An Honest Review of the Grand Cosmopolitan Hotel in Dubai

An Honest Review of the Grand Cosmopolitan Hotel in Dubai

This post is all about my review of The Grand Cosmopolitan Hotel in Dubai.

Grand Cosmopolitan Hotel in Dubai

Choosing a hotel in Dubai can be difficult, considering there are so many extravagant and luxury options.

I chose to stay at the brand new Grand Cosmopolitan Hotel, and WOW was it an experience.

Planning your trip to Dubai? Click here for the Ultimate Dubai Checklist Printable to help you plan your travels.

The Location

Located in the neighborhood of Al Barsha, nearly everything is within a 5-10 minute taxi drive.

I’ll be honest, when I first booked the hotel, the location was the biggest thing I was worried about because I knew nothing would be walkable.

However, when I got to Dubai I realized that none of the hotels anywhere are walkable to anything – especially in the hot resort areas near Palm Jumeirah.

No matter where you stay, you will have to get a taxi everywhere you go. Taxi’s are really the main form of transportation in the city. Dubai is not a walkable destination.

The great thing is, taxis are very cheap and plentiful. Grand Cosmopolitan Hotel’s location actually benefited me as most taxi rides were all $5 – $10 USD.

My friend who was at a hotel on Palm Jumeirah was paying $15-$20 USD a taxi ride to most major tourist attractions because she was so far out of the way.

Also, if you are on a budget – there is a walkable grocery store just a few doors down from the Grand Cosmopolitan. This allowed me to buy things cheaply like sunscreen and snacks.

Rooms at The Grand Cosmopolitan Hotel

As I spend most of my time traveling in the USA or Europe, I am typically used to small hotel rooms where space is tight.

I had actually forgotten what it was like to have a massive luxurious hotel room until I walked into my Superior Room.

Immediately, I was shocked at how much room there was. I felt so spoiled!

Grand Cosmopolitan Hotel in Dubai

When I walked into the room, it was clearly ready for me.. me specifically!

There was a lovely personalized greeting by the owner on the screen when I arrived. This was such a unique and warm welcome.

Honestly, the bathrooms deserve a blog post alone!

Fully set with a spacious bathtub, a separate shower (with 3 different sprayers and settings), soap essentials, and my favorite part – a robe! If you peek in the closet, there are even some bath slippers too.

Rooms also come with free coffee, tea, and water,

Rooftop Infinity Pool

Grand Cosmopolitan Hotel in Dubai

The rooftop infinity pool is where I spent most of my time in Dubai – no joke! I went here every day.

This temperature-controlled pool had loads of loungers, a lifeguard, a restaurant, and even built-in slanted loungers into the pool (the perfect spot to read with a book).

Plus, a view of the famous Burj Al Arab.

Breakfast Buffet

A breakfast buffet is an optional add-on when booking your stay at the Grand Cosmopolitan. Trust me, DO IT!

This was the most elaborate buffet spread I’ve ever seen. The food was insanely delicious, and this was my favorite part of staying here.

Maybe it’s the foodie in me, but I still think about that fresh orange juice and waffles with maple syrup.

Grand Cosmopolitan Hotel in Dubai

Another great thing about this buffet is they have buffet attendants to serve you to help with sanitation guidelines. Only employees are the ones touching the food, you just have to point and say what you want.

Other Bonuses at the Grand Cosmopolitan Hotel

I loved taking advantage of their workout center and sauna after eating that massive breakfast!

Grand Cosmopolitan Hotel in Dubai

Order room service from one of their three on-site restaurants. Those macarons were some of the best I’ve ever had.

Additional bonuses the hotel offers are a complete on-site spa and an entire floor dedicated as a business center for working professionals on holiday. While I didn’t take advantage of these services, I’m sure they are spectacular.

Out of everything at the Grand Cosmopolitan Hotel, the staff was truly the most exceptional part.

Every staff member I spoke to went above and beyond in every corner of the hotel (especially the breakfast team!) I have never experienced such true hospitality as I did during my 5-day stay here.

I look forward to the day I return to the Grand Cosmopolitan Hotel!

*This post is not sponsored.

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The Famous Carousel Bar in New Orleans

The Famous Carousel Bar in New Orleans

This post is all about the carousel bar in New Orleans.

carousel bar new orleans

Built in 1949, this magical rotating bar has spun through history hosting legendary performers and written about by the most prestigious authors.

