Majestic Princess – 4 Day West Coast Inaugural – October 6th, 2021

I was so unbelievably excited. This was my first cruise in over two years! I was so happy and grateful that Princess Cruises invited me to sail with them on the Majestic Princess on October 6th to 9th, 2021 round trip out of Los Angeles (The World Cruise Terminal).

Leading Up To The Cruise

Things have changed with Princess Cruises. All their ships are now equipped with the “Medallion Class”. This Medallion is your cruise card and is touted to be the game changer for cruising in the future. Once I was confirmed onto the sailing, I downloaded the Medallion Class App off the Apple App Store and logged in with my booking reference number. I’m not going to lie, the app was (and is) glitchy. Princess Cruises also acknowledges that clients who don’t have a smart phone, cannot do their “online check in” right now without having to call for a Princess agent to do it for them. I was having issues with being able to accept the cruise contract, so finally uninstalling the app and re-installing seemed to help and work for me. Also for this cruise, I did need to be fully vaccinated at least 14 days prior to the cruise (which I was fully vaccinated back in July), and provide a negative antigen or PCR test taken within the two days prior to departure. Within 24 hours of sailing I had to go back into the Medallion Class app to complete my “Health Declaration”.

The app was useful for selecting an arrival time, scheduling dining times in the main dining rooms and the specialty dining options. There was also an area where you could select some of your preferences (bedding requests in your room, dining speed preference, ADA requirements, etc) and dietary requirements. However when it came to listing allergies, the list you could select from was very limited and there was no “other” option to list other allergies you might have had. This was also the same for dietary restrictions, there was not “other” selection available with a place for notes. Most of my allergies and sensitivities I couldn’t actually list and had to make sure at the restaurants onboard.

Day 1 – Travel and Embarkation Day

I woke up at 3:30am, I’m not going to lie, I was both anxious and super excited. I finished packing my carry on with my camera gear and was picked up by my aunt, who took me to the Vancouver International Airport. I arrived at the airport at 5:00am, in time for my 5:15am Covid-19 Antigen Test. The check in process for my test was a bit chaotic. Because the line was so long, I was finally checked in at 5:25am and my test took another twenty five minutes to be administered. I then had to wait another thirty minutes for my results. After I had my negative result, I went through TSA (TSA Pre-Check wasn’t open as it was still early), so that took another twenty minutes. Once through US Customs (I used my Nexus), I grabbed a Starbucks and sat down after two hours. If I can give any advice, when travelling internationally or cross-border, give yourself as much time as you can right now. Especially as things start to get busier. Shortly after, I boarded my flight to Los Angeles and I was off! A quick two hours and fifty minutes later, we had touched down and it was time to figure out how to use Lyft from LAX.

LAX-it

LAX’s new ride share and taxi “terminal” is called LAX-it (pronounced LA Exit). I took a free shuttle from just outside arrivals to the LAX-it terminal (look for the Green Pillars outside). It was a very easy process and there was a shuttle in less than five minutes from when I arrived to the pick up area. Once there you go to the respective ride share or taxi lane and order your Lyft, Uber or Taxi. My Lyft costed $32.99 plus tip from LAX to the World Cruise Centre (the Majestic Princess was docked at Berth 92).

Arrival at the Cruise Terminal

Because I am Canadian, Princess Cruises is currently not shipping the Medallions outside of the United States, therefore I picked up my Medallion at the port. When I arrived, there were lots of porters ready to help with baggage, however I was doing carry on only, so I carried on my own baggage onto the ship. Once through the security checkpoint, you were then divided by the lanes you were assigned on your app (Green Lane, Blue Lane, Yellow Lane) and your status level if you have “Priority Boarding”. I was “Green Lane with Priority Boarding” and the check in process was extremely easy (they double checked my Covid test results and my proof of vaccination) and I was given my medallion. I didn’t see an area where you needed to declare wine, if you were bringing wine onboard (on Princess Cruises you are allowed to bring up to two bottles of wine (750ml size) without paying a corkage fee, to be enjoyed in your stateroom). I didn’t bring any wine with me on this trip as I was carry on only and I had the “Princess Plus” promotion which included a drinks package. Then I headed upstairs, walked the gangway and boarded the Majestic Princess!

Boarding the Ship

Boarding the ship was so easy, you tapped your Medallion, removed your face mask briefly and walked onboard (this was typical of all the other ports of call as well). When I entered the ship, they had staff clapping and saying “Welcome Aboard”! I literally started to tear up. It was so wonderful to board a ship again after over two years. Travel is coming back and it’s just one more step closer!

My Princess Ocean Medallion in the Lanyard

My Stateroom

Because the ship arrived empty from Seattle, my stateroom was ready for me when I boarded the ship just after 1:00pm. I was hosted by Princess Cruises in a Balcony Stateroom, R302 on the Rivera Deck 14. It was very well laid out and the Medallion unlocked your door hands free as you walked up to your door (no more fumbling for a cruise card). As you entered the room, they did have a key card for the lights and electrics in the stateroom, that you could insert. There was then the “walk in closet”, with a cabinet and a safe (the safe was very small, I couldn’t fit my 13″ MacBook Air into it, I had to lock it into my luggage) and the bathroom. The bathroom was snug with a good amount of storage space and a shower (with a shower curtain, which I didn’t love). My bed was made into a queen bed as requested through the Medallion app in my room preferences and I had a mini-bar setup included (assorted liquors, beer, water and soft drinks) as I am Elite status when I sail with Princess. I also had the Princess Patter (the daily newsletter that lets you know when and where things are happening on the ship) along with some other information of the cruise. I then completed my “Muster Drill” on my TV in my room. It’s so great that you don’t have a typical muster drill anymore. You can complete the drill on your phone in the app or on your TV in your stateroom. Another great thing about sailing with Princess Cruises is that most in-cabin/room service dining is free of charge, there are a few items that have a “delivery fee” such as pizza. Then I quickly unpacked and checked in at my muster station (which was the Princess Grand Casino), then headed for Lunch. Be sure to check out my YouTube video down below for a full cabin tour!

Balcony Cabin R302 on the Riviera Deck (Deck 14)
Room Service Menu for Breakfast on the Majestic Princess

Princess Plus

I had the “Princess Plus” Promotion which includes a Premium Drinks Package (with gratuities, for any drink up to $12 USD and a maximum of 15 drinks per day), MedallionNet Unlimited Wifi for one device and the “Crew Incentive” (the pre-paid gratuities/service charges). It’s well worth the Princess Plus as it works out to being around $40 USD extra onto your cruise fare when you initially book your cruise and they say it’s a value of at least $90 USD per day.

Lunch at Alfredo’s

I heard amazing things about Alfredo’s on the Royal Class Ships and was extremely excited to give it a try. I had a Prosecco to kick things off along with the Pizza Capricciosa (which was with tomato sauce, mozzarella, artichoke hearts, mushrooms, ham, black olives and basil). It was so delicious. If you’re ever on the Majestic Princess, I highly suggest eating at Alfredo’s. It’s included in your cruise fare, even though it feels like a “specialty dining” option.

Menu at Alfredo’s on the Majestic Princess
Menu at Alfredo’s on the Majestic Princess
Pizza at Alfredo’s on the Majestic Princess
Tiramisu at Alfredo’s on the Majestic Princess

Exploring the Ship and Sail Away

I spent the next couple hours getting acquainted with the Majestic Princess’ layout and attended a spa tour of the Lotus Spa and filmed it for my vlog. I will say that while I love “The Enclave” at the Lotus Spa, I’m also disappointed that they don’t have sea views like some thermal suites do on other ships. The spa area has also taken over the Karaoke rooms (yes, this ship had karaoke rooms!), which I feel could have been more fun if they kept those, but I also understand they probably can’t be used quite yet with the pandemic. I then enjoyed a margarita at the “Wake View Bar” at the aft (back) of the ship. As there were other travel advisors invited on this inaugural cruise for the “west coast season”, there was a private “sail away party” held at the Wake View Bar. If I’m going to be honest, once we sailed away, I didn’t want to miss the “Love Boat” themed horn that this ship has, so I did leave the party early. It was also very busy and a larger group in a smallish space and I just personally didn’t feel that comfortable in that setting. The sail away party in the main pool area was much more my style, more space between guests and great entertainment. It was here that I learned we were sailing at just under half capacity, just over 1400 guests onboard our cruise and 1200 crew! That’s almost a 1 to 1 crew to guest ratio.

Dinner at Allegro

I had dinner at Allegro dining room at the aft of the ship on Deck 6. I had a lovely view of the wake as we sailed away from Los Angeles. For a starter I had the “Seared Garlic Prawns”, followed by a small portion of the fettuccini alfredo. For my main course I had the “Cocoa-Spiced Rubbed Pork Tenderloin” with green chili sweet potato mash, summer squash, peppers and a bourbon sauce. It was delicious! One of my cruise tips is to ask for smaller portions and they can accommodate that. I find that some cruise lines serve very large portions, which are too big for my liking. By ordering a “small portion”, I feel that I waste less food, especially as I also sometimes like to sample a couple different starter options. Dessert was the Princess Love Boat Dream, which was chocolate mousse on a brownie and a I had a coffee with a shot of Bailey’s.

Here’s the menu for the first night dinner on the Majestic Princess (all main dining rooms serve the same menu):

Dinner Menu the First Night on Majestic Princess in the Main Dining Rooms
Dinner Menu the First Night on Majestic Princess in the Main Dining Rooms
Grilled Shrimp Starter on the Majestic Princess
Fettuccini Alfredo Starter on the Majestic Princess
Cocoa-Spiced Rubbed Pork Tenderloin on the Majestic Princess
Dessert Menu the First Night on Majestic Princess in the Main Dining Rooms
Dessert Menu the First Night on Majestic Princess

After dinner I checked out the tail end of the show in the Princess Theatre, it was a Broadway style show called Sweet Soul Music. I did have an earlier night as I had such an early morning and it was a long day!

Here’s the Princess Patter on the Majestic Princess for our first day (embarkation day):

Princess Patter on the Majestic Princess – Day 1
Princess Patter on the Majestic Princess – Day 1

I’ve created a YouTube video series on my experience sailing on the Majestic Princess on this West Coast Inaugural. You can watch “Part 1” here:

Day 2 – San Diego, California

I woke up early as I had a somewhat of an early night, I woke up at 4:30am to the sound of Sea Lions growling and flighting over spots on a buoy as we entered the San Diego harbour. One of the reasons I love sailing in a balcony stateroom is that I can sleep with the door slightly opened, falling asleep to the sounds of the ocean at night and apparently being woken up by the local wildlife in the early hours of the morning.

Once we docked at San Diego at around 5:15am I headed out for some coffee at the International Cafe (a 24 hour, cafe that makes a very tasty Salted Caramel Latte and has snacks) and a walk around the ship to film a ship tour. I do love exploring the ship at this time as there is typically hardly anyone around as most people are still sleeping. After walking around most of the ship, it was time for breakfast in the Concerto Dining Room

The Piazza, the centre of the Majestic Princess

Breakfast in Concerto

I typically enjoy having a sit down breakfast as it isn’t typically rushed and I enjoy the service. I also find that the dining room for breakfast on cruise ships aren’t busy like the buffet areas typically are, especially as I went at 7:00am. The servers were lovely, however the food was very lack lustre. I also have a nut allergy and specifically asked if the cinnamon roll had nuts and the server said no. It had nuts (it was a nut roll of some sort not a cinnamon roll) and experienced a bit of an allergic reaction which was frustrating which did cut my breakfast short as I had to go back to my cabin to take an antihistamine. I also found the seated breakfast menu to be a bit limited (I love having eggs benny on a cruise in the morning and it was MIA from the menu) and wasn’t sure if that was because this was a shorter cruise. I had “The Lumberjack” which was fried eggs, sautéed mushrooms a grilled “minute steak” and crispy hash brown potatoes.

Breakfast Menu in the Main Dining Room on the Majestic Princess

Leaving the Ship

I did leave the ship to get some photos of the Majestic Princess in the Port of San Diego as we docked where I could get some good photos and videos of the ship. Leaving the ship was very easy, just had to tap my Medallion and away I went. I did take my passport with me just in case, however I wasn’t even asked for that to re-enter the port. Once I took a few photos and videos of the ship I boarded the ship again as the weather wasn’t the best really, it did start to rain. I did also google how close the nearest Trader Joe’s was, and it was about a twenty minute drive. I did have to do back through the terminal, and I don’t think they were 100% setup for people to get back on the ship so early. It was a bit of a maze trying to get out of the terminal building. Once back on board, I simply tapped my Medallion again and was back on board.

The Majestic Princess Docked in San Diego, California
The Majestic Princess Docked in San Diego, California

Hollywood Conservatory

Once back on board the Majestic Princess, I headed back to my room and changed into my swim suit and went up the the Hollywood Pool Club and Conservatory. With the weather being a bit iffy, it was so nice to have this glass enclosed area. I was able to get myself one of the cabanas inside this adults only pool area and enjoyed one of the whirlpools all to myself for a while. There is an area on other Princess ships called “The Sanctuary” which has an extra charge, you rent beds or cabanas by half day or the full day, however at the time of my sailing, the Hollywood Conservatory is no extra charge and is first come, first serve for beds and cabanas! Some bloggers and vloggers have said that the roof retracts, however the glass roof is stationary and is built not to open. That being said, I can totally see why this ship is great for Alaska and cooler destinations, this area reminds me a bit of the Observation Lounge on the Norwegian Bliss, Joy or Encore (those Observation Lounges are so stunning and comfy) but this one has the added benefit of a pool and hot tubs! I did have a pina colada once the bar opened at 10:00am and relaxed until around 10:30am when I decided it was time to go back to the room to shower and get ready for an early lunch.

The Adults-only Hollywood Conservatory on the Majestic Princess

Lunch at Alfredo’s

So after a very disappointing breakfast that I didn’t finish, I had an early lunch at Alfredo’s. I ordered the “Antipasto Assortito di Magro” (which was mozzarella caprese, grilled zucchini, sun-blushed tomatoes, roasted red and yellow peppers) to start and it was amazing. I had it with a lovely glass of rose wine. I then had a pizza that was half “Hawaiiana” and half “Majestic Princess” which was Parma Ham, Parmesan cheese and fresh tomatoes. It was delicious. Yes, some people don’t like pineapple on pizza, but I do haha. I finished it off with the amazing tiramisu.

