National Apprenticeship Week 2016

If you’d like to kick-start your career in the travel industry or you’re looking for an alternative to college and university, why not consider our multiple award-winning apprenticeships?

This year, we were placed 60th in The Sunday Times 100 Best Companies to Work For. So, we completely understand the importance and value of apprentices in our company!

Whether you’re on the hunt for your first job or you’re looking for a career change; an apprenticeship at Hays Travel is a great place to start. After reviewing your application, we will place you in the role that we feel best complements your skills and prospects.


One of the many benefits of apprenticeships with Hays Travel is that you work towards a highly-valued National Vocational Qualification (NVQ). Retail apprentices achieve NVQ Level 2 and 3 diplomas in Travel Services, while those in head office attain NVQ Level 2 certificates in both Business Administration and Customer Service!

Our apprenticeship scheme combines practical learning on the job with regular training sessions from our accredited NVQ trainers. And there’s a pay cheque waiting for you at the end of every month, too!

You can complete your apprenticeship across a variety of exciting departments. Be a travel consultant in one of our retail branches or try a position in IT, finance, marketing, events, and customer service at our head office. We will place you in the most suitable part of the company to make sure you get the most out of your apprenticeship.

So, what can you expect as an apprentice at Hays Travel? We asked four of our current apprentices in both our head office and retail branches about working and training with Hays Travel.

Name:   Georgia Cottle

Job role: First Year Apprentice Travel Consultant

Georgia Coyyle App Sallsbury 03

Tell us about what your job entails: 

My job involves dealing with customers and finding their perfect holiday. I also receive training while doing admin work, dealing with suppliers and answering phone calls.

What qualification are you working towards?

I’m working towards an NVQ Level 3 in Travel Services.

What is your favourite thing about working for Hays Travel?

It’s a family-run business and everyone is recognised and appreciated. I like the idea that I am part of someone’s holiday; making them happy and finding their dream getaway is so rewarding to me.

Where is your favourite holiday destination?

New Zealand. I spent a month here exploring both the north and south islands and it’s such a beautiful place. The scenery is amazing and the extreme sports and activities are limitless — so much to do! My favourite place was Queenstown, which is a quirky spot surrounded by mountains and lakes. It has everything you could possibly want from a holiday.

Where do you see yourself in five years?

I hope to have completed my NVQ successfully and have lots of new skills and experience. The travel sector has so much to offer and lots of different opportunities, so I hope to be successful and climbing the ladder in the industry.

Name: Jessica Robertson

Job role: First Year Apprentice Travel Consultant

Jess Robertson App Sallsbury 01

Tell us about what your job entails:

Being a first-year apprentice consists of selling holidays that meet the customers’ needs, makes them happy and ensures they keep coming back! It requires always providing the best customer service, which clients have come to love about Hays Travel. Alongside this, I am working towards achieving my targets — always aiming for High Flyer status! Of course, I need to keep up-to-date with admin work, be a team player and attend training sessions. These could be related to my NVQ or even additional training, such as cruise ship visits.

What qualification are you working towards?

I’m working towards an NVQ Level 3 in Travel Services.

What is your favourite thing about working for Hays Travel?

My favourite thing about working for Hays Travel is the sense of satisfaction I get from selling clients their dream holidays. Receiving lovely Feefo reviews from clients who are happy with my service and the holiday I sold them gives me such a buzz! I also love working with my team in Salisbury, as we all support and encourage each other.

Where is your favourite holiday destination?

My favourite place is America. I did a self-drive holiday alone across five states (Missouri, Texas, Kansas, Arkansas, and Oklahoma) over seven weeks last summer, visiting family along the way. It was amazing!

Where do you see yourself in five years?

I see myself being very happy, still working in Hays Travel with my NVQ diploma. I hope to have done my first cruise — which I’m dying to do after falling in love with the idea since learning about them here! I’d also like to be in my own house with my first brand-new car, too.

