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Category Archives: Tallinn

Why I am a Cruise Convert

I have had several friends quiz me about our recent holidays and many were surprised when we told them we had been on two cruises this year. I kind of understand how they feel though. Before I tried them myself, I had the preconception that cruises were a) really expensive and b) for old people!

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However, when looking at visiting Cuba earlier this year, we came across a cruise option and it stuck with me. We were slightly apprehensive when we boarded but ended up enjoying it so much we went on another mini-cruise around Scandinavia and the Baltics this summer and our trip to Japan later this year is part-cruise too.

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Here are my reasons for enjoying a cruise:

  • The food on board is ace. Eating out is a big part of going away for me and the dining options on a cruise ship are great. Whether you fancy a poolside slice of homemade pizza, a bit of everything from the buffet or a formal dining experience, a cruise ship ticks all boxes. I made sure I tried the local cuisine whilst on shore but we loved the foodie side of the ship.

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  • Most ships tend to be quite luxurious and offer really excellent service. We found the staff to be amazingly helpful and the public areas spotless.
  • There is a lot to do on a cruise ship (but no pressure to do it!) Yes, like a hotel, some of the entertainment can be a bit cheesy but there are various activities to do to keep you occupied. We went to the gym a few times as well as some shows in the theatre. There are also usually casinos, spas, quizzes, crafts, talks about the ports you will visit, dance classes, yoga, pilates, etc. Our Japan cruise also includes a traditional Japanese spa with a strict no-swimming costume policy (!) and a nightly film on top deck under the stars complete with blankets, hot chocolate and popcorn!
  • You get to visit some amazing places without the hassle of negotiating local transport. It really is cool to go to sleep in one place and wake up in a brand new destination to explore. I guess we almost treat it like a floating hotel and it really does feel very ‘easy’ getting from one port to the next. A cruise also takes care of things like visas which we found very useful when visiting Russia this summer.

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  • It’s not full of oldies! Not that there is anything wrong with that, but I was pleasantly surprised to see a much younger-than-expected clientele on a cruise ship. We ended up chatting to people of different ages and nationalities.
  • You only need to unpack your suitcase once! One of the biggest hassles we found on our road trip was the constant packing and unpacking of our stuff. I really like the fact that a cruise ship gives you a constant base to come back to.
  • It is quite a ‘safe’ way to travel. Now, I don’t mean this in a no-danger sense: I mean that it is great for less-intrepid travellers. I must admit that when we were researching our holiday to Japan, I was a bit nervous at the thought of getting around in a country where I don’t speak the language or even use the same alphabet. Although we will obviously be out and about on our own when we dock in a port, there is a bit of me that feels a bit more reassured at not having to negotiate buses and trains there.
  • You see some amazing sights. When we travelled from Stockholm to Tallin this summer, we sailed past beautiful little islands and saw lots of dream summer houses whilst enjoying a glorious sunset. I also loved sailing out of Havana and seeing the city from a completely different angle.

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  • It’s not as expensive as it seems. Yes, cruising isn’t cheap but when you factor in all the elements (all-inclusive food and drink, great service, entertainment, travelling from place to place, accommodation) it would be hard to beat booking all the elements separately.
  • There are excellent excursions on offer. I think cruise companies know you want to make the most of your time in a destination so there are some amazing trips offered to suit most budgets. We did a great walking tour of Havana, went ziplining through the rainforest in Jamaica and went tequila tasting in Mexico. Likewise, there is no pressure to book these and we also enjoyed doing our own thing each day on our summer cruise.

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Now, I will say that there are some aspects that you may feel are a downside to cruising but it really does depend on the kind of holiday you are after. We tend to switch between wanting something action-packed (like our American road trip in the summer of 2015) or complete relaxation and a cruise can tick some boxes for each.

Here are some of the negative aspects of a cruise holiday:

  • You are tied to the sailing times of the ship so have a limited time in each place.
  • You may feel that a day isn’t long enough to get a real feel for a place and I would agree to some extent. However, I tend to treat a cruise as a ‘taster’ of a country and our one day in Helsinki has made me want to return to Finland to experience more.
  • You may feel slightly claustrophobic on a ship. Personally, I didn’t feel this but I do understand that you may feel a bit trapped, especially if you have a few days at sea without any ports.
  • In some ports, you are slightly preyed upon by locals to buy things, take trips etc which can be a bit overwhelming.

In summary, I am really glad I put aside my preconceptions and gave this type of holiday a try. I feel I have been to countries I may not have visited otherwise and came home feeling well-rested yet like I had been on a jam-packed holiday. Whilst I would describe myself as a convert to cruising, it certainly wouldn’t be the only type of holiday I would take. I still like staying in one place for a week and discovering the local charms but I definitely see some more cruises in our future.

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Would you ever consider a cruise? x

2016 – The Year of Travel

Rather than write a month-by-month account of this year like I did in 2015 and 2014, I decided to focus on one aspect of this year I have loved…travelling.