One simply cannot leave New Orleans without having a drink at the iconic Carousel Bar & Lounge.

This is such a MUST DO in NOLA, that I’ve included it on my Ultimate New Orleans Checklist. Click here or below to get your free printable!

New Orleans Itinerary

Carousel Bar & Lounge – The Location

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This famous rotating bar is located in the French Quarter inside the stunning Hotel Monteleone.

Anyone can visit the carousel bar, whether you are staying at the Hotel Monteleone or not.

Book your stay here so the carousel bar is within arm’s reach at all times!

Location: 214 Royal St, New Orleans, LA 70130, United States

Check out My 3-Day Itinerary to New Orleans

New Orleans Itinerary

How to Get a Spot at the Carousel Bar

Ah, the real question we would all love to know the easy answer to. Unfortunately, the “secret” to getting a spot is to wait patiently behind the bar and RUN when you see a spot open up.

There are only 25 seats at the carousel bar. If I can find 3 spots for myself and my friends at the bar on the fourth of July, then I have faith you can too.

The Drinks

It’s no surprise that the drinks are expensive. I ordered the “Handshaken Pina Colada” and it was $15. However, it was absolutely delicious! Considering this bar is a major tourist attraction in NOLA the prices are actually quite fair.

Check out the full cocktail and small bites menu here.

carousel bar new orleans

Enjoy your spin around the enchanting Carousel Bar in New Orleans!

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A Day at Big Cedar Lodge Spa

A Day at Big Cedar Lodge Spa

The Big Cedar Lodge Cedar Creek Spa is the most relaxing experience you’ll treat yourself to. This spa at Big Cedar Lodge will leave you feeling refreshed and polished for your Branson, Missouri adventure.

This post is all about my experience at Big Cedar Lodge Spa – Cedar Creek Spa

Cedar Creek Spa at Big Cedar Lodge

Cedar Creek Spa is part of Big Cedar Lodge Resort, however, you don’t have to be a guest at the lodge to book the experience. Anyone is able to book a spa day!

Cedar Creek is located at: 190 Top of the Rock Rd, Ridgedale, MO 65739

big cedar lodge spa
big cedar lodge spa

The Spa Experience – the cost and value.

To be real with you, the spa is not exactly what I’d call budget-friendly. I spent $250 for a Swedish massage + tip and three glasses of wine. However, you aren’t paying for just the massage.

This price includes a women’s room private hot tub, a grotto complete with a heated pool and ice room, a sauna, outdoor showers, and a full changing room including showers and a fully stocked vanity.

big cedar lodge spa

Making sure we got the biggest value for our money, we booked our massages at 12pm and spent five hours relaxing in the grotto and drinking wine. We probably could have spent even longer there, I never wanted to leave!

big cedar lodge spa

The Grotto

All guests who book a spa service such as a massage or facial will have access to the grotto. Note that salon services alone do not grant you access, it must be a spa service.

We decided to have our massages first and then relaxed at the grotto afterwards. Though you can choose to go to the grotto before your spa service or after (or both!)

big cedar lodge spa

The Massage

The massages are of course one of the best parts of the experience!

While I enjoyed mine greatly, I will say that I booked a Swedish massage and received more of a neurological massage where pressure point therapy occupied most of the time.

I’m pretty sensitive (which I voiced before the massage) and would have rather just had a light rub throughout. I truthfully was in pain most of the time, though afterward it definitely helped some of my back and neck issues. Overall it was still a great massage, I may just request a different masseuse next time.

Tips before booking

I highly recommend booking as early in the day as possible because you will want to spend several hours relaxing in the hot tubs. I do believe you can arrive as early as you’d like to enjoy the pools, in case you can’t get a booking until later.

You must arrive 15 minutes prior to your appointment.

Automatic gratuity is included in your booking price. However, your masseuse only receives 10% of the massage price, which is fairly low in comparison to other massage therapists. I tipped an additional $10 on my $160 massage.

Food and drinks can be ordered at any time.

Robes and towels are provided. Changing rooms include private changing spaces, stocked showers and vanities, lotion, hair dryers, and really thing you’ll need!

Make sure to bring your swimsuit!

big cedar lodge spa

Cedar Creek Spa at Big Cedar Lodge is truly a luxury experience worth every penny.

