Category Archives: Blog

Travel Insurance Tips

When you’re traveling, chances are your main focus is on enjoying your time to the max, seeing new and interesting sights, eating local food and experiencing a new culture. But oftentimes, one mishap can turn a completely positive holiday upside down- a missed flight, stolen bag or passport or even travel company going bankrupt are all risks that you take when you travel. For these reasons, many travelers opt for travel insurance to protect them from the worst case scenario. Here are a few tips to get you on the way to picking out the right travel insurance for your trip:

 money

Why Travel Insurance? Of course we know that insurance protects against stolen baggage and belongings, but imagine some of the following other scenarios: A family member comes down with the flu the day before you’re scheduled to depart on holiday, and they can’t fly. That’s a lot of money gone on a plane ticket that can’t be used! Or a massive storm wipes out the beach where you’re staying in a resort, and you’re forced to evacuate. Wouldn’t you want to recover the cost of your stay? Travel insurance protects against all the unexpected problems that can come up while traveling, saving you tons of money and stress.

Pick your Categories Travel insurance covers five main areas: medical, flight, baggage, evacuation and trip cancellation/interruption. You’ll usually end up buying a package that has a few of these, and you can always add on policies like identity theft, for example.

Where to Buy You can get travel insurance in a few ways: from a travel agent, an online broker, or from your current insurance provider. Travel agents will usually try to push travel insurance because they earn a commission, but shop around before you choose what to go with.

Before you Buy… Make sure you completely go over what’s covered by your existing insurance before you buy a travel plan! You might find that you have property loss protection that’s still in effect when you travel, or your health insurance offers medical care overseas. Don’t invest in something that you don’t really need if you’ve got the coverage already.

Other Kinds of Insurance If you’re a student planning to go abroad, you can purchase insurance plans for both short and long-term stays. Business travel insurance is great for jet-setting professionals who need protection for laptops and electronics or reimbursement for canceled conferences and meetings. Or even if you leave your pets at home, you can even get pet insurance to protect your furry loved ones.

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5 Things to Do in Barbados

If you’re looking for a Caribbean vacation packed with things to do, look no further than Barbados. There are so many interesting and active things you can get up to on the island, so book up one of the beautiful villas in Barbados and get ready for the holiday of a lifetime.

Also, Best At Barbados holidays offer affordable luxury holidays to exclusive hotels and resorts in Barbados, including Sandy Lane and Turtle Beach by Elegant Hotels..

barbados

Hire a Car and Tour the Island

Barbados is so diverse that the best way to see it is by car, so you can enjoy the gorgeous and quiet coasts to the north and east, surfing beaches of the south, and rolling countryside in the center of the island- and everything in between. The island is a completely different experience when you escape the crowded beaches, and explore the beautiful land within. Make sure to stop at the rum shops along the way!

fish fry

Oistins Fish Fry

Every Friday night is fish night on Barbados, and Oistins in the parish of GetChrist Church is the happening spot to catch up with locals and dine on some fabulous freshly caught fish and chips. Live music starts up around 7 pm, with everything from reggae beats to ballroom dancing providing the entertainment for this festive event.

submarine

Get Underwater

It wouldn’t be a complete trip to Barbados without checking out the vibrant life under the sea. Snorkel among colorful fish along the bright coral reefs- the crystal waters let you see for what seems like miles. Or if you prefer to stay dry, take the Atlantis submarine down to depths of 100 feet to view all manner of sea life!

hiking

Go Hiking

A great way to meet locals and enjoy the beautiful natural landscape is by joining a hiking group though local website www.hikebarbados.com. They organize weekly walks and hikes all over the island on Sundays- with varying degrees of difficulty.

Watch a Sporting Event

Barbados has cricket pitches in every Parish, so check out those or the main stadium in in the Capital for a lively afternoon watching oen of the island’s popular sports. The island also hosts a marathon, half marathon and several fun runs if you’d like the experience of competing with people from all over the world.

