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

Tuesday, May 31, 2011

Cruising to Rio

Cruise passengers who are fortunate enough to call on Rio de Janeiro, Brazil, quickly understand why the International Olympic Committee chose the city to host the 2016 Summer Games. Rio’s beauty, lively spirit and delight in welcoming visitors make a visit to this city a truly memorable experience.

 Two of Rio’s most recognizable symbols – the statue of Christ the Redeemer and Sugarloaf Mountain – are also two of its most popular attractions. You can ride a funicular railway up Corcovado Mountain to the base of the statue, enjoying spectacular views of Rio’s bays and beaches. A cable car can take you up imposing Sugarloaf Mountain, which also provides panoramic views of Rio’s incomparable setting.

 If you enjoy touring historic buildings, Rio’s walkable downtown includes several churches that date back to the 17th century. Candelaria Church, constructed over 100 years, has Baroque and Neoclassical influences. Inside the city’s Old Cathedral, the walls, ceilings and altars are covered with hand-carved, ornate Rococo woodwork.
 
Whether or not you visit during Carnival, you may enjoy visiting one of the city’s samba schools. Many of the schools welcome visitors, provide brief lessons and even allow visitors to try on one of the elaborate costumes the samba dancers wear during Carnival.
 
Rio has some of the world’s most famous beaches, including Copacabana and Ipanema. The beaches are beautiful and the people there can be quite glamorous, but be assured that everyone feels welcome at these public beaches. You can rent bikes or rollerblades, or simply relax on the sand to enjoy the stunning scenery and do some people-watching.
 
If you would rather spend your time exploring a rainforest, you won’t need to go far. Tijuca National Park, home to hundreds of types of plants and wildlife, is located within the Rio city limits – in fact, it is the world’s largest urban forest.

For more information on cruising to Rio and other Brazilian and South American ports, talk with your Cruise Holidays personal cruise expert.

Wednesday, May 25, 2011

Popular Italian Ports

Those who cruise to Rome and Venice expect to be awed; but, those same vacationers are often pleasantly surprised by how much they enjoy visiting some of Italy’s lesser-known ports, such as Florence, Amalfi and Sorrento.

It’s not possible to actually sail into Florence, which is located a 75-minute drive inland from the port of Livorno in northern Tuscany. After docking at Livorno, your cruise line may provide shuttle buses to Florence or tickets for the train that leaves from the Piazza Grande.

Florence was a center of culture during the Renaissance, and walking through the historic areas can feel like a trip back to the time when Michelangelo created exquisite sculptures, paintings and architecture. The artist’s iconic sculpture of David is housed at the Galleria dell Accademia, and the Uffizi Gallery has a fantastic collection of Italian masterpieces. At the city’s immense Gothic cathedral, the Duomo, you can climb more than 400 steps into the dome and be rewarded with a fabulous view. The River Arno, crossed by low bridges, offers countless photo opportunities.

Many cruise fans have heard of the famously scenic Amalfi Coast, but may not know that the town of Amalfi is worth a visit in itself. The town, originally a summer getaway for the Roman aristocracy, is beautifully situated between sparkling water and steep mountains.

One of the most popular attractions in and around Amalfi is the Emerald Grotto, a sea cave that fills with a lovely emerald-green light. Also popular is the town’s Duomo, which features a notable combination of Arabic and Norman architecture. Pause to look at the bronze doors, cast in Constantinople in 1066. Then, hop on a tour bus or hire a driver to take you along Amalfi Drive, considered to be one of the most scenic drives in the world; or, take a ferry to the island of Capri.

The town of Sorrento, perched on a cliff top, is a hub for shore excursions to Pompeii or Naples. However, cruise passengers who choose to stay in town will find delightful ways to spend their time.

Like Amalfi, Sorrento began as a popular retreat for the wealthy and powerful of the Roman Empire. Wander through the charming streets, stopping as you like to explore the small shops that sell everything from fine leather goods and Murano glass to locally-made limoncello. Have your camera ready – there are many scenic overlooks of the coastline below. Then, relax in an open-air cafĂ© and enjoy a pizza baked in a wood-fired oven or some creamy gelato amid the scent of lemon trees.

To reserve your place on a cruise that visits these and other wonderful Italian ports, talk with your Cruise Holidays personal cruise expert.

Friday, May 20, 2011

Part II, Cruise from Hong Kong

This is part two of our cruisetour of SE Asia on the Azamara Quest - a 25 day tour of China, Vietnam, Cambodia, Thialand, and Singapore.