Name:   Sophie Brown

Job role:   First Year Apprentice Travel Consultant

Sophie Brown cons 023

Tell us a bit about what your job role entails: 

My job involves delivering excellent customer service and building a good rapport with clients in order to find their perfect holiday. It also includes working as part of a team, as well as daily tasks such as changing window deals and keeping the branch tidy. In addition, I strive to maximise my sales and hit my individual targets, so that I can help contribute to the overall success of my branch.

What qualification are you working towards?

I have recently completed my apprenticeship and achieved my NVQ Level 2 in Travel Services.

What is your favourite thing about working for Hays Travel?

The people, both my team and the customers, are my favourite thing about working for Hays Travel. Everyone in the company is friendly and welcoming; we really are like one big family! As for the customers, there’s nothing better than having the same people returning just to book their holiday with you. I feel very proud when clients come back from their holiday and thank me for the great time they had. Especially when they book again and again!

Where is your favourite holiday destination?

My favourite is Cyprus. I love the sun and Cyprus is very hot! Not to mention the beaches are amazing; I love the freedom of just jumping on a bus and being able to visit Nissi Bay, Ayia Napa and Protaras whenever I like!

Where do you see yourself in five years?

I hope that I am working in our training department, as I would like to use my experience to help new apprentices get into Hays Travel and see what the industry has to offer. I think that the apprentice scheme we offer is an amazing opportunity for young people, so I want to shout about it and show that there is a career out there for everyone!

Sophie was one of the winners of the Travel Weekly Cover Stars 2016 competition. She and 12 other lucky travel agents got the chance to go on a trip of a lifetime to Miami, followed by a three-day cruise to the capital city of the Bahamas! The trip ended with a professional makeover and photo shoot for each winner, so that they could look their best on the front cover of Travel Weekly — which they’ll appear on over the next 12 months!

Name: Teagan Adams

Job role: Second Year Events Apprentice and Receptionist


Tell us about what your job role entails:

In my job, I help plan and organise the events in the company. We arrange everything including Christmas parties, international conferences, our annual garden party, and many more. As well as planning events, I book business travel for the staff that must commute between Sunderland and Bournemouth. In the past few months, I also became the receptionist in our head office building. It’s definitely a fun department and no day is ever the same!

What qualification are you working towards?
I have recently completed my NVQ Level 2 in Business Administration and am currently working towards my NVQ Level 2 in Customer Service. I have regular visits from my NVQ assessor who is there to help and support me throughout my apprenticeship.

What is your favourite thing about working for Hays Travel?

It’s hard to pick just one thing! I really like the people; everyone is friendly and easy to get along with. When I moved from working in a retail branch to working in head office, everyone was very supportive and helpful. Another favourite is definitely the events. We all look forward to the garden and Christmas parties!

Where is your favourite holiday destination?

That would definitely be Majorca. I have been going for years with my family and often stayed in Santa Ponsa, but Magaluf was my first holiday away with the girls and I loved every second! Cyprus is another great place too — I’m going there this year!

Where do you see yourself in five years?

I see myself still working for Hays Travel. I will have completed my apprenticeship and hopefully developed my career in the Events Department.

Teagan won Employee of the Month in September 2015.  Here she is with Retail & Training Director, Jane Schumm.

Several of our apprentices over the years have progressed within Hays Travel to hold senior positions today. Many choose to stay with us for a long time and enjoy a happy and fulfilling career in the travel industry. One of our senior members of staff, Paula Barrett, joined us as an apprentice in 1990 on a Youth Training Scheme (YTS). Now, 25 years later, she has worked her way up to become Head of Hays Retail! Earlier this year, Paula was invited to 10 Downing Street for a drinks reception to celebrate the success of apprenticeships in the UK with the Prime Minister!


We employ more than 100 apprentices in various departments throughout the company every year. So, we’re sure that we can find the ideal career for you.

