Ask Joan: Shackleton’s Antarctica, Florence for a wedding, Cannes or Istanbul for a special event

Your travel dilemmas solved

We are three men starting to plan a trip to the Antarctic, at the end of 2015, beginning of 2016, and would appreciate your guidance. Ideally it would include Shackleton’s grave at Grytviken, and further landings of historic and wildlife interest.

– KDT, Midwest There are three cruises this winter with Explore on the Polar Pioneer of 18 days each. Three days will be spent in South Georgia to follow in the footsteps of Ernest Shackleton. The cruises will take place in November 2015, January and February 2016, with embarkation from Ushuaia in Chile.

Taking a loop from Argentina to the Falklands, South Georgia, Elephant Island, the Weddell Sea and the Antarctic Peninsula, you will see a huge area of wilderness and wildlife. The price is from £9,100/€12,800 and does not include the airfare to Ushuaia. See

The French cruise line Ponent will have a trip to Antarctica in November that visits South Georgia and Grytviken over 15 days. It is called the great Austral Loop and boards Le Boreal in Ushuaia. It costs from €9,000 for this expedition cruise. See There are other cruises to Antarctica but for longer periods and they are more expensive – see, and


Next March, Aurora Expeditions will have a cruise called In Shackleton's Footsteps, retracing his journey for the 100th anniversary of Shackleton's South Georgia Crossing. The 18-day trip from Ushuaia will cost from $14,300pps/€12,900. See

Can you tell me how to fly to Florence, Italy? I have a wedding in September and would like to fly direct. Also can you find some good hotels? – AF, Dublin There are no direct flights to Florence from Ireland. You have the following options. Fly with Ryanair to Pisa and take a bus to Florence. There is bus every hour, see It takes around 70 minutes and costs €5 each way, (airfare costs around €160). Or fly via Paris or Amsterdam and change planes for a flight to Florence with KLM or Air France, (airfare around €240).

Prices in Florence can vary widely and there are a lot of very nice high-end hotels in historical buildings. One such is the NH Collection Firenze Porta Rossa, prices from €320 per night, Il Granduca is a more reasonable three-star hotel with rates from €90-€140 per night,

My parents are soon to celebrate their 30th wedding anniversary and myself and my siblings want to send them on a special trip to celebrate. – MM, Westmeath There is nothing like a top-class hotel to make you feel special and there are some lovely destinations in Europe that could suit. Plan the trip for autumn and there is better value. You could consider booking an inclusive package with flights, hotel, tours and transfers.

The Travel Department recently established a brand called Occasions which is using high quality hotels for short breaks. There is a trip to Cannes staying in the Hotel Carlton. It costs from €599pps for three nights with flights.

It includes a day trip to some of the famous places on the Cote D'Azur such as St Paul de Vence, Antibes and Nice's Promenade des Anglais. Hugely popular at the moment is Istanbul and a four-night trip staying in a five-star hotel with guided tours will cost from €659pps,

Send your queries to