Why You Would Love Small Ship River Cruising on the Nile

Why You Would Love Small Ship River Cruising on the Nile

Most people when they think of a Nile cruise immediately also think of Agatha Christie’s famous work, [easyazon_link identifier=”0062073559″ locale=”US” tag=”jg20-20″]Death on the Nile[/easyazon_link]. I can assure you that while my experience small ship river cruising on the Nile was exciting, it didn’t venture into murder and mayhem. My cruise on board the luxury small cruiser, the Oberoi Philae, was definitely on of the highlights of my time in Egypt.

Why You Would Love Small Ship River Cruising on the Nile

A Nile Cruise is a luxurious and relaxing way to sightsee in Egypt.

Confession:  I’ve never been on a cruise before experiencing small ship river cruising on the Nile. The thought of being on a floating city with thousands of other people eating too much and being entertained by shows just does not appeal.  I also get sea sick very easily. Short of having a huge upper cabin with a terrace for fresh air, I would likely spend most of my time just feeling queasy.

Small Ship River Cruising on the Nile

On the other hand, I loved my luxury river cruise on the Oberoi Philae.  Let me tell you why.

A Nile River Cruise is the most scenic way to travel between Luxor and Aswan.

For thousands of years, along the Nile River boats have crossed between the banks and people have lived a simple agricultural life (albeit nowadays with access to WiFi, trains, etc.)  Egypt, in the last 2500 years, has been invaded 27 times. Through it all, the Nile River and the life it gives has been the one constant in people’s lives.

Why You Would Love Small Ship River Cruising on the Nile

One of the many boats that criss-cross between the banks of the Nile.

Why You Would Love Small Ship River Cruising on the Nile

The fertile Nile Valley is perfect for agriculture.

A Nile River cruise is the most efficient use of time.

On the Oberoi Philae, you sail mostly in the evenings and arrive at your sightseeing destination in the morning, rested and refreshed. Even when you are travelling during a portion of the day, you see daily life unfold in front of you.  So you are sightseeing without having to lift a finger.

Why You Would Love Small Ship River Cruising on the Nile

Sunrise over the Nile is a magnificent site.

Why You Would Love Small Ship River Cruising on the Nile

The monuments are amazing to behold in person.

There is opportunity for luxury and relaxation on board the ship.

My room was enormous thanks to a recent refurbishment of the Oberoi Philae. Originally set up to have 50 cabins, after the renovation there are only 22 cabins and 4 suites on board the Philae.  The rooms spacious enough to hide out in all day if you wish to be anti-social.  You can check out the interiors of the Oberoi Philae and its sister ship the Oberoi Zahra in this article.

Why You Would Love Small Ship River Cruising on the Nile

The swimming pool is temperature controlled as well.

The swimming pool on the top deck is a perfect place to relax and soak in the scenery and sun. All the common areas are spacious and provide plenty of opportunities for you to mix with other passengers to the extent you want.

All the tours are arranged for you.

The Oberoi staff arrange for all the sightseeing trips to and from the boat. It’s all seamlessly handled. Our Egyptologist, Tarek, was very knowledgeable and happy to answer questions.

Why You Would Love Small Ship River Cruising on the Nile

Tarek leading us on a tour of the monuments.

The Oberoi ships have private docking arrangements along the Nile. This ease of access makes this an ideal arrangement for people with mobility issues. On board the Oberoi ships, there is an elevator which can take you to all the levels you need.

It feels the same as staying at one of the Oberoi’s 5 star hotels.

The food and service are just as excellent as you would expect from the Oberoi hotels. The Oberoi Philae had a rooftop dining area near the pool excellent for lunches, an interior dining area for breakfast and dinner and a bar/lounge area for pre and post dinner relaxation.

Why You Would Love Small Ship River Cruising on the Nile

The outdoor dining area is on the top deck.

In addition to the pool, the Oberoi Philae has its own gym as well as a spa with trained aestheticians. After a day of walking around hot and dusty Ancient Egyptian monuments, I was very glad for the massage I had.

Why You Would Love Small Ship River Cruising on the Nile

A gym with a view on board the Oberoi small ship cruiser

I thought the food was excellent. The cuisine was a combination of international flavours. We had European dishes, Middle Eastern dishes and (thanks to the Oberoi’s Indian heritage) Indian dishes.

You can choose different lengths of cruising.

I know what you are thinking – couldn’t I just do the day tour on the Nile from Cairo? No, it’s not the same. We passed some of the day trippers and those boats did not look comfortable. With uncomfortable barely-shaded seats with lots of people packed on board like sardines, your experience will be very different from mine.

Why You Would Love Small Ship River Cruising on the Nile

A day trip small ship cruiser on the Nile. There’s no comparison with an Oberoi Nile cruise.

You can check out the itineraries for the Philae on the Oberoi website. Even the shorter 4 day Nile cruise between Luxor and Aswan that I took covers all of the major sights. For example, we visited the Karnak and Luxor temples, the Valley of the Kings, the temple of Horace at Edfu, the house of Howard Carter and the Philae Temple.

Why You Would Love Small Ship River Cruising on the Nile

The Oberoi Philae is a large ship for a limited number of people.

