Spotlight on Ireland and Britain

You don’t have to be a history buff to be intrigued by the traces of the past. Maybe genealogy is at the root of your quest, tracing the steps and stories of your ancestors. Or perhaps you’ve been inspired by the renewed fascination with historical dramas brought to life by recent films and tv series. Or, like many others, maybe you have a fascination with the British royal family, their stately homes and their palaces. 

Castles, Gardens and Battlefields: The Historic Isles are Calling

Castles, Gardens and Battlefields: The Historic Isles are Calling

You don’t have to be a history buff to be intrigued by the traces of the past that linger everywhere in England, Ireland, Scotland and Wales. Roman ruins, Neolithic standing stones, Norman keeps, palatial Georgian homes, Victorian monuments – they all remind us of other times and other lives.

Talk all you will about “Cool Britannia” with its trendy designers and of-the-moment pop stars. But sometimes, it’s just more interesting to meander down the lanes of the past. And if there’s one thing the British Isles have plenty of, it’s the past.

For North American visitors, the big draw is often genealogy, tracing the stories of ancestors who may have fled the Irish famine of the 19th century or the Scottish rebellions of the century before that. Genealogical travel is huge business these days, with dozens of companies offering tours and vacation packages, and often including research assistance as well.

This renewed fascination with the past has only been helped by a slew of historical dramas, both films and television series, that have brought the past alive to new generations. The Starz TV series, Outlander, has drawn countless visitors to Scotland’s Culloden Battlefield, where the Jacobite dream died in 1746. ITV’s Victoria has ignited a fascination with the first modern monarch, a woman who not only encouraged scientists, artists and free thinkers, but mastered the art of personal brand management long before it was a thing. And numerous Second World War dramas – Foyle’s War, The Bletchley Circle, Their Finest, and Dunkirk among many – keep our fascination alive with dark conflict, heroes and villains.

The past lingers in the castles, palaces and stately homes, as well as abbeys and cathedrals, that dot the land. Wales, for instance, is often called “the castle capital of the world” for its sheer number of structures – 600 of them, of which 100 are still standing. And each era leaves its mark on its buildings through architectural embellishments. The Gothic flying buttresses of the Middle Ages aren’t just beautiful; they reflect an advanced technology of the time. The same goes for the stately structures of the Tudors, the symmetry and plastered ceilings of the Georgian era, the ornate detailing of the Victorians, and the clean minimalism of contemporary design.

But in this green and pleasant land, the historic gardens are as renowned as the buildings they surround. The most distinctive are those designed in the 18th century by Capability Brown, “England’s greatest gardener,” whose “gardenless” landscapes of rolling lawns broken up by clumps of trees and serpentine lakes ushered in the Romantic wildernesses of the 19th century. It’s estimated that he was responsible for more than 170 gardens surrounding some of the greatest estates, including Belvoir Castle, Croome Court, Blenheim Palace and Harewood House – all places where his work still endures.

Of course, many of these great homes also have royal connections, making the UK a “must-visit” destination for those fascinated with the monarchy, both past and present. But even before William the Conqueror arrived in 1066 and started construction on Windsor Castle, there were the Romans who ruled over Britain for nearly 400 years starting from Claudius’ invasion in 43 AD. They laid down roads, built baths and erected walls. There are still plenty of ruins to be seen in the sceptred isles, from Hadrian’s Wall in the north to Chedworth Roman Villa in the Cotswolds to the Roman baths in Bath. And one of the best places to discover Londinium’s Roman history is the Museum of London, which boasts more than 47,000 objects in its Roman collection. But even before the Romans, there were the Neolithic peoples whose memory lingers through the standing stones at Stonehenge or Craigh na Dun, as well as hill figures like the Uffington White Horse.

In the British Isles, it seems no matter where you wander, the past is never very far away.

On Location in Ireland and Britain with Adams & Butler

Imagine yourself soaking up Britain’s natural beauty in Bath or sailing on a yacht down River Shannon all while enjoying a seamless vacation. Siobhan Byrne Learat, owner of Adams & Butler, shares how travelers can experience an authentic, engaging and wonderous trip to Ireland and Britain.  