 

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Best Fine Dining in Perth

With such an abundance of restaurants and cafes in Perth, it can be hard to choose where to go. Here are five of the best fine dining restaurants this city has to offer. Let the gastronomic marathon commence.

restaurant-amuse-perth

Restaurant Amuse

Run by husband and wife team, Hadleigh and Carolynne Troy, Restaurant Amuse is a multiple-award winning (17 at last count) restaurant featuring modern Australian cuisine. The restaurant is known for its 9-course dégustation menu, which takes seasonal, local ingredients and culinary creativity to produce cultural fusion masterpieces. Oh, and it’s paired with lots of rare wines. They cater to specific dietary needs by offering vegetarian and pescatarian dégustations as well as gluten free options. The chefs push the boundaries of both dish and presentation in order to keep the tastebuds ‘amused.’

Bistro_Guillaume_Perth

Bistro Guillaume

This French restaurant brings the bistros of Paris to Perth. The dining room is sumptuous and inviting, with contemporary fixtures and bright green accents. It’s all about food with friends here, making it perfect for those who like to spend a leisurely evening with good food and conversation. Acclaimed French chef Guillaume Brahimi is serving a menu filled with provincial French dishes including gratin dauphinois and a mind-blowing Passionfruit Soufflé.

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Halo

It’s all about the views. Halo is in a prime location at Barrack Street Jetty with a scenic outlook of the esplanade and the Swan River. Maybe you’ll even spot a dolphin as you dine. Halo restaurant serves up contemporary Australian cuisine with affordable prices and impeccable service. Being so close to the water, this restaurant specializes in fresh, local seafood although it still caters to meat lovers with succulent chicken, venison, lamb, and steak dishes.

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Balthazar

Balthazar is sophisticated, yet relaxed. Men in suits talk business and the wails of an accordion pierce the air (sometimes). This charming modern Australian bistro has a cellar feel as hundreds of wine bottles are scattered around the restaurant, giving a nod to the awesome wine list forthcoming. The wine list is carefully arranged and extensive, with over 400 options to choose from. The food is complex and lovely all around, with options such as roasted figs in honey fromage frais with rocket and mouth-watering pork shank.

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The Loose Box

The chef and owner of The Loose Box is Alain Fabrègues, who has received both France’s highest culinary award, the Meilleur Ouvrier de France and a French knighthood Chevalier Dans L’Ordre National du Merite, for his contributions to French cuisine. Reservations are essential and there is only a 7-course dégustation menu. Needless to say, this is serious cuisine. Fabrègues combines fresh Australian produce with classical French culinary principles to produce masterful dishes such as Daube de Boeuf Aux Chataignes. The restaurant is nestled in the suburbs in a cozy house setting.

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Why Spain is still the place to be in 2013

Spain has been a holiday favourite for us Brits for years and is set to top our list of destinations again in 2013, whether it’s for a long weekend or a big holiday. We’ve pulled out the key attractions that the country has to offer below. With such an array, how can you resist jetting there this year?

Madrid

Why is it so good?

Simply put, Spain has something to offer everyone. Whatever you want from a holiday, you can find it in Spain.

  • Weather – Summers are gloriously hot and winters are often still warm, so this is a place you can visit all year round.
  • Culture – Spain caters for those who want culture, with remarkable architecture, a history from a mix of cultures and a cosmopolitan society.
  • Food – Spain offers a plethora of dishes and wines, both national and local to each region. From Rioja wine to tapas, paella and sumptuous seafood, your taste buds will be tantalised like never before. Most Spanish places also cater for British palates, for those moments when you fancy a taste of home.
  • Activities – Spain offers a variety of activities. To list but a few, consider relaxing on a beach, trying your hand at water sports, hill walking, visiting cultural attractions, sailing a boat, zoning out in a spa, sipping wine in a bar watching the world go by or ambling through city streets. Take your pick!

 

Where should you go? 

From fashionable cities like Barcelona, Seville, Madrid and Valencia to beach resorts such as Marbella, the Costa Brava and the Canary Islands, Spain has a lot to offer. Spanish city life offers amazing architecture, fabulous shopping and some of the best restaurants in the world.

 

Spain’s coastlines harbour stunning beaches, chic marinas and quaint fishing villages. Head inland and you’ll find dramatic mountain ranges and a whole host of outdoor activities.