If you’re interested in completing an apprenticeship with the UK’s largest independent travel agent, click here to apply:

Top 10 Holiday Hotspots in 2016

Now that 2016 is firmly upon us, we’re all starting to think about where we would like to go on holiday. Whether you prefer exploring quirky European cities or catching some rays on the beach, we’ve got all the info you need in our list of this year’s best holiday spots.


Holidays to Madeira are all about relaxing and enjoying the panoramic seascapes and diverse terrain. Portugal has always been a firm, family-favourite destination, but its small island of Madeira is sometimes (oddly) overlooked. Found basking in year-round sunshine off the north-west coast of Africa, it makes for an ideal getaway for the entire family — although it’s particularly popular for some guaranteed winter sun.

To escape the icy winter winds without flying halfway around the world, there’s no place like Madeira.


Where Africa meets Europe and antiquity greets today, Sicily sits at the crossroads of ancient civilisations and geographical diversity. At the bottom of Italy’s boot awaits a rolling landscape of history and culture. From the Norman Palace and the Greek amphitheatre, to Byzantine mosques and Roman ruins; Sicily has retained its dramatic past for the travellers of today.

Romantics, history buffs and lovers of ceaseless luxury adore Sicily.


Chances are, Latvia probably doesn’t spring to mind when thinking of a holiday destination. But it is truly a hidden gem.  Neighbour to Lithuania and Estonia, Latvia lies on the Baltic Sea in northern Europe, providing warm summers and cool, sometimes snowy, winters. This year, Latvia is celebrating its 25th year of independence, and the country’s rich history has produced beautiful buildings and fairy-tale surroundings for us to admire today.

On top of this, Riga and the surrounding towns provide vibrant nightlife spots with old-style beer halls, stylish skyline bars and buzzing nightclubs perfect for a party on a budget.

For a great-value European break this year, travel to Latvia for a holiday with a difference.


After being voted the best value-for-money destination for 2016, Estonia is the ideal place to visit if you’re looking for a bargain break! Made up of more than 1,500 islands, Estonia is littered with rocky beaches, emerald forests and vast lakes. Through the high-walled centre, you will find the petite capital of Tallinn with its cobbled streets, historic churches, and quaint shops and cafes.

Whether layered with snow or drenched in sunshine, Estonia is always a picturesque location.


Head to dazzling Denmark this year to experience the cool capital of Copenhagen, a must for food-lovers and culture vultures. The famously clean and tidy Copenhagen has flourished in recent years and has become an increasingly popular short-haul destination, thanks to its quirky architecture, mouth-watering cuisine, fantastic beer, and vibrant nightlife scene. With new flights from Bristol in 2016, it is now even easier to visit this impressive city!

Travel to Copenhagen with ease for a truly diverse taste of Scandinavia.

Copenhagen_264028625Cape Verde

With unspoilt beaches and turquoise waters, Cape Verde has been dubbed the African Caribbean. It’s fast becoming a desirable destination for holidaymakers. Throughout summer 2016, there are new flights from Bristol and Glasgow to Cape Verde’s most popular island, Sal, meaning you can now easily travel to this beautiful island. It’s predicted that the destinations popularity will continue to soar. With gorgeous year-round sunshine, it’s easy to see why Cape Verde is the perfect setting for a beach holiday.

Stunning golden-sand beaches line each island with azure seas and spectacular views across the Atlantic Ocean — setting the perfect scene for an all-year, exotic getaway.

Cape Verde_237124573Cuba

Cuba is home to miles of white-sand beaches and tranquil turquoise waters, perfect for those seeking sun in 2016. If lounging by the beach isn’t your thing, then Havana is the place for you. Tourism is booming in Cuba and this year will see new, chic hotels opening up across the island.

The north coast of Cuba is home to some of the most beautiful beaches in the world. The Cayo Coco Beach is a petite island providing the perfect spot for snorkelling or scuba diving, with its sparkling waters and unspoiled coral reefs. Varadero Beach is lined with water sport facilities including windsurfing, jet skiing and surfing. Located on a narrow peninsula, it provides a peaceful escape from the busy town.