Ready for your privileged access to places unbeknown to most tourists? Contact your Ensemble travel agent to start planning.

10 Places to Remember Queen Victoria

This year marks the 200th anniversary of the birth of Queen Victoria, who ruled for 63 years (1837 to 1901) and ushered in the modern age. We’re fascinated anew by her, thanks to the ITV costume drama, Victoria, starring Jenna Coleman as a young queen falling in love with her handsome prince. Mostly, though, what has us all glued to our screens are the beautiful settings. Here are just a few.

Fossils and Forensics: The Mysteries of Historic Devon

Fossils and Forensics: The Mysteries of Historic Devon
Travel Style

England’s gentle, sun-soaked western county of Devon is known for its bucolic scenery, charming villages, cream teas, seafood suppers and beach-going culture. But it’s also a place of fascinating, often dark history. No wonder, then, that it’s been so popular with mystery writers like Agatha Christie and Arthur Conan Doyle.

Greenway House is sunny and cheerful, cluttered with trinkets gathered on trips abroad, and surrounded by sprawling gardens that earned it the nickname “the loveliest place in the world.” Today, it’s a National Trust property, and it was the summer retreat of the Queen of Crime, Agatha Christie. It’s one of the most popular tourist sites in Devon, and not just during the annual International Agatha Christie Festival in September; on any given day, hundreds of day trippers will take the steam train to Greenway, meander through the camellias, then stop for scones with clotted cream in the tea room afterwards.

But don’t let the merry holiday-goers and pretty flowers fool you. Wherever you go in Devon, there’s a dark history – a prehistory even – underfoot. And it’s one that has appealed not just to Christie, but to many other writers, including Arthur Conan Doyle, Kate Ellis, John Fowles, Hilary Mantel, Thomas Hardy and even John Cleese.

Long before colorful huts and ice cream vendors popped up along its beaches, Devon was one of Great Britain’s first areas to be settled by modern humans. As long ago as 6000 BCE, Mesolithic hunter-gatherers lived on Dartmoor, which boasts some 500 Neolithic sites including burial mounds and stone circles. There are also ancient hillforts along the Jurassic Coast, the breathtakingly beautiful and fossil-rich expanse of coastline between Devon and Dorset that’s been a World Heritage Site since 2001.

Then, in 43 AD, the Romans invaded and established naval ports and garrisons in the region. After Roman rule ended around 410, this was the Celtic kingdom of Dumnonia until it was conquered by the Anglo-Saxons in the 7th century, then the Normans in 1066. During the Tudor period, it launched some of the world’s most famous mariners, including Sir Francis Drake and Sir Walter Raleigh.

Since time immemorial, Devon has been an abundant place for mining, agriculture, fishing and, in recent decades, tourism. It’s littered with archeological digs, which come to life in Kate Ellis’ archeological mysteries where someone is always unearthing artifacts from, say, the bloody assizes that followed the 1685 Monmouth Rebellion, or the 18th century “wreckers” who would draw ships to their doom so they could plunder their cargo. (Interested visitors can even take part in some digs.)

Devon is also a place of countless folk tales, the sort of myths and ghost stories that fascinated a 19th century parson named Sabine Baring-Gould. He captured many of them in Dartmoor Idylls, just one of more than 150 books he produced in his lifetime. One of his “curious events” inspired Sir Arthur Conan Doyle to write the darkest of his Sherlock Holmes tales, The Hound of the Baskervilles. Other authors have been inspired by Devon: Thomas Hardy set all his novels in the fictional region of Wessex, which comprised Devon and was based on the Anglo-Saxon country that once existed here; Ian Sansom set his mystery novel, Death in Devon, here; and, on a lighter note, John Cleese created the legendary TV series, Fawlty Towers, based on his experiences at Torquay’s venerable Gleneagles Hotel.

But no writer is as closely associated with Devon as Dame Agatha Christie.

She was born and grew up in Torquay, the seaside resort frequented by the bright young things in the early 20th century. She was one of the English Riviera’s early surfing pioneers in the 1930s, and she set many of her works in Devon, on Burgh Island in Evil Under the Sun, for instance, or at the Majestic Hotel (based on Torquay’s Imperial) in The Body in the Library. Torquay’s oldest building, Torre Abbey, a monastery founded in 1196, even grows plants from Christie’s novels in its extensive gardens.

