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

Monday, December 31, 2012

Getting to the Ship: Dealing with Air Travel Sticker Shock

As you’re planning for your next cruise, the current strong demand for air travel means you may have a little sticker shock over the cost of airfare to your ship’s home port – especially if that port is in Europe.

In recent years, airlines have reduced costs by trimming flight schedules and flying smaller planes on some routes to conserve fuel. Recent airline mergers have also reduced the number of available flights, even on popular routes. As a result, the supply of airline seats has become more limited, and fares may be higher than you expect.

Fortunately, cruise travel professionals can help you find ways to maximize the value you receive for the price you pay to travel to and from your ship. According to a recent survey, the top recommendation of Cruise Holidays owners and agents is to spend some additional time on land at the beginning or end of the cruise. After all, you’ve already paid to get to Miami, Boston, New Orleans, Amsterdam, Barcelona, Venice, or whatever port your ship calls home – it makes sense to take some additional time to enjoy the city and the surrounding area.

Another popular recommendation is to increase the all-inclusive value provided by your cruise by waiting for special offers, such as “two for one” cruise fares. Or, watch for special offers for on-board credits that can pay for extras not included in the cruise fare, such as beverages and specialty restaurant cover charges. Cruise travel professionals are expert at finding deals like these, and the money you save can be redirected to airfare costs.

Cruise vacationers can also minimize air travel costs when their cruise travel professionals work with air consolidators. These companies purchase unsold seats directly from the airlines at low prices. The largest and most reputable consolidators usually do not sell directly to the public, but make lower-cost tickets available to travel professionals who can pass the savings on to you.

Finally, some high-end cruise lines actually include air travel to and from the ship in their base cruise fares. It may be more economical to take one of these luxurious and delightful cruises than to book a lower-priced cruise and a higher-priced airfare.

For more ideas about minimizing your airfare costs – and maximizing the fun you’ll have on your next cruise – talk with your Cruise Holidays personal cruise expert.
For more information, visit our facebook page: www.facebook.com/AtthetaTravel

Friday, December 28, 2012

2013 Cruise Trends

In 2013, Europe will be a cruise destination to be reckoned with. Plus, while cruise prices to Europe remain relatively low, there are signs that pricing for the second half of 2013 may be on its way up – a positive sign for the cruise industry that leisure travelers are once again creating demand. With this in mind, travelers are advised to lock in their preferred itinerary at least eight months in advance. These are a few of the headlines from the 2013 Cruise Holidays Cruise Trends survey – which draws actual cruise pricing and booking statistics from more than 550 cruise specialists across North America.

2013 Cruise Pricing for Europe, Caribbean and Alaska

Cruise Holidays consistently studies pricing for three of the most popular cruise destinations and shares it via the Cruise Trends survey. Compared to bookings made in 2011 for 2012, sample pricing for a 12-day Mediterranean cruise for 2013 is lower by about $35 per person, per day. “However, keep in mind that this number reflects reservations that go back to early 2012, when demand may not have been as strong as it is now,” said Mark Schiffner, Vice President and Chief Operating Officer of Cruise Holidays International. “Pricing for some of the premium and luxury cruise lines that many of our passengers favor is actually ahead of last year,” continued Schiffner.

Caribbean pricing for a 7-day cruise is virtually the same as last year, and 7-day Alaska cruises are up about $20 per person, per day, compared to cruises booked in 2011 for 2012. These figures include all cruises booked by Cruise Holidays* as of December 17, 2012, sailing in 2013, aboard all cruise lines – from luxury to casual or “contemporary.”

Top Cruise Destinations for 2013

The Caribbean remains the undisputed leader as a cruise destination for travelers globally. Here are the top 10 cruise destinations being booked for 2013 by Cruise Holidays cruise experts:

1. Caribbean (includes Bahamas)
2. Europe (includes River Cruises, Mediterranean, Baltic, Scandinavia & Greek Isles)
3. Alaska
4. Bermuda
5. Hawaii
6. (tie) Panama Canal
6. (tie) Trans-Atlantic
8. South Pacific (including Australia)
9. South America
10. Maritime Canada & New England

Top Cruise Destinations – Who’s Gaining On the Caribbean

The top five cruise destinations remain unchanged from 2012 to 2013. However, the Caribbean’s overall dominance fell slightly, from nearly 60% in 2012 to under 55% of total bookings for 2013 so far. The difference is made up by Europe taking a larger piece of the pie, climbing from 11% to 13% of the total, and Alaska climbing from 6.7% to 8.5%. Hawaii also inched up.

