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 24, 2011

Cruising Central America

If you’re looking for a new destination for a winter or early spring cruise, consider Central America. The peak season runs from November through April, providing a welcome respite from winter’s cold.

Many cruises to this region focus on the Panama Canal, the 50-mile ship canal that cuts through a slender isthmus between the Atlantic and Pacific Oceans. Since it first opened in 1914, the canal and its three locks have been one of the world’s most vital trade routes. It’s an engineering wonder that provides a scenic interlude for cruise travelers as well. Today’s larger cruise ships skirt through the locks with very little room to spare, floating through the Chagres River and Gatun Lake – surrounded by tropical wilderness – as they make their way to the other side.

As compelling as the Panama Canal is, there’s much more to see on a cruise of Central America. There are a variety of departure ports – including Fort Lauderdale, Miami, Los Angeles, San Francisco and Seattle – to choose from. Cruise lengths range from seven to 14 nights or more, with the longer cruises including port calls in the Western Caribbean, the Mexican Rivera and along the West Coast of the U.S.

In Central America, your ship might call on ports in Guatemala, Costa Rica and Nicaragua in addition to Panama. Puerto Quetzal, Guatemala, is a gateway to that country’s rich Mayan heritage. Sights worth seeing include beautiful Lake Atitlan, formed long ago in the crater of a collapsed volcano; and the region’s many coffee plantations.

Costa Rica is a small country – about the size of West Virginia – but it has one of the most diverse ecologies on earth. The port town of Puntarenas is an international tourist destination, with a fabulous beach fronted by a wide walkway lined with shops and restaurants. If you’re feeling adventurous, you can ride a horse through a nearby rainforest, try some whitewater rafting or glide through the treetops on a zipline.

San Juan del Sur, Nicaragua, is a scenic fishing village on the Pacific coast that also welcomes cruise ships. There are lovely white sand beaches to enjoy: or, take a side trip to the nearby city of Granada, founded by conquistadors in 1524. This historic spot on the shore of Lake Nicaragua features colorful colonial building and monuments.

For more information about cruising Central America, talk with your personal cruise expert.

Thursday, January 13, 2011

Customer Feedback - Caribbean Princess

Caribbean Princess, December 19 - January 2
14 Night Southern Caribbean Explorer RT San Juan

We're just getting settled down into routine after our trip, catching up with laundry, etc. I don't think I have to worry about ironing warm weather clothes at the moment since we had another three inches of snow here overnight! Thankfully, it appears to be melting fast. Also thankful we are not dealing with flights through the East and South at this point! All of our cruise flights, including the return, were more or less on time and uneventful.

We thoroughly enjoyed the cruises out of San Juan and the itinerary, and also liked the Caribbean Princess ship, although I miss the "indoor pool" which has been re-designed with stadium seating for the movies and sports shows. I found the sound level much too high and was thankful for the small but quieter surroundings of the "Adult only" terrace pool at the stern. (We're probably in the minority, but noise levels really bother us and we could care less about sports programs.) There is another large outdoor pool, but on the holiday cruises there are also lots of children! These are just small personal observations that did not in any way spoil the trip.

The ship's Atrium (called the Piazza on this ship) was beautifully decorated for the holidays and the planned events were very entertaining and well-organized. The food was excellent and we had great dinner companions, two Canadian couples - one from Vancouver) so we had a lot in common. We all looked forward to getting together each evening. The service level was also great, both in the dining room and other areas. With 3,000 passengers we thought the Horizon Court where we prefer to go for breakfast might be overcrowded. Not so, and there were always servers available (a la Holland America style!) to take our plate and find us a table in the spacious adjoining Cafe Caribe. We never had to wander around looking for a place to sit. In both locations, tables were well separated and there was no sense of crowding. Overall, it was a most pleasant experience.

We haven't any plans made for this year at the moment, but are currently poring over some brochures to see what catches our eye. We hope you are not experiencing too severe weather at the moment, and wish you a successful and healthy New Year.

Monday, January 10, 2011

Cruise Ship Tipping

A tip seems like a simple thing – a little extra money given to someone who provides you with a service, with the amount of the tip reflecting the excellence of the service. On cruise ships, however, tipping has become a complex topic.

Traditionally, cruise passengers would find sets of empty envelopes, labeled with the names of the specific crew members who served them, in their cabins toward the end of a cruise. Passengers filled the envelopes with tips and distributed them on the last day of the cruise.

Tipping became more challenging as ships introduced alternative restaurants and open seating in dining rooms, which meant that passengers might not see the same waiters more than once or twice on the cruise. And, what about the crewmembers at the casual buffet, where many passengers now eat breakfast and lunch?

In addition, cruising now attracts more international travelers who may not have the same tipping customs as North Americans. In some cultures, passengers may assume that tips are automatically added to their bills; and others are completely unfamiliar with the practice of tipping.

To solve the question of who should be tipped, when and how much, some cruise lines now add “automatic” tip charges to passenger’s onboard accounts. These automatic charges are usually $10 to $12 per person, per day. Some cruise lines also add gratuities of 15 to 20 percent to bar and alternative restaurant bills. Others – usually high-end cruise lines -- have “no tipping” policies, with all payments for services rendered assumed to be covered in the price of the cruise. Your personal cruise expert can help you understand the tipping policy on your specific cruise and ship.

It’s important to remember, though, that a tip is always an optional payment. On ships that add automatic tips to your bill, you can ask to have the charges reduced or removed. You can also reward exemplary service by handing a cash tip to any crewmember at any time. This will be greatly appreciated by crew members who go above and beyond the call of duty to make your cruise experience special.