Entries in ‘Interview’ Journal

Gary Bembridge Interview: Tips for Travellers

Monday January 13, 2014 at 6:06 AM | 2 Comments

Gary Bembridge

Author Gary Bembridge

In early January I caught up with travel writer and enthusiast Gary Bembridge. Gary writes a successful travel site called Tips for Travellers and recently published his book, the Cruise Traveler’s Handbook, which is available through Amazon among other places.

Over the years Gary has traveled extensively and become a big proponent of cruises in particular. In this interview Gary tells us why he is so passionate about traveling and gives us his top travel tips.

  • When did you first catch the traveling bug? Can you remember the first trip you ever took?

I grew up in the land locked country of Zimbabwe. As a boy growing up in the 1960s, the infrastructure outside of the cities in that country was still quite basic. I remember as a young boy being woken up at 4 am in the morning to pile into our old Morris Minor Station wagon for our first trip to the sea. It required three days of driving through Zimbabwe and South Africa to get to the seaside resort of Durban. We drove along strip roads in the dark through the Zimbabwe countryside from Bulawayo to the border at Biet Bridge, to be there by the time it opened at 7am in the morning. This sticks in my mind as my first big travel adventure as I had never seen the sea before. I was hooked by the thrill of heading to see and experience something different.


  • How long have you been running Tips for Travellers and what made you decide to start blogging about your travels?

I started Tips for Travellers in September 2005. I was traveling two or three weeks a month all around the world for my global marketing job at Johnson & Johnson. I would always try and add in a day or two every place I went to so that I could see the places I was visiting for work. I felt it was such a privilege to visit places, and I didn’t want to just remember the airport, meeting room and hotel. So I would research every place like crazy to make sure I got to see the must-see attractions and knew what the most efficient way to get to do that was.

I realized I had all this great travel content that could help other travelers. As I am a bit of a techie geek I was fascinated by the podcasts on iTunes and video on YouTube that was just starting at that time. So I created a podcast, video channel and a blog to share my tips for travelers. It took off really fast and I realized people liked what I was doing and have been doing it ever since. In 2012 I left corporate life and reduced my marketing work to be able to spend more time on Tips for Travellers.


  • Have you always loved ships and traveling by sea?

No! I assumed that cruising was for old people, unadventurous people, that I would feel trapped and there would not be a lot to do and so never went on a cruise. Then I was invited to talk at a marketing conference that was taking place on the P&O cruise ship Aurora. I boarded reluctantly but as soon as the ship left port and headed out to sea I realized that it was magical and amazing. Ever since then I have been addicted to it. I think it is an incredible and varied way to see the world. I always tell people to try it just once. I have never met anyone (yet) that has not liked it.


  • Do you have a favorite port from all the cruises you’ve ever taken?

Dominica is the port that is probably the most memorable. Though there have been many. I had not known much about the island and when we arrived I discovered a lush, volcanic island that is still largely reliant on fishing and agriculture. About 80% of the island consists of rugged mountains covered by dense vegetation. It does not have a long runway and so it’s not a big tourist destination and only has a limited number of cruise ships calling on it.

The beach sand is hot from the volcanic action below the island and you can snorkel through areas of the sea where bubbles churn up from the ocean floor from escaping gasses. There are amazing local markets selling incredible handmade baskets and local spices. Most of the film Pirates of the Caribbean II was filmed there too!


  • You’ve mentioned on your site that you’ve traveled with Cunard more than any other cruise company. Can you summarize what it is that sets Cunard cruises apart from others?

Cunard is one of the few cruise lines that are more than a century old. It is steeped in heritage and tries to retain aspects of the service, decor and on board experience that harks back to the glamorous days of crossing the Atlantic before air travel. It is the only line that has a regular scheduled crossing of the Atlantic using the Queen Mary 2. It is also a very British experience. It has an on board ambiance and approach that is more classical and formal than many other cruise lines. For example the dress code and dressing up at night and formal white glove afternoon tea are very much traditions that are embraced and retained.