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Ian and I have been lucky enough to have several exciting holidays this year and all of them hold really special memories from dancing in a Russian nightclub at 1am to drinking mojitos on the streets of Havana to zip-lining through the Jamaican rainforest to sailing around Boston Harbour in the sunshine!

UK

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Not all of our trips have been abroad this year – I love exploring the UK just as much. We had several fun trips to London in 2016 (my favourite being for New Year’s Eve when we went to watch ‘Wicked’), took a mini-break in Wells, went camping in Tewkesbury and celebrated our 3rd wedding anniversary on the beach in Devon

Cuba

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Probably my favourite destination of the year, the days we spent in Havana were amazing. I have wanted to visit Cuba ever since I studied Caribbean Literature at university and it was such a fascinating trip. We wandered the streets drinking mojitos and daiquiris and admired the beautiful classic cars cruising along. I am desperate to return.

Jamaica

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We spent a day here and it was as cool and as chilled-out as I was hoping. We went through the rainforest on zip-wires before enjoying jerk chicken and Red Stripe beers on the beach.

Grand Cayman

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An interesting place to visit and a beautiful destination for a beach holiday. I didn’t see much more than the beaches but we certainly had a lovely, relaxing day here dipping our feet in the Caribbean Sea.

Mexico

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We had a great tour of the island of Cozumel where we squeezed in a chocolate factory, the beach, tequila tasting, an artisan market and fish tacos and margaritas! It has pushed mainland Mexico to the top of my to-visit list.

France

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I spent a long weekend in a beautiful house for my best friend Cat’s hen weekend earlier this year. Maybe not the best-planned trip, but we enjoyed an awful lot of cheese, champagne, macarons and a day in Aix-en-Provence.

Berlin

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Ian and I had a mini-break here and experienced our first (and disastrous!) AirBNB. Despite a rocky start with our accommodation, we had a fab time exploring the city, stopping off at several beer gardens.

Sweden

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A couple of days in Stockholm have started off an obsession with the Scandi countries, somewhere I hadn’t really visited before. We didn’t have long here but did get to visit the Vasa Museum, eat cinnamon buns, wander through the Old Town and see a beautiful sunset.

Estonia

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I finally made it to Tallinn and it was as beautiful as I had hoped. Quaint, cobbled side streets, castles and lovely, old buildings, I really liked it here.

Russia

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I never thought I would be visiting Russia but we spent a day exploring St. Petersburg and I was really taken with it. It is a spectacular city, with vast, iconic buildings steeped in Russian history. We managed to see most of it plus a good amount of people watching on the main street through the city, the highlight being the stunning Saviour of the Spilled Blood Cathedral.

Finland

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I absolutely loved Helsinki. We stumbled upon several small markets and wandered along the port. I fell in love with the interior shops and am determined to return and savour some of the local restaurants.

Boston

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Our final trip was a week in Boston. We love visiting the States and both really enjoyed Boston. It was a cool time of year to visit to experience Halloween and the run-up to the presidential elections and we managed to watch an ice-hockey and a baseball game as well as sampling a lot of lobster and local craft beers.

That was actually a really fun post to write as I love looking back through old photos and remembering when and where they were taken. I really do believe that travel broadens the mind and money spent on adventures and experiences is never wasted. Here’s hoping for many more escapades in 2017! xxx

Travel Diaries – Tallinn

I used to get the Lonely Planet magazine and I remember reading an article about Tallinn which really made me want to visit. Ian and I love a European city break but I never made it to the Estonian capital. I was therefore very happy to see that Tallinn was a stop on our mini-cruise this summer.

Sadly, my initial impressions were not great due to spending almost two hours queuing up in the arrivals hall. Passports checked, we set off on foot towards the city ready to explore in the sunshine.

Tallinn itself has an Old Town then a much newer, modern section. Seeing as we only had a day there, we explored the Old Town. While it was beautiful, it was very touristy meaning I couldn’t help but feel like I didn’t get a real taste of what Tallinn is like for locals.

The city itself isn’t huge and felt to me like a smaller, quainter Prague. You can easily do the place on foot and lose hours wandering along cobbled streets.

We began by passing the wonderfully named ‘Fat Margaret’ before entering the old city gates.

Armed only with a basic street map, we visited St Olaf’s Church, stumbled upon a sculpture garden and popped into small, artisan shops before pausing for a drink and a spot of people watching in the main square.

I ordered a local drink of honey beer which was delicious.

Next, we decided to brave a climb to the top of the hill where we visited the beautiful Orthodox Alexander Nevsky Cathedral and Toompea castle. The view over the city was stunning too.

We had time for one more drink before we left and Ian led us towards a brewery which looked like it would be great fun to visit at night.

It was a very short but sweet visit to Tallinn and it was definitely an interesting place. Part of me would like to return and spend a bit longer there exploring the rest of the city and some local cuisine. However, I do feel like we saw most of the older part of the city and, as pretty as it was, there didn’t seem to be an awful lot more to do there. A beautiful little city for a mini break and, who knows, maybe I will get to return one day and see a little bit more of it.