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Stuart – Holland America Line Mexican Riviera Cruise

I just returned from a 7 night Mexican Riviera Cruise on Holland America from San Diego. And wow wow wow is all I can say.

Stuart Ingram

The 7 night itinerary has 3 days at sea and 3 days on land. Ports of call are Puerto Vallarta, Los Cabos/Cabo San Lucas/Mataclan. All very different and interesting places to see.

A great way to start or end your cruise is a stay at the US Grand Hotel San Diego staying on our Signature rate exclusive to Destination HQ.

There was a really good mix of guests onboard. Lots of USA families. HAL cater really well for kids with CLUB HAL and the kids all seemed to have a blast.

What is there to like about HAL?

  • great mid size ships (15 in the fleet) ranging from 800 to 2300 passengers
  • largest balcony cabins in their class
  • superb food
  • faultless service 
  • 6 different dining options to chose from and none ever seemed too busy 
  • HAL have aligned themselves with some really cool brands such as Americas Test Kitchen, BBC Earth, Billboard records. Makes for a really fun cruising experience.
  • The show each evening was a countdown of the Billboard record charts.

I have to say HAL does cruising so much better than many of their competitors – they have been doing it for 145 years and it shows. Service throughout was just faultless. Crew are all Indonesian or Philippino and deliver first class service at all times. I thoroughly recommend this cruise to anyone. I just loved every minute of it.

Stuart Ingram

Managing Director Destination HQ

Stuart was the winner of the NTIA award for Best Travel Agency Manager in Australia in 2017. Stuart has vast industry experience having worked in the airline, wholesale and retail travel agency sectors of the industry. Stuart loves to travel and to share his excitement and passion for travel with anyone he meets. Having travelled to Europe, Africa, Asia, South America, North America and throughout Australia/NZ, Stuart has a wealth of knowledge. His favourite destinations are London, Paris, San Francisco, New York City, Berlin, Tokyo, Hong Kong and the Maldives. He has also cruised with Oceania, Viking, Uniworld, Avalon, Seabourn, Silversea, Holland America, Windstar and Celebrity Cruises – just to name a few!

Contact Stuart to book your next holiday stuart@destinationhq.com.au

Sophie & Janelle – Anantara Maldives & Niyama Private Island Maldives

Our experience in the Maldives really lived up to our expectations. The water is next level amazing! All we can say is WOW! And if you haven’t been, you need to get there!!

Janelle & Sophie

ANANTARA MALDIVES

A 35 min speedboat from Male Airport will take you to Anantara Dhigu.  It is then also connected to both Anatara Veli (Adults only) & Naladhu Private Villas.

Anantara Dhigu is a small intimate island.

Beach villa: The beach villas have recently been refurbished, they are lovely!! They all have direct access to the beach. The beach is stunning and perfect for swimming in. You could easily spend an entire day on the beach and in the water! Some of the beach villas have private pools. If you are happy to pay the extra then you should go the plunge pool option.

Overwater bungalow: Wow! Just wow!! These are incredible. Perfect for a first time traveller to the Maldives. 

Anantara Dhigu is a great family option for younger families (a kids club is also available). We think families with teenagers would run out of things to do on a longer stay.

We loved the breakfast and had dinner at their signature restaurant Salt, Fire Grill which was delicious!!

  • Dolphin cruise (1hr) –  ($80USD per person). Certainly worth it! We saw so many dolphins!
  • The day spa on Dhigu is also incredible!!!!

Anantara Veli (adults only)

  • Connected to Dhigu by a small boat.
  • Veli is a great alternative if you want to get away from children. Veli guests can still enjoy Dhigu and adult guests from Dhigu can still go across to Veli.
  • Veli also has the overwater bungalows and beach bungalows, however we preferred the bungalows at Dhigu.
  • You can eat on both islands, which is good as the islands are small so you can mix it up. Veli had a really lovely feel and good ambiance.

Naddhu Private Island Villas (connected by to Veli by a private bridge)

  • These are huge! The villas are amazing, very very private. These are for the families or couples who literally do not want to see ANYONE. All villas have their own plunge pools and direct access to the beach, they also come with their own butler. No over water villas on this Island. Naddhu guests can go to Veli & Dhigu at any time, however Veli & Dhigu guests cannot go to Naddhu Villas.

It is a good option if you are wanting a very private stay – you literally do not need to leave the villa if you don’t want!

Anantara Dhigu in general was small and felt like a true island resort experience. Beaches are beautiful and the resort had a relaxed, homely atmosphere.

NIYAMA PRIVATE ISLAND

  • 35 min sea plane from Male.
  • There is also a domestic airport 5 minutes away by speedboat. Great option if you are uneasy on a seaplane.
  • 2 connected islands (CHILL & PLAY)

Deluxe Overwater villa:

  • Private pool, stunning bathroom! The toilet and shower are open to the elements and not ideal when it’s raining and windy
  • Rooms are spacious and certainly have the wow factor. All Villas come with their own butler and each person gets a bike to get around
  • Butlers take around in buggies if you don’t want ride your bike. They top up your fridge with free homemade ice-cream daily

Beach Bungalows:

  • Direct access to the beach and some with private pools.
  • Amazing outdoor bathrooms! I imagine it would be like showering in the jungle. Beach is great and swimmable.

Family villa:

  • Family villa has a separate family room attached – FITS A  FAMILY OF 5!!

Kids Club

  • Niyama is really catering towards the families. 
  • Kids club up to 11 yo. They also have a program for 12mth- 2years aprox 20usd per hour, capped at $100usd per day.
  • Teenagers have a ‘chill’ area with xbox, pool table, darts, movies.

