Win a Hotel Stay in my Summer Giveaway with

Whether you fancy getting away to enjoy the summer sunshine or are planning a weekend break in the autumn once things have cooled down, I’m happy to announce my summer hotel-stay giveaway in partnership with I’m giving away a voucher to one of my readers, worth $250 (or equivalent value of £145/€185) which you can use to book yourself a stay in a lovely hotel and treat yourself and that special someone to a relaxing summer break. The voucher can be redeemed for a hotel booking on the website up until spring next year, so if you prefer you can wait until the autumn or even next spring to enjoy your hotel stay.

Hotels Collage 3 is a hotel booking website that specialises in finding discount hotel rates for travellers worldwide and you can use the voucher to book a hotel stay in the UK, US and Canada, Europe and many other destinations worldwide. To inspire you in your choice of hotel getaway, I’ve come up with a few ideas, based on destinations and hotels I can personally recommend. If you’d like to enter this giveaway, please follow the details at the bottom of the article to find out how you can gain the maximum chances to win the voucher.

Winchester Hotel and Spa in Winchester Photo:

Winchester Hotel and Spa in Winchester


A historic getaway in Winchester

Why go?

The best of England packed into an ancient market town, Winchester has a very walkable historic centre, plenty of green spaces, river walks, interesting artizan shops and great places to eat. If that’s not enough, you have the beautiful Hampshire countryside on your doorstep, with walking and country houses to explore within a short drive of Winchester.

Where to stay?

The Winchester Hotel and Spa is a short walk from the historic centre and has rooms in August and September Saturday nights for £150 and under. Read my review of The Winchester Hotel and Spa

What to see?

Wander around the medieval market town and visit the famous cathedral where Jane Austen is buried – perhaps you’ll find a farmer’s market in full swing. Shop in the craft markets or artizan shops that line the narrow lanes, walk along the river to the city mill where you can see flour being ground as it has for centuries and perhaps spot some otters in the mill stream. The South Downs Way starts at Winchester so you may like a hike in the lovely Hampshire countryside or walk to the top of the town and visit the medieval Great Hall with King Arthur’s round table.

Read more about Winchester here: 10 ways to spend a wonderful weekend in Winchester

Hotel Valencia in San Antonio Photo:

Hotel Valencia in San Antonio


A lively stay in San Antonio, Texas

Why go?

This town is one of the most historic in Texas, set on the San Antonio river, with some buzzing bars and restaurants along the Riverwalk making it a great choice for a relaxing getaway.

Where to Stay?

Hotel Valencia Riverwalk is an elegant boutique hotel on the Riverwalk and has Saturday night stays in August and September for under $200 although you may prefer to wait until the sweltering Texas heat and humidity reduces and take your hotel break in October or November. Read my review of Hotel Valencia Riverwalk

What to see?

Take a boat tour along the Riverwalk or stroll on foot as evening falls and the area buzzes with bars and restaurants. Of course you will want to visit the Alamo, a landmark in the struggle for Texan independence and perhaps drive out to some of the other historic Spanish missions in the area. You can hire bikes and cycle on the path beside the San Antonio river or shop for local crafts and artizan souvenirs in the La Villita Historic district.

Read more about our stay in San Antonio here: Texas Podcast Part 1, Houston, San Antonio and Picosa Ranch

The library in the Ibsens Hotel in Copenhagen Photo:

The library in the Ibsens Hotel in Copenhagen


A cool weekend in Copenhagen

Why go?

Haven of Scandi-cool, Denmark’s capital has a compact centre that is easy to explore by bike or on foot and in summer you can take in the party atmosphere as locals enjoy the summer in the parks and around the harbour.

Where to Stay?

The Ibsens Hotel is a stylish hotel near the Copenhagen lakes that is furnished with quirky finds from neighbourhood shops and local artizan businesses and has Saturday night stays available in August and September for €130-180.  Read my review and video of Ibsens Hotel here

What to see?

A boat tour of the canals and harbour will help you get your bearings and locate some of the major Copenhagen landmarks, such as the Opera House, Royal Palace and the Little Mermaid statue. Stroll along Stroget where you’ll find luxury Danish design stores and climb the medieval Round Tower, for views over the city. You’ll want to enjoy the food scene too, with some of the best restaurants in the world where Michelin stars abound, but you can also find inexpensive snacks and deli-meals in the Torverhallerne food halls.

