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, June 10, 2024

Truly Local Shore Excursions

It’s a thrill when you sail over the water on a cruise ship, but also when you get off the ship and explore a port of call. Many ports offer a variety of entertaining, educational, or adventurous shore excursions: guided tours, beach days, and visits to cultural sites are always popular. But, some locations offer excursions you won’t find anywhere else. Here are a few of our favorites.

On a cruise of the Alaskan coast, ships can often get close to glaciers as they meet the Gulf of Alaska. If you want to get even closer to these slow-moving rivers of ice, some itineraries offer helicopter viewing and trekking excursions. First, you’ll fly over the glaciers for breathtaking views; then, you’ll land on a glacier for a memorable hike over the ice. For even more adventure, you can add in some dogsledding behind a team of swift Alaskan huskies.

Truffles – not the chocolate kind, but the very rare kind that grows underground – deliver so much complex, earthy flavor that they’re among the world’s most prized ingredients. If your cruise takes you to Livorno, Italy, you can forage for truffles with an experienced tartufaio and a specially trained dog (some truffle hunters use pigs, but they tend to eat the truffles). The excursion may include a glass of wine and some truffle-infused delicacies, too.

Cruises that begin or end in Rio de Janeiro or Buenos Aires, Argentina, may offer a pre-or post-cruise excursion to spectacular Iguazú Falls, the world’s largest complex of waterfalls. Located on the inland border between Brazil and Argentina, the falls are a string of cascades more than 260 feet high and almost two miles wide. The area around the falls is beautiful, too, and is home to some rare and endangered species like jaguar, tapir, and ocelot. There are also hundreds of types of birds, butterflies, and flowers.

If your ship calls on a port in the Andalusia region of southern Spain – such as Cadiz, Malaga, or Seville – take the opportunity to experience a flamenco show. Flamenco is an art form, most often expressed through music and dance, which has a complex history but is uniquely Andalusian. The bold and elegant music, movement, and costumes tell a fascinating story, especially when accompanied by some Andalusian tapas and a glass of sangria.

Talk with Anita, your professional travel advisor, for help selecting great shore excursions for your next cruise.

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Monday, June 3, 2024

Where to Find Live Music on Board

 There’s something wonderful about listening to live music, and most cruise lines include some live music in their entertainment programs. Imagine relaxing in a comfortable chair with a beverage beside you, floating on the waves but also on the sounds of music; or, jumping up out of your chair to dance to a live beat.

Cruise lines employ first-rate musicians to provide the soundtrack for your cruise. Depending on the ship, you might hear live music in the atrium and by the pool during the day, and in lounges and bars at night.

Holland America Line is known for presenting a variety of live music in special venues on its ships. The venues vary but may include B.B. King’s Blues Club, featuring classic rhythm & blues; Billboard Onboard, a unique piano bar; the Rolling Stone Rock Room, which highlights classic rock from “best of” lists published by Rolling Stone magazine; or the Rolling Stone Lounge, where the band might play any genre.

Norwegian Cruise Line has a variety of live music venues, too. Depending on the ship, you might hear rock hits at Syd Norman’s Pour House; dueling pianos at Howl at the Moon bar; or Merseybeat at The Cavern Club, an homage to the legendary Liverpool club where the Beatles used to perform.

Royal Caribbean Cruise Line has live music across its fleet, showcasing jazz, blues, big band swing, Latin music, and more. To hear some sweet tunes, look for venues like Boleros, Centrum, Jazz on 4, and the Schooner Bar. Quantum-class ships feature Music Hall, a two-deck-high venue where you can chill, dance, or even play a game of billiards. The entire club is designed for unobstructed views of the main stage, with nothing to block your enjoyment of the music.

Cruise lines that sail smaller ships present live music, too. For example, Regent Seven Seas’ Regent Signature Orchestra plays dance music all around the cruise line’s ships; and Windstar Cruises has live music in the Compass Rose lounge and bar.

Many cruise ships have main-stage productions that also feature live music from a resident combo or orchestra. Some theme cruises are entirely devoted to an era or genre of music, turning a ship into one big performance stage and the cruise into an immersive musical experience.

To find out more about the live music venues on your next cruise, talk with Anita, your professional travel advisor.

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Monday, May 27, 2024

Staying on the Ship in Port

Did you know that passengers are welcome to stay on a cruise ship while it’s in port? It’s fun to get off the ship and explore every port of call on the itinerary, but you can also take a break from shoreside adventures and simply stay on the ship. Here’s a quick look at what to do if you stay aboard while your ship is in port.

You can sleep in and have a later, more leisurely breakfast – or, just wake up in time for lunch. If your ship has specialty restaurants, you may be able to walk in for lunch without a reservation.

While most of your fellow passengers are on shore, you’ll have great access to onboard amenities. If you’re on a big ship with things like water slides, zip lines, laser tag, or surf simulators, any lines should be small, with only a short wait before you unleash your inner daredevil.

