What does a Hotel Star-Rating really tell you about a hotel.

What does a Hotel Star-Rating really tell you about a hotel.

If you don’t understand the hotel star-rating rating, be prepared to be enlightened.

For those of you who already know what the star-rating is all about, feel free to switch off (or don’t, the more readers I have the better LOL). But, for those of you who find the whole system a little perplexing, prepare to be enlightened.

(note: I took this pic of a hotel we stayed at in Old Quebec City, Canada. It’s called Hotel Clarendon. It was only three-star, but absolutely five-star inside).

Often misunderstood by many travellers, the star-rating system has been designed to help you make informed choices on services a hotel may provide, which can either be good or bad for your holiday; depending on your budget. You would be surprised to hear (for those of you who already know what a star-rating is), there are many people who don’t understand any of it, and I get asked by a lot of people if I know and understand what it all means. So, I decided to shed a little light on the hotel star-rating, to help you better navigate your way through millions of hotels world-wide, when booking for your next holiday.

It’s simple really, so this blog won’t be too long. Of course, here in Australia, our star-rating system is a tad different to that overseas; not too much different, so I will try and keep it broad for anyone around the globe.

Several year ago, a star-rating on any hotel, motel, caravan park, or any other type of accommodation, often represented the types of guest facilities the accommodation had on offer. For example, if you were staying in a hotel which superficially looked like a luxury hotel, but didn’t provide a restaurant, swimming pool or gym, then the star-rating on the hotel may have been an average of either two or three stars. The low star rating had nothing to do with the quality of the accommodation, but on the amount of facilities provided to guests. If you stayed at a similar luxury styled hotel which did have a restaurant, swimming pool, gym, conference rooms and other additional facilities; like cafes, shopping and even a bar. Then this hotel would be given five stars due to the amount of guest facilities provided – make sense?

Today however, this star-rating has now changed. And the rating system is now based on the quality conditions of a hotel. This means, that in order to maintain a star-rating of any sort, the hotel must past a certain 100 point check quality control report to gain stars.

What does all this mean?

Well, according to the UN World Tourism Organisation, the mindset of travellers is shifting towards a more encompassing hotel quality of both service and facilities, and the global tourism sector needs to be ready to meet consumer requirements to enhance their satisfaction. Which basically means, a star rating is now produced under the guidelines of what a consumer is looking for in a hotel. This often comes down to the condition of the bathroom, the staff, presentation and of course the most important of all; cleanliness and general maintenance of the hotel.

This doesn’t mean that a two or three star-rated hotel is bad however. There are many great hotels, motel and caravan parks rated with both two and three stars that are perfectly fit for your holiday. The lack of additional stars may come down to the simple fact, that consumers found the bathrooms to be a little old in the rooms and overdue for a renovation, or perhaps there is only one elevator; causing long waits to get to and from your room.

So, there you have it. I hope this clears up any confusion you had about the star-rating system. Happy hunting on your holiday, and remember, the best way to see whether your choosing the right hotel or not, is to check out the review. But don’t check out the reviews on the website owned by the accommodation brand, make sure to head to trip advisor; or any other source, to read what the consumer has to say about the hotel.

 

 

Went swimming in Australia’s ancient lava tubes

Went swimming in Australia’s ancient lava tubes

We didn’t get the chance to walk through the Undara Lava Tubes, we got to swim through them instead.

The Undara Lava Tube system is Australia’s longest, and one of the oldest Lava Tubes in the world. More than 50 caves have been found in the park, and it is thought the lava flowed at a temperature of around 1200 ยฐC. It is also believes the tubes were formed when rivers of lava confined to a valley, crusted over and formed a roof.

What we didn’t know, was that the lava tubes can flood every few times in the year (if that). And, what was even more awesome, was that they don’t cancel the tour when this happens, they actually tell you to swim through the tubes. Of course, the tubes do go miles deep, so you pretty much balance yourself on the railing of the walk way under the water (which you would normally be walking on when it’s not flooded), and you sort of do a walk/wade through the water, until the only light you see is glowing from the walkway path under the water. After walk/wading for at least thirty minutes, you turn back to see a small dot of natural light, which is the entrance you came in, and you realise you are pretty deep in the tubes.

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Looking back out over the entrance of the Lava Tube
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Swimming in clear waters of the lava tubes

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Our window of light gets smaller and smaller – sorry it’s a tad blurry, but the only shot I took.