Read more about Copenhagen here: In photos: Our weekend stay in Copenhagen

The Intercontinental Hotel in Budapest Photo:

The Intercontinental Hotel in Budapest


A spa break in Budapest

Why go?

Hungary’s capital has all the sophistication of Paris but with far more affordable prices and warm, friendly locals. There’s so much to see whether you love sightseeing, relaxing in the numerous traditional and trendy cafes or visiting one of the thermal spas.

Where to Stay?

The Intercontinental Hotel is a 5 star hotel that’s centrally located for sightseeing by the Chain Bridge with views of the Danube and there are dates in August and September available from €100 per night. Read my review and video of Intercontinental Hotel Budapest here

What to see?

Take the funicular up to the top of Castle Hill to visit the colourful Matyas church and take in the views from the Fisherman’s Bastion over the Danube and Hungarian Parliament building. You’ll want to visit one of the Hungarian spa baths such as the Gellert or Szechenyi complexes to enjoy a massage or a soak in the warm baths and perhaps afterwards have coffee and cake in an elegant cafe. The House of Terror is a compelling reminder of Hungary’s communist past, while a visit to the Hungarian State Opera House for a concert or ballet is a must for culture lovers.

Read more about Budapest here: 48 hours in Budapest, top things to see on a weekend break

About HotelsCheap specialises in finding discount hotel rates for travellers worldwide operating in 75 countries for hotels, bed-and-breakfasts and holiday apartments. On you can find anything from hostels and popular brand hotels to boutique hotels to luxury resorts, so getting the best hotel price doesn’t mean compromising on where you stay. You can also find more tips, traveller interviews and accommodation guides on the HotelsCheap blog

Follow on their social media channels for travel inspiration and tips for the places you’ll want to visit; follow along on Twitter @hotelscheap, on Google+ and on Facebook

About the giveaway

I’m giving away a voucher to one of my readers worth $250 US (equivalent value £146 or €185) which can be redeemed on any time before June 2015. The giveaway is open to all readers regardless of your location although the voucher will be redeemed in $US. The giveaway will run for 2 weeks and end on Monday 4 August 2014. To enter the giveaway all you have to do is;

  • Leave a comment below telling me how you’d like to spend your HotelsCheap voucher; which destination would you love to visit, who will you be going with, where would you like to stay?

You can also add 5 additional chances to win by doing any of the following through the Rafflecopter widget below;

  • Like the Heatheronhertravels Facebook page
  • Spread the word about the giveaway on Twitter, for example; I’d love to #win a summer hotel stay with @hotelscheap in the #giveaway at @heathercowper
  • Follow Heather on her travels on Twitter @heathercowper
  • Follow the HotelsCheap Google+ page
  • Follow HotelsCheap on Twitter @hotelscheap

Entering this giveaway gives permission for you to be added to the e-mail lists of both and our sponsor, but you can unsubscribe at any time.

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This article by Heather Cowper is originally published at - Read the original article here

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Summer and winter – Filzmoos in Austria has something for everyone

In this article, guest author Claire Palmer shares with us her family’s favourite holiday choice of Filzmoos, Austria, the perfect destination for summer walking or winter skiing, your choice for a gentle or full-on family activity holiday!

The traditional mountain village of Filzmoos has been a much-loved destination for my family in both winter and summer since we first discovered it when my 19 year old son was a 19 month old! Building and development is strictly controlled so it has retained its alpine chocolate-box charm with no high-rise buildings to mar the breath-taking views of the Bischofsmutze (Bishop’s Mitre) peak and the Dachstein glacier range. There is no shortage of things to keep our two teenage boys occupied and the village has kept pace with their requirements as they have grown.

The mountain village of Filzmoos, Austria

The mountain village of Filzmoos, Austria

Uncrowded slopes meet the needs of any ski enthusiast

The whole family learnt to ski (snowboard in my younger son’s case) in Filzmoos, including my father who learnt at the ripe old age of 74 and still holidays with us 19 years later, an inspiration to us all! All the instructors in the excellent ski schools speak very good English. Filzmoos is only known to one UK tour operator which means the slopes are uncrowded and the lift queues short, even in the school holidays. We love that the gentle nursery slopes are right in the middle of the village and the more challenging runs finish in the middle of the village so, if some of us have been on the “red” runs and others opted for a leisurely cruise on the wide, well-groomed “blue” pistes, we can all easily meet up in one of the many restaurants and cafes for a warming hot chocolate (Gluhwein for me, please).