Experience Cuba’s well-known and loved stereotypes and think vintage cigars, salsa dancers and Che Guevara — the country’s icon.

Cuba_208076563Rio de Janeiro

All eyes will be on Rio de Janeiro this year as it hosts the Summer Olympics. You thought you’d seen it all after the 2014 Brazil World Cup, but raving Rio is ready to party again! Major improvements have taken place across the region, making it the perfect holiday destination this year. Whether you’d prefer to lounge on the iconic Copacabana Beach, head up the Corcovado mountain and see the spectacular Christ the Redeemer, or spend the night samba dancing; there’s no doubt that Rio de Janeiro will be out to impress in 2016.

Don’t miss out on the party this year in Rio de Janeiro.

Brazil - Rio de Janeiro_280109546Orlando, Florida

As Walt Disney’s Magic Kingdom celebrates its 45th birthday, this year is the year to visit. Plan your dream holiday to Orlando and enjoy themed hotels, magical parks, child-focussed entertainment, and world-famous attractions.

There are new things popping up left right and centre in 2016 across some of Orlando’s best theme parks; including Disney’s ‘Frozen Ever After’ at EPCOT and King Kong at Universal Orlando Resort. Make childhood dreams come true and meet beloved characters such as Mickey Mouse on Main Street USA and Cinderella in her captivating, magic castle. Watch the park come alive as the parades march by the crowds of enchanted faces every day.

Orlando Florida is definitely the place to be this year. An ideal climate, fantastic entertainment and special Disney anniversary make it the ultimate family destination.

Orlando_241289374Abu Dhabi

Abu Dhabi, the capital of the United Arab Emirates, is perfect for combining a modern city break with a dreamy beach holiday. Abu Dhabi has it all: top-notch golf courses, water parks, high-class shopping malls, golden-sand beaches, and an impressive skyline of towering skyscrapers that you can see from miles around. The city’s warm climate peaks in the middle of the year — between June and September, temperatures shoot above 35 degrees!

In 2016, the city will see the opening of a landmark art gallery, Louvre Abu Dhabi, which is a must for any visitors. The unique building consists of a futuristic dome appearing to float above a lake, and has been tipped as a cultural game-changer for the Middle East.

For the ultimate city-break experience steeped in culture and sunshine, try Abu Dhabi.

Abu Dhabi_142966906That’s our list of top places to venture this year. Pop into any of our branches or search online to find out what deals we have available and get booked up soon!

Paula Barrett’s Visit to 10 Downing Street

Paula Barrett - Head of Retail Hays Travel (2)

Our head of retail, Paula Barrett, had an eventful time in the capital visiting 10 Downing Street on Monday, 18 January.

Alongside representatives from some of the UK’s biggest businesses, she was invited to attend an exclusive drinks reception hosted by Prime Minister David Cameron to celebrate the success of UK apprentices.

The event also took place to announce the launch of a new, national Apprenticeship Delivery Board, which will aim to encourage more companies to create and develop more apprenticeships across the UK.

On top of the excitement of being at the famous 10 Downing Street, Paula was delighted to have her career recognised at such an important business event.

At Hays Travel, Paula has gone from one success to another. She began her career with us 25 years ago on a two-year apprenticeship. After completing this in 1992 when she was 18 years old, she was awarded an NVQ in Travel Services and has since progressed up the career ladder to become our head of retail.

Paula is now responsible for more than 120 of our nationwide retail branches, which employ approximately 850 people — and manages them all from our head office in Sunderland.

This isn’t the first time Paula has been recognised for her success. In 1999, she became one of the youngest branch managers to win ‘Branch of the Year’.

Paula said: “I felt very proud to be invited to such a prestigious event at 10 Downing Street where careers like mine were celebrated. I hope this will inspire young people to take on an apprenticeship like I did.”