When Christie and her husband, Archie, were seeking a summer refuge, it was only natural they’d turn to Devon, where they found a magnificent Georgian house called Greenway in Churston Ferrers. It was “the ideal house, a dream house,” as Christie called it. Fans of the ITV series, Poirot, may remember it from the episode Dead Man’s Folly, the last of the long-running series to be filmed.

Here, as everywhere in Devon, there is light and dark, past and present, good and evil, life and death, each making the other sharper, more defined and more pronounced. It’s the great beauty of this green and pleasant place, that history is as much alive here as the present.

International culinary delights

Tempting dishes from our featured destinations give you a taste of local culture. From succulent roasts to exotic spicy fare and some divine desserts, you’re sure to find plenty of delicious recipes to try at home.

Sweet Potato Bolo Bread with Madeira Butter

When Executive Chef & Director of Culinary Enrichment Kathryn Kelly first had bolo bread in Madeira in the 1980s, she fell in love with the smoky flavors from the wood-fired ovens in which this bread is traditionally baked. She has modified the recipe here so you can make this delicious bread at home – the perfect warming autumn treat. If you have an open grill available, feel free to cook the bread over an open flame.


Bolo Bread

  • ¾ to 1 cup water, at 110˚F/43˚C
  • 2 teaspoons active dry yeast
  • 4 teaspoons sugar
  • 1 sweet potato, roasted tender and peeled
  • 3¼ cups all-purpose flour
  • 2 teaspoons kosher salt
  • Olive oil, for grilling

Madeira Butter

  • ¼ cup Madeira wine
  • 2 heads garlic, roasted and peeled
  • ½ cup butter, room temperature
  • 2 tablespoons minced pecans
  • 1 tablespoon finely minced shallot
  • 1 tablespoon orange zest
  • Kosher salt and freshly ground black pepper


Prepare the bread dough
In a small bowl, whisk ¼ cup of the warm water, the yeast and 1 teaspoon of the sugar until the yeast dissolves. Let rest 10 minutes.

In a food processor, pulse the sweet potato with the remaining 3 teaspoons of sugar, the flour and salt. With the processor running, add the yeast mixture and ½ cup more warm water. Mix until the dough forms a ball, adding more warm water if needed. Transfer the dough to a large oiled bowl, turning to completely coat with oil. Cover with plastic wrap and allow the dough to rise in a warm place until it doubles in size, about 1½ hours.

Transfer the dough to a floured work surface and knead until smooth and pliable. Divide the dough evenly into 4 balls. Flatten the balls into 5- to 6-inch rounds, cover with a dry kitchen towel and let rest for 45 minutes.

Make the Madeira butter
In a small saucepan over medium-high heat, simmer the wine until it reduces to 1 tablespoon, about 10 minutes. In a medium bowl, mash the roasted garlic into a paste. Stir in the butter, pecans, shallot, orange zest and reduced wine. Season to taste with salt and pepper.

Grill the bolo bread
Heat an outdoor grill or indoor cast iron grill to high. Brush one side of each dough round with olive oil and grill, oiled side down, until charred and golden brown. Press lightly with a spatula to keep the bread from puffing and ensure it caramelizes. Brush the top sides of the dough with olive oil and flip, grilling until golden brown. Serve with Madeira butter.

Step aboard the world’s greatest ships

Each month we’re showcasing our cruise partners to bring you the latest on the cruise line and their ships. With different cruising styles and a variety of ships to choose from, you’ll find these profiles helpful for selecting the cruise that’s right for you.

Choose Fun on a Carnival Cruise!

Photo: Carnival

Carnival believes fun is a choice. Fun isn’t a nice to have. It’s a necessity. Fun breaks down barriers, opens up possibilities. That means racing down a giant water slide. Or lip syncing your heart out. Or simply taking a moment to let out a deep “ahhhhh” over a perfect ocean view. All Carnival cruises go to great spots from the Caribbean, Mexican Riviera to Cuba– what sets each ship apart is how much fun it takes to get you there. Every one of the Carnival ships features its own unique twist on Carnival-style fun, because when you opt for fun it comes gratis with joy and elation and self-discovery and if you’re real lucky, memories for a couple of lifetimes.