We’ve highlighted our top three destinations below:

  • Barcelona – With a unique blend of Spanish and Catalan culture, the fashion capital of Spain has fantastic architecture including Gaudi’s famous Sagrada Familia. This architecture is paired with a vibrant atmosphere which you can find on Las Ramblas, La Boqueria market and the city’s marina and beaches.
  • Seville – This Andalucían jewel has a strong Moorish influence. It is home to the Reales Alcazares housing Muslim and Jewish art, trees lined with orange trees, brilliant bistros and charming winding streets. It is known as Spain’s most romantic city.
  • Marbella – Marbella is a great mix of old and new. Visit the cobbled streets of the old town for great boutiques, art galleries and restaurants, or venture into the neighbouring Puerto Banus marina to see million dollar yachts and flash cars on show.

 

The current economy means we all have less to spend on travel. Spain provides the above huge range of destinations, great weather and attractions at affordable prices. Plus flights can be found from most UK airports. Take a look at some cheap holidays to Spain and start planning your trip!

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A Taste of Japan – Tokyo Food Tours

A Taste of Japan: Tokyo Food Tours

Tokyo is a curious mix of modern and traditional. Known for the high-tech hum and buzz of its neon streets, this Japanese metropolis embraces manic energy and ancient serenity in equal parts. Traditional kimonos parade alongside quirky Harajuku get-ups. Cherry blossom-lined alleys open into frenetic concrete jungles. It’s all part of the city’s unforgettable charm.

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Crazy Japan

Of course, Tokyo’s two faces do share one thing: a love of food. From sushi to yakitori, soba to sake, Japan’s cultural identity is enmeshed with a reverence for cuisine, and experiencing authentic Tokyo is as simple as wandering through its stalls and restaurants. Where’s the best place to start your Tokyo food tours? Let us guide the way.

Yakitori Alley

Situated near Yurakucho, this energetic corridor of bars and street vendors is a haven for foodies. The iconic yakitori — a savory grilled-meat appetizer — started here, and you’ll get to sample some of the city’s best in the company of cuisine-loving locals. Make sure to ask for one of the special sauces; they take the dish from delicious to addictive.

Monja Street

After your yakitori adventure, head to this Tsukishima destination for a taste of its famous monjayaki, a tempura-like pancake dotted with meats and vegetables. You can even have a chat with the cook while he or she prepares your food. Want a little inside tip? Dig into your meal like the locals do: Cut the monjayaki into pieces with a spatula, and then use chopsticks to eat it right off the grill.

Beyond the City Limits

If you’re craving an experience outside Toyko, book a guided tour through Kyoto and Fushimi Inari. Start by picking up a few seasonal ingredients from Kyoto’s bustling food markets before heading off to learn the art of making rolled sushi and miso soup at a Japanese cooking class. After you’ve had your fill of norimaki, grab a train to Inari and uncover the secrets of sake at a local brewery. You’ll get to sample a few favourites and can even browse a liquor store that specialises in over 80 varieties.

Hungry for more? Discover a world of Japanese food tours with American Express Travel. Whether you’re interested in a night tour through Tokyo or a cooking class in Kyoto, American Express has everything you need to create can’t-miss experiences in any destination. Plus, you’ll enjoy cardmember benefits like incredible discounts and the ability to pay for travel with points, your card or both. With American Express, a delicious Japanese adventure is right around the corner.

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Hotel’s Around the World

Each vacation should have that definitive moment when you truly feel like you have gotten away from it all! Here are some destinations with attractions that will make you feel like you’ve stepped into another world while knowing a cozy hotel room waits at the end of your adventure!

USA

Highly recommended by budget-conscious travelers on HostelBookers.com, The Sohotel provides sassy accommodations right in the middle of Manhattan.  All rooms have private facilities, air-conditioning and the 24-hour reception desk will direct you to China Town attractions.

Whilst your there: Check out Confucius Plaza

At the corner of Bowery and Division Streets is a frequently visited landmark in China Town, a 15-foot bronze statue of Confucius presented to the U.S. during its bicentennial by renowned sculptor Liu Shih.

Italy

You feel like you’re on a film set at the Hotel Hollywood, a quiet oasis amid Rome’s constant buzz.  Sweet air-conditioned rooms have private facilities and the restaurant serves free breakfast daily.

