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The Inspector calls at the ‘perfectly placed’ Kimpton Charlotte Square hotel in Edinburgh… and vows to return

  • The hotel is located close to Rose Street, the Scottish capital’s famous pedestrianised road lined with pubs
  • The Inspector is impressed with his ‘classic double’ room, which is ‘spacious and generous’ 
  • A big selling point is the large spa in the basement, with a heated pool, gym and treatment rooms, he says

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Nothing quite compares with Edinburgh on a bright and frosty morning. And when staying at the Kimpton in the Georgian masterpiece that is Charlotte Square, you’re in the perfect position to admire its wonders.

Prince Albert sits on a bronze horse in the middle of the square (are his days numbered?); next door is Rose Street, the famous pedestrianised road lined with pubs, and walk 100 yards down to Princes Street and the mighty castle looms above you.

A couple of bicycles stand in the lobby of the hotel along with just enough tartan to get the Scottish message across without overdoing it. 

The Inspector checked in to the Kimpton, which is located in Edinburgh's Georgian neighbourhood. Pictured is the hotel's striking exterior

The Inspector checked in to the Kimpton, which is located in Edinburgh’s Georgian neighbourhood. Pictured is the hotel’s striking exterior 

The reception area is the grandest part of what is seven interconnected, narrow townhouses.

From here, double doors lead to The Garden, an area covered in glass, which doesn’t quite feel like a garden, but there are plenty of places to sit and ponder — and breakfast is served here.

My ‘classic double’ is spacious and generous, helped by complimentary Mackie’s salt and vinegar crisps, a bag of freshly ground coffee and plenty of bottled water. The TV sits on an artist’s easel.

Breakfast is served in The Garden (above) where there are 'plenty of places to sit and ponder'

 Breakfast is served in The Garden (above) where there are ‘plenty of places to sit and ponder’

'The staff are unfailingly helpful and friendly,' says The Inspector. Pictured is one of the hotel's bedrooms

 ‘The staff are unfailingly helpful and friendly,’ says The Inspector. Pictured is one of the hotel’s bedrooms 

The hotel's large spa is a 'big selling point' as not many Edinburgh hotels offer this. Pictured is the heated pool and sauna

The hotel’s large spa is a ‘big selling point’ as not many Edinburgh hotels offer this. Pictured is the heated pool and sauna 

TRAVEL FACTS

Kimpton Charlotte Square, 38 Charlotte Square, Edinburgh, EH2 4HQ. Doubles from £151.  

For more information call 0131 240 5500 or visit kimptoncharlottesquare.com. 

Rating:

I’m determined to see the Scottish National Gallery’s annual January exhibition of 38 watercolours by Turner, which were donated in 1900 by the art collector Henry Vaughan. 

‘You must but you should also go to the National Portrait Gallery,’ says the receptionist. ‘I’ll book you in for tomorrow morning.’

A big selling point is the large spa in the basement, with a heated pool, gym and various treatment rooms. Not many Edinburgh hotels offer this.

I’m not convinced that Baba restaurant, serving mezze-style sharing plates of Middle-Eastern food, hits the right note in the centre of Edinburgh, but it’s buzzy — and the bar next door has a terrific line-up of single malt whiskies.

Breakfast in The Garden is a leisurely affair and the staff are unfailingly helpful and friendly. 

But I can’t linger too long because of my meeting with Turner at the National Gallery. 

Waiting to gain entry with me is a couple who were at the next door table at breakfast.

‘How did you like the hotel?’ I ask the man. ‘I liked it a lot and will go back,’ he says. Me, too.  

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Great British boltholes: Inside the Georgian haven tucked away in a beautiful corner of Scotland dubbed the country’s best-kept secret

  • The Mail on Sunday’s Keeba Critchlow checks into country house hotel Cavens, located on the Solway Firth
  • She says the hotel is geared towards ‘peace and relaxation’ and it ‘exudes country comfort and space’  
  • After a restful night’s sleep, she enjoys the full Scottish cooked breakfast featuring haggis (naturally)

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‘I spent my early years in her neighbourhood, and among her servants and tenants I know that she was detested with the most heartfelt cordiality.’

So wrote Scotland’s national poet, Robert Burns, of Mrs Mary Oswald, one of the original owners of Cavens Estate near Dumfries in the 18th Century.

Happily, the bard would surely offer much kinder words about the current proprietors, Angus and Jane Fordyce, who have run Cavens as a boutique country house hotel since 1999. Indeed, so hospitable are they as hosts that many guests have become regulars.

Georgian splendour: Cavens is a boutique country house hotel tucked away on the Solway Firth

Georgian splendour: Cavens is a boutique country house hotel tucked away on the Solway Firth

The Mail on Sunday's Keeba Critchlow says at Cavens you 'feel as if you're staying with friends'. Pictured is one of the cosy reception rooms

The Mail on Sunday’s Keeba Critchlow says at Cavens you ‘feel as if you’re staying with friends’. Pictured is one of the cosy reception rooms

The whitewashed Georgian haven, tucked away on the Solway Firth, exudes country comfort and space. Two airy reception rooms feature generously stuffed sofas and open fireplaces, and on warm days the adjoining terrace is a quiet spot from which take in the sweep of lawns and mature trees.

Everything at Cavens is geared towards peace and relaxation, and you’ll feel as if you’re staying with friends. Rooms are immaculately decorated and either ‘country’, which overlook the gardens, or ‘estate’, which are impressively large and somewhat more grand.

Guests book on a dinner, bed and breakfast basis and stays of more than one night are encouraged to properly unwind from the stresses of modern life.

Dinner is a three-course set menu, which changes daily using delicious local produce and is simply cooked by Angus to showcase their natural flavours. Expect hot smoked salmon on a bed of leaves from the garden with hollandaise and a poached egg; rib-eye steak with roasted rosemary potatoes and vegetables; and local cheese or lemon creme brulee to follow.

Cavens is a natural base for exploring Dumfries and Galloway, says Keeba. Pictured is the River Nith in Dumfries

Cavens is a natural base for exploring Dumfries and Galloway, says Keeba. Pictured is the River Nith in Dumfries 

The Solway Firth (above) is just a 30-minute walk from the house. This beautiful corner of Scotland is dubbed the country’s best-kept secret

The Solway Firth (above) is just a 30-minute walk from the house. This beautiful corner of Scotland is dubbed the country’s best-kept secret

TRAVEL FACTS 

Keeba Critchlow was a guest of Cavens, Dumfries. Dinner, bed and breakfast from £300 per room per night, based on a two-night stay with two sharing. The house opens on April 1 and closes in November. Cavens can be booked for exclusive use for £1,900 per night for up to ten guests in five bedrooms all year (cavens.com).

Make sure to accompany your meal with one of the impressive selection of wines available – the list far exceeds what you’d expect for such a small establishment, and the 18th Century wine cellar itself is well worth a visit.

After a good night’s rest in one of the six large bedrooms, a full Scottish cooked breakfast, featuring haggis (naturally), is the star of the breakfast menu. Alternative options include locally made granola and porridge, as well as the usual baked goods.

With roe deer and red squirrels among the regular visitors to the gardens and the Solway Firth just a 30-minute walk from the house, there is no need to travel far to experience this beautiful corner of Scotland, dubbed the country’s best-kept secret.

Yet Cavens is also a natural base for exploring Dumfries and Galloway. Twitchers will enjoy the offerings of RSPB Mersehead and WWT Caerlaverock, while the artistic hub of Kirkcudbright is less than an hour away.

Slightly further afield is Dumfries House, a country mansion boasting an unrivalled collection of Chippendale furniture which the Prince of Wales saved for the nation in 2007. 

A visit to the area would not be complete without paying tribute to Robert Burns, who spent his last years in Dumfries in a sandstone house now open to the public (by appointment only). 

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amazon fire tv stick 4k max review uk reach-review

Fire TV Stick 4K Max is a brilliant iteration on the winning formula we see across the Fire TV range (Image: AMAZON • EXPRESS NEWSPAPERS)

Don’t be fooled by its wordy product name, the Fire TV Stick 4K Max is devilishly simple. Like other gadgets in the Fire TV Stick line-up, this Amazon-designed gadget plugs directly into the HDMI port on your telly and unlocks a wealth of boxsets, blockbuster movies, sport fixtures, and games. If you don’t have a Smart TV, or find scrolling through apps is a little sluggish on your telly, this is a great way to boost your viewing at home. As you might expect from the inventor of the Echo, Amazon’s clever voice assistant Alexa plays a large role in the Fire TV Stick 4K Max and can be used to search for specific actors, directors, shows or films, as well as control any smart lighting in your home, change the thermostat, order takeaways, find the latest forecast, and more.

If you’re a newcomer to the Fire TV series or have an older device that’s due an upgrade, Fire TV Stick 4K Max could be a great option. Express.co.uk has been using the Fire TV Stick 4K Max for the last few weeks. Here’s our in-depth review…

Fire TV Stick 4K Max review: Price and Release Date

Amazon launched the Fire TV Stick 4K Max last year, so there’s no need to worry about pre-orders or any issues with stock. The streaming dongle is available to buy from Amazon (obviously) as well as a number of high street stores, including Argos, Currys, and John Lewis. Fire TV Stick 4K Max costs £54.99, however, during the Black Friday sales, Amazon did slash the price below £40 for the first time – so there are potential savings to be had if you keep your eyes peeled.

amazon fire tv stick 4k max review uk reach-review

The remote that arrives with the Fire TV Stick 4K Max boasts a dedicated Alexa button (Image: AMAZON )

Fire TV Stick 4K Max review: Design

The Fire TV Stick plugs directly into the HDMI port on the back of your telly and is powered by a nearby USB port on your TV or, if your model doesn’t have one – or you’re already using it for something else, Amazon includes a wall plug that lets you connect the gadget to the mains instead. It’s elegantly simple. For our money, the Fire TV Stick 4K Max looks a lot more secure plugged directly into the HDMI than the rival Chromecast with Google TV, which dangles from the same port – putting some force on the connector.