The Ship

Mardi Gras: Fun-Fueled Vacation Innovation

When Carnival launched its first ship, 1972’s TSS Mardi Gras™, they made cruising a lot less stuffy, a bit less fancy, the kind of fun everybody could enjoy. Nobody expected this ship to change the cruise world, but… here we are! In 2020 Carnival will be launching a brand-new ship with a familiar name. You guessed it: Mardi Gras. They’re aren’t just paying homage to their first ship — in cruising circles this name suggests innovation, signals the start of something big. And it shouts “fun!” at the top of its lungs. They’re building this new Mardi Gras to live up to that legacy, so start daydreaming now! For one thing, this ship introduces Zones — six themed areas packed with brand-new experiences for eating, drinking and spectacularly getting down to fun, plus get ready for the most thrilling: BOLT™, the first-ever rollercoaster at sea— an unforgettable and unique open-air thrill offering nearly 800 feet of exhilarating twists, turns and drops.! Everybody can enjoy Mardi Gras, sailing in 2020. Come on down!

The Ship


Enjoy A Little Indulgence At Sea (Or, You Know, Enjoy A Lot!)

Mardi Gras™ Offers A Full Range of Suites with Options For Superior Comfort And Brand-New Perks!

When it’s time to wind down, Mardi Gras’ new staterooms will make all your comfort dreams come true. New and exclusive to Mardi Gras are Havana Vista suites, Deluxe Vista suites, and Cloud 9 Spa Deluxe Vista Suite – just to name a few! With up to 20 stateroom categories, they've designed many options for enjoying spa-style relaxation or family fun!

Mardi Gras staterooms' are enhanced by design touches that include:

  • Floor-to-ceiling glass sliding doors on nearly all verandahs for easier balcony access.
  • New sofas that "flip" into a bed and foot stools that open up for storage.
  • Clear glass doors on the in-room mini-refrigerators to see what's inside.
  • More 110V power outlets and USB connections both on the vanity and by the bed as well as more shelf space to accommodate electronic devices.
  • Flexible bedside reading lamps that allow guests to read without disturbing others.
  • A larger, customizable wardrobe with two pull-out bins, a sliding shoe rack, folding shelves and storage under the bed for luggage.
  • Spacious bathrooms with glass shower doors, along with an in-shower shaving bar.
  • The widest variety of staterooms on any Carnival Ship with more than 70% featuring an ocean view or balcony, along with 300 pairs of connecting staterooms, and the most suites offered on any Carnival ship.

All New Luxury Retreat 'Loft 19'
Loft 19™ was designed to afford you a unique opportunity for relaxation and indulgence. This retreat-style space invites you to soak up the sun all day from the comfort of a lounge chair or infinity pool. This pairs so perfectly with Carnival Excel suites that staying in one actually gets you Loft 19™ access! Drink service is always close at hand, plus you can even opt for a little private time — renting a cabana gets you more than just a place in the shade, but extras like fresh fruit, chilled towels, lunch delivery and concierge service.

(Cabana rentals are open to everyone, though guests in Carnival Excel-level suites enjoy priority reservations.)



Inspired By Both Mmm & Yum!

Whether it’s casual munching or sit-down elegance you’re hungry for, you'll find there's something for each member of your "crew" to enjoy!

Emeril’s Bistro 1396
Everybody knows about Emeril’s love for Creole cuisine, and now you’ll enjoy the authentic bayou flavors and fun New Orleans is known for on your vacation with Emeril Lagasse’s first-ever restaurant at sea: Emeril’s Bistro1396™. If you haven’t had the pleasure, we’re talking about fried oysters, duck & sausage gumbo, po-boy sandwiches, fresh ceviche and more.

Guy’s Pig & Anchor Smokehouse | Brewhouse
Here you will be able to enjoy choices like brisket, sausage, baby back ribs and dry-rubbed chicken, Carnival pros do the smoking right there over hickory wood before serving them up at your table.  Now about the brews: this house of BBQ tradition doesn’t just satisfy your hunger — you’ll also enjoy Carnival’s all-new, exclusive line of Parched Pig™ craft brews. There’s a smoked porter, a farmhouse ale, a hoppy IPA and a toasted amber, all brewed just feet from your table. 