Whilst your there:  Check out Saint Paul’s Within the Walls

Atop Via Nazionale street is a fabulous cathedral that doesn’t look like much from the outside, but the inside is absolutely beautiful.  Many evenings there are musical services open to the public that accentuate the excellent acoustics in this cathedral.

Hotel Hollywood

Cambodia

The tranquil Wooden Angkor Hotel in Siem Reap welcomes guests into an oasis of modern comfort. Serene Koi ponds reflect the gorgeous tropical landscaping and polished teak lodges. The friendly staff serves complimentary made-to-order breakfast and will arrange your outings.

Whilst your there:  Check out Angkor Wat

It’s a good idea to visit this wonder of ancient engineering at sunrise when the complex opens at 5:30 AM before the crowds and humidity build up. The spectacular light makes for impressive photographs, especially on solstice days when the astronomical alignments are obvious.

Russia

The amusing Mini Hotel PIO in St. Petersburg exposes the Russia’s fascination with Europe because the decor is Italians and breakfast is English!  This friendly hotel has freebies you expect, like breakfast and Wi-Fi, but they have unexpected perks like free use the washing machines and sauna.

Whilst your there:  Check out The Field of Mars

Currently a commemorative garden to the god of war, this plaza has served many purposes as the surrounding plaques and statues will attest.  Holding Russia’s eternal flame monument, the park has flower gardens in summer and festive holiday decorations in winter.

Mini Hotel PIO

Thailand

A perfect “home away from home” the Karon Living Room Hotel in Phuket provides air-conditioned mini-suites with self-catering facilities, private balconies, king size beds and cable TV.  The friendly staff arranges motorcycle rentals and discount tickets to local bars and restaurants.

Whilst your there:  Check out Kalim Beach

Of course, there are a lot of luxurious and affordable hotels in Phuket to choose from. It will depend of your budget, or your preferences, if you wish to be closer to the long beaches in the north-west coast or in center of the city to have an easy access to the museum and temples. Hire a motorbike and spend some quality time relaxing on this unspoiled beach a few miles from town.  For some delightful views of the coastline, ride up the road from the beach into the hills.

Hire a motorbike and spend some quality time relaxing on this unspoiled beach a few miles from town.  For some delightful views of the coastline, ride up the road from the beach into the hills.

Karon Living Room Hotel

Peru

Only 20 minutes from crowded Lima is the quiet town of Cieneguilla where the Casa de Campo provides upscale accommodations complete with a swimming pool, grill restaurant and cocktail lounge.  Enjoy a complimentary breakfast outdoors before exploring archeological sites.

Whilst your there:  Check out Pachacamac

Located southeast of Lima on the coastline are the pre-Columbian ruins of an Incan citadel that was attributed to the deity “who created land and time.” Helpful guides are available on-site to explain the history and significance of these impressive stone monuments.

Morocco

Live like royalty at the Riad Omar Hotel in Marrakech with elegant surroundings, personal service and delicious meals.  Rooms offer views of the Atlas Mountains, surrounding gardens and tiled inner courtyard where you can enjoy complimentary breakfast before exploring the town.

Whilst your there:  Check out Majorelle Gardens

Designed by French artist Jacques Majorelle in the 1920s, these exquisite gardens are the final resting place of Yves Saint-Laurent.  The artist’s signature cobalt blue accents the deep green foliage.  The Islamic Art Museum displays paintings by Majorelle and Saint-Laurent’s personal jewelry collection.

Riad Omar Hotel

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A week off from the grind

If you’re one of those people who works 9 to 5 everyday you’ll know that the routine can really start to wear you down – doing the same commute everyday and staring at the same computer screen can easily get tiring. Everyone needs a break every now and then to recharge the batteries and get away from it all.

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It true that sometimes the stresses of work or family life mean the thought of going on holiday for even just a week feels like more hassle than it’s worth. If this is the case it’s probably a sign that you really do need a holiday! if you can make the effort of getting yourself to an airport with just a carry-on bag and your sunnies, the benefit you’ll feel when you touch down on the runway in another country – with some sunshine to greet you – will make it all worthwhile.

Nowadays, with so many websites dedicated to travel, it’s really easy to pick up a bargain trip at short notice. Whether you feel like a cheap holiday to Greece to spend your time lazing on the beach or by the pool, or if you feel like taking a break in one of Europe’s most iconic cities, drinking up some culture, the effects of getting away from it all will be just the same. With price less of an obstacle, there’s really no excuse to get that well-deserved break.