For most, once it has been installed into the back of the telly, you’ll never see the design of the Fire TV Stick 4K Max again. But those who travel a lot with work and want to make sure they’ve always got a constant stream of must-binge boxsets and games, the Fire TV Stick 4K Max is small enough to make for a great travel companion. At 108 x 30 x 14mm, it doesn’t take up any room in your luggage, but more importantly, Amazon has specifically considered this use-case and provides a software feature designed to help connect to finicky hotel Wi-Fi networks (that require you to input your room number, log in using a password scrawled on the back of your keycard by reception, or some other hoop to jump through…)

When it comes to crucial design, the remote control matters more than the Fire TV Stick 4K Max itself. After all, this is what you’ll be interacting with every day …and we’re happy to report that Amazon has nailed this aspect of its latest streaming dongle. If you’ve used the recent Fire TV Stick, Fire TV Stick 4K, or Fire TV Cube – you’ll be familiar with the design. But those who’ve only tried the entry-level Fire TV Stick Lite (£29.99) might not be aware of the extra functionality included with these pricier options.

The remote control, which has a trademark elongated design that makes it comfortable to hold, includes the usual directional pad to navigate around the menu, not to mention the standard fast-forward, rewind and play/pause buttons. However, the remote in the box with the Fire TV Stick 4K Max can double as a universal remote for your telly, so there’s a power button, mute, and volume rocker too. This’ll save you juggling between multiple remotes to change the volume on your soundbar, turn on the telly, or find the right HDMI input to watch the Fire TV Stick 4K Max.

Fire TV Stick 4K Max packs all of the functionality you’d get from an Amazon Echo, so you can ask Alexa to play songs, read out the latest headlines and forecast, order takeaways and taxis, and more

The Fire TV software does an incredible job of pairing with your TV to control these core functions. You’ll need to head to Settings and let the Fire TV Stick 4K Max know what brand of telly you’re using, and that’s it. You’ll be asked to try the volume buttons, while the device cycles through a number of the most common signals to try to synchronise with your model. The biggest brands – like Samsung, LG, Sony, Panasonic, Toshiba, Philips – are all supported.

At the top of the remote is the Alexa button, which is incredibly useful. Rather than arduously typing out the name of shows, actors, directors, sports teams and games using on-screen keyboards and the directional pad on the remote – you can simply hold down the Alexa button and say whatever you’re looking for out loud. If you’ve never used voice commands with your telly before, we admit, you will feel like a bit of a pillock of your first try. But trust us, voice search is an absolute revelation and makes finding everything faster and simpler.

On top of that, Fire TV Stick 4K Max packs all of the functionality you’d get from an Amazon Echo, so you can ask Alexa to play songs, read out the latest headlines and forecast, find out the answers to general knowledge queries, order takeaways and taxis, add items to your calendar, and so much more. If you’re got a good sound system connected to your telly, the ability to request songs with Alexa is brilliant.

If we had any nitpicks about the design of the Fire TV Stick 4K Max’s remote, it’s the preset buttons for Prime Video, Netflix, Disney+ and Amazon Music at the bottom. Sure, these can be a quick way to launch the app …but if these are your go-to streaming services, they’re already at the top of the Fire TV menu when the Fire TV Stick 4K Max starts up, so there’s little advantage to including these on the remote. Instead, they just feel like permanent advertising on your remote.

Fire TV Stick 4K Max review: Performance

Power is the main selling point of the Fire TV Stick 4K Max, compared with the other more affordable options available in the Fire TV line-up. “Dive into 4K Ultra HD cinematic entertainment with a new quad-core 1.8 GHz processor that brings a 40% more powerful experience compared to Fire TV Stick 4K, plus faster app starts and more fluid navigation while switching between apps and searching for content,” Amazon promises on the listing for its latest HDMI dongle.

In our time with the Fire TV Stick 4K Max, we never had any complaints about the amount of grunt under the bonnet.

Flicking around the menus, loading new boxsets, and installing apps all worked seamlessly and smoothly. But here’s the thing – that’s something we’ve come to expect with every entry in the Fire TV range. We’ve never unboxed one of these hugely-popular streaming devices from Amazon and found it struggle with the animations in the menu, streaming content in ultra-crisp resolutions, or slow to process a request to Alexa.

We’re not avid gamers on the Fire TV Stick platform, but if this is your primary way to play games, the 2GB of RAM (compared with 1.5GB in the standard Fire TV Stick 4K and 1GB in the standard Fire TV Stick and Fire TV Stick Lite) could make a substantive difference. The CPU, developed by Mediatek, is also a little faster.

The extra performance is more likely to come in handy for the longevity of the device. While we’ve never found any Fire TV Stick hardware to be slow during our initial testing, older devices do tend to slow down over time. We recently dust off the first Fire TV set-top box to support 4K Ultra HD, which launched in late 2015, and plugged it into the HDMI port …and woah, that thing really struggled with the animations, high-resolution artwork and apps found in the Fire TV operating system. Sure, it’s now over six years old, but that’s not an unreasonable amount of time to keep a Sky Q box around, right? And you’d still expect that to be able to quickly load the TV Guide, on-demand boxsets and more.

With any luck, the beefier processor found inside the Fire TV Stick 4K Max will extend the life of this streaming dongle so you don’t experience any slowdowns in the years to come, even as Amazon adds fancier graphics, new animations, and more demanding apps in its operating system updates.

Fire TV Stick 4K Max also arrives with support for Wi-Fi 6, which unlocks faster wireless speeds and more bandwidth to avoid congestion in busy households. Of course, to take advantage of this feature, you’ll need to have a router that’s kitted-out with support for Wi-Fi 6, not to mention download speeds that are speedy enough to warrant the new Wi-Fi standard. That said, even if you have a slower connection, Wi-Fi 6 is designed to better handle a huge number of devices, so you shouldn’t see buffering …even if there are multiple smartphones, laptops, games consoles, and tablets making video calls, video streaming, downloading updates… and more throughout the house while you’re trying to watch on the Fire TV Stick 4K Max. Provided that you’re not using an ageing Wi-Fi router sent from your internet provider years and years ago, Wi-Fi 6 support in this streaming dongle is a brilliant feature.

amazon fire tv stick 4k max review uk reach-review

When it comes to user interface design, there’s no denying that Fire TV is stunning (Image: AMAZON )

Fire TV Stick 4K Max review: Software

Fire TV OS, which is the operating system found on all Fire TV Stick hardware and Fire TV-powered Smart TVs, is gorgeous. For our money, it remains one of the best user interfaces on any streaming gadgets – easily beating Android TV and its lack of intelligent recommendations and the functional-but-bland grid of tiles found on Roku devices. Apple’s Apple TV app could claim the crown, but not every service available on an Apple TV set-top box support this feature… so you’re left jumping back to a grid of tiles to try to work out which streaming service owns the show you’re trying to watch.

Fire TV fills the screen with gorgeous, high-resolution artwork from shows and movies as you browse. There’s also brief descriptions and ratings from IMDB – so you don’t need to keep referring to your smartphone to find out whether the film you’re thinking of watching was savaged by critics or not. Hovering over the tile for a particular show or movie for longer than a few beats will start a trailer, so you can get a sneak peek without leaving the main menu.

It’s all incredibly streamlined. And best of all, the main menu populates with shows from Amazon’s Prime Video (obviously), Disney+, Netflix, BBC iPlayer, All4, and dozens of other popular streaming services. So there’s always a huge amount of choice. Shows you’re in the middle of watching appear in a carousel at the top of the menu, so you can quickly resume your latest binge-watch with a few quick clicks.

You’re also able to curate your own Watchlist of shows and films that have caught your eye that you’d like to get around to watching at some point. These can be from a variety of services, including Netflix, BBC iPlayer, ITV Hub, Amazon’s rental store, or its Prime Video subscription service, to name just a few.

As you watch on the Fire TV Stick 4K Max, Amazon will use your viewing habits to suggest similar shows and films that you might like. Not all of these are likely to be your new favourite boxset, but it can be a great way to find a new show you haven’t heard of from friends. This is especially useful if you subscribe to a few streaming services – each with a mammoth library with thousands of films and episodes to watch.

One of our favourite feature built into Fire TV OS is the ability to see a summary of all the actors in any given scene, the director of the episode or film, as well as the music playing in the background – or used in the soundtrack, by tapping a single button. Viewers can then play the song in its entirety, or click to see more from any of actors or the director.

Unfortunately, it’s only available in select shows and films from Amazon. So you won’t be able to check the soundtrack at the touch of a button if you’re watching something inside the Netflix app, but shows on other services will be suggested while checking a directors filmography, for example. Hopefully, other supported video on-demand services will adopt the technology in future, so there is a more cohesive experience between different Fire TV OS apps.