The Philae’s sister ship, the Oberoi Zahra has a slightly different itinerary between Luxor and Aswan which accommodates either a 8 days/7  nights tour or a 6 days/5 nights tour.

With all these choices, you should be able to find a Nile cruise that slots easily into your Egypt tour.

Why You Would Love Small Ship River Cruising on the Nile

Why You Would Love Small Ship River Cruising on the Nile

Know Before You Go

I’m still not a believer in taking one of those large ocean liners. The Egypt cruise though? I would definitely do that again.

I travelled to Egypt as a guest of Cyplon Holidays. Four or six day cruises of the Nile River on the Oberoi Philae include visits to the temples with an Egyptologist and full board. You can also take a longer cruise on the Oberoi Zahra with the exact same amenities. Flights to Luxor and returning from Aswan can be booked via EgyptAir. For more information on Egypt, visit the Egyptian Tourism Authority’s website.

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Five Reasons You Should Take A Family Holiday to Dubai

Five Reasons You Should Take A Family Holiday to Dubai

Living in England, somewhere over the winter period I feel the need to get away for some much-needed sunshine and warmth. We’ve been to several winter sun destinations over the past few years including Dubai, Abu Dhabi, Tenerife and Egypt . My main requirement for a winter sun holiday is that it is hassle-free and have guaranteed sunshine. Of these places, my favourite winter sun destination with the children is Dubai. Here are my five reasons you should take a family holiday to Dubai if you are chasing winter sunshine.

5 reasons to take a family holiday to Dubai for winter sun

Why you should consider Dubai beach holidays for winter sun

An Easy Destination

First and foremost, the weather is guaranteed sunshine.  In addition, there are many flights to Dubai from all over the world.  Dubai is served by two Emirati airlines, Emirates and Etihad, who are both on a push to increase their range of flights.  Getting around Dubai is easy, too because taxis are plentiful and cheap.

5 reasons to take a family holiday to Dubai for winter sun

The Dubai marina is full of expensive boats.

Choice of Accommodation

Accommodation in Dubai ranges from the extraordinary 7 star Burj al-Arab to your standard range of hotels on the 1-5 star range.  You also have holiday apartments, suites hotels, Airbnb etc.  It’s easy to find something that suits all sorts of visitors from celebrities who want their every whim satisfied to people looking for cheap holidays in the sun.

5 reasons to take a family holiday to Dubai for winter sun

The sail-shaped Burj Al-Arab, the world’s only 7 star hotel, is an architectural marvel.

If you are not a planner, this extensive range of accommodation, means that you can leave booking until late and still have a good range of options.  Dubai’s popularity means it is also popular with tour operators. You can get some great deals to Dubai if you look around.

Family-Friendly Activities

You have a choice of water parks to keep you cool, including Atlantis Aquaventure and Wild Wadi Water Park. We stayed at the Atlantis Hotel and so we were able to nip and out of Aquaventure every day.  Staying at the Burj Al-Arab gives you free entry into the Wild Wadi Water Park.

Similar to the Disney concept, Dubai Parks and Resorts has four theme parks and a hotel within it.  Legoland, Motionland and Bollywood Park are already opened and the Legoland Water Park is under construction.

Dubai beach holidays wouldn’t be the same without time spent on the beach. Kite Beach and Jumeirah Beach are very user friendly.  There are nearby food trucks to keep hunger at bay and you can rent water sports equipment like stand up paddle boards at the beach.

5 reasons to take a family holiday to Dubai for winter sun

Hanging out on Jumeirah beach.

If you haven’t had your fill of sand, then head out into the desert for camel rides, dune bashing or even camping.

Many Restaurant Options

You can find pretty much any type of food in Dubai thanks to the city’s international population. If you are looking for cheap holiday options, you can eat in the food courts at one of the malls. As you would expect, the malls have an extensive choice of restaurants.

Friday and Saturday mornings are devoted to decadent brunches at the big hotels.  These brunch spreads are extensive buffets heaped with food of all types. They make the famous Las Vegas hotel buffets look like a Denny’s spread. The variety also extends to the types of cuisine served – Indian, Sushi, Rotisserie, Seafood – all in one ginormous hotel buffet.  The dessert buffet is likewise a diabetic’s delight.  My children were big fans of the chocolate fountains where they could dip marshmallows and fruit.

5 reasons to take a family holiday to Dubai for winter sun

The cheese selection at the Saturday brunch at Grosvenor House Hotel.

You also have lots of big-name chefs from all over the world opening restaurants in Dubai.  On one trip, we stayed at the Grosvenor House Hotel which has a great choice of restaurants.  The hotel’s restaurants included an outpost of the Buddha Bar, Indego by Michelin-starred British chef, Vineet Batia and Toro Toro by Latin American chef Richard Sandoval. One of the hotel restaurants at The Atlantis is Nobu. Like in Las Vegas, getting into one of these outposts of famous restaurants is much easier than trying to make a reservation at the main restaurant in London or elsewhere.

5 reasons to take a family holiday to Dubai for winter sun

The terrace at the Siddhartha Lounge by Buddha Bar provides a relaxing hangout for sundowners.