Fitness centers, pools, and spas will be quieter as well. You could hop on your favorite fitness machine or get help learning to use a new one; score a lounge chair at poolside; and possibly get a discount on a spa treatment.

Some ships offer special activities for passengers who remain on board during a port call. There might be a trivia contest, deck games, first-run movies, or ship tours.

If you like to record your travels in photos, you can take better onboard photos when fewer passengers are around. You can write in your travel journal, or take a marvelous afternoon nap. You’ll be refreshed for the evening when you can talk with cruise friends about what they did on shore.

If you wake up one cruise morning wanting to stay aboard rather than take a shore excursion you reserved, you can do that. But, be aware that excursion cancellation policies vary. Check with the passenger service desk to find out if you might be eligible for a full refund, partial refund, or on-board credit.

On the other hand, it’s possible to select a port where you’ll stay onboard before you sail; perhaps the itinerary includes a port you’ve been to before. In that case, you can avoid reserving a shore excursion for that day (if you change your mind, you can book an excursion on the ship).

For more about the joys of staying onboard on a port day, talk with Anita, your professional travel advisor.

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Monday, May 20, 2024

Cruising the Ohio River

For a close-to-home cruise, consider sailing a US river; one option is the mighty Ohio. Cruising the Ohio River is a wonderful way to discover the region that stretches from Western Pennsylvania to the Mississippi River. The river touches six states – Pennsylvania, West Virginia, Ohio, Kentucky, Indiana, and Illinois – and there’s so much to see and explore along its banks.

Depending on your ship and the time of year, your ports of call may include:

Pittsburgh, where many cruises of the Ohio start or end. The river forms in Point State Park, where the Allegheny and Monongahela Rivers meet. It’s fun to take an extra day just to enjoy the city, which has 90 unique neighborhoods and many cultural attractions, plus great shopping and dining in the Strip District.

Moundsville, West Virginia, where the centerpiece of the Grave Creek Mound Archaeological Complex is a sacred, conical burial mound built by the Adena people more than 2,000 years ago.

Marietta, Ohio, was founded in 1788 as the first permanent settlement in the Northwest Territory. There’s a complex of mounds at the Marietta Earthworks archaeological site, built by the Native American Hopewell culture.

Cincinnati, Ohio, is another major city along the river. A highlight is the National Underground Railroad Freedom Center, a museum that celebrates the secret network that helped enslaved people escape to freedom before and during the US Civil War.

Louisville, Kentucky, where you can learn about the state’s famous bourbon distilleries, see how Louisville Slugger baseball bats are made, and visit Churchill Downs, home of the annual Kentucky Derby Thoroughbred horse race.

Henderson, Kentucky, was for a time home to John James Audubon, the naturalist and painter who produced more than 400 hand-colored bird prints for his landmark 1827 book, The Birds of America. You can visit the Audubon Museum and Nature Center, which includes some of his personal memorabilia.

Paducah, Kentucky, is the meeting point of four major rivers: the Ohio, the Tennessee, the Cumberland, and the Mississippi. Visit the Inland Waterways Museum, where a pilothouse simulator gives you the feel of guiding a river ship; or, visit the National Quilt Museum.

Some cruises of the Ohio also include a bit of Mississippi River cruising at the western end, calling on Cape Girardeau and St. Louis, Missouri.

To find out how you can cruise the Ohio or another storied US river (like the Mississippi or Columbia), talk with Anita, your professional travel advisor.

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Monday, May 13, 2024

Tips for Cruising in Asia

Asia is a vast continent, and its long Pacific coastline offers cruise passengers wonderful places to discover. Here are some things to know if you plan to explore Asia by cruise ship.

You’ll have a choice of cruise lines. A variety of cruise lines visit Asian ports, including Celebrity, Holland America, MSC, Norwegian, Oceania, Royal Caribbean, Princess, Seabourn, Silversea, and Viking. This gives you a terrific choice of ships, itineraries, and onboard vibes.

You may want to focus on Northeast or Southeast Asia. Depending on how much time you have to cruise, you could choose to focus on either Northeast Asia (including Japan, South Korea, and China) or Southeast Asia (including Vietnam, Cambodia, Thailand, Malaysia, Singapore, Indonesia, and The Philippines). Both regions are rich in beauty, history, and culture, with everything from glittering cities to traditional villages. Of course, if you have the time to cruise it all, your professional travel advisor can help you select an itinerary that covers more of Asia’s Pacific coast.

There’s an alternative to cruising along the coast. Asia offers river cruises along some historic and scenic waterways. Options include China’s Cháng Jiāng (or Yangtze) River, which passes through the stunning Three Gorges region; and the Mekong River, which will take you to Cambodia’s most famous temple complex, Angkor Wat, and the floating markets of rural Vietnam.

