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The World's Best Festivals

20th July 2015

Updated August 2017

Introducing the IGLU guide to the best and most interesting festivals and cultural celebrations from around the world. Perfectly organised with date and destination information to help you plan your travels, so that you can witness some of the most magnificent festivals the world has to offer. From Samba dancers in Rio, to dragons parading the streets of Hong Kong, this list has it all. Now is the time to experience life the way it should be lived.

Holi Festival 

When: March Where: India, Nepal, Sri Lanka and Worldwide

Why you should go: Holi Festival, or The Festival of Colours, celebrates the end of winter and beginning of spring. It’s fun, safe, and free. It is an ancient Hindu religious festival that is celebrated with enthusiasm, singing, dancing, and a rainbow of colours. Groups carry drums and other musical instruments and go from place to place, while everyone plays, chases, and colours each other with dry powder and coloured water, with some carrying water guns and coloured water-filled balloons.

Snow & Ice Festival 

When: Late December to February Where: Harbin, China

Why you should go: The Harbin festival is the largest snow and ice festival in the world, exhibiting the most exquisite ice and snow sculptures ever made. Experience the magnificent Ice and Snow World - with incredible carvings that tower an amazing 20 feet high. Not to mention the perfectly crafted full-size monuments, that are designed from gigantic blocks of ice and decorated with lights and lasers. This exhibition has a lot to offer, and is definitely worth a visit at least once.


When: Mid September - Early October Where: Munich, Germany

Why you should go: The famous Oktoberfest is the largest Volksfest beer festival and travelling funfair in the world. Held annually in Munich, Germany, Oktoberfest began life as a wedding for the Bavarian crown prince Ludwig to Princess Therese on October 12, 1810. It has since grown into an extremely popular festival running from mid - late September to the first weekend in October - with more than 6 million people from around the world attending the event every year. The event is all about beer, beer, and only beer. Grab a stein and start the celebrations.

Lantern Festival 

When: Mid February to Early March Where: Taiwan

Why you should go: The Lantern Festival was originally celebrated to ward off evil and disease from the town. The Taipei Pingshi Sky Lanterns were released to let others know that the town was safe.

Witness thousands of sky lanterns light up during one of the world’s largest lantern festivals. If you’re looking for a little magic, there is nothing more surreal than a sky ablaze with thousands of floating lanterns. The lanterns are decorated with wishes and images relating to the owner before being released into the night at the same time, magically decorating transforming the sky into a sanctuary of lights. Don’t miss the great street festivals that take place during the day.

Rio Carnival 

When: February Where: Rio de Janeiro, Brazil

Why you should go: Rio carnival is simply electrifying; the combination of pulsating music, samba dancing, a nonstop party, with the special addition of Brazilian flair. The Carnival in Rio de Janeiro is a world famous 5-day festival held before Lent every year, and is considered to be the biggest carnival in the world - with over 2 million people on the streets of this vibrant city every day. The first festivals of Rio date back to 1823. The typical Rio carnival parade is filled with revellers, dancers, glittering costumes, giant parades, and adornments. This festival is a mind-blowing week of sequin-fuelled fun, in one of the world’s most beautiful destinations.

Chinese New Year Parade 

When: February Where: Hong Kong and Major Cities Worldwide

Why you should go: This ancient festival is an experience like no other; it marks China's New Year - an important traditional Chinese holiday celebrated at the turn of the Chinese calendar. With dragons, fireworks, symbolic clothing, flowers, lanterns, and celebration, China marks their most important and significant day of the year in style. In Hong Kong, the heart pounding action features a fabulous parade of floats, dragons, symbolic clothing, international and local performers, and a stunning fireworks show over the harbour.

Albuquerque International Balloon Festival 

When: October Where: Albuquerque, New Mexico.

Why you should go: The Albuquerque International Balloon Festival hosts the largest gathering of hot air balloons in the world. The Albuquerque International Balloon Fiesta is a yearly festival of hot air balloons that takes place in Albuquerque, New Mexico, USA. The Balloon Fiesta is a nine day event, and has around 750 balloons. Once the balloons are let off, watch as the Skies of Albuquerque become a rainbow of vibrant colours, creating a breath-taking spectacle. You can take part, climb aboard and take flight, or even get married way up in the clouds.