They also have large ballrooms in all their ships and formal dances are a big part of the Cunard experience. It has three distinct classes of staterooms and associated dining rooms (Queens Grill, Princess Grill and Britannia Grill), which is different to most cruise lines. It has a style and ambiance that feels special and feels like you are taking part of a grand adventure rather than just a cruise.


  • Who is your favorite speaker that you’ve seen through the Cunard Enrichment Program?

This is a really hard one to decide on as there have been so many I have enjoyed. I think the one that I found the most fascinating was a series that Seth Gopin, an art historian, ran on the last winter Transatlantic Crossing to New York. Through the seven days he ran a series of talks about the history of skyscrapers in that city. He focused on the various stages of development and then featured many of the famous ones where he not only told us about how they were built but the stories behind them. It was fantastic to then explore the city on arrival and see the buildings with all that insight.


  • For anyone that might never have been on a cruise before, can you describe what the atmosphere is like on board a cruise ship?

It depends so much on what line you have chosen to cruise with. It is essential to research and get advice on what is the perfect cruise line for you. The atmosphere differs dramatically based on which one you have chosen. The routes many cruise ships go to is largely the same based on the port infrastructure available in an area, and the key difference is what happens on board.

So if you cruise with Norwegian Cruise Line it is a much more informal atmosphere with lots of choice of places to eat, things to do and will be a busy environment as the ships are large and carry between 4,000 and 5,000 passengers. If you did the same route on Silversea Cruises it would be a calm and quiet atmosphere as they are small ships with about 300 passengers and much less arranged activities and entertainment and much more about meeting and chatting to new friends. Cunard is a more formal and traditional atmosphere with a focus on dressing up at night and having sophisticated, long dinners and taking in a show in the evening.

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Basic Travel Tips with a Sense of Humor

Wednesday September 2, 2009 at 7:07 AM | 3 Comments

Posted by Nancy D. Brown

Nancy D. Brown on Antique Harley DavidsonFellow Travel Writer and blogger Andrew Hayes asked me to contribute a guest post on his Sharing Experiences blog that he writes from Edinburgh, Scotland. I offered four travel tips and shared what happens to someone who doesn't head this very basic advice.

My room mate is driving and I’m co-pilot. We’re on our way to Newport, Rhode Island to check out the swanky mansions. About an hour into our drive from Boston, we realize that we’re New Hampshire bound and heading in the complete opposite direction of our planned destination. As you will quickly learn, my Kansas City room mate and I are both directionally challenged. No matter, we adjust our game plan and decide to visit Henry David Thoreau’s Walden Pond in New Hampshire.

This was back in the early 1980’s before everyone had a GPS mounted on their car dashboard and iPhones equipped with sophisticated mapping applications. These were the carefree days after college and before marriage, mortgages and motherhood; the days of road trips and cheap, under-funded adventures.

Fast forward twenty years and I’m still saddled with a horrible sense of direction. Amazingly, that doesn’t detour me from my current occupation as a travel writer. Come along on my stumbling, bumbling journey as I share some of my mis-adventures as a world-traveler.

Travel Tip #1: Always carry a map


My husband and I had finished the tour of Germany’s famous Neuschwanstein Castle and were ready to board our bus and continue along our romantic road coach excursion. Young and newly married, my athletic husband decided to walk the 30 minute trek downhill, I opted for the bus. As the bus lumbered down the mountain road, I didn’t think much of the German language being bantered around me. I tried out my limited vocabulary on a passenger across from me and was met with a quizzical look. It appears that I had boarded a charter bus full of school children on a field trip. They were heading back to their village, and I was beginning to realize the error of my ways. Fortunately, the bus driver took pity on me and delivered me back to the castle.

Travel Tip #2: Always check the destination before boarding a bus or train


In Corfu, Greece, my husband thought a motorcycle tour of the island might prove an adventure. As we walked up to the table to inquire about renting a motor bike, we watched the feral kittens scatter as the old man rose from his plastic chair. Smiling a noticeably toothless grin, he waved us in. The motorcycles were a far cry from my husband’s BMW bike at home in California. The battered Honda he selected could seat two people and had working breaks, or so we thought.