Activities

  • Free snorkelling, paddle-boards & Kayaks. 
  • Surf break! There is a surf break off the island. You can go to ‘Surf Shack’ and have a drink while watching people surf. This part of the island feels more like Sorrento back beach than the Maldives. Which is pretty cool. Not what you expect when you go to the Maldives.
  • Resort is large, it was at 90% capacity and didn’t feel it.

Dining

  • Food was AMAZING!!
  • Tribal – African Cuisine, with a full Africa theme (even served by Africans) Best ribs I’ve ever had!!
  • Nest – Asian Cuisine. Nest is built into the trees. It is one of the most amazing restaurants I’ve been to. You are literally eating in the jungle, unfortunately pictures wouldn’t work as it was too dark. The food was delish too!!
  • Edge – Fine dining. Built on a pontoon. Also has an underwater restaurant and night club. We liked the other two better.
  • Breakfast – was good (but we preferred Anantara Dhigu)

Would highly recommend a ½ board option. If we were paying for our dinners they would have exceed $300usd per dinner (not including wine). We really stress the importance of a ½ board option.

RECAP Anantara Dhigu & Niyama

Dighu has a lovely relaxed feel. Small but didn’t feel too small. Good food & service. Overwater bungalows were amazing. Perfect for couples or young families. Perfect for a 5-7 night stay.

Niyama is a completely different concept. Bigger with more activities and restaurant options. Would be perfect for a 7 night stay. Catering to teenagers aswell as young families.

Beach villa Vs Overwater villa

Overwater villa is perfect for a first timer who really want that full experience. However in my opinion I think a beach villa is just as good. Its so nice to be able to walk out of your villa onto the stunning beach. So if your budget doesn’t stretch to  an overwater option, I would book a beach villa experience with confidence.

Sri Lankan Airlines

  • On way over we had the old A330. Like other reviews from my colleagues, the seats are uncomfortable.
  • On the way home we had the new A330. Seats were MUCH better! The plane also has WIFI and allows international roaming on your phone.
  • Entertainment was lacking and food was ok
  • Service was great

Maldives seasons:

Best time to travel:

  • December-March

Monsoon:

  • May – October

We had one day of rain ALL DAY, although we were happy to hangout in our villa, I can imagine if you had a week of rain it might ruin your experience.

Click to read more on when to go to the Maldives

Our experience in the Maldives really lived up to our expectations. The water is next level amazing! All I can say is WOW! And if you haven’t been, you need to get there!!!

Sophie Anderson

I began my career at 2010 after discovering my passion for travel while living and working in Canada for 2 years. Since then I have travelled to the USA, Mexico, Vietnam, Cambodia, Thailand, Hong Kong, Fiji, Croatia, Italy and New Zealand. I love to experience new things, learn about different cultures and, of course, taste food from around the world. Africa is also one of my favourite destinations I‘ve been to. I’m a Ski Expert and have travelled to Club Med Ski resorts in both France and Japan.

sophie@destinationhq.com.au


Janelle King


My love for travel developed from growing up in Hong Kong and Singapore – my Dad was based there as a pilot. I started working as a travel agent in the 1990’s and travelled extensively through Europe, and more recently through Asia with my young family. A family highlight was 4 weeks in America including Disneyworld and New York. My favourite cities are New York, Prague & Paris. My most amazing trips have been on safari in Kenya and visiting the amazing palaces in Russia. I travelled to Myanmar this year on a luxury cruise and tour which was amazing. My bucket list would be The Kimberley & Patagonia in Chile.

janelle@destinationhq.com.au

Niyama Overwater Villa

Vanessa – Luxury Cruising with Ponant

Vanessa Whittaker

I travelled to Bergen, Norway to board Ponant’s brand new vessel MS Le Champlain.  It is the newest vessel for Ponant and is a small luxury ship up to 184 passengers.

I absolutely loved the ship! It was not over the top, just the right amount of relaxed luxury, with a Scandinavian feel.

The food was excellent, French influenced, but plenty of choice if you preferred something else.

“As the only French cruise company, Ponant is an ambassador of the ‘French Touch’ around the world. With French crew, discreet service, refined cuisine and partners with excellent track records, we do our utmost to maintain our unique cruising philosophy.” – Ponant

The facilities were first class, heated outdoor pool, gorgeous sauna, fitness centre, yacht spa.

“Le Champlain has many common areas that are designed and equipped to meet all of your needs while preserving the intimacy of each passenger.” – Ponant

They have the first submarine lounge in the world – the Blue Eye which is fabulous and a unique feature. The Blue Eye lounge has 2 giant windows for viewing marine life. Sounds of marine animals will come through into the lounge as well! How cool….

The highlights for me were the destinations themselves and the scenery along the way which was absolutely breathtaking. I had so many WOW moments. Geiranger and the Briksdal Glacier were absolutely incredible.

About Vanessa

I started my career in travel in 2001. Some of my favourites places visited are Vietnam, Cambodia, Fiji , Bali, and the Greek Islands. I spent my honeymoon travelling through Vietnam and loved Hoi An a charming little town with a relaxed atmosphere and fabulous food. With two young children we enjoy family holidays in particular Bali and Fiji for the great weather, family friendly resorts and convenience of being not too far away!

E-Mail:  vanessa@destinationhq.com.au

Ponant Cruising Norway with Vanessa from Destination HQ

Ponant have designed itineraries that are rich in encounters and discovery. Vanessa was lucky enough to sail with Ponant onboard Le Champlain from Bergen, Norway. In this 3 night voyage her highlight was the breathtaking scenery that can only come when sailing on a smaller ship (184 passengers). French crew, expertise, attentive service, gastronomy; set sail in a five-star environment and enjoy a travel experience that is simultaneously authentic and sophisticated. #choosecruise #expedition #cruising CLIA Australasia

Posted by Destination HQ on Thursday, 25 October 2018