After our first night on the ship (Azamara Quest), we took a walking tour of Hong Kong. Fortunately, we didn’t duplicate many of the sights that we saw during our tour on the day before we boarded the ship. Have a good breakfast before you take this tour, you may lose your appetite!


That evening, we watched the laser light show on the major high rise buildings in Hong Kong. I don’t believe Disney could have done a better job. It was great! About the time the laser show ended, we pulled out of the Harbor. What a view! I still believe that Hong Kong appears to be a mixture of New York City, San Francisco, and Las Vegas! They do it all in Hong Kong.
Denang

After a day at sea, we stopped at our first port: Denang in Vietnam. We skipped the war memorial tours and settled for a rickshaw ride and a visit to China Beach. Throughout the tour, the guide made references to the American War. Fortunately our tour did not include any of the war memorials. I don’t believe I could listen to their version of the Vietnam war. In the local markets, we saw many Zippo lighters with American names and unit IDs. I don’t know if these were artifacts, or trinkets for the new tourist market. Anyway, they didn’t sell any lighters to our group.


The Rickshaw ride was great! In about 30 minutes, we toured the downtown areas. In Denang, cars are rare – everyone has a motor bike—or a bicycle. However, they still don’t obey the rules of the road.

The highlight of that day was a visit to the fish market on the beach.  The fish were taken from the boats (some shaped like bowls) and sold on the shore near China Beach. The "catch" included Jelly Fish.


Click HERE for our pictures of Denang.

Saigon

Yes, the name of the city was changed to Ho Chi Minh City, but I still prefer to call it by the name given to the city by the French. We spent one day in Saigon before our trip to Angkor Wat. We toured the Mekong Delta. Like most people on the tour, I was unaware of the amount of fresh water surrounding Saigon. We visited the small towns on the islands in the river. At one stop, we were offered a taste of snake wine, but declined the invitation.








The river was busy, with many different types of water craft. I was surprised to see colorful eyes painted on the bow of most of the boats.



In Saigon, there are few cars – everyone has a bicycle or a motor bike. However, they have the same bad driving practices of the Chinese. Give them 10 more years and the traffic will be similar to what we witnessed in China.



On the second day in Saigon, we left the ship for a three day tour of the temple area in Cambodia, Angkor Wat. However, that is another story…
Click HERE for our pictures of Saigon.

Monday, May 16, 2011

Cruising with a Group

One of the reasons that a cruise is a great vacation choice is that it offers something to please every passenger. With a variety of accommodations, menus, games, pools and hot tubs, gyms and spas, on-deck activities, clubs for kids and teens, nightly entertainment, lounges, dance clubs and shore excursions – not to mention stellar service – even the most finicky travelers are bound to enjoy themselves.

This is also the reason that a cruise is a fantastic choice for a group vacation. Perhaps it’s not possible to please all the people all the time, but if it can be done, it’s likely to be on a cruise ship. You can make arrangements with the cruise line for planned activities – such as receptions, lectures, meals and shore excursions – that the members of your group can enjoy together; or, you can simply let people do what interests them most.

Cruise Holidays’ recent Cruise Trends survey revealed that a wide variety of groups choose to cruise together. When Cruise Holidays’ cruise experts were asked what types of groups they booked cruises for, the most common answer was groups of family members or friends. Just imagine how great it would be to hold your next family reunion in the festive atmosphere of a cruise ship; or, to swim and sun on the deck with 10 or 20 of your closest friends.

Other groups that cruise include those celebrating a wedding; groups of seniors; church and other faith-based groups; dance enthusiasts (they definitely enjoy the live music); food and wine aficionados; groups celebrating a milestone birthday or anniversary; and coworkers or winners of workplace incentive awards.

The list goes on: you could also come across an art appreciation group or a group of ancestry buffs, quilters or singles on your next cruise.

If you’re thinking of organizing a group cruise, talk with a Cruise Holidays personal cruise expert. He or she will be help you pick the best cruise line and itinerary for your group; arrange special events (for example, your book club might want to visit certain bookstores in your ports of call); and possibly arrange for discounts, depending on the size of your group. Your personal cruise expert will also have suggestions for communicating with your group members in the days and weeks leading up to the cruise, which is sure to be a fantastic memory and bonding experience for everyone involved.

Monday, May 9, 2011

Enjoying Historic Copenhagen

Copenhagen, the largest city in Denmark and all of Scandinavia, has been a center of culture, business and science since the early 15th century. The city, known for its high quality of life, began as a merchants’ harbor. Today, the modern city is very welcoming to cruise ship passengers.