Experiences Like Nothing Else

Dubai is full of superlatives.  The amount of money in this little city is staggering. Some examples:

  • Where else can you go skiing in the desert? Ski Dubai is an indoor ski park located in the Mall of the Emirates.  Its got assorted ski runs, toboggan runs and sledding and even ski gear you can rent.
  • The Dubai Mall is the largest mall in the world with so much going on that you may not even find the time to shop.  Other than the 1000+ stores, you also have an indoor amusement park (Sega Republic) and the ever-popular kiddie city play area, KidZania.  Did I mention there is also the Dubai Aquarium and an ice rink?
  • The Dubai Miracle Garden is the world’s largest natural garden.  Yes, in the desert, it truly is a miracle to have 45 million flowers blooming where plants should don’t occur in nature.
  • The Palm Islands are a Dubai megaproject which just boggles the mind.  The best way to see the scale of this man-made colossus is from the air – perhaps with Skydive Dubai.
  • Check out the Burj Khalifa which is the tallest tower in the world.  Every evening the tower and the surrounding fountains put on a magical light show.
5 reasons to take a family holiday to Dubai for winter sun

Beach holidays to Dubai involve more than the beach!

Dubai does have its share of criticism, for example, that it is soulless and lacking in culture. The opening of the Dubai Opera House near the Burj Khalifa addressed some of the criticism about missing cultural pursuits. I think if you are looking for these things, there are other places in the world that are better suited to you.  On the other hand, if you want an easy sun, fun and beach vacation, a family holiday to Dubai is one of the best options available to you.

If you have been to Dubai, do you have any other reasons you can add to this list?

Practical Info To Know Before You Go

We have stayed at both the Atlantis Resort and Grosvenor House Hotel in Dubai.  Although both are 5 star hotels, they are quite different from each other.  If you would like to look at other hotels that members of the Just Go Places community have recommended, you will find them on our Favourite Hotels List.

Atlantis Resort versus Grosvenor House Hotel

Atlantis Resort is obviously  more family friendly.  Grosvenor House does have an arrangement with its sister property Royal Meridien nearby which has pools for the family.  There is a regular shuttle bus that runs between the two hotels.  I would classify the pool at the Royal Meridien as fine.

The Atlantis Resort has more traditional decor and larger. Situated on the Palm Island, you are a bit stuck out at Atlantis.  It does have lots of kids’ facilities and a beach. Grosvenor House is more contemporary in style and is located in Dubai Marina.  You can walk around the Marina in the evening and there are restaurants close to hand as well as a wider array of restaurants in the hotel itself.

I would choose Atlantis with younger children because you really don’t want to drag them on a shuttle bus to get to the pool. If you have kids you will know that invariably someone has forgotten something back in the room!

Grosvenor House does have suite facilities so it’s quite easy to make food in your kitchenette. I can truthfully say that we never did. With the ease of taxis and the plethora of restaurants chances are that cooking in the suite is the last thing on your mind.

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Is Brunch in the Clouds at the St. Regis the Best Brunch in Abu Dhabi?

Is Brunch in the Clouds at the St. Regis the Best Brunch in Abu Dhabi?

Today we have a review from our occasional contributor/expat at large, Dianna, on the Brunch in the Clouds at the St. Regis Hotel in Abu Dhabi that she experienced last month.  Read on and see if you agree with her that it’s the best brunch in Abu Dhabi.

My review in a word:  Amazing. I’ve done a lot of awesome things in my time living in the Middle East, but Brunch in the Clouds at the St. Regis Abu Dhabi took the brunch concept to a whole another level. After years of hardcore brunching, I can totally say with complete expertise that Brunch in the Clouds is the best brunch in Abu Dhabi.

Best Brunch in Abu Dhabi at The Brunch in the Clouds St Regis Abu Dhabi

You could have fed a small army at this brunch.

Where is the Brunch in the Clouds?

Brunch in the Clouds is held in the suspended suite between the two towers that make up the St. Regis Abu Dhabi.  The St. Regis Abu Dhabi is located on the Corniche with fabulous views overlooking the gulf.  The suite is a duplex on the 48th and 49th floors. It’s the highest suspended suite in the world at 220 metres at sea level. With a total capacity for 50 people, it is held on the last Friday of each month.

Best Brunch in Abu Dhabi at The Brunch in the Clouds St Regis Abu Dhabi

The view from the Brunch in the Clouds

Why Is It The Best Brunch in Abu Dhabi?

The luxe experience starts when your very own butler whisks you up your private elevator up to the suite. You get a quick tour so you know where things are.

The Suite

You can continue to explore the 12,000 s.f. suite during the brunch.  Wow!  The suite is 3 bedrooms and 4 and 1/2 bathrooms and staff quarters. The pace was so big I realised I never got around to seeing the master bedroom. What I didn’t expect?  The cinema, the bar, the spa, the jazz band serenade etc.

Best Brunch in Abu Dhabi at The Brunch in the Clouds St Regis Abu Dhabi

The cinema room also doubled as the candy room – multitasking at is best.

Best Brunch in Abu Dhabi at The Brunch in the Clouds St Regis Abu Dhabi

You could stop off for a romantic bath mid-brunch if you so wished.