Lunch at Alfredo’s on the Majestic Princess
Lunch at Alfredo’s on the Majestic Princess
Lunch at Alfredo’s on the Majestic Princess

Exploring More of the Majestic Princess

After lunch I walked around the ship a bit more and explored Deck 18 which is a “Mural Walk”. If you’ve ever been to Penang, Malaysia (which is on my list to visit in 2022), you know can really have fun with some of these “interactive” murals. After a quick nap back in my stateroom, it was then time for an afternoon cocktail “pick me up” in the “Bar Piazza” on Deck 5. To be honest by this point, my Medallion Class app had been extremely glitchy and was not working properly. I hadn’t been able to order drinks or food from the app, it would just say “loading”. To make things a bit more frustrating, I noticed that some of the QR codes to access menus around the ship also were not working. I asked the waiter for a paper bar menu and was told they didn’t have one. To be honest this confused me as Princess Cruises caters to an older clientele which some of those people don’t have smartphones. Keep in mind that with the Princess Plus promotion you have a Premium Drinks Package included, however it has a limit of $12 per drink. I ordered what I was craving, an Espresso Martini and asked if the beverage package covered that and the waiter said “yes”. I did relax for a little while at Bar Piazza near a window seat and responded to a few DM’s on Instagram. After I finished my drink, I headed up to the World Fresh Marketplace, as I had a few DM’s about the “buffet” and what it looked like. I posted a few videos on Instagram and filmed some footage for the vlog. I went back downstairs and changed back into my swimsuit and went back into the Hollywood conservatory (the main pool deck was a bit busy by this point with most people back onboard from exploring San Diego). I noticed that I was still having challenges with the Ocean Medallion app, so I decided to try to uninstall it and reinstall it before heading down to the Ocean Medallion Desk for help. After I did that, it did work a lot better. So if you notice that pages once you get onboard just keep saying “loading”, delete the app and reinstall and that should work for you as well. If not, there is an “Ocean Medallion Help Desk” near the Princess Live Theatre. I then put the app to a few tests. I ordered a drink through it and some food (chips and guacamole) for the first time. The drink came very quick, within five minutes. I was seated in one of the cabanas in the Hollywood Pool Club and Conservatory in the pool area, because of the sensors in the ceiling, my drink was brought to me without needing to flag him down. I do have to say that the app and Medallion is great for the “personal” aspect. The staff can see your photo and your name so they can address you, they also know your last drink orders and preferences to make the interactions with you more personalized. On to the chips and guac… Well that took over 40 minutes to arrive to me which was disappointing, considering that there was less than half guest capacity on the ship and almost 1 to 1 guest to crew ratio. At the 20 minute mark I was ready to start moving on, back to my stateroom as I had finished swimming at that point. When the chips and guacamole (with the addition of salsa) did finally arrive, it was very good.

Espresso Martini (that I drank a bit already) at Bar Piazza

Stateroom Viewing

The Travel Advisors onboard had the opportunity to view some of the other staterooms onboard the ship. I didn’t take any photos, however I did take some video and you will see them in my YouTube vlog episode for Day 2 (coming soon). As they were only open for a brief period of time, it was quite crowded at times and I had to wait as there was no one directing people or capacity to view the cabins. It was one of the times where I didn’t feel 100% comfortable as there were a lot of people in a small area. I was able to view a Suite (R604) and a Mini Suite (R416). Easy to remember numbers for me as it was a nod to Vancouver and Toronto area codes (was not intentional haha).

Sail Away from San Diego

I headed back down to my stateroom and got ready for dinner. As there was no Platinum/Elite lounge on this sailing (which I thought was a bit strange), I did move my dining time to an earlier time on the app. I will say that changing dining times on the app is very quick and easy. I know this was probably even easier on our sailing as there were not many onboard. The Symphony Dining Room (MDR) was closed this sailing, but still had no problems with the Allegro or Concerto Main Dining Room reservations in the Ocean Medallion app. Once ready for dinner, I went upstairs and watched as we sailed away from San Diego. It’s a great city to visit, I’ve been here a few times before, however I wanted to spend as much time on the ship as possible as it was such a short cruise (I really only had two full days on the ship). They were pretty quick to put on an American football game the moment we pushed off from the pier, so I walked a bit further back on the ship to film the sail away.

Dinner in Concerto

Wow it was COLD. I stayed outside as long as I could, but even as a Canadian, I didn’t pack for Vancouver weather, I thought it would have been much warmer (yes I checked the weather when I was packing). Because I had changed my reservation, I didn’t have to wait for long (thankfully) as my dining time quickly approached, so I went inside, out of the cold and down to the Concerto Dining Room. I like to try the different main dining rooms, even though they all serve the same menus for dinner. Concerto is located more mid-ship so the views out the windows are to the sides of the ship, whereas Allergo has a “wake view” at the back of the ship. I was seated at a window with views of San Diego as we sailed away. I started off with the “Sesame Chicken Bites”, which I found to be on the slight dry side. Followed by my main course of the “Slow-Roasted Prime Rib” served with rosemary jus and horseradish cream, and a Yorkshire pudding. My main was good, however the piece of beef I was served had quite a bit of fat on it (which I didn’t eat). I then thoroughly enjoyed my dessert, which was a “Lemon Meringue Cheesecake”. After dinner, it was time to walk around a bit. I headed upstairs to Deck 16 as the “Watercolour Fountain Fantasy” show was scheduled to start soon. Unfortunately the football game was still on so the fountain show didn’t take place.

Here’s the menu for our second night dinner on the Majestic Princess (all main dining rooms serve the same menu):

Dinner Menu the Second Night on Majestic Princess in the Main Dining Rooms
Dinner Menu the Second Night on Majestic Princess in the Main Dining Rooms
Sesame Chicken Bites as a Starter
Slow-Roasted Prime Rib as my Main Course
Dessert Menu the Second Night on Majestic Princess in the Main Dining Rooms
Lemon Meringue Cheesecake for Dessert

Good Spirits at Sea

I headed back downstairs to check out the live mixology show called “Good Spirits at Sea”. The servers and bar staff here were my favourite. They were so friendly, making conversation and suggesting cocktails that I might like to try. This is honestly my favourite bar on the Majestic Princess. The specialty cocktails are also covered under the Premium Beverage Package with the Princess Plus, which is amazing! I tried the “Grappa Peach” inspired in Montevideo and the “Gin and Tonic Ultima” inspired in Barcelona. It’s a fun evening learning about cocktails and the inspiration that goes behind creating them. They show a bit of a travel series on each drink and the location that they were inspired, then the bartender makes the drink live on screen. Be sure to check out my YouTube video below on my experience here! They serve the drink to you on a laminated recipe card that you get to keep and take home with you.

Good Spirits at Sea Recipe Cards on Princess Cruises
Good Spirits at Sea Bar Menu on the Ocean Medallion App

Shopping in the Shops

I had some onboard credits that I needed to use, so it was time to check out the “Shops of Princess”. Unfortunately the Princess merchandise shop on Deck 5 had sold out of ship magnets on the previous cruise (I collect magnets from every ship I’ve sailed on). So up to the duty free shops on Deck 6 I went. I have been eying a few of the perfumes for a little while now, so I tried the two I really was interested in, one on each arm. Unfortunately I have some sensitivities to some perfumes (especially if they are made to a lesser quality), so I do this to make sure the scent works with my body, but to also insure I don’t have an allergic reaction. I perused some of the other shops, including the Coach and Bulgari shops onboard. This ship does have more luxury shopping options onboard than other typical Princess Ships, as it was built for the Asian market. There was a phase that contemporary cruise lines built ships especially for the Asian cruise market, however they realized that it wasn’t a good move financially in the end, so Norwegian Cruise Line totally renovated the Norwegian Joy and brought it to the North American market for Alaska (in 2019) and Princess Cruises has done the same with the Majestic Princess (in 2021). They are making changes to the Majestic Princess slowly, however you do still see the Asian characters throughout the ship. After shopping, I peeked into the Princess Theatre and caught a small bit of the “impressionist” act. He wasn’t very good unfortunately. So I called it a night and headed back to my stateroom.

Here’s the Majestic Princess Princess Patter for our second day in San Diego:

Princess Patter on the Majestic Princess – Day 2
Princess Patter on the Majestic Princess – Day 2

I’ve created a YouTube video series on my experience sailing on the Majestic Princess on this West Coast Inaugural out of Los Angeles. You can watch “Part 2” here:

Day 3 – Ensenada, Mexico

I always wake up early on a cruise and I love it. I find it makes the most of my day. I headed downstairs for some coffee at the International Cafe. I grabbed a latte and relaxed in the Piazza. Afterwards I went up to Deck 16 to film some footage on the SeaWalk which is a glass walkway suspended over 130ft above the water, off either side of the ship. I was able to also catch the Pilot boat approaching our ship to drop off the Harbour Pilot. I didn’t get off the ship here as I only had two full days really onboard to experience the ship and I was being very cautious because of the current “world situation”.

Breakfast at the World Fresh Marketplace

I then wanted to try out the buffet breakfast at World Fresh Marketplace for something different, and to be sure to report on all the different food offerings. When you enter the space there is a crew member asking you to sanitize and wash your hands, they do have sink stations right at the entry. The buffet is not self serve right now for obvious reasons, but you point to what you would like, tell them how much you would like on your plate and they serve it up for you. There was an omelette station, which they take your omelette order, then you take a copy of your order back to your seat to give to a server, who will then go and pick it up for you when it’s ready. I really enjoyed my omelette, it was delicious and just the right size. They didn’t have any eggs benedict on the menu here for breakfast either which I was a bit sad about as I love eggs benny in the morning on a cruise. I also had a small portion of waffles with strawberries and whipping cream, an apricot danish, a strawberry croissant, a side of crispy hash browns and corned beef hash with chorizo. All tasted very fresh and was good (much better than the main dining room yesterday for breakfast). There are some small plates of certain items that you can “grab and go”. They will bring you coffee and juice to where you are seated, however I will say that the coffee in the World Fresh Marketplace is not good, I couldn’t drink it. The main dining room’s coffee is much better, or grab yourself a coffee at the International Cafe and bring it upstairs. None of the servers offered me a latte or cappuccino option, so I am unsure if they have a machine upstairs. You could also order a specialty coffee through the Medallion app to be delivered to you in the Buffet area (extra charge if you didn’t have a drinks package).

Ensenada Welcoming Committee aka The Sea Lions and Harbour Seals

After breakfast I headed back to my stateroom to watch us finish docking at Ensenada, Mexico whilst the displaced seals caused a ruckus down below in the water. I will say that the wi-fi included in the Princess Plus (only for one device per person at one time) was pretty quick. I was able to FaceTime my Grandmother with no interruptions or lagging issues. Uploading video stories to Facebook and Instagram was also very quick. The seals were definitely the added entertainment throughout the day.

Seals in Ensenada, Mexico

Elemis at the Lotus Spa

I’ve tried and used various beauty products on my face, (this is not sponsored, this is my actual opinion), I love some of the Elemis facial and body products. I don’t really get spa treatments on cruises, I have in the past, on occasion (especially when I win a treatment at the Spa Raffle on the first day). I was introduced to some of the Elemis products actually off the ships when I was receiving beauty and lifestyle subscription boxes. I received a few of the products in a shipment and was hooked. I totally fell in love with the Elemis Papaya Enzyme Peel and was finally running low (I stocked up on my last cruise in 2019, thank goodness I did). They had it in stock here at the Lotus Spa on the Majestic Princess, so I used some of my onboard credit to purchase one tube. I love it as you can actually use it as a night cream (it’s safe to use on your skin for a long period of time, however do a patch test to make sure it works for you), when I wake up in the morning, my skin is so soft and vibrant. On my next cruise in December on the Virgin Voyages Scarlet Lady, I might have to restock my Elemis Pro-Collagen Cleansing Balm.

Travel Advisors Meeting with John Chernesky

Right before our event, I met with one of my colleagues along with her husband and chatted about each of our cruise experiences onboard thus far. At 10:00am, for all of us Travel Advisors who were invited onboard this cruise, we attended a live “webinar” broadcast called “Connect with Princess” presented by Princess Cruises Senior Vice President, North America Sales and Trade Marketing, John Chernesky. It was a great show with some great updates for us Travel Advisors regarding Princess Cruises. Afterwards, the ship did some maintenance on the electricals of the ship which meant that the elevators and the wi-fi was down for about an hour, so instead of walking all the way up to my room, I had an early-ish lunch at Alfredo’s again.

Lunch at Alfredo’s

It was back to Alfredo’s for my last lunch onboard (sad to think that this was already my last full day onboard). I ordered the starter of the “Antipasto Assortito di Magro” (which was mozzarella caprese, grilled zucchini, sun-blushed tomatoes, roasted red and yellow peppers) again and had a half Hawaiiana and half Capricciosa pizza for my main course. Of course I also enjoyed my dessert… tiramisu. It was then time to walk around the ship a bit more, get some more video footage.

Hollywood Conservatory

After a bit of a walk, I went back to my stateroom, changed into my swim suite and went up to the Hollywood Conservatory as it was a bit cool and windy on the open pool deck. They also play Movies Under the Stars (during the day as well) on the main pool deck which is quite fun (they do provide blankets in the evening), however this cruise had been quite cool weather wise so I opted for the warmth and quiet area of the Conservatory. As I mentioned earlier in this blog, on other Princess Ships, this adults only area is typically called “The Sanctuary” and comes at an additional charge to enjoy, currently at the time of posting this blog, this area is complementary to use. I did order myself a Pina Colada in the whirlpool, and I have to mention that the paper straws they gave me for my frozen drinks actually held up and didn’t go mushy. After a couple hours of swimming in the pool, enjoying the hot hubs and relaxing on the loungers it was time to get changed and get moving again.

Walk Around the Ship

I will say that I found the activities to be a bit lacking this cruise (you can check out the activities on the Princess Patters I’ve posted). I’m not really sure why. I was hoping they would have had a “Grapevines Wine Tasting” like they do on other sailings, however they didn’t offer one on this cruise. I understand that on port days, it’s really meant to be a day where you go and visit the ports, however on such a short cruise I guess I was hoping for a bit more to “truly experience everything the ship had to offer” so to speak. I did go up to Deck 18 and putted around a few golf balls.

Wake View Bar

After some putting on the greens, I headed down to the Wake View Bar for a drink. While in Mexico we drink Margaritas! A 24 Karat Margarita on the rocks made with Patron to be exact. I also went inside to the World Fresh Marketplace and grabbed a fresh chicken fajita with onions, peppers and guacamole from the buffet for a snack. The wind really picked up and started to get quite cool, so I headed back inside and over to the Hollywood Conservatory where I found a forward facing cabana available, so settled in there to create some content. I ordered a glass of Prosecco and relaxed for the last hour before we sailed away from Ensenada, Mexico.