Our one complaint is that, while Fire TV OS supports a wide range of different services, there does seem to be a lot of Amazon-produced or Prime Video-exclusive shows that get top billing in the menu. Sure, some of these are definitely worth a watch. But others are not worth your time, and it seems unlikely the algorithms would be suggested them as our next favourite show if we were watching on a Chromecast with Google TV device, for example.

amazon fire tv stick 4k max review uk reach-review

If you’re looking for the ultimate Fire TV Stick, this is it (Image: AMAZON )

Fire TV Stick 4K Max review: Final Verdict

  • Pros: Support For Wi-Fi 6, Great Remote Control, Alexa Support Makes It Easy To Find New Shows, Fire TV OS Looks Superb
  • Cons: Much More Expensive Than Standard (And Excellent) Fire TV Stick, Fire TV OS Recommends A Lot Of Prime Video Shows

With the Fire TV Stick 4K Max, Amazon has crafted another incredibly solid streaming device. Its Fire TV software is stunning and brings together all of the streaming services, apps, and games you could possibly want to try on your telly. Alexa makes searching for shows, actors, and apps much faster than typing with the on-screen keyboard and those with smart lightbulbs at home or a Wi-Fi enabled thermostat will be able to crank-up the heating and dim the lights without moving from the sofa. Video footage from Ring doorbell cameras can also be viewed on the big screen if you really don’t want to interrupt your current binge-a-thon.

Fire TV Stick 4K Max might be the most powerful HDMI dongle in the line-up, but none of the other competitively-priced devices from Amazon feel sluggish. If you’ve got the kit at home to take advantage of the Wi-Fi 6 support in the Fire TV Stick 4K Max, which unlocks faster speeds and a more reliable connection, then that could be worth the upgrade.

This is an incredibly competent streaming gadget. And if you see the Fire TV Stick 4K Max at a discount – it’s a must-buy. At its usual price of £54.99, you have to be sure your usage will take advantage of the speedier processor, Wi-Fi 6 integration, and 4K Ultra HD capabilities (while Prime Video and Disney+ include this crisp picture quality as part of the standard membership, Netflix doesn’t – so you’ll need to make sure you’re paying for the correct subscription tier otherwise you won’t see a difference no matter what device you’re using to watch your favourite show) in order to justify its slightly higher price tag.




The French abolished their monarchy in 1792 – but they certainly still know a thing or two about living like royalty.

A point underscored with aplomb by Hotel Splendide Royal Paris, which occupies a 19th-century mansion house a stone’s throw from the Champs-Elysees and President Macron’s Parisien home, the 365-room Elysee Palace.

Grand company. But the Splendide Royal holds its own. It only has 12 suites, a drawing room and a restaurant, but it’s exquisite – a pocket-palace.

Ted's accommodation at the Hotel Splendide Royal Paris was the Suite Elysee (pictured)

Ted’s accommodation at the Hotel Splendide Royal Paris was the Suite Elysee (pictured)

Ted describes the Suite Elysee as a '700-square-foot haven of hushed elegance, soothingly luxurious with regal flourishes'. Pictured is the suite's living room

Ted describes the Suite Elysee as a ‘700-square-foot haven of hushed elegance, soothingly luxurious with regal flourishes’. Pictured is the suite’s living room

Hotel Splendide Royal Paris, pictured, occupies a 19th-century mansion house a stone's throw from the Champs-Elysees and the 365-room Elysee Palace

Hotel Splendide Royal Paris, pictured, occupies a 19th-century mansion house a stone’s throw from the Champs-Elysees and the 365-room Elysee Palace

My partner and I, and our four-year-old daughter, spent the night in the fourth-floor Suite Elysee (room 401), which would get the royal seal of approval from King Louis XVI and any French monarch before him you care to mention.

It was a 700-square-foot haven of hushed elegance, soothingly luxurious with regal flourishes – think ornate lampshades, oil paintings and beautiful furniture embellishments – and hues that ebbed from white to cream to gold.

The first order of business was to soak it all in while reclining on the plush sofa in the living room and quaffing Champagne offered as part of the checking-in process.

This area contained a loo and a big wall-mounted TV, plus a kitchenette complete with a sink, microwave, Nespresso machine and fridge.

By the sofa was a mini wine fridge stocked with yet more Champagne and fine wines, including two classy Italian reds – Montepulciano and Barolo (70 and 100 euros respectively, though they retail for around £25 and £42).

The living room contained a loo and a big wall-mounted TV, plus a kitchenette complete with a sink, microwave, Nespresso coffee machine and fridge

The living room contained a loo and a big wall-mounted TV, plus a kitchenette complete with a sink, microwave, Nespresso coffee machine and fridge

Marble-ous: This image shows the dressing room area, which leads through to an opulent en-suite

Marble-ous: This image shows the dressing room area, which leads through to an opulent en-suite 

The marble-clad en-suite bathroom has Lorenzo Villoresi toiletries, marshmallow-soft robes, a double sink, a (most invigorating) separate shower (rain plus hose) and another separate loo

The marble-clad en-suite bathroom has Lorenzo Villoresi toiletries, marshmallow-soft robes, a double sink, a (most invigorating) separate shower (rain plus hose) and another separate loo

Ted says his room 'would get the royal seal of approval from King Louis XVI and any French monarch before him'

Ted says his room ‘would get the royal seal of approval from King Louis XVI and any French monarch before him’

The adjoining bedroom housed a mammoth bed smothered in fine linens and to the left a dressing room with double wardrobes leading to a marble-clad en-suite bathroom with Lorenzo Villoresi toiletries, marshmallow-soft robes, a double sink, a (most invigorating) separate shower (rain plus hose) and another separate loo.

In many ways, a pocket-palace within a pocket-palace.

What’s more, the Wi-Fi for the room was in a class of its own – all we had to do was select ‘Wi-Fi Room 401’ for instantaneous access to a full-fat turbo-charged signal. No sign-in. No password.

Ted's summation of his quarters? 'A pocket-palace within a pocket-palace'

Ted’s summation of his quarters? ‘A pocket-palace within a pocket-palace’

Pictured here is Hotel Splendide Royal Paris's Italian restaurant, Tosca. This is also the venue for breakfast

Pictured here is Hotel Splendide Royal Paris’s Italian restaurant, Tosca. This is also the venue for breakfast

Downstairs is the hotel’s renowned Italian restaurant – Tosca. Sadly, it was shut when we visited for the night, but we did get to ensconce ourselves in the sumptuous venue for breakfast, which was a joy.

Pain au chocolat and croissants were offered from a basket and as I sipped a superbly smooth coffee I perused the menu, which explained the provenance of the fare on offer.

The bread and pastries come from a local Parisian baker, the jams are by Lise Bienaime at La Chambre aux Confitures, the tea by Dammann Freres (King Louis XIV, I learn, granted Sir Damame the ‘exclusive privilege’ to sell tea in France in 1692). And the milk? That’s from the Laiterie cooperative de Verneuil courtesy of cows raised on the pastures of the ‘beautiful Touraine region’. 

Ted describes the staff at the hotel as having impeccable manners. Pictured here is the 'refined' drawing room

Ted describes the staff at the hotel as having impeccable manners. Pictured here is the ‘refined’ drawing room

The Wi-Fi at the hotel, raves Ted, is 'in a class of its own'. In his room no sign in or password was needed. Pictured is the drawing room

The Wi-Fi at the hotel, raves Ted, is ‘in a class of its own’. In his room no sign in or password was needed. Pictured is the drawing room

Rooms at Hotel Splendide Royal Paris cost from £520 a night for a Junior Suite Saint Honoré

Rooms at Hotel Splendide Royal Paris cost from £520 a night for a Junior Suite Saint Honoré

Mouthwatering: A dish served at Tosca

Mouthwatering: A dish served at Tosca

Quality produce – and I can vouch for the cheese omelette whipped up by the chef, too. 

The service, meanwhile, was faultless – our waitress and waiter impeccably polite. Young, but their manners were from another era.

The reception staff, too, displayed old-school courtesy, standing up behind the desk when making conversation and helping to make this fine-tuned hotel impossible not to fall for.

Splendide-ly royal indeed. 

TRAVEL FACTS 

Ted was hosted by Hotel Splendide Royal Paris, 18 Rue du Cirque, where rooms cost from £520 a night for a Junior Suite Saint Honoré for two adults. Rooms can be booked via Booking.com.

Rating:

Eurostar operates from London St Pancras International to Paris Gare Du Nord. The fastest London-Paris journey time is 2hr 15 minutes. Tickets are available from www.eurostar.com. 

Blacklane Chauffeurs

Ted used the superb Blacklane chauffeur service to get to St Pancras International. It has a brilliantly user-friendly booking system and operates in more than 200 cities around the world. Visit www.blacklane.com/en.  

Echo Show 15 review

Amazon Echo Show 15 review (Image: AMAZON)

If you fancy an Echo with a screen you’re not exactly spoilt for choice right now. The online retailer has an extensive range of display-packed devices including the cute Echo Show 5 and bizarre Echo Show 10 which follows you around the room like an overly excited puppy. Now there’s another new Echo Show joining the ranks and this time it’s gone supersized. The Show 15 arrives packing a giant 15.6-inch full HD screen and a design that’s been created to make it look just like a picture.

The concept is pretty simple with Amazon wanting customers to stick this device to their walls and use it as an interactive photo frame. It’s a really neat idea but does it actually work and is it worth the whopping £240 asking price?

Express.co.uk has been putting the Echo Show 15 through its paces and here’s what we think of it.

Echo Show 15 review:

Right out of the box Amazon has made things super simple to set up and install. Switch the speaker on, link it to your Amazon account and you’ll be barking orders at the ever-helpful Alexa assistant in a matter of minutes. It’s so super easy that even the biggest technophobes shouldn’t have any issues getting things up and running.

As we mentioned earlier, the Show 15 has been designed to cling to your walls with Amazon including everything you need to keep it firmly in place.

Amazon Echo Show 15

Amazon Echo Show 15 review (Image: AMAZON)

You’re going to need some basic DIY skills and a drill to get it installed but we found it all pretty easy with the supplied mount making sure the screen stays securely positioned in place. One thing to note is that this device needs power from the mains so you will end up with a cable dangling down from underneath the frame which does slightly spoil the appearance.

Amazon also only supplies this device with around a metre of lead so make sure you place the Show 15 close enough to the power sockets otherwise you’ll need to add an extension cable to your shopping basket which costs around £13.