Skiing for all the family in Filzmoos, Austria

Skiing for all the family in Filzmoos, Austria

Speaking of restaurants, the typical Austrian mountain food is delicious and filling. My sons never tire of the local specialty dessert – Germknodel – a yeast dumpling filled with plum jam and served with vanilla custard. When they were younger it was a whole meal in itself, now it follows a huge Tiroler Grostl, a sizzling cast iron pan of diced potatoes, bacon and eggs fried with herbs.

Activities abound in any season

At Christmas our “must-do” outing is a sleigh ride up to the Oberhofalm and Unterhofalm for the “Advent Idyll” walk around the frozen lake featuring fire pits, candle-lit decorative scenes and huts selling spiced Gluhwein. Watch out for the trick-playing Perchten, horned beasts from folklore dating back to pagan times.

Campfire around the lake at Filzmoos, Austria

Campfire around the lake at Filzmoos, Austria

On Christmas Eve Father Christmas arrives in the village square by sleigh and he and his angel-helpers give out sweets and sparklers to the children. Gluhwein is, as always, on offer for the adults!

Father Christmas comes to Filzmoos

Father Christmas comes to Filzmoos

Our favourite summer outing is also up to the Oberhofalm and Unterhofalm inns but this time by hiring electric-assisted mountain bikes to ride through the woods, arriving in time for lunch outside on the terrace under the sun umbrellas, gazing at eagles circling in the bright blue sky and the majestic snow-capped peak of the Bischofsmutze, now so much closer.

The electric bike will take you up to Unterhofalm

The electric bike will take you up to Unterhofalm

On the way up our refreshment stop is a trough with a spout that gushes pure mountain spring water straight from the ground at an amazing 5 degrees C. Bliss! These electric bikes are amazing machines! The fittest in the party can pedal just as on a normal bike and I can choose how much assistance to have from the battery power, enabling me to go up slopes I could only dream about otherwise!

Inside the Oberhofalm

Inside the Oberhofalm

Discover local flora and fauna

Once up at the mountain inns there are numerous marked walking paths across the high alpine pastures and around the small lake. In fact Filzmoos has 200km of marked walking trails and I love to see the wild mountain flowers in spring and summer. I’ve found gentian, carlina and many others that I can’t identify but no edelweiss yet, sadly.

Filzmoos has 200km of marked walking trails

Filzmoos has 200km of marked walking trails

Another favourite walk of ours is the Marmot trail where we take the Wanderbus high up into the mountains where one can see marmots (although the only ones we’ve seen so far are on postcards!) then walk back down to the village, admiring the incredible alpine scenery and views at every turn.

Take the Wanderbus up the mountain with stunning views at every turn

Take the Wanderbus up the mountain with stunning views at every turn

Plenty to do for the adventure seeker

For something a little more adrenalin-fuelling for our teenagers, we take the Wanderbus to the neighbouring village of Ramsau where there is a summer toboggan run. Riding the toboggan down on spiralling metal rails that loop out on stilts over the valley is certainly exhilarating, as is going up the mountain on the chairlift and hiring a mountain scooter to ride back down. A completely new experience for all of us! Ramsau also has a bathing lake, archery, hang-gliding or a long cable car ride up to the Dachstein glacier for skiing or to visit the ice caves. A walk out on the Dachstein Sky Walk, a platform overhanging the valley 250 metres straight below, gives a spectacular panorama but I prefer to look out not down!

Teenagers and speed lovers enjoy the Ramsau toboggan run

Teenagers and speed lovers enjoy the Ramsau toboggan run

Despite only having 1,450 inhabitants, Filzmoos village has everything we have ever needed and so we relish not having to use a car and therefore not having to worry about how much of the refreshing “golden nectar” we have drunk!

