Cruise Holidays - Attheta Travel

I am proud to be certified by CLIA (Cruise Lines International Association) as an Elite Cruise Counselor. The Cruise Counselor Certification Program is CLIA's most comprehensive training which requires agents to successfully complete a number of compulsory training courses and exams, attend cruise conferences, and conduct ship inspections. Anita Thompson, Attheta Travel, dba Cruise Holidays.

Monday, January 17, 2022

Selecting the Best Shore Excursions for You

It’s great to enjoy the wonderful spaces and activities aboard a cruise ship, and just as delightful to explore in and around the ports you visit. That’s why cruise ships offer shore excursions: fun tours and activities that let you experience local attractions, culture, food, and more.

The shore excursions available depend, of course, on your destination. Bus and walking tours, visits to historic sites, and shopping sprees are popular in many ports. But there are also lots of location-specific excursions, like dog sledding in Alaska, exploring remnants of Mayan civilization in Mexico, or taking a backstage tour at the Monte Carlo Ballet.

With so many options, it can be hard to choose between shore excursions. Here are some tips for choosing the experiences you’ll enjoy most.

Set a budget. On a luxury cruise, shore excursions may be included in your fare, and you can skip this step. But if you’ll pay for each excursion, it can be helpful to set a budget.

Know your activity limits. Most cruise lines assign activity levels to excursions, from easy to strenuous. It’s important to be realistic about your mobility and strength levels – as well as those of your cruise companions – and select excursions accordingly.

Consider your priorities. If your cruise itinerary has a certain port or onshore attraction of special interest to you, make it a priority. Pick that excursion first, then use the rest of your budget for excursions in other ports.

Do different things. If you’ll tour historic sites in one port, consider a different kind of excursion – a culinary tour, a surf lesson, or a visit to an animal rescue center – in another.

Remember, you can stay on the ship. If a port doesn’t have an excursion that appeals to you or if you have a limited budget, it’s absolutely fine to stay on the ship while in port. In fact, it can be a lot of fun to enjoy the amenities of the ship while many passengers are onshore.

Finally, while shore excursions organized by the ship may be the most affordable and convenient, some cruise passengers like to book with independent tour operators or even explore ports on their own. However, as the COVID-19 pandemic persists, some ports are welcoming cruise passengers only if they are on ship-sponsored excursions. This is a changing situation, so stay connected with Anita, your professional travel advisor for updates about shore excursion options and requirements on your next cruise.

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Monday, January 10, 2022

Find Your Next Book in a Cruise Ship Library

Cruises are an exciting way to explore new destinations, but they also provide time to indulge in simple pleasures that busy lives don’t always have room for – such as settling into an easy chair to read a good book. 

 A well-stocked library of books ready to be borrowed was once a standard feature on cruise ships. Now, many passengers bring their own reading material on e-readers, tablet computers or smartphones. As a result, some ships have reduced the size of their libraries, or replaced them with internet cafes and wine bars. 


Still, there are still quite a few ships that feature sizable libraries; these include some of the ships of Cunard Line, Oceania Cruises, Celebrity Cruises, and Holland America Line, among others. 


The ships of Cunard Line have some of the most extensive libraries at sea; each has at least 7,000 books. The majority are in English, but some are in German, Spanish, French, Japanese, or Chinese. The libraries are staffed by professional librarians who can help you find a book you’ll enjoy. The furnishings – leather sofas and armchairs, wood-and-glass shelving – will make you feel like a guest at an elegant English manor house. The Queen Victoria even boasts a two-level library, with the lower level (nonfiction) connected to the upper (fiction) by a beautiful spiral staircase. 


Oceania’s InsigniaNauticaRegatta, and Sirena also feature English-style libraries, complete with marble-mantled fireplaces, comfortable chairs, thick carpets, and elegantly painted ceilings. The upcoming Vista, scheduled to debut in 2023, promises a top-deck library stylishly furnished by Ralph Lauren Home. Glass walls will provide stunning views of the sea when you happen to look up from your book. 


Celebrity’s Solstice-class ships have circular libraries with towering bookshelves that are integrated into the central atrium. Well-lit and decorated with modern art, the libraries’ high-backed chairs are cozy spots for reading. 


Holland America’s ships feature libraries that are often curated to match the destination and theme of the itinerary. For example, if you’re sailing the Caribbean, you’ll find island-themed books, travel guides, and maps among the thousands of available volumes. Holland America even runs book clubs on some longer sailings, as well as shorter itineraries that include several days at sea. The selected book is often set in the region the ship is visiting. 


If you do borrow a book from a shipboard library, just be sure to return it before you disembark. Happy reading at sea! 


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Monday, January 3, 2022

Cruising Alaska

Alaska has long been one of the most popular cruise destinations, and for good reasons. There are thousands of miles of stunning coastline, from acres of northern rainforest to massive calving glaciers, set against majestic mountain peaks. Alaska has a rich history and pockets of diverse cultural interest, including the native Tlingit traditions of Ketchikan and the Gold Rush stories of Skagway.  

