Month: August 2016

Travel Hacks: Cruise Ships

I am in no way an expert in planning for a cruise ship holiday, but after two trips, I can say that my experience was pretty consistent. So hopefully, sharing these travel hacks will help out future cruise ship travelers.
What to Expect

Traveling to different countries via cruise ship is definitely an experience in itself. It is a unique perspective because you get to see a country’s coastline, which you will never see up close if you travel by plane all the time. But, do not expect to be immersed in the culture of the country as typically, a cruise ship is docked in one country for just a day. In fact, most of the activities we attended were for half-day site-seeing. I liken traveling via cruise ship to a sample platter, giving you the highlights of the country you visit.

Bathroom Amenities

While your cabin is like a hotel room, it is in no way a five-star hotel. Most cabins are quite basic, and compact. You will have your soap, shampoo and lotion, but you probably won’t have other things like cotton buds, toothbrush and toothpaste. Best to bring your own so that you don’t spend too much in their indoor shopping area.

Laundry Room

Yes, I have always done laundry while onboard, and it’s not because I love to do laundry. It’s actually because I normally consume more clothes than I pack. When we have to dine in one of the more formal restaurants inside the ship, I have to change from my walking clothes to smart casual, and there are some nights where we even have to wear formal clothing. So, just in case you are like me, and you always make a wrong estimation of how many clothes to bring, just pack detergent soap because it is also an additional expense to buy it onboard.

Ship Activities

Cruise ships are perfect for people with kids. It is packed with kid-friendly places, where you can safely leave your kids in while you attend the other adult activities. Around night time, the cruise ship director will give you a list of the activities happening onboard, so just list down the activities you want to attend, or better yet, save it on your phones.

Sports

These cruise ships normally have a ton of exercise activities for all ages. Just don’t forget to bring your swim gear, gym clothes and proper shoes so that you can engage in these. Believe me, after all the eating you’re going to do onboard, you will need all the exercise that you can tolerate.    

Shopping

I definitely don’t recommend shopping in the cruise ship, unless you really, really want something that you can’t find elsewhere. If this is the case, don’t buy on the first few days either. Mid-trip, the cruise ship will have a big sale, so just wait for that. 

Random Stuff

Lanyard

Bring a lanyard so that you can safely hang your cruise card there. Every time you embark, you will need to whip out that card so best to have it on you at all times. Again, there are some for sale on the ship, but I can assure you that it will cost a bit more.

Water

Every time we go down a country, I buy bottled water. There is potable water onboard, but if you’re like me, and are a bit sensitive about the taste, best to have bottled water on hand. You can purchase onboard, but it costs around 3x more. 

Photos

You will get a lot of photos taken onboard and when you disembark. Be friendly with the photographers. They might give you free pix if you’re lucky! 

Finally, psyche yourself not to eat too much! Believe me, you’re not gonna walk that food off😅

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Escape to Caliraya

Escape to Caliraya

The gloomy weather these past few days has gotten me thinking about sunny vacations past.  How I wish I could have one more warm weekend to soak up the rays and blast those reggae tunes.

The good thing about living in Manila though, despite the current gloominess, is the accessible quick getaway spots.  If one gets lucky with a fine weather weekend, there are many places to fully take advantage of it.

One of such places I have discovered only recently is Caliraya Lake.  I have heard about Caliraya Lake a long time ago but I have not really made an effort to see it.  I’ve always harbored this misconception that the lake was where you would go if you weren’t close to the beach.  Living in the Philippines, a country blessed with a diversity of beaches, going to a lake was never an option for me.

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The lake can never beat the beach for me… but it is beautiful on its own nevertheless.  My June weekend in Eco-Saddle Resort in Caliraya Lake is testament to that.

Eco-Saddle is such a quaint resort nestled in a beautiful spot by the lake.

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The location had enough trees for shade and great views wherever one chooses to sit or lie down.

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What makes the place extra special is their floating cabin (which you can book for P5,000 a night for 4 people), complete with the usual amenities of a normal resort cabin plus more!

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The floating cabin comes with a full bath and kitchen.  So while you are floating away somewhere in the middle of the lake, you won’t worry about food or going to the toilet.

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Getting to Caliraya is easy enough.  We just Wazed it and got there in a little over 2 hours.  Not bad!  And there were interesting stops along the way too!  Case in point, this Filipino restaurant housed in a 100+ year old ancestral home.

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I will let the pictures speak for the lake and the trip.  So when the sun peaks out its golden head this weekend, all you need to say is “Let’s go!”

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Hokkaido Soft Serve Ice Cream

Summer is definitely here and what better way to enjoy it by eating Hokkaido’s finest soft serve ice cream! Hokkaido is famous worldwide for its rich and creamy dairy products and it doesn’t hurt that Hokkaido has wide variety of sites to visit. Spend a day (or ten!) going around Hokkaido to enjoy the food and the beautiful landscapes the place has to offer. It is hard to choose just one so here are the top three soft cream brands you should definitely try!

#1: Le Tao’s Soft Cream

LeTao Soft Cream

Le Tao is famous for their Double Fromage Cheesecake which is so heavenly and light that it feels like one is eating sweetened clouds. They have magically extended this magnificence to their soft ice cream offerings by serving vanilla, cheese and chocolate ice cream flavors. They’re so good that there is always a bee line in ALL their five (yes, 5!) stores in the short strip of Sakaimachi Street in Otaru.

Website: https://www.letao.jp/

Available brancheshttps://www.letao.jp/global/en/shop/

#2: Kinotoya Bake’s Soft Cream

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Famous for the cheese tarts, Kinotoya offers soft serve in cup or waffle cone—whichever you choose, you can not go wrong. The soft serve swirls so high they encourage you to use a spoon which they have graciously provided. You can find Kinotoya in Poletown before you head towards Odori Park.

Website: http://www.kinotoya.com/

Available brancheshttp://www.kinotoya.com/shop/list.html

#3: Ishiya’s Soft Cream

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Ishiya Chocolate Factory is the company that produces the famous Shiroi Koibito butter cookie. In Sapporo, you can enjoy the Shiroi Koibito Park that rivals Mr. Wonka’s. They have awesome hourly musical display, mini houses to get lost in, and photo perfect scenery for those precious selfies. More importantly, there are shops to try Ishiya’s marvelous desserts. The free area park has a kiosk for you to quickly get your soft serve fix. Their flavors vary depending on the season! Try the strawberry or melon flavor or be bold and try lavender!

Website: http://www.shiroikoibitopark.jp/english/

Accesshttp://www.shiroikoibitopark.jp/english/access/index.html

Extra: Cremia

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Technically not in Hokkaido, this brand by Nissei is the premium line that uses 25% fresh cream from Hokkaido and an amazingly high 12.5% milk fat versus the under 10% milk fat of normal soft serves. The cone is made out of lengue de chat (better known as thin butter cookie) making this ice cream supremely rich and utterly delicious. Make sure to go to the Narita Airport Domestic Terminal 3 Lounge Area early so you can eat this before you fly off to Hokkaido!

Websitehttps://www.nissei-com.co.jp/cremia/en/

Hurry off to Hokkaido and spend your summer holidays eating these delectable delights!  Don’t worry if you can’t find all these brands. Just stop by any shop which sells soft serve in Hokkaido and you’ll be sure that it taste better than any you’ve ever tried elsewhere.

Have a great summer 😀