Review: Alaska With Princess Cruises

By: Amalia Marin, Senior Travel Consultant (CTA)

I just took my very first cruise and chose to go to Alaska with Princess. Since it’s my first cruise, I don’t have anything to really compare it to, but all I can say is that it was a remarkable experience!  

The ship we sailed on was the Crown Princess. I loved all the different amenities, activities, entertainment and dining offered onboard. I think food is very important for most, so I’ll say that their food was really varied, fresh, and delicious. There is something for everybody and the seafood options were especially tasty. Main dining was so incredible that we didn’t even find it necessary to try the specialty dining…but, of course, we tried it anyway and that was a really great experience. 

On days we were at sea we always had something to see and do. There were broadway-style performances, comedians, dance classes, and more. There’s a gym, a spa, a casino, pools, and an area for golf and games.

Aside from the experience onboard the ship, the time we spent at the ports and enjoying Alaska was my favorite. The trip started in Vancouver and we visited Skagway, Juneau, Ketchikan, and Icy Strait Point. The towns were very nice but Alaska’s natural wonders are the true reason to visit. We were able to view Hubbard Glacier and we took a few optional excursions as well. We visited a salmon hatchery and enjoyed an outdoor salmon bake. We took a train ride with the most amazing views of mountains, creeks, and forests. We canoed on Lake Harriet Hunt and did a nature trail through the rainforest. 

I loved Alaska and would definitely recommend exploring this beautiful state with Princess cruises.

Review: Oceania Riviera Cruise

By: Autumn Cruse, Senior Travel Consultant (CTA)

Oceania Cruises is a force to be reckoned with! From the beautiful decor, the activities, and the cuisine, it’s truly a small ship luxury indeed. The passengers on the sailing make it all worthwhile. Eight different locations and only two sail days. I had the opportunity to reside in a verandah, but after a visit seeing all categories, there’s not an unfortunate cabin on the ship. Trivia was my favorite…won some great prizes on last day of the sailing. It was a long time away from home, but the favor granted to see and learn for myself what others love was life changing. I’m forever grateful!!! 

Review: Oceania Riviera Cruise

By: Alissa Ashley, Senior Travel Consultant (CTA)

I had a wonderful relaxing time on my Oceania Cruise aboard the Riviera. Unfortunately, the main port of the cruise was Bermuda and was canceled due to bad weather and 30 Ft waves. Oceania did their best to accommodate by adding a stop at Great Stirrup Cay, Bahamas which was also canceled due to the currents being too dangerous to boat passengers from the ship over to the island.  Oceania then reported that the itinerary changed to 3 days at sea, 2 days in Jacksonville, FL, 2 days in Charleston, SC and 1 day Port Carnival As you can imagine there were some very upset passengers upon boarding and with the port replacement of Jacksonville. I was very impressed with how Oceania did their best to address the passengers, empathize and tried to add some additional activities. At the end of the day mother nature has a mind of her own and therefore out of Oceania’s control with the main priority being safety.

SOLO Travel:

I decided to travel alone which was a great experience.  For the first 3 nights they offered a single traveler gathering where passengers could get to know each other.  However, I had no problem making friends with passengers traveling together.  All of my shared tabled guests were inviting and fun to sit with.

Cabins:

The veranda cabin I was staying in felt like I was at a very high end hotel.  Rooms were very contemporary, lots of rooms with a sitting area, large bathrooms with a rain shower and the most comfortable bed I have ever slept in.  I’m actually thinking of ordering their beds. 

Ship Feel:

For only having 1150 passengers and 800 staff, I have to say that I saw more staff than passengers.  The boat never seemed crowded except for embarking and disembarking at the ports.  There was always plenty of seating around the ship and in dining areas.  The ship is decorated in art and paintings everywhere.  It actually felt like you were in a museum in certain areas. 

Service:

The Ship Crew and service was impeccable.  I never saw one crew member not in an upbeat mood or willing to assist a passenger with questions or needs. My 2 attendants Soe Soe and Jaun made me feel very welcomed and anything I needed they were able to assist.

Optional Excursions:

Most of the excursions I had paid for were in Bermuda but I did do the Full Day private Island with Lunch in the Bahamas and a city tour of Charleston. Charleston was a very charming town and I walked everywhere within the city admiring the houses, trees and architecture.   All were very organized and Oceania did a great job keeping all the passengers together.

Entertainment:

The offered a wide range of entertainment from comedy shows, listening to the string quartet, wildlife educational talks, yoga classes, karaoke and more.  My favorite activity was High Tea  with the string quartet at 4 pm daily.  It was a nice day to relax and view the ocean.

