the food menu.

I have to admit, it wouldn’t have occurred to me to take Joshua to the races until we went to the event at Sandown Race Course. It was only once we arrived that I remembered the days that I used to go to Sandown as a child with my family. I’ve always loved horses, so I enjoyed going purely to see these gorgeous animals. The great thing about kids is that they love the competition of picking their horse without having to place a bet. You can introduce your own game. Bring a bag of sweets or other treats with you and whoever picks the winner gets a treat.

image credit: imagecomms

Races are very close together, so once it all starts there is no long waiting around for the next piece of action. My suggestion would be to bring a picnic blanket and some food. Sit down a good couple of hours before the race to enjoy something to eat. Pick your horses and take the kids for a bathroom break before everything starts. If you do want to place bets, again I would do this in advance, rather than in between races.

Before the first race, you can all head down to the pre-parade ring so that the children can actually see their horses. At Sandown, it is set out very easily so that we could see the horses in the ring, then walk down to the winning post and enjoy the race from there.

Here is a glimpse of Frankie Dettori riding Without Parole who went on to win his race.

Each event offers different things for the family. For example Windsormania is a family fun day held at Royal Windsor Racecourse on Sunday 1st July and includes a free all day fun fair for the children and after race music with tribute acts including Katy Perry, One Direction and Pink.

A family of 6 can go for £28 and for just £2 more they include 4 ice cream vouchers and a race card.

If you don’t want to take your own food, there is plenty on offer. With restaurants, bars, food trucks and mobile gin, champagne and Pimms bars, they have everything covered.

 

image credit: imagecomms Jockey David Crosse gives Joshua a ride on his training horse.

image credit: imagecomms David Walliams talks to Ed Chamberlin

image credit: imagecomms David Walliams at Sandown Race Course with the Jockeys

Image credit: imagecomms Jockey Frankie Dettori

Activity Pack Free Dowloads

Games and Puzzles

Design Your Own Silks

Autograph Card

8 Things To Do At The Races

Links

Find Your Hip Hop Horse Name

Emoji Quiz

Funniest Horse Names

Summer Family Fixtures

Hapag Lloyd Cruises At Polo In The Park

Award winning Hapag-Lloyd Cruises’ are official sponsors of Polo In The Park this year. It’s the perfect fit with their reputation as one of the World’s leading luxury and expedition cruise lines.

Image Credit: Hapag Lloyd Cruises – Europa 2 sailing past the New York skyline

A Hapag-Lloyd Cruises lounge marquee area will be located next to the Polo pitch where visitors will be able to find out more about Europa 2 (rated as World’s Best Cruise Ship) and their new state of the art ultra luxury expedition ship Hanseatic Inspiration. Thoughtfully, there will be a phone/tablet charger in the marquee for people to use free of charge.

Image credit: Hapag Lloyd Cruises – Pool Bar onboard Europa 2

EUROPA 2

The leading cruise guide book,  Stern’s Guide to the Cruise Vacation once again awarded Hapag Lloyd Cruises’ Europa 2 the highest distinction rating of 6-stars plus. “Having cruised on almost a thousand ships, I can honestly say the Europa 2 is one of the most beautiful ships I have ever seen. From the top notch service, to the luxury accommodations, to the superb gourmet food, the Europa 2 is in a class of her own,” said Steve Stern.

They also won Best Adventure / Expedition Cruise Line category in the 2018 Wave Awards. These are just two of a long list of awards recognising the outstanding level of luxury, service and attention to detail the cruise line are renowned for.

As well as stunning itineraries, details of which will be available at the marquee, there are two unique cruises for lovers of fashion and art.

fashion2sea is an entire cruise dedicated to fashion onboard Europa 2. Travelling from Lisbon to Hamburg, visiting cities with true style in mind. The format for the cruise includes exclusive collaborations with renowned designers, glamorous fashion shows, new collections, a pop-up store, a beauty lounge, make-up workshops, and a fashion dinner.

In partnership with the renowned art magazine Weltkunst the art2sea cruise sails from Monte Carlo to Civitavecchia and focuses on old masters and modern art. There will be guided visits to galleries, exhibitions and museums such as the world-famous Uffizi Gallery in Florence. Back on board and guests can enjoy lectures and discussions with knowledgeable experts.

Image credit: Hapag Lloyd Cruises – Europa 2

New Expedition Class

The 230 passenger Hanseatic Inspiration, sets a new standard for the expedition experience, including retractable glass balconies on the sun deck. These have been designed to give guests the feeling of hovering directly above the water.

The onboard experiences match the incredible design. To find out more, get your Polo In The Park tickets using SHIPSPOLO discount code to save £5 per ticket book now

Discounted Tickets for Polo In The Park 8 – 10 June

Polo In The Park is celebrating it’s 10th successful year at Hurlingham Park in London next weekend.  It’s a fantastic event to enjoy with friends or family on 8 – 10 June. What’s more, when you buy tickets to the event and enter my unique code SHIPSPOLO at checkout, you get a £5 discount.

The award winning London property specialists, Chestertons are the headline sponsor for Polo In The Park for the fifth year running. I met a few of the guys from Chestertons at the team draw recently and what a great bunch they were. It was interesting to hear about the various events they get involved in with the local community. Central Sales Area Director, Corey Askew told me how he had the idea for Chestertons to organise a coat drive. For those of you unfamiliar with this term, it is when the employees and community donate coats which are collected and given to those in need.

