'If I can do it, you can do it too': meet Belinda Bennett, the world's first black female cruise ship captain

Rewind 200 years and the only women found on a cruise ship were the carved wooden figureheads of topless ladies (an offering to the oceans in exchange for calm weather), attached to the bow. Women had no place onboard because they were believed to be bad luck on ships, while their presence was said to distract the sailors and steer them off course. 

Not that Belinda Bennett – the world’s first black woman cruise ship captain – let the antiquated idea that women don’t belong at sea, break her stride. 

Ahead of Mothering Sunday, we caught up with the woman who joins Serena Melani (the first woman to captain a new cruise ship) and Kate McCue (the first American woman to captain a giant cruise vesse), in helping make cruise ship history. 

Read the interview here:

Sophia Loren: ‘What brings me joy? A nice walk with a friend. I’m an easy person to please’

The legendary Italian actress, 84, has become a godmother again – to her 14th cruise ship, the £1bn MSC Bellissima. Ahead of the star-studded naming ceremony for Bellissima the screen star spoke to Telegraph Cruise about family, films and being low maintenance.

Talking Travel: Ecuador

Ecuador maybe small, but there's no shortage of things to see - from snow covered mountains to Amazonian rainforest and incredible wildlife - in this small Andean nation. 

For an insight into Ecuador, tune into ‘Talking Travel’ at Women's Radio Station later this month - where Ecuadorian, Monica Alexander, will be revealing why if homeland isn’t on your bucket list, it’s because you have already been…...

Touring Bird: London

Take a dip in a London landmark: Brockwell Lido


When the sun is shining, few things are as appealing as London’s open air swimming pools, with the art deco lidos – built in the first 30 years of the 20th century – of particular interest.
Ask any Londoner for their favourite lido and chances are they’ll answer: Brockwell Lido.
This much-loved local landmark has been at the heart of the local community since 1937 and houses an Olympic size 50-metre outdoor swimming pool, Jacuzzis, and saunas in an Art Deco Grade II listed building. (People flock to this Dulwich Road spot as much to admire the beautiful 1930s art deco design as to actually enter the water).
Feeling hungry after all that swimming? Look to the lovely Lido Cafe which offers freshly ground coffee and a fabulous menu focused on seasonal produce.

Get a culture fix at the world's oldest grand music hall: Wilton’s


Looking for a London culture fix? Leave the West End to the masses and make for Wilton’s Music Hall, a true hidden gem that’s situated down a small pedestrian path called Graces Alley.
The oldest – and arguably most loved – grand music hall in the world, Wilton’s completed a £2.5 million renovation in 2015, while losing none of its rustic charm.
Today the Victorian music hall stages a year round programme of exceptional live music and world-class productions in a Grade 2 Star listed building.
Theatre not your bag? Stop in for a swing dance class, history tour given by passionate heritage experts who work full time at Wilton's raising funds to save one of London’s most beautiful buildings, or perhaps just a drink and bite to eat in one of Wilton’s two bars.


Eat your way around SW9: Brixton Village


Planning on paying Brixton – the birthplace of David Bowie – a visit?
Arrive with an appetite because Brixton's dining scene is among the most dynamic in London thanks largely to Brixton Market. 
This covered arcaded under the railway arches, underwent a renaissance back in 2009 when empty market stalls were leased for free for three months to encourage new restaurateurs.
The result? The original Caribbean stalls (Brixton isn’t known as ‘London’s little Jamaica’ for nothing) have been joined by bakeries, artisan coffee shops, Mexican, Thai spots and even a champagne bar – and half the fun is taking a chance on any place you like the look of.
Standouts include Federation Coffee for brunch and, as its name suggests, a great cup of coffee, Fish, Wings and Tings for a taste of the West Indies and KaoSarn for tasty Thai fare, at prices that won’t break the bank.

Quaff cocktails against a backdrop of St Paul’s Cathedral: Madison, One New Change


There can’t be many, if any, better rooftop terraces in London than Madison.
Perched on the penthouse spot of One New Change (a stunning glass shopping centre designed by Pritzker Prize-winning architect, Jean Nouvel), this rooftop terrace overlooks the iconic St Paul’s Cathedral and boasts supreme views of the London skyline. 
You can drink in more than the views at the bar and lounge which serves small plates and top notch cocktails. Two to try include the signature Madison Garden (cucumber, Death’s Door vodka, Kamm & Sons, Regal rogue lively white) and the cheekily named Hot bitch martini (sweet vanilla vodka flavours, passion fruit liquor and plenty of prosecco), which is designed to be shared with friends.
There’s also a more formal restaurant serving superb grills and and slow cooked classics.
The rooftop space can be enjoyed year round thanks to Madison’s umbrellas and heaters.