There's everything you need in the village centre at Filzmoos, Austria

There’s everything you need in the village centre at Filzmoos, Austria

As well as indoor and outdoor swimming pools, a bowling alley and tennis court, there is a well-stocked supermarket, butcher and delicatessen, a wonderful bakery with coffee shop, pharmacy, doctor’s surgery, indoor and outdoor swimming pools, bowling alley and, most importantly, numerous restaurants and cafes serving scrumptious coffee and specialty cakes such as Viennese Sachertorte or apple strudel and cream. After 18 years of holidaying there we have still not run out of things to do and there are many excursions we have still not taken.

You can rent Claire's apartment in Flizmoos, Austria

You can rent Claire’s apartment in Flizmoos, Austria

Two years ago we realised our dream of buying a one-bedroomed apartment in the village, within five minutes walk of ski slopes and restaurants. This sleeps up to 5 and is available for hire. Please email Claire Palmer at for more information.

14380197632_4dfeab4859_qAuthor Bio: Many thanks for this article to Claire Palmer, who has loved to travel ever since she was a child touring Europe by caravan for the summer (her parents were teachers) and spending part of her childhood in New Zealand. Since having her own children she has travelled extensively as a family both in Europe and back to New Zealand. She loves Austria and, since realising a long-held dream of buying a property there, is taking German lessons in preparation for spending much more time there when her sons have left school.

For more Austrian adventures:

May Day at The White Horse Inn on Lake Wolfgang, Austria
Lost in the Hohensalzburg Fortress in Salzburg
Riding the steam train – on the Schafburgbahn at St Wolfgang

This article  is originally published at - Read the original article here

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What to wear on your Mediterranean cruise – My 6 top tips

Decisions, decisions. It’s all part of the fun of the holiday deciding what to pack, but planning for a cruise requires a little more planning, since you can’t just pop into the nearest trendy boutique for anything you forget. For my recent MSC Mediterranean cruise, I knew I’d need clothes for sightseeing, an outfit or two for dinner and perhaps something more dressy for formal nights with a chance to play at being glamourpuss.

Then I might be relaxing on the sun-deck, trying out the spa or making time to visit the gym to work off all that delicious food. And of course I do like to travel light, who wants to be lugging heavy cases around?

So here are my 6 top tips for what to pack on your Mediterannean Cruise, based on my experiences with MSC Cruises and some advice from my blogger friends too.

On board MSC Splendida Photo:

Pack a light cardigan to wear in the evening when it cools down

Tip 1 – Check the weather forecast

The Mediterranean in late May should be the perfect temperature for sightseeing and I was hoping for warm sunny days with cooler evenings. However, living in England where the weather is so changeable I’ve learned never to take sunshine for granted. So the week before our cruise I checked the weather forecast for the coming week in the destinations we would be visiting.

My mobile has a handy weather app for the 7 day outlook and I also used another website to check the typical temperature and rainfall for that month. I learned that the weather was likely to be in the 22-25 degree celcius range, cooling down at night, so not blistering heat and I’d definitely need a jumper in the evenings. In the end we had sunny days for most of the week although there were a few showers as we arrived back in Barcelona, so I was glad I’d packed my rain jacket.

Blogger Tips

Danielle Fear of Cruise Miss says; ” A light jacket during the spring time is also a must! The Mediterranean is warm but evenings can still get a little chilly and you want to be prepared just in case a sharp shower is forecast. Remember to also take a light cardigan or scarf with you when ashore ”

Gary Bembridge from Tips for Travellers says; “Even on warm itineraries in season in the Caribbean and Mediterranean, it can get chilly at night on deck or in the mornings on excursions. Plan to wear layers that you can easily peel off and always include a layer to cope with downpours even if a small folding umbrella or lightweight rain poncho.”

Barcelona at Casa Mila Photo:

Yes, I was glad I’d packed my rain jacket in Barcelona!

Tip 2 - Consider the activities you’ll be doing

I thought about the things we’d be doing on our MSC Cruise and decided that my wardrobe need to cover four different types of activitiy; clothes for sightseeing, relaxing on board around the pool, dressing up for dinner and a couple of outfits for formal nights. As we’d be visiting a different destination every day and as we like to be pretty active, I packed comfortable but smart city trainers and my new Flopz flip flops for time on board.