 After a pause of more than a year during the height of the COVID-19 pandemic, coastal cruises of Alaska resumed in late July for a brief but welcome 2021 cruise season. And, several cruise lines have big plans for upcoming Alaska cruise seasons, which traditionally run from May through September. 


For example, Celebrity Cruises has announced that it will expand its Alaska cruise fleet in 2023, when the Millennium will join the Eclipse and Solstice in the Inside Passage, sometimes sailing as far north as Seward. Princess Cruises will have six ships in Alaska for 2023, including the new Discovery Princess, with a variety of cruise-only or cruise-plus-land-tour options.  

Many Alaska cruises are seven or eight days, traveling north or south through the Inside Passage between Seattle or Vancouver and Hubbard Glacier. Some longer itineraries venture into the Gulf of Alaska to visit College Fjord, the Kenai Peninsula, and Anchorage. 


Because so many cruise lines sail in Alaska, you can choose your experience; whether you’re looking for luxury, rugged adventure, or family-oriented activities, your professional travel advisor can help you find what you seek. 


There is one unknown that may influence some future Alaskan itineraries: U.S. cabotage regulations, which require cruise ships that sail between U.S. ports to call on at least one foreign port, were waived for large cruise ships sailing Alaska during 2021. We don’t know yet if this waiver will continue; if it does, it may mean that more Alaska itineraries will skip Canadian ports like Vancouver and Victoria, giving you more time in Alaska itself. 


Whatever cruise you choose, know that Alaskan weather is rarely predictable. Pack layers of clothing that you can adapt easily for warmer and cooler days. Rain is always possible, so a waterproof jacket and shoes are helpful. 


The scenery and the wildlife – whales, seals, eagles, seabirds, moose, mountain goats, and bears – are the greatest attractions of an Alaskan cruise. To enjoy them fully reserve an outside cabin if your budget allows; when you wake each morning to another stunning vista, you’ll be glad you did.  


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Monday, December 27, 2021

Learn Something New on a Cruise

From creating napkin art to flipping the perfect crepe to mastering the basics of a new dance step – or a new language – it’s simply amazing what you can learn while on a cruise. Of course, a cruise is also a wonderful time to do nothing at all, but most offer some terrific onboard learning opportunities. 

 For almost 20 years, Princess Cruises’ ScholarShip@Sea program has offered multiple learning courses on each voyage, including at least six on every day at sea. Some of the more unusual courses include Navigation@Sea, which covers the history of navigation and how it’s done today; and, classes in hand-thrown pottery on the Coral Princess and the Island Princess 


Cunard Line’s ships are known for an abundance of interesting activities (fencing, anyone?). On the Queen Mary 2, these include stargazing courses taught in the ship’s incredible planetarium. The cruise line brings astronomers from the Royal Astronomical Society on board to guide you through the universe. Viking Ocean Cruises’ Orion and Jupiter also have planetariums, with resident astronomers ready to show and tell you all about space and its exploration. 


If you admire the beauty of blown glass, another unique course at sea is Celebrity Cruises’ Hot Glass Class. The EquinoxEclipse, and Solstice have glass blowing studios with skilled instructors who will help you create a gorgeous piece of glass art. After your creation cools, the staff will carefully wrap it so you can take it home. 


Lots of people have recently discovered (or rediscovered) the joy of cooking, and several cruise lines offer cooking demonstrations and hands-on courses. One is Holland America Line, which equips each of its ships with a fantastic Culinary Arts Center. On Holland America’s Koningsdam, the Culinary Arts Center actually transforms into a dining venue in the evening. A three-course dinner will be prepared right before your eyes by the ship’s culinary staff, who will happily answer your questions.  


Many cruises offer scuba-diving excursions, but some Royal Caribbean itineraries go a step farther by giving you the opportunity to become a certified scuba diver during the course of the cruise. The Professional Association of Diving Instructors (PADI) provides scuba training, a mix of online learning, practice in the ship’s pool, and open-water diving.  


Some of these (and many other) onboard learning opportunities are included in your cruise fare, while some require extra fees. To learn more, talk with Anita, your professional travel advisor. 


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Monday, December 20, 2021

Catch the Wave Season

In cruise travel, Wave Season is the time of year that brings the very best discounts and special offers the cruise lines can dream up. When you book a cruise during Wave Season, you may be able to cruise longer, farther, and more luxuriously than you ever dreamed. 


And, Wave Season 2022 will come ashore soon. It takes place from January through March, which is traditionally the most popular time of year for cruise bookings. 


With so many deals available, sorting through and comparing them can be a challenge. So, Wave Season is a perfect time to contact your professional travel advisor; they can help you consider the options and make the best choices. 


Still, you might want to do some initial Wave Season browsing on your own. If you do, know that Wave Season cruise fares may not seem to be the lowest of the year – at least, not at first glance. It’s important to look at what’s included in the fares; the inclusions often deliver the greatest value of booking a cruise during Wave Season. 


Here are some examples of what to look for:          


Discounts on a second fare. Many cruise lines offer “buy one, get another at reduced cost” deals. The discount on the second fare may be as much as 100 percent; basically a “two for one” deal. If you’re traveling with a companion, you can arrange to share the savings. 