The water itself is fresh water, not rain water. And every few times a year it rises up from the ground (not from the sky), and is some of the freshest water around; and full of calcium too. However, as you are in a deep dark caves, there are of course a lot of cave bats dwelling on the ceiling in sombre silence, un-be-known to the unsuspecting traveller, so they poo in the water – a lot. the tour guide/ranger makes it very clear that even though the water is fresh – do not drink it. Roger that.

Here are some shots I took under the water…. this is the railing we walked along for balance through the water – sorry they are blurry, it was difficult to focus the camera when you can’t put your head under the water.

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It was by sheer luck we had our simmers with us, and that the Lava Tubes were flooded. So happy it turned out this way though, as it made for a spectacular adventure. If you decide to go, I do recommend you go when it floods, as the experience is like none other and way more interesting than just walking through a deep dark cave. I can’t tell you what dates they flood, so definitely give them a call to find out. It’s a fair drive from Cairns though, or any other eastern coastal town for that matter – so definitely book yourself some accommodation.

There is accommodation at the Lava Tubes, which is a renovated vintage train. The train is pretty cool to stay in, so I would definitely recommend it – and there is also a restaurant on site, which cooks up some super delicious foods.

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Balcony views from the renovated train we stayed in.

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How to Celebrate the Christmas Vibe in Sydney

How to Celebrate the Christmas Vibe in Sydney

Seeing as Christmas is right around the corner, I thought I would share with you some of my favourite things to do during the festive season, here in Sydney.

Whether you have a bit of money to splurge on some exciting Christmas adventures, or you’re on a tight budget; like many of us are around the silly season, Sydney has really stepped it up the last few years and now provide some really great things to do to cater for anyone’s budget and interests.

Here are my picks:

Santa Spectacular: Now Open

Located at Rosehill Gardens Racecourse, this is a great way to spend the day and night with friends and family – particularly if you’re looking for things to do with the kids. There are some really great rides, a bowlful of festive activities; like The Winter Wonderland, Christmas Cookie decorating and Ice-Skating.. I do recommend if you’re going, to go early though – like as soon as the gates open. Especially if you want to go ice-skating. As the day leads on, the ice tends to start melting and get very wet – making it very slippery and dangerous for skating.

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City Decorations: On Now

This is great for those of you on a budget, as you don’t need to spend any money to look at all the beautiful festive decorations around town. Reduce your stress and catch the train into the CBD. I recommend you start by getting off at Town Hall and then work your way through the QVB, then cross over George Street and make your way into Pitt Street Mall. Make sure you take some time to wander through The Strand Arcade and Westfields too, as they are some really lovely decorations this time of year. There are plenty of places to eat here too, so you can power up before making your way to Martin Place for the Giant Sydney Christmas Tree.

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St Mary’s Cathedral: On Now

Again, this is the perfect solution for someone on a budget, and best viewed at night. Every year St Mary’s Cathedral puts on an amazing Christmas themed light show, which is projected across the front facade of the church. It’s a pretty spectacular sight to see, especially when sharing the experience with hundreds of other people, and listening to all the oohs and ahhs LOL. If you’re planning on heading to the CBD to explore the street of lovely decorations, I definitely recommend you go from lunch on-wards to start your exploring. That way you can grab an early dinner before heading off to the Cathedral for a wonderous light show as the sun fades, before heading home.

St Mary's Cathedral Christmas light show

Christmas Wonderland: Starts 16th December 2017

Tickets are selling pretty quick for the Santa Spectacular, so if you miss out, then the Christmas Wonderland is the next best thing. It’s very similar to Santa Spectacular, but is located in Homebush instead. Plenty of fun Christmas themed activities for both kids and adults, including an ice-rink for skating, a winter wonderland (which we all love here in Australia – right?), and of course rides, food – pretty much your typical festival. Again, if you have kids, this is a great activity to take them to. And to get the benefits of the ice-rink (much like the Santa Spectacular) go when the gates are open and ice-skate first thing before it heats up from all the extra bodies – who tend to rock up just before lunch time.

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This blog has not been sponsored by any of the brands – just sharing my fave Christmas things to do.

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Sculptures By The Sea

Sculptures By The Sea

Took a stroll along Sydney coastal cliffs at Bondi, to explore the interesting and weird Sculptures by the Sea.

Set along the stunning Bondi to Tamarama coastal walk, in Sydney’s eastern suburbs, is the largest free to the public sculpture exhibition in the world; Sculptures by the Sea.