The table is exquisitely set with fresh flowers, crystal, china and silverware. Delicious food and champagne. And, the views over the city and the Gulf are to die for! The whole thing is a delightful extravagance which can only happen in the Middle East.

Best Brunch in Abu Dhabi at The Brunch in the Clouds St Regis Abu Dhabi

I didn’t even know where to start with all these desserts to pick from.

The Spread

During the brunch, you have chef stations serving up food, a cocktail bar, candy in the cinema room, a cheese and desert room, a caviar bar and an oyster room.  If you are feeling too content to get up and go to the buffet, there is also waiter service that brings around other (different) main courses to you at your table. It’s the best of both worlds – a buffet where no one is judging how  much you take and the lazy person’s beautifully plated dishes.

Best Brunch in Abu Dhabi at The Brunch in the Clouds St Regis Abu Dhabi

Please sir… may I have some more?

Obviously you need great food to make Brunch in the Clouds the best brunch in Abu Dhabi. I felt though the fabulous spread was just an additional bonus to all the extras provided. I mean, of course, the food was great.

Best Brunch in Abu Dhabi at The Brunch in the Clouds St Regis Abu Dhabi

Cocktails anyone?

Best Brunch in Abu Dhabi at The Brunch in the Clouds St Regis Abu Dhabi

The stairs up to the master bedroom suite. Can you believe I didn’t even make it up there?

Best Brunch in Abu Dhabi at The Brunch in the Clouds St Regis Abu Dhabi

A gin trolley because … why not?

Spa Treatments and Other Extras

In between courses, you can step out for a manicure and a massage in the private spa room. The therapists are from the St. Regis Spa downstairs.


Best Brunch in Abu Dhabi at The Brunch in the Clouds St Regis Abu Dhabi

The brunch massages were conducted by the St. Regis spa staff.

Best Brunch in Abu Dhabi at The Brunch in the Clouds St Regis Abu Dhabi

This room is where we had our manicures during brunch.

Practical Information For Brunch in the Clouds

Brunch in the Clouds started in April 2016 and has been so popular it already has a 6 month waiting list.  I never plan anything that far in advance but I got lucky on the Friday before Christmas.  It’s always worth a try if you are in Abu Dhabi.

Best Brunch in Abu Dhabi at The Brunch in the Clouds St Regis Abu Dhabi

When the setting is this fabulous, even the best brunch spread takes second place.

Unfortunately, no kids are allowed in the Brunch in the Clouds experience.  The prices are pretty reasonable for all that you get – AED 500 (approximately $136) or AED 750 (approximately $200).  The brunch lasts a leisurely 5 hours from noon until 5 pm.  Where else can you take a nap in the middle of your brunch??

I loved the suite so much that I bought a night in the suite at an auction 😂 Yikes. I have 6 months to use it and might throw a party for my birthday. The suite typically costs $30,000 per night. I paid a lot less and the money goes to charity (UNICEF). I consider that a win/win. Besides, I’ve got to get back to see that master suite! I’ve heard the walk-in closet is amazing.

Brunch in the Clouds is available at the St. Regis Abu Dhabi.  Make sure it is the one at the Corniche and not the one at Saadiyat Island because there are 2 St. Regis hotels in Abu Dhabi.

This article contains affiliate links about which you may find more at the Disclosure Policy.

Visiting Castello di Amorosa, A Family Friendly Vineyard in Napa Valley

Visiting Castello di Amorosa, A Family Friendly Vineyard in Napa Valley

The view from the parapet of the neat lines of grape-festooned vines under a pale blue sky could easily fool you into thinking you were in Tuscany. If you look closer though, there were tell-tale touches to remind you that you were in the Napa Valley of California.  Perhaps I noted that the lines of the vines were just too precise or the cypress trees were too well-clipped. Most tellingly, the castle and the grounds were lacking a certain amount of benign grime and neglect that rural Tuscany has never managed to shed.  Although we were visiting Northern California with kids, we had a fabulous wine tour primarily because we chose to tour Castello di Amorosa, a family friendly vineyard in Napa Valley.

Visiting Castello di Amorosa, A Family Friendly Vineyard in Napa Valley in California

My kids had a blast visiting the Castello di Amoroso


The History of the Castello di Amorosa

From your very first glance, you can tell the Castello di Amorosa is a labor of love. Let’s face it, you have to be very rich and very committed to build a medieval Tuscan castle in California. Luckily for us, Dario Sattui, the owner of the Castello di Amorosa, is both.

Dario Sattui is a fourth generation vintner and also the owner V.Sattui Winery.  His great-grandfather, Vittorio Sattui was an Italian immigrant who set up the winery in San Francisco in the late 19th century. The Sattui vineyard moved to the Napa Valley in the 1970s.

Visiting Castello di Amorosa, A Family Friendly Vineyard in Napa Valley in California

You could forgive yourself of thinking you were in Tuscany.

When Sattui bought the land on which he would build the Castello di Amorosa, it held a charming Victorian home on 170 acres.  He kept the Victorian home as one of his homes and you can see it by the entrance up the hill to the Castello.  Although he had originally meant to use the land to replant the vineyards that had once been there, he was also a lover of medieval architecture.

