Bottom Bay in Barbados, the Caribbean.
Barbados – is this Caribbean’s best kept secret?
Travellers have long flocked to the Bahamas, Puerto Rico and the Cayman Islands for a hit of Vitamin 'Sea', but just next door lies the Caribbean’s most underrated island nation, Barbados. This is why it should be your next tropical escape. A culture shock, in the best way possible Humidity, ear-splitting reggae and flirtatious crowds of islanders will greet you at Barbados' sole airport.   Though it's only 12 kilometres from the capital city of Bridgetown, the airport's open-air baggage pick-up makes you feel much more isolated than that.   To get to your first stop on the island (and for an experience you'll never forget), your best option is to catch a bus. Small white vans known as ZRs will cost you less than $2 to get to almost anywhere on the island.   They are sweltering hot, raucous and overflowing with locals on their way to work. Drivers rarely turn down passengers, so don’t be surprised if you’re squashed between two bulking Barbadian men when abiding by the four-to-a-seat tenet. [caption id="attachment_21958" align="alignnone" width="1024"] Find humidity, ear-splitting reggae and a flirtatious crowds of islanders[/caption] Stunning beaches, all around Along with its glistening turquoise waters and pearl-white sand, Barbados is also characterised by untouched coral reefs and limestone cliffs manned by wild goats.   Its beaches change vastly from shore to shore, so whether you’re after a secret spot for a relaxing dip, or an exposed coastline greeted by barrelling waves you can surf, you’ll find it on one side of the island or the other.   Past the heaving beaches of the south coast lies Bottom Bay, a quiet beach tucked behind time-worn coral escarpments. This little alcove provides sweeping views of the ocean, and proves a great place to spot turtles and breaching whales offshore. However spectacular the views, be aware that the rough waves here can make swimming tricky.   If you’d rather somewhere you can swim or snorkel, Miami Beach is Barbados’ most popular among travellers and locals alike. The water is tranquil and the charming beachfront is an idyllic setting to take in sunsets.   There’s also an abundance of colourful food trucks and tiny cafes hidden around the corner, so beach picnic supplies are never far away. Diving in the deep end Sure, lying on the beach reading a cheesy romance novel has its perks, but Barbados is also a go-to destination for thrill-seekers.   Whether you’re scuba diving between the shipwrecks of Carlisle Bay, or getting lost in the hanging granite tunnels of Harrison’s Cave, there's always an adventure to be had.   The most exciting (and may I say comical) way to get around the island is by hiring a mini moke. It’s a little Fred-Flintsone-in-his-footmobile, but the experience promises a unique side of Barbados, far from the major shopping strip of St Lawrence Gap.   Drive through the island's vast fields of sugar cane to the treacherous eastern coast of Bathsheba. Make sure you stop for one of the freshly carved coconuts sold at nearly every street corner along the way. [caption id="attachment_21964" align="alignnone" width="1500"] There's always an adventure to be had in Barbados[/caption] A holiday for your taste buds It’s fitting that a place where swimwear is your everyday attire is also be home to a bounty of fresh seafood and local rum, completing that stereotypical holiday brag shot.   Every Friday and Saturday night the sleepy coastal town of Oistins is overwhelmed by the smell of garlic, spices and frying seafood for what is known as the Oistins Fish Fry.   Grab something from one of the cheerful vendors serving an array of traditional seafood delights, and don’t forget to sample a glass of Barbados’ legendary Mount Gay Rum punch from one of the make-shift taverns along the water. [caption id="attachment_21959" align="alignnone" width="1500"] Make sure you stop for one of the freshly carved coconuts sold at nearly every street corner.[/caption] If you’re after something more sophisticated, there are plenty of options a little further up the north coast. Naru restaurant is headed by award-winning chef Barry Taylor, and serves up a sensational fusion of pan Asian and Caribbean cuisine. Try the grilled fresh water shrimp served with roasted butternut squash mash, a spicy mixed capsicum emulsion and shredded stir-fried vegetables.   There's also the annual Barbados Food and Wine and Rum Festival every November, luring some of the world’s best chefs to the island. Cooking classes, tastings and information sessions are held around the country, and you can get involved by booking tickets online.  