My New Favourite Carry-All Bag

I was graciously gifted a beautiful beach bag from Wanderlust Stuff, a woman owned online travel products and accessory business in Canada. I have to say I love this bag and it’s my new favourite carry-all bag. It fits my vlogging camera with the attached microphone really easily, so I can vlog on the go much easier. I used this bag for my trip to the ILTM conference at the Fairmont Mayakoba in Mexico as well! It’s sustainably hand made in India and comes in a few different patterns and colours, mine is the “Rose Gold” option. She also sent me a “Scentered” scent balm kit which I used on the plane and some “Flightfud” (which I tried for the first time on my flight down the LAX and LOVED it!). Click here to shop these beautiful bags or for other essential travel products you might need for your next adventure!

My New Favourite “Carry All Bag” from Wanderlust Stuff

Sail Away from Ensenada, Mexico

“All aboard” soon took place and the workers slowly herded the seals away from the anchor points so they could release the ship’s lines. These seals were entertainment for the entire day, it was so funny to watch them interact with each other. There was a live DJ playing tunes out on deck as we sailed away from Mexico, as we pushed off from the pier, the Captain sounded the “Love Boat” themed horn for the last time on this sailing.

Shopping in the Shops

Once we had sailed away, the shops re-opened for the last time. I used the last of my onboard credit and picked up the Gucci Flora gardenia fragrance. I then got a print out of my account to make sure that everything was in order. My big cruise tip is to always look at your onboard account the night before departure. I’ve found mistakes before and have been able to fix them with ease because the shops, spa, casino, etc were still open. It’s more difficult to deal with certain things the morning you have to leave the ship because nothing is open except for “Guest Services”, not to mention the typical long lines. You can also now typically see your onboard account on your TV in your room and on your cruise app. However sometimes purchases are posted overnight, so the most accurate way to get last minute purchases on your account is through Guest Services.

Spending Time in My Stateroom

The sunset leaving Mexico tonight was so beautiful! I decided to change my dining reservation through the Medallion Class app and opted for a later dining time to sit and enjoy the sunset from my balcony. I poured myself a gin and tonic from my mini bar set up and relaxed. This is what I love and missed so much about cruising, sailing and enjoying the sea. As the sun was setting, dolphins appeared and were swimming along side of us! It was such a magical and spectacular moment, the sun setting in the background and the dolphins jumping out of the water beside us. I did catch it on video as well, so be sure to check out my YouTube video below!

Sunset from my Balcony Stateroom on the Majestic Princess

Dinner at Allegro

After the gorgeous sunset, I headed downstairs to the Allegro Dining Room. I was just in time for the “Parade of the Baked Alaska”. One of the Princess Cruise Hosts did a lovely speech, introduced the Executive Chef, Food and Beverage Director and the Head Maître D’. I started off this evening with the “Shrimp Cocktail”, followed by the “Surf and Turf” which was served with jumbo shrimp, petite filet mignon, tarragon béarnaise, sautéed vegetables and garlic mashed potatoes. I was surprised when the beef course came as it was a “slab” of already cut steak, I guess I thought in my head it was going to be a small medallion of steak. Because they served it this way, I found the steak to be a bit on the dry side as the juices had ran out from it. I finished off my meal with the Ice Cream Bombe Diplomate (Baked Alaska) as a colleague and her husband joined me for dessert. Dinner was a bit better than the previous night.

Here’s the menu for our last night dinner on the Majestic Princess (all main dining rooms serve the same menu):

Dinner Menu the Last Night on Majestic Princess in the Main Dining Rooms
Dinner Menu the Last Night on Majestic Princess in the Main Dining Rooms
Shrimp Cocktail
Surf and Turf on the Majestic Princess
Dessert Menu the Last Night on Majestic Princess in the Main Dining Rooms
Baked Alaska for Dessert on the Majestic Princess

Watercolour Fountain Fantasy Show

I finally got to take in the “Watercolour Fountain Fantasy Show” up on Deck 16. The water fountain was set to some popular songs and lit up with LED coloured lights. It was a great little show, however I can see why the new Princess Ships such as the Sky and Enchanted Princess removed this feature and added sunken seating here instead.

Good Spirits at Sea

For our final drinks onboard my friends and I went to Good Spirits at Sea for a final mixology show and some of the best cocktails on the ship in my opinion. I tried the “Tahiti” Vanilla Sky which was also delicious. It was then time to call it a night and head back to my stateroom to start packing. Most cruises do require that if you want them to take your luggage off the ship, your luggage needs to be outside your cabin door by 10:00pm. I did just carry on for this cruise, so I didn’t need to put my luggage outside as I was comfortable taking my own luggage off the ship. But I was so sad, the cruise had come to an end.

Here’s the Princess Patter on the Majestic Princess for our third day in Ensenada, Mexico and the Disembarkation Information:

Princess Patter on the Majestic Princess – Day 3
Princess Patter on the Majestic Princess – Day 3
Majestic Princess Disembarkation Letter – Page 1
Majestic Princess Disembarkation Letter – Page 2

I’ve created a YouTube video series on my experience sailing on the Majestic Princess on this West Coast Inaugural. You can watch “Part 3” here:

Day 4 – Los Angeles, Disembarkation Day

It’s a sad, sad day. I was woken up again quite early in the morning as we sailed into the Port of Los Angeles by the fog alarm on the lighthouse at the entry to the port. So I got dressed and headed down to the International Cafe where I grabbed a latte, then headed back up to my room. I had to go downstairs to inquire about the Covid testing process for us Canadians to get home, as I didn’t have any information on that in our stateroom, other than at the time of my sailing, Princess Cruises was covering departure Covid tests (antigen and PCR) for anyone that needed them to get back into their home country/state. After I chatted with Guest Services and got the info, I grabbed another salted caramel latte with and extra shot of espresso at the International Cafe and headed up to the World Fresh Marketplace for a light breakfast. After breakfast, I decided to leave the ship, to get tested and see if I could get to the airport earlier to catch an earlier flight from LAX back home to Vancouver as there were still a couple seats left on that flight (I was booked on a later flight as I didn’t know what the process was going to be like). So I finished packing and sadly left the ship.

Leaving the Ship and Covid Testing

So this is where my cruise experience took a really bad turn unfortunately. I left the ship at 7:20am as I was told that the testing was open and ready to go by the staff at Guest Services. I needed to leave the ship, pick up my bags (I did carry off so this didn’t apply to me), go through US Customs and there would be signage to where I needed to get my test done. Leaving the ship was very easy, I tapped my Medallion at the exit of the ship and left the Majestic Princess. After walking through the terminal and passing through US Customs, there was no signage for where the testing was taking place. I had to ask several people, before someone said it was in the terminal building where we initially checked in for the cruise and I had to go down there. So I walked down that way to the security area, where I found out that the security team didn’t start work until 9:00am and the testing company hadn’t even arrived yet onsite. It was 7:35am at this point, I wouldn’t have left the ship had I known this information! I was so frustrated. I didn’t take it out on anyone there, it wasn’t their fault, but I was angry I was given the wrong information by Guest Services onboard. Then things changed again, the company arrived onsite around 8:20am and was going to setup in the makeshift tent a few of us were waiting in outside. They setup as quickly as they could and was able to start taking registrations for tests at 9:00am, however this was the first time this specific company was doing testing here at the port, and didn’t anticipate the number of Canadians needing PCR tests (they initially only had 10 PCR testing machines, which took 30 minutes for each test). Finally someone arrived with more PCR testing units and I finally got my negative results back at 10:45am! By this time I needed to use a washroom, BAD. I was told that unfortunately there were no washrooms I could access as they were past security and to go through security I needed to be sailing on an outbound ship (insert face palm here). The whole time I was thinking about these poor older people and my older clients, like that wasn’t okay and I chatted to a few people that they need to have something setup in the future (I wasn’t the only one who complained). I saw a Princess transfer coach and asked the woman if I could please use the buses washroom onboard (I didn’t have a Princess transfer, I was going to use Lyft to get me back to the airport). She saw that I had an Air Canada tag on my luggage and asked if I was flying with Air Canada, I said yes and she said to just get on, use the washroom and go to the airport with everyone as they were all travelling with Air Canada as well. I was so grateful for her kindness after this horrendous experience. I did write Princess Cruises right away with my feedback, so I’m hoping that all other Mexican Riviera cruises went smoothly after this one.

Travelling Home

Once at LAX, I tried to change my flight to the 1:55pm flight, but by that time it was sold out. So I did have to wait for my 5:45pm flight. I went to the Air Canada Maple Leaf Lounge and they were at capacity, but the attendant walked me over to the Alaska Lounge next door and I was able to get into the Alaska Lounge for the afternoon. It was a great lounge, with various seating options including tables, booths and comfy chairs with side tables. I was able to catch up on work including some emails and even some work on this blog. I was just in time for lunch. It was a buffet style, that you did serve yourself (signage was there to sanitize before using utensils, etc), I sanitized before and after using the buffet area. There was some healthy options, I made myself a “southwest” grilled chicken salad with fresh greens, corn, peppers, tomatoes, black beans, guacamole and pico de gallo. It was so tasty. I had it with a couple glasses of sparkling rose wine. They also had other snacks and treats, including a Starbucks espresso machine, which I enjoyed for the rest of the afternoon until my flight home. I also appreciate lounges for better/cleaner washrooms and bathroom amenities.

In Conclusion

I am so grateful that Princess Cruises invited me onboard to experience the Majestic Princess.

That being said, I wanted to be honest in my review of my experience onboard the ship during this sailing. There were some definite highs and lows. I was so excited that this was my first cruise back in over two years and did overall enjoy the experience. I felt very safe that passengers were all fully vaccinated (there were no children on our sailing) and we had to provide a negative test, tested within in the last two days prior to boarding the ship. Most people did wear masks indoors and there were signs where wearing masks were required (elevators, the shops, theatre, restaurants until you were seated, the casino, spa, etc). Most of the staff were amazing and so happy to have us back onboard. There needs some more work in regards to the Medallion Class app (which I was advised they are trying to improve all the time right now) and the food in the main dining room. If you were to splurge on “specialty dining” options on Princess, I can see how people would not be disappointed food wise. However, there are other cruise lines that I’ve had better quality food in the main dining room at a comparable, if not lesser price than Princess. Also, my testing experience should have never happened. There needed to be better communication between Princess Cruises, the testing company and us as passengers.

Again, overall I did have an amazing first cruise back and I feel like the Medallion in a way was a commemorative token of my first sailing back after the pandemic, which I will truly treasure.

Safe Travels,

Ariane

As a Virtuoso Travel Advisor my clients typically receive added benefits when booking vacations such as cruises with Princess Cruises through me. I’d love to work with you as your travel advisor, to contact me for more information click here.

I’ve created a YouTube video series on my experience sailing on the Majestic Princess on this West Coast Inaugural. You can watch “Part 4” here:

(Coming soon on Sunday, November 14th)

Condé Nast Traveler’s Top Travel Specialists for 2021

I’m so excited to announce that I’ve been named as one of Condé Traveler’s Top Travel Specialists for 2021!

I’m unbelievably honoured to be awarded and included in this prestigious list of amazing travel professionals for 2021. Travel Specialists are selected by Condé Nast Traveler’s editors based on travel industry knowledge, specialization, travel experience and excellence in customer service.

With 2020 being such a challenging year, especially for the travel industry, receiving this award has renewed my excitement and enthusiasm for what’s to come. We are seeing the light at the end of the tunnel. Those within the travel industry who have persevered and are continuing to keep in touch with their clients will come out of this pandemic stronger than ever.

My inclusion in this elite list has filled me with a great sense of pride and gratitude. I chose to work in travel because I truly believe in the philosophy that you should always do what you love and love what you do. I love to travel and I’m passionate about helping people plan amazing vacations where they can create incredible memories by experiencing unique destinations and cultures.

If you would like to read my Travel Specialist profile feature for the Condé Nast Traveler’s Top Travel Specialists for 2021, please click here (http://www.cntraveler.com/contributor/ariane-henry).

If you would like to work with me as your travel advisor, I’d love to connect. Please click here to fill out my contact form to become one of my valued clients.

My Travel Guide to Whistler, Canada

I’m honestly so lucky to live within a two and a half hour drive of such a world class destination in Canada. Whistler, British Columbia is pretty well a second home to me. I spend so much time here year round that it was about time for me to write an in-depth travel guide to a place I love so much.

I’m sharing all my favourite things to do and see, where to stay and where I enjoy eating out in this travel guide to Whistler, Canada. Whether you’re looking to ski or mountain bike Whistler Blackcomb in the Winter or Summer seasons, viewing nearby waterfalls, taking a leisurely stroll through the heart of Whistler Village, there is something for everyone here in Whistler.

Skiing Whistler Blackcomb – Blackcomb Glacier

Whistler is located about one and a half hours north of Vancouver and was really put on the international stage in 2010 when it hosted the Winter Olympics with Vancouver. Since then, Whistler has become a place that’s on quite a few die-hard skiers bucket lists, sees many international visitors each year, yet still has the true Canadian feeling at it’s core (even though in 2016 the Whistler Blackcomb Ski Resort was purchased by Vail Resorts out of Colorado). 2020 was obviously quite different with the pandemic, however most businesses have been able to adapt and still offer amazing experiences to domestic travellers.

Olympic Podium at the top of the Whistler Gondola on Whistler Blackcomb

Where to Stay in Whistler

There are so many great places to stay in Whistler. The following are some of my favourite hotels based on service and amenities offered to make your stay in Whistler so memorable.

Four Seasons Whistler (luxury accommodations) – This is one of my favourite hotels to stay at in Whistler. It’s an amazing resort and the service is what you expect from the Four Seasons brand. Rooms are very well appointed and each room features a sitting area with fireplace, perfect for a cozy glass of wine after a day on the slopes. They offer amazing included activities year round including daily complementary wine tastings, local cultural tours, and a “vintage camper” serving snow cones in the summer and s’mores fireside in the winter.

Four Seasons Whistler - Four Seasons Resort at Whistler
Deluxe Room at the Four Seasons Resort Whistler

Fairmont Chateau Whistler (luxury accommodations) – This is another of my favourite hotels to stay at and has probably my favourite outdoor pool in Whistler. Located slope side on Blackcomb Mountain, which means it has perfect ski in/ski out location in the winter or hiking access in the summer. The Fairmont Whistler offers amazing included amenities, dining experiences and has been awarded many awards in recent years. Check out my full review on the Fairmont Chateau Whistler here.