Visiting Castello di Amorosa, A Family Friendly Vineyard in Napa Valley in California

The flag bearing the Sattui crest flies over an artfully distressed tower.

After about 15 years of planning, Sattui had assembled a team of people he was happy could build him his medieval castle in California.  He imported Austrian and Italian builders to California so that he could get the authenticity of building materials and workmanship he wanted.  The work started first with the underground aspects in 1995.  Along the way, Sattui ran through many builders and even more money in order to achieve his dream castle.

Sattui also wanted to show how medieval architecture had evolved from the 11th to the 13th century.  So, for example, he built arches and doorways and then bricked them up.

My kids are fans of visiting castles in general.  They were also on board with the whole vineyard in California thing because they had seen the 1998 movie The Parent Trap a zillion times.  One of the twins that Lindsay Lohan plays, Hallie, lives with her father in a vineyard in the Napa Valley.  I think the incongruity of a European castle in California passed my children by.

A Family Friendly Vineyard in Napa

The Castello di Amorosa was opened to the public in 2007. The pain-staking care that went into the work is obvious.  Having seen a fair few European castles ourselves, there is nothing plasticky or Disney about this Castle.

Visiting Castello di Amorosa, A Family Friendly Vineyard in Napa Valley in California

The state of California stopped the winery from performing services at the Chapel because it did not have a proper license to do so. party poopers.

The builders used either actual remnants of European castles or built new parts using the techniques used by medieval craftsmen.  There were 200 shipping containers sent to California filled with bits and pieces from French and Italian castles dating from the 11-3th centuries.

The 107 room 121,000 s.f. Castello di Amorosa is set on 8 floors (4 floors above and 4 floors below ground). Obviously the below ground floors are wine cellars and tasting rooms.  The underground rooms alone run about 80,000 s.f. (or 2 acres).

Visiting Castello di Amorosa, A Family Friendly Vineyard in Napa Valley in California

One of the 5 lookout towers from which to throw burning olive oil when other California wineries attack.

Some of the cool medieval touches of the Castle include a drawbridge, a moat, an interior courtyard, 5 towers, a chapel and a torture chamber.  Needless to say, my kids loved the torture chamber and instruments.  There were some very cool things on display including an Iron Maiden dating from the Renaissance and an Etruscan helmet from before the Roman Empire.

Castello di Amoroso in Napa Valley is a family friendly winery

That child has a wicked gleam in her eye.

The Great Hall took 1.5 years to complete and was created by 2 Italian painters! The tour guide was not precious about how the children behaved which I appreciated.  They clearly had more faith in my children’s ability to not wreak havoc than I did.

Visiting Castello di Amorosa, A Family Friendly Vineyard in Napa Valley in California

The Great Hall has a a fireplace which is dated to before the arrival of Christopher Columbus in the Americas.

A Photo Tour of Castello di Amorosa

Visiting Castello di Amorosa, A Family Friendly Vineyard in Napa Valley in California

The gates to the Castle open up onto gardens which lead to the moat and drawbridge.

Visiting Castello di Amorosa, A Family Friendly Vineyard in Napa Valley in California

The moat surrounding the Castello is very picturesque.

Visiting Castello di Amorosa, A Family Friendly Vineyard in Napa Valley in California

Ye olde Medieval Tuscan car park.

Visiting Castello di Amorosa, A Family Friendly Vineyard in Napa Valley in California

The inside of the beautifully-decorated Chapel which is the start of the tour.

Visiting Castello di Amorosa, A Family Friendly Vineyard in Napa Valley in California

The internal courtyard of the Castle.

Visiting Castello di Amorosa, A Family Friendly Vineyard in Napa Valley in California

A reconstructed original balcony from which a medieval lord would have addressed the crowds below.

Visiting Castello di Amorosa, A Family Friendly Vineyard in Napa Valley in California

Many antiques, like this ancient wine press, are scattered throughout the winery.

Visiting Castello di Amorosa, A Family Friendly Vineyard in Napa Valley in California

Even the basement wine stores are beautifully frescoed.

Visiting Castello di Amorosa, A Family Friendly Vineyard in Napa Valley in California

A small portion of the acres of wine storage under ground.

Visiting Castello di Amorosa, A Family Friendly Vineyard in Napa Valley in California

Farm animals wandered around the castle walls to the delight of the children.

Visiting Castello di Amorosa, A Family Friendly Vineyard in Napa Valley in California

You wouldn’t expect anything other than signs in Italian would you?

The Wine Tasting at Castello di Amorosa

You can’t go to a vineyard in Napa Valley without taking a winery tour! The Castello di Amorosa appreciates this fact which is what makes it one of the most family friendly wineries in Napa Valley.

Our tour group contained several children.  When we went for the wine tasting, the children had their own separate table with snacks and colouring to keep them entertained. My children set upon the breadsticks like the ravenous zombies of Z Nation. On the plus side, there seemed to be a never-ending supply of grape juice and breadsticks.

Visiting Castello di Amorosa, A Family Friendly Vineyard in Napa Valley in California

A Vineyard in the sun

My husband likes to think of himself as a wine connoisseur.  He thought the Il Barone Reserve was superb. I know nothing about wine except if I like it.  Yes, reader, I liked it. A lot.

