My name is Barbara Hopley (my real surname is now Neale) but most people call me ‘Babs’ – doesn’t sound as old as I’m not really that old.
I am passionate about Cruise and have over 30 years of experience of travel knowledge. After working for various travel companies I now have found my dream job – booking all your cruise holiday needs…
Me & Adam on board MSC Opera
Didn’t I do well!
I have a 23 year old daughter Kimberley Rose (Kim) who has a passion for horse riding & we own 2 horses, she competes in show jumping & I am very proud of her. We have 1 horse called ‘Minstral’, he is 12,2 hands Welsh Section B who Kim has had since she was 4 years old, she is too big to ride him now so some friends of ours have loaned him. Kim now rides ‘Goldie’ – she is beautiful and loves to go jumping!
Kim competes in horse shows most weekends – who knows one day you may see her at ‘The Olympics’
These 2 are really good friends – Patch my dog & Alfie (1 of my 4 cats).. Unfortuately we lost Patch this year in February
I love animals & have 3 cats – Narla (we call her Noo Noo), Stan-Lee, & Alfie!
I am originally from Bolton and moved to Coventry, West Midlands 16 years ago, so I go back home to visit family & friends as often as I can.
At the age of 48 I have been in the travel industry for 33 years. I started in a local independent Travel Agency called ‘Tinos Travel’ on an YTS scheme to do my training. I started as work experience for 3 weeks and that was it, I got the bug as you call it & have never looked back. My real passion is booking cruise holidays but working in an agency you deal with all aspects of holidays, I would have been happy to just serve all the cruise customers but I wasn’t that lucky. I have been on an array of ships whether it be holidays or just a look around so I have extensive cruise knowledge so can assist you in finding your perfect cruise!
I recently worked for Bowens Travel where I was the ‘Retail Cruise Development Manager’. I looked after 37 shops and it was my job to increase cruise sales with the staff. To acheive this I visited the various shops and held training sessions, organised webinars and ship visits to improve staff knowledge (sometimes in fancy dress). Unfortunately Bowens Travel ceased trading in October 2012 so here I am & I’m looking forward to booking your next cruise.
I have done lots of cruise training over the years, including MSC, Fred Olsen, P&O, Princess, Cunard & Norweigan Cruise Lines (NCL).
I am an admiral for Royal Caribbean, Celebrity & Azamara so I’m very experienced on these cruise lines. I know all about their ships, what’s on board, restaurants, entertainment, cabins, itineraries & much more.
This training was really fun & informative, lots of videos & pictures to bring it to life. Admiral is the highest status on the training but always new sections to complete so I re-visit regularly to keep my points up to date.
I have also updated my training for 2013 on Royal Caribbean, Celebrity & Azamara so I am just waiting for my certificate so will upload it as soon as I can.
I am also a Commadore for P&O, Cunard & Princess cruises so I have all the knowledge on these cruise lines to assist you book your next cruise.
I have completed the NCLU which is the Norwegian Cruise Line University:-
Other training courses I have passed are:-
Rocky Mountaineer – so I can assist you with Alaska cruise with a land trip on this amazing Canadian Train Journey.
Holland America Cruise Lines
Silversea Luxury Cruises
Silver seas – Silver
Silver sea – Platinum
There are always lots of trainings for us to complete to keep our knowledge up to date, I will let you know each one I complete.
I update my training as much as possible and like to do the new ones to keep up to date of what changes have happened, new ships, new itineraries etc…
Ships I have been on
My first time on a ship was back in 1994 when I & a colleague visited the ‘Enchantment of the Seas’ with Royal Caribbean. This was an overnight stay where the ship was docked in Southampton, I got my first real taste of being on board a cruise ship. I was amazed at the size of it & all that was on offer to passengers.
In 2005 I went on the P&O Arcadia for a week with a group of travel agents, this was the first real cruise I went on that left port. I was hooked, absolutely loved it. The aspect of cruising was not what I expected, so much to do on board & so many bars to visit in the evening as I like the odd glass of wine or two whilst away from home! I loved waking up in a new destination every day & going off to explore on one of the organised excursions. Then there’s the food, never thought I could eat so much in a week, so much choice & all delicious meals. I also loved the entertainment on board, something for everyone from a Broadway show to a piano bar, even a nightclub.