262: The Magic Number

The magic number for booking a cruise prior to departure is 262 days out, or just under nine months. That’s the average amount of time prior to their cruise that Cruise Holidays clients book their vacations. “We have some cruises booked for late 2014 that were booked quite early in 2012. We even have a small number of passengers already booked for 2015,” said Schiffner.

Popular Cruise Itineraries Trump Price

While price is an important consideration in all vacation choices, the cruise itinerary continues to be the number one factor in locking in travelers’ final vacation decisions. Here are the top five factors Cruise Holidays cruise experts hear from their customers regarding their reasons for taking a particular cruise:

1. Itinerary
2. Price
3. Cruise line
4. Embarkation Point
5. Cruise Ship

Other factors include accommodations available, such as a suite, balcony, or concierge-level stateroom; amenities onboard the ship, such as specialty dining or surfing simulators; and shore excursions available.

For more information, visit our facebook page: www.facebook.com/AtthetaTravel

Monday, December 24, 2012

Cruise Ship Hangouts for Teens

One fact of teen life is that parents can be pretty aggravating and quite embarrassing (you probably thought the same thing about your own beloved parents when you were a teen). Many teens who agree to go on a cruise with their parents secretly (or not secretly) hope they won’t have to spend too much time with them on the ship. Cruise lines understand this, and grant teens’ wishes with teen clubs and lounges. For your peace of mind, crew members who have experience working with teens provide non-parental supervision.

On Princess ships, the Remix lounge is the place for teens to have “mocktail” socials, dance to their favorite music, watch late-night movies and more. The ship’s professional dancers often drop by to give hip-hop lessons, and one evening is dedicated to a teen formal, complete with dinner and a show.

Norwegian Cruise Lines just introduced Entourage, a new program for teens age 13 to 17. Teens have fun and build confidence playing games like basketball, dodgeball and Ultimate Frisbee. In the evening, they watch movies, or mingle at a “vampire night” or pool party. The Teen Center lounge is equipped with vending machines, video games, air hockey, pinball and a video jukebox.

Carnival Cruise Line gives tweens age 12 to 14 their own club, Circle C. Away from the “little kids” and the older teens, they can dance, play games and get together for outdoor movies. For the high school crowd, Club O2 is a place to hang out and listen to music, play video games and learn to deejay. Many itineraries offer some Club O2-only shore excursions, too.

Royal Caribbean’s teen program lets them choose from a variety of organized events; or, they can simply hang out in the teen lounge and teen-only nightclub. Teens age 12 to 14 get active in friendly competitions on the cruise line’s signature rock-climbing walls and show their talent at open mic nights. Teens age 15 to 17 enjoy theme nights, pool parties, and games on the Pool & Sports deck.

So, assure your teen that your cruise ship will have adult-free spaces where teens can gather, relax, and even talk about parents with others who understand. To find out more about the teen clubs on various cruise lines, talk with Anita, your Cruise holidays personal cruise expert.

Visit our facebook page: www.facebook.com/AtthetaTravel

Monday, December 17, 2012

Cruise Clubs for Kids

With their pools, water slides, deck games, contests and nightly entertainment – not to mention great food available 24 hours a day – a cruise ship is a wonderland for kids. Still, young passengers need a place to meet others their own age, who share their interests and general desire to have fun designed just for them.

That’s why many cruise lines have special clubs for kids, staffed by crew members who have experience working with children. These clubs are designed to give kids opportunities to have fun with other kids, enjoy the features of the ship, and even learn something new. As a side benefit, kids clubs give parents some time to relax and enjoy the ship on their own.