Dining:

I was able to try all 4 of the Specialty Restaurants, but my favorite was Jacques, the atmosphere made me feel like I was in France. The courses were beautifully presented, delicious and consistent across all courses. My morning ritual was the coffee bar, Barista’s, where I had lots of friendly conversations with other passengers and staff. The juice bar was also one of my regular stop bys to make sure I got my greens for the morning.  The Terrace which was the buffet always had a variety of choices for every kind of eater.  I did hear several past passengers say that they felt that the food was not as good as it was before COVID.

Best Learning Tip:

The biggest learning that came from the cruise was not only experiencing the ship itself but actually listening to the passengers talk about their prior experience with Oceania, the other itineraries they have taken and other competitor cruise lines that they enjoyed. 

I am so grateful for the opportunity to experience Oceania Cruise of the Riviera. Thank you so much for allowing me to go.  I definitely would like to take another cruise with them and actually experience the set itinerary of ports.

Review: Cosmos – Highlights of the Canyonlands

By: Lynette Ehlert, Senior Travel Consultant (CTA)

I had such an amazing adventure on my tour.  It started in Las Vegas and went on to the Grand Canyon, Monument Valley, Lake Powell, Antelope Slot Canyon, Bryce Canyon and Zion National Park.

When we arrived at the Grand Canyon and walked out to the south rim the sheer beauty made me cry!  The following morning I took the excursion helicopter ride over the Canyon.  It was so amazing to see from different viewing levels.

Each park we went to I thought wow this is my favorite but in the end Zion National Park was my perfect match!  

I really enjoyed the educational information (history and Science) that the tour director informed us about as we drove from location to location.  I noticed everyone in our group really enjoyed her personality and when things didn’t go as planned she was very quick at finding a resolution.  

Taking this tour has helped me now understand this process from door to door.  Tours are really wonderful for people not looking for just a vacation but an immersive experience.

Raise a Glass: Discovering the Best Bars in Ireland

When it comes to pub culture, few countries do it better than Ireland. For centuries, pubs have served as the cornerstone of Irish social life, providing a place for friends, family, and even strangers to gather over a pint of Guinness or a dram of whiskey. With so many pubs to choose from, it can be overwhelming for visitors to know where to start. Today, we’ll take a closer look at some of Ireland’s most famous bars, from historic pubs serving customers for centuries to trendy microbreweries offering a contemporary twist on the traditional Irish pub experience. So whether you’re a first-time visitor to the Emerald Isle or a seasoned traveler, come along as we raise a glass to discover the best bars in Ireland.

The Temple Bar, Dublin

The Temple Bar is a famous pub located in the heart of Dublin’s cultural quarter, known as Temple Bar. The neighborhood is named after Sir William Temple, a renowned politician, and diplomat who once lived in the area. Today, Temple Bar is a popular destination for tourists and locals alike, with a vibrant arts scene, trendy boutiques, and plenty of pubs.

The Temple Bar pub itself has a long and storied history, dating back to the early 1300s. Over the centuries, the pub has been known by many names and has had many owners, but it has always been a hub of social activity in the city. Today, The Temple Bar is known as one of the most famous pubs in Ireland and a must-visit destination for anyone looking to experience the traditional Irish pub culture.

You’ll be greeted by a warm and lively atmosphere as soon as you enter The Temple Bar. The walls are adorned with memorabilia and decorations that celebrate Irish history and culture, from old photographs of Dublin to vintage Guinness signs. The pub is also known for its extensive whiskey collection, with bottles lining the shelves behind the bar.

One of the main draws of The Temple Bar is its live music sessions, which take place every day of the week. Traditional Irish musicians take to the stage to perform classic ballads, jigs, and reels, creating a lively and upbeat atmosphere. Visitors are encouraged to join in the fun by singing along, clapping their hands, or even trying to play an instrument themselves.

The Temple Bar is a must-visit destination for anyone looking to experience the best of Irish pub culture. Its central location in the heart of Dublin’s Temple Bar neighborhood makes it the perfect place to stop for a pint or two after exploring the nearby landmarks such as Dublin Castle or St. Patrick’s Cathedral.

Sean’s Bar, Athlone

Sean’s bar, located in the town of Athlone in County Westmeath, is often referred to as the oldest pub in Ireland. Its history can be traced back over 1,100 years to the time of the Vikings, who established a trading settlement in the area. The pub is said to have been a popular watering hole for the Viking warriors who once roamed the town.

Today, Sean’s Bar retains much of its historic charm, with a cozy interior featuring exposed brick walls, low ceilings, and a warm fireplace. The pub’s décor celebrates its long history, with old photographs and memorabilia adorning the walls.