Sculptures by the Sea is a spectacular way to experience one of the most scenic coastlines Australia has to offer along the east coast of New South Wales. Known as Sydney’s most popular events, on average approx 520,000 visitors come to view the 100 sculptures each year, whilst admiring stunning oceans views, of deep aqua coloured waters, crashing against the cliffs. Sculptures by the Sea has been running in Sydney since the late 1990s, and has captured the imagination of it’s visitors, generating an almost unprecedented level of goodwill among the public as they enjoy one of the most unique events in the world.

It’s been a few years since I last walked the beautiful cliff side paths of Bondi. And, even more years since I’ve enjoyed that walk to admire the many weird and wonderful sculptures during this amazing exhibition. So, this year, I made sure to make some time and go exploring. I forgot how calming and revitalising it can be, to walk alongside the ocean, listening to the waves crash against the rocks, and the sounds of seagulls scavenging for food.

So, this summer I have made a pledge to myself, to just deal with the summer heat and spend more time enjoying many of the beautiful coastal walks Sydney has to offer – and less time sitting in the air conditioning at home, wishing I was at the beach.

Sculptures by the Sea is running from 29th October to 5th November 2017, so it may already be finished by the time you read this post.

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Trick or Treat?

Trick or Treat?

Went Trick or Treating in the Spooky Gardens of The Grounds in Alexandria

The Grounds of Alexandria is one of Sydney’s best and well known restaurants, known for their innovative food and drink, where science meets organic.

Set on a large block, The Grounds houses a speciality restaurant; which is open every day and night, a coffee house; open on weekend; an outdoor country eating area; open every day and surrounded by a variety of food stalls (open only weekend) and organic food markets. It’s the perfect place to go alone, with a special someone, family and friends, as it caters for any crowd, and for any need. Surrounded by lush greenery, the restaurant is like a secret garden of Sydney, where you can escape the outside noises of a busy city and enjoy the serene gardens of the Grounds, whilst enjoying delicious food and drink.

So, when I found out The Grounds had converted their main garden eating area into a Spooky Halloween Garden space for Trick or Treating, I just had to go. Like me, my nephew is a huge fan of Halloween, so it made sense that I would take him and we had a blast. Will definitely go again next year, if he hasn’t grown out of Halloween by then LOL.

I’m not sure if they will host the event again next year, but if they do – here’s what to expect: It’s free entry, but you do need to register for the event. There is plenty of food and drink for adults and kids, including plenty of spooky characters scattered throughout the gardens handing out candy to the kids. There’s dancing, best costume comps and activities for the kids. There was also a jump scare tunnel designed for those brave enough to walk through the dark and get spooked by ghouls and ghosts.

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Walking With the Ghosts at an old Sydney Church

Walking With the Ghosts at an old Sydney Church

Celebrating the month of all things spooky and Halloween, we went on a ghost tour at one of Sydney’s oldest churches.

St Bartholomew’s Church was the first church to open in the western Sydney suburb of Prospect in 1841, thanks to the early explorer William Lawson who pushed the local council at the time, to have it built. William Lawson was one of three British explorers who crossed the famous Blue Mountains successfully.

The church remained a place of worship for the local community, until 1967, when it forced to be closed due to extensive damage caused from vandalism. After damage was repaired, the church was re-opened again, until 1989 when a fire gutted the church. destroying an 1850s organ and 1908 dated furniture. It wasn’t until the year 2000, when Blacktown City Council purchased the property from the Anglican Property Trust, that the church was restored. However, not back to its former glory – which is a shame.

Anticipating a hopeful night of supernatural activities and ghostly tales of the dead, the tour was a total let down (sad face). The stories were mundane, the guide was hardly entertaining; trying to be funny in the most inappropriate ways, and there was way too much time being spent loitering about doing nothing, either around the church grounds, or inside the church – which was incredibly boring. Especially when you were expecting a night of entertainment, so late in the hour.

There were too many people, and only one guide to lead everyone through the grounds. And the story telling factor was missing the personality & character usually expected from tour guides telling ghostly tales, whilst walking through an apparent haunted cemetery.

Like so many people from the area (where I spent much of my youth), I grew up hearing about the ghostly sightings often seen at the church. And I even tried to sneak into the grounds as a teenager, with friends, so we could conduct our own ghost hunt. So, when my partner and I heard the grounds were open for a spooky Halloween weekend, we were absolutely booking ourselves a ticket to go. What a let down, the night was such a failure.