Fairmont Chateau Whistler Hotel Pool Area
Fairmont Chateau Whistler, Outdoor Pool

Westin Resort and Spa Whistler (luxury accommodations) – The reason I love the Westin Whistler is it’s slope side location on Whistler Mountain and it’s hotel rooms. Each hotel room here features a full kitchenette (yes, a stove, microwave, fridge/freezer, oven and dishwasher) and a fireplace, which makes this hotel amazing for long stays in Whistler and family getaways. Check out my full review on the Westin Resort and Spa Whistler here.

Westin Resort and Spa Whistler

Nita Lake Lodge (luxury accommodations) – Located on Nita Lake, about eight minutes south of the main Whistler Village or adjacent to the Whistler Creekside area, this is another amazing hotel to consider if you’re looking to book a Whistler getaway. I highly suggest a visit to the spa here, even if you’re not staying here, they offer some great spa day packages.

Pan Pacific Whistler Mountainside (luxury accommodations) – One of two Pan Pacific hotels located in Whistler, however this one is located slope side on Whistler Mountain as it’s name suggests. It’s a great location and the outdoor pool overlooks the bottom run where the “Fire and Ice” show in the winter takes place and the main Crankworx events happen in the summer.

Pangea Pod Hotel (budget accommodations) – A really neat concept pod style hotel in the heart of Whistler Village. They have a great “community” style vibe and I love visiting here for their “Happy Hour” in their “Living Room” which also features a rooftop patio.

Things to Do in Whistler

Whistler offers amazing things to do year round. Speaking with so many clients and people on Instagram, I’m constantly surprised when people tell me they only think of Whistler as a place to only visit in the winter. Yes, Whistler Blackcomb offers some amazing skiing in the winter, however there are so many things to do in Whistler during the spring, summer and fall months.

Walking Village Stroll in Whistler in the Fall

Whistler Blackcomb (Winter & Summer) – Obviously why most people come to Whistler is the Whistler Blackcomb Ski Resort. It’s constantly named one of the best resorts in North America and depending which magazine you read, one of the best in the world. I love skiing Whistler Blackcomb as it offers such varied terrain. It’s made up of two mountains, side by side (Whistler Mountain and Blackcomb Mountain) and are connected near the top by the engineering feat of the Peak 2 Peak gondola, which has been a game changer in the way you can experience both mountains for skiing and hiking. There are some incredible runs in the winter and some hidden gems (think ice caves you can explore on the Blackcomb Glacier, and for kids, magic castles on Blackcomb and tree forts on Whistler). There is so much terrain to cover over the two mountains, you can’t possibly do it in one day (there have been locals who challenge to get every chair/lift on Whistler Blackcomb in one day, however most don’t succeed haha). In the summer, the hiking and mountain views are incredible (hiking through alpine meadows and “snow walls” are always a highlight).

Peak 2 Peak Gondola at Whistler Blackcomb - Peak to Peak Gondola for Summer Sightseeing
Peak 2 Peak Gondola on Whistler Blackcomb
Walking through the metres high snow walls in the Summer are always so interesting on Whistler Mountain
Alpine Meadows on Whistler Mountain in the Summer
Blackcomb Glacier on Blackcomb Mountain
You’ll find friendly Whiskey Jacks over near 7th Heaven on Blackcomb and the Symphony and Harmony Bowls on Whistler
View of Black Tusk and Whistler Mountain in the background, photo taken on top of 7th Heaven on Blackcomb

Blackcomb Ice Cave (Winter) – If you’re looking for a special and unique place to check out, don’t miss the Whistler Ice Cave or better known as the Blackcomb Ice Cave located in the Blackcomb Bowl on the Blackcomb Glacier. How to find the Blackcomb Ice Cave, you’ll obviously need to be on Blackcomb Mountain of the Whistler Blackcomb Resort. Ride the Glacier Chair up Blackcomb Mountain. Then take the Showcase T-Bar to the top. Hike up the marked pathway when you get off the T-Bar. Once at the top, ski into the Blackcomb Bowl. The ice cave is on the right of the run and down once the bowl starts to narrow (it’s marked as “out of bounds” with the orange rope and markers, this is another hint of where to find the cave, please make note as it is out of bounds you are visiting the ice cave at your own risk). It’s a great place to check out when you visit Whistler!

Blackcomb Ice Cave - Whistler Ice Caves
Views from inside the Blackcomb Ice Cave.
Blackcomb Ice Cave - Whistler Ice Caves
View of the Blackcomb Ice Cave on the Blackcomb Glacier

Scandinave Spa (Year Round) – If you’re looking for a place to really relax and unwind in Whistler, Scandinave Spa is for you. Access to the spa can either be packaged with a massage, or it can be purchased alone. The spa area is a quiet zone (no talking or cell phones) which makes for an amazing relaxing experience. They have various hot pools, cold plunge pools, saunas, steam rooms and yoga and relaxation rooms. Most hotels can arrange pick up and drop off service to the spa, talk to your hotel’s concierge for more information.

Vallea Lumina (Winter & Summer) – A fun, lighted, multi-media experience through the woods at night. The story changes between the winter and summer months and the lighting effects are fantastic. It’s a great activity for families, especially around Christmas.

The Adventure Group (Winter & Summer) – They offer great activities in summer and winter such as zip lining, R2R tours, white water rafting, snowshoeing, snowmobiling tours, and much more. I’ve done most of the activities they offer, I have to say their service and their guides are amazing! I’ve always enjoyed any activity I’ve done with them.

Snowmobiling with The Adventure Group in Whistler
SuperFly Ziplines part of The Adventure Group in Whistler
R2R Tour with The Adventure Group Whistler

Whistler Olympic Park (Winter & Summer) – Located before Whistler on Callaghan Road, it’s known for where the cross country ski and ski jump events took place during the 2010 Winter Olympics. Now, it’s a great park to visit for hiking and sightseeing in the summer and groomed cross country skiing and snowshoeing in the winter. Admission to the park is charged by the car full, so it’s a great value for families.

Golf (Summer) – Whistler offers three world class golf courses, all offering amazing mountain views from the greens. All courses offer pro-shops, restaurants and rentals (clubs and carts).

Brewery and Spirits Tours (Year Round) – Whistler now has two breweries (Whistler Brewing Company and Coast Mountain Brewing) and a craft distillery called Montis Distilling (they distill vodka, gin and other spirits). They are all located in the Function area of Whistler and offer tours and tastings. Whistler Brewing Company is one of my personal favourites, definitely try the Chestnut Ale that they brew, it’s so delicious!

Tasting flight of beers at the Whistler Brewing Company

Audain Art Museum (Year Round) – A great place to wander on a rainy day or during the new “wine walks” that are now happening in Whistler. Featuring nearly 200 works of art, this museum features local British Columbia coastal artists. From collections of Northwest Coast First Nations masks to works from Emily Carr, they’ve done an incredible job on their permanent exhibits. The building itself is a work of art and a place not to miss the next time you visit Whistler.

Squamish Lil’wat Cultural Centre (Year Round) – I highly recommend visiting this Indigenous Cultural Centre if you haven’t already. They offer guided walks through the centre (usually starts with a welcome song) and during the summer months a guided forest walk, on the “Salish Stroll”, learning about the local flora and fauna that makes this area and eco-system so unique. They also have a cafe, gallery and gift shop.

Forged Axe Throwing (Year Round) – Looking for a fun activity for you and a group of friends? Forged Axe Throwing is so much fun and could even be a great team building activity as part of a corporate event or retreat in Whistler. You can book out the venue for private groups or book online to reserve your hour of throwing during their normal business hours.

Top Free Things to Do in Whistler

Train Wreck Trail – I actually wrote a blog post just for the Train Wreck hike, this is one of my favourite things to do in Whistler! Check out my in-depth guide on visiting Train Wreck here. Located just outside of Whistler, this is a great, easy walk that includes a well-built suspension bridge over the Cheakamus River along the way to the Train Wreck. Such a great free activity in the Whistler area!

Suspension Bridge on the way to Train Wreck
Train Wreck, Whistler

Lost Lake – The Valley Trail system (a 46 km trail system (no cars), that spans most of the Whistler area) around Lost Lake are great for walking, running or biking in the summer and cross country skiing in the winter. There is also access to the lake for swimming with a beach and picnic area near the south east end of the lake.

Walking along Lost Lake Trail in the early Fall

Alexander Falls – A beautiful waterfall found near the end of Callaghan Road before you get to Whistler (same road to get to the Whistler Olympic Park). There are also some good hiking trails in this area.

Alexander Falls near Whistler, Canada

Brandywine Falls – On the way to Whistler on the Sea to Sky Highway (Highway 99) you’ll come across the Brandywine Provincial Park. It’s a great stop to stretch your legs before you get into Whistler. Again, there are some hiking trails that does start in this area and from the final viewing platform, there are some amazing views of the valley and Black Tusk.

Brandywine Falls near Whistler, British Columbia
View of the valley at Brandywine Provincial Park near Whistler, Canada

Whistler Farmers Market – A great market to visit in the Summer. Every Sunday from 11:00am to 4:00pm (these were the 2020 season hours) between June and October in the Upper Village of Whistler you’ll find the local market. It’s a great way to support local businesses from the Sea to Sky region including Squamish, Whistler and Pemberton.

Places to Eat in Whistler

These are my personal favourite restaurants and places to eat in Whistler. As I mentioned before, I live so close to Whistler and have spent so much time in the village over the years (basically my second home), I’ve tried many of the restaurants, bars and pubs. These restaurants are listed in no particular order.

Pricing guide: $ – $10 or under average per entree, $$ – $10 to 30 average per entree, $$$ – $30+ per average entree

Bearfoot Bistro ($$$) – One of my favourite restaurants in Whistler, dinners at Barefoot Bistro have always been absolutely delicious. The menu changes seasonally, always featuring a mix of local and top of the line ingredients from around the world. For an extra special experience, book the Chef’s Table featuring a curated five-course tasting menu. In the Cellar (quite impressive to see), they offer packages where you can pick and sabre your own bottle of Champagne or “chill out” in the Ketel One Ice Room and try two premium vodkas while wearing parkas. They also have a great seasonal “Happy Hour” as well at the Champagne Bar. Again, highly recommend Bearfoot Bistro for an exquisite meal in Whistler.

Bearfoot Bistro in Whistler, British Columbia

Rimrock Cafe ($$$) – Another exquisite, long standing restaurant in Whistler. Located in the Creekside area of Whistler, Rimrock Cafe is another amazing place to eat. Open for dinner only, menu features an incredible lobster bisque, tender filet minion, delicious seared scallops and an extensive wine list. The setting of Rimrock Cafe is quite cozy, with a beautiful fireplace which sets the mood.

Red Door Bistro ($$$) – This intimate restaurant can be quite hard to get into, but if you are lucky enough to make a reservation far enough in advance, it’s so worth it. Food served here is done with a French flair and also caters to Vegan and Gluten Free diets.

Wild Wood Cafe ($) – Located in the Function area of Whistler, this is the place to grab a cup of coffee and an eggs benny that won’t break the bank. Very “local” and down to earth cafe, food is good for the price for sure!

The Mexican Corner ($$) – My favourite Mexican restaurant outside of Mexico, no joke. The food here is authentic, portion sizes are decent and so good. My favourites here are the fresh guacamole, enchiladas verdes and the tacos. The margaritas here are also so delicious and refreshing on a hot summer’s day.

Dinner at The Mexican Corner in Whistler, BC

Basalt Wine & Salumeria ($$) – Again one of my favourite restaurants here in Whistler. The menu here is also very seasonal, offers amazing charcuterie, great “apres ski” aka “happy hour” specials (Charcuterie and spritz! With so many flavours of spritz’s, including my favourite made with Limoncello) and an extensive wine list featuring many local BC wines. On the weekends they offer a delicious brunch, again changes seasonally.

Dinner at Basalt Wine & Salumeria in Whistler, Canada

Il Caminetto ($$$) – A delicious Italian restaurant on the Village Stroll. Even walking by this restaurant before they open you can smell the freshly baked bread and see them making the fresh pasta in the window. Food here definitely takes me back to Italy.

El Furniture Warehouse ($) – If you’re looking for no frills, cheap eats, El Furny is your place. All food items are $5.95, yup that’s right, all food is $5.95. My fav here is the Union Street Noodle Salad (unfortunately I haven’t seen it on the menu since the pandemic, as apparently they are running a smaller menu).

Union Street Chicken Salad at El Furniture Warehouse in Whistler

Sidecut (Four Seasons Whistler) ($$$) – An amazing steakhouse in the Four Seasons Whistler Resort (proper restaurant is currently under construction and will re-open in December 2020, currently serving on the heated/covered patio). Food is seasonal, simple and the best that they can source. They’ve also recently introduced a “happy hour” with some great bites and cocktails.

The Wildflower (Fairmont Chateau Whistler) ($$) – A must for brunch when visiting Whistler. Typically they offer an amazing traditional brunch (buffet style breakfast with made to order items including an omelet station and carving station), however due to Covid-19 they are currently only offering an a la carte menu at the time of this travel guide being released. My go to breakfast here is usually the Eggs Benedict, it’s so delicious!

Breakfast at The Wildflower at the Fairmont Chateau Whistler

Portobello (Fairmont Chateau Whistler) ($$) – Portobello is a great dine in or grab and go option even if you’re not staying at the Fairmont Whistler. They’re open for breakfast, lunch and dinner and have some great offerings including; delicious gourmet donuts (they change everyday and usually sell out before lunch, so get there early for the best selections), carving station (try the mac and cheese, it’s so yummy!), full bar with local brews on tap, a cafe (all the espresso drinks you could ever need to fuel your day) then take your meal, treat or beverage outside to relax by a fire pit.

Relax by the fire pits at Portobello at the Fairmont Chateau Whistler

Bar Oso ($$) – A great place for small bites, charcuterie and wine. I’ll sometimes pop in here with friends before dinner, or even if we just want something light instead of a proper dinner. Atmosphere feels like an intimate wine bar you would find in Europe, a definite gem in Whistler.

Hunter Gather ($$) – A locals spot for craft beer on tap and locally made food. Open for breakfast, lunch and dinner. Highly recommend the pulled pork eggs benny and the chicken and waffles for breakfast, for lunch try the kahlua pulled pork sandwich (reminded me of Hawai’i).