If you don’t want the Show 15 drilled into your freshly painted plasterboard then you can also mount it on stand although this isn’t included in the box and will set you back another £30.

Once things are all set up the Show 15 is pretty useful as it not only does all the usual things such as setting timers, showing weather conditions and the day’s news but you can also pack the large display with a bunch of widgets to help guide you through the day.

There are Sticky Notes, To-do Lists, Shopping Lists, Calendars and Alexa Tips. You can also see the day’s weather, recent music playlists plus there’s quick access to all of your favourite smart home gadgets such as light bulbs and thermostats.

Amazon Echo Show 15

The Echo Show 15 is designed to look just like a picture frame (Image: AMAZON)

Glancing at the screen and seeing all of this information makes it ideal for busy homes and should mean nobody forgets to take the dog for a walk or buy some milk from the local shop. To make things more personal, the Show 15 can also be switched into a photo frame mode which will then display all of your family albums – it’s a really nice touch.

There are also stunning landscape images pre-installed on the Show which will certainly brighten up a dull corner of your room.

Another great feature of that 15.6-inch screen is that you can watch TV on it thanks to compatibility with services such as Netflix, YouTube and Prime Video. Just ask Alexa to launch these servcies and the display will spring into action and soon be full of things to view.

It’s all good stuff although, sadly, there are still quite a few platforms that don’t work with Echo Show devices including Disney+ and BBC’s iPlayer. The Echo Show 15 feels like the first screen that could really take advantage of these hugely popular video players and the missing content is something Amazon really needs to fix.

That lack of Disney and BBC shows isn’t our only gripe as there are some other niggles to be aware of.

Amazon Echo Show 15

Along with wall mounting it you can buy a stand to place the screen on (Image: AMAZON)

Firstly, although the screen is bright, colours do appear a little dull and there’s no way to boost the contrast or make things more punchy.

Then there’s the pretty terrible sound. Amazon’s design team has popped the speakers on the back of the device and, if mounted on the wall, the audio becomes really muffled.

If you’re simply using the Show 15 as a big screen this won’t be a concern but it’s pretty annoying if you’re hoping to listen to music all day or settle down for a blockbuster Netflix binge.

Then there are those useful widgets. All the pre-installed options are great but Amazon could definitely do with including more third-party services. Latest action from BBC Sport, access to your Facebook feed or a glance at Google Maps would all be welcomed although we doubt they will ever make an appearance on this device.

It would also be nice if you could change the size and shape of the widgets as they currently sit in a grid that can’t be customised. That means you can’t slap a Sticky Note over everything to remind you of an event or make a shopping list more visible on the screen.

It’s a real shame and it’s something the team at Amazon might want to address in future updates.

One final thing that’s pretty annoying is the speed of the screen. Swipes and taps seem to constantly stutter and it always feels one step behind your finger. The experience is definitely not as slick as other Echo devices we’ve used.

Amazon Echo Show 15

Amazon Echo Show 15 review (Image: AMAZON)

ECHO SHOW 15 VERDICT

PROS: Big screen is useful • Easy to set up and install • Alexa remains one of the best assistants
CONS: Very expensive • Sound quality is terrible • Needs more widgets and more ways to customise them • No Disney+ or iPlayer

The Echo Show is back and bigger than ever. This 15.6-inch device clips neatly to your walls and offers a fun and pretty useful way to use Alexa.

The large screen means you can pack it full of those widgets or use it as a way to binge on the odd boxset.

The fact it looks just like a photo frame means it won’t appear out of place even in the most style-conscious of homes and there’s the brilliant Alexa assistant who will answer pretty much anything you ask of it.

At over £230 it is pricey and we do have some niggles with the quality of the screen and dismal sound.

We also hope Amazon releases a software update that brings more ways to customise the screen and speed things up a little.

Despite those gripes, we like what Amazon has created and, with a few tweaks, we could see plenty of homes loving everything the Show 15 has to offer.


As Barbados celebrates the 55th anniversary of its independence and becomes the world’s newest republic, what better time to visit this beautiful Caribbean island.

Prince Charles attended the celebrations and hailed the creation of the republic a ‘new beginning’ for the island in November, with the Queen sending her ‘warmest good wishes’.

While my wife and I may not have been greeted with quite the same pomp and ceremony when we landed at Grantley Adams International Airport the week before, we certainly received the warmest of welcomes.

The Crane Resort, pictured, is the oldest continuously operating hotel in the Caribbean - it first opened its doors to guests in 1887

The Crane Resort, pictured, is the oldest continuously operating hotel in the Caribbean – it first opened its doors to guests in 1887

The resort is built on a clifftop with breathtaking views on the quieter south-eastern part of Barbados

The resort is built on a clifftop with breathtaking views on the quieter south-eastern part of Barbados

Prince Charles arriving at Grantley Adams International Airport in Barbados on November 28

Prince Charles arriving at Grantley Adams International Airport in Barbados on November 28 

It seemed fitting that at a time of historic change for Barbados we should be staying at the oldest continuously operating hotel in the Caribbean.

A convenient 15-minute drive from the airport on the quieter south-eastern part of the island, built on a clifftop with breathtaking views, The Crane Resort first opened its doors to guests in 1887. Encouraged by the arrival of the railway to Barbados, civil engineer Donald Simpson bought the area’s most prominent house, Marina Villa, added a few rooms and turned it into a hotel.

He called it Crane Beach Hotel, not after the statuesque feathered type, but because of a mechanical crane once situated adjacent to the hotel, used to load and unload cargo from the beach below.

Descending in the glass-walled cliff-side lift to one of the world’s most photographed beaches it’s hard to believe 200 years ago this was once a commercial port, the protective coral reef creating a natural harbour for smaller trading ships.

Merchants and plantation owners flocked from all over the island to the soft pink-tinted sands of Crane Beach for the magnificent views and the cool breeze that was conducive to doing business.

Ian describes Crane Beach, pictured above, as 'one of the world's most photographed beaches'

Ian describes Crane Beach, pictured above, as ‘one of the world’s most photographed beaches’ 

The resort was founded by civil engineer Donald Simpson, who bought Marina Villa and turned it into a hotel

The resort was founded by civil engineer Donald Simpson, who bought Marina Villa and turned it into a hotel

A room in a contemporary suite at the resort. Ian writes: 'In 1988 there were just 18 rooms, now there are 252'

A room in a contemporary suite at the resort. Ian writes: ‘In 1988 there were just 18 rooms, now there are 252’

Pictured is one of the pools in the resort. According to Ian, many residences and suites at the resort have ocean views and private pools

Pictured is one of the pools in the resort. According to Ian, many residences and suites at the resort have ocean views and private pools

Today those same views and wonderful breeze are conducive to a relaxing stroll along the sands and rum punch at the beach-side Coconut Grove bar and grill.

On top of the cliff are immaculate 40-acre grounds, most of which are accessible to guests via winding pathways and bridges over Koi ponds and the large pool complex with whirlpool, waterfall, wading pools and separate adults-only pool, leading to lawns, statues and benches and the original part of the hotel with its dark beams, coral stone walls and terracotta patios.

In 1988 there were just 18 rooms, now there are 252. Residences and suites all have patios, many have ocean views and private pools, and rooms are spacious with generous bathrooms, huge Jacuzzi-style baths and walk-in showers. And even the cheapest rooms provide well-equipped kitchenettes, while larger rooms have full kitchens with laundry facilities ideal for families. 

'On top of the cliff are immaculate 40-acre grounds, most of which are accessible to guests via winding pathways and bridges over Koi ponds and the large pool complex,' Ian writes

‘On top of the cliff are immaculate 40-acre grounds, most of which are accessible to guests via winding pathways and bridges over Koi ponds and the large pool complex,’ Ian writes 

The resort's residences boast marble floors and bathrooms, four-poster beds, teak shutters and sliding patio doors

The resort’s residences boast marble floors and bathrooms, four-poster beds, teak shutters and sliding patio doors 

The Crane is run as both a conventional hotel and timeshare complex, Ian reveals

The Crane is run as both a conventional hotel and timeshare complex, Ian reveals 

Ian observes that the 'well-proportioned accommodation' is decorated in a 'cool colonial style'

Ian observes that the ‘well-proportioned accommodation’ is decorated in a ‘cool colonial style’ 

Ian observes: 'The sheer size of the resort means it never feels crowded. Occupancy levels were at over 90 per cent but it felt like half that during our visit'

Ian observes: ‘The sheer size of the resort means it never feels crowded. Occupancy levels were at over 90 per cent but it felt like half that during our visit’ 

Marble floors and bathrooms, four-poster beds, teak shutters and sliding patio doors give a cool colonial style to the well-proportioned accommodation.

The Crane is run as both a conventional hotel and timeshare complex, with the apartment-style rooms and new residences available for ‘fractional ownership’, though there is absolutely no sales pressure on guests. 

The sheer size of the resort means it never feels crowded, occupancy levels were at over 90 per cent but it felt like half that during our visit with plenty of sun loungers available and space at the five restaurants, although it is advisable to book at Zen the Japanese-Thai-fusion eaterie that has been Zagat rated No.1 for food in Barbados for two years running. 

Ian recommends booking a table at Zen (pictured above) - a Japanese-Thai-fusion eaterie

Ian recommends booking a table at Zen (pictured above) – a Japanese-Thai-fusion eaterie

Zen, pictured, has been Zagat rated No.1 for food in Barbados for two years running

Zen, pictured, has been Zagat rated No.1 for food in Barbados for two years running

Entry is via a bridge over a Koi pond framed with water lilies and the dramatic monochrome interiors are dotted with Japanese artefacts, providing an ideal foil for the inspiring cuisine.