Royal Caribbean’s kids club encourages the youngest kids to take on the role of cruise ship scientist. In its Royal Babies and Tots Nursery, ages six to 36 months, the littlest guests are cared for by trained professionals. Aquanauts, age three to five, explore the secrets of bubbling potions and dinosaurs; Explorers, age five to eight, dig into space mud and meteorology; Voyagers, age nine to 11, get active with scavenger hunts, sports tournaments, video game challenges and more.

Camp Carnival also organizes kids into three age groups: two to five, six to eight and nine to 11. There are lots of activities and games for each age group during the day, and even into the night. Camp Carnival Night Owls provides kid-friendly dinner menus and supervised fun so parents can enjoy the ship’s restaurants and entertainment well into the evening.

Norwegian Cruise Lines’ new Splash Academy welcomes Guppies (age six months to two years – a parent must come along), Turtles (age three to five), Seals (age six to nine) and Dolphins (age 10 to 12).  They can gather in the Kids’ Center, which has video games and a surround sound cinema; have fun with arts and crafts; or learn to be a circus performer with “Cirque du Jour.”

Princess Ships have Youth Centers where kids can join the Princess Pelicans (age three to seven) or the Shockwaves (age eight to 12).  Activities for the Pelicans include dance parties (no adults allowed), watching movies and cartoons, art projects and pizza parties. The Shockwaves get to have dinner together (again, adults must not intrude), try their talent at Karaoke, and explore the ship’s galleys in the Jr.CHEF@Sea program.

For more information about the kids clubs on various cruise lines, talk with Anita, your Cruise Holidays personal cruise expert.

Visit our facebook page: www.facebook.com/AtthetaTravel

Wednesday, December 12, 2012

Foreign Currency Exchange

Last week, we were asked by a customer for the best way to exchange currency when traveling to New Zealand and Australia.   

Our answer -
There is no good answer to your question about the best way to exchange currency.  The answer depends if you are looking for convenience or for the best rate of exchange.  At the airport is the most convenient.  If we are going to arrive at our destination late in the day, we exchange currency at the airport where we leave the US. Sometimes, we wait to exchange currency when we arrive.  If you exchange in the US or your destination airport, you can expect to get a lower rate and to pay exchange fees.

The best rate of exchange is in a bank in the destination city.  However, that is not convenient and time consuming -- not all banks exchange currency …

Most large upscale hotels will exchange currency, but again they offer a lower rate of exchange.   Depending on the itinerary, some of the cruise ships will exchange currency, but they offer a poor rate of exchange.

When we travel overseas, we exchange $100 US so that we have money for incidentals, but we plan to charge most of our expenses on credit cards.  When our cash gets low, we look for a currency exchange kiosk or ATM. We carry two credit cards that we know will be accepted in the counties that we travel into.  Before you go, contact the company that issued the cards and verify that they will be accepted in the countries that you plan to visit.   Last year, a Master Card issued by our credit union was rejected in Thailand and Viet Nam.  Due to the high level of fraud, it is the policy of our credit union to reject all charges in these two countries.  A few credit cards do not have foreign exchange fees. Many credit cards will have a 2 to 3 percent foreign traction fee added to every purchase.  Be aware if your card charges an exchange fee or not. 

Both MasterCard and Visa have two types of credit cards: 1) swipe and sign, 2) pin number required.  In the US, we still use the swipe and sign card (stripe on the back) while much of the world has converted to a card that requires a pin.  Don’t be surprised if a store or restaurant requests you to enter a pin number…  However all establishments that are authorized to accept these cards are required to accept both types  -- at least that is what it says in the credit card literature.   That said, I have read of travelers having issues with swipe and sign cards around the world, but we have not experienced this problem.

Another option is to use a prepaid debit card that has a Visa or MasterCard logo – one that is accepted around the world.  However, that debit card may incur foreign exchange fees…
In a few months, we will travel to New Zealand and to Australia.  We plan to exchange $100 at the airport in Auckland.   Since we have a layover in Australia on our way to New Zealand, we plan to exchange $100 US in Australia.  Most of our larger expenses will be charged to a credit card that does not have a foreign exchange fee. 

 Visit our Facebook page: www.facebook.com/AtthetaTravel

 

Monday, December 10, 2012

Celebrate the New Year on a Cruise

If you’re looking forward to a New Year’s Eve celebration – but not to the organizing, cooking and cleaning that’s usually involved – think about ringing in the New Year on a cruise ship.