Celebrity Edge
Celebrity Edge is the ship that will change cruising forever
For Celebrity Cruises®, the name for its newest ship was obvious. Set to launch in December of this year, Celebrity Edge® is the ship that will change cruising forever.   This revolutionary ship is like no other before – every design element was pushed to the edge of possibility, and carefully considered to exceed all expectations. And that it does, with some of the most attainable luxury, innovation and transformational concepts at sea. Everyone gets a view – and a King sized bed ‘Some resorts have a beautiful view, ours has thousands’, Celebrity says of its suites on board Celebrity Edge®, which feel more like modern urban apartments than ship accommodation. The largest suites in the entire Celebrity fleet, Celebrity Edge’s Iconic Suites are located high above the bridge, making guests feel on top of the world – or perhaps at the edge of the Earth – with panoramic views, two bedrooms and two bathrooms, and an outdoor area with hot tub and day bed. The breathtaking two-storey Edge Villas are the first of their kind in the Celebrity fleet – boasting one bedroom, two bathrooms, private terraces, floor-to-ceiling windows, plunge pools and personal butler service. While those in the Edge Staterooms can, with the simple touch of a button, transform the entire stateroom into an ‘Infinite Verandah℠’. The floor-to-ceiling window retracts, allowing even larger living space and access to sea breeze whenever one likes. So long, pokey cabins and portholes!   The beauty of Celebrity Edge® is that all staterooms and suites offer a luxurious experience, due to its thoughtful design which allows for a king-size bed in 99 per cent of the rooms. There are also a number of interconnecting options, making it easier for larger families to comfortably travel together in a variety of accommodation options. Add to that twice-daily housekeeping, custom-blended bath products, and Celebrity’s eXhale™ bedding with exclusive Cashmere mattresses. Take a trip through the Garden of Eden Outside of guest sleeping quarters, the public areas also have an edge to them. No expense was spared, from a seven-tonne chandelier in The Grand Plaza that is the central gathering space, to 7000 square feet of glass in Eden, a space resplendent in lush greenery that transforms from day to night. It has a café and bar, indoor and al fresco dining, activities such as yoga, cooking classes, wine tasting and pairing, and artistic performances that are integrated into an unforgettable dining experience.   [caption id="attachment_44018" align="alignnone" width="1500"] First to ever be designed in 3D by world renowned architects and designers[/caption] Entertainment like you’ve never seen before ‘We’re not pulling back the curtain, we’re taking it away’, Celebrity says, with all aspects of the ship possessing a wow-factor, be it with performance, immersive or aesthetic. Though if you prefer to sit back and enjoy the spectacle, the entertainment at The Theatre has four shows that will keep guests on the edge of their seat, with transformative stages, projectors, spiralling staircases and aerial rigging. There’s an actual Magic Carpet hovering above the water But if that’s not extraordinary enough, make like Aladdin and take a Magic Carpet ride on board Celebrity Edge®. This unique feature is the world’s first cantilevered platform on the edge of the ship, 13 storeys above sea level. Transforming into different spaces, depending on which level it is on, the Magic Carpet can be a dining room, pool deck, or space for enrichment talks and workshops, with the added thrill of feeling like you’re soaring over the ocean. Private cabanas, martini hot tubs and film-inspired food Up on the pool deck, a 22-metre lap pool is flanked by sun lounges, private cabanas that overlook the ocean, and a couple of two-storey martini hot tubs (as in, they are shaped like a martini glass) offering a sky-high soak. The jogging track winds its way around a living Rooftop Garden, where you can feast on a barbecue grill, enjoy a cocktail, listen to live music and experience A Taste of Film, where the food is inspired by the film. [caption id="attachment_44019" align="alignnone" width="600"] Every design element was pushed to the edge of possibility, and carefully considered to exceed all expectations[/caption] Cuisine from around the globe Indeed, food, glorious food is a key part of the cruising experience, and onboard Celebrity Edge®, world class dining is at your fingertips. Gone are the days that it is all just about gluttonous buffets. On board Celebrity Edge® guests have the exciting choice of four complimentary dining options! Choose between new American with global influences, refined French cuisine, Mediterranean fare and rustic Italian, with ample spots to relax with a drink, whether it be at the dazzling Martini Bar, country club-style Sunset Bar or the glitz and glamour of the Casino Bar.   Rivalling some of the world’s most luxurious hotels, the Celebrity Edge® is cutting-edge design, a refreshing new-look cruising experience that brings luxury to everyone. Details To find out where Celebrity Edge® is sailing, visit http://www.cruising.com.au/ Or call 1800 270 747 for more information.    