The Carriage House, formerly the old hotel stables, is now a lovely pool-side spot for lunch or early dinner and the lively Bar 1887 boasts tasty Bajan tapas along with inspired cocktails, live music and a popular happy hour.

D’Onofrio’s Trattoria serves excellent Italian food and is situated in the centre of Crane Village, a charming collection of painted clapboard buildings with overhangs and verandas housing a cafe, gym, general store, duty-free shop, jewellery store, art gallery, and gift shop.

Ian says that The Carriage House, pictured, is 'a lovely pool-side spot for lunch or early dinner'

Ian says that The Carriage House, pictured, is ‘a lovely pool-side spot for lunch or early dinner’

Crane Village, pictured, is a charming collection of painted clapboard buildings with overhangs and verandas

Crane Village, pictured, is a charming collection of painted clapboard buildings with overhangs and verandas

D'Onofrio's Trattoria serves excellent Italian food and is situated in the centre of Crane Village

D’Onofrio’s Trattoria serves excellent Italian food and is situated in the centre of Crane Village

Facilities also include tennis courts, a spa and children’s club.

Staff at The Crane are unfailingly cheerful and although there are some occasional inconsistencies in service there is a genuine will to ensure guest satisfaction.

Since a change of ownership in 1988, The Crane has continually evolved, adding more residences with luxuries such as rooftop pools and underground parking with private lifts into apartments. 

It is a resort that strives to find something for everyone and to that end its latest development, the Beach Houses at Culpepper, a 15-minute drive from The Crane, aims to appeal to guests looking for complete seclusion.

We were invited to experience the first phase of this development, launched in May, consisting of ten luxury single storey one to three-bedroom villas, which can be interconnected to sleep a maximum of eight people. These are the front row of a development that will eventually comprise 63 homes spread over 50 acres overlooking the rugged natural beauty of Skeete’s Bay and Culpepper Island.

Beach Houses by The Crane overlook the rugged natural beauty of Skeete's Bay (pictured) and Culpepper Island

Beach Houses by The Crane overlook the rugged natural beauty of Skeete’s Bay (pictured) and Culpepper Island

The villas have been designed to blend into the landscape with living roofs. Pictured is a view of the sea from the grounds

The villas have been designed to blend into the landscape with living roofs. Pictured is a view of the sea from the grounds

The villas have been designed to blend into the landscape with living roofs and with the ‘wow’ factor in mind. As soon as you open the door the eye is drawn to the turquoise of an infinity pool, framed by the deep blue of the Atlantic Ocean viewed through a glass wall of sliding patio doors. A private terrace stretches across the width of the villa, set with sun loungers, high–end patio furniture and can be fully enclosed by remote-controlled bug screens. 

The inviting interiors boast an open-plan kitchen and spacious living room with large ceiling fans, porcelain tiles, limewood flooring, and luxury natural stone-tiled bathrooms with indoor/outdoor showers and free-standing bathtubs. 

The fully equipped kitchen includes an oven, microwave, ceramic hob, dishwasher, laundry appliances and large fridge-freezer. Large comfortable ivory sofa beds can be used to accommodate extra guests and the villas have interconnecting doors to allow flexible accommodation for larger groups. The infinity pool design incorporates a separate whirlpool heated by solar energy and there is also a barbeque area.

Pictured is a bedroom in one of the villas. Ian admits: 'It was impossible not to be awed by the majesty of the ocean in such a glorious setting'

Pictured is a bedroom in one of the villas. Ian admits: ‘It was impossible not to be awed by the majesty of the ocean in such a glorious setting’

The inviting interiors boast luxury natural-stone-tiled bathrooms with indoor/outdoor showers and free-standing bathtubs

The inviting interiors boast luxury natural-stone-tiled bathrooms with indoor/outdoor showers and free-standing bathtubs

It was impossible not to be awed by the majesty of the ocean in such a glorious setting – watching the crashing waves glittering in the morning sun just yards away at the cliff edge felt like it could never get old, however for those craving civilisation a daily return trip to the resort is included along with breakfast.

Guests can order any meals from The Crane restaurants for an extra $15 Bajan delivery fee and there is a daily concierge to organise grocery supplies, although for families it is more cost-effective to use online ordering from the local supermarket, which also delivers to the villas.

The Concierge can also organise luxury extras such as private chefs and in-villa spa treatments.

Do bear in mind that the development is still under construction and rates are set to reflect this, however during our visit work was of the ‘small trade’ variety and ceased by late afternoon and at weekends.

'As soon as you open the door [of the villa, pictured] the eye is drawn to the turquoise of an infinity pool, framed by the deep blue of the Atlantic Ocean,' writes Ian

‘As soon as you open the door [of the villa, pictured] the eye is drawn to the turquoise of an infinity pool, framed by the deep blue of the Atlantic Ocean,’ writes Ian 

A dining table at one of the villas. Guests can order any meals from The Crane restaurants for an extra $15 Bajan delivery fee

A dining table at one of the villas. Guests can order any meals from The Crane restaurants for an extra $15 Bajan delivery fee

General Manager of 14 months Chris Forbes presides over this growing resort and could be forgiven for ‘touching wood’ when we met as he explained it was his first four consecutive months ‘without some sort of natural disaster’.

There was a fire at the hotel in February, a huge volcanic ash cloud in April from neighbouring St Vincent that deposited substances that took five weeks to clear out from buildings, pools and pathways; and hurricane damage in July. And on top of it all a pandemic to deal with. He praised his staff for their superhuman clean-up efforts and added, ‘I think everyone will be glad to see the back of 2021.’

Let’s hope the new beginnings Prince Charles spoke of see this iconic and beautiful resort go from strength to strength in 2022.  

TRAVEL FACTS 

The Crane Covid protocols

  • All guests required to wear wrist bands, colours denote quarantine/vaccination status and may indicate restricted access to certain areas
  • Touch-free sanitizing stations are placed in all public areas of the resort.
  • All staff wear masks
  • Guests required to wear masks when interacting with staff or other guests or when social distancing is not possible
  • Staff check temperatures of all arriving guests and when entering all restaurants using handheld temperature sensors
  • Enhanced cleaning and sanitizing throughout the resort
  • On-site Covid testing lab for convenient fast testing for travellers requiring test results to return home.

Room rates

Stay at The Crane Resort from £170 per night in a Junior Suite with Garden View, on a B&B basis.

Stay at Beach Houses by The Crane from £214 per night for a One Bedroom Villa, on a B&B basis.

For more information visit thecrane.com.  

Note: Beach Houses by The Crane is still in development. Current rates reflect that there will be some ongoing construction work in adjacent villas.

 


Ted is pictured here in one of the 'throne seats' on an Aer Lingus flight from Manchester to JFK Airport

Ted is pictured here in one of the ‘throne seats’ on an Aer Lingus flight from Manchester to JFK Airport 

A private jet from the UK to New York is a financially unobtainable luxury for most. But there is a much more affordable alternative – business class on an Aer Lingus single-aisle Airbus A321neo.

The aircraft recently made its debut on the Irish flag carrier’s new route between Manchester and New York and I was lucky enough to bag a seat on it in business class, discovering that it has a definite private jet vibe – as long as you don’t look behind the curtain into economy.

Snare, as I did, one of the coveted single ‘throne’ berths – they alternate with rows of paired seats – and the experience is elevated to feeling like royalty.

I didn’t feel so princely earlier in the day, though, when my pre-booked ‘executive’ Uber to London Euston (for a train to Manchester) from my flat in the south of the capital arrived at 4.45am for a 5am pick-up, then drove off at 5.01am as I descended the stairs to head out of the door, forcing me to catch a night bus (see boxout for more on this Uber drama).

Still, I arrived at Euston with enough time for a selfie by the concourse Christmas tree before catching the rapid 6.16am Avanti West Coast Pendolino to Manchester Piccadilly.

Fast forward to 9am and I was on an almost-empty train from Piccadilly to Manchester Airport. Fifteen minutes later, I was striding through the hub on the hunt for Terminal 2, where the transatlantic Aer Lingus flights depart.

I found the Aer Lingus check-in desks at the shinier end of the terminal, by rows of self-service screens.

The seats in the single-aisle Aer Lingus A321 business-class cabin are arranged in a 4-2-4 formation

The seats in the single-aisle Aer Lingus A321 business-class cabin are arranged in a 4-2-4 formation

Ted's Aer Lingus A321neo at Manchester Airport

Ted’s Aer Lingus A321neo at Manchester Airport

Here mild panic ensued when the chirpy check-in official asked me for my PCR test certificate. I’d taken an (accepted) antigen test.

He then admitted that he thought they were the same thing.

(I suggest some training on this matter.)

After enduring a tortuous hour-long queue at security (though staff thoughtfully fast-tracked passengers with imminent flights), I made my way to the new 1903 Lounge, which my business-class ticket granted me access to.

It impressed. It’s spacious with plenty of comfy seating, there’s a nicely presented buffet of hot and cold food – including cooked breakfast items and 1833 vintage reserve cheddar from Somerset-based Barber’s, the world’s oldest cheddar-makers – and various alcoholic libations are proffered via eye-catching circular self-service counters. 

The long-range Airbus A321neo has a 15 per cent reduction in fuel burn compared to a regular A321 and 16 fully lie-flat business-class seats (stock image)

The long-range Airbus A321neo has a 15 per cent reduction in fuel burn compared to a regular A321 and 16 fully lie-flat business-class seats (stock image)

The new 1903 Lounge at Manchester Airport, pictured, has floor-to-ceiling windows that afford glorious views of the Terminal 2 taxiway

The new 1903 Lounge at Manchester Airport, pictured, has floor-to-ceiling windows that afford glorious views of the Terminal 2 taxiway

The 1903 Lounge is named after the most important year in aviation history, when the Wright brothers cracked powered flight

The 1903 Lounge is named after the most important year in aviation history, when the Wright brothers cracked powered flight

The lounge is named in honour of the first-ever sustained powered flight on December 17, 1903, achieved by pioneering brothers Orville and Wilbur Wright.