Catch a film at an independent cinema: The Ritzy Cinema


Whether you’re into arty flicks, subtitled shenanigans or Hollywood blockbusters, there’s a seat in the dark with your name on it at The Ritzy Cinema.
Built in 1910, this Grade 11 listed building shows an eclectic mix of films on its five screens. But this Brixton institution doesn’t just attract filmgoers. Drinkers and foodies flock to its bars and cafe, the latter of which spills onto Windrush Square whose name commemorates the arrival of the Empire Windrush from Jamaica in 1948, and a new era of Caribbean settlement in post-war Britain.
Meanwhile Upstairs at The Ritzy always has something interesting going on from complimentary live music (think blues, jazz and reggae) to dance lessons, club nights, stand up shows and exhibitions.
Bottom line? The Ritzy Cinema is the cornerstone of Brixton’s community.


Sip in secret: Evans & Peel Detective Agency


London has fallen hard for the speakeasy trend. Consequently you’ll find speakeasy (the word was first coined in the US during the prohibition era, when the sale of alcohol was generally illegal from 1920 to 1933) bars across the capital but the most hidden is Evans & Peel Detective Agency.
Located on the cusp of zone two but less than a five minute stumble from Earls Court tube station – the first London station to install escalators in 1911 – this is where Londoners head when they want to pretend it’s Prohibition time in the 1920s.
However in order to enter the bar that’s disguised as a detective agency, you'll have to convince the person in the ‘office’ that your case is worth investigating. Pull that off and you’ll be rewarded with a brilliant cocktail bar: the Old Fashioneds are a particular highlight.

Fall for football: Wembley Stadium


Football. You can’t escape it, especially in London which must have more clubs than any city in the world. 
However the one trip that every true football fan must make is to Wembley. This 90,000 capacity stadium, is renowned around the world for its iconic, 134m high arch that towers over the North stand, and has hosted some of football’s biggest spectacles: think England’s glorious World Cup victory in 1966, Bayern Munich and FC Barcelona’s stunning UEFA Champions League triumphs or the historic ongoing tradition of The FA Cup Final.
The excellent 75 minute Wembley Stadium tour takes you behind-the-scenes of what footballing legend, Pele, once called “the cathedral of football, the capital of football and the heart of football”.
Expect to see inside the dressing rooms, press room and players’ tunnel, and be taken pitch-side before climbing upto the iconic Royal Box to have your photograph taken with a replica of the world-famous FA Cup.
All told if you're a football fan, you won't regret making a pilgrimage to the beautiful game's spiritual home (that's as famous as the players it welcomes), unless you forget your smartphone.

Drink like Winston Churchill: Effra Social


Situated on the site of a former local Conservative club, the Effra Social (not to be confused with the nearby Effra Hall Tavern), now appeals to a different party faithful. 
It’s out with politics and in with DJs and bands, one of Brixton’s best Quiz nights, book clubs, cinema clubs, comedy and poetry – all of which fill this Effra Road hot spot each week.
Yet while the Brixton boozer is no longer tied to its political past, its walls are still painted Tory blue and lined with memorabilia: think portraits of prominent local party members, club posters and old correspondence.
Fans of Churchill won’t want to miss the carefully restored Churchill Lounge, with its flock wallpaper, fireplace and own bar, where Britain’s wartime leader used to enjoy a tipple or two.

View my London tips for Touring Bird at:

Where the experts holiday: Ruth and Tony Daly, Founders of Ranch Rider

uth and Tony Daly are both passionate riders, the husband and wife team running tour operator Ranch Rider – one of the very few remaining independent specialist horseback holiday companies.  They give their take on their favourite holidays from American ranch stays to Caribbean cruises…


What do you like to do on holiday?
Being keen riders, we both love to spend a good few weeks in the saddle every year. There’s nothing like experiencing the destinations we offer first-hand as we can keep our travel advice up to date, and as we’re always adding to our collection, there’s always somewhere new and exciting to go.  On our last riding holiday, we spent time visiting three properties in Arizona, including the White Stallion Guest Ranch, the Tombstone Ranch and the Rancho de la Osa  the latter, one of the most historic ranches in the Grand Canyon state, its building dating back to the 1700s.
Aside from herding cattle, tracking the Big Five on horseback is up there as one of our all-time favourite riding experiences. Encountering large herds of elephant and galloping alongside zebra and giraffe in Botswana was truly exhilarating. Your heart beats faster and you feel this overwhelming connection to your surroundings and the wilds of Africa.

Where did you last go?
Our last holiday was a world away from horses, but we were still states bound as we love the country and the people.
Last December we spent a few nights in Austin, Texas followed by a Caribbean cruise (cruising is our second love) over Christmas and finished with a few nights in New Orleans. You need a few weeks to do a trip like that, but we like to cram in as many experiences as we can.


Do you know where you’re going this year?
This year we’re going to be spending five nights in Memphis and Nashville  primarily to get an inside track on the music scene and to research the area. After which we’ll be enjoying a relaxing cruise over Christmas before heading down to Central America and finally rounding off our trip in San Francisco. We love discovering new destinations, so we’re very much looking forward to the trip.

