From families to adventure seekers, cruises to the exotic, Ciara McDonnell has the lowdown on the top holidays for 2016.
A Family Affair
Should there be any doubt, when it comes to holidaying with a young family, all- inclusive is the way to go. If you are in the market for a luxury break, then Sunway has just the family-friendly ticket. Located in the stunning Alpes Maritimes region of southern France, near Cannes, Club Med’s Opio en Provence is one of the brand’s most child-friendly resorts.
The resort offers children’s clubs from four- months old to 17-years-old, a baby gym and a teen spa, as well as amazing activities for adults like a session at Trapeze school or treatments in the Caritas spa.
There’s a choice of fabulous restaurants, and all rooms include space for a cot and are spacious enough to allow a family to ramble around.
If you want to introduce the family to Italy this summer, then Topflight has some great deals. Travel for Easter 2016, departing March 27, in the 4-star Bella Italia resort in Lake Garda. Bella Italia is a clear winner with families thanks to its top-class facilities, regular entertainment and stunning lakeside setting. For guests staying in Bella Italia the amusement park of Gardaland is close by guaranteeing a day of fun for everyone.
Falcon Holiday’s has an ultra-fabulous family holiday to the Sensatori Resort in Crete. The rooms here are really luxurious and have a huge range from twins to doubles to family rooms. There are seven restaurants and children are top of the pile when it comes to entertainment. They get to choose between the Crazy Kitchen, Silly Science Lab or water-soaking Sprayground.
The details: Sunway leaves Dublin on May 7 for 7 nights all-inclusive at the Opio en Provence resort. The holiday costs €3,460 for two adults and two children. Travelling to Lake Garda with Top Flight will cost €1,780 for four people staying in a bungalow. Price includes return flights, accommodation for seven nights; return transfers to resort and all taxes.
Fly to Crete with Falcon on May 22 for 14 nights and stay at the Sensatori Crete for 14 nights on an all- inclusive basis for €1,289 pps.
Romantic holidays need to be stress-free and filled with luxury, and that’s why we’ve placed the Paradisus Playa Del Carmen resort in Cancun right at the top of our must-visit list this year. A stunning private bay provides the backdrop for this lush all-inclusive resort paradise.
This adult-only resort combines a prestigious Caribbean setting with worldclass facilities, including royal service, the ultimate in spa treatments, a relaxed ambience, and flexible meeting spaces with modern equipment. The resort has a Mayan ecological feeling, and an oceanfront location surrounded by a lush tropical mangrove preserve and with views of Cozumel Island.
Make like George and Amal Clooney by taking your beloved to Lake Garda this year. We recommend holing up at Hotel Bristol, a charmingly old-school hotel situated minutes from Riva La Garda. Take a dip in the outside pool and relax with a gelato before exploring this stunning region. The area surrounding Hotel Bristol is steeped in culture, beauty and of course wonderful food.
Sunway has a five-star luxury cruise that starts in Paris, before visiting the village of Giverny, where Monet lived and worked for 43 years, and Honfleur, a charming French harbor town immortalised by generations of artists. Stroll through Rouen, the historic capital of Normandy, then take an unforgettable excursion to the famous Normandy beaches of WWII.
Visit Les Andelys, home of Château Gaillard. Conclude your journey with a tour of Paris’s top sights and a visit to the Musee d’Orsay.
The details: Travel to the five-star Paradisus Playa del Carmen La Perla with Trailfinders. 7 nights from €2,259 includes flights from Dublin to Cancun with Virgin Atlantic, transfers, all-inclusive board and a 35% discount off the room price, saving €790 per person. Valid for selected Mayand June 2016 departures. Book by Mar 31.
Head to the Hotel Bristol for seven days with Topflight on May 1 on a half- board basis for €1,069 pps. The Luxury River Cruise costs €2079 per person for seven nights including the cruise, flights and transfers with Sunway.
Travelling alone this year? Gone are the days where single supplements meant paying over the odds for a package holiday — travel companies have wised up to those of us who enjoy exploring the world on a solo basis, and have come up trumps with packages that celebrate, rather than condemn our adventurous spirit.