Aviation technology has moved on a wee bit since then, as can be seen through the lounge’s floor-to-ceiling windows, which afford glorious views of the Terminal 2 taxiway and, to the far left, the runway.

I ensconced myself in one of the chic chairs arranged to face them and watched hi-tech A350s, A380s and Dreamliners trundling around – but my Aer Lingus A321neo remained tantalisingly hidden from view at an out-of-sight gate.

ON BOARD 

A plate of sausage, scrambled egg and beans later and I was gazing upon my ride to JFK – a brand-new state-of-the-art long-range Airbus A321neo, which has a 15 per cent reduction in fuel burn compared to a regular A321 and 16 fully lie-flat business-class seats.

I settled into my soothingly green aisle-access throne seat, narrowed my eyes and scanned for niggles.

Barely a blip.

There’s no in-vogue privacy screen, but no matter – the ergonomically designed seat wraps around and cocoons you very nicely indeed. I immediately felt snug and ready for a transatlantic trip to see how New York has been holding up.

Ted declares that his 'ergonomically designed seat [above] wraps around and cocoons you very nicely indeed'

Ted declares that his ‘ergonomically designed seat [above] wraps around and cocoons you very nicely indeed’

The seat's plug points and USB slot

The seat’s plug points and USB slot

It’s not the widest seat on the market but the dimensions were just fine for my 5ft 10in frame – and the legroom was ample. For even the loftiest of travellers.

There are bountiful options, meanwhile, for bespoke adjustments.  

A panel to my left by my elbow that needed a slight twist to access from the upright position had one-touch buttons for three modes – ‘upright’, ‘relax’ and ‘sleep’ – as well as lumber control, pressable up and down arrows for leg-rest manoeuvering, a massage button and an option for turning a mood light on and off.

For minimal hassle while reclined, the seat position can be altered using a separate panel further along the pod wall.

Being uncomfortable was never going to be on the agenda.

A picture taken as Ted's flight passes over Long Island on the descent into JFK Airport

A picture taken as Ted’s flight passes over Long Island on the descent into JFK Airport

Ted's starter for lunch - 'flavoursome prawns, Marie Rose sauce and sun-dried tomato'

The main - 'succulent roast Parmesan chicken breast with steamed spinach, carrots, baby potatoes and wild mushroom sauce'

LEFT: Ted’s starter for lunch – ‘flavoursome prawns, Marie Rose sauce and sun-dried tomato’. RIGHT: The main – ‘succulent roast Parmesan chicken breast with steamed spinach, carrots, baby potatoes and wild mushroom sauce’

This panel is at elbow height when in the upright position

This panel is handy for when the seat is reclined

These images show the control panels for adjusting the seat, with the panel on the left at elbow height when in the upright position and the panel on the right handy for when the seat is reclined 

It's not the widest seat on the market, says Ted, but the dimensions were fine for his 5ft 10in frame - and the legroom ample

It’s not the widest seat on the market, says Ted, but the dimensions were fine for his 5ft 10in frame – and the legroom ample

IS THE AER LINGUS BUSINESS CLASS CABIN A TWO-TIER OFFERING? 

There’s a definite difference between the solo ‘throne’ seats in the Aer Lingus business-class cabin and the paired seats, which have less storage and less privacy.

There is a big divider at head height, but whoever is sitting next to you will be able to see exactly which guilty pleasure movie you’re watching.

And, of course, whoever is by the window has no aisle access.

Having said that, they’re a better option for couples.

On my outward flight a pair of travellers who were split between a throne seat and an aisle seat asked a solo traveller by the window to swap so they could sit side by side.

Note – I didn’t sit in one of the paired seats so these remarks are based on (close) observation alone. 

There are plug points and a USB slot for charging phones and laptops and free Wi-Fi using a discount code the crew dish out that worked well (on the way out, my phone wouldn’t play ball on the way back).

Storage space is generous, with a little cupboard and water-bottle-sized tube to my left, a cubby hole by my right leg and a pull-down pocket in front of me underneath the (excellent) entertainment screen.

In addition, there’s a huge table to the right and a smaller one to the left. More than enough horizontal surface area for all your in-flight flotsam and jetsam – phone, tablet… Champagne glass.

Sadly, there were too many passengers filing through the plane as we boarded for the crew to deploy pre-flight bubbles (this is not a turning left business class), but once we were in the cruise, service got underway and I was, as during any premium cabin experience, unable to resist the fizz.

In this instance, it was a Duval-Leroy Champagne Brut Reserve (£35 retail) made from Pinot Noir, Meunier and Chardonnay grapes – and it’s a splendid taste-bud tickler. Refined, lightly citrusy and with a hint of roasted almonds on the palette.

The fizz stage was enhanced by accompanying pecorino, rosemary and seaweed ‘Drinks Biscuits’ by the Drinks Bakery, and onion jam. Delightful.

And so was everything else on the menu.

I loved the starter for lunch – flavoursome prawns, Marie Rose sauce and sun-dried tomato. The main was gratifying too – succulent roast Parmesan chicken breast with steamed spinach, carrots, baby potatoes and wild mushroom sauce.

And the raspberry and white chocolate cheesecake dessert was delectable.

Aer Lingus hadn’t finished feeding me just yet, though – a most inviting afternoon tea arrived about an hour before we landed. As we flew down America’s east coast I tucked into egg and rocket and roast beef sandwiches, plus a trio of delicious mini cakes – lemon and poppy, chocolate opera and Raspberry bakewell.

The only non-fizz beverage I tried was a Cotes-du-Rhone Domaine Clavel, a perfectly serviceable red – soft and fruity.

You might be forgiven for thinking I ate and drank my way through the entire flight.

Not quite true.

I spent a few minutes examining my amenity kit by Voya, which contained lip balm, hand cream, a toothbrush, ear plugs, a pen, flight socks, mints and an eye mask. Not the most luxurious of bags, but usefully re-useable.

The in-flight entertainment system, which fully works from gate to gate, occupied a bigger chunk of my time.

The afternoon tea of egg and rocket and roast beef sandwiches, plus a trio of delicious mini cakes – lemon and poppy, chocolate opera and Raspberry Bakewell

The afternoon tea of egg and rocket and roast beef sandwiches, plus a trio of delicious mini cakes – lemon and poppy, chocolate opera and Raspberry Bakewell

The Aer Lingus lounge by Gate 26 at JFK. Ted liked the raindrop-shaped lights and the grass-effect carpet

The Aer Lingus lounge by Gate 26 at JFK. Ted liked the raindrop-shaped lights and the grass-effect carpet

'There's a definite private jet vibe,' writes Ted, 'as long as you don't look behind the curtain into economy.' He snapped this picture just after he boarded at JFK for the flight home

‘There’s a definite private jet vibe,’ writes Ted, ‘as long as you don’t look behind the curtain into economy.’ He snapped this picture just after he boarded at JFK for the flight home

A salmon main on the flight back to Manchester, served with 'the freshest of fresh salads – plus strawberries'

A salmon main on the flight back to Manchester, served with ‘the freshest of fresh salads – plus strawberries’

Fresh fruit and a hot bacon roll with coffee 'proved a most satisfying breakfast'

The amenity kit, by Voya

LEFT: Fresh fruit and a hot bacon roll with coffee ‘proved a most satisfying breakfast’ RIGHT: The amenity kit, by Voya

The menu page for the mains and desserts

Ted enjoyed afternoon tea around an hour from New York

Pictured left are the options for mains and desserts. Ted enjoyed afternoon tea (right) around an hour from New York

Ted can vouch for the Cotes du Rhones from the red list

The white list offers libations from New Zealand and Spain

Ted can vouch for the Cotes du Rhones from the red list. The white list offers libations from New Zealand and Spain

TRAVEL FACTS 

Ted was hosted by Aer Lingus, which flies daily from Manchester to New York, JFK. Economy class fares start from £179 each way and business class fares start from £1,550 return, including taxes and charges. Visit aerlingus.com. 

Business-class throne seat verdict, including service, comfort and food: 

Rating:

Blacklane chauffeurs  

Ted used the superb Blacklane chauffeur service in New York to transport him between the airport and his hotel. It has a brilliantly user-friendly booking system and operates in more than 200 cities around the world. Visit www.blacklane.com/en.

New York hotel

Want somewhere supremely luxurious to stay? Ted checked into The Mark (review to come). Visit www.themarkhotel.com. 

Avanti West Coast

One-way fares London to Manchester from £35.90 (£108.80 first class), return from £71.80 (first from £217.60). For more information click here. 

Tests 

For all your antigen and PCR testing requirements visit Qured. See the FCDO website for the latest USA travel guidance.  

It was a joy to use – not the biggest in its class but big enough, super-clear and with an intuitive, easily reached touch-screen operating system.

The freebie headphones were one of the blips on the niggle radar – their sound quality was a bit average and they didn’t muffle the cabin noise terribly efficiently. 

Still, they were good enough to facilitate getting completely lost in a movie. Job done.

(Airlines generally seem to skimp on headphones, with American Airlines being one notable exception – its business class passengers get amazing Bang & Olufsen cans.)

There was no danger – at any point – of the crew becoming a blip. 

The pair that crewed the flight were top-notch – friendly, professional, very smartly turned out and eagle-eyed with the Champagne refills.

THE RETURN JOURNEY – AND THE VERDICT

Before boarding the red-eye return leg on the Air Lingus A321neo I popped into the carrier’s lounge, by gate 26, which is pleasingly secretive – beyond an easy-to-miss frosted door.