Onboard credits. You can use onboard credits like cash on your ship. What you can buy varies by cruise line, but often includes beverage packages, spa treatments, specialty restaurant cover charges, shore excursions, merchandise from onboard boutiques, and more; fun extras that can truly enhance your cruise experience. 


Cabin upgrades. During wave season, a fare that would usually be enough to reserve an inside cabin might include an upgrade to an outside cabin – perhaps one with a balcony. For a little more, you might even get an upgrade to a suite that comes with special benefits, such as butler service, access to an exclusive lounge, reservations at an onboard specialty restaurant, or prime seats to a popular show. 


As you shop, it’s important to compare Wave Season prices and inclusions to similar cruises outside of Wave Season; and, to read all the “fine print” to be fully informed about and confident in your deal. For help taking advantage of the best of Wave Season, contact Anita, your professional travel advisor.  

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Monday, December 13, 2021

Using Your Future Cruise Credits

If you have future cruise credits (or “FCCs”), you’re not alone – many have been issued since March 2020, when cruise lines began rescheduling cruises due to the COVID-19 pandemic.  

So, what’s a future cruise credit? It’s like a credit you receive from a retail store when you have to return something you purchased there. In place of a cash refund, FCCs let you apply the cost of a cruise you can’t take to a future cruise on the same line. 


Today, fewer cruises are being rescheduled due to the pandemic, but some lines are still issuing FCCs to passengers who are unable to board a ship when pre-boarding tests come back positive for COVID. 


If you have FCCs, carefully check their expiration dates; once they expire, they’re gone forever. And, many COVID-related FCCs will begin to expire on Dec. 31, 2021. Note that you don’t have to sail by the expiration date of your FCCs; you just have to use them to book a future cruise.  


Here are more helpful things to know about FCCs: 


FCCs are usually issued within a few weeks after a cruise cancellation or a denied boarding due to a positive COVID test result. The cruise line will email information about the credits to the address you provided when you booked the cruise. If you’re a member of the cruise line’s loyalty program, the credits should also show up in your loyalty account. 


The ways you can use your FCCs varies by cruise line. Some let you apply credits to the balance due on a future cruise that you already booked; others let you use credits only for a newly-booked cruise. Some lines let you divide FCCs up in order to apply them to more than one future cruise. Note that most cruise lines do not let you transfer your FCCs to another person. 


If you use FCCs to book a new cruise and find that you have some credits left over, you might be able to use them to pay for extras like beverage packages, shore excursions, gratuities for the crew or even flights to and from the port. If by some bit of bad luck a cruise you pay for with FCCs is cancelled, you’ll probably be able to use the credits again.  


Be sure to ask Anita, your professional travel advisor, for assistance to make sure you receive the best value for your future cruise credits. 


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Monday, December 6, 2021

Our Return to Cruising

In November, we boarded a cruise ship for the first time since December 2019.  We did not expect COVID to make such a difference in our lives.

Prior to boarding the Celebrity Constellation, we were required to take an Antigen test for exposure to COVID.  The test needed to be dated two days before boarding the ship - not earlier and not later than the two-day window.  We had to take our negative results with us to the pier.  We used a local clinic to get the tests and I was impressed with their efficiency.  Easy…

We flew to Tampa the day before we were to board the ship and stayed at an Embassy Suites near the airport for one night.   We were surprised to learn the hotel bar and restaurant closed at 10PM on a Saturday night.  This was caused by a staff shortage.  Again, COVID.   The next morning, our breakfast was served on disposable plates, and we were given plastic utensils. 

Celebrity gave us a specific time to arrive at the pier.  For those who arrived early, they needed to wait outside the terminal for their boarding window.   Before we could enter the terminal, we were asked (twice) to show our passports, our boarding documents, our COVID vaccination records, and our Antigen test results.

Once inside the terminal, we were again asked for these same documents, and we were required to wear a mask.  Once we boarded the ship, we could remove our masks.  Everyone onboard was vaccinated.

The muster drill process has changed.  In our stateroom, we watched a muster drill video.  Once that task was finished, we went to our muster station and checked in with one of the officers to verify that we had watched the video and they could answer our questions.  This was not in a crowded room, but a one-on-one experience.

For the duration of the cruise, life on the ship was normal – no masks required unless you went ashore.  On the ship, the crew always wore masks.  In the buffet, our food was placed in dishes by the crew, with no self-service.

On this short cruise, we visited two foreign ports.  In both ports, masks were always required.  We were allowed to take a ship-arranged tour or go on our own (no bubble).   In both ports, the locals were all wearing masks.  At one stop, Cozumel, we had our temperature taken before we entered shops or restaurants.

The cruise was enjoyable, and we are glad we had the new cruise experience.  It helped us prepare for our next cruise in late December.  Yes, cruising is back, but it is a different world – travel has changed.

Join us on a Distinctive Voyages cruise on the Celebrity Edge

7-Night Caribbean, from Ft Lauderdale