This luxury spa experience is perfect for special occasions, vacations, or just to treat yourself! I can’t wait to book another spa experience at Cedar Creek in the future .

Feel free to comment below or message me on Instagram if you have any questions!

Looking for a way to end a perfect day in Branson? Check out Bear Creek Winery to end your evening with wine, small plates or pizza, and live music.

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Civil Kitchen in Springfield, Missouri

Civil Kitchen in Springfield, Missouri

Civil Kitchen in Springfield, Missouri will take your taste buds through a mouthwatering dining experience that will surely have you coming back for more.

The best part about this made-from-scratch locally owned restaurant is that they have a little something for everyone. Whether you’re craving a classic dish like Chicken & Waffles, or perhaps a healthier choice like a Falafel & Veg Wrap – Civil Kitchen will have a delicious dish that you will enjoy.

Civil Kitchen is located right in the heart of downtown at 107 Park Central Square, Springfield, MO 65806.

The Civil Kitchen Experience Starts With a Drink!

With 28 beers on tap and a large selection of hand crafted cocktails, you’ll find a beverage you’ll love.

photo courtesy of Civil Kitchen

I personally am a Bloody Mary fanatic, so I was thrilled to try their Peter Piper Bloody Mary with Infused Pickle & Pepperoncini Vodka and Zing Zang.

“Get Civilized at Civil Kitchen”

Open from 11am-11pm, Civil is the perfect spot for an early lunch or a late night dinner. I chose to come in for lunch and enjoyed the view of Park Central Square from their beautiful large windows.

For lunch, I had the C.B.A Wrap, which was SO delicious!

This flavor-packed wrap includes your choice of grilled or fried chicken, lettuce, sliced avocado, chopped bacon, tomato, red onion, cheese, and chimichurri mayo.

As I mentioned before, their menu is huge! Check out some of their other popular dishes.

Prices & Info

The average price per person ranges from about $12 – $25. I found that the prices are very reasonable for the portions and quality you are served. Check out Civil Kitchen’s menu here.

Keep up with Civil Kitchen and their special offers by following them on Facebook or Instagram.

Overall, I had such a great dining experience at Civil Kitchen.

I would highly recommend this restaurant to anyone traveling to Springfield as it will truly give you a scrumptious taste of Route 66!

Civil Kitchen is also featured on A Local’s Two-Day Guide To Springfield, MO

photo courtesy of Civil Kitchen

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Viñales Day Trip Tour from Havana

Viñales Day Trip Tour from Havana

A Viñales Day Trip Tour from Havana was the perfect solution to a problem I commonly have when planning trips – never enough time! Originally, we wanted to stay in a Casa Particular in Viñales for a few days, but we just didn’t have the time in our limited seven days in Cuba. We were so happy we found this Airbnb experience that offered a day trip.

Where is Viñales?

Viñales is a town in Western Cuba home to lush fields, tobacco farms, rock climbing, and so much more. Just a couple hours away from bustling Havana, Viñales makes for a perfect day trip to enjoy life at a slower pace!

Why book an Airbnb Experience?

Without going into too much politics and details, Cuba is a communist government. This means the government dictates all citizen’s wages and food rations. Most Cubans must work government jobs that only pay a monthly average wage of $20-40 USD (a month!) To make ends meet, many Cubans work on the side in the tourism industry.

By booking an Airbnb or Airbnb Experience, your money will go to supporting the Cuban people directly, rather than to a hotel or tourist agency. This rule doesn’t just apply to Cuba, it’s just like shopping local. Your money goes to the people, rather than larger corporations. Also, it is way more of an authentic experience!

Now that I’ve briefed you on Cuban geography and politics, let’s get to it!

– Viñales Day Trip Tour from Havana –

Depart from Havana around 8am.

We were picked up in this sweet looking car from Havana around 8-9am. Honestly, nobody is on time in Cuba, so if you have a tour booked and they are running behind – that is totally normal! Patience is key, as keep in mind internet is not always readily available here.

The 2.5 hour drive to Viñales was really enjoyable. Make sure to bring your passport everywhere with you in Cuba, as cops will often flag you down when you are leaving city limits.

Viñales Day Trip Tour from Havana

Horseback Riding through Mogotes Valley.