Disembark at Langelinie Pier and take a short walk to the first photo opportunity of your visit: the statue of the Little Mermaid, a memorial to poet and fairy tale author Hans Christian Andersen. There are shops and cafes right in the pier area, but it’s just a 10-minute walk (or a quick taxi or bus ride) to all the sights of downtown. Copenhagen also has hundreds of brightly colored “City Bikes” that residents and visitors can use for free – you’ll just need to insert a 20-kroner coin to unlock a bike (you’ll get another coin back when you return the bike to any of the 125 City Bike racks around town). Some great neighborhoods to tour include Stroget, which is full of wonderful shopping, and the fashionable Christianshavn district.

Tivoli Gardens is a must-see for visitors to Copenhagen. The romantic park is filled with more than 400,000 flowers; two dozen amusement rides, including one of the world’s oldest wooden rollercoasters; and 38 restaurants, which range from casual to elegant. If you’re able to stay until dark, you’ll see the park beautifully illuminated by hundreds of thousands of twinkling lights. You may also be able to catch a performance of music, pantomime theater or ballet.

Amalienborg Palace consists of four 18th century mansions that have been the winter home of the Danish royal family since 1794. If a swallowtail flag is flying above the palace, a member of the royal family is at there, which means you can watch the Changing of the Royal Danish Guard ceremony at noon.

To learn about 14,000 years of Danish history, visit the National Museum of Denmark and its huge collection of artifacts, including rune stones, Viking helmets, ancient coins and the Trundholm Sun Chariot, a gilded bronze sculpture from about 1400 BC. If you’re more interested in crown jewels, visit the Renaissance-style Rosenborg Castle. The well-protected Danish crown jewels are on display in the basement of the castle, and there are two dozen more rooms filled with royal family artifacts.

If you need some exercise, the Church of Our Savior in Christianshavn can accommodate you and will reward you with a fabulous view of the city. All you need to do is climb up the 400 steps that wind around the interior and exterior of the corkscrew spire. To learn more about what you can see and do on a port call in Copenhagen, contact a Cruise Holidays personal cruise expert

Monday, May 2, 2011

Star of the North: Stockholm

Cruise into Stockholm, Sweden, and you’ll understand why it’s called the “Venice of the North.” From the Baltic Sea, you’ll pass an archipelago of roughly 24,000 islands dotted with cottages and summer homes. The city itself is located on 14 islands, connected by more than 50 bridges, at the mouth of Lake Malaren.

The main cruise ship dock is right in the city, though if it’s a busy day, your ship may dock at a commercial port a short distance away. At either port, shuttles and taxis make it easy to get to downtown Stockholm.

Gamla Stan (Old Town) is located just a bridge away from downtown. This original part of the city, which dates from the 13th century, is on an island surrounded by medieval walls. Inside the walls is Stockholm Palace, where you can tour some of the 680 rooms (others are used as offices by Sweden’s royal family). The city’s 15th century cathedral, Storkyrkan, is a stunning example of Swedish Brick Gothic architecture: inside, don’t miss the famous wooden statue of Saint George and the Dragon. Take a few minutes to relax in Stortorget, a scenic plaza in the center of Gamla Stan. Be sure to wear comfortable walking shoes, as the streets of Gamla Stan are charmingly, but unevenly, cobblestoned.

Visitors are also impressed by the Vasa Museum, which is built around a nearly intact warship that sank on its first launch in the 17th century. The cold, brackish water of the Baltic did a good job of preserving the ship until it was raised in 1961.

Stockholm is the home of the Nobel Prizes, which are awarded at the City Hall each December (except for the Peace Prize, which is awarded in Oslo). The Nobel Museum at the Stock Exchange Building honors the amazing array of prize winners’ achievements in physics, chemistry, medicine, literature, peace and economics.

For a look at how the people of Sweden lived in the 18th and 19th centuries, visit Skansen, a wonderful open-air museum and zoo on the same island, Djurgarden, as the Vasa Museum. The 75-acre museum includes a complete replica of a 19th century town. Actors in traditional clothing demonstrate butter making, shoemaking, silversmithing and other crafts. The zoo will introduce you to animals native to Scandinavia, such as the wolverine and reindeer.

As the highlight of many cruises of Northern Europe, Stockholm has much to offer. To find out more, contact a Cruise Holidays personal cruise expert.