Monthly Archives: December 2016

10 Tips for a Great Cruising Holiday

A cruise holiday is a great way to see the world from a different perspective, offering convenience, value for money and as much or as little luxury as you prefer. Whether it’s your first cruise or you consider the ocean your second home, your personal travel manager (PTM) can help you choose the best option to suit, and give you some insider tips on making the most of your time aboard.

Here’s a sample of some of our favourites, so you can make the most of your cruise holiday.

  1. It pays to do your homework.

Find out which cruise lines offer sailings at your preferred destination and time of year. Talk to your PTM about which option best suits your needs. You should also consider factors such as cruise duration, ship size and ports of call when making your decision.

  1. Book smart.

Many cruise lines offer great early bird deals, fly-free bonuses and other great incentives. Your PTM can advise you on the best time to book. Alternatively, if you’re free to depart on a whim, ask about last minute specials.

  1. Pack smart.

In most cases, the onboard dress code is fairly relaxed, so there’s no need to pack a tuxedo or ball gown… unless you want to indulge in some “Love Boat” nostalgia. These days, even the more formal evenings usually only require “smart attire”. What’s more, whilst staterooms are usually well laid-out in order to maximise space, unless you’re booking a suite you’re going to have less room than your average hotel room, so you probably don’t want to be tripping over bulky suitcases when moving around your cabin.

  1. Pre-book your shore excursions.

There’s often high demand for the more popular options so it pays to either book them before you depart, or be ready to make your bookings early on in the cruise, before they sell out.

  1. Be adventurous.

Don’t be afraid to sometimes give the organised shore excursions a miss, and instead venture out on your own. Spend some time before arrival in port talking to the shore excursions desk and ask for advice on local attractions and ground transport.

  1. Get acquainted with your ship early.

Generally speaking, cruise ships are BIG, and if you want to make the most of your time aboard, you need to know what’s on offer. It’s a good idea to join one of the orientation tours that take place after embarkation – you’ll get the inside scoop from people who really know what they’re talking about: which restaurants need to be pre-booked, what the most popular spa treatments are, even their favourite dish at the lunch buffet.

  1. Eat, drink and be merry.

Speaking of food, you’ll be spoilt for choice, with most cruise ships offering a range of restaurant options from casual café to fine dining, and of course, the buffet. Be warned though, it often pays to book in advance if you want to try one of the alternative dining options.

All that eating and sightseeing and walking laps of the deck at dusk is bound to work up a thirst. While most food is included in the price of your cruise, in many cases the beverages are charged to your cabin, with the account settled prior to final disembarkation (that’s cruise speak for “the end of the line”). Find out whether your cruise offers the option of purchasing a beverage package so that you have a firm idea of what you’re spending and don’t blow the budget on those appealing poolside cocktails.

  1. Book the balcony.

If your budget can stretch a little further, it’s well worth upgrading to a balcony stateroom. Picture yourself sitting on the balcony sipping a morning cup of coffee as your ship sails into port, or enjoying a glass of wine in the evening as the ship heads into the setting sun… trust us: you won’t regret that extra indulgence.

  1. Pace yourself.

With so much to do both on board and ashore, you’d be forgiven for forgetting that you’re on holiday as you race from salsa lessons to cabaret show to poker night. Many cruise ships offer excellent spa facilities where you can enjoy a relaxing massage to iron out the kinks from all your sightseeing.

  1. Do it all over again.

Did you know it’s been estimated that as many as 85% of travellers who have been on a cruise once will go on another cruise? Many cruise lines offer further discounts to past passengers.

How to Choose the Best Travel Camera

How to Choose the Best Camera for Travel

Over the past ten years, I’ve scoured the internet and tested camera gear in order to find the perfect travel photography kit. When readers and members of our Instagram community ask us what camera we use, I always tell them that what works best for us won’t necessarily be the best fit for them. Choosing the best travel camera is more about finding one that allows you to shoot the photographs you want.

Choosing the best camera for travel photography is different from choosing a professional camera for things like wedding photography and portrait photography, or even just everyday use at home. With so many camera options on the market, it can be a little intimidating when you start your new camera search.

Consider the Best Type of Travel Camera for Your Needs

There are several types of travel cameras on the market (Point and Shoot, Advanced Compact Cameras, DSLR, Mirrorless) and each one has its own list of benefits. First, and most importantly, you should consider what is most important to you – size, weight, price, ease of use, etc. Below, I’ve listed the benefits and limitations of each type of camera as well as the top cameras in each of those categories.

