Expert Travel Reviews

The Most Impressive Castle-Hotels

November 27, 2009 by · Leave a Comment 

Looking for an extra special venue to spend a romantic vacation? Why not pick a beautiful old castle? Imagine peering down a turret to a moat, or perhaps even a long walk in the secluded woods. Initially considered cold and draughty, developers and restoration experts have modified castles around the world to ensure holidays in it are possible for anyone, not just reserved for celebrities. Here is a list of the most impressive castle hotels in the world.

1.Amberly Castle, Great Britain – Queen Elizabeth I bought the castle. Oliver Cromwell stormed the castle’s walls. Now turned into a luxury hotel, it comes complete with antique furniture, a tennis court and Jacuzzi.

2.Burg Gutenfels Castle, Germany – this castle keeps to its age-old charm and is not richly decorated like other newly restored castles. Yes, it still has mica windows and creaking floors.

3.Kasbah du Toubkal, Morocco – this fortress hotel lies at the foot of the Jebel Toubkal Mountain which is the highest mountain in North Africa. It is completely inaccessible by private plane or limousine, and all guests are usually brought on donkeys.

4.Xara Palace, Malta, Mdina – this palace has been the residence of many famous people. The British took over the castle during World War II.

5.Longs Park Castle – here, tourists can see the castle’s original ceilings complete with wooden girders, stone walls, and rooms with separate winding stairs.

6.Chateau St. Philippe – this is one of the oldest castles in the world and is located underneath the Alps.

7.Chateau de Saint Loup, France

8.American Fort Castle, Hudson, USA

Mancation – a Holiday for Real Men

November 26, 2009 by · Leave a Comment 

Taken from the movie ‘The Break-Up’ [2006], the term ‘Mancation’ has spread like wildfire across the American hotel business. The concept of gender-specific vacations, as Jayne Clark, USA Today puts it, has “been around since the first caveman took his club and went hunting with the others in the tribe.” Hotels and resorts initially tailor made packages for all-girl getaways and have now moved onto promoting all-male trips, male-bonding vacation packages which include practically everything from poker to extreme sports to spa treatments. All-male vacations mostly offer golfing, however, unique programme have been developed to accommodate trends in the industry, with the latest mancation packages offering yoga, sexual reawakening, culinary tips, and even spiritual healing.

An online survey indicates that males take at least one mancation every year. An estimated 20 million American men go on mancations annually, and spend a collective sum of $10-12 billion. Meanwhile, a study conducted by Synovate Research Company in 2008 indicated that close to 42% of men had taken a mancation, while a further 42% indicated they would like to go on one in the future. Of the surveyed population, two-thirds chose a bourbon-themed trip over a luxury getaway destination.

Top hotel networks in 2007 divided mancations into packages for ‘metrosexuals’ and ‘retrosexuals’. The ‘metro’ packages include glamour and cosmetic procedures, while the ‘retros’ are high on luxury and rich food. Summer 2006 saw 50% of the Fairmont Hotel Chain in the US creating mancation packages. One of them included a three-course steak dinner, a cocktail seminar, whiskey tasting, cigars, and poker. At present, the number of man booking ‘mancations’ is fairly small, but the idea seems to be slowly catching on, and in time could prove to be fairly popular.

Consider hopping between islands when visiting Hawaii

November 25, 2009 by · Leave a Comment 

When booking your Hawaii packages, you might want to hop between islands. After
all, one of the great things about visiting Hawaii is that there is so much
diversity between the different Hawaiian Islands. You can spend one day on a
world-class beach in Maui and the next day enjoy a round of golf or the urban
charm of the former pineapple fields of Lanai.

Panda Online can help you enjoy the wide range of options you have available
during your Hawaii travel. Along with getting you to Hawaii, we can also help
you with your transportation needs getting in between the various Hawaiian Islands.
We have the best deals on inter-island flights between all of the islands. We
have great deals on flights through Island Air, one of the leading providers
of transportation between the islands.

Not only will you get there with ease and in comfort, but you might find that
the flight itself – with its stunning overhead view of the islands –
is one of the highlights of any of your Hawaii vacations.

The best floating hotels

November 21, 2009 by · Leave a Comment 

Floating hotels have coined a new word – combine a boat and a hotel. What do you get? The Botel. Botels are an interesting alternative to expensive cruises, but still give you the chance to enjoy your holiday at sea, and what can be more relaxing than hearing the waves lapping around you?

The LogInn Hotel, Stockholm, Sweden – located in the Baltic Sea, this botel is a restored old ship. Cozy suites, while keeping with modern tastes still hold the charm of a bygone era – while family suites are also available. The Ankarhaket restaurant offers up a fabulous breakfast that you would not miss for the world. Prices for suites on this botel start at €88 a night.

Botel Ristorante Matylda, Prague, Czech Republic – restored from a gorgeous old tugboat, this botel sails along the river Vltava. The botel consists of seven luxury suites that offer beautiful views of Vltava and Prague City and a restaurant that cooks up exclusive European cuisine. Prices for the suites on the Botel Ristorante Matylda start at €99 a night.

Botel Fortuna, Budapest, Hungary – this botel was built in 1967, offering guests a rich history as well as some unique scenery. Restored in 1992, before this, the botel was a cruise sea liner that would transport tourists along the Danube. During summer, the open terrace of the botel is filled with food, freshly brewed beer and live music all-day long. One of the more affordable botels, prices start at €30 a night.