Of course, this kind of last minute deal is much easier to organise if you’re footloose and fancy-free, without having to think about your kids or your partner, fitting in around other people’s work schedules or school holidays, but if that’s your situation, don’t be put off, it’s still possible to be spontaneous if you really want to. You may have to wait for the next school holidays, but you can still get the bargains if you don’t mind leaving the arrangements to the last minute.

Just getting out of the daily routine can be so uplifting and you’ll often come back feeling like you’ve been away for much longer. You’ll go back to work with a new spring in your step for a few weeks at least! You never know, maybe you’ll enjoy it so much that you’ll realise 9 to 5 isn’t for you, and decide to make your travelling a little more permanent!

 

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5 Offbeat Things to Do in Madrid

madrid

For a culturally engaging holiday rich with sensory experiences, history, great food and fantastic art and architecture (to name just a few!), head to Madrid, the capital and largest city of Spain. But instead of hitting just the big tourist attractions, sidestep the main drag and check out some of these sights off the beaten path:

el rastro

El Rastro Flea Market Every Sunday and public holiday, this offbeat market is held between the Calle Embajadores and the Ronda de Toledo. This local bazaar has been a tradition of the area for five centuries, and is an absolute maze of every kind of knick-knack you could hope to find at a flea market. From old records to antiques, grungy T-shirts and even electronics, you can spend hours searching for treasures at this lively and massive market.

park

Parque de Buen Retiro Whether you prefer to stay in luxurious hotel accommodations or budget hostels, you can guarantee an afternoon of pure elegance and relaxation in these beautiful gardens. They used to be the spot for the Royalty to relax in past times, but today are open to the public for everything from picnics to enjoying street performances and even taking a solar-powered boat through the lake to enjoy the tranquil beauty of the park.

sala

Sala el Sol This is one of the best venues in Madrid for enjoying live music, especially ‘70’s and ‘80’s jams with a ribbon of soul and funk weaved in. It’s a guaranteed lively atmosphere where you can groove to the live performances by musicians from all over the world. Live music usually begins each night at 11 pm, but sometimes as early as 10 pm.

rock

Go Rock Climbing If scaling the slopes to head-spinning heights sounds like your thing, there are plenty of great opportunities to go rock climbing in Madrid (and incredible views if you’re on the fence!) Reasonably fit travelers can sign up for a 5-hour expedition, which includes instruction and gear rental. Or you can opt for a full-day guided hike up the mountains on the outskirts of the city as another option for vertical ascent.

sherry

Taste Sherry at the San Miguel Market The lively open-air markets are such an important part of Spanish culture, that another one makes the list! But head specifically to The Sherry Corner on San Miguel Street, and you’ll find a comprehensive guided tour of the wine industry, covering the history and process of making Sherry wine. You can get the tour in 8 languages, and the tour menu includes great Spanish tapas along with its wine tastes.

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Special Perks of Sunny Florida

A Florida vacation is one of those trips that everyone deserves to experience at least once in a lifetime. The state has something for everyone. Whether your preference is sunbathing on the beach or you would rather attend a sporting event or visit a fabulous theme park, you can do it all in Florida!

disney world

Disney World

Florida Attractions

Besides its beaches Florida is well known for its theme parks – especially for Walt Disney World. This park is actually several parks in one, and it offers countless shows, attractions, rides, and shopping and dining options. In fact, Disney World most people agree you will need to spend several days there. You can find online guides and detailed information about the theme park. People come from around the world to experience Walt Disney World.

Other popular theme parks include Universal Studios and Sea World. There are also beautiful gardens, alligator farms, and many other attractions located throughout the state. No matter what your preference, there is sure to be an attraction that will interest you.

Florida Sporting Events

Florida is a great place for sports enthusiasts. Daytona International Speedway is definitely the place for NASCAR lovers. In Florida you can follow the Marlins at spring training and you can find out what is so exciting about Jai-Lai. Purchase Miami Dolphins tickets to enjoy a memorable night out.  The point is, Florida offers countless types of professional spectator sports.