Cuba in 10 days: the ultimate itinerary
From stepping back in time to explore the hallowed streets of Old Havana to enjoying the best mojito of your life on a beautiful Caribbean beach, a trip to Cuba is the experience of a lifetime. Whether you’re a backpacker on a budget or a luxury honeymooner, Cuba has something to suit every travel style. But in saying that, it’s important to have a solid itinerary mapped out before you leave. Here are our top tips on making the most of your time in this intoxicating country. Plan your accommodation ahead of time This isn’t really a turn-up-and-book-a-hotel kind of place. Making changes to holiday plans last minute isn't always easy in Cuba. With minimal internet access and certain go-to travel sites like Airbnb blocked once inside the country, simple tasks like booking last-minute accommodation suddenly become annoyingly difficult. Apps to download before you leave home First things first, download the apps. No, I’m not talking about Tinder, rather Triposo, CityMaps2Go and Google Translate. These three apps saved our behinds a number of times and all work perfectly offline. Triposo Triposo is like your portable travel guide. It grabs information from Wikipedia, Wikitravel, and elsewhere, and bundles it all together into a useful, easy-to-use offline guide, which you download prior to arrival. After you’ve downloaded the data pack of the country you’re heading to you’ll have activities, hotels, restaurants, maps and basic directions, all at your fingertips. CityMaps2Go Next, we recommend CityMaps2Go. Pretty similar to Triposo, as in you download a data pack prior to arrival. In this case we downloaded the entire road map of Cuba, making navigating the country super easy and convenient. Google Translate and Duolingo And lastly, Google Translate and Duolingo. New Year’s Eve 2017: among some other rather vain resolutions about chiselling a six pack and whitening my teeth, I vowed to learn Spanish for my impending visit to Cuba.   Via Duolingo I proposed to spend at least half an hour each day learning the basics. Come June and my New Year’s resolution was about as complete as Donald Trump’s wall, as I’d only reached a 7 per cent fluency rate. So unless someone was saying hello or goodbye, my Spanish was pretty useless. If in doubt just use Google Translate.   Now for the fun part. We split our trip up into two parts. Landing in Havana, we allowed ourselves five days and then bussed down to Trinidad for four days, then back to Havana for the final two. Havana ooh na na Touching down in Havana, we are buzzing and excited to sink our teeth into the city we’d read so much about. Lo and behold a 1950s Chevrolet Bel Air – slightly beat up but seriously impressive – greeted us on arrival.   Eagerly jumping in, our authentic Cuban experience had started straight off the plane. As our driver began to leave the airport we both instinctively reached for the non-existent seat belts, which I have to admit took some getting used to. The option to jump in a safer more modern car is always there, but make sure you negotiate the price before you commit to the journey. Where to stay in Havana We booked our accommodation – a casa particular – in the heart of the old town and found it via Airbnb. A common accommodation option throughout the country, a casa particular is a privately owned house that rents out either rooms or the entire place to visitors.   It had a bed and breakfast-type feel, with hosts offering meals, assisting with transport and giving local tips and tricks on what to see, eat and explore. For this leg of our journey, we booked a casa which consisted of the entire place, rather than staying with a family.   Alternatively there are loads of hotels to stay in but most are rather expensive and government-owned, which doesn't really help the Cuban people. We also found that hotels just kind of gave themselves their own star rating. Most claiming to be four star-plus, when in actual fact their fans don’t work and their light switches may electrocute you. So do your research. The best things to do in Havana Explore the cobbled streets of Old Havana We were taken back in time as kids played soccer in the street and old men played checkers on the side of the road. Horse-led carts cruised through the narrow alleys carrying fresh fruit and vegetables, while a man went restaurant to restaurant trying to sell today’s catch, lugging huge fish on his back. The absence of wi-fi – something we’re increasingly taking for granted in cities today – means that the streets were full of interaction, making for an extremely buzzing and lively city. [caption id="attachment_32537" align="alignleft" width="1000"] Havana, the capital of Cuba, is one of the oldest cities in the Caribbean. 'Old Havana' is a UNESCO World Heritage Site in 1982.[/caption] From Plaza Vieja, a giant square filled with bars, restaurants and music to Obispo Street, which runs all the way into one of Hemingway’s favourite bars, El Floridita, you’ll smash your 10,000 steps before lunch and that's only scratching the surface. Walk and relax at the Malecón The Malecón photographs better than a sunset over Waikiki and comes jam-packed with people-watching entertainment.   