No matter where you start, Paula’s story just goes to show how you can become a success with hard work and commitment.

Here at Hays Travel, we invest a lot of time, effort and resources into creating and developing quality apprenticeships. We employed about 117 apprentices in 2015 and plan to recruit even more in 2016!

We offer apprenticeships in our retail branches, as well as in our head office. In both 2013 and 2014, we were delighted to be highly commended at the National Apprenticeship Awards because of our apprenticeship scheme and success as a training provider.

With our own training department and accredited NVQ assessors, we can offer in-house training to all our apprentices. From NVQ diplomas in Business Administration, Customer Services and Travel Services, to NVQ accreditations in Team Leading and Management; we have plenty to offer young people looking for a more hands-on start to a career.

Well done, Paula!

Hays Travel Fundraising Highlights 2015

As always, our branches have been busy in their local communities raising money throughout the year for their chosen charities. From cake sales to sky dives and bus trips to fun runs, Hays Travel branches across the country have organised some fantastic events in 2015.

Here are some of the fundraising highlights from last year.

Prickly Ball Farm – Newton Abbot

Animal lovers from the Newton Abbot branch donated £200 to Prickly Ball Farm, which is a local hedgehog charity. The money went towards making vital repairs to its on-site hospital. Branch manager Debbie Penman said: “We’re all big animal lovers in our shop. Since Prickly Ball Farm is a local, family-run organisation, we really wanted to support them in any way we could. Especially once we heard that the hedgehog hospital was in urgent need of a replacement roof.”

The branch was even fortunate enough to spend some time with Lucky and Greenie — two of the 45 hedgehogs homed at the farm!

Prickly Ball Farm – Newton AbbotBreast Cancer Now – Peterlee

It was colour run and bra fun this year for our Peterlee branch. The team at Hays Travel Peterlee raised more than £715 for Breast Cancer Now through a sponsored colour fun run and afternoon tea event. Travel consultant Fay Gorton raised £300 for the charity after completing the 5km Colour Obstacle Rush in September in a bid to support the charity following the sad loss of her mother to breast cancer.

Fay told us: “Breast Cancer Now is an amazing cause. I really wanted to do something in honour of my brave Mam, Denise, so that hopefully other people won’t have to lose family or friends in the future the way I did.”

To boost funds even further, Fay organised an afternoon tea event for 30 lucky guests. They enjoyed afternoon tea made by the staff, before taking part in fun games including bingo, “Name the Bear” and “Design a Bra”.

Breast Cancer Now – PeterleeCramlington Cycle to Big Ben

Team Cramlington geared itself up for a 328-mile cycle in November. The branch cycled the distance to Big Ben on four, in-store exercise bikes to raise money for local charity, Jessica’s Sarcoma Awareness. Jessica’s Sarcoma Awareness is well known in the town and one that is close to the hearts of everyone in the branch – especially as Jessica’s granddad is a regular customer.

The charity was set up by Jessica’s family after she sadly passed away in 2014 at the age of 18 following a battle with a rare type of cancer called alveolar sarcoma. In memory of Jessica, the charity raises funds to support organisations such as Teenage Cancer Trust and Sarcoma UK. It also donates gifts to many children battling cancer in local hospitals.

Branch manager Fallon Scott told us: “A lot of customers visited the store to show their support and make donations — I think they could see the pain in our faces as we cycled!”

After a gruelling 328 miles and many kind donations, the branch managed to raise an amazing £564.75!

Cramlington Cycle to Big BenBus Trips

Over the year, many branches have travelled across the country taking their customers on coach trips to explore iconic cities.

Hays Travel Consett had a fantastic day fundraising for Willowburn Hospice during a day trip to Whitby in September. Staff organised quizzes, games and raffles on the coach to keep everyone entertained. Willow Burn Hospice is close to many hearts at the branch and the organisation is full of staff that go above and beyond to help. Team Consett even held another trip to York to boost the fundraising pot!