Mardi Gras Festival 

When: February - March Where: New Orleans, USA

Why you should go: In many ways Mardis Gras’ reputation precedes itself — if you want to party like there’s no tomorrow, New Orleans is where you belong. Mardi Gras, meaning “Fat Tuesday” in French, is a festival marked by an endless cyclone of feathers, costumes, beads, and booze that whips through city streets of New Orleans. It’s been called the wildest fete in the U.S and for good reason: Every year, droves of party-goers flock to New Orleans to take in the floats, the festivities, and the food, and to leave their mark on the Big Easy. Don’t miss the throwing of beads - it’s a staple of the festival.

Up Helly Aa Fire Festival 

When: The Last Tuesday in January Where: Lerwick, Scotland

Why you should go: This is Europe’s largest fire festival, complete with the burning of a full-scale Viking ship. Need we say more? This superb spectacle is a celebration of Shetland history, and a triumphant demonstration of the islanders' skills and spirit. Up Helly Aa day involves a Nordic themed series of marches and visitations, and the procession culminates in a torch-lit procession and the burning of a galley. This is followed by hours of performing acts and dancing in halls throughout Lerwick. This northern Mardi Gras lasts just one day (and night). But it takes several thousand people 364 days to organise. Much of the preparation is in strictest secrecy.

image credit: www.no-straight-lines.com

Carnevale di Venezia 

When: Late January to Early February Where: Venice, Italy

Why you should go: Carnevale, or “Carnival,” has been a Venice tradition dating back to the 13th century. The Carnival of Venice is an annual two-week festival that ends with the Christian celebration of Lent, forty days before Easter on Shrove Tuesday, the day before Ash Wednesday. The carnival is well renowned with visitors flocking from around the world to admire and even participate in the masquerade masked celebrations, arguably making it one of the best and visually stunning shows on Earth.

Do any of these festivals sound intriguing to you? Why not plan your next trip so that you can attend. We can tailor-make your cruise holiday to add additional stays in destinations before or after your cruise. Call us to find out more. 

River cruising with Avalon Waterways

8th July 2015

Updated February 2017


Iglu’s Marketing Manager, Natalie, went on her first river cruise adventure with Avalon Waterways. Here’s what she thought of her first river experience onboard the luxurious Avalon Tapestry II:

I have only been on ocean cruise line's before so I was looking forward to experiencing a River Cruise and was lucky enough to be invited on Avalon’s newest ship to the fleet, Avalon Tapestry II.

On the deck on Avalon Tapestry II

I was meeting the ship halfway through its 7 night Paris to Normandy Landing Beaches itinerary.


Day 1

I met the ship in the picturesque town of Rouen after taking the Eurostar to Lille. As I approached the ship I was instantly struck by how luxurious the ship was. It is decked out with luxury sun loungers and tastefully decorated with plants on the top deck. I was greeted with a glass of Champagne into an airy reception area and couldn’t wait to see my cabin. It didn’t disappoint with a modern bathroom and a full supply of L’Occitane bath products. The layout of the bedroom was fantastic with the beds facing the French windows. The layout might not sound exciting but Avalon is the first river cruise line to point the beds towards the window. I could already picture myself waking up in the morning and watching the world go by.

Before I got too comfortable I unpacked and went to explore the rest of the ship. I was just in time for the daily afternoon tea. Delicious finger sandwiches and a choice of two gateaux’s were on offer. It would be rude not to sample so I tried both. As this was an educational trip I thought I better check my emails and there was no excuse not to as the ship has free wi-fi throughout. Fortunately there were not many emails to check so I had some time to relax in the sun on the top deck before the next round of delicious food at dinner.


Avalon Waterways Trip

Avalon Waterways Holiday

Heavenly cocktails and delicious food

The dining room is tastefully decorated and I was pleasantly surprised that although the ship is small compared to ocean cruise lines, you do not smell the cooking throughout the ship. I chose the red snapper for my main course tonight and enjoyed the free flowing wine which is included lunch and dinner.

As this was my first night onboard I stayed up to watch the entertainment for a while before getting an early night so I would be ready to get up bright and early for the Van Gogh excursion the following day.


Day 2

I woke up feeling revitalised after a good nights sleep in the comfortable bed. I was delighted with the buffet breakfast and enjoyed smoked salmon and eggs. If salmon and eggs is not your cup of tea, they have a fantastic selection of food to choose from including freshly made pastries, cereals and much more.


Cruising with Avalon Waterways

A cruise onboard Avalon Waterways

Glorious views of the riverbank through France

I had the choice of two free excursions and decided to go on the tour of the town Van Gogh spent his last few months of his life in the picturesque town of Auvers-sur-Oise. Before you set off on the tour you pick up a complimentary water and a headset so you can listen to the tour guide.