If you want to take a more hands on approach to sports you can choose diving, surfing, sailing, swimming, boating, or various horseback riding activities or hiking. There are many, many things to do in Florida. Just get out and do it.

Top Florida Destinations

Daytona Beach is well known for the Daytona 500, which is held in mid-February. In May – October sea turtles come to the beaches in the area to lay eggs. Daytona is also recognized for its flea markets, water parks, and fishing.

Miami is unique because the city has beaches, plus it is a short drive from the Florida Keys and from Biscayne Bay. In addition, Miami is the only city that has the Florida Marlins, the Miami Dolphins, the Miami Heat, and the Florida Panthers. It is definitely a great place for those that enjoy watching sports!

Orlando is best known for Walt Disney World, but it is also home to Universal Studios, Discovery Cove, and Sea World. Countless lakes surround the city and not surprisingly, numerous hotels and other accommodations are offered.

Besides its beaches, Tampa is perhaps best recognized for the beautiful theme park called Busch Gardens. The city is also home to the Cracker Country History Museum and the Glazer Children’s Museum.

Florida Weather

Central and northern Florida has a humid, subtropical climate, but southern Florida has a true tropical climate. The days can sometimes be very hot, but an afternoon or evening shower can often cool things down as much as 10 degrees for the remainder of the day.

Because most of Florida has such a wonderful breeze, many people say they do not notice the humidity in the air. However, the summertime temperature can rise well above 90. Could it be that people in Florida are having too much fun to notice the heat?

 

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Top 5 Biggest Cruise Ships in the World

When you hear the term “luxury cruise liner,” images of great ships like the Titanic, Queen Mary or Queen Elizabeth 2 probably come to mind. Each vessel was a legendary name in the annals of the world’s largest and greatest cruise ships.

Oasis of the Seas

Oasis of the Seas

Now, in the 21st Century, a whole new generation of massive ships is sailing the seas. Like floating cities, the new generation stretches the boundaries of size and luxury as each one ferries passengers from port to port. Here are the five largest ships currently on the water.

5. (Tie) Freedom of the Seas, Liberty of the Seas & Independence of the Seas

All three “Freedom” class cruise ships are owned and operated by Royal Caribbean International, which owns seven of the ten biggest cruise ships in the world. The Freedom, Liberty and Independence each are 154,407 gross tons (GT) in weight, 1,112 feet long and 184 feet wide. By comparison, the ships are as long as the height of a 90-story skyscraper building and wider than a football field.

Making these ships even more impressive is their 209-foot above-water height. A wide hull makes it possible for each massive vessel to not only stay afloat but remain relatively smooth in rough seas and right itself quickly if a wave ever attempted to knock it over.

2. Norwegian Epic

At 155,873 GT in weight, the Norwegian Epic by Norwegian Cruise Line is the second largest passenger ship in the world today. At 1,081 feet by 133 feet, the Epic is shorter and thinner than the Freedom Class ships of Royal Caribbean. But what it lacks in depth it makes up for in capacity, holding up to 5,183 people.

The cruise ship was built in France and delivered to Norwegian Cruise Line in 2010 by STX Europe shipbuilders. It has 19 decks and operates in the Atlantic Ocean and Mediterranean Sea.

The Epic’s luxury includes balconies for all outside cabins and a water park with the only tube and bowl slide at sea. Going over-the-top, the Epic also features an ice bar, where the temperature is kept at 17 degrees Fahrenheit, where drinks are served in ice glasses, and where patrons have to wear thick coats even in the tropics.

1. (Tie) Oasis of the Seas & Allure of the Seas

Royal Carribean is the owner of the world’s two largest passenger ships, each one staggering in size at more than 75,000 GT larger than second place. In fact, both the Oasis and the Allure, commissioned in 2009 and 2010, respectively, are more than twice the size of the largest ship afloat in 1998, the Grand Princess.

Both vessels are 1,187 feet long, longer than an aircraft carrier, and 213 feet wide. They rise more than 20 stories above the waterline (236 feet) and each carry up to 6,296 people. The first ship, Oasis, was also the most expensive commercial ship ever built, reportedly costing $1.24 billion (US). That price bought luxury, and the newest ship, Allure, has an ice skating rink, two-deck dance hall, and a 1,380-seat theater.

 

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