The team at Havant took its customers on a mystery bus trip to Brighton in September and managed to raise £630 for Rowans Hospice. Staff members at Wallsend have also been very busy lately, with three trips in three weeks to raise money for the Charlie Bear Cancer Appeal. The team took customers to Edinburgh, Grassington Festival, and York to raise more than £1500.

Hays Travel Blandford enjoyed a festive trip to Bath for the Christmas market in aid of Teddy20, which is a charity based in Blandford supporting children suffering with cancer. Carrying on with the festivities, Gateshead took its customers for some retail therapy with a shopping trip to intu Trafford Centre in Manchester. The trip was in aid of Kibblesworth Village Millennium Centre, which provides space, services and activities for the local community.

Bus Trips - Consett trip to WhitbySky Dives

The sky was the limit for many of our branches this year. Brave members of staff went above and beyond to support their chosen charities by taking on a tandem skydive. Westbourne’s Tom Holland took on the challenge for the Lewis-Manning Hospice, while Joe and Chariece from the Boscombe branch completed the dive for the Macmillan Unit at Christchurch Hospital.

Honiton, Torquay and Teignmouth branches together raised a fantastic £1350 for Dream-A-Way Foundation, which aims to assist people living in Devon, Cornwall and the Scilly Isles with physical and learning difficulties. The money will fund days out and holidays for people with mental or physical disabilities.

Skydive-TeignmouthFun Runs

In November, 300 people dressed up as Santa Claus to run 3km in aid of Brendon Care in Southampton. Staff from the Southampton branch joined in and managed to raise £300.

Earlier in the year, three members of the Eastleigh branch took on the Run or Dye challenge to raise money for a local food bank. The goal of the race was to begin clean and finish covered in colour — which is exactly what staff members Lara, Connie and Rhiannon found when they took part!

Eastleigh Run or dIEDress-Down Days

Once a month, staff at the head office in Sunderland organise a dress-down day to support a range of charities. This year, more than £3200 was raised for the following causes: Stroke Association, Niall Quinn Children’s Centre, Barnardo’s Big Brunch, Comic Relief, Cancer Connections, Cancer Research UK, Cystic Fibrosis Trust, CoppaFeel!, St Cuthbert’s Hospice, St Gabriel’s Food Bank, Jeans for Genes Day, CLIC Sargent, Grace House, Macmillan, St Mary Magdalen, Wear it Pink, and Children in Need.

Jeans2This is just a snippet of some of the fantastic work our branches have done throughout 2015. We have raised over £50,000 in last year for more than 80 charities!

It has been a fantastic year and we can’t wait to see what our branches get up to this year to support their chosen charities.

Christmas Markets Not To Be Missed

What could get you more in the festive spirit than experiencing some of the best Christmas Markets Europe has to offer? Stroll through snowy cities, enjoy tasty delicacies and traditional handmade crafts.

Vienna, Austria

The Christkindlmarkt in Vienna is one of the longest running Christmas markets in Europe, dating back to the middle ages. Vienna’s Christmas markets are known for unique Christmas gifts, so why not treat a loved one to something a little bit different? You’ll find everything from handmade gifts, pretty little trinkets, as well as lots of Christmas souvenirs which you can hang on your tree for years to come. If you’re feeling a bit peckish, you’ll be spoilt for choice as there’s countless food stalls here, from traditional roast chestnut stalls to a wide variety of sausage, ham and pretzels. If you’ve got a sweet tooth, indulge in some sugary delights which Austria is well known for.

Market - Vienna_117533932

Barcelona, Spain

What Barcelona lacks in snow it most definitely makes up for in stylish Spanish-flavoured shopping. The Fira de Santa Llúcia Christmas Market is probably the most well-known and classic market in Spain. A large number of the stalls sell fabulous Christmas decorations, from trees to mistletoe. Don’t forget to buy your Christmas Caga Tió; a log with a smiley face on, this is a unique part of Catalan Christmases. On two Saturdays during the Christmas market season, Santa Claus will pay a visit to the markets to collect letters from children and hand out cookies and balloons.