The first stop on our tour was riding beautiful horses through the lush valley. Anytime I think of engaging in tourism with animals, I always do some research into the specifics of how the animals are treated. We almost booked a different tour in Viñales before coming across this one, however, there were a number of reviews of how badly the horses were treated. Luckily on this tour, the horses seemed to be very well taken care of.

This photo doesn’t do the views of the valley justice, it was so stunning!

The Colorful Country of Cuba

The Art of Cuban Cigars

This was unexpectedly one of my favorite parts of the tour! I don’t typically smoke anything, but I loved the taste of these cigars. Smoking a Cuban cigar in Cuba is definitely a bucketlist moment worth all the hype. You learn where the tobacco grows, how to roll it, and of course how to smoke it 🙂

Bring cash with you so you can buy cigars and other souveniers! If you personally don’t want them, they make excellent gifts to give away back home.

Viñales day trip tour

Say hello to the little farm animals

After the horseback riding and cigar demonstration, you just get to chill and hang out with the farmers while smoking cigars. It honestly feels like your visiting your family’s farm! It was so nice, and all the animals were so adorable.

The Colorful Country of Cuba
Viñales day trip tour from Havana

Are you loving these colors? Check out The Colorful Country of Cuba. –

Explore the Caves of Viñales

Horseback, cigars, and now caves – oh my! This tour has quite the variety, which always kept things interesting. We enjoyed a nice boat ride through the beautiful caves of Viñales.

Viñales Day Trip Tour from Havana

Enjoy a late lunch with a view.

On your way back to Havana, you will stop at a delicious restaurant with an incredible view. I ordered the Cuban Ropa Vieja, which is the National Dish of Cuba. It was incredibly delicious!

Viñales Day Trip Tour from Havana
The Colorful Country of Cuba

That concludes a full Day Trip Tour to Viñales.

While Havana is a great place to base yourself during your time in Cuba, I highly recommend venturing out beyond!

You can book this Viñales Day Trip Tour on Airbnb here.

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3 Days Sahara Desert Tour – Marrakech Desert Trips Review

3 Days Sahara Desert Tour – Marrakech Desert Trips Review

(updated 1/04/2022)

This Sahara Desert Tour was one of the coolest experiences ever! If you can only pick one thing to do during your time in Morocco, I would urge you to take this tour!

We spent hours researching the best Sahara desert tour to take on our trip to Morocco. There were so many factors to take into consideration when picking our tour company. My top priorities were safety, comfort, and value.

The tour we booked can be found here.

Our tour specifically was: Marrakech – Merzouga, 3 Days Shared Sahara Desert Tour with Marrakech Desert Trips.

My Sahara Desert Essentials


What type of traveler(s) is this suited for?

Anyone would love this tour; Couples, solo travelers, friends, etc.

A moderately active skill level is required as there’s some light hiking and camel riding involved. However, they do offer motor transport options for those not able to ride camels.


For the 3 days Shared Marrakech to Merzouga desert tour it is €89 which is approximately $97 USD. This includes nice accommodations, transportation, and most of your meals. It’s such a great value, and totally worth it.

Here is a day by day breakdown of this Sahara Desert Tour:

Sahara Desert Tour 7 days in Morocco
Sahara Desert Tour


Start your day bright and early, departing from Marrakech.

Your tour guides will communicate the meeting point on WhatsApp beforehand.

Something you should know – you will be spending a whole lot of time with your driver. Our driver was AMAZING.

First stop, Atlas Mountains!

Atlas Mountains Sahara Desert Tour
The Atlas Mountains Sahara Desert Tour

Stop #2 – Aït Benhaddou

Aït Benhaddou is your second stop on your 3 day Sahara tour.

This is a popular filming location as it’s been seen in Gladiator and Game of Thrones. You will have a tour guide and stop for lunch (which will be on your own dime). You will be expected to tip the tour guide as well.

I do remember this guide was not particularly very friendly here, however, the tour company has no control over the guides at tourist destinations like this. Enjoy your time and get some pics in the sandy city!

Stop #3 – Dades Valley

The Dades Valley is made up of rugged gorges carved out by the Dades River in Morocco. This will be your last stop of the day! The roads to get to your hotel are a bit crazy, so if you get car sick easily, bring some medicine to calm your stomach.