Sean’s bar is also known for its traditional Irish music sessions, which take place every night of the week. Local musicians gather to perform classic Irish ballads, jigs, and reels, creating a lively and authentic atmosphere. The pub’s small size means that visitors can get up close and personal with the musicians and feel like they are part of the action.

In addition to its historical significance and lively music scene, Sean’s Bar is located in the heart of Athlone, making it a great place to stop for a pint after exploring the town’s many landmarks. Nearby attractions include Athlone Castle, which dates back to the 13th century and features interactive exhibits on Irish history, as well as the beautiful River Shannon, which flows through the town.

The Porterhouse, various locations

The Porterhouse is a chain of microbreweries and pubs with locations throughout Ireland, including in Dublin, Bray, and Belfast. The Porterhouse has been brewing its own beer since 1996, making it one of the first microbreweries in Ireland.

The Porterhouse has gained a reputation for its innovative approach to brewing, with a wide range of beers that go beyond the traditional stout and ale offerings. Visitors to The Porterhouse can try everything from hoppy IPAs to fruity saisons and rich porters.

In addition to its impressive beer selection, The Porterhouse also offers a food menu featuring classic pub fare with a modern twist. The menu includes dishes like gourmet burgers, fish and chips, and hearty stews made with locally sourced ingredients.

Live music is also a regular feature at The Porterhouse, with a range of genres on offer, from traditional Irish music to jazz and blues. The pubs often feature local talent, as well as more established acts, creating a diverse and dynamic atmosphere.

The Porterhouse has several locations throughout Ireland, each with its own unique charm. In Dublin, visitors can stop by the original Porterhouse location on Parliament Street, which features a cozy interior with exposed brick walls and a traditional pub atmosphere. The Porterhouse in Bray, meanwhile, is located on the seafront and offers stunning views of the Irish Sea. The Belfast location, housed in a former linen mill, boasts a spacious interior with industrial-chic décor.

No matter your location, The Porterhouse is a must-visit destination for anyone looking to experience the best of Irish craft beer and pub culture. Nearby landmarks include Dublin’s Trinity College, the historic town of Bray, and Belfast’s Titanic Quarter, which features the Titanic Belfast museum and the famous Harland and Wolff shipyard.

John Kavanagh’s (The Gravediggers), Dublin

John Kavanagh’s, also known as “The Gravediggers,” is a traditional Irish pub located near the historic Glasnevin Cemetery in Dublin. The pub has been in operation since the early 1800s and has gained a reputation for its authentic atmosphere and historic charm.

The pub’s name comes from its proximity to the cemetery, as many gravediggers and mourners would stop in for a drink after a long day of work. Today, the pub retains much of its original character, with a cozy interior featuring wood-paneled walls, antique mirrors, and a warm fireplace.

One of the main draws of John Kavanagh’s is its traditional Irish music sessions, which take place every Sunday night. Local musicians gather to play classic Irish tunes, creating a lively and authentic atmosphere. The pub’s small size means that visitors can get up close and personal with the musicians and feel like they are part of the action.

In addition to its music scene, John Kavanagh’s is also known for its hearty pub food and wide selection of beers and whiskeys. Visitors can try classic Irish dishes like beef, and Guinness stew or fish and chips washed down with a pint of the pub’s own Kavanagh’s Ale.

Nearby landmarks include the Glasnevin Cemetery, which is home to over one million burials and features guided tours of its historic graves, as well as the National Botanic Gardens of Ireland, which offer a peaceful retreat from the city’s hustle and bustle. Overall, John Kavanagh’s is a must-visit destination for anyone looking to experience the best of traditional Irish pub culture.

The Brazen Head, Dublin

The Brazen Head is one of Ireland’s oldest pubs, with a history dating back to 1198. Located in Dublin’s historic city center, the pub has been a popular gathering place for locals and visitors alike for over 800 years.

The pub’s interior features dark wood paneling, low ceilings, and flickering candles, creating a cozy and intimate atmosphere. Visitors can admire the pub’s historical artifacts, including old photographs and antique knick-knacks, which adorn the walls and shelves.

In addition to its historic charm, The Brazen Head is known for its traditional Irish food and drink menu. Visitors can try classic Irish dishes like shepherd’s pie, Irish stew, and fish and chips washed down with a pint of Guinness or a glass of Irish whiskey.

The pub also offers a wide range of craft beers, ciders, and a selection of wines and cocktails. For those looking to experience the best of Irish spirits, The Brazen Head also offers whiskey tastings and a chance to sample rare and vintage bottles.