Visiting Castello di Amorosa, A Family Friendly Vineyard in Napa Valley in California

My kids thought these bottle pourers were great. The red wine dripping down the dragon’s head looks like blood.

Tips For Visiting Castello di Amorosa

The Castello di Amorosa is located at 4045 Saint Helena Highway, Calistoga California 94515.  A very popular destination in Napa Valley, you should book tickets for the tour and the wine tasting well ahead of time.

Children under the age of 20 are permitted on the tours when accompanying an adult over the age of 21.  There is a reduced price admission for children five years old and above.  Thanks to the medieval nature of the rooms, strollers are not allowed on the premises.

Visiting Castello di Amorosa, A Family Friendly Vineyard in Napa Valley in California

The Castello di Amorosa in Napa Valley is an authentic medieval Tuscan castle.

Practical Info To Know Before You Go

We stayed at the Villaggio Inn and Spa in nearby Yountville. We rented our car from Hertz as per usual.  You will  need a car to get around in Napa Valley.  Napa Valley have an excellent website geared towards making your visit easy to plan and enjoyable.  (You would think all tourist bureaus would do the same!!).

Further Reading

[easyazon_link identifier=”1937359964″ locale=”US” tag=”jg20-20″]Castello di Amorosa: A Labor of Love[/easyazon_link] by Dario Sattui, Francis Ford Coppola (foreword)

[easyazon_link identifier=”1609495446″ locale=”US” tag=”jg20-20″]Murder and Mayhem in the Napa Valley[/easyazon_link] by Todd L. Schulman

[easyazon_link identifier=”B001QWDRR4″ locale=”US” tag=”jg20-20″]Blood on the Vine (Murder, She Wrote Mysteries)[/easyazon_link] by Jessica Fletcher

[easyazon_link identifier=”0762419644″ locale=”US” tag=”jg20-20″]Matt Kramer’s New California Wine[/easyazon_link] by Matt Kramer

[easyazon_image align=”none” height=”160″ identifier=”1937359964″ locale=”US” src=”http://www.justgoplacesblog.com/wp-content/uploads/2016/12/51aH2B2zoeML.SL160.jpg” tag=”jg20-20″ width=”140″] [easyazon_image align=”none” height=”160″ identifier=”1609495446″ locale=”US” src=”http://www.justgoplacesblog.com/wp-content/uploads/2016/12/51Y7cG2BijPL.SL160.jpg” tag=”jg20-20″ width=”106″] [easyazon_image align=”none” height=”160″ identifier=”0451202759″ locale=”US” src=”http://www.justgoplacesblog.com/wp-content/uploads/2016/12/51qIZERaRNL.SL160.jpg” tag=”jg20-20″ width=”98″] [easyazon_image align=”none” height=”160″ identifier=”0762419644″ locale=”US” src=”http://www.justgoplacesblog.com/wp-content/uploads/2016/12/51BaM8129EL.SL160.jpg” tag=”jg20-20″ width=”107″]

Disclosure – We did not receive any form of compensation from Castello di Amorosa for our visit or this review. This article does, however, contain affiliate links about which more information may be found on the disclosure page.

10 Family Getaways Recommended by Kids (Outside of North America)

10 Family Getaways Recommended by Kids (Outside of North America)

Are you looking for a more adventurous family trip with your children? In this first part of this series, we looked at family-friendly hotels in North America that were chosen by the children of 15 family travel bloggers. In this part, we look at 10 family getaways recommended by kids outside of North America.  These family getaways are a more varied type including hotels in theme parks, a luxury family-friendly tree house and a luxury family safari lodge. According to travel industry reports, 85% of family travellers are influenced by their children in making a decision about where to travel.  Going by the list below, I’d say our kids know what they want and have excellent taste.

Family Getaways in Europe

Navigating the tiny side streets of an Italian town (Photo credit: Alessandra Granata)

The Resort With The Water Park Next Door

The Atlantis
The Palm, Dubai

“My kids loved The Atlantis in Dubai but not for the reason you would expect.  Sure, they loved having easy access to the Atlantis Water Park next door.  We could nip in for an hour or two and then return to our uncrowded hotel pools to lounge.

Their absolute favourite bit though were the chocolate fountains at breakfast.  There was even a choice of white chocolate and milk chocolate.  It was the first time they’d seen chocolate fountains and they were smitten.  I didn’t have the heart to say no to chocolate for breakfast (after all, they successfully argued hot chocolate is a European breakfast drink). I did make them dip fruit in the chocolate fountain instead of marshmallows. Strawberries in chocolate for breakfast – the hardship! “

– Shobha George at Just Go Places

Family hotel Atlantis in Dubai

The water park next door to the Atlantis Hotel in Dubai meant we could nip in and out as we liked.

The Hotel For Thomas The Tank Engine Fans

The Drayton Manor Hotel
Tamworth, England

“My son fell in love with Thomas the Tank engine when he was one year old, so when we discovered that in the UK there is a park entirely dedicated to his hero, we knew we had to go. We made a weekend out of the expedition and went all out booking a family room in the on-site accommodation, the Drayton Manor Hotel: to say it was a hit, with the kids, would be a gross understatement.