Guy's Burger Joint
Carnival teamed up with Guy Fieri to design not just the burgers and fries, but to help bring in the kind of rustic atmosphere you’d find at a roadside burger shack somewhere off a coastal highway. All signs point to ambiance — and serious flavor — and the best burgers at sea!

Bonsai Teppanyaki
It’s a meal, a performance, and it’s definitely unforgettable. The Bonsai Teppanyaki experience is set to delight guests. Take a little time out of vacation to sit down to a selection of tempting appetizers, before your chef prepares the main course featuring selections of meats, tofu, fish, shrimp or lobster… right at your table. In the teppanyaki tradition — and Carnival’s tradition of fun — expect an interactive, satisfying meal full of surprise and delicious delight.

Seafood Shack
Imagine a seaside spot in New England, where the locals gather for great meals served with a bit of a breeze and a lot of a view. (That said, nowhere on land will you get 360-degree ocean views like here!) Look to Seafood Shack for rustic favorites like Crab Cake Sliders, Lobster BLT, Fried Buffalo Shrimp, Snow Crab and more.

The Chef’s Table
When you cruise on Mardi Gras, make sure to reserve a seat at The Chef’s Table. At this small gathering of foodies you’ll indulge in a cascading series of delectable plates. Here you can close your eyes as you savor a series of courses for the main event, but prepare to have them opened during a galley tour — a behind-the-scenes appetizer event that offers a look at where all that magic gets prepared.



Inspired By That Special Place Vacation Takes Us Too

Ok, a few places — get ready for six distinct onboard zones featuring brand-new experiences for spectacularly getting down to food, drink and fun.

Grand Central
On a Carnival cruise your vacation starts in the atrium, and on Mardi Gras that’s in the Grand Central zone. By the way… on this ship the atrium’s different. Up there are high ceilings that hint at even more fun living on the three decks above! But look around too… you’ll find floor-to-ceiling windows that really bring in the ocean views. Of course you’ll be back here throughout your cruise, taking a break with a nice cup of coffee, enjoying live music up on stage, or killing time fabulously with a handcrafted cocktail in between evening shows. In Grand Central you’re never far from great dining spots like Bonsai Sushi and Bonsai Teppanyaki, plus feel-good entertainment like Piano Bar 88 and The Punchliner Comedy Club.

French Quarter
If “big” and “easy” sound about right for your vacation, you might just make the French Quarter your home zone. What inspired this place is no less than New Orleans itself… and if all this talk of NOLA has you half as hungry, you’ll be pleased to hear that this French Quarter is lined with bars and eateries worthy of their namesake, spots serving up everything from small plates to classic Hurricane cocktails straight from the bayou. For one thing, there’s the spectacularly, authentically delicious Emeril’s Bistro 1396™ - Just steps away there’s entertainment inspired by the world-renowned Crescent City nightlife — yep, there’s a hot jazz club in this zone — plus you’re not far from more bars, lounges and some funky little shops.

Summer Landing
Go ahead and call Summer Landing “the greatest chill spot at sea” … Know what goes great with chilling outdoors? BBQ, like Guy’s Pig & Anchor Smokehouse | Brewhouse in this zone Carnival wants to make sure it always tastes like summer, courtesy of freshly-smoked faves designed by Guy Fieri. You wouldn’t be surprised that the pool and whirlpool aren’t far, but would you have guessed that there’s even original Parched Pig™ beers brewing just a few feet from the tap? Expect the funexpected — at Summer Landing, this kind of fun’s in season literally all the time.

La Piazza
La dolce vita is within reach at La Piazza… this zone stands for flavor, and it starts with Cucina del Capitano, which brings your party together for an evening of Italian favorites served family-style, while Pizzeria del Capitano makes delizioso happen for you 24 hours a day atop a base of imported Italian flour and fresh mozzarella. Atmosphere is everything here, so roaming musicians provide an authentic soundtrack to your time in La Piazza. Mardi Gras debuts a new Mediterranean spot specializing in seafood, plus there’s even a bar where you’ll sip authentic espresso drinks by day and classic Italian cocktails when the sun goes down.