Cruise ships are all about relaxation and enjoyment, so they are tailor-made for fabulous New Year’s Eve experiences. You can spend the day relaxing on deck, getting a jump on your resolutions with a pre-party workout in the gym, doing some touring on shore or pampering yourself in the ship’s spa.

New Year’s Eve festivities vary a bit depending on the cruise line and ship you choose, but you can expect special dinner menus, festive drinks (with or without alcohol), lots of live music and dancing, party games and special events just for kids and teens. As midnight approaches, the party hats and noisemakers will come out, followed by a toast to the New Year and perhaps a midnight buffet to fuel you until morning. When you are ready to sleep, your stateroom will be waiting for you with a freshly turned-down bed.

When selecting a cruise that includes New Year’s Eve, be aware that some cruise ports are quiet on New Year’s Eve and New Year’s Day, while others bustle with activity as usual – your Cruise Holidays personal cruise expert can provide guidance. If you prefer to stay on board and take full advantage of the ship’s amenities during the New Year celebration, you might like a cruise that spends the holiday at sea.

Also, consider the advantages of larger ships and smaller ships. Larger ships tend to be more family-oriented (which means there will be plenty of kids). If you prefer a kid-free environment, smaller ships tend to attract more adults who are not traveling with kids; and, some cruise lines offer adults-only cruises. You should probably pack your most elegant party clothes for a small-ship New Year’s Eve, too, while a large ship’s dress code may be more casual.

It’s best to make plans for any holiday season cruise well in advance to ensure the availability of the ship and itinerary you want. Still, if you’d like to ring in 2013 on a cruise, call Anita at Cruise Holidays right away to find out what’s available. Or, call now to start planning for New Year’s Eve 2014!

Visit our facebook page: www.facebook.com/AtthetaTravel

 

Monday, December 3, 2012

Royal Caribbean’s Oasis Class

Royal Caribbean’s Oasis of the Seas and the Allure of the Seas have enticed thousands of vacationers to sail the Caribbean on ships that are unique in their design and amenities. The Oasis was launched three years ago, and was joined by the Allure a year later. While still young in industry terms, the ships have added some new features that make them even more appealing to cruise fans.

The Oasis and the Allure are the largest cruise ships at sea and the first to be organized by “neighborhood” (indeed, with the capacity for 5,400 passengers each, these ships are more populous than some small cities). Each ship has seven neighborhoods, including Central Park, a meandering garden lined with shops and restaurants; and the charming Boardwalk, which leads to the open air AquaTheater. Here, passengers can see a show of fountains, lights and aerial acrobatics at night.

The ships offer lots of staterooms that overlook the water, many with balconies. Thanks to the ships’ unique design, some staterooms have interior views of Central Park or the Boardwalk.

No matter which stateroom you choose, you may not spend much time there. You’ll want to try the zip line over Central Park, test your surfing skills on a FlowRider simulator, ride the carousel on the Boardwalk, and enjoy the fabulous restaurants.

Worried about finding your way on these massive ships? Passengers who’ve sailed on them rave about touch-screen computerized maps available throughout Oasis and Allure. Tell the computer where you want to go, and it maps out the correct deck and the exact walking route to that destination. It also provides real-time data on how busy all of the restaurants are.

Both the Oasis and the Allure recently introduced dining packages that make it easy for passengers to enjoy some of the ships’ alternative dining venues. For example, the Choice Dining Package includes dinners at Chops Grille, Giovanni’s Table Italian Trattoria, and either Izumi Asian Cuisine or the Solarium Bistro. Each ship has also added a Starbucks, so passengers can enjoy their favorite coffee- and tea-based beverages while relaxing on deck.

The ships are known for their technical innovations, too. Royal Caribbean recently announced that by summer 2013, the Oasis will be able to provide passengers with high-speed, satellite-delivered broadband service for convenient – and fast – Internet communications.

To find out how you can sail the Caribbean on the Oasis or the Allure, talk with Anita, your Cruise Holidays personal cruise expert.

Visit our facebook page: www.facebook.com/AtthetaTravel

Monday, November 