Elements Urban Tapas & Wine Bar ($$) – Again, a great place for brunch, really delicious breakfast offerings which cater to many dietary needs/restrictions. I’ve eaten dinner here once and it was also really good, portions are really decent sized.

Peaked Pies ($) – A popular Aussie treat, the savoury pies can be eaten in or taken out, served with (or without) mushy peas. So delicious on a cold day, after skiing.

Pizzeria Antico ($$) – A delicious pizzeria, close to what you’ll get in Italy. Tuesdays have been “beer and pizza night”, a special with any one of their pizzas and a beer on tap (they have 18 beers on tap) for $15!

Crepe Montagne ($) – I typically get the treat of a Nutella Crepe here once every so often, fresh and delicious. They also offer savoury crepes too!

The Living Room (Pangea Pod Hotel) ($$) – A great place for Happy Hour, cocktails, flatbreads and nibbles on the rooftop patio overlooking Whistler Village.

Peak Donuts (inside Fresh St. Market) ($) – Stop into the market for these amazing gourmet donuts made fresh everyday. Flavours vary day to day, arrive before 11:00am for the best selection.

Gourmet Donuts from Peak Donuts in Fresh St. Market in Whistler, BC
Views of Symphony Bowl in the Summer on Whistler Mountain

Whistler Insider Tips and Tricks

I honestly find the best time to visit Whistler is in the “off seasons” April through June and September through November. Most hotels have great rates and restaurants offer amazing valued “tasting menus” (usually a 3 or 4 course menu between $29 and $49 per person). Most of the tourists have gone, and you’ll feel a more “locals vibe”. My absolute favourite time to visit is the Fall. Leaves change colour and the cozy vibes are amazing to sit in front of a fireplace in your hotel room with a glass of wine after a hike.

Best place to park in Whistler? Look for “Day Lots 4 or 5” (Day Lots 1, 2 & 3 are more money for parking and not much further of a walk to make the difference to be honest). Parking at Day Lots 4 & 5 in the high seasons (July 1st to September 15th and December 15th to April 15th) it’s $5.00 for the day and free after 5pm. In the low seasons, it’s free parking. It’s also free parking overnight from April 1st to October 31st, so if you’re looking to save on hotel parking fees this is a great option, just be sure to move your vehicle here once every 24 hours. There is also overnight parking available at the Whistler Convention Centre or the Whistler Library for $5.00 (between 5pm to 10am) or $15.00 for 24 hours, these parking lots are also underground, so perfect in the winter months. In the winter months if I’m up skiing Whistler Blackcomb for the day, I’ll park up on Blackcomb in Day Lots 6, 7 or 8. These lots are also free parking and is easy access to the Excalibur and Blackcomb Gondolas. There is also free parking at “Creekside”, the area of Whistler you’ll come upon first if you’re coming up from Vancouver, keep in mind that there is no easy access to the proper Whistler Village from Creekside.

When hiking or enjoying Whistler Village, please be a responsible human. We share these areas with wildlife including bears, so if you’re hiking, what ever you bring in, please pack it out. If you’re around Whistler Village, use the “bear safe” garbage disposal cans. If you can’t figure out how to open it, ask someone or move on until you can dispose of something safely. This goes for food scraps and fruit. Don’t just toss it into the bush. A fed bear around here is unfortunately a dead bear. Just something that I’m really passionate about, so again please be a responsible human when visiting Whistler and the backcountry areas.

I hope you found this travel guide to Whistler, Canada helpful. As I visit Whistler again and again, I’ll keep this up to date with my favourite recommendations and photos.

If you have any questions about Whistler, British Columbia, or if you’re looking for help planning your next trip to Whistler, I’d love to help. As I’ve mentioned before, I am a travel agent who specializes in luxury travel and I’m a proud travel agent member of Virtuoso. Click here to contact me on how we can work together.

Safe Travels!

Ariane

If you’re interested in watching my YouTube Videos on Whistler, here are the videos:

My experience with Ziptrek Eco Tours and my stay at the Fairmont Chateau Whistler, you can view it here:

Here is my video of Brandywine Falls and Train Wreck Trail, followed by dinner at The Mexican Corner Restaurant:

My YouTube vlog highlighting my experience with TAG Whistler on their RZR Tour and my stay for my birthday at the Fairmont Chateau Whistler:


View from the Fairmont Chateau Whistler

PS – Did you enjoy reading this travel guide? Please consider joining my Wanderlust Journey Community as a Patron supporter. For less than the cost of a cup of coffee per month (my community membership tiers start at $2 per month), you can help support me create more content! Click here for more details.

How to Find the Ice Cave on Blackcomb Mountain

How Covid-19 Has Changed Travel Forever

So many of us who work in the travel industry could have never predicted what was going to happen this year. The Covid-19 pandemic really turned 2020 into a nightmare for anyone with travel plans, let alone anyone who runs, manages or works for a company in the travel industry.

Personally, I had four large trips in 2020 cancelled and a couple even in 2021 that I’ve had to postpone, along with numerous trips that my clients obviously have had to postpone/cancel as well.

That being said, having some extra time off of my day job has given me time to re-evaluate my short term and long term goals, focus on the other part of my business that I love, being creative and creating new content. I’ve taken some “continuing education” courses, attended some great “virtual conferences” for content creators and started working on launching a travel YouTube channel (more on this coming very soon!). So for me this pandemic was a blessing in disguise so I could focus on really launching this content creation side of my Wanderlust Journey business and still have a steady income. But back to the topic at hand…

In my opinion as a travel professional, Covid-19 has changed the travel industry forever, but I don’t think it’s a bad thing. I released a two-part podcast episode on this topic, but figured I’d also write this blog post as things have progressed even since those episodes were released.

The Travel Industry Will Bounce Back

The travel industry overall is resilient. We’ve seen the downturn from September 11th (which saw many airlines go bankrupt shortly afterwards), the recession of 2008 and other global events which have impacted travel. That being said, the travel industry was definitely hit the hardest it’s ever been by the Covid-19 pandemic. This is the first time we’ve seen any company related to travel (airlines, hotels, cruise lines, tours, etc) have to shut down temporarily for such an extended period of time.

Yes, there are always ebbs and flows when it comes to the travel industry. Travel is a luxury item for many households, so in an economic downturn it’s not surprising that the travel industry takes a tumble. Many people are still either off work, unemployed or have just recently returned to work, and are now trying to get caught up financially.

However, with Covid-19, people and families were stuck inside and in many countries were forced to quarantine themselves to help “flatten the curve”. Because of this, people are looking forward to getting out and exploring once again. People also value their vacation time, whether that’s reconnecting with family members or recharging after a stressful year. With my own clients, in the past couple years I’ve been seeing the trend of clients wanting a more “experiential” vacation over just going to a location for a mindless holiday. People are more interested in making memories over collecting things. Most people only have two weeks vacation per year, so they want to make the most of it. These trends alone really led to the travel industry making a comeback in the upcoming months.

Domestic travel (either within your own country or in a cluster, if say you live in Europe), has re-opened again in recent weeks. The numbers are positive so far with people booking local trips and looking to re-book vacations that were cancelled this year and move them to 2021 and/or 2022. If everything stays on the upward market trend and there is no resurgence of Covid-19, International travel in my opinion will “cautiously” start up again this Fall. That being said, most travel related businesses have obviously suffered severely this year. In the Northern Hemisphere (North America, Europe, etc), our “Summer season” from May to September has been a write off essentially to any hope of re-opening to International travellers. So I do encourage you to “be a tourist in your own town/region”. Support businesses locally to you who normally rely on tourism. This how we can all support our local tourism businesses so they can bounce back to welcome the world next year and for years to come.

Cruise Lines Have to Make Conscious Changes

The cruising industry (other than airlines) was the hardest hit. Thousands of sailings cancelled, not to mention the bad press that came from a couple sailings when Covid-19 emerged on the global scene. It’s shaken the confidence of even the most avid cruiser. That being said, the cruise industry as a whole has taken steps to win back the trust of the consumer, but it needs to stay that way long after the Covid-19 pandemic.

Personally, I think cruising now is probably the safest it ever has been in cruising’s history. Cleaning will be more frequent in public spaces, more a deep clean during cabin turnarounds between guests, forced hand washing/sanitising when entering dining rooms (some cruise lines already were doing a great job at this), newer and updated air filtration systems, enhanced screenings at check in and reducing guest capacity on ships are just some of the ways cruise lines are making changes for the good.

Most cruise lines have introduced “Peace of Mind” policies , which allow people to cancel 48 hours prior to sailing, if for some reason you don’t feel comfortable sailing or if you’re ill (each cruise line is different, check each cruise lines terms and conditions carefully). This actually brings me to my next point:

You Won’t Be Allowed to Travel Going Forward If You’re Sick

For the foreseeable future anyways. Again, personally, I’m all for this. With most airlines also promising “safe flying protocols”, which include upgraded air filtration systems and more disinfection between flights in airplane cabins, planes should be less “germy” than they’ve been in the past.

If you show up for your flight and you’re sick, you can pretty well guarantee that you will be denied boarding. That goes beyond boarding a flight though. You can be denied boarding your cruise ship, joining your group tour and even checking into a hotel. The travel industry is not taking anymore chances right now when it comes to further losses, especially bad press. This is also where you need to make sure that you have sufficient travel insurance going forward, if you can’t board a plane or your cruise ship, you need to make sure you’re covered to get all your money back for your vacation.

Flight and Vacation Prices: Going Up or Down After Covid-19?

To begin with, there will be some very attractive offers to get consumers travelling again. I’ve seen crazy deals already on flights and cruises. I’ve booked hotels in Whistler for unheard of rates in past years. That won’t last for long unfortunately.

There are also travel sectors that will be in higher demand than before. This means you won’t be able to score a business class ticket for a fraction of what they once were. Yes, it is true that businesses have proven more meetings can now be held online and over video conferences, plus not to mention that larger corporations have suffered financially during this time and have cut travel budgets. But the fact remains that having your own “pod” in the business class cabin gives you more space for “social distancing”, which will be in high demand now, post-pandemic more than ever.

Costs of extra staff, time of turnover to clean and cleaning materials will eventually be “included” into the base fares you pay. This will mean that costs of flights, hotel rooms, cruises will go up, especially if they are not allowed to run at full capacity.

We are also going to see consumers make more of a conscious buying decision when it comes to flexibility. I think now gone are the days where most people will buy a 100% non refundable fare, hotel or package without thinking twice. People will pay more to have something refundable as a built in insurance so to speak. For example, hotels and airlines offer the best deals and rates as non refundable fares, but now I think we will see people opt for the refundable, more expensive priced options.

Consumers will also think twice about declining travel insurance. As a travel agent, I will say that travel insurance has been a huge help for my clients who have had trips cancel on them or they’ve had to cancel their trips due to Covid-19. Some suppliers were able to help limit losses by allowing my clients to re-book trips or offer attractive “future travel credits”.

Future Travel Credits Over Refunds

Okay, I’m going to say it. I’m all for travel companies issuing future travel credits over refunds.

Yes, it might be annoying to not have your “cash back”. But think of it this way. Most cruise lines were offering 110% to 140% future cruise credits (in addition to other perks) to clients who’s sailings were cancelled. Ummm, you can’t get that return at any bank for that investment.

83% of people who were asked in a recent poll actually said they would be re-booking the exact same trip they were forced to cancel in the next year, so why not take advantage of the perks that come along with the future travel credits being offered?

If you really didn’t want a future travel credit and want a refund, I hope you purchased travel insurance. Travel agents have always touted the benefits of travel insurance, this is one of the reasons why. Most travel insurers (this does depend on the insurer and policy purchased) are paying out claims where clients where just offered a future travel credit. Yes, there are some instances where you don’t know if you can travel again, or if the trip will even happen in the near future so a refund is preferred (believe me I get it, my trip to the British F1 Grand Prix was cancelled this year and not sure if that trip will be in my books again for a few years to come). Life happens, but that’s why you need insurance. You probably have car insurance, house insurance, etc so you should have travel insurance to protect the investment of your vacation costs.

That being said, I think consumers are actually now going to be making different buying decisions when it comes to all aspects of travel, especially with group travel.

Small Group Travel vs Larger Tours

I believe companies who offer small group tours and adventures are going to be in higher demand going forward. With most tour passenger counts with small group tour companies at a maximum capacity of between 12 and 18 people (again depending on the company and tour offered), this is going to give travellers the confidence they can socially distance themselves and still see a destination more intimately.

Small groups also lend better to those who want to make sure they can socially distance and have their own room option. If you think about it logistically, it makes more sense for a smaller group to take over local accommodations socially distanced than a larger group.

I’m a huge advocate of small group tours and have done a few myself, the lure of being in a group where you can truly see and experience a culture, place, etc without sometimes seeing other tourists is amazing! Smaller groups can really help you experience the true soul of a place, without being herded around like cattle and following a flag in a crowd. As I mentioned earlier, I think people are craving more experiential travel nowadays, where food and culture collide.

If the Second Wave Hits, Will Everything Just Shut Down Again?

The honest answer is that we don’t know and that it depends. If the travel industry has taken anything to heart (and the world in general), it’s that we can’t afford a total shut down again.

We need businesses to start opening again and stay open. This helps all of our economies and will make sure that we can start to get back to a new normal. Hopefully, with all the safety measures in place, we’ll be able to continue on with life, and if you are sick, please take heeded advice to stay at home.

Why Using a Travel Agent or Advisor Is Smart

Especially after the pandemic, travel agents are in the know of each travel provider’s policies and can help our clients navigate which vacation option is best for them. When you book your trips and vacations online yourself, your computer isn’t going to give you first hand knowledge of the area that hotel is located in that you just booked, local restaurant recommendations or even which sights are a must do. Your computer also doesn’t care if you need to cancel a couple days prior to departure because you’re sick or double check to make sure you have the correct (and sufficient) travel insurance to cover you. Booking with a human normally doesn’t cost more than booking with your computer, you’re just going to get better service and a customized experience. Plus, you’re helping support financially an actual person, not necessarily a massive corporation.

I am a travel agent and advisor who specializes in luxury travel and cruises and I love to help people plan and book amazing vacations. If you would like to work with me as your travel agent in the near future, please contact me and I can put you on my “client waitlist”.

Covid-19 Has Changed Travel Forever and That’s Okay

Being in the travel industry for over 8 years has taught me one thing (okay and life in general), change is good. It’s painful in the beginning, but it can be for the good. With all these new cleaning and social distancing procedures in place for airlines, airports, cruise ships, tour groups and hotels, we will see a healthier travelling environment overall. We need to make sure though that companies stay on top of these procedures and keep them going forward, not just until we think Covid-19 is over.

