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, April 25, 2011

Top Cruise Ship Innovations

Innovations in cruise ship design and features have cruise travel agents – and their clients buzzing. Cruise Holiday’s Cruise Trends Survey for 2011 asked expert cruise agents to name the most exciting recent cruise ship innovations. Their answers may make it a bit more difficult – but a lot more exciting – to select a ship for your next cruise.

1. The sheer size of Royal Caribbean’s Allure of the Seas topped the list of the most exciting recent cruise ship innovations. With 16 decks and 2,700 staterooms that can accommodate 6,360 guests, the Allure is massive. But, a groundbreaking design that divides the ship’s public spaces into seven distinct neighborhoods makes the ship feel welcoming, not overwhelming.

2. The “Studio” staterooms on Norwegian Cruise Line’s Epic are compact, but have a contemporary, comfortable design (and price) that’s perfect for solo cruisers. Guests in the ship’s 128 studios also have access to their own gathering space, the Studio Lounge.

3. The Allure of the Seas’ partnership with DreamWorks’ Animation SKG places the film studio’s beloved characters – including Shrek, Fiona and Puss in Boots from Shrek – around the ship to meet and greet passengers, lead deck parades and attend special events.

4. (tie) Celebrity Cruises’ Eclipse features the iLounge, where guests can try out iPods and accessories and use MacBook workstations to check their e-mail.

4. (tie) On the NCL Epic, incredible entertainment is provided by the famed Blue Man Group and the Second City comedy troupe.

6. The Eclipse features a new dining experience, Qsine, which puts a fun, gourmet twist on traditional comfort foods. It’s an interactive experience, with touch screen menus, spring rolls served on actual springs, and “do-it-yourself” dishes like make-it-yourself guacamole.

7. Holland America Line’s Nieuw Amsterdam pays tribute to New York City through its multi-million-dollar art collection. You’ll see New York’s Hudson River and famous skyline in the prints that line the corridors; the atrium chandelier is actually an abstract sculpture of Manhattan’s skyline; and, don’t miss the “big apple” metal sculpture on deck.

To experience some of these cruise ship innovations for yourself, contact a Cruise Holidays personal cruise expert.

Sunday, April 17, 2011

Part One of our Trip to SE Asia


Early start to a long day: the flight from Chicago to Beijing was 13 ½ hours long. We had sunshine in the windows during the entire trip, but lost a day… The Flight took us over Fairbanks Alaska and over Siberia. We did see Mt McKinley…

Fortunately, we had an escort meet us at the airport and provide transportation to the hotel. After a quick dinner, we called it a day – a very long day. Our first tour started at 8AM and we are off to the Great Wall.

Quick notes about Beijing:

• Beautiful new airport, larger that Dallas-Ft Worth

• Beijing is a city of 18 million +

• Driving is a nightmare -- locals have upgraded from motor bikes to cars, but didn’t learn to drive

• Stayed in a 4 star hotel, but can’t drink the water in the room

• Many Internet sites are not available from the hotel – including facebook and our blog site.

• Shopping, lots of fakes: Rolex, IPod/IPad, Canon, Hermes, money… Afraid to buy a battery!

We spent three nights in Beijing. In addition to the Great Wall, we saw the Temple of Heaven, Tiananmen Square and the Forbidden City.

Our Chinese guide was great! She met us in Beijing and stayed with the group until we caught a flight to Hong Kong. One of her comments surprised us. “When a Chinese girl, meets a Chinese boy, what are the three questions she asks him” – she asked our group.

• Do you have a car?

• Do you have an apartment?

• Do you have money in the bank?

Guess the Chinese people have accepted capitalism!

4 Star Rated Facility in Forbidden City


After 3 days in Beijing, we caught a flight to Xian to see the Terra Cotta Warriors. Like Beijing, the smog was thick. On the way to the hotel, we stopped at the Yangling Museum to see the Terra Cotta Warriors and animals left in the tomb of the 4th Emperor of China. Unlike the Terra Cotta Warriors left by the 1st Emperor, these were ¼ lifesize. This museum is built between the tomb of the emperor and the tomb of his wife. Since his wife outlived the emperor, she has the larger tomb.

The area around Xian is covered with large tombs that have yet to be opened. The Chinese government is waiting for new technology that will ensure their ability to save the artifacts when they are uncovered.