Travel to Capetown with www.traveldepartment.ie. Starting in the beautiful city of Cape Town, dominated by the majestic Table Mountain, you will explore the dramatic Cape of Good Hope.
Perched on top of the massive sea cliffs, you will see breathtaking sea views, before touring the vineyards, sampling delicious wines, and viewing the former home of Nelson Mandela. Travel along the famous Garden Route to take in the natural beauty of the Western Cape coastline and prepare to be amazed by the wildlife in the Kruger National Park.
One of the most famous safari parks in the world, Kruger is home to the big five game animals. This brilliant holiday offers the opportunity for a South African adventure.
Stay in the Protea Kruger Lodge Hotel, where luxury abounds and you can eat your breakfast looking out over the plains of the national park. All-inclusive resorts are not just for couples and families. www.tropicalsky.ie offers a fantastic all-in package to the Dominican Republic, staying at the Barcelo Bavero Palace Deluxe Hotel with no single supplement. As well as a spa, shopping centre and huge range of watersports, this resort boasts a whopping 11 hotels, ensuring that guests will never be bored.
Exodus Travels has a weeklong trip to Jordan this spring. The country is an ideal destination for a one-week adventure tour. Bursting with things to see and do this activity holiday has the best of what this magnificent country has to offer, visiting all the major sites of interest.
Travellers will have two days to explore the spectacular ‘Rose-red city’ of Petra and a guided visit around Jerash, one of the best-preserved Roman cities in the Middle East. There is time to ‘float’ in the salty waters of the Dead Sea and snorkel over the coral reefs of the Red Sea. The highlight is an excursion out to the desert and a night camping out in true Bedouin luxury.
The details: Travel to Kruger National Park with www.traveldepartment.ie from €2,799 per person, departing Dublin, on a half-board basis. www.tropicalsky.ie depart from Dublin in April for €1,789pp, staying at the Barcelo Bavero Palace Deluxe Hotel on an all-inclusive basis for seven nights. www.exodustravels.eu offers a week-long package to Jordan for €875 including all tours and accommodation. Note: this is a land-only package, so flights are not included.
If lying by a pool fills you with dread, then there is a plethora of adventure holidays that will suit your high- octane mood.
From hanging off the side of a mountain to hiking through a desert, seek and you shall find. We love the idea of a four-night getaway in Iceland, and that’s just what Sunway has on offer. This quick trip packs a ton of activity into four days, depending on what time of year you choose to go: a Northern Lights excursion in the winter, a glacier hike in the summer, and much more.
You get three nights to explore around Reykjavík with a multitude of options for great things to do.
Cyclists will love Exodus Travel’s Cycle Vietnam trip. This superb holiday combines some of the best cycling routes in Vietnam with time to explore this beautiful country with its long coastline of broad, sandy beaches, shimmering paddy fields and mountains cloaked in forests.
The route takes cyclists from the vibrant streets of Saigon northwards to the more conservative capital Hanoi. There is time to relax in the lively beachside town of Nha Trang and experience laidback Hoi An with its wooden merchant houses, pagodas and bustling market.
Finally, take a cruise around the incredible seascape of Halong Bay with its limestone spires rising directly from the sea. How do you improve a trip that already includes the Sacred Valley, the Inca Trail and Lake Titicaca?
Throw in some bikes, a few kayaks, and loads of high-energy thrills, that’s how! “Peru Multisport” connects immersive cultural interaction and classic Peruvian landmarks with challenging physical activities tailored specifically for adrenaline junkies and fitness freaks.
Climb and bike your way from small villages to astounding monuments, then explore Lake Titicaca from a kayak; a perspective few visitors ever get the chance to see.
The details: Fly to Iceland with Sunway for the four-day adventure tour for €939 on a B&B basis. Price includes flights, accommodation, transfers and sightseeing as per itinerary. 11 nights in Vietnam with Exodus Travel will cost from €1,725 on a land-only basis. Tripadvisor offers 15 days/14 night packages with Peru Multisport and G Adventures from €3,375, flying out of Cork.