Looking forward to travelling again soon,

Ariane

PS – Did you enjoy reading this blog post? Please consider joining my Wanderlust Journey Community as a Patron supporter. For less than the cost of a cup of coffee per month (my community membership tiers start at $2 per month), you can help support me create more content! Click here for more details.

My Travel Guide to the Amalfi Coast, Italy

It’s no secret that Italy is one of my favourite destinations as I’ve got family connections to this country as well. I’ve been to the Amalfi Coast a couple times, and it’s a place I can see myself coming back to again and again, year after year. The Amalfi Coast is a place that I would love to eventually buy a property. The lemon groves amongst the terraced, villa lined mountainsides, to the bright and vibrant ceramics, to shimmering blues and aquas of the Mediterranean (actually the Tyrrhenian) Sea along the shorelines, it’s no wonder people flock here in droves. It’s honestly one of the most stunning coastlines in the world. 

The Amalfi Coast is made up of thirteen different towns, along 40 kilometres of coast and is located in the Campania region of Italy. The drive is both terrifying and unbelievably scenic, however I would recommend if you’ve never visited the Amalfi Coast before, I would either hire a driver or take the ferry system (ferries from Salerno, Naples and the Island of Capri make trips several times per day). The Amalfi Coast can be visited for the day from Naples quite easily, making it a popular cruise ship shore excursion paired with Pompeii and Sorrento (whilst Sorrento is not technically part of the Amalfi Coast, I did include it in this guide). Be prepared to hike, yes, hike. Some hotels and villas are reachable by car or golf cart, however some places are only reachable by staircases or narrow, steep walkways, so make sure you are choosing a location that suits your lifestyle.

For my next trip that I plan to the Amalfi Coast, I would hop around to a few different hotels personally, stay at a couple different properties to really take in the more quieter evenings out. Staying in one spot and exploring from there makes things easier for sure, but there are some stunning properties on the Amalfi Coast, so why not experience a few of them whilst you’re here. Some hotels offer amazing beach clubs and have stunning restaurants.

From Positano, Amalfi and Ravello, there are also some lesser known gems along this route that provide amazing dining experiences and more reasonable hotel options, whilst still enjoying the captivating beauty of this stunning place such as Praiano, Scala, Atrani, Minori, Maiori, Cetara and Vietri sul Mare. Whilst I’m not going to go in depth to each of these villages, I will add some personal recommendations on some of them.

Positano

Positano is the quintessential postcard village for the Amalfi Coast, everyone wants to come here and the prices reflect that. Known for it’s stunning and romantic views, lemons, great food, buildings clinging precariously to the cliffs and beautiful ceramics, Positano is always a highlight to visit on the Amalfi Coast. The narrow walkways through the center of town to the beach is lined with local shops (some with imported goods, others with local designers and crafts). Positano is easy to get to by car, public bus system or by ferry. The pebble beaches in the summer can be extremely busy with beach clubs taking up most of the open beach space (beach clubs are setups that you would rent specific beach chairs and umbrellas, by the hour, half day or full day, prices can range between €10 to €30. They also sometimes have drink/food service).

Positano, Amalfi Coast, Italy

Where to Stay in Positano

Le Sirenuse (luxury accommodations) – Part of the Leading Hotels of the World, Le Sirenuse opened in 1951 and has been a much loved boutique hotel by many celebrities and anyone who has the opportunity to experience a stay here.

Hotel Palazzo Murat (luxury accommodations) – Whilst there are no quintessential “Positano views” from this hotel, the location within the heart of the village is amazing. It’s garden oasis-like setting is by far a true gem and a relaxing environment. This hotel was a historic summer residence of a king and the architecture is stunning.

Hotel Palazzo Murat, Positano, Italy

Eden Roc Hotel (mid range/luxury accommodations) – This family run boutique hotel has gorgeous views and is a perfect size (25 rooms) for a romantic getaway.

Hotel Poseidon (mid range accommodations) – Another beautiful family run hotel with gorgeous views overlooking towards East. Rooms are simple, yet comfortable with warm and friendly service.

Villa Rosa (mid range accommodations) – A great budget friendly boutique hotel with stunning sea views. While this property doesn’t feature a pool, the rooms are clean and have a traditional Italian feel. Book a room with a terrace here for a fraction of the price then some of the other properties in Positano.

Overlooking Positano, Amalfi Coast, Italy

Where to Eat in Positano

Food along the Amalfi Coast is some of the best you will have. Being so close to some of the freshest ingredients such as real buffalo mozzarella (made locally, fresh daily within fifty kilometres), lemons, seafood and of course pasta. You can also pickup a lemon gelato (served in a frozen lemon) and just enjoy wandering the town. I’ve tried a few restaurants here in the short time I visited, here are some of my favourites:

Ristorante Le Tre Sorelle – Right on the beach, you can’t beat the views or the menu. Giada De Laurentiis has said this is the best spot for seafood in Positano. I sat here with a glass of local pinot grigio, enjoyed the bistro like atmosphere and had an amazing pizza capricciosa and “rigatoni al ragu napoletano” (rigatoni with pork rib sausage and meatballs in tomato sauce).

Ristorante Le Tre Sorelle, Positano, Amalfi Coast, Italy

Da Bruno – Try the eggplant parmesan (an Amalfi Coast locals favourite) here. Also has some amazing seafood dishes from what I’ve been told by others.

Buca di Bacco – Again, located right on the beach, you can beat the location. The arancini was amazing!

La Cambusa – Another restaurant that comes highly recommended by locals and has a great beach location. Had a caprese salad here with a glass of wine and it was refreshing and delicious.

Il Tridente – Part of the Hotel Poseidon, this terraced garden restaurant has amazing views. Menu looked incredible with many seafood dishes and also offers vegan and vegetarian options.

Casa e Bottega – This is a true hidden gem. Such a cute, trendy restaurant in a beautiful setting. The smoothies here are refreshing, along with the lighter fare menu.

Casa e Bottega, Positano, Amalfi Coast, Italy

Da Vincenzo – Had the most stunning dessert here! Family run, this place is known for it’s seafood, but I stopped in for dessert (if you know me, I don’t eat seafood really). The panzerotti starter was also amazing. It’s no wonder this place is listed in the Michelin restaurant guide. They also have a really cute housewares store on location, pick up some beautiful tableware here.

Next2 – This is located about a 10 minute drive outside of Positano, however it’s such a romantic spot to have dinner and again comes highly recommended by locals.

C’era Una Volta – A great secret in what can be an overpriced village, this restaurant serves up amazing pizzas, pastas (you need to try the gnocchi here) and salads with the freshest ingredients.

Gelato served in a lemon with Positano in the background.

Other Positano Tips and Tricks

Near Positano, you can visit the Grotta dello Smeraldo. This is similar to the “Blue Grotto” on Capri, but the secret is that there are WAY less tourists. The water here is also a lot more calmer, you your chances of entering the grotto is a lot higher.

Want a gorgeous view of Positano? The best views of this stunning village are from the water. There are plenty of companies that rent boats with a driver either hourly, half day or full day. There are many companies down by the beach that offer this service. What better way to spend sunset than with a bottle of Prosecco and Positano views.

Views of Positano, Italy from a boat

You can also book yourself at the Ristorante Da Adolfo. This restaurant and beach club near Positano offers a more secluded atmosphere away from the busy beach of Positano. The “Da Adolfo” boat, with the can’t miss red fish on a mast, shuttles you to their private beach for the day. Food is really good, try the grilled mozzarella on lemon leaves.

Amalfi

The town that this stunning coastline was named after. Amalfi was also the birthplace of one of my favourite comfort-food pasta dishes, cannelloni. Amalfi is definitely one of the more busier towns, with many tour buses lining the parking lots by the harbour by noon, so the best time to visit Amalfi in my opinion is first thing in the morning or later in the evening.

Amalfi, Italy

Where to Stay in Amalfi

Hotel Santa Caterina (luxury accommodations) – Located just outside of Amalfi, this hotel is one of the most luxurious you’ll find along the Amalfi Coast. The rooms are stunning, featuring beautiful hand painted tiles and amazing balconies and terraces with unobstructed views to the sea. This hotel also features a private beach club and the dining options are also stunning with a Michelin-starred restaurant “Glicine”, which translates to “Wisteria” has an amazing menu. Another hotel I will gladly book a couple nights to enjoy the amenities and the views from the room.

NH Collection Convento Amalfi (luxury accommodation) – This transformed 13th century monastery is located perched above Amalfi, with specatular views. The next time I come to the Amalfi Coast, this is another strong contender for me to stay here for a couple nights. The infinity pool and beautiful gardens overlook the sea and the stunning bay.

Amalfi, Italy

Where to Eat in Amalfi

La Caravella – The first Michelin Star restaurant in the South of Italy and today one of the first restaurants in all of Italy to receive three. The atmosphere and cuisine here is outstanding. You need to try one of their tasting menus, this is non-negotiable. I was lucky enough to have tried their lunch, four course tasting menu and will treasure that meal for years to come. One of the best meals I’ve ever had hands down. I can’t wait to come back to Amalfi to eat here again.

La Caravella, Amalfi, Italy

Restaurant Al Mare – This restaurant on a perched terrace near the sea is a gem. The comfortable vibe and stunning views of this restaurant at the Hotel Santa Caterina are a must visit. The food is really good as well.

Dei Cappuccini – Part of the NH Collection Convento Amalfi, this restaurant has stunning views and delicious food with some of the ingredients in the meals sourced directly from Amalfi’s markets and from the hotel’s private garden.

Pasticceria Savoia – Amazing gelato and other bakery items such as cakes and pastries. Try the Campania delight Sfogliatella, or one of the ricotta cheese and pear pastries, or a “lemon delight” which is a soft sponge cake soaked with limoncello.

Shopping in Amalfi

Amalfi is where I typically buy my Limoncello and where I’ve purchased a few ceramics in the past. There is a family run Limoncello maker in the main square of Amalfi, near the base of the church’s steps. It’s called Antichi Sapori d’Amalfi, they offer samples of their Limoncello and other liquors including Limoncello Creme (La Creme Di Limone), Melon and Pistachio. I’ve also purchased a couple ceramics from here, including an olive oil pourer which I’ve used in my kitchen for the past 3 years (since my first visit to Amalfi).

Antichi Sapori d’Amalfi, cute store in Amalfi to buy Limoncello and gifts

Ravello

Ravello is one of those places that if you don’t visit the right spots, you’ll miss the charm of this stunning village perched high on the mountain overlooking the Amalfi Coast. Again, Ravello is a great place to find deals on ceramics, and the town is so quaint and much less busier than Amalfi or Positano.

Ravello, Italy

Where to Stay in Ravello

Belmond Hotel Caruso (luxury accommodations) – Belmond Hotels are probably one of my favourite hotel brands. The locations of most of their properties are intimate and bespoke. The location of this property is no different. It has stunning sweeping views of the Amalfi Coast. The infinity pool and gardens make this setting feel like an oasis from the hustle and bustle in Amalfi down the mountain below.

Belmond Villa Margherita (luxury accommodations) – For those who want an upgraded experience, this is a private villa which has access to all the amenities of the Belmond Hotel Caruso, a few blocks away.

What to See in Ravello

Something that is a bit of a secret is the Campania Artecard. This amazing pass gives you access to 80 cultural sights across Naples and the Campania Region (including the Amalfi Coast). You can use the Campania Artecard to get admission into Villa Rufolo and Villa Cimbrone in Ravello. It’s well worth the investment.

Colourful ceramics in Ravello, Italy

Villa Rufolo – Built in the 13th century, Villa Rufolo is easy to get to from the main centre square of Ravello. It was extensively restored in the 19th century and the gardens were being restored last year (2019). Stunning to walk around and take in the amazing views from the terraces here.

Villa Cimbrone – Worth the walk, believe me. The gardens and views from this Villa are breathtaking. The “Terrazzo dell’infinito” or Terrace of Infinity, has the most stunning views you’ll find of the Amalfi Coast.

Villa Cimbrone, Ravello, Italy
“Terrazzo dell’infinito” or Terrace of Infinity, Villa Cimbrone, Ravello, Italy

Minori

I stayed in Minori for five nights the last time I was here on the Amalfi Coast. It was a great quiet village to explore the coast and neighbouring villages. Up above Minori is Ravello, and can be reached by about a 45 minute walk up the mountain through the terraced lemon groves. If you’re a Jamie Oliver fan, one of his good friends, who Jamie learned everything Italian from, chef Gennaro Contaldo is from Minori. I found Minori to be a perfect place to relax, enjoy the much quieter beach and have some amazing food. Prices are much more “local” and you won’t find too many tourists here, which is a welcomed change.

Using the ferry systems from here is a bit less hectic and you’ll be able to find a good seat on the ferries as it’s before the ferries get too crowded with passengers from Amalfi and Positano, onwards to Capri or Sorrento.

Minori, Amalfi Coast, Italy

Where to Stay in Minori

Minori Palace Hotel (mid range accommodations) – This is where I stayed for five nights during my “Enchanting Southern Italy” tour with Blue Roads this past September 2019. It was a comfortable hotel within a 5 minute walk from the beach and across the street from one of the most delicious pastry shops. Breakfast included every morning was adequate and great selection.

Hotel Santa Lucia (mid range accommodations) – Traditional hotel rooms very close to the beach, about a four minute walk. Clean and comfortable.

Where to Eat in Minori

Giardiniello – Had the most stunning meal here. If you’re in Minori (or visiting the Amalfi Coast), this restaurant is a must visit. We sat out on the terrace and had a wonderful group dinner here. I had the stuffed zucchini flowers to start, followed by homemade N’dunderi alla minorese, a large pillowy soft gnocchi they make here in Minori with tomato sauce and smoked mozzarella. Mama mia!

Giardiniello Restaurant, Minori, Amalfi Coast, Italy

Pasticceria Gambardella – The place to buy €1 calzones (fried, fresh made pizza pockets) to take to the beach or for a snack on the ferry and the most amazing desserts and pastries including rum babas and sfogliatellas.

Pasticceria Sal De Riso – Higher end desserts, really nice area to sit outside, have a coffee and watch local life in Minori.

What to Do in Minori

One of my favourite things to do in Minori (other than relax on the beach) was to take advantage of the “walk of the lemons” on Sentiero dei Limoni. It’s a beautiful hike through the alleyways, staircases then through the terraced lemon groves for some amazing sunrise views over Minori with Ravello perched high above.