The top 4 beaches in Turkey

November 20, 2009 by · Leave a Comment 

While Turkey’s beaches are not one of its best-kept secrets, it boasts some of the most gorgeous places – some of them, still unknown to tourists. Close to 15,000,000 tourists throng to Turkey for their holidays every year. Here is a little guide of sorts to the top four beaches in Turkey.

1. Patara – found not far from the resort village of Patara (Gelemis) this beach strip is around 20km long. The gorgeous white sandy beach is the perfect place to let yourself go, with a two-bedroom averaging around $25 a night. Around 1.5km from the beach, are interesting antique ruins, which include an amphi theater, necropolis and even ruins of a basilica.

2. Ölüdeniz – Here you can find good hotels and restaurants. The Turkish name for the beach translates to ‘dead sea’ – meaning ‘very calm’. Found at the shore of a quiet little bay, surrounded by mountains. Visit this beach on weekdays, as weekends mean large crowds and huge traffic blocks.

3. Olimpos – a quiet place to visit, do not expect much shopping. However, you can still find a good hotel here. Take a walk in the pine forests, or go see the old Roman and Medieval ruins. Chimera is also another attraction worth seeing – the exposure of natural gas, which flares at times, can be seen at night far from the sea.

4. Side – this beach used to be a nice, secluded beach, but no more. It is now a crowded, noisy resort – preferred by the Turks. The snowy-white sandy beaches are beautiful. You might want to visit the museum, which has one of the richest archaeological collections in Turkey.

Underwater Hotels

November 14, 2009 by · Leave a Comment 

New luxury underwater hotels are popping up everywhere. From ordinary to bizarre, these hotels are just something else and are a ‘must-visit’ for every avid traveler.

Top on the list of underwater hotels is the Jules Undersea Lodge in Florida, USA. Named after the famous maritime tale, 20,000 Leagues under the Sea, it is the first underwater hotel in the world. Located at a depth of 21ft in a small mangrove lagoon, the hotel was previously a research laboratory. Equipped with all the necessary facilities, it will cost you from $375 a night including breakfast and lunch.

Built by a man with an imagination, The Utter (Otter) Inn in Sweden is a one-room inn. Guests can sleep 3m below the surface of Lake Mälaren, found around 1km from the shore. Resembling a large buoy, the inn takes resembles a Swedish red house with white gables. Costing around $250, the Inn is difficult to book during summer so place your reservations well in advance.

The Crescent Hydropolis of Dubai, built with a budget $550 million, is under construction on the Persian Gulf floor, 66ft below the surface and will cover an area of 27 acres.

The Poseidon of Fiji is set to open in late 2009 and is located 40ft underwater. The brainchild of American submarine engineer Bruce Junes, the hotel will provide each guest with a personal Triton submarine for their own use during their stay. Though still under construction, the room rate for a standard suite is around $1500 a night, while the entire island will cost you $3,000,000.

Tourists return sick from holidays more regularly

November 14, 2009 by · Leave a Comment 

The Mondial Assistance Group, which deals with global tourist insurance, in a recent research study, found that close to 5% of travelers visit a doctor during an overseas trip.

World Health Organization data paints a grim picture, with 50%-75% of tourists returning from the tropics complaining of health problems. The data shows increased health problems during the winter season.

Sudden changes of climate, weakened immune systems and even an unusual atmosphere can be difficult on a tourist, ruining their holiday abroad. This is not what you expect when buying exotic tours to destinations like Egypt and Thailand.

The Mondial Assistance Group estimates that close to 5% of tourists visit doctors during trips abroad or as soon as they return. Most tourists are victims of unhygienic conditions or do not practice basic hygiene when traveling. This results in intestinal disordera and diarrhea. The study shows that 5% of people visiting a doctor check into a hospital, while 1%-3% of tourists catch serious infections.

WHO statistics also show that 50-75% of those visiting the tropics have health problems. It is common that people simply buy a tour not considering health implications and other such complications. Ignoring elementary safety needs and irresponsible behavior can all lead to serious health problems.

Travel operators issue health warnings and a best practices document. Tourists never read them, and continue to ignore all information about possible dangers and simply hope their medical insurance is the best.

The most ‘Piratic’ islands of the Caribbean

November 8, 2009 by · Leave a Comment 

The movie ‘Pirates of the Caribbean’ brought with it an increased interest in pirates and their lives. Tourists, most of them die-hard movie fans visit the Caribbean Sea area not just for its great beaches and sunbathing, but also to dive into what we call the ‘piratic’ past. Here are a few of the most ‘piratic’ islands of the Caribbean.

Tortuga, Haiti – Famous pirates include Henry Morgan, Francis L’Olonais and Pierre Legrain. It is here that Jack Sparrow hired his crew for the search of the Black Pearl.

Port Royal, Jamaica – This area was used as a base to attack passing by French and Spanish vessels. It is also called the ‘most sinful place on Earth’. In 1692, an earthquake destroyed the port and killed thousands of pirates.

Nassau, New Providence, Bahamas – Used during the Golden Age of the pirates, Calico Jack John Rackam, Anne Bonny and Captain Blackbeard were famous here. This port, a pirate republic was impregnable until the British sent former caper captain, Woodes Rogers to end the domination of the pirates.

Santa Cruz – This was used widely by pirates as it was a perfect position to attack vessels in the ‘Triangle Trade’.

Virgin Gorda – A perfect hideaway for pirates because of its jagged coastal line and bays and caves; it is also the third largest Virgin Island. In 1717, Black Sam Bellamy and his crew set up camp right under the nose of the English General-Governor.

Roatan, Honduras – Home to hundreds of pirates including legendary Henry Morgan and Lauren de Graff, Roatan is surrounded by treacherous reefs and shoals.