Make A Difference
If you have a yearning to do some good while taking some time out ... Choose your charity, raise the money to cover flights and expenses, and your adventure begins. Head to Fiji to join an international team of volunteers on a marine conservation expedition, which focuses on the collection of important marine inventory data, collected on underwater research dives.
Cambodia is now one of the must-visit destinations in south-east Asia and is an excellent place to volunteer abroad. Www.projects-abroad.ie offers a wide range of projects to volunteer on based around your own skills. You could join a care project and work with disadvantaged children, or teach English, or work in rehabilitation centres .
Expect to stay in shared volunteer apartments or with a host family for your stay. Habitat For Humanity is one of the best known volunteering charities, and offers the chance to take part in projects all over the world, building houses and restoring communities ravaged by flooding or war.
To take part in a Habitat For Humanity project you have to join a team or start a team yourself. It helps if you are skilled in construction.
The details: Marine Conservation in Fiji is organised through www.gvi.ie You will spend the majority of your time on this expedition scuba diving and you need to be qualified to at least Padi Open Water, or equivalent.
Www.Projects-abroad.ie offer projects starting from two-weeks long in Cambodia and you will need to raise a minimum of €1,665 to take part. To get involved with Habitat For Humanity log onto www.habitatireland.ie and fill out the online application form.
This year, there are themed cruise holidays on the books, from a Strictly Come Dancing cruise in the Canary Islands to a Cruise featuring baking maestro Eric Lanyard that meanders around the Mediterranean.
Www.cruiseparadise.ie is offering a cruise-only package that takes in Cuba, Jamaica, the Cayman Islands and Mexico for €669 pp, but relies on you organising your own flights. Topflight has an extremely high-end all-inclusive Mediterranean Cruise this summer, aboard the MSC Divinia.
Leaving Rome, it takes in the Ligurian city of La Spezia before moving onto Cannes, Majorca, Barcelona and Naples.
The details: A 14-night Canary Island Strictly Come Dancing Cruise on April 22 will cost €1,329pp, while a Cruise With Food Hero Eric Lanyard will cost €929 for seven nights on May 2 — both with Sunway. The Cuba, Jamaica, Cayman Islands and Mexico cruise with www.cruiseparadise.ie is €669pp on March 15 for seven nights.
The Topflight Italian cruise aboard the MSC Divinia costs €1,189pps person, leaving Dublin on August 8 for seven nights on an all-inclusive basis.
Some holidays are lifetime experiences, where memories are made over fruity cocktails at a sunset that would bring a tear to even the most cynical of eye. If you have a special birthday or anniversary this year, or you feel like you and a loved one could really do with a few days in paradise, then we’ve got some amazing destinations for you.
Trailfinders fly to the Sheraton Maldives Full Moon Resort and Spa in the Maldives from Cork this May and June. Surrounded by tropical waters, this private island resort is a short speedboat ride from Malé Atoli and is as close to paradise as we’ve ever known.
Island cottages are just steps away from a blue- green lagoon and are equipped with all mod cons.
As you would expect, there are water sports.
Falcon is flying to Clubhotel Riu Ochos Rios in Ocho Rios, Jamaica hin July.
This four-star hotel is set in tropical gardens next to a white sandy beach and is 10 minutes from town. The resort has six bars and six restaurants, and the package is all-inclusive, including non-motorised watersports, tennis, a la carte dining and drinks.
Head to Barbados with Tropical Sky to experience the Soco Hotel. This fabulous boutique hotel has an art deco vibe and is ideal for those who want an all-inclusive holiday on an intimate level. Located in Hastings at the start of the Boardwalk, the pool deck looks over the sea, and because the package includes premium drinks, is the ideal spot to have a sundowner or two. Upgrade to a larger deluxe room if it’s on offer.
