Ask Joan: Can we book a cat-free holiday?

Cat phobia curbs couple’s holiday plans, and hotel prices hinder visit to Westminster

A cruise ship is the one place where you will not find a cat

A cruise ship is the one place where you will not find a cat


My wife has a cat phobia and cannot be in the same area where there is a cat or cats. This very much restricts where we can go on holidays. Around 10 years ago, we had a difficult holiday in an otherwise beautiful Dubrovnik: cats were turning up everywhere – on the street, under tables, in restaurants etc. We would particularly like to be able to visit cat-free destinations in Southern Europe. – TT, Dublin

I can empathise with your wife; phobias can seriously affect our lives and the things we would really like to do. Your question led me to investigate the likelihood of cats in various countries and I found a graph prepared by Euromonitor of cat- and dog-owning nations. Southern Europe veered more towards cats, though people in Spain and Portugal have more dogs than cats as pets.

The one place you will not meet a cat is on a cruise ship; no moggies on board any ship. So maybe this is the way to have a lovely cat-free holiday. There has been a huge surge in cruise holidays in recent years and the value is very good when you consider all meals, entertainment and activities are included.

Barcelona is a big cruise port for the Mediterranean and there are weekly departures that travel all around the coast visiting different places each day.

The other big ports for southern Europe would be Venice and Civitavecchia for Rome, all easily accessible from Ireland.

Each day in port there are usually coach or boat excursions to see places of interest. You and your wife could join these or just enjoy the ship. Cruise lines to consider are MSC, Royal Caribbean Norwegian and Celebrity Cruises. A chat with a good cruise agent will help decide which ship.

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I’m planning a visit to the Westminster area of London next spring. However, my experience of UK hotels is not good as they tend to be both expensive and of average standard compared with continental Europe.

I am prepared to commute (by underground) if it secures reasonable quality for an outlay of £140-£150 per double room per night. – MB, Kildare

There is no doubt that hotel prices in London have risen and continue to rise; your best option is to book as early as possible to find a well-located hotel.

Business hotels tend to have better rates at the weekends, especially in the four-star market, though breakfast can be extraordinarily expensive.

For example, the Park Plaza Riverbank is a lovely four-star hotel on Albert Embankment, in walking distance to Westminster, and the early saver rate averages around £125 per room per night.

Grange Hotels have a nice collection of old-style hotels around London and the Rochester at Vincent Square is 10 minutes’ walk from Westminster Square and Big Ben. The early saver rate is £151 including continental breakfast.

Commuting from Islington, the Doubletree by Hilton would be a good location as it is only five minutes from the Tube. It was a Jurys Inn and has now been upgraded to a lovely four-star property. In spring you would be looking at rates from £109-£126 per night, breakfast extra.

My other suggestion is to book a package with a travel agent or tour operator and combine the flights and hotel to get a good price.

A four-star hotel with Aer Lingus flights will cost in the region of €350-€450pps for three nights. See and