My next cruise venture was on board ‘Island Star’ – we boarded in Pisa & spent 5 nights on board. This was a different kind of cruise experience as it was ‘go as you please’ – no dressing for dinner or set dining times & was only a 3 star ship but still I loved the cruise. This led on to me being the cruise expert for Bowens Travel who I worked for at the time. I love to send out to the shops all the best offers for cruise & do the sales updates for the top & bottom shops.
I have been on 2 MSC cruises, MSC Poesia & MSC Opera which I thoroughly enjoyed. There is a lot to be said about the reputation of Italian cruise ships, yes the food is probably not as good as other cruise lines, or the entertainment is a little to be desired but overall we enjoyed it. The ships are luxurious & very clean; the cabins are of a good size & very comfortable. The staff were amazing & couldn’t do enough to help. The announcements are done in several languages & English is usually the last so I missed most of them as had switched off whilst waiting so we then had to go and ask at reception what was said – this made the cruise very amusing but has not put me off & I would definitely do another MSC cruise. My daughter who was 15 at the time loved it as this was her 1st cruise & the staff took to her so we got the very best of service as you can see from the pictures!
Kim & I with waiters on MSC Opera!
Since 2007 I have been on many ship visits including: –
Independence of the Seas (overnight) which I won from completing the online training.
Ventura – P&O (overnight) launch
Eurodam – Holland America – 2 nights on board – I was offered this as a booking I had done had to be cancelled due to the ship being chartered. This was a beautiful ship & so luxurious.
Braemar – Fred Olsen – I put together a coach full of passengers & escorted this ship visit to Dover.
Balmoral – Fred Olsen – another coach full of passengers I escorted.
Minerva – Swan Hellenic – ship visit
MSC Poesia – 7 night holiday
Tahitian Princess – ship visit
Equinox – Celebrity Cruises – Admirals Day
Eclipse – Celebrity Cruise – 2 nights as I hosted our Assistant Manager conference.
MV Discovery – Voyages of Discovery – ship visit
MSC Opera – 8 night holiday
Crystal Symphony – Crystal Cruises –ship visit
Caribbean Princess – Princess cruises – ship visit
Marco Polo – Cruise & Maritime – ship visit
Oceana – 2 night mini break
NCL Breakaway – overnight for the launch – see my blog about this fantastic ship!
Brilliance of the Seas – Overnight visit after the refurb!
NCL Epic – 7 night cruise for my Honeymoon – fantastic ship!!
Oceania Marina – ship visit.
Splendour of the Seas – Royal Caribbean – ship visit whilst in Dubrovnik
Celebrity Infinity – 6 nights on board – I love this ship!!
Cunard – Queen Elizabeth – ship visit & lunch.
P&O Azura – 2 night mini cruise.
Cunard Queen Mary 2 – ship visit
Regent Seven Seas Voyager – 6 nights on board & it was amazing – my new favourite.
P&O Oriana – 2 nights mini cruise with my husband for my birthday – lovely ship!
Oasis of the Seas – ship visit ( boy she is huge )
P&O Britannia – overnight to see this brand new ship
Oceania Insignia – 4 nights
Royal Princess – 2 nights
P&O Pacific Dawn (Australia)
Here are some photographs of the ships I have visited:-
Queen Mary 2 (Sheltered Balcony)
By the pool on Fred Olsen Braemar!
Sunset Bar – Infinity
Qsine restaurant on board Celebrity Infinity.
Regent Voyager – September 2014
P&O Britannia – March 2015
Scenic Jasper – March 2015
Celebrity Eclipse – 14 night holiday – Baltics July 2015
Fred Olsen Balmoral – 3 night mini cruise. December 2015
Ovation of the seas – overnight to view this brand new ship. April 2016
Emerald Princess – 3 night mini cruise – April 2016
Harmony of the Seas May 2016
Pacific Dawn (Australian)
Fred Olsen Boudicca – Christmas Conference 2016
Places I have visited
Learning to Ski!!
I have travelled quite a lot in Europe, the destinations I have been too:-
Spain :- Costa Del Sol – Torremolinos & Benalmadena, Majorca – various resorts, Menorca – various resorts, Ibiza – Cala Llonga.
Greece:- Corfu – Kavos, Crete, Kos
Bulgaria – various resorts & skiing in Pamporovo, Bansko & Borovets – I was lucky enough to be sent skiing by work, I was a bit scared at first but absolutely loved it – still prefer to cruise though (not as hard on the legs).
I have visited Italy numerous times – Milan – to see Robbie Williams in concert! Turin, Pisa, Genoa, Venice – most of these from cruising!
Cyprus was my favourite beach holiday, Protaras – we’ve been here quite a few times before I got the cruise bug!