The eight-kilometre strip, which runs from Havana Harbour in the old town to the central business district of Vedado, is loved by both locals and tourists, who set up camp in the late afternoon to farewell the Caribbean sun with a rum and a rumba. Find a good spot, BYO rum and don’t forget your sunglasses. Take a day trip to Santa Maria del Mar With white sand and clear blue waters all around, this coastline is about a 30-minute taxi ride from Havana and will cost you about 25 bucks each way. The hardest part of your day will be deciding which beach bar to commit to.   The whole strip consists of small bars offering refreshments, beach umbrellas and chairs. Relax as the ocean laps on the shore accompanied by the distant sound of locals trying to sell hats, bracelets and massages. Meet the locals and learn to salsa Cuba is synonymous with salsa, and at night most Havana bars and nightclubs turn into salsa clubs. It’s up to you to ask for a dance. This might sound intimidating, but I found that more often than not, the friendly pros were willing to help a goofy westerner with two left feet like me learn the basics. [caption id="attachment_16882" align="alignleft" width="1000"] Local school children look especially cute in their uniforms[/caption] Treat yourself to luxury Four words...Gran Hotel Manzana Kempinski. Yes it’s a mouthful, yes it’s expensive and yes the elevator is slightly frightening, but save this for your last day in the country as you unwind and relax. Disclaimer: we did not stay here – it’s around $400 USD per night.   We did however pay $60 USD to use its facilities, which include a panoramic pool terrace, where the city views and the infinity pool become one, a gym and state-of-the-art day spa that includes daybeds, an ice bath, a steam room, a sauna, a massage spa, relaxation areas and free fruit and water. I left feeling a million bucks and about five years younger. Trinidad If you’re an Instagram advocate, Trinidad will get your wall buzzing faster than a bee hive. This picturesque preserved colonial town is absolutely gorgeous, with brightly coloured buildings and cobblestone streets. Not to mention being located on the foothills of the Topes de Collantes national park and just 15 minutes from beautiful Playa Ancón. Where to stay in Trinidad Getting to Trinidad involved a six-hour bus ride from Havana and was actually pretty easy. We once again stayed at a local casa particular but this time opted to stay with a Cuban family, which gave us an interesting insight into everyday life. The host also did our washing, which was super handy. The best things to do in Trinidad While this this town offers a variety of activities for both the evening and during the day, it relies heavily on tourism, so you find yourself being almost overwhelmed by local touts. I would recommend spending three to four days here. A day for the beach, a day for the national park and waterfalls and day to explore the town (where you’ll most likely end up back at the beach). Hire bikes and ride down to Playa Ancón The gorgeous sands of Playa Ancón are about a 15-kilometre bike ride (mostly downhill) from the centre of town. The ride takes you through some truly beautiful countryside and small towns, giving you the option to stop and swim along the way.   You’ll be dodging small crabs that scurry across the road as you embark on the journey to the main beach. Once you’ve arrived, you can park your bike and (just like the beaches in Havana) hire a chair and umbrella for the rest of the day. Hike to a waterfall and swim under it Within an hour’s drive of Trinidad, there are hundreds of waterfalls and hikes ready to be explored. Vegas Grande is about a six-kilometre hike and a little hard to get to, but leads to one of the most picturesque waterfalls I have ever seen.   We got a local taxi driver from town to run us up the mountain and wait for us as we embarked on the journey. If you’ve seen The Beach, it’s pretty close to the scene when the three explorers struggle through the bushland to finally emerge into paradise. We were lucky enough to have it all to ourselves– besides the Cuban lifeguard who was napping anyway. Experience Disco Ayala What would you get if Calvin Harris went hiking and stumbled upon a huge cave? A nightclub of the most unique persuasion. Disco Ayala is a five-minute walk from the centre of town and kicks off at about 11pm.   This giant cave has been transformed into what is probably one of the coolest nightclubs in the world. Descending down the winding staircase, you’ll find yourself suddenly on a dancefloor surrounded by dripping walls, disco balls and great music. Explore and have a drink on the staircase next to Casa de la Música Like Havana, Trinidad has winding streets and alleys that could be explored for hours. Wandering around the cobblestone streets, it won’t be long before you’ll find yourself rather thirsty. The staircase next to the Casa de la Música offers fresh mojitos and live music and also acts as a gathering place for many tourists as it’s a wi-fi hotspot. Don’t forget to wear flats. The cobblestones are hard enough to negotiate even before adding alcohol.