Market_235513402Budapest, Hungary

Towards the end of November Vörösmarty Square turns into a festive market place located in the heart of the city centre. There are more than 100 wooden stands selling high quality gifts such as jewellery, candles, Christmas decorations, and other items which can’t be found anywhere else. After shopping, enjoy a lovely mug of spicy mulled wine. You can even take home a Christmas Fair mug — a nice little keepsake which gets a new design each year.  If you’re travelling with children, be sure to attend a puppet show and play areas where they can enjoy Santa Claus games.

Market - Budapest_235683781-2Birmingham, UK

You don’t have to travel too far as some of the best Christmas markets can be found in the UK. The largest authentic German market located outside of Germany and Austria is located in Birmingham, and it’s one of the UK’s favourite Christmas Markets. Here you can buy traditional gifts such as jewellery, toys and Christmas decorations. Some stalls offer ethnic handicrafts from all over the world from places such as Africa, India and South America.

Market - Berlin_164615570If you would like to book a festive Christmas Markets break call us on 0800 412 5372 or pop into your local branch:


Halloween Around The World

Everybody in the UK knows that Halloween is a time to get dressed up in fun costumes, go trick or treating and celebrate with your friends and family. That is how we celebrate it here, but what about in other countries? Let’s look at some of the ways that different cultures celebrate Halloween…

Starfish HalloweenIreland

Halloween is believed to have originated in Ireland, and the Irish celebrate the event very similarly to us. They wear costumes, go trick or treating and host parties featuring games such as “Snap Apple” (also known as “Apple Bobbing”). A traditional Irish card game played at Halloween involves placing cards face down on a surface with sweets or coins hidden under them. The player picks a card and receives whatever prize lies underneath. Children also play a game called “Knock-A-Dolly” — knocking on a neighbour’s door before running away!

Food is also an important part of the celebrations. ‘Barnbrack’ is traditional sweet bread eaten at Halloween in Ireland. This treasured food is a kind of fruitcake with a treat baked inside that can be bought at stores or baked at home. Supposedly, whoever receives the slice with a prize in it will have good luck. On the other hand, if a piece of straw is found, it means that a prosperous year is on its way, while a ring means that the person will soon be married!


In Italy, it is common for families to bake bean-shaped cakes called fave dei morti (or ‘beans of the dead’, in English). These small cakes are made from eggs, flour, sugar, butter, flavourings, and ground almonds. Many people, mostly those in southern Italy, even prepare a feast for departed relatives. After this, they go to church and place flowers on their relatives’ graves — leaving the spirits to feast on the food that they prepared earlier in the day.


Teng Chieh is what Halloween is known as in China. The Chinese celebrate Halloween by placing food and water in front of photographs of family members who have passed away. They also light bonfires and lanterns to guide the spirits as they travel the Earth during the night. In Buddhist temples, worshippers make fachuan (or ‘boats of the law’) out of paper. These are then burned in the evening, which is apparently to remember the dead and to assist pretas.

In Chinese culture, pretas are believed to be the spirits of people who died because of an accident, and so are never buried. The fachuan is thought to help free the spirits, and temples have several ceremonies dedicated to the pretas. These include asking monks to recite sacred verses and offer fruit.



Halloween is not celebrated by the French to honour departed relatives. In fact, it was practically unknown in the country until the 1990s! The French, who are typically resistant to Americanisation, regard Halloween as an American holiday. However, some people in France enjoy the festivities and host fancy dress parties similar to the UK and USA.

In 1982, a restaurant named “American Dream” began celebrating Halloween, although it was difficult to explain the purpose of the holiday to each customer. Thankfully, since about 1995, many customers have become familiar with the occasion.

Communities on several occasions have tried to introduce Halloween to France. For example, Saint-Germain-en-Laye held a Halloween party on 24 October 1996, in an attempt to show people what Halloween was all about.