Compact Digital Cameras (Point & Shoot)

If your main concern is price, weight, and purchasing a travel camera that is easy to use, then you will want to look at purchasing a Compact Digital Camera. This type of camera won’t weigh down your luggage and it will easily fit in a small backpack or purse.

Compact Digital Cameras are perfect if you don’t want to be hassled with too many controls and you want the least expensive option. Nowadays, you can still find a Point and Shoot camera that takes great photos. That’s not to say you should pick just any Point and Shoot because they are not all created equal. Here are the best travel cameras under $300.

Advanced Compact Digital Cameras (High-End Compact)

Advanced Compact Digital Cameras are similar to Point and Shoot cameras, but they come with a few more bells and whistles. They are the high end of compact cameras with built-in lenses.

Advanced Compact Cameras are similar in size to the above mentioned ones and they offer full manual mode in addition to auto mode. (Note: Both of the cameras listed in the above section offer manual mode as well.) They also usually have the ability to capture photos in RAW format — which is important if you plan to make any edits to your photos once you upload them to your computer.

These cameras tend to be slightly more expensive than the regular compacts, but less expensive than DSLR or mirrorless cameras.

Mirrorless Cameras

If image quality, size, and weight is the most important factor, you will want to look at purchasing a mirrorless camera. What is a mirrorless camera, you ask? Unlike a Digital SLR, this type of camera does not have a mirror reflex optical viewfinder — hence, the name mirrorless.  This type of camera is perfect for people who still want an interchangeable lens without the weight of a DSLR.

Another plus for mirrorless is the electronic viewfinders because you can view the realtime effect of aperture and ISO adjustments, unlike a DSLR. If you want to take some of the guesswork out of your photography, then mirrorless is the way to go.

6 Places You Can’t Miss in Hawaii

Black Rock on Ka’anapali Beach (Maui)

If you’re a fan of anything fun, you need to go to Black Rock. Cliff diving, scuba, and snorkeling with tropical fish are just the beginning – sea turtles are usually spotted here and the stunning scenery is a photographers paradise. Every night the Sheraton Hotel has a symbolic torch lighting/diving ceremony that symbolizes the site’s ancient legend that spirits jump off these rocks as a final passing. The torches at sunset are gorgeous, so make this a full day excursion.

Shipwreck Beach (Kauai)

Although the real shipwreck for which it’s named for has long disappeared, Shipwreck Beach has awesome views and is a favorite for local surfers.  Swimming is only recommended for strong swimmers due to rough waters, but experienced surfers and boogie boarders may be up for the challenge! Hiking the Maha’ulepu Heritage Trail is well worth it, and the golden sand beaches are perfect for sunbathing.

Road to Hana (Maui)

Time to rent a Jeep, pack a bag, and hit the road! The drive to Hana takes about 2 to 3 hours (depending on where you’re departing from), but that’s with no stops – and trust us, you will want to stop. Plan for a few days to really take in all of the sights of Hana has to offer and book a hotel reservation in Hana Town! Dining, waterfalls, beaches, and trails are scattered along Hana Highway, so take your time and pick some places that seem to interest you most. This interactive map may help you plan your trip.

Papohaku Beach (Molokai)

One of the largest white sand beaches in Hawaii is also one of the quietest, so if you’re looking to get away from the crowds for a while this is the place to go. You can soak in views of Oahu from the shore but getting in the waters is fairly dangerous and highly discouraged.

Manele Bay (Lana’i)

Another quiet getaway! Swim at Hulopoe Beach, golf at the gorgeous Four Seasons Resort, or explore marine life at the tide pools. This family-friendly spot has picnic areas and gentle waters perfect for swimming; hula lessons and lei-making classes are offered by the Four Seasons for those looking for an authentic Hawaiian cultural experience.

Kalaupapa (Molokai)

Although the famous Molokai mule rides are currently unavailable, this sacred Molokai village has a distinctly unique settlement history that will likely be fascinating to curious visitors. The beautiful St. Philomena Church founded by a beloved Father Damien can be visited by booking a Damien tour, which also visit the final resting place of Father Damien himself. Research Kalaupapa’s history beforehand and prepare yourself for a spiritual, breathtaking journey.

Pololu Valley (Hawaii, The Big Island)

The black sand beaches and black lava rock make for a gorgeous landscape, and the short (but steep) hike is very rewarding – bring lots of water and shoes with good traction, as the trail can be slippery. Stop by the small town of Hawi on your way for lunch and homemade fudge!