I am not an art expert and it really didn’t matter as the tour guide William was really engaging. He brought the history to life and it was very special to see the places and subjects Van Gogh had painted. I particularly enjoyed walking through the fields Van Gogh painted known as Wheat Field with Crows.

After the tour we were taken back on the coach in time for lunch and were greeted with freshly made iced tea. We had booked the grill lunch which was hosted on the Sky Deck. They host these lunches several times on the cruise itinerary but you must put your name down to reserve a space. Lunch was delicious and I enjoyed fresh salad and steak.

In the afternoon there was an optional excursion to the Palace of Versailles. However, as I only had 3 days on the ship I decided to experience what it was like whilst sailing as we were going to set sail to Paris. I am sure the Palace is beautiful but I was so pleased I stayed onboard. The engine is so quiet, the experience is tranquil and the journey along the Seine was stunning. I was surprised by how unpopulated the river banks were. Every now and then you would spot a stunning Chateau along the banks. I would have happily sailed along the river for days absorbing the view. We picked up the guests who took the afternoon tour and then sailed into Paris. The dinner was served as we sailed towards the Eiffel Tower.


My River Cruise with Avalon Waterways

Avalon Waterways Cruise

Excursions in France and more sublime views from the ship

Tonight was the Captain's farewell dinner as the following night guests were going to Moulin Rouge in Paris so it was a day earlier. Before dinner, we were all given a glass of champagne and the Captain came and said goodbye to everyone. Once again the meal was fantastic and my favourite dish was the lobster. Also having been on several ocean cruise lines I was delighted to see that the famous baked alaska was on the menu ,so it is not just the big ocean lines who have this tradition.

As the ship was staying in Paris I went for a stroll around the city before coming back to a refreshing cocktail on board.


Day 3

It was our last night on the ship and I went on the complimentary walking tour in Paris. If you didn’t want to walk there is a bus tour which is also included. After the tour I arrived back and sampled the light lunch which is also on offer every day on the Sky Deck. We had free time in the afternoon as the optional trip was to the Moulin Rouge in the evening. I decided to head back into Paris and hit the shops on the Champ Elysees.

As I was not going to the Moulin Rouge I booked a place in the bistro dining experience. This was hosted in the Sky Lounge and there are 20 places available so you need to book. They offer a 7 course tasting menu and once again I was extremely impressed with the standard of the food.

This evening we were sailing to another port in Paris close to the business district so I sat on the deck and enjoyed a refreshing cocktail as the ship gently sailed past the glittering sights of Paris before heading back to my room where I enjoyed the view for a little bit longer before falling into a relaxing sleep.


River Cruising with Avalon Waterways

Crepes and cocktails! A match made in heaven


The Verdict 

What I really love about river cruising is the relaxed pace, you can do as much or as little as you want. Even if you participate on all the tours you are looked after so well and come back to such a beautiful ship you don’t feel exhausted. I came back from my cruise feeling refreshed and invigorated. My only complaint is next time I want to go for a bit longer.


View Avalon Waterways Cruise Deals | Find out more about River Cruising.

Top tips for LGBT Cruise Travel: Pride parades, ports & ships

26th June 2015

Updated May 2018

As we approach the summer months, we take a look at Pride and how the whole world celebrates lesbian, gay, bisexual, and transgender culture. Festivals, parades, and parties are taking place all over the world as well as rallies, commemorations, and community days.



Pride unifies, builds communities, and promotes equal rights worldwide and the travel industry strongly supports this. From Pride parades, to Friends of Dorothy groups and all-gay chartered cruise holidays – cruise travel caters for all holiday preferences; each cruise line is as unique as each itinerary diverse.

Have you considered combining a cruise holiday with some of the most notorious Pride festivities? Or booked your cruise already? Look out for celebrations at just some of our favourite ports below.

Gay Pride Port Calendar for Summer 2018:


Amsterdam, Netherlands
July 28 - August 5
Las Vegas, Nevada
October 19 - 21
Barcelona, Spain
June 23 - June 30
Marseille, France
July 7
Belfast, Northern Ireland
July 27 - August 5
Montreal, Canada
June 22 - 24
Berlin, Germany
July 28
Mykonos, Greece
August 23 - 30
Calgary, Canada
August 24 - September 3
New York, USA
June 15 - 24
Copenhagen, Denmark
August 13 - 19
Oslo, Norway
June 22 - July 1
Curacao, Caribbean
September 27 - 30
Rome, Italy
June 9
Dublin, Ireland
June 21 - 30
Stockholm, Sweden
July 27 - August 5
Ibiza, Spain
June 13 - 16
Tokyo, Japan
April 28 - May 6
Key West, Florida
June 6 - 10
Vancouver, Canada
August 3 - 5


And the best ships to take you there…

Whether your preference is modern elegance, family fun, partying all night or being a sophisticated single; all cruise lines have their own unique offerings for the wild to the more discreet traveller.