Nearby landmarks include Dublin Castle, which dates back to the 13th century and features exhibits on Irish history, as well as the famous Christ Church Cathedral, which is one of Dublin’s most iconic buildings. Overall, The Brazen Head is a must-visit destination for anyone looking to experience the best of traditional Irish pub culture, with its historic charm, delicious food, and wide selection of drinks.

The Long Hall, Dublin

The Long Hall is a beautifully preserved Victorian pub located in the heart of Dublin’s city center. The pub has been in operation since 1766 and has gained a reputation for its ornate decor and traditional Irish pub atmosphere.

The pub’s interior features stunning Victorian-era details, including ornate plasterwork, crystal chandeliers, and marble-topped counters. Visitors can admire the pub’s beautiful mahogany bar, which has been in place since the mid-1800s and soak up the historic atmosphere.

In addition to its beautiful decor, The Long Hall is known for its live music sessions, which take place several times a week. Local musicians gather to perform classic Irish ballads, creating a lively and upbeat atmosphere. The pub’s small size means that visitors can get up close and personal with the musicians and feel like they are part of the action.

The Long Hall is located in Dublin’s city center, just a short walk from many of the city’s most famous landmarks. Nearby attractions include Trinity College, home to the famous Book of Kells, and the Grafton Street shopping district, which features a range of high-end shops and boutiques.

Overall, The Long Hall is a must-visit destination for anyone looking to experience the best of Irish pub culture in a historical and beautiful setting. Its central location in Dublin’s city center makes it a great place to stop for a pint after exploring the nearby landmarks.

The Palace Bar, Dublin

The Palace Bar is a historic pub located on Dublin’s Fleet Street, just a stone’s throw from the famous Temple Bar neighborhood. The pub was founded in 1823 and has been in the same family for over a century, making it a beloved institution among locals and visitors alike.

The pub’s cozy atmosphere and old-world charm make it a popular destination for those looking to experience the best of traditional Irish pub culture. The interior features dark wood paneling, a warm fireplace, and vintage mirrors, creating a cozy and intimate atmosphere.

One of the main draws of The Palace Bar is its impressive selection of whiskeys. The pub stocks a wide range of Irish and international whiskies, from rare and vintage bottles to more affordable options. Visitors can sample a whiskey flight, take a guided tasting, or simply enjoy a dram of their favorite whiskey.

Live music is also a regular feature at The Palace Bar, with a range of genres on offer, from traditional Irish music to jazz and blues. The pub often features local talent, creating a lively and dynamic atmosphere.

Nearby landmarks include Dublin Castle, which dates back to the 13th century and features exhibits on Irish history, as well as the historic Christ Church Cathedral, which is one of Dublin’s most iconic buildings. Overall, The Palace Bar is a must-visit destination for anyone looking to experience the best of traditional Irish pub culture in a cozy and historic setting.

The Spaniard, Kinsale

The Spaniard is a famous pub located in the picturesque seaside town of Kinsale in County Cork. The pub has been in operation since the 17th century and has gained a reputation for its lively atmosphere and nautical-themed decor.

The pub’s interior features a range of nautical artifacts, including ship’s wheels, antique diving helmets, and even a life-size model of a pirate. Visitors can admire the pub’s historic charm and soak up the coastal atmosphere.

In addition to its lively decor, The Spaniard is known for its traditional Irish food and drink menu. Visitors can try classic Irish dishes like fish and chips, bangers and mash, and hearty stews made with locally sourced ingredients. The pub also offers a wide range of beers, ciders, and wines, as well as a selection of Irish whiskeys and spirits.

Live music is also a regular feature at The Spaniard, with a range of genres on offer, from traditional Irish music to rock and roll. The pub often features local talent, creating a lively and dynamic atmosphere.

Nearby landmarks include the famous Charles Fort, a star-shaped fortress that dates back to the 17th century, as well as the historic Kinsale Harbour, which offers stunning views of the coastline. Overall, The Spaniard is a must-visit destination for anyone looking to experience the best of Irish pub culture in a charming and historic coastal setting.

This brings us to the end of our journey through the best pubs in Ireland. From the lively Temple Bar in Dublin to the cozy John Kavanagh’s in Glasnevin, these pubs offer a unique and unforgettable experience. Whether you’re a fan of live music, traditional Irish food, or just a good pint of Guinness, there’s something for everyone in these iconic establishments.

So, what are you waiting for? If you’re planning a trip to Ireland, be sure to put these pubs on your itinerary. Take in the historic charm, soak up the lively atmosphere, and experience the best of traditional Irish pub culture. Sláinte!