As well as the London area, Chestertons also have properties for sale and rent all over the world. Even if you are not in the market to buy, sell or rent property right now, I can strongly recommend checking out their website even if it’s just to drool over the beachfront properties in the Cayman Islands. A good place to start for inspiration for your vision board is Chestertons website

Hurlingham Park

This beautiful park in Fulham is also the home of the Hammersmith and Fulham Rugby Football Club. It is thought that Fulham Football Club played here when they were still a church side boys team. The Park is located next to the famous Hurlingham Club, a private members sports and social club, which was responsible for introducing Polo to England in 1869.

Champagne Lanson Garden

Overlooking the playing field will be Lanson’s largest outdoor Champagne Garden. The perfect place to enjoy the match and a selection their finest Champagnes. From legendary full flavour Black Label and delicate Rosé, to the iconic dry White Label designed to work well with a little flavour, such as a slice of strawberry, a sprig of fresh mint or zest of orange or lemon, there is something to suit every palate. I’d certainly be willing to compare a few combinations. Some of you may remember I spent most of the day at the Cruise Show with Lanson.

If you would like to increase your knowledge of Champagne, Lanson have put together a Little Black Book of Champagne secrets, facts and anecdotes. You can order your free copy (UK residents only) here.

Kids

Polo In The Park have a fantastic Kids Club on Sunday 10 June open exclusively from 10.30 am – 1.30 pm. In fact it’s worth going just for that. They have a pitch invasion, family olympics, giant slides, tug of war, bouncy castles, obstacle courses, soft play, games, face painting and much more. Top Children’s Entertainers Eddie Catz and Sharky & George will be on hand to ensure everyone has a fantastic day. Ham Polo Club will be giving kids the opportunity to have a go at polo on their wooden horse. In addition Chelsea FC Foundation will be hosting a football skills session and giving away prizes.

Full details of the Family Day can be found here

Shopping and Food

In between games, you can visit the Shopping Village featuring brands such as Boadicea The Victorious, Robusto Cigars, Olivia and Pearl, Vintage Collectable Clothing, Parkers Cufflinks and many more.

The Grazing Paddock is an eclectic mix of London’s best restaurants and street food, so you are sure to find something to get your teeth into.

The Game

Six teams, Buenos Aires, Cape Town, Zurich, London, Dubai and Kissimmee will compete over three days. There will be three matches per day and the teams will be playing under new City Polo Series Rules.

This unique format gives the game a fast and furious approach with a smaller playing field, so spectators can enjoy an exhilarating and up close experience of this incredible sport.

Full details of the game, event and timetable can be found here

The Teams

The team draws were made at the Mandarin Oriental Hyde Park on 9 May. The hotel is also one of the proud sponsors of the event. This is how the playing looks for day one.

Lanson provided a refreshing glass of Champagne to start the proceedings.

It was a great night and if you have never been to the Mandarin Oriental at Hyde Park, here’s a little look inside it’s magnificent interior.

£5 Discount Code

To save money on your Polo In The Park tickets, enter my unique code SHIPSPOLO at checkout and get a £5 discount of each ticket.

Meet Me There

I will be there on Sunday 10 June, I hope to see you there. Come and find me, I am sure to be in the Champagne Lanson Garden, or simply tweet me @flaviagray Book your tickets here

 

M & S Woven Beach Dress – 3 Prints To Choose From

M & S Woven Beach Dress

This pretty little dress is one of my favourite cruise items this year. It’s very flattering, and at first glance doesn’t look like a beach dress. That allows you the flexibility to wear it around the ship during the day, or on shore excursions, without looking too beachy.

It is so cute and so comfy and suited to girls and women of all ages. The black one is my favourite, but I did have all four in my online shopping basket for a while, until I finally settled with one. I’m still tempted with the pink palm print one though!

Browse the collection

M & S Linen Tunic Dress – Nine Colour Options

M&S COLLECTION – Linen Blend Sleeveless Tunic Dress

I must say I am not a fan of linen at all. Whenever I have bought linen clothes in the past I have regretted it. But when I was scrolling through the Marks and Spencer website, this coral linen tunic dress dress stole my heart.

The M&S Collection is a good value, great product range that suits a variety of age groups. This dress comes in nine different colours and patterns including navy, aqua, beige, striped, black, blue and some gorgeous prints.

Because of the linen mix, it does not crease up like pure linen, but it’s still going to need a bit more care in packing and handling than your polyester. If like Viking, Princess and P & O Cruises, your cruise ship has a laundry room, you will have no problem quickly running an iron over it, before putting it on.

It’s really versatile too. I wore mine to the beach with a pair of fit flops, but I think you could dress it up or down however you see fit.

M&S Collection Linen Blend Sleeveless Tunic Dress – £25

Happy to be at Brownes Beach – Barbados

Brownes Beach – Barbados

On the final day of my Viking Cruise, our lovely driver for the morning, Marson, recommended that we visited this beach. This was my first time in Barbados (read the post here) and it was the picture perfect Caribbean beach. We arrived around nine o’clock in the morning and the beach was virtually deserted. However, it is very popular with cruise passengers, so if you do want to spend the day there, get there first thing in the morning to enjoy the tranquility.

The water is very shallow so it is a great location to take children.


Recommendations and Affiliates

This is a product that I have purchased myself. The Brand have not endorsed or paid me to review this product. The product links on this page are affiliate links. This means, should you wish to purchase the dress, I will get a small commission from the brand at no extra cost to you.

M&S Collection Linen Blend Sleeveless Tunic Dress – £25

Take a look at My Best Body Confidence Bikini