The next morning, we were off to see the Terra Cotta Warriors – the life size ones! The archeologists have partially uncovered the burial mounds where the warriors were buried. Per our guide, the archeologists are expecting to find 8000 full size Terra Cotta Warriors when the dig is finished.

Xian is only 400 kilometers from the Gobi Desert and the air is full of sand and smog. Xian is the home of the Silk Road between China and the Middle-East. Unlike other regions in China, many of the people in Xian are Muslim. This is due to the Arab influence in the region. The original Muslim Mosque in Xian looks like a Buddhist Temple. Per our guide, the local Muslim population didn’t know what a Mosque should look like, so they built it with a design that they knew.

The traffic was worse than what we experienced in Beijing. Our local guide said that driving lessons or testing was not required to buy a license. In the last 10 years, the residents have moved from motor bikes to cars, but they still drive as if they were on a motor bike.

After two nights in Xian, we boarded a flight to Guilin. We landed after dark and had a 90 minute drive to our hotel.

Guilin is located in Southern China across the mountain range that separates North China from South China. In the North, the language is Mandarin, in the South, they speak Cantonese. However, the driving skills are the same… Many of the smaller trucks looked as if they had lawn mower engines!

Three Wheel Utility Truck

The highlight of our trip to Guilin was the river cruise. The worn sandstone hills give the region a very distinctive look. If you have seen many Chinese paintings or looked at their currency, then you have seen some of the geological formations. They are very unique.

When we get to a hotel with broadband connection, I hope to upload some the photos of the trip thru China.

Hong Kong

We left Guilin in the evening. Our next stop was an overnight at a hotel in Hong Kong. Due to a delayed flight, we didn’t arrive in Hong Kong until after 11PM. No time to do any sightseeing until the next day.

Hong Kong

The next morning, we checked out of the hotel and loaded our bags on the bus. After our morning tour, we would board the Azamara Quest for a 14 day cruise from Hong Kong to Singapore.

Our last visit to Hong Kong was 13 years ago, so I was anxious to see the changes to the city. Parts of the city were the same, but many new buildings and many more cars. This is not the 3rd world country that I was expecting to find Outside our hotel sat two very expensive cars: a Bentley and a Maserati. However, our walk thru the dried food market area showed me that many things haven’t changed. We saw dried fish/shrimp, starfish, and Sea horses – along with everything imaginable.

Dried Star Fish and Lizards
That afternoon, we boarded the Azamara Quest for a 14 day cruise to Singapore…

Stay tuned for part two – and pictures.

Wednesday, April 6, 2011

Spending Time in Tahiti

An island of stunning natural beauty, Tahiti is a gateway to cruises of French Polynesia and the rest of the South Pacific. Tahiti is often the starting point for cruises that call on island destinations like Bora Bora, Fiji, Tonga, Papua New Guinea, the Cook Islands and more.

If your schedule allows, it’s worth spending some additional time in Tahiti before or after your cruise. The island is formed by two volcanic peaks connected by a slender isthmus. The northern portion is Tahiti Nui (“big Tahiti”) and the southern is Tahiti Iti (“small Tahiti”). Tahiti Nui includes the port of Papeete, which feels like a bit of Paris transported to the South Pacific. You’ll find charming sidewalk caf├ęs along the main boulevard, a bustling market, and chic boutiques selling wines, crafts and the famous Tahitian black pearls. Before you buy, you may want to educate yourself by visiting the Robert Wan Pearl museum, dedicated to one jewel – the pearl, of course.

Tahiti Iti is more sparsely populated, and a drive along the coastal road offers views of waterfalls, caves and archeological sites where you can see petroglyphs and the remains of sacred temples.

Everywhere you go on Tahiti, you’ll see the gorgeous views that inspired artists and writers like Paul Gaugin and James Norman Hall, author of Mutiny on the Bounty. There are a variety of beaches to enjoy, some covered with soft black volcanic sand.

Dining in Tahiti is a delight, with fresh seafood often prepared with French flair. Choose a romantic fine-dining restaurant beside the water, or visit one of Papeete’s food carts for a serving of the Tahitian specialty poisson cru – raw fish marinated in lime juice and coconut milk. Papeete has a lively nightlife scene, and you may be lucky enough to see the famous otea, the classic Tahitian dance that features fast hip-shaking to the rhythm of pounding drums.

To learn more about how you can combine time in Tahiti with a cruise of the South Pacific, talk with your personal cruise expert.