Havana, Cuba.
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9 must-see sights of Old Town, Havana
The Cuban capital still appears to be trapped in a ’50s time-warp, but this unique city is slowly finding its way into the 21st century. 1. Plaza de la Catedral Start your day among the Cuban Baroque architecture of this 18th-century square; in fact the most recent in Havana’s old heart. [caption id="attachment_35224" align="alignleft" width="716"] While nothing quite beats Havana, Cuba has plenty of other highlights too.[/caption] Get up early to attend mass in the Catedral de la Habana (7:15am weekdays); a great way to see Havanans start their day. 2. Fortaleza de San Carlos de la Cabaña A huge 18th-century fort built by the Spanish, it became the headquarters of Che Guevara following the revolution.   You’ll also find the Museo de Comandancia del Che here, a good place to start unravelling Che’s fascinating life story. 3. Plaza Vieja Head back to the Old Town to spend a while at the 16th-century Plaza Vieja; Havana at its pastel-hued best.   People-watch with a drink on a second-floor balcony. You’ll pay a little more up here but the view of the square is worth it. 4. Real Fábrica de Tabacos Partagás See how Cuba’s most famous export is made at this old cigar factory. [caption id="attachment_16884" align="alignleft" width="667"] Old Havana also known as ‘Habana Vieja’ has been World Heritage listed with UNESCO since 1982 and with good reason.The crumbling architecture and the scale of these beautiful buildings have to be seen to be believed – and families still routinely live in these palatial apartments.The size of the French doors gives an idea of the ceiling height inside.[/caption] Take a factory tour and you’ll find some 400 workers here who spend 12 hours a day rolling the famous Montecristo and Cohiba cigars. 5. Paseo del Prado Stroll up this tree-lined walkway that runs from the Capitol building up to the Malecón.   It’s filled with street artists, exclusive hotels, theatres and crumbling mansions, plus lots of marble benches to rest on. 6. Malecón Take a walk along this broad seafront esplanade. It’s the best place in the city to see the classic cars that Havana is famous for. Barter with the driver of a ’57 Chevy taxi here to take you around the city for an hour in style. 7. Museo de laRevolución One of Havana’s most opulent buildings is also an important part of Cuba’s post-revolutionary history.It was inaugurated as the Presidential Palace in 1920 and was used by a succession of presidents until dictator Fulgencio Batista was overthrown in 1959.   Following the revolution, the building was used as a government headquarters, and in 1974 it became a museum dedicated to the revolution. [caption id="attachment_19374" align="alignleft" width="1500"] 86. Havana, Cuba[/caption] In 2010, it was designated a National Monument.   Today, visitors can trace the progress of revolution and cast an eye over historical curiosities including the Granma, the 18-metre yacht that carried Fidel Castro, Che and 80 other revolutionaries from exile in Mexico to overthrow Batista.   In contrast to communist ideals, the building’s interiors were decorated by Tiffany & Co. and visitors can explore highlights like the Salón de los Espejos, a replica of the Hall of Mirrors in the Palace of Versailles.  
The Bahamas’ Kamalame Cay resort
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