The hotel is all themed out with characters from the Thomas series and as soon as we walked into the lobby, the children caught a glimpse of two massive moulds of Thomas and Rosie, attached to the walls. They dashed to them and plastered themselves against the big trains, giving them a hug and kisses. You would have thought they were long lost parents or siblings they hadn’t seen in years: a display of love I had never witnessed before! My daughter in particular, until that moment quite brazen about trains, started cooing and stroking Rosie’s plastic face. It took us 40 minutes to peel them away from the lobby and,to this day, what they remember most about the Drayton Manor experience was the hotel and that they could sleep while their heroes guarded the hotel door!”

– Marta Correale at Learning Escapes

family hotel Drayton Park Manor

Kids love Thomas the Tank Engine (Photo credit: Marta Correale)

The Hotel That is an Irish Castle

The Clontarf Castle Hotel
Dublin, Ireland

“In April I took two of my boys, ages 10 and 12, on their first visit to Europe. One of the things that they were the most excited about was to explore some castles. This was a big draw since they had already been studying them in school and pretended to be knights for years. When I was looking for places to stay in Dublin, I found The Clontarf Castle Hotel. Not only did my kids get to go into a castle, they got to sleep and eat in one! The luxury hotel made the whole family happy. I loved the location slightly outside of the city, but close to the waterfront and Howth, as well as a bus line.
The kids loved the decorations and food. It is one of the parts of the trip that they still talk about and wrote about in papers when we returned to school.”

– Jamie Italiane at The Daily Adventures of Me

Clontarf Castle Dublin Family Hotel

The Clontarf Castle is a family-friendly hotel in Dublin, Ireland

The Hidden Gem in the Cinque Terre

B&B Il Tulipano
Cinque Terre, Italy

“The Cinque Terre is an enchanted place, known all over the world for the five tiny villages sheltered behind mountain and sea. We adore going there!! It’s quite close to Milano (2 hours drive) and it’s the ideal escape from the city, no matter the season. But Cinque Terre can be very crowded and expensive too… so that’s why the accommodation we love the most is not properly there, but just a few km from Riomaggiore, the biggest village of Cinque Terre. Let us introduce you B&B Il Tulipano (The Tulip) because the owner is a Dutch girl who settled there and welcomes guests from all over the world!!

This cosy B&B is just behind the hill of Riomaggiore, close to the sea, but it’s completely surrounded by silence, enchanted nature and a familiar atmosphere. You can even admire fireflies at night! You’ll love this place and your kids too. Federico (our eldest son) never wants to go back home and always asks to plan a new adventure there, guess why?? Because he can play free and have fun with a kids-tractor in unspoilt nature! Mariette is a superb host for a great place to stay: you’ll remember breakfast served under wisteria, the deepest sleep ever and the feel of freedom!!”

– Alessandra Granata at Tips 4 Italian Trips

family getaways at a B&B in the cinque terre

The beloved tractor that got driven around for hours (Photo credit: Alessandra Granata)

The Red Sea Resort With the Great Food

The Radisson Blu Tala Bay Resort
Aqaba, Jordan

“During our visit to Jordan we experienced countless gorgeous desert landscapes. Hot and dry were the norm during our visit. That is until we visited the Red Sea resort town of Aqaba and checked into the Radisson Blu Tala Bay Resort.
With sweeping views of the Red Sea and large, bright and sunny rooms, the Radisson Blu offered all the luxury that was promised. The kids loved the countless swimming pools available. The food was incredible as well. The boys favourite was the Aziab buffet which featured a very plentiful desert bar that had my kid’s attention the moment they walked in.
We booked the boys in to the hotels Kid’s Club while we joined a dive, and when we returned we could barely pull the boys away. Their faces had been painted in superhero themes and they were sporting toys they had won at the camp. The boys still talk about what a great experience they had at this hotel, and without a doubt, we would return.”

– Kevin Wagar at Wandering Wagars

Radisson Blu family getaway

A family getaway at the Radisson Blu Aqaba has everything (Photo credit: Kevin Wagar)

The Resort With All Complimentary Activities

The Hilton Mauritius Resort and Spa
Flic-En-Flac, Mauritius

“When it comes to staying at a family-friendly resort, my kids’ can be tough critics. Hilton Mauritius Resort and Spa exceeded their kid-tough expectations and more! Located on an idyllic island in the Indian Ocean and surrounded by stunning crystalline waters, steep volcanic mountains frame the backdrop of this family-friendly resort which features lush landscaping, koi ponds and waterfall pools.

What makes Hilton Mauritius Resort and Spa stand out are all of the complimentary activities offered to guests. In fact, it can be very difficult to decide what to do! You will find in your room a list of daily activities offered such as morning yoga, pool exercise classes, tennis lessons and bike rides. Evening entertainment is also provided and the kids will definitely enjoy the torch lightening ceremony! Best of all, numerous water activities such as water-skiing, snorkeling, and dolphin watching are also complimentary.

When the parents need some adult-time, kids will love spending time in the complimentary Kidz Paradise club. Because there are so many fun family activities at Hilton Mauritius Resort and Spa, your family will have the vacation of a lifetime!”