Pack for the weather and be ready to cover up. Bring lightweight clothing you can layer, including some long-sleeved shirts and long pants – temples and other religious and cultural sites may require modest clothing that covers most of your skin. A light jacket or shawl is a good item to take along on shore excursions.

Be observant about local customs. In some Asian cultures, people don’t shake hands as a way to say “Hello” or “Thank you;” instead, they may bow or press their palms together in front of their hearts. Watch what the local people do, and do the same. In some places, merchants use both hands when presenting or receiving payment as a sign of respect for the transaction; you can do so, too. And, tipping practices vary; in some areas, tips are not expected, and in others they are welcome. If you’re not sure about the tipping practices on shore, ask a member of the ship’s crew.

There’s more to know about cruising in Asia – touch base with Anita, your professional travel advisor for ideas and advice.

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Monday, May 6, 2024

Last-Minute Cruise? Essentials for Your Suitcase

It’s fun to plan a perfect wardrobe for an upcoming cruise, but when you grab a last-minute cruise deal there may not be much time for planning. Here’s an overview of the basic items to pack for most cruises (remember to adjust for the climate and length of your cruise).

Travel Documents. Bring tickets and other required paperwork for your cruise, reserved flights and tours. Bring the proof of identity requested by your cruise line, which may be a birth certificate or passport. Keep these documents with you rather than in a checked bag,

Medications and Toiletries. Pack enough prescription medication for the length of the cruise, and a little more. Small quantities of over-the-counter remedies for pain, allergies, and upset stomach often come in handy; they’ll be available on board but at a price. And while most ships provide toiletries like soap, shampoo, and conditioner, you may want to bring small quantities of your favorites. Sunscreen and bug repellent will be pricey on board and in port, so bring your own.

Clothes for daytime. Casual clothing is the daytime standard on most cruise ships. Warm climates call for shorts, casual shirts, and beachwear; for cooler regions, pack long pants with shirts and jackets you can layer. Bring a set of workout clothes for the onboard gym, if you like. And, it’s surprisingly easy to forget what goes underneath, so be sure to pack underwear and socks.

Clothes for nighttime. Some cruise lines have a “come as you are” attitude toward dressing for dinner and a show, while others have evening dress codes. For a casual ship, pack what you would wear on a date night; where dress codes are in effect, pack what you would wear to an elegant cocktail party. Bring your favorite pajamas for bedtime, too.

Shoes. Shoes have their own category because they can take up too much luggage space. Try to limit shoes to three pairs: comfortable walking shoes; flip-flops or sandals for the pool; and dressier shoes that go with your evening outfits.

Accessories. Pack a few favorite accessories, like belts, jewelry, ties, scarves, and a baseball hat or sun hat.

It’s best to keep your luggage as compact and light as possible; your cruise cabin will have limited storage space. Most ships have laundry and dry cleaning services, so you can plan to wear the same outfits multiple times. For more packing advice, talk with Anita, your professional travel advisor.

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Monday, April 29, 2024

What to Know About Tender Ports

“Tenders” are part of cruising – but we’re not talking about the delicious chicken variety. A “tender port” is one where your ship won’t be able to pull right up to a dock, but will drop anchor off shore. The small boats that will ferry you from ship to shore and back again are called “tenders.”

Some cruises don’t include any tender ports, and some include several. Tender ports are usually indicated on the cruise itinerary. Some tender ports simply don’t have dock facilities; others do, but the dock area may be too small or the water too shallow to accommodate your ship. Some ports that require tenders are in appealingly remote destinations, but some are in popular vacation spots like Bar Harbor, Cabo San Lucas, and the Greek Isles.

Tender boat style varies from one ship to another. Some ships use their lifeboats, while others carry boats dedicated to tendering. Some cruise lines hire local tender boat operators; their boats may be basic or equipped with roofs to provide shade, cushioned seats, and bathroom facilities. All boats used for tendering have life vests and other safety gear.

One of the best things about a ride in a tender is the view. Trips between ship and shore may take about five to 15 minutes – time to admire views of the ship, the water, and the place you’re visiting.

There’s usually a rush to get on the first tender boats of the day; if you wait a bit, you can have a leisurely breakfast and avoid the rush. When you’re coming back from shore to ship, though, don’t wait too long: if you miss the last tender back, you may be left to make your own way to the ship’s next port.

Note that priority tendering is a common reward for members of cruise line loyalty programs – it’s a nice extra.

Tenders may not be able to operate in poor weather, so be aware that rough seas may give your ship’s captain no choice but to skip a tender port. And if you have limited mobility, a tender boat might not be for you; ask Anita, your professional travel advisor for advice and guidance.

If you want to avoid tender ports completely, look for itineraries that call on larger ports that have more extensive docking facilities. Or, look at sailing on a smaller ship that can dock at smaller piers that can’t accommodate bigger ships.

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