My sightseeing wardrobe consisted of pretty t-shirts and cut-off trousers, but I also packed some vest tops like the orange linen Eileen Fisher top I’m wearing in the photo below for time around the pool.  For the evening I packed a couple more dressy tops and my white jeans that would mix and match with my daytime wardrobe. For a formal night I decided to forego the ballgown as I knew that things are quite relaxed on MSC cruises but instead packed a lovely sparkly top from Eileen Fisher as well as my silky Joseph Ribkoff evening cover-up that would make a simple outlook look a lot more glamourous.

On Board MSC Splendida with my Eileen Fisher linen vest Photo:

Relaxing on the pool deck with my Eileen Fisher linen vest

Blogger Tips

Danielle Fear of Cruise Miss says; “I can’t do a Mediterranean cruise without a pair of pretty flip-flops. They are ideal for both ashore and onboard and if I forgot to pack them I would go into meltdown. One thing I would highly recommend for your Mediterranean adventure is a comfortable pair of shoes or sandals. There is so much to see and do and trust me, you won’t want to miss any of it.”

On board MSC Splendida with my FlopZ flip flops Photo:

On board MSC Splendida with my FlopZ flip flops

Tip 3 – Pack versatile clothes that work with each other

One of the secrets of packing light, I’ve learned, is to limit your wardrobe to just one colour scheme per trip. This works well for long weekends where you want to travel with just a small bag, although for the week’s cruise I allowed myself a couple of different colour schemes. For most sightseeings days I stuck to shades of beige, cream and soft pink, while for evenings and days on board I teamed orange tops with white or black trousers. The same black trousers could double for evening wear when teamed with a more dressy top. Take a look at the photos below to see how I stuck to one colour scheme so that I could mix and match different tops with the same pair of trousers.

Stick to one colour scheme for a mix and match cruise wardrobe

Stick to one colour scheme for a mix and match cruise wardrobe

Blogger Tips

Donna Hull from My Itchy Travel Feet says; “When packing for a cruise, I ask myself, “Can this item be worn at least twice?” If I answer no to the question, then that particular clothing item goes back in the closet. And when I say twice, I don’t mean repeating the same outfit. Using separates, I mix and match clothing items to create many outfits from a small selection of clothing. It’s challenging but fun.”

Emma Gray from Emma on Board says; “My biggest tip for Mediterranean cruising is to keep it simple. Pack dresses you can wear for dinner and then again during the day sightseeing. Stick to one colour tone and you’ll be able to mix and match all your accessories, bags and shoes to make outfits look and feel completely different.”

Tip 4 – Respect the local culture

I find you have a better travel experience if you are sensitive to the culture of the places you visit. I wince when I see ladies wearing shorts and vest tops in a Muslim country, shame on you! As I enjoy sightseeing there’s a good chance I’ll end up looking around a beautiful old church, where even in Europe it’s considered respectful to cover your shoulders and knees. As we planned to visit Tunis on our MSC Cruise, I made sure to pack a top that was appropriate for the more conservative dress in a Muslim society. My Eileen Fisher orange linen top was cool and elegant, yet covered me in all the right places. Elbow length sleeves, no cleavage, no shoulders or knees on show and you will avoid getting attention of the wrong kind.

Blogger Tips

Danielle Fear of Cruise Miss says; “Ladies, always pack a pair of ¾ casual trousers and should you wish to enter any religious sites then you do need to ensure your shoulders and knees are covered. ”

Sarah Lee from Live Share Travel says; “A pashmina is a fantastic accessory, which you can use throughout your cruise – to cover shoulders for formal dinners, maintain discreet dress if you should visit a religious site, or to protect against those sea breezes “

At Sidi Bou Said wearing my Eileen Fisher linen top

Suitably covered up in Tunisia wearing my Eileen Fisher linen top

Tip 5 – Dressing up is fun, but check the dress code first

On cruises I’ve learned that different cruise lines have quite different approaches to formal nights. Of course we Brits love to make an occasion of dressing up, with glamourous gowns and Black Tie for the men, while some of our American and Aussie friends would happily go to dinner in shorts. The MSC Cruises dress code is geared for the European dress sense which is elegant but possibly not as formal as some of the Cruise lines that have a lot of UK guests.

