Category Archives: Family

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Discover sharks, soakings and a spin-dry on a rollercoaster at Orlando’s SeaWorld that’s fun for the whole family

Category : Family , Theme Parks , Travel

I ALWAYS sneer at those wimps who wear ponchos on water rides.
The log flume never offers the white-knuckle thrills of the rollercoaster next door, so why not get a bit wet? And there is never much of a splash anyway.
Our intrepid reporter even came face to face with a shark — a friendly one, thankfully
With that theory in mind, I confidently boarded a raft on SeaWorld Orlando’s brand-new Infinity Falls. I’m only now drying off. It is the most exciting water ride I have ever been on — and definitely the wettest.
The clues were there. In the queue, guests are warned: “You and your belongings will get soaked.” That turns out to be an understatement.My seven fellow riders had barely an inch uncovered between them.
At first, I wondered what all the fuss was about. We floated serenely past flamingos, then trickled through lush rainforest.
Talk about the calm before the storm — round the corner was a thundering barrage of waves, waterfalls and merciless fellow guests manning water-cannons. Then came the vertical elevator, which crawled up menacingly toward a towering 40ft plunge. It is the tallest drop in the world on a river-rapids ride — and it left us practically submerged, and absolutely sodden.
Adrenaline junkies will love this place
Heading for the exit, I was comforted, at least, by the squelching trainers of my companions in their ponchos. Try harder next time, guys. The 33C heat — even in November — soon dries you out, mind. As do the park’s three sensational rollercoasters, which fill the air with screams.
As SeaWorld phases out whale shows — to be replaced by education experiences — the park is repositioning itself as home to Orlando’s most impressive thrill-rides. The original is Kraken, a floorless rollercoaster named for the giant sea beast of myth. Your feet dangle as you twist and turn through seven loops, at times 150ft up.
Manta is a one-of-a-kind “flying” coaster. You climb on like any normal ride . . . then are strapped in and hurtle head first, face down, through dizzying inversions. My favourite is Mako — the tallest, fastest and longest in a city of theme parks. This terrifying “hypercoaster” accelerates to 73mph before racing over a series of giants humps.
You do get a seat . . . but my backside barely touched it. The feeling of weightlessness at the top of each hill was unlike anything I had felt before.
There is something for all the family to enjoy at SeaWorld
If that sounds too loopy, breathtaking Discovery Cove is for you. SeaWorld’s ­sister park is a peaceful tropical paradise of rocky lagoons, white-sand beaches and lazy rivers. Just 1,300 guests are let in each day, so you won’t be swamped. Food, drink, towels, sun-loungers, even wetsuits and snorkels, are included in the price.
So is special sun cream that will not harm marine life. SeaWorld prides itself on commitment to animal welfare. Over five decades, 30,000 animals have been rescued and rehabilitated in its medical centres. I was invited behind the scenes to see vets operate on a manatee hit by a speedboat in one of Florida’s waterways.

GO: ORLANDO

GETTING/STAYING THERE: Seven nights, room only, at 4* Rosen Shingle Creek is from £1,055pp, based on two adults sharing.
Includes car hire, Virgin Atlantic flights from Gatwick on March 30 and a Discovery Cove Ultimate Package for two.
That gets you an all-inclusive day at Discovery Cove – including a 30-minute dolphin swim experience – plus 14 days’ unlimited entry to SeaWorld, Busch Gardens and Aquatica Orlando.
See virginholidays.co.uk
MORE INFO: See seaworldparks.com and visitorlando.com

The goal is to return all rescued animals to the wild but if experts decide that this is impossible, they are housed at the park. At Discovery Cove you get close to incredible creatures — swimming with dolphins, rays and tropical fish. The standout is SeaVenture, a unique underwater walking tour round an artificial coral reef.
Our helmets had enough air for 20-plus minutes underwater. Here lurked all kinds of colourful ­creatures. I even came face to face with a shark — a friendly one, thankfully.
You’ll dry off quickly in the 33C heat
The best-value package gets you into SeaWorld, Discovery Cove, Aquatica waterpark and, an hour away in Tampa, Busch Gardens. Here, antelopes, rhinos, zebras and lions roam free. On the off-road safari truck tour, you hand-feed lettuce to giraffes.
But again, rides take centre-stage. The mind-blowing Montu, with its crazy 60ft loop, was my pick, though the super-fast Cheetah Rush and huge SheiKra run it close. The showpiece, however, is the ludicrous Falcon’s Fury drop tower. It lifts riders 335ft, flips you over and fires you back downward at 60mph. Brilliant — but never again.
The 4H Rosen Shingle Creek Hotel is the perfect place to recover. On Universal Boulevard, ten minutes from Orlando Airport, it combines classic American luxury with Spanish-revival decor and a huge pool offering views over the golf course.
Keep the relaxation going at nearby Aquatica, with tranquil beaches, 27C heated lagoons and private cabanas at for £40 a day, where you can top up your tan. The 42 water slides should be enough to keep everyone entertained.
Take a ride on the Cheetah Hunt in Busch Gardens

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Test your bravery on the 80ft drop slides of Ihu’s Breakaway Falls. Step into a closed capsule, with your feet on the footprints, and wait for the floor to ­disappear beneath you.
But the real must-do is the new Ray Rush three-in-one slide. You and three friends board an inflatable raft to slip and slide through a series of ­twisting tubes before you are spat out into an enormous bowl.
After a few spins, you are chucked down a shoot into a tidal wave at the bottom. Oh, and no ponchos allowed.