Most cruise lines offer LGBT meet-ups and casual cocktail parties for anyone who wants to identify and socialise with other gay passengers on large ships. These are otherwise known as ‘Friends of Dorothy’ (FOD) meetings; usually held at one of the bars or public rooms onboard – you’ll find these advertised either in the ship’s daily programme or bulletin board.



Thinking about arranging your own meet up onboard your cruise? MeetMeOnBoard.com is a great platform for solo travellers and couples alike; enabling cruisers to connect with each other before boarding, or even find cabin-mates to avoid a single supplement.

Gay and lesbian guests can feel welcome onboard any cruise sailing by all staff and passengers; and faced with unlimited cruise choices, it can be difficult to decide which cruise line is right for you. Below are just a few of our favourite cruise lines who are popular within the LGBT community.

Celebrity Cruises

Modern and elegant, Celebrity Cruise ships have a cool vibe with 5* service. There is a huge mix of passengers onboard and their varied dining options, state-of-the-art activities and luxurious spa facilities caters for all of them. If there is not a FOD meeting included in a daily programme, check the community ‘bulletin board’ which can be found near Guest Relations.

Norwegian Cruise Line

A Norwegian cruise is casual, great fun and excellent value for money. Norwegian’s ‘Freestyle Cruising’ appeals to many lesbian and gay passengers due to its informal feel, anytime dining and open seating. NCL hold at least one FOD meeting on every ship, on every cruise.

Royal Caribbean

Creator of the largest ships at sea, Royal Caribbean attracts an adventurous, fun-loving and diverse crowd; it’s popular with gay and lesbian travellers, singles, families and couples alike. With some Royal ships holding up to 6,000 passengers, they truly are ‘cities at sea’. Activities include a zipline, surf simulators, sky diving simulators as well as Broadway shows including Cats, Mamma Mia and We Will Rock You.



Cunard Cruise Line

Traditionally British, formal, and oozing with luxury, Cunard attracts the more conservative traveller. With White Glove service, 5* cuisine and diverse itineraries, the three Queens definitely embody the finer things in life. All ships are very gay-friendly with LGBT meet-ups on every cruise.

Crystal Cruises

Sophisticated travellers flock to Crystal Cruises’ ultra-luxury ships. You can expect first-class cuisine, Broadway singers and a fantastic variety of entertainment. The Perfect Choice Dining programme appeals to those who want the flexibility of dining when and with whom they wish. Crystal also offers a Friends of Dorothy meeting on every itinerary.


Colourful, casual and vibrant cruises – Carnival ships are FUN for all and suitable for couples and families alike. LGBT meet-ups are frequent onboard most of their ships, sometimes one a day. Refer to your Carnival Hub mobile app for the day’s itinerary which tells you when gatherings will be held. The app is also a forum for you to connect with and ‘chat’ with other passengers you’ve met onboard



All-gay cruises

There are a number of ships chartered specifically for LGBT travellers over the year through companies including Atlantis Events, Source Events and R Family Vacations.

Please share any comments or questions you may have about LGBT cruise travel below – we’d love to hear from you.

Happy Pride!


By Chloe

5 Game Of Thrones Destinations To Visit By Cruise

15th June 2015

The American fantasy drama is famed for its stunning exotic filming destinations, from the shores of Croatia to glaciers of Iceland and the rich countryside of Northern Ireland. We take a look into the spectacular locations that you can visit by cruise to relive your favourite GOT moments.

Imagine standing at the gates of King’s Landing? Or strolling around the Free City of Pentos? Discover the fantastical locations on your doorstep that are used in everyone's favourite TV series:

Alcázar de Sevilla, used as the Water Places of Dorne



#GOT scene: Site of the King’s Landing in series 1

Malta is a fairly new destination to the cruise world and the perfect island to exploit the exotic Mediterranean flare. However, it is not only sun and sand that makes it so appealing, it holds a rich and fascinating history.