Here’s a pic of an apparent ghost figure wandering the grounds – which was captured by a paranormal investigation team:

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Apart from the grounds, which were actually pretty interesting; with many of the graves being as old as the church itself, the church was also a major let down. The outside has been restored to it’s former glory, but the inside has not been, and looks like a regular hall for renting, if you want a big party or wedding venue. A bit sad really, as we were expecting some old pews, stain glass windows and all those other delicious historical treats you normally find inside an 1800s church.

We made the most of it of course, exploring the old tombstones and even attempted our own EVP session. The night was quiet, so no supernatural beings located. I think perhaps the ghosts were hiding, as there were way too many people wandering the grounds, making way too much noise. We passed the time taking scary photos around the ground, in some of the cool lighting set up – before sneaking out to go home. There was meant to be an additional 1 hr tour just before midnight, but we couldn’t bare to stay another minute. Very upsetting.

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My Favourite 5 Things To Do In Cairns

My Favourite 5 Things To Do In Cairns

Many people underestimate Cairns, not realising there are so many wonderful things to do there.

I lived in Cairns for nearly five years, and have spent many times throughout my life travelling back and forth from Cairns. And because I have family that live there, Cairns is always an easy place to go and visit. As you know you will always get a warm welcome, catching up with family and friends.

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So, of course, as I was once a Cairns local, there are a lot of secrets there, many tourists don’t know about when they visit. Well, I am about to share with you five of my favourite things to do in Cairns, which aren’t listed in the tourist brochure.

Stoney Creek Waterhole:

A simple search on waterholes in Cairns, and you will be directed to a few of the main ones like Josephine Falls, Mossman Gorge or Crystal Cascade. Well, if your looking for something a little more secret then you need to go to Stoney Creek. Mostly used by locals, rather than tourists, this waterhole is fairly secluded. And, if you want to adventure further to an even more private waterhole, there’s an hour’s walk (medium difficulty) up hill to an even more secluded waterhole. Hmm, maybe sharing this is not a good idea, it may not end up being secret after all. The waterhole is located at the end of Stoney Creek Road, Kamerunga.

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The Great Barrier Reef:

Okay, so the reef isn’t exactly secret. But, what I will share with you is which tour company you should use, as I have pretty much used them all. Even if you’re travelling with kids, you’re experience on the reef should be one of magic and wonder. Not stress, noise, chaos and too many tourists. Many of the tours are overcrowded with locals and tourists, so where the hospitality of the staff is still amazing, there is no personal touch to your travel. I definitely, no highly recommend you use Ocean Free. Ocean Free is a sale boat, that takes very small numbers out to the reef, and stays away from the main areas loaded with excessive tourists. So, you are guaranteed a very personal, intimate experience on the reef.

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Paronella Park:

If you have never heard of Paronella Park, it’s an old Spanish Castle hidden in the stunning Rainforest, south of Cairns near Innisfail. Click here to read my previous story on Paronella Park. Now, you can actually find brochures on Paronella Park, however not many large tourist groups are taken to see this beautiful castle. When you get to Cairns, find a local tourist activity shop (there are HEAPS there) and ask for a brochure on the castle. There are a few small tour groups which specialise in taking people there in small numbers. Which is far better than being stuck on a bus with a large group anyways.

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Trinity Beach:

Yes, you can swim at the beaches in Cairns. Just not in Summer LOL. I know, I know, what’s the point of going to a tropical location in summer if you can’t swim at the beaches. Well, actually that’s what the the Reef is for and don’t forget the many waterholes to explore and swim at. Most of the jellies breed in the inlets and then swim out to sea, which is why the beaches are not that safe in summer. But if there are no jelly or shark sightings, then you’re good to go. Trinity Beach isn’t secluded, and it can get busy, but mostly with locals rather than a boatload of tourists. Especially as there aren’t too many hotels in the area. So, if you’re looking for a chilled out beach, this is the best one in Cairns.

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Copperlode Dam:

This dam is one of the very few in Australia that you can still go visit and get pretty close to, without security fences and guards stopping you. If you live in Sydney, you know what I mean. I’m unsure if any tourists group go here, but you could definitely rent a car for the day and go. It’s worth it, even if it’s just for the views at the top. There is a great cafe there too, which serves a wide variety of food and drink to help you enjoy the experience even more. And make sure you take the time to walk down by the dam itself, and over the SUPER high metal planked wharf which allows you to walk across the dam. You won’t regret a visit here.

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This blog has not been endorsed by any of the brands (or companies) mentioned.