And inside it’s relaxing and stylish (I liked the raindrop-shaped lights and grass-effect carpet), but there isn’t much on offer by way of food, drinks or views.

There’s just one counter from which one can plunder (tiny) sandwiches, crisps, coffee and various alcoholic drinks.

Wonderfully, on board the aircraft, it was the crew from the flight over and the sky-high standards were maintained.

And this time, mercifully, pre-flight Champagne was dispatched.

Foodwise I thoroughly enjoyed a salmon main with the freshest of fresh salads – plus strawberries. 

And fresh fruit and hot bacon roll with coffee proved a most satisfying breakfast.

The only downside to the journey was that I barely slept a wink. 

The seat is supportive and comes with a soft, luxurious blanket and a plump pillow, but the time difference had wreaked havoc with my body clock and there were too many bumps courtesy of the jetstream for me to drop off.

But it didn’t prevent me concluding that the Aer Lingus A321neo ‘throne seat’ is a dreamy experience, all the more so given the aircraft’s single-aisle dimensions.

‘YOU DIDN’T ANSWER YOUR PHONE, SO I CANCELLED THE JOB’: THE PERILS OF BEGINNING YOUR JOURNEY WITH AN UBER (EVEN WHEN IT’S PRE-BOOKED WITH AN ‘EXECUTIVE’ DRIVER)

I fancied making my trip with Aer Lingus to New York fancy from start to finish, so I booked myself an ‘executive’ Uber to pick me up at 5am from my South London abode and take me to London Euston, for a first-class Avanti West Coast Pendolino ride to Manchester Piccadilly, on the 6.16am service.

I’d never booked an ‘executive’ Uber before, but I knew what to expect because I’d read about them on an Uber blog. And I was feeling smug.

The blog says: ‘To help deliver a consistent, quality service, all Exec drivers are expected to maintain a consistent driver rating of 4.9 or higher. Riders using Exec appreciate an elevated service that goes beyond a great car and impeccable manners, so we hope that as an Exec driver, you’ll deliver a service that exceeds rider expectations!’

I had extra peace of mind, because I’d pre-booked the Uber – a week in advance – which the company states would give me 15 minutes of wait time.

A driver had been assigned to the job, so all was well.

But all didn’t go well. At all.

Ted booked a so-called 'executive' Uber, but it left after a call to him from the driver at the pick-up time went unanswered

Ted booked a so-called ‘executive’ Uber, but it left after a call to him from the driver at the pick-up time went unanswered

My driver arrived at 4.45am, 15 minutes early. In a Mercedes-Benz. And he had a five-star rating.

A professional, clearly.

At 5am I was about ready to head out of the door and was doing final checks to ensure I had all my paperwork and so forth when I noticed my phone ringing. I didn’t get to it in time to answer. As it was an unrecognised mobile number I assumed it was the driver.

I didn’t call him back because I was seconds away from leaving my flat.

As I was turning the lights out, though, seconds later, I saw him moving off up the road.

Eh?

I rushed down the stairs with my packed bags and out into the middle of the road – this would be at 5.02 or 5.03am – and frantically waved at him. But he carried on going.

 I got to Euston in time for a selfie by the concourse Christmas tree before boarding the train thanks to the 484 bus to Camberwell, the 176 to Tottenham Court Road and the Northern Line. Thankfully, the drivers didn’t expect me to answer a call from them before letting me on

So then I tried to call the mobile number he used five times, at 5.04am and 5.05am, but I just got an automated text message from Uber telling me ‘sorry, we are not sure who you are trying to message, if you are trying to contact someone on an Uber trip, please ensure that you are sending this message from the phone number associated with your Uber account’.

Next? I ran up the road after him as he’d paused at the end of it.

When I caught up with him he lowered the window. I asked him where he was going.

‘You didn’t answer your phone, so I cancelled the job,’ he said.

I asked him what had happened to my wait time.

‘I waited ages,’ he said. ‘And look, it’s now 5.06am.’

I was supposed to get 15 minutes, not 30 seconds, and from the time I’d booked the job, not from the time he felt like turning up, and so at this point extreme exasperation overcame me.

I asked him if he was going to let me in the car as, ultimately, I had a plane to catch.

‘I’ve cancelled the job now,’ he said.

And with that I literally ran off to catch a night bus, screaming into the crisp chill air exactly what I thought of this driver…

I got to Euston in time for a selfie by the concourse Christmas tree before boarding the train thanks to the 484 bus to Camberwell, the 176 to Tottenham Court Road and the Northern Line. Thankfully, the drivers didn’t expect me to answer a call from them before letting me on.

While on the bus, incidentally, I got a message from another ‘executive’ driver telling me he’d been assigned the job. So apparently it hadn’t been cancelled after all. And as for the first driver’s five-star rating, there was nothing I could do to change that, as you can only rate drivers you’ve had a trip with.

Merry Christmas, Uber! 

An Uber spokesperson said: ‘We are very sorry for your experience. The service you describe is unacceptable and falls well below our usually high standards of customer service. We’ve credited your account with Uber credit in a gesture of good will.’ 

TfL, which licenses Uber, was approached for a comment, but it did not respond. 


Tripadvisor user @alessandrofL127YD has posted 358 reviews in 2021 so far, averaging a whisker over one a day.

That’s one of the many fascinating facts that the platform has revealed in its 2021 Year in Review, alongside many others, from the destinations that have seen surges in bookings and searches to the experiences travellers have been ‘obsessed’ with.

The hard graft of user @alessandrofL127YD at the typeface didn’t go unnoticed, with Tripadvisor revealing that their reviews received a whopping 26,259 upvotes from fellow travellers.

Punta Cana (pictured), Dominican Republic, saw a 96 per cent increase in searches compared to 2020

Punta Cana (pictured), Dominican Republic, saw a 96 per cent increase in searches compared to 2020

And the ranks of users on the site were swelled enormously, with 44million new travellers joining the Tripadvisor community in 2021 and 2.5million travellers posting a review for the first time this year.

Other new additions to the Tripadvisor mainframe included 309,270 new accommodations, 109,110 new experiences and 175,286 new restaurants.

And in all, more than seven million new ‘Trips’ (travel itineraries) were created. If you took a trip a day, it would take you more than 13,830 years to do them all.

Tripadvisor says: ‘The planning was endless, both the little escapes and the big occasions. Just ask the travellers who named their trips “Mom needs a getaway so no Momster comes out” and “Where is Alexis going to propose?”’ 

Tripadvisor reveals that travellers were definitely longing for sunshine this year.

Honolulu, Hawaii, saw 3.2 times more ‘Experiences’ booked than pre-pandemic; Cancun, Mexico, saw a 17 per cent increase in searches compared to 2020; Punta Cana, Dominican Republic, saw a 96 per cent increase in searches compared to 2020, and searches for Sharm El Sheikh, Egypt, more than doubled (106 per cent) compared to 2020.

Searches for Sharm El Sheikh (pictured), Egypt, more than doubled (106 per cent) compared to 2020

Searches for Sharm El Sheikh (pictured), Egypt, more than doubled (106 per cent) compared to 2020 

In addition to sunny destinations, travellers were desperate for outdoor experiences, Tripadvisor says.

Denver, Colorado, received 65 per cent more bookings in 2021 compared with 2019. The top experience there? ‘Hiking Adventure in Rocky Mountain National Park from Denver’.

Bookings for Sedona, Arizona, grew by 116 per cent compared to 2019, with ‘The Original Sedona UFO and Stargazing Night Tour’ the most popular experience.

There was a huge 313 per cent increase in bookings for Ontario, Canada, compared to 2019, with Tripadvisor revealing that the Niagara Falls Grand Helicopter Adventure has been the most-requested experience.

Moab in Utah has been popular, too, seeing a 53 per cent increase in bookings compared to 2019. The top experience there? ‘The Moab Xtreme 3-Hour Experience’.

There was a huge 313 per cent increase in bookings for Ontario (pictured), Canada

There was a huge 313 per cent increase in bookings for Ontario (pictured), Canada

Bookings for Sedona (pictured), Arizona, grew by 116 per cent compared to 2019, with ' The Original Sedona UFO and Stargazing Night Tour ' the most popular experience

Bookings for Sedona (pictured), Arizona, grew by 116 per cent compared to 2019, with ‘ The Original Sedona UFO and Stargazing Night Tour ‘ the most popular experience

Finally, La Fortuna de San Carlos, Costa Rica, received 152 per cent more bookings in 2021 than 2019, with the ‘Sloth Tour in La Fortuna’ the top experience.

Looking ahead, Tripadvisor says that there are over 66,000 Trips with ‘2022’ in the title already saved.

And looking back once more, Tripadvisor notes how travellers took the time to ‘appreciate each other and the interactions they did manage to have, whether virtually or in person’ – ‘thank you’ was mentioned over 41million times in reviews and forums this year. 


The Inspector calls at a hotel in horse-racing-mad Newmarket that’s leading from the front by some distance (in a weak field)

  • The Inspector checks in to Newmarket’s Bedford Lodge Hotel & Spa 
  • His room – one of 77 – is decorated with ‘dark furniture’ and ‘sumptuous pillows’
  • He spots a range of fancy cars parked outside the hotel – including a Rolls-Royce  
  • Remember, the Inspector pays his way… and tells it like it is










Given the money sloshing about in Newmarket, it’s surprising how few swish hotels there are in this horse racing-mad Suffolk town.

But leading from the front in an admittedly weak field — by some distance — is the Bedford Lodge Hotel & Spa, between Luca Cumani and Sheikh Mohammed’s Godolphin stables.

