Tuesday, September 21

National Cruise Week 2010

So this week celebrates National Cruise Week where more than 2,000 travel agencies will hold events to draw attention to the world of cruising.
'What does that mean to you?' I hear you cry. Well, the nice people at the cruise lines all get their heads together and come up with some smashing incentives for you to book your cruise this week, highlighting just how much value for money a cruise is compared to other forms of travel.
In keeping with the theme Ideal Cruising have provided some fantastic offers available only this week. For more information look out for the National Cruise Week logo.

Thursday, September 9

Olly Smith brews up Autumn cocktail treats

Ollie Smith on Azura

As Hallowe’en on October 31 draws spookily near, TV drinks expert and celebrity Olly Smith has created four new cocktails to warm up those autumn evenings.

Olly Smith, who oversees The Glass House on Azura, Britain’s newest and largest cruise ship, said: “On a dark, chilly night there is nothing better than gently brewing spices and spirits. They fill the house with the aroma of comfort and a sense of festivity. Autumn evokes magical smells of crackling fires and glorious tastes like ginger parkin and of course, it’s mulled wine heaven. My recipes here are for old favourites with a twist and new ones which will soon become legendary.”

Dragon’s Blood!
My kids love this – serves two.

10 ml Cassis
10 ml Grenadine
200 ml fizzy water

Garnish with a slice of blood orange.

For the full effect, make matching Dragon’s Blood ice cubes (use the above recipe but replace fizzy water for still, pour into an ice cube tray and freeze as normal).

You can always customise it into a more grown up cocktail by adding a tot of blackcurrant vodka or sloe gin!

Mulled Wine 
This is a simple drink to create – and you can easily customise your own version. The key is not to boil the wine, just keep it warm. You can add orange juice, brandy and sugar to the base, a clove or two, a knob of fresh ginger, a cinnamon stick and you can load it with oranges, lemons and limes or try using slices of fresh mango for a tropical twist. The rule of thumb is keep tasting until it’s right – and don’t over do the cloves or they make it bitter!

Mulled White Wine 
This couldn’t be simpler, choose a fruity leftover white wine, add freshly chopped pineapple, a few lemon wedges, honey and a cinnamon stick. Strain and serve with a sliced lemon garnish and sugar to taste (and you can give it a kick with a dose of leftover spirit – brandy, vodka, or Cointreau for an orangey tang).

Olly’s Secret Punch
Gently heat equal measures of leftover port, Cointreau and Southern Comfort topped up with fresh orange juice in a pan. Don’t let it boil. At the last minute squeeze two halves of blood orange into the pan and toss in the squeezed halves. I prefer not to add sugar as the port makes my secret punch gloriously sweet. Garnish with an orange slice and serve in glass mugs.

Olly Smith will be travelling on Azura regularly throughout 2011 and 2011 - for details see www.idealcruising.co.uk. A variety of Olly’s cocktails are available on Azura this autumn

Books to take on your Cruise Holiday

Jewel of the Seas

There really is no better time to whip out the latest novel, than on a cruise holiday. There are plenty of comfortable spaces around a ship that you can settle down to a few chapters before dinner. 
One on my fondest memories of cruising was a 4 day jaunt across to Amsterdam on board the Jewel of Seas - they have the most fantastic solarium with a roof. The weather was pretty poor during our day at sea but the solarium more than made up for it. The d├ęcor was delightfully Asian/tropical. the temperature was warm and the loungers were almost too comfortable. I could only ever read a few chapters at a time before I found myself dozing again. 
Anyway back to the point of this post! I wanted to give you the heads up on the top books to take away with you in the coming months. Here are a few of my personal recommendations:
  1. The first paperback on my list is The Boy in the Striped Pyjamas by John Boyne. This story is told from the eyes of a young boy in Germany, the son of a Nazi Officer. Its difficult for me to give you a full synopsis without spoiling the story. I can assure you this book is light hearted in places, shocking in others but most of all its an eye opener. Keep the tissues at hand, you might just need them!
  2. I have to add The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo by Stieg Larsson to my list as it is definitely the best book I've read in a few months.
    I would probably class this as crime fiction. It fairly stereotypical with its characters but the plot is complicated and yet totally believable. Hopefully you won't have seen the movie to put you off a very good read.
  3. Another crime fiction novel I thoroughly enjoyed was Dan Brown's latest offering, The Lost Symbol.
    Yes, I am a Dan Brown fan so I eagerly awaited the arrival of this book. This time Robert Langdon's adventures are set in America. I admit, this book isn't a masterpiece on its own but as part of a collection it fairs well.
  4. If you enjoy a good spiritual read then My Whispering Angels by Francesca Brown is just the book for you. Its basically a true story of how the author was diagnosed and ill with ME for over 2 years. In her fight to come to terms with her illness, she meets her angel, Anne. This book is half autobiography and the rest is more instructional on how you too can connect with your angel. I'm sure I don't need to say that this book isn't for non believers.
  5. Ok I haven't strictly read this yet myself, I've just borrowed it through a friend who claims it to be the most poignant, wonderful, witty book you'll read this year - The Fry Chronicles: A Memoir by Stephen Fry. The book follows on from a previous autobiography 13 years previous. Since then Fry has become quite a household name as a comedian, author, presenter and of course, Tweeter. 
Let me know your thoughts - whether you agree or disagree!