If you’ve cruised on a Carnival cruise before, you know Lido… but aboard Mardi Gras this poolside zone features even more delicious and fun ways to spend a day. Everybody looks to Lido for variety, and with tons of casual dining spots you’ll discover new experiences among the flavors that keep our guests coming back. Take in a Dive-In Movie at the pool and you’re not far from signature Carnival favorites like Guy’s Burger Joint, the New England-inspired Seafood Shack, and BlueIguana Cantina taco spot. Plus a fan-favorite Swirls!, the free soft-serve spot cranking out the cool 24 hours a day!

The Ultimate Playground
Don’t let the name fool you — this zone is ages everybody and up. Kids, you’re going to love this. And adults, the playground has grown up with you. So yay for play! Of course The Ultimate Playground starts with BOLT™, the first rollercoaster at sea, an all-electric thrill ride that puts the power of speed in your hands. But that’s only the beginning — this playground has the largest Carnival WaterWorks™ ever with three huge spiraling slides, plus SportSquare is here featuring an entire mini-golf course, full-court basketball and a ropes course. And, of course, more.



Playlist Productions
When was the last time you got up and grooved… at the theater? Playlist Productions takes songs you know and presents them like you’ve never known them before. Past favorites become full-blown musical productions featuring multi-talented performers absolutely bringing down the house with song, dance… and superstar attitude. With tunes from fan-favorite divas, crooners or rockers, each show has a different theme — and of course, a completely different playlist! Get ready for heartfelt emotions, straight-up bouncy fun, or something in-between — all types are welcome to get down here.

Family Feud Live
The show has been delighting viewers at home for geerations, but you’ve never had the chance to buzz-in on a cruise ship until Family Feud™ Live hits Mardi Gras. On every sailing we’ll be hosting four unique games on an authentic Family Feud™ set… right down to the iconic Face-Off podium, plus all the excitement of Fast Money. Family Feud™ Live will be emceed by none other than your cruise director, so if you’re game, sign up your team of five for an audition… and make sure they bring that Family Feud™ spirit. If you don’t make it, join the studio audience for the evening, where you still may get a shot at the “Insta-family” version of the game!

The Punchliner Comedy Club
Mardi Gras has its own Punchliner Comedy Club in the Grand Central zone, and up on stage you’ll find some real pros who know how to wedge a little laughter into anyone’s evening. You can count on these comedians to not hold back either. Since some of them get up and say exactly what’s on their mind, we also schedule family-friendly performances… so the only red faces in the audience are from laughing a little too hard.



Cloud 9 Spa
Whether you’re all action all the time, or chill to the core, everybody needs a chance to take it easy! And nobody will find an easier spot than Cloud 9 Spa. This is an oasis built from the ground up for relaxation, from a full complement of traditional spa services like massages, facials, body wraps to the carefully-designed climates of Cloud 9’s thermal suites… rooms swirling with moist or dry air, each heated very precisely. It turns out it’s true: anyone can find a reason to say “ahhh” at Mardi Gras’s Cloud 9 Spa.

Hair & Beauty Salon
A trip to the salon is an opportunity to relax, to chat with others, to focus on yourself. It’s about more than just getting your hair or nails done… but it’s definitely about getting your hair or nails done! Even though you’re on vacation, you won’t have to settle for anything less than the salon style you’re used to back on land.

There’s a lot to being a teen — they need to kick back, chill and sometimes even indulge just as much as adults… if not more! ZSPA keeps teens looking their best from head to toe, with everything from trendy hairstyles, pedicures, to specialized fitness classes.

Night Owls
Think back — as a kid, was there anything better than times you got to stay up late? Even as an adult, nighttime is funtime. On Mardi Gras you’ll find the perfect thing for you AND for your kids, and it’s called “Night Owls”! For a nominal fee, kids 11 and under can fun it up with others their age until as late as 1 a.m. They’ll enjoy music, activities, games and giveaways at supervised parties while you enjoy… whatever it is you do at night these days, all without a worry.