Originally built for the 6th Duke of Bedford in the 18th century, it has been a hotel since the 1940s and is clearly one that has morphed over the years.

The Bedford Lodge Hotel & Spa, pictured, has been a hotel since the 1940s

The Bedford Lodge Hotel & Spa, pictured, has been a hotel since the 1940s

Most of the 77 rooms at the hotel are off two long corridors to the back of the reception

Most of the 77 rooms at the hotel are off two long corridors to the back of the reception

You enter through grand gates that look as if they could have come from the set of Dynasty. Then a sweeping drive leads to a series of buildings lit up brashly — or at least, bright enough so that light bounces off a Bentley, an Aston Martin and a couple of Porsches.

We walk through the front door of the main house but no one is there. No great surprise. 

We’ve arrived at the wrong entrance — but we get to poke our noses into the Cambridge room, laid for a meeting. 

‘All rather corporate,’ says my wife. It is rather corporate but super-efficient. Order a taxi here and it arrives bang on time. Ask for a Bloody Mary and it comes swiftly, spiced to perfection.

In his room, the Inspector finds 'dark furniture, offset by a pale velvet headboard' and 'sumptuous pillows and duvets'

In his room, the Inspector finds ‘dark furniture, offset by a pale velvet headboard’ and ‘sumptuous pillows and duvets’ 

The view of Newmarket from Warren Hill (the area's highest point).  The Inspector describes the Suffolk town as 'horse racing-mad'

The view of Newmarket from Warren Hill (the area’s highest point).  The Inspector describes the Suffolk town as ‘horse racing-mad’

TRAVEL FACTS 

Bedford Lodge Hotel & Spa, Bury Road, Newmarket, Suffolk, CB8 7BX.

Doubles are priced from £118. 

For more information, call 01638 663175, or visit bedfordlodgehotel.co.uk.  

Rating:

 

Most of the 77 rooms are off two long corridors to the back of reception. Dark furniture, offset by a pale velvet headboard; sumptuous pillows and duvets; piping hot towel rail. There is a large pool, gym, sauna et al on the ground floor — not to be confused with the spa in a separate building within the grounds.

Most of the staff in the bar and restaurant area wear tweed waistcoats; all are friendly and engaged. Right now, there’s a special Christmas menu (£35 pp for two courses), including turkey with all the trimmings as a main course. We enjoy it — unlike the couple seated behind us, who have summoned the manager to complain about their chateaubriand. He invites one of them to leave the restaurant with him to discuss matters further.

The racing world wakes early. Breakfast starts at 6.30am. On leaving, I see the fancy cars from the night before have been joined by a Rolls-Royce. It’s that sort of place and explains why the price of rooms can double when a race meeting is on.  

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Travel writer Jo Kessel filmed the razzle dazzle aboard the Regal Princess, putting the ship’s ‘luxury’ bedding, mini-suite bathtub and giddying 16-deck-high glass walkway to the test. Her footage has the inside scoop on the ship’s entertainment and the best places to wine and dine on board. 

There’s an expectation of VIP treatment on a cruise ship with ‘Princess’ in its name – and I certainly got it on the Regal Princess. 

A video I shot of my mini-cruise from Southampton to Rotterdam on board the 3,500-passenger vessel starts by exploring the outdoor features, from multiple pools and hot tubs to an al fresco gym. 

Jo Kessel aboard the Regal Princess on a mini-cruise from Southampton to Rotterdam

Jo Kessel aboard the Regal Princess on a mini-cruise from Southampton to Rotterdam

There are umpteen ways to burn calories outside, including golf – although my swing would not have impressed Tiger Woods.

Moving on, I put some unique amenities to the test. 

First up: beds. Sleep’s key on holiday and American cruise line Princess has hired slumber experts to design the bespoke ‘Luxury Beds’ – available to purchase in the US if you fancy burning $1,700 (£1,250) on a mattress and $100 (£75) per pillow! 

Jo starts her trip by exploring the 3,500-passenger ship’s outdoor amenities, such as the hot tubs (pictured)

Jo starts her trip by exploring the 3,500-passenger ship’s outdoor amenities, such as the hot tubs (pictured)

The adults-only swimming area. Jo says that there are 'multiple pools' on board

The adults-only swimming area. Jo says that there are ‘multiple pools’ on board 

Jo takes to the ship's walking and jogging track. 'There are umpteen ways to burn calories outside,' she says

Jo takes to the ship’s walking and jogging track. ‘There are umpteen ways to burn calories outside,’ she says 

Jo enjoys a workout at the Regal Princess cruise ship's 'al fresco gym'

Jo enjoys a workout at the Regal Princess cruise ship’s ‘al fresco gym’ 

‘My swing would not have impressed Tiger Woods,’ Jo says, after her stint on the putting green

What did this travel writer make of hers? The mattress felt good, pillows and sheets too. Watch on for the verdict.

Mine’s normally a balcony stateroom, but this voyage saw me upgraded to a mini-suite. 

The footage highlights the perks of this accommodation, which includes extra space and two different types of bubbles. 

'The mattress felt good, pillows and sheets too,' Jo says of her bed. American cruise line Princess hired slumber experts to design the bespoke ‘Luxury Beds’, she reveals

‘The mattress felt good, pillows and sheets too,’ Jo says of her bed. American cruise line Princess hired slumber experts to design the bespoke ‘Luxury Beds’, she reveals

Jo usually opts for a balcony stateroom, but this voyage sees her upgraded to a mini-suite (pictured)

Jo usually opts for a balcony stateroom, but this voyage sees her upgraded to a mini-suite (pictured) 

'A mini-suite’s bathroom boasts a full-sized tub - a rarity on a cruise ship,' Jo writes

‘A mini-suite’s bathroom boasts a full-sized tub – a rarity on a cruise ship,’ Jo writes 

One’s a welcome bottle of champers; the other’s the soaking-in variety. A mini-suite’s bathroom boasts a full-sized tub – a rarity on a cruise ship. 

Cue lots of lazing in a bath filled with frothy foam.

Gone are room keys that resemble credit cards.

The main deck on the ship features a stage between two pools. In the evening it transforms into a fountain that stars in nightly sound and light shows

The main deck on the ship features a stage between two pools. In the evening it transforms into a fountain that stars in nightly sound and light shows

Jo brandishes her 'Medallion' - a touchless technology system that has multiple functions

Jo brandishes her ‘Medallion’ – a touchless technology system that has multiple functions 

Jo sips on a colourful cocktail beside the ship's main pool and cinema area

Jo sips on a colourful cocktail beside the ship’s main pool and cinema area 

REGAL PRINCESS BY THE NUMBERS

Regal Princess, built at the Fincantieri shipyard in Monfalcone, Italy, made her debut in 2014. She measures 217ft (66m) high, 1,083ft (330m) long and weighs 142,229 gross tonnes.

Guests can explore 19 decks, and the ship boasts more than 1,400 balconies. The ship can accommodate 3,560 guests and there are 1,346 international crew members onboard.

Instead Regal Princess pioneered the ‘Medallion’ – a touchless technology now rolled out fleet-wide. 

This is a 10p-sized disc worn as the pendant on a necklace or wristband and that performs multiple functions (all shown in the film) like opening cabin doors, paying for purchases and clocking on and off the ship. 

It’s the perfect, hands-free pandemic accessory.

Next up are a couple more exclusive-to-Princess offerings. 

The stage sandwiched between the top deck’s swimming pools transforms into a fountain that stars in nightly sound and light shows. 

Then there’s the ‘Sea Walk’ – a 16-deck-high glass walkway that cantilevers over the edge of the ship. 

Walking its length (seeing the sea beneath your feet) is giddying stuff. 

Fear sees many a passenger retreat after a couple of steps. 

The ‘Sea Walk’, pictured, is a 16-deck-high glass walkway that cantilevers over the edge of the ship

According to Jo, food is of a high standard throughout the Regal Princess

Don’t worry. The film shows there’s plenty of conventional entertainment too, from live music venues to a theatre that stages West End-style musicals to the spa.

Finally we see Regal’s cuisine.  

While food is of a high standard throughout the ship, my favourite dishes are Italian speciality restaurant Sabatini’s mushroom risotto and Crown Grill steakhouse’s filet mignon.

Jo relaxes in the ship's Lotus Spa. 'There’s an expectation of VIP treatment on a cruise ship with "Princess" in its name,' she says

Jo relaxes in the ship’s Lotus Spa. ‘There’s an expectation of VIP treatment on a cruise ship with “Princess” in its name,’ she says 

'I felt like royalty from start to finish,' Jo says of her trip aboard the Regal Princess. She's pictured here in the three-tier atrium, which 'bustles with bars and glitters like a tiara'

‘I felt like royalty from start to finish,’ Jo says of her trip aboard the Regal Princess. She’s pictured here in the three-tier atrium, which ‘bustles with bars and glitters like a tiara’

The video ends in the dazzling, three-tier atrium, which bustles with bars and glitters like a tiara. 

Did Regal Princess live up to its name? Actually, yes! I felt like royalty from start to finish. 

For more videos from Jo, visit her YouTube channel – Go With Jo

Regal Princess docked at Fort Lauderdale. The ship sets off on Caribbean cruises from the US port from November to April

Regal Princess docked at Fort Lauderdale. The ship sets off on Caribbean cruises from the US port from November to April

TRAVEL FACTS

November to April, Regal Princess sails Caribbean cruises from Fort Lauderdale in the US, returning to Europe for spring/summer 2022

A seven-night Mediterranean cruise with stops in France and Italy on Regal Princess departing Barcelona on Saturday Mar 26, 2022 costs from £489pp (the ‘Princess Fare’) or £699pp Princess Plus (an all-inclusive option adding drinks, Wi-Fi and ‘crew appreciation’). 

For more information visit princess.com.