Every building, temple and street tells a story and display the results of a significant event in Malta’s dramatic past. A trip here guarantees to create ever-lasting memories and no shortage of mysterious adventures. From the iconic stone temples, grand palaces and quaint cobbled streets to the sun-drenched beaches, water-front restaurants and vibrant cocktail bars, Malta is an enchanting paradise.

Malta exposed the perfect destination for King’s landing as the pristine rooftops of the historic buildings portray scenes of a noble lifestyle.

Cruise lines that stop here: Royal Caribbean International, P&O Cruises, Fred Olsen Cruise Line, Princess Cruises, Cunard Cruise Line


The main gate of Mdina, used as King's Landing's Gate


#GOT scene: Site of King’s Landing from series 2

Oh beautiful Croatia – one of my favourite European cities that becomes more charming every time I visit. 

One of the most picturesque coastlines, sailing into this part of the world truly takes my breathe away with its vibrant buildings, pretty harbors and soaring ramparts that sit in front of lush green mountains. I can only imagine this is the ultimate destination to film such a fascinating drama.

The Old Town is an explorer’s playground with so much to do. As you stroll around the cobbled streets you are faced with unique carved statues, history-enriched architecture and the famous Onifrio’s Fountain. When your sight-seeing time is up, relax in one of the tucked away cafes and indulge on a delicious pastry and simply watch this mesmerizing world pass by.

Cruise lines that stop here: Thomson Cruises, Royal Caribbean International, MSC Cruises, Princess Cruises


Lovrijenac fort, used as The Red Keep in the heart of Kings Landing



#GOT scene: 'Beyond the wall' scene

Iceland is a destination that doesn’t quite seem real. A place where people bathe in boiling springs, active volcanoes are a normal sight and natural wonders outnumber man-made creations.

This unspoilt playground oozes with exploration and showcases sights of the unimaginable. Named the 'land of ice and fire' a trip to Iceland gives you the opportunity to delve into fascinating history, relax in steaming lagoons or enjoy a snippet of the lavish lifestyle in innovative nightclubs and bars.

Although the locals are very welcoming, it is the wildlife you are likely to make friends with. From the whale infested waters to the arctic foxes huddled along the coast, you will never be alone here.

Cruise lines that stop here: Fred Olsen Cruise Line, P&O Cruises, Princess Cruises, Hurtigruten 


Vatnajokull Glacier, used as North of the Wall

Northern Ireland

#GOT scene: Numerous scenes

You don’t always have to look far to find something amazing and sometimes what you are searching for can be found right infront of you. Northern Ireland is the UK's hidden gem.

The highlight of any British Isles cruise, Northern Ireland illustrates a pairing of lush countryside with cosmopolitan city life. The city boasts vibrant bars, lively beer gardens and exciting museums, whereas the countryside exposes century-old remains, sensuous countryside and roaming wildlife.

There is no shortage of adventures to be had here, from the Titanic Memorial, Carrickfergus Castle and the Giant’s Causeway UNESCO World Heritage Site.

With it's soaring mountains dominating mystical landscapes, it created the ultimate setting for many enticing GOT scenes. Many of the woodland settings are filmed in Tollymore Forest, County down.

Cruise lines that stop here: Cruise & Maritime, Princess Cruises, Fred Olsen Cruises, P&O Cruises


The Dark Hedges, used as Kingsroad (North of Kings Landing)



#GOT scene: Daenerys walk along from series 3

The Hollywood of Europe, Morocco is a lavish city that blends old and new like nowhere else in the world. One minute you’re taken back in time by historic buildings and the next you are surrounded by a commercial jungle.

Cuisine is a key part of the Moroccan lifestyle and every new step you take presents a different restaurant with locals serving tasty treats. Influenced by its cultural background, you will be able to indulge in an array of exquisite cuisine here.

Morocco has a quirky personality that is apparent from all around. It has an infectious sense of adventure that makes you want to delve into the culture further.

With its enchanting atmosphere, awe-inspiring views and rich culture it is no suprise it was chosen for key filming scenes.

Cruise lines that stop here: Princess Cruises, Costa Cruises, Azamara Club Cruises, Star Clippers


Aït-Ben-Haddou, used as Yunkai and Pentos

By Sally Grimes

7 Essential Tips for Easy Embarkation

19th May 2015

The excitement surrounding the lead up to a holiday is almost as good as the actual thing, but in order to make the embarkation process as smooth as possible there are some key tips to keep in mind. There are a number of easy things you can do to prepare for the big day – read on to find out more! [More]

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