As we rounded a corner, me gripping tightly around my husband’s waist, I noticed a series of small, white crosses sticking up from the dirt as we approached a bend in the road. A large, yellow school bus lurched toward us from the opposite direction. I reached out my hand, as if this meek effort would prevent us from crashing into the vehicle. My hand brushed the side of the yellow bus as it chugged past. As my husband maneuvered the bike out of harms way, he realized that the back hand brake on the motorcycle was useless. He didn’t share this discovery with me until we were safely back from our island tour.

Travel Tip #3: Always inspect rental equipment thoroughly


Our first day of a two month backpacking adventure and we were like kids in a candy store. In fact, we were two young adults in Harrods Department Store. As I mentioned, this was the first day of our trip and we decided to shop the area alone and meet up in a couple of hours. My husband heard one location, I heard another. Unfortunately for me, I hadn’t yet changed my money and I didn’t have our room key or hotel address. After several hours of waiting for my husband to appear, I walked to the tube, not knowing where I was headed. As luck would have it, my husband caught sight of me and we traveled happily ever after.

Travel Tip #4: Always carry your own money, hotel key and the address of the property

While these may seem like basic travel tips, described with a sense of humor, I can tell you that I didn't think these first-hand experiences were funny at the time they were happening to ME! What travel tips do you have to share? I look forward to adding them to my list.



Travel Writers Share Lost Luggage Tips

Monday July 27, 2009 at 7:07 AM | 12 Comments

"Nancy D. Brown"

Travel writer Nancy D. Brown share tips for how to find lost luggage

 With a heavy heart, I waited for the baggage claim carousel at O’Hare Airport to circle one last time. Surely my duffel bag would magically appear momentarily. Afterall, this was a non-stop United Airlines flight from San Francisco to Chicago. I had checked my luggage in two hours early. How could this be happening to me, and at 1:30 in the morning?

Sadly, I admitted defeat and went over to the steel machine where I was to punch in my luggage identification number and wait for it to spit out the delayed baggage report receipt. Dejectedly clutching my laptop computer, I shuffled off to find the airport shuttle to the Hyatt Regency O’Hare. The nice folks at the front desk hooked me up with some toiletries and I went to bed confident that my luggage would be delivered before noon checkout.

As is the case of a lodging editor, I was moving on to review another hotel property the next day. Still no bag. After calling United Airlines 800 number, I was directed to their on-line site (which was down) to check the status of my luggage. I checked into the Hyatt Regency McCormick Place and was greeted with a friendly and sympathetic staff. A well-stocked toiletry bag was provided to me, but, alas, no Briggs and Riley duffel bag.

Eventually, I was reunited with my bag, but not before having to purchase a pair of dress pants and no-iron shirt for my BlogHer Travel Panel speaking engagement. I also need to send a shout out to Mary Kay Cosmetics and Public Relations Account Supervisor Jill Kleiner of Coyne. Her agency overnight Federal Expressed their entire make up line to me while I was staying at the Sheraton Hotel. And yes, Cat Lincoln of CleverGirls Collective saved the day when she slipped me some vital Yummie Tummie shapewear undergarments.

Rather than rant and rave, I’d like to offer some lost luggage travel tips from professional travel writers if an airline loses your luggage.

Travel Writers Share Lost Luggage Tips

Jennifer Leo: Los Angeles Times Travel Blog and Editor of Sand in My Bra series

Wendy Perrin: Conde Nast Traveler’s Consumer News Editor and Perrin Post blogger

Sean Keener: Co-Founder of the BootsnAll Travel Network

Rosalind Cummings-Yeates: Freelance journalist and travel blogger

Kim Mance: Editor of Go Galavanting.com

Donna Hull: Freelance Writer and blogger at My Itchy Travel Feet

Lanora Mueller: Writing Travel blogger

Shannon Hurst Lane: Freelance travel writer

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