In France today, Halloween is celebrated like many other countries, with costumes, parties and trick or treating. Although, it remains common for many French people to refuse to enjoy it, as they don’t believe in the tradition. The most interesting thing about Halloween in France is how long it took to catch on…


In Mexico, Halloween is celebrated mostly by children who wear costumes and go trick or treating. However, people generally show a lot of affection towards their deceased relatives on this day. Families gather around photos of their dead relatives and place food, drink and cempasúchil (flowers) to welcome them back.

Mexicans are also known to decorate skulls, as well as create images of skeletons. But the country’s ‘Day of the Dead’, which falls near Halloween, is celebrated on a far greater scale.  Mexicans embrace it as a festive occasion with parties, dancing, singing, and even fireworks!

Dead Mariachi_207980722In a nutshell, Halloween is celebrated differently all over the world. Some countries use the tradition to celebrate the lives of those they have lost; some refuse to acknowledge the event; and others don’t know much about why we celebrate it in the first place.

Nevertheless, and however you choose to mark the day, we hope you all have a great Halloween! Stay safe, have fun and celebrate as you see fit…

Celebrity Eclipse Ship Visit

Welcome aboard!

Ruth Morgan-Owen from our Hedge End branch recently escorted a ship visit on board the luxurious Celebrity Eclipse. If you’re thinking about embarking on a cruise holiday, here is Ruth’s low-down on the fantastic features of the ship.

My visit on Celebrity Eclipse was the first time I’d been on any Celebrity cruise ship. I’d heard such good things about her that I jumped at the chance of taking twelve guests with me on a ship visit, which included a four-course lunch!

IMG_8037The ship is 122,000 tonnes and has a capacity of 2,850 passengers, with a guest to staff ratio of close to 2:1.

After having a guided tour around the staterooms, we were given some time to explore the ship ourselves. The suites are designed for modern luxury and certainly live up to it! Top suites even come with an optional butler service.

Toiletries in the bathrooms are customised and of a high quality, and the linen used is eXhale by Celebrity Cruises, which is top-class, premium bedding.

Celebrity Eclipse has three dining option times: 18:15, 20:30 or freedom dining (where you can eat at a time to suit you). The lunch we had was superb. Everyone agreed it was excellent quality produce and presented in a very professional way. The service in the restaurant was fantastic too, with staff being friendly and helpful at all times.

On board there are speciality restaurants covering a wide range of cuisines from all over the world. You can enjoy cafés, grills, bistros, and even a dedicated restaurant for AquaClass guests. Celebrity also has the largest wine collection of any cruise brand!

Entertainment consists of high-end shows together with a cinema, casino, card room, and the Hot Glass Show — where you can witness the incredibly gorgeous art of glass-blowing. Celebrity Eclipse also has an amazing spa, Canyon Ranch SpaClub. Here you can indulge in massages, salon services, body treatments, and rejuvenating skin therapies.

Celebrity Cruises is known all over the world for the IMG_7938number of awards its ships consistently win. In 2014, Celebrity Eclipse won the “Best from the UK” award, courtesy of the ‘2015 Cruise Critic – UK Cruiser’s Choice Awards’. Although even during my short visit, it was easy to see why! Celebrity Eclipse is designed for all ages and interests with a vast range of on-board activities — happy children equal happy parents!

A unique feature of this ship is its Lawn Club. Here, there’s half an acre of real, beautifully-maintained grass growing on the top deck, which is ideal for a picnic in the middle of the ocean! There are also ultra-modern fitness centres and classes on board, with specialised instructors in everything from Zumba to yoga. Plus, there are lots of benefits to enjoy by joining the Captain’s Club.

Celebrity Eclipse is by far the best ship I’ve been on of a similar class. The feel of the ship is definitely space, comfort and elegance. This is a stunning, first-rate ship and we are very fortunate to have her sailing from Southampton during our summer months!

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