– Lara Dorman at 2 Moms Travel

Hilton Mauritius family getaway

The Hilton Mauritius is a good value hotel among the super-expensive resorts on this island (Photo credit: Lara Dorman)

The Resort Where You Make A Grand Entrance

The Six Senses Zighy Bay
Dibba, Oman

The Six Senses Zighy Bay in Oman, just two hours from Dubai, is one of the kid-friendliest places we’ve stayed anywhere. In fact, my 10-year-old has already voted to return there next year as part of her annual trip with me.

What made it kid-friendly?

  1. You paraglide in to check in. This may be the only hotel in the world with a paragliding entrance? My daughter loved it.
  2. The beach is perfect and the water is warm.
  3. There’s a fort at each villa. Technically it’s an Omani Summer House, a small-shaded room in the courtyard, but my daughter took it over as her own personal fort.
  4. There’s a private plunge pool at each villa. Enough said!
  5. The food was excellent. Even the pickiest eaters should be able to find food they like.
  6. There’s a kid’s club and a teen club with legitimately cool activities. The teen club has a bungee trampoline!
  7. The ocean tubing was a blast – we could have stayed out there all day.
  8. You get around the resort on bicycles, and there are bikes sized perfectly for every age.”

– Eric Stoen at Travel Babbo

Family Hotel Six Senses Zighy Bay in Oman

The Six Senses Zighy Bay is a unique destination in Oman.

The Game Reserve With the Great Animal Views

Mala Mala Game Reserve
Kruger National Park, South Africa

“Mala Mala Game Reserve outside of Kruger National Park in South Africa is my 6 year old’s favourite hotel in the world.  Sitting in our private deck overlooking a river where animals come to drink from morning to night was all the entertainment he needed. Watching as elephants, giraffe, leopards, exotic birds and hippos appeared on our doorstep all within minutes was out of this world.

With morning and afternoon game drives through the reserve observing the worlds most fantastic animals in their native habitats, followed by kids club activities like fishing, animal tracking and bush walks.

My 6 year old’s days were filled with what he loves most – animals. Families looking for a once in a lifetime experience up close and personal with the wilds of Africa will be in heaven at the Mala Mala Game Reserve. All you need is to arrive with a desire to experience the world in its most natural form and you will leave aching to return again.”

– Karilyn Owen at No Back Home

Family Getaway at Mala Mala Game Reserve at Kruger National Park in South Africa

Kids will love the luxury safari at Mala Mala Game Reserve at the Kruger National Park in South Africa

The Luxury Private Hotel Set In the Rainforest

Tsala Treetop Lodge
Harkerville, near Plettenberg Bay, South Africa

“Our children loved the Tsala Treetop Lodge because our villa was a separate little tree house with it’s own privacy wall overlooking an ancient rain forest. They had their own bedroom, en-suite bathroom and (very importantly) flat-screen television.

The best part though was the inside-outside shower.  My son thought it was the coolest thing to have a hot shower outside overlooking the forest (with the mist and rain surrounding him).  I fear we may have a future naturist on our hands.  The little villa also had it’s own private hot tub which was also a big hit for the kids.”

– Shobha George at Just Go Places

family getaways in Tsala Treetop Lodge

The Tsala Treetop Lodge overlooks an ancient rain forest in South Africa

The Resort With For The Active Family in Thailand

Sunwing Kamala Beach Resort
Phuket, Thailand

“Our kids (6, 4, 3 months) LOVE the Sunwing Kamala Beach Resort in Phuket, Thailand. It’s very kid focused so it suited them perfectly.

The first thing that attracted them to this resort is the fact that it has 8 pools. 7 of which are big with beach entry points. They loved trying them all out. There are also three waterslides which are very popular.

Next, they loved the kids’ club. It has great staff who would play with them and some good activities like ceramic painting and party times which they enjoyed.

They loved meal times as there is always a buffet (they’re favourite thing in the world). In fact, the only thing that would have made this resort better is if we had been there in peak season where they have a special kids’ buffet at meal times.

They also loved that there is a massage place on the hotel grounds that serves tons of kids so they were able to get massages and have their nails done, etc by people who are used to dealing with kids.

Finally they loved the crazy amount of kid equipment that came with our room. Our baby was happy that he had a bouncer, bumbo, changing mat, pram etc. My 4 year old son was super happy that there was a stool so he could reach the sink, and a mat with roads on it so he could use it to play with his cars.”

– Sharon Gourlay at Where’s Sharon 

family getaway at sunwing kampala

One of the many pools at Sunning Kamala Resort (Photo credit: Sharon Gourlay)

10 Family Getaways Recommended by Kids

I love the diversity of these recommendations by kids.  It shows that kids are more interested in enjoying a place than just hanging out in the pool or at the kids club.

Family getaways chosen by kids

Family getaways chosen by children ensure that everyone has a good time

Which of these hotels, resorts and lodges  would you consider?  I personally would love to do the paragliding experience into the Six Senses Zighy Bay because it’s something I would not do otherwise.  Do you have any other family-friendly accommodation  you would like to add to the list?