“Walk of the Lemons” during sunrise over Minori, Amalfi Coast, Italy

Sorrento

As I mentioned earlier, Sorrento is not part of the Amalfi Coast, however many people visit Sorrento on their way to the Amalfi Coast or on their way to Naples from the Amalfi Coast, so that’s why I’m including it into this guide.

Sorrento to me is similar to the Amalfi Coast, lemons, cliffs and the sea. Known for seafood and more amazing pasta, Sorrento is a beautiful place to visit and spend a night or two.

Sorrento, Italy

Where to Stay in Sorrento

Hotel Bellevue Syrene (luxury accommodations) – Part of the Relais & Chateaux brand, this hotel offers stunning accommodation overlooking the Bay of Naples. They have some fantastic stay packages, some which include meals at their amazing restaurant.

Grand Hotel Excelsior Vittoria (luxury accommodations) – Part of the Leading Hotels of the World, this landmark hotel is one you can’t miss, if you’ve arrived to Sorrento by boat. Perched precariously on the clifftop, with views of Mount Vesuvius, this luxury property pays homage to it’s traditional roots, which rooms are elegantly traditional.

Where to Eat in Sorrento

O’Parrucchiano – Whilst Cannelloni was invented in Amalfi, this is who perfected it and serves it in their Sorrento restaurant to this day. This very elegant setting of a restaurant also features a beautiful garden conservatory to also dine in and also in a stunning lemon garden. I came here for an amazing “early dinner”, of course had the cannelloni and enjoyed eating out in the lemon garden.

L’Antica Trattoria – I had an amazing set menu lunch here. I was greeted on this hot, September afternoon with a welcome glass of prosecco. Followed by an amazing four course meal, which I struggled to finish. The atmosphere is beautiful, service was attentive and had a great experience here overall. I’d come back here in a heartbeat.

L’Antica Trattoria, Sorrento, Italy

I hope you found this travel guide to the Amalfi Coast helpful. As I visit the Amalfi Coast again and again over the years, I’ll keep this up to date with my favourite recommendations.

If you have any questions about the Amalfi Coast, or if you’re looking for help planning your next trip to Positano, Amalfi or Sorrento, I’d love to help. As I’ve mentioned before, I am a travel agent who specializes in luxury travel and I’m a proud travel agent member of Virtuoso. Click here to contact me on how we can work together.

Ciao and Safe Travels! xoxo

Ariane

PS – Did you enjoy reading this travel guide? Please consider joining my Wanderlust Journey Community as a Patron supporter. For less than the cost of a cup of coffee per month (my community membership tiers start at $2 per month), you can help support me create more content! Click here for more details.

My Travel Guide to Budapest, Hungary

Visiting Hungary for the first time was another dream fulfilled for me. I’ve been wanting to visit Hungary since I was quite young as that where my grandparents on my Mother’s side are originally from. They fled the country in 1956 to Switzerland where my Aunt and Mother were born before coming to Canada in 1960. I really had no expectations, other than to wander the sights of Budapest, see and experience the city where my Grandmother (Nagymama) once lived, eat some amazing cakes, enjoy some much needed Hungarian comfort food and visit a few quaint wineries. 

Budapest stole my heart. It’s actually now one of my top favourite places I’ve visited. It’s no wonder that this city is a UNESCO World Heritage Site. I honestly believe that Budapest is the most beautiful city I’ve seen at night. Definitely make sure that you wander the Danube River’s edge from the “Pest” side looking over to the “Buda” side of the river, also don’t miss taking a cruise along the Danube River at night, it’s a magical experience.

Arriving into Budapest

When I arrived into Budapest at Ferenc Liszt Airport, there were a couple planes that had arrived at the same time, so getting through customs took a little longer than expected as they didn’t have many passport control officers working. Once through EU customs, I picked up my bags and headed out and looked for my name on a sign for my private transfer. I chose to book a private transfer instead of dealing with a taxi this trip for ease, and it was much appreciated after the very long travel day I had (never take the cheapest option with three layovers, it’s not worth losing your sanity haha). The driver I had was very nice and before you knew it I was at my hotel for this visit, The Continental Hotel Budapest. 

Where to Stay

The Continental Hotel Budapest (mid range/luxury accommodations) – I chose The Continental Hotel Budapest for my trip due to it’s location within the Jewish Quarter and a rooftop pool with a stunning view over the city. The top floor also has an amazing wellness area which includes an indoor pool, hot tub, saunas and steam rooms. The building that the hotel is located in was originally a bath (Hungaria Furdo), which the moment you step into the lobby, the architecture shows a glimpse into the hotel’s past as a bathhouse. It’s a medium size hotel with 272 rooms. When I arrived, my room wasn’t quite ready, so I left my luggage with the concierge, went out and walked a couple blocks to the New York Cafe and caught the hop on hop off from there. Some room rates do include breakfast, which is a great buffet spread with multiple hot and cold options.

Hilton Budapest (luxury accommodations) – The next time I visit Budapest, this is a strong contender for the next hotel I stay at. It’s perched on the Buda Hill, located beside the Matthias Church, near the stunning Fisherman’s Bastion. The views from some of these hotel rooms overlooks the beautiful Danube River with the Parliament across the river, a stunning view at night. This hotel is also built into the remnants of an 13th century monastery (very neat views from a courtyard from inside the hotel) and boasts Faust Wine Cellar located in the ruins of the monastery, truly a hidden gem!

Corinthia Hotel Budapest (luxury accommodations) – Formerly known as the “Grand Royal Hotel”, the five star rated Corinthia Hotel Budapest is one of the landmark historical hotels, with a gorgeous spa area (Royal Spa) and indoor pool. The lobby is stunning and opulent.

Boat Hotel Fortuna (basic/mid range accommodations) – For something a little different, you can book a stay on a former river boat. Accommodations are quite basic, however you can’t beat the location, floating on the Danube River. It’s located very near to Margitszigeti (Margaret Island), past the Parliament Building on the Pest side.

Four Seasons Gresham Palace Hotel (luxury accommodations) – Another strong contender for the next time I visit Budapest. This hotel was once a palace and had amazing views of the “Chain Bridge”, Buda Castle and the Danube River. Hotel rooms are impeccably designed and of course with the advantage of the amazing service that the Four Seasons brand brings. This was one of the most stunning lobbies I’ve seen, the chandelier is incredible. One of my favourite restaurants is also located at this hotel, Kollazs (see my review in “where to eat” below). Other amenities at this hotel include an indoor infinity edge pool on the top floor, state of the art gym, sauna and relaxation area. It’s located at the start of the pedestrian area in front of the St. Stephen’s Basilica, which is lined with great shops and restaurants, perfect for an evening stroll and take in the romantic beauty that this city offers.

Sofitel Budapest Chain Bridge (mid range/luxury accommodations) – I sell this hotel quite a bit to clients looking for a great middle ground hotel between ultra luxury and mid range. With unobstructed views of Buda Castle, the Danube River and Chain Bridge, splurge for a “room with a view” here and you won’t be disappointed.

The Ritz Carleton Budapest (luxury accommodations) – Located in the historical centre on the Pest side, The Ritz Carleton Budapest is another amazing ultra luxurious option in Budapest. Rooms are traditional with a modern, contemporary flair, along with the impeccable service that Ritz Carleton in known for. A few blocks away from the Danube River, Gerbeaud Cuzraszda (Cafe) and the St. Stephen’s Basilica. 

Aria Hotel Budapest by Library Hotel Collection (luxury accommodations) – Gorgeous rooftop patio area, the High Note Roof Bar is something to check out even if you don’t stay here, I had a wonderful cocktail up here at sunset with a stunning view. Located right near the St. Stephen’s Basilica and the pedestrianized area. Great amenities when staying at this property which include a complementary breakfast, afternoon wine and cheese, pool, fitness centre, steam bath, sauna and whirlpool.

Getting Around Budapest

Getting around Budapest is so easy. It’s such a walkable city and the transit systems here are great and efficient. If you’re here for multiple days like I was you’ve got a few options. You can buy a transit pass, which is great value, just be sure to validate your ticket (stamp your tickets in one of the machines when you start using it or you can be subjected to some pretty hefty fines, the transit police do watch tourists carefully here, so please be aware of this, I came across so many complaints online). Click here to visit a blog I used when planning my trip, it explains the transit system in Budapest so well.

I used the metro (the underground subway system) a few times myself, so easy to get to places like the Szechenyi Baths, Szell Kalman (station on the Buda side, transfer here to a “Castle Bus” which will take you up the hill into the Buda Castle area). An interesting fact about the iconic “Line 1”, it was completed in 1896, which makes it the oldest electrified underground railway system in continental Europe.

Another favourite way to see Budapest is also a hop on hop off bus. I did a 48 hour hop on hop off with two river cruises included (a day cruise and a night cruise). Honestly, you need to cruise the Danube River at night, so whether you do it by a river cruise ship that you are taking from Budapest or by a tour boat, it’s a must see. As I mentioned before, Budapest is probably the most beautiful city I’ve ever seen at night.

Taxis aren’t highly recommended, I’ve heard plenty of scams and tourists being ripped off, so I just avoided them. I arranged a private transfer from the airport to my hotel, which I love doing after a long flight.

Where to Eat in Budapest

Hungarian food is the ultimate comfort food. From Langos (a fried dough served with sour cream and cheese), Chicken Paprikash, Goulash to some of the most amazing cakes and pastries you’ve ever had. Here are some of the restaurants I’ve personally tried. These places to eat are in no particular order, I’ve linked the websites if they have one.

Vintage Garden – One of the most prettiest cafes I’ve seen in a long time. I found this cafe on Instagram (no surprise here), and fell in love. In person, it didn’t disappoint. This place will get busy, especially for brunch. Make a reservation or go right when it opens to make sure you get a table. The menu is very reasonable for the setting, I had the french toast, a coffee melange and a glass of sparkling Hungaria Rose. 

Nagycsarnok (Great Market Hall) – The Great Market Hall is one of the historical markets in central Budapest. Located on the Pest side of the Danube River, it was first built in 1897. It’s honestly a great place to grab some lunch (grab a Langos from upstairs at the last food stall on the west side) and buy some souvenirs, locally made goods and wines. I did a bit of shopping here on the first day I arrived, it’s a great place to explore.

Ruszwurm Cukraszda – Located in the historic Buda Castle area and near the Matthias Church, I highly recommend this historic Cukraszda (Bakery/Cafe), especially on a beautiful day in the summer. It’s a very popular spot with limited seating, but it’s well worth the wait for some of the best cakes and baked treats you will ever have. Ruszwurm Cukraszda was founded in 1827 and a favourite of the Empress Elisabeth of Austria (known to the locals as Sissi). She actually took baked goods from this bakery to her home in Vienna when she was leaving Budapest and would even have items shipped to her, this is actually the rumoured start of the traditional Dobos Torta, a cake with a caramel “crust” on top to preserve the freshness of the cake. I tried and loved the Dobos Torta, the Ruzswurm Kremes (Cream Cake) and a Rose froccs (rose wine with sparking water). I came here a couple times during my stay as the prices were so reasonable and the cakes were so delicious.

Terv Presszo – Located about a block from the main pedestrianized streets near St. Stephen’s Basilica, Terv Presszo is a great mid range option for a home cooked Hungarian meal. I had the Chicken Paprikas here with Nokedli (a Hungarian Dumpling) and it was really good, paired with a glass of local Rose wine. The atmosphere is quite funky but speaks to the experience. All the dishes are quite generous in regards to portion size, the desserts are massive! Highly recommend this place as I visited here with a friend from Budapest.

Gelarto Rosa – Again, found this gem on Instagram and so glad I did. They do many different flavours of gelato and even have some pretty interesting flavours including vegan ones. The best part, they form your ice cream cone into a rose by forming petals. You can build in a few different flavours and it’s amazing gelato! Located right near the St. Stephen’s Basilica, it’s a must try. Be prepared that in the summer the lines can get long and make sure you have cash (Hungarian Forint). 

Kek Rozsa Etterem (Blue Rose Restaurant) – A very “local” and simple restaurant located in the Jewish Quarter of Budapest. I had the Beef Goulash with herb potatoes with a local red wine from Villanyi. Good meal for the price, portions again are quite substantial.

Cat Cafe – Pay a set fee, enjoy cake, a drink and socialize with some cute cats.

DiVino Borbar – Wine bar near St. Stephen’s Basilica with a great location with seating in the square. More than 140 wines served with a great selection of wines from local wineries, including a selection of wines from local vintners who are under the age of 35.

Gerbeaud Cuzraszda (Cafe) – Founded in 1858, this is a must. I have a personal connection to this cafe as I have family members who have served at this Budapest staple. Try the Gerbeaud Cake (Zserbo Szelet) a layered cake with apricot jam, walnuts and chocolate. Also try the Gerbeaud Coffee (black coffee with apricot sauce, apricot liqueur, hot chocolate, vanilla foam and walnut linzer sprinkles) or the Sissi Coffee (black coffee, Grand Marnier liqueur, cinnamon, clove, cardamon, honey and whipped cream).

Kollazs – Located in the Four Seasons Gresham Palace Hotel, this stunning restaurant and bar is a must visit when you’re visiting Budapest. Atmosphere is a nod to the traditional but the comfort, coziness and glamour of an upscale brasserie. Menu here is Hungarian and French, with food looking like art (and tastes amazing) but affordable. Bar favourites was the “Hendrick’s and Me” cocktail, with notes of rose, aloe vera, bergamot and elderflower. For lunch they do have a 3 course meal for 3800 HUF (about $16 CAD per person) or a 4 course option for 4300 HUF (about $19 CAD per person). I highly recommend the Chicken Paprikash! Dinner menu is just as decadent (came here twice in my 5 days in Budapest), I had the Foie Gras Terrine to start and the Beef Bourguignon. All the desserts are amazing, so be sure to save room for dessert here, you won’t regret it!

Tigris – Located a block from the Four Seasons Gresham Palace Hotel, this restaurant is listed in the prestigious Michelin Guide and it didn’t disappoint. By far the best meal I had in Budapest, I went here for my “birthday dinner”. The Foie Gras Specialities menu was both delightful and exciting to the palate, along with my main course of Duck Breast with Sweet Potato, Mangalica Bacon and Brussels Sprouts with Paprika. The Dobos Torta was also lovely and the local wines the sommelier recommended were on point. They offer a 5+1 course meal as well, which looked amazing, something I’ll try next time!