Day 2 – DADES VALLEY – TINGHIR – MERZOUGA – SAHARA DESERT (4 hours driving + stops)

You’ll likely wake up early and get to enjoy breakfast before departing. Shortly after you depart, your driver will stop to allow you some time to explore the stunning valley.

Next stop – Tinghir

This was one of my favorite stops on our tour.

You get a glance at what a traditional Berber home looks like, along with the skill and time it takes to craft traditional Berber carpets. While they give you an extensive guide to Berber carpentry, you’ll be treated to hot Moroccan tea.

Berber Home - Sahara Desert Tour
Berber Home – Sahara Desert Tour
Berber Home - Sahara Desert Tour
Berber Home – Sahara Desert Tour

Next, Merzouga!

At this point, you are SO close to the Sahara Desert, you can nearly see it. Riding along the highway straight into the sand dunes was one of the most jaw-dropping moments.

Once you arrive at the tour base, you will have the opportunity to quickly use the restrooms and pack a small overnight bag. There is no way that you will be able to pack all of your luggage onto your camel, nor will you want to.

They will securely lock up the rest of your luggage for you. They will do a quick Berber turban demonstration if you’d like to ride your camel like a true Berber! Also, it really does help keep the sand out of your eyes, along with some sunglasses.

What you need before getting on the camel: thick pants, a headscarf, sunglasses, sunscreen, a small overnight bag.

Finally, The Sahara Desert.

A massive check off the bucket list! Camping overnight in the Sahara was the most exciting and beautiful experience I’ve had thus far in my life. The endless golden dunes are pure serenity and bliss.

The Sahara Desert
The Sahara Desert

Traveling to camp, via Camel.

It’s not every day that you can say you rode a camel to your accommodation! Your trek to your overnight camp is LONG. Like, nearly two hours long. Our inner thighs were sore for days. This is why it is especially important that you wear very thick pants.

Camel Squad in the Sahara

Don’t worry, there will be plenty of chances to get your photos!

Camping in the Sahara Desert.

After you’ve finally arrived at the camp, you’ll quickly get settled in your tent and prepare for a delicious dinner. All of the meals on this trip were really impressive, and this one did not disappoint! Most of the dishes we ate during our tour were mainly Vegetarian based.

Following dinner, you will be treated to a beautiful night under the stars. There will be music, dancing, stargazing, and our guides even took us on a sand dune hike! Sledding down the dunes at midnight is a moment I will cherish forever.

Take this time to really engage and get to know your tour guides. They are all young, most of them in their 20s, but are very intelligent and can teach you a lot about their culture if you listen. I enjoyed my conversations with them getting to know more about their real way of life away from all of the tourism.

Camping in the Sahara Desert consists of large private tents (for an upgrade) with beds & blankets and restrooms. It’s really more like Glamping! Be sure to bring layers of close to sleep in, nighttime is freezing


Prepare to wake up very early the next morning to begin your camel trek back to the tour base in Merzouga, where an elaborate breakfast awaits. There will be 1-2 more stops for photo ops on the way back, but not near as many as the day before, so be sure to take advantage of your final moments in the beautiful Sahara Desert.

Don’t forget to thank your transport 😉

Back on the road again!

The route from the Sahara back to Marrakech is pretty straight (figuratively). Meaning there won’t be as many tourist stops as you had on the way to the desert.

Ouarzazate will be your main stop on the way back to Marrakech, where you’ll enjoy a leisurely lunch & quick look at Atlas Studios.

the worlds largest film studio
The world’s largest film studio

Atlas Studios is the world’s largest film studio. Iconic film and television shows such as Indiana Jones, Game of Thrones, Aladdin (2019), Mummy, Gladiator, and more have used this lot to film on. Unfortunately, you don’t really get a tour of the grounds, it’s really just a quick stop to stretch your legs and walk around outside the gates.

Back on the road to Marrakesh.

You should arrive in Marrakesh/ Marrakech at around 7 pm (19h00). Your driver should drop you off at, or within walking distance to your accommodation.

This tour was so spectacular, and completely exceeded our expectations. For such a low price, you really get your money’s worth and an experience of a lifetime.

That concludes a full 3 Day Tour from Marrakech to the Sahara Desert!

Sahara hoorahs!
Sahara hoorahs!

*my fab travel bestie, Annika Berntsen, contributed some of these photos.