Not the best nights sleep but we enjoyed it,
I’ve travelled to Western Australia where a group of agents travelled the ‘Kimberley’ Region in a 4X4 coach, we camped in lodges, at homesteads & huts. Such an enjoyable way to see the Outback, I saw plenty of creatures I didn’t want to see but the guides looked out for us so no emergencies. No electricity after 9pm so had to find our way by torch. Put me in the Jungle anytime!
We did a helicopter tour over ‘The Bungle Bungles’ – a vast collection of multi coloured rocks – it the most awesome sight I’d ever seen.
I have also been to Hong Kong for 4 nights, this was a fantastic city to visit, my 1st ever long haul flight. Then we travelled to Cebu, Phillapines for 3 nights – this was an absolutely beautiful place but quite a poor area if you leave the hotel grounds.
I took my mum to San Francisco as she had always wanted to cross ‘The Golden Gate Bridge’ so I made her dreams come true. We stayed at Fishermans Wharf for 5 nights & we had an amazing time. My mum has the photos so will post in the future.
My 1st cruise on board P&O Arcadia, we sailed from Southampton across ‘The Bay Of Biscay’ in October 2005 visiting Europe including Vigo, Lisbon. Luckily it was quite calm.
June 2007 – 5 nights on board ‘Island Star’ – we visited Florence & Pisa, Vigo, La Rochelle.
Leaning Tower of Pisa
Venice was my favourite destination I have visited on a cruise, an amazing sail away from the port. If you haven’t done it this is a MUST!! We sailed from here on the MSC Poesia in September 2009, Adam’s 1st time at sea, he loved it (thank goodness) so we cruise all the time now! We visited Izmir – Turkey, Katakolon – Greece, Istanbul – Turkey, Dubrovnik – Croatia, Bari – Italy also on this cruise.
Grand Canal – Venice
I have also visited Norfolk broads a few times, again on a boat but this time a small cruiser where there are no waiters to look after you but still on the water. There are some beautiful places in the UK to visit.
Not exactly as cruise but still on the water!
Last year in August 2011 we sailed on MSC Opera from Southampton to Amsterdam, Bilbao – Spain, La Rochelle – France, Le Harve – France, Santiago De Compostella – Spain & Guernsey.
A beautiful city to visit – Santiago De Compostella
Since starting at Cruise.co.uk in December 2012 I have sailed on P&O Oceana for 2 nights to Bruges, this is a lovely place and really enjoyed this trip as I got to meet my fellow colleagues as I had only been with the company for 2 weeks.
I also sailed on Norwegian Epic for my Honeymoon & visited:- Naples (pompeii), Rome, Pisa, Marseilles & Palma. We did excursions in Naples to Pompeii & Rome – a full day city tour – this was the highlite of this cruise for me. We visited the Colloseum, Vatican City, Trevi Fountain, Spanish Steps & St peter’s square.
In October 2013 I was lucky enough to go on Celebrity Infinity to attend ‘Seminar at Sea’ – we work on board by doing training sessions and tour of the ship even the galley – this was awesome as got to see behind the scenes.
Also in October 2013 I represented Cruise.co.uk at the Abta Convention in Dubrovnik, Croatia. We spent 3 nights here and attended the business sessions to gain tips to assist our business.
In September 2014 myself and my colleague Teresa were lucky enough to go on Regent Seven Seas Voyager for 5 nights, this was a great trip, we saw some lovely places I had never been to before. We visited St Malo & Bordeaux – such lovely towns so well worth a visit on your next cruise.
I have been on many cruise ships, whether it be a visit, an overnight stay, an educational trip or a holiday so can answer most questions about the various cruise lines.
One my favourite destinations myself & Adam did in 2015 was Celebrity Eclipse to the Baltics for 14 nights, this was a great trip and we visited some fantastic destinations including Berlin, Copenhagen, St Petersburg, Stockholm, Helsinki and more – I would definitely recommend this trip.
Last year from June to September I was lucky enough to travel to Australia and work in our Brisbane office for the 3 months, I loved this country and saw a lot of Queensland and also Sydney & Byron Bay. I even went on a 4 night cruise upto the Whitsundays and visited Airlie Beach – this was a beautiful place and definitely worth a visit if you are ever there.
Bondi Beach – Sydney
Just before Christmas we went on Fred Olsen Boudicca for our Christmas conference and spent the day in Dublin as we sailed from Liverpool – this was a great day & we managed a few guiness!