Of all the places you’ve been to, which was your favourite and why?
Ruth: Cantering alongside giraffe in Botswana and tracking the Big Five on horseback are two unforgettable honeymoon experiences, that will always stay firmly imprinted on my mind. We also enjoyed luxury dining in the bush, and a true “out of Africa” experience, our tent looking right out onto the watery channels of the Okavango Delta.  The tents were beautifully furnished like a five-star hotel and there was even a swimming pool on site. Just heavenly for a horse fanatic like me who doesn’t want to give up on her creature comforts.

Tony: I have three favourite riding holidays (is that allowed?) because it really depends on how adventurous I’m feeling.  If I’m considering a working ranch holiday, the Klondike Ranch in Wyoming is always my choice. It’s a small family run operation and an authentic western cowboy ranch with the chance to camp out on the range. If it’s a holiday where we want to kick back and relax, the White Stallion Guest Ranch in Arizona – but outside of June to September for more pleasant riding temperatures.  It’s a great place to go if you’re looking for some downtime, but still want the option to ride and it has a resort-like atmosphere - we’ve spent many an afternoon there lazing by the pool with a good book. I agree with Ruth on our all-time favourite.  The African Horseback Safari in Botswana's Okavango Delta is a really exciting fast-paced riding holiday with luxurious tented accommodation and five-star dining. A magical experience, we even had elephants camping with us for one night.


Ruth Daly, White Stallion Ranch, Arizona, Ranch Rider.jpeg


Which destination do you wish to travel to, but haven’t yet been?
Like any serious rider, we’re always planning the next horseback adventure and riding across the Serengeti, the trip timed to coincide with the famous Annual Migration, definitely appeals. Of course, there are no guarantees, but there should be plenty of other game spread across plains with zebra, Thompson’s and Grant’s gazelles and impala all following the grass in the wake of the rainy season.

In your own country, what would you recommend tourists see that isn’t in the travel guides?
London is always on every tourist’s radar and people often come to the UK capital with a ready-made checklist to see Buckingham Palace, the changing of the Guard, Tower Bridge and so on. They should add North Yorkshire to that checklist, if not just for the warmth of the locals (we find London can often be the opposite). You can’t go wrong if you want to dig into British Heritage with its castles, abbeys and stately homes and, and while it would be hard to find anywhere that hasn’t been covered in a guidebook, Alnwick Poison Garden is a “homegrown” favourite spot of ours.  There’s something otherworldly and inspirational about the poison garden (home to Deadly nightshade), and who wouldn’t want to visit Alnwick Castle, the medieval fortress used as a backdrop for the Harry Potter films! That’s genuine escapism!

How do you plan your holiday?
We like to mix travel for work and pleasure so we tend to start off with a fixed destination and work our way out from there.  If we’re looking to visit somewhere new, we check out  the latest online reviews but when it comes to the heavy legwork of a long detailed trip we often use a travel agent. It saves us time and hassle (Ranch Rider and riding on the weekend keeps us busy) and they usually have access to some pretty good deals.

How often do you go away?
At least twice a year, and we tend to make the most of the Christmas break and take a longer holiday before the New Year as that’s everyone starts planning and booking their summer riding holidays.

Who do you travel with?
Each other.  We’re great travel partners and, since we share a love of horseback riding, we have to make very few compromises on travel.  We’re incredibly lucky that way.

Where do you see tourism in your country, in 10 years?
At present tourism in the UK has really taken off and Britain is apparently looking to break records this year. Obviously, a lot of that has to do with the fall out from Brexit and the weakening pound versus the US dollar, but the UK will always hold its own and continue to draw tourists who are curious about the royal family, especially the Americans. After the wedding of Meghan Markle and Prince Harry, there’s certainly a stronger bond between the States and the UK.  As local and authentic travel grows in popularity, we think tourist numbers will be more evenly spread across the UK rather than focused on the capital.

Thanks both!

For the full low-down on Ranch Rider, visit

Follow Ranch Rider on social media at:


Instagram: @RanchRiderHolidays

Twitter: @RanchRider

About Ranch Rider
When Tony Daly headed to Arizona over 20 years ago, he never envisioned he would end up selling ranch holidays, but Tony says, “ranch life has a way of quietly seeping under your skin and each time you visit North America, it gets harder to put down the reins.”  A keen rider herself and owner of a 14.2 colour cob mare, Tony’s wife, Ruth has helped to expand the tour operator’s list of destinations outside of North America. Argentina, South Africa, Botswana, Namibia and more recently Tanzania are the latest additions – cantering alongside giraffe in South Africa, tracking the Big Five on horseback in Botswana, riding across the wilds of Tanzania and Namibia (some trails inaccessible by anything other than a horse) and saddling up with the Gauchos in Argentina offering plenty of contrast when it comes to riding holidays.