The details: Fly to the four-star Sheraton Maldives Full Moon Resort & Spa with Trailfinders for seven nights in May and June. The package includes flights from Cork to Male with Etihad Airways (Aer Lingus codeshare to London Heathrow and Etihad onwards from there via Abu Dhabi), speedboat transfers, daily breakfast, two free nights and a further 20% discount off the room price, saving €570 per person. Book before February 3 to avail of this deal.
Falcon Holidays travels to Clubhotel Riu Ochos Rios from Dublin for 14 nights on an all-inclusive basis for €2,079 per person. Travel to Barbados with www.tropicalsky.ie and fly from Dublin for 14 nights in may for €2,679 per person on an all-inclusive basis.
Home From Home
If you favour unique accommodation over plush bed linen and 24-hour room service, then planning your own holiday might be more up your street. With flight sales, it might be worth doing some research on self-catering rentals.
We don’t think you can do much better than www.airbnb.com when it comes to self-catering holidays. The site is an encyclopedia of amazing properties around the globe. If you want to stay in a container made of birchwood in Palma, or a houseboat in Rotterdam, then this is the place for you. Sleep inside a giant seashell in Isla Mujeres, Mexico.
Built in 1994 by architect Eduardo Ocampo, this house is rounded outside and in to mirror seashells the owner was inspired by on the beach across the road. The house sleeps four people and is available for €242 per night.
Stay in the remote gorgeousness of Villa Lola, in Valaheii near Akureyri, the capital of north Iceland. In the summer you can watch the midnight sun and in the winter see the aurora borealis. There are many hiking trails and a naturally heated swimming hole near.
Closer to home, the Old Smock Windmill in Kent is a gorgeous four-storey building (three floors for the holiday let) that has carefully been restored. The oak exterior staircase leads up onto the beautiful staging where you enter into the mill. Massive beams span each floor. It is a very unusual romantic and memorable place to stay.
The details: Stay at the Seashell house for €242 per night, but beware of the geckos who live around the house. Take a break in Akuereyri in Iceland for €80 per night. Stay in the Smock Windmill for €248 per night, and get a welcome basket including the owners’ chickens organic eggs.
Take A Tour
Tours are a great way to see the world without doing the research. If you’re infatuated by Italian food then Sunway’s Flavour Of Italy escorted tour is the ticket. Experience Chianti in Tuscany, Proscuitto in Parma and real Bolognese in Bologna.
This foodie trip promises to explore the traditions of Italian food at its core. You’ll get to choose fresh ingredients at a Florence food market with Libero a charismatic local chef who will show you how to make and how to eat ravioli. This 10-day trip is a must for foodies.
Trailfinders has a fabulous Food Adventure from Thailand leaving Cork on May 6. An adventure in flavour, experience the fresh aromas and heavenly spices that make Thai food a worldwide phenomenon.
Explore bustling markets spread out over land and water, and taste exotic fruits and aromatic dishes. Learn the trick behind making palm sugar, experience the thrill of a passing train in the Mae Glong railway market, slurp noodles alongside the locals in Bangkok, whip up a jungle curry in Kanchanaburi, taste home cooking with a family in Chiang Mai, sit down to a Khantohk feast and tour all the must-see sights of Thailand in one incredible culinary journey through one of south-east Asia’s most seductive food cultures.
Experience a magical musical performance at the Verona Opera. 2016 marks the Verona Opera Festival, taking place from June 24 to August 28 and Topflight is chartering a direct flight to Verona from Cork during the summer months.
Use this as your basis for a fabulous weekend break, or take a week and stay in one of the stunning resorts on Lake Garda.
The details: Sunway’s Flavour Of Italy tour takes place on May 7, departing Dublin for €2,719 per person for 10 days.
The price is based on two people sharing and includes return flights from Dublin, transfers, accommodation, meals and tours.
Trailfinders Thailand Real Food Adventure departs Cork for eight days and seven nights on May 6 and costs from €1,749 including flights from Cork to Bangkok, returning from Chiang Mai, accommodation, tours, most sightseeing and most meals.
Topflight is running a charter flight from Cork to Verona from June to the end of August 2016.
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