Faust Wine Cellar – Located within the cave ruins of the monastery beneath the Hilton Budapest, this is a stunning and intimate restaurant. Try local wines from Hungary along with Palinka tastings (a traditional fruit brandy) paired with an incredible meal.

Barack & Szilva – A very cute bistro owned by a husband and wife, serving traditional Hungarian food. This was located about a block from the Continental Hotel Budapest, and came highly recommended by a foodie friend. The “Chef’s Offer” is an amazing dinner options for the price which includes local wine pairings from 14,600 HUF (about $64 CAD per person). A great restaurant, I’ll definitely be back to this one, it’s a favourite for sure! They even have a patio which is great for the summer evenings.

Szimpla Kert – Even if you don’t drink, Szimpla Kert is an experience. I went on my own to check it out during an afternoon and it’s very different. This is one of the first “ruin bars” to pop up in Budapest. It’s definitely an experience, very eclectic and funky vibes are felt throughout the old warehouse-turned-bar/club. 

Karavan – A few doors down from Szimpla Kert, located inside the remnants of a bombed out warehouse sits a collection of food trucks serving up all types of cuisine. Open from 11:30am onwards (feeding those on a hunt for late night munchies after a visit to Szimpla, etc). It’s a cute concept and did grab a Langos from one of the trucks here.

Things to Do and See in Budapest

There are honestly so many things to do and see in Budapest (and surrounding areas), I was here for five full days/six nights and was unable to do everything I wanted. I’ve highlighted some of the most popular things to do and see and linked some of my favourite tours.

Hungarian Baths in Budapest

Budapest is fairly unique in regards to being one of the very few cities in the world that is rich with thermal waters. It’s obviously known as the “city of spas” and the level of baths are both beautiful and impressive. Here is my guide to the five most popular baths in Budapest:

Szechenyi Thermal Baths – Located in the City Park in Budapest (on the Pest side, at the end of Andrassy Avenue), this bath was opened in 1913 and is a stunning complex. They’ve kept it up in pretty good condition considering the age and the usage levels. Most people think the baths open at 9am, however they do actually open at 6am. I was there at opening (6am) and pretty well had all the pools to myself. Once 9:30am/10am hit, it definitely got more busy with all the tourists pouring in. I paid for a ticket that included a locker, you can also pay an upgrade and use a “cabin” (a lockable, private change room). Make sure you bring sandals/flip flops (these are mandatory in most baths you’ll visit in Hungary) and a towel (you can rent towels, I just brought my travel towel, some hotels will actually provide you with “bath” towels to take as well). This place can be like a maze, so take a map when buying your ticket (tip: take a photo of it on your phone, so you don’t have to walk around with a soggy map). Szechenyi Baths is the largest thermal bath complex in Budapest, it has 3 outdoor pools (the lap pool you do need to wear a bathing/swim cap, again something that is a necessity when visiting the baths, the hot pools didn’t require them) and 15 indoor pools with various saunas and steam rooms, some with aromatherapy. They also have a cafe onsite which also serves alcohol. You can also upgrade your visit and include a massage treatment as well. A fun, unique experience which they also offer here is the Beer Spa, yes, a Beer Spa. I spent the morning here until around 11:00am, trying all the different pools (there is a sulphur element in some of them) but I can honestly say I slept so well the night after visiting and my skin was so soft. This is a strong favourite and can’t wait until I return!

Kiraly Thermal Baths – Besides the fact that my family shares this as their last name, Kiraly (meaning “King”), this Thermal Bath is a small Turkish bath that were built in 1565. Whilst being one of the smaller Thermal Baths in Budapest, this place is a gem. It has a total of 4 pools ranging in temperatures from 26C to 40C. The lighting in the main bath is almost cathedral like with the coloured block glass in the dome letting light filter through. Definitely a Thermal Bath to check out. 

Rudas Thermal Baths – The Rudas Thermal Baths are located on the Buda side under the Citadel, along the banks of the Danube River. Also built in the 16th century during the Turkish occupation, the traditional pool is still operational but it does operate as a gender specific bath on certain days (The vapor bath section is open each day from 6am until 8pm, on Monday, Wednesday, Thursday and Friday gentlemen are welcome, and on Tuesdays ladies can enjoy the vapor bath; on Saturday and Sunday groups are welcome, during which time bathing suits are compulsory). Double check these days and times by calling the Bath directly. A very unique aspect to this bath is the rooftop bath with unobstructed views of the Danube River.

Gellert Thermal Baths – Part of the Gellert Hotel on the Buda side, Gellert Thermal Baths opened in 1918 and has 5 indoor thermal baths, 1 indoor pool with an Art Nouveau Hall, a few outdoor pools including a wave pool in the summer months and a few more thermal baths. Again, make sure you bring your towel, sandals and swimming cap, these are definitely essentials when visiting the Thermal Baths in Budapest.

Palatinus Thermal Baths – Located on Margit-sziget (Margaret Island), within the park, it’s a beautiful setting. These were actually the first Thermal Baths in Budapest where you could bathe outdoors. These baths have 10 different pools including  giant slides and a wave pool in the summer. Great place for families visiting Budapest as Margit-sziget (Margaret Island) is a wonderful place to spend an afternoon. Take a bike ride around the island from one of the bike rental stands and enjoy the beautiful gardens as you enjoy this oasis in the center of Budapest.

Castle District (Buda)

A beautiful district on the Buda side (West side) of the Danube River which includes Buda Hill and where the Buda Castle is located. There are a few ways to get to the top. If you start at the Chain Bridge, you will see a funicular that can take you to the top, the lines during the summer can be quite long and the ride up isn’t cheap. If you walk along the road (Lanchid Road) to the Castle Gardens, you’ll find a free escalator that will take you up to a quieter area of Buda Castle. The other option is to take a left at the funicular and walk up Hunyadi Janos Avenue up to Fisherman’s Bastion then walk over to the Castle from there. You can also take the metro to Szell Kalman, station on the Buda side, transfer here to a “Castle Bus” which will take you up the hill into the Buda Castle area.

The Buda Castle District is so beautiful and really a great place to wander. I actually did an Urban Adventures tour called the “Total Budapest Discovery Tour” which is a blend of their “Buda Castle Explorer” and a local tour on the Pest side in the afternoon ending at a Cuzraszda for coffee and cake.

The Royal Palace (Buda Castle) is now the Hungarian National Gallery, I was able to explore the outside of Buda Castle, however did not have time this last trip to explore the inside of the now gallery.

Exploring Pest

Head over to Pest from Buda using the popular Szechenyi “Chain” Bridge, then take a stroll up the Danube River bank to the Parliament building. Along the way, pay your respects at the memorial called “Shoes on the Danube Bank”. In World War II, 3,500 people, including 800 Jewish people were lined up along the banks of the Danube River at this spot, ordered to take off their shoes, then were unfortunately shot into the river. It’s a very powerful, sculptural memorial. 

Once at the Parliament if you do decide to go in Hungary’s largest building built in 1902, don’t miss taking a peek at the Crown of St. Stephen. Once you’ve had a history lesson there, go back to the center of Pest and explore the St. Stephen’s Basilica. The Basilica was completed in 1905, the views from the top of the dome are stunning and can be reached there by a lift and stairs, which offers an amazing view of the city.

There are other points of interest such as the Great Synagogue (which is the largest Synagogue outside of New York City), House of Terror (my Grandfather was unfortunately interrogated in this building), the Budapest Opera House, Heroes Square and City Park.

What ever you choose to do in Budapest, there are so many interesting things to do and see, even if it’s just to sit outside, order a coffee or a glass of wine with a cake at a Cukraszda and watch the world go by.

Wine Regions Near Budapest

Budapest has some amazing wine regions located very close by which can make great half day or full day trips outside the city. I did an afternoon tour to Etyek, about a 45 minute drive outside the city and visited three unique wineries. Etyek is a climate where white and rose wines thrive. The vineyards in the Etyek-Buda region are graced with rolling hills layered with natural limestone and rich soils. Long ago, a family from the Champagne region of France settled here because the Etyek-Buda area closely resembled “home”. After the Turks were expelled in the 18th century, German wine growers were also invited to settle in this area which makes for a vibrant and eclectic history of the wineries. There were at one point over 1000 wineries in the Etkey-Buda region alone, now there are approximately 125 wineries operating, some of which are run by vintners under the age of 35.

I honestly LOVED visiting Budapest. I hope you found this guide to be helpful with some useful recommendations. If you’re looking for help planning your next vacation to Budapest, I’d love to help you out and be your personal travel advisor. Please click here to connect with me.

If you have any other questions about Budapest, please don’t hesitate to contact me or connect with me on Instagram.

Until next time! Safe travels friends xoxo

Ariane

PS – Did you enjoy reading this travel guide? Please consider joining my Wanderlust Journey Community as a Patron supporter. For less than the cost of a cup of coffee per month (my community membership tiers start at $2 per month), you can help support me create more content! Click here for more details.

Ep. 5 Surviving the Holiday Travel Season

Aloha from The Big Island of Hawai’i! Today on the podcast I’m chatting about Holiday Season travel tips.

I’m diving into my own recent flight woes and how to prepare yourself and your family for a busy travel season. Stresses are high and tempers are short, but there are ways you can alleviate some anxieties while travelling during the Christmas Holidays.

Here is the link to find out your rights when it comes to compensation from the airlines due to delays, cancellations, etc with flights departing to, from and within Canada: https://otc-cta.gc.ca/eng/air-passenger-protection-regulations-highlights

To listen to this episode of the Wanderlust Journey Travel Podcast or past episodes, visit one of these links (click on which platform you use to listen):

Let me know what you thought of the episode on Instagram! Find me @WanderlustJourney.ca Share a screenshot of you enjoying the episode to your Instagram and Facebook with your instant thoughts! Also be sure to subscribe which ever platform you use listen to your podcasts (Apple Podcasts, Google Play, Spotify, Anchor, etc), leave a five star rating and review.

Thanks again for listening, as always if you’d like to get in touch to be a guest on my podcast or to give an idea on an upcoming episode topic, please contact me.

PS – Did you enjoy reading this blog post? Please consider joining my Wanderlust Journey Community as a Patron supporter. For less than the cost of a cup of coffee per month (my community membership tiers start at $2 per month), you can help support me create more content! Click here for more details.

Ep. 4 Travel Safety Tips and Tricks with David

I chat again with a really good friend David about travel safety tips and tricks. We chat about muggings, natural disasters and travel scams we’ve seen on our travels and how to do your best to prepare yourself. Knowledge and preparation empowers you to be a more confident traveller.

The Government of Canada has a great travel information website: https://www.travel.gc.ca On this website you can find travel warnings, safety information, visa entry requirements and health information.

Follow David on Instagram at @attraversiamoinsieme

To listen to this episode of the Wanderlust Journey Travel Podcast or past episodes, visit one of these links (click on which platform you use to listen):

Let me know what you thought of the episode on Instagram! Find me @WanderlustJourney.ca Share a screenshot of you enjoying the episode to your Instagram and Facebook with your instant thoughts! Also be sure to subscribe which ever platform you use listen to your podcasts (Apple Podcasts, Google Play, Spotify, Anchor, etc), leave a five star rating and review.

Thanks again for listening, as always if you’d like to get in touch to be a guest on my podcast or to give an idea on an upcoming episode topic, please contact me.

Ep. 3 Solo Travel Questions Answered

In this episode I’m solo answering some solo travel questions that I received through Instagram and Facebook.

I answer questions such as “Isn’t is weird to eat alone?” to “Do you find it lonely travelling by yourself?”. I discuss why I personally love to travel solo to some of the challenges faced when travelling alone. The biggest takeaway is that solo travel should not hold you back! It’s so rewarding if you’re prepared.

A great resource for cruising (especially if your travelling alone) is Cruise Critic, you can join roll calls for cruises you are travelling on, etc – https://boards.cruisecritic.com

The Government of Canada has a great travel information website: https://www.travel.gc.ca On this website you can find travel warnings, safety information, visa entry requirements and health information.

Some of the apps that I use when I travel are: Google Translate (make sure to download the languages so you can use while off data, etc), Google Maps/Streetview, WhatsApp/Facebook Messenger (to stay connected to home), Airline apps (Air Canada, WestJet, etc, whomever I am flying as some planes don’t have in seat entertainment, they require that you have the app to watch movies, etc), Various Hotel apps (Marriott Bonvoy, etc), the Weather Network (to get up to date weather information to plan your days) and of course Uber/Lyft.

To listen to this episode of the Wanderlust Journey Travel Podcast or past episodes, visit one of these links (click on which platform you use to listen):

Let me know what you thought of the episode on Instagram! Find me @WanderlustJourney.ca Share a screenshot of you enjoying the episode to your Instagram and Facebook with your instant thoughts! Also be sure to subscribe which ever platform you use listen to your podcasts (Apple Podcasts, Google Play, Spotify, Anchor, etc), leave a five star rating and review.

Thanks again for listening, as always if you’d like to get in touch to be a guest on my podcast or to give an idea on an upcoming episode topic, please contact me.

Ep. 2 Talking Travel Anxieties with David

I chat with a really good friend David about travel anxieties that we’ve experienced with planning our last trips to Brazil and Italy. We also cover anxieties in the airport, flying and once you arrive in a new destination. We share our tips and tricks to help you prepare and manage stress while travelling.

For information on what you can and can’t bring through security check points in your carry on or personal item, visit the CATSA website: https://www.catsa-acsta.gc.ca/en

Did you know YVR (the Vancouver International Airport) has a “quiet area” to meditate and relax prior to your flight: http://www.yvr.ca/en/passengers/navigate-yvr/quiet-area

YVR also has some great Autism Travel Resources found here for families: http://www.yvr.ca/en/passengers/navigate-yvr/accessibility-at-yvr/autism-travel-resources

A great app for travelling (or just even for relaxation at home after work, etc) is the Calm app. You can find it in your Apple App Store, Google Play or where ever you download your apps.

Follow David on Instagram at @attraversiamoinsieme

To listen to this episode of the Wanderlust Journey Travel Podcast or past episodes, visit one of these links (click on which platform you use to listen):

Let me know what you thought of the episode on Instagram! Find me @WanderlustJourney.ca Share a screenshot of you enjoying the episode to your Instagram and Facebook with your instant thoughts! Also be sure to subscribe which ever platform you use listen to your podcasts (Apple Podcasts, Google Play, Spotify, Anchor, etc), leave a five star rating and review.

Thanks again for listening, as always if you’d like to get in touch to be a guest on my podcast or to give an idea on an upcoming episode topic, please contact me.