My tip is to check the formal dress guidelines on the cruise company website or with your cruise agent, so you know where you need to be in the glamour stakes. Sometimes the websites don’t make it completely clear, in which case head for the discussion boards on sites like Cruise Critic where you’ll generally find some useful guidance. Based on this, Guy decided not to pack his dinner jacket since our suitcase space was limited, but to go for a blazer and smart trousers that he could wear every evening. His decision proved to be sound, since I saw very few tuxedos being worn on board, even on the gala evenings where the norm was a smart suit and tie. Rather than pack my cocktail dress I went for my Eileen Fisher sparkly top for the gala evenings and my Joseph Ribkoff evening cover-up on other evenings when I wanted to dress up.

Blogger Tips

Gary Bembridge from Tips for Travellers says; “Every cruise line has their own approach to what people should wear on board – as well as the extent they enforce them. For example, Cunard have a strict dress code around “formal” and “informal” nights and men will be expected to wear black tie and jackets and ladies cocktail dresses and smart separates on those respective nights. However, lines like Disney can allow shorts to be worn on some cruises at dinner time. ”

Ana Silva from Mrs O around the world says; ” Pack cocktail dresses to add a bit of old-school glamour to your cruising experience. Pick some that travel well. No need for crazy heels – simple flats will do and will get you in a Med state of mind. ”

Emma and Keri from Ladies What say; “Getting glammed up for the formal dinner nights on our MSC Cruise was great fun and a fantastic part of the cruising experience. The dress code ranged from casual to cocktail and the newsletter delivered to our cabin gave us all the info for that evening. So pack yourself a posh frock – ideally one that doesn’t crease too much – and enjoy.”

Liz Jarvis from The Mum Blog says; ” The Swarovski-studded staircases on board set the tone – MSC is a very glamorous, very Italian cruise line. In the evening, guests dress up for dinner and do that European thing of promenading, so I would definitely take a few gorgeous dresses.”

Gala night on MSC Splendida with my Eileen Fisher sparkly evening top

Gala night on MSC Splendida with my Eileen Fisher sparkly evening top

Tip 6 – Travel crease free

On some cruise ships I’ve been on there were laundry rooms for guests to wash, dry and iron their clothes so I was surprised to find that there was not even a facility to iron creased clothes on board MSC Splendida (except of course the laundry service which you have to pay for).

However, it didn’t really matter as I had employed my top tip for packing crease free, which is to roll rather than fold your clothes, pack them tightly into the case, then shake them out and hang them up immediately you get on board. Obviously it also helps if you select clothes from your wardrobe which are made of crease resistant fabrics, like my lovely Joseph Ribkoff evening cover-up below which I reckon I could have screwed up in my case and it would still have come out looking elegant and crease-free.

Blogger Tip

Zoe Dawes from The Quirky Traveller says; “I have a full length black dress in Jersey with short sleeves which is my absolute favourite for cruises. I dress it up with pretty necklace or colourful scarf and high heels or casual with flat pumps. It rolls up and never creases.”

Gala night on MSC Splendida with my Joseph Ribkoff evening jacket

Gala night on MSC Splendida with my crease-free Joseph Ribkoff evening jacket

Thanks to Eileen Fisher, Flopz and Joseph Ribkoff for providing me with some lovely things to wear on my cruise and of course to MSC Cruises who we travelled with in style on MSC Splendida.

Other articles in my Mediterranean Cruise series

Join me on a week’s Mediterranean cruise with MSC cruises
All aboard at Barcelona – Day 1 of my MSC Mediterranean Cruise
Bonjour Marseille – Day 2 of my MSC Mediterranean Cruise
Palazzo and Gelato in Genoa – Day 3 of my MSC Mediterranean Cruise
Naples and an excursion to Pompeii – Day 4 of my MSC Mediterranean Cruise
Messina and an excursion to Taormina – Day 5 of my MSC Mediterranean Cruise
Tunis and Carthage – Day 6 of my MSC Mediterranean Cruise
A day at sea and back to Barcelona – Day 7 of my MSC Mediterranean Cruise

MSCCruiseslogoThanks to MSC cruises who hosted Guy and Heather’s Mediterranean cruise. Heather and Guy travelled on MSC Splendida from Barcelona on a 1 week cruise calling at Genoa, Marseille, Naples, Messina, Tunis. Prices for a similar cruise start at around £700 per person. For more information, visit the MSC Cruises website or follow them on Twitter @MSC_Cruises_UK or on the MSC Facebook page.

This article by Heather Cowper is originally published at - Read the original article here

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