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Whether you plan to cruise the Caribbean or stay in a luxury Spanish villa, here are the best Boxing Day deals for your 2019 summer getaway

IT’S as traditional as turkey sarnies and a brisk walk – the annual search for the summer holiday kicks off on Boxing Day. This year, with Brexit chaos continuing, travel firms are keener than ever to convince you to book early.
With kids-go-free bargains, discounts and plenty of all-inclusive hotels, there is a lot to be said for booking now.As ever when booking, use a credit card for extra protection. And ensure, the moment you book, you buy the best travel insurance. These are some of the best deals on offer right now . . .
TUI’s newest destination for summer 2019 is Kvarner Bay in CroatiaGetty – Contributor
TUI kicks off its turn-of-year sale on Boxing Day with up to £300 reductions per couple on short-haul and mid-haul holidays to destinations including Spain, the Balearics and Canary Islands. These are for trips between May 1 and October 31.
For those travelling further afield, there is £400 off per couple departing between the same times, including stays at Tui’s flagship Sensatori properties.
Families can snap up thousands of free summer child places on accommodation where they share a room, apartment or villa. Deposits are from £50pp.
As well as the above offers, there is a code (SALE100) for a further £100 off selected breaks. TUI’s newest destination for summer, Kvarner Bay in Croatia, will have starting prices from £599. To book, see tui.co.uk.
Enjoy 40 per cent off the family-friendly 5* Serenity Fun City Resort in Makadi Bay, EgyptGetty – Contributor
THOMAS COOK has £300 off per booking if you spend £4,000 or more, £150 with £1,500 and £75 off if you fork out more than £800. The offers are available on holidays including its own-brand hotels — Casa Cook, Cook’s Club, Sunwing, Sunprime, Sentido, SunConnect and Smartline. There are also thousands of free children’s places when the first child shares with two adults paying full price.
Examples include a £75 saving on a week’s all-inclusive at the new 4* Cook’s Club Adakoy Marmaris resort, now from £423pp including flights from Manchester on May 3. Families can save up to £150 per booking with seven nights’ all-inclusive at the 4* Sunwing Arguineguin Seafront Hotel in Gran Canaria, now from £830pp including Gatwick flights on July 18. See thomascook.com.

ON THE BEACH is promising savings of up to 50 per cent on hotels across Europe, including mainland Spain, Portugal, Malta and Cyprus for winter and summer 2019. You can secure a break with deposits from £30pp, then spread the rest of the cost until two weeks before you fly. Examples include 40 per cent off the family-friendly 5* Serenity Fun City Resort in Makadi Bay, Egypt.
Meanwhile, there is up to 25 per cent off both the 4* Real Bellavista Hotel and Spa in Albufeira on the Algarve and the 3* Santa Susanna Resort on the Costa Brava.
See onthebeach.co.uk/holidays/sale or call 0871 474 3000.
EASYJET is offering discounts of up to 20 per cent on 400,000 flights and 400,000 holidays. There are deals on city and beach destinations across Europe, with accommodation ranging from self- catering apartments to 5* boutique hotels, for trips taken from January 30 to July 3. Book with a £60pp deposit, with the balance payable 45 days before departure.
Offers include a four-night stay at the Crowne Plaza Berlin City, reduced from £179pp to £145pp based on Luton departure on February 10. There is also five nights’ half-board at the 4* Asterias Village Hotel in Piskopiano, Crete, reduced from £225pp to £145pp including Gatwick flights on June 22. See easyjet.com.
Enjoy five nights’ half-board at the 4H Asterias Village Hotel in Piskopiano, CreteHandout
BRITISH AIRWAYS has savings on flights and holidays including new routes for 2019 to Charleston, Pittsburgh, Durban and Osaka, as well as destinations such as Las Vegas and Cancun.
There are two-night city breaks from £99pp, European beach holidays starting at £189pp and Caribbean holidays from £499pp. New York, the most-searched destination on ba.com in 2018, is on sale from £379pp with three nights’ accommodation and return flights.
Flight-only offers include Austin from £364 return, Florida (£299), Hong Kong (£520), Chicago (£295), Sydney (£609), Bangkok (£439), Osaka (£649), Nashville (£375) and ­Pittsburgh (£419).
ROYAL CARIBBEAN has launched its One Big Sale with offers on selected sailings in 2019 and 2020, including all-inclusive drinks packages and deposits from £75pp. Book before March 2019 and the first and second guests will get a deluxe drinks package, while the third and fourth guests staying in the same cabin will land a Refreshments Package.
The offer applies to select sailings from the UK, Europe, Caribbean and Asia and include sailings that stop at CocoCay, the company’s private island in the Caribbean. See  royalcaribbean.co.uk/cruise-deals/all-inclusive-cruises or call 0844 493 4005.

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P&O CRUISES celebrates the peak booking period with low deposits, on-board spending money and ­special prices. It is trumpeting the deals as it launches its latest TV ad starring Rob Brydon on Christmas Day. Other bargains in the campaign include extra guests sailing from £1pp on selected seven-night cruises.
These include a two-night sailing to Bruges on Ventura, departing November 29 2019, from £249pp with £40 per cabin to spend on board.
A seven-night cruise on Britannia to Rotterdam, Bruges and Guernsey, departing March 29, is from £599pp including £150 onboard spending money. There is a 15-night Caribbean Transatlantic cruise on Azura from £1,299pp, including £330 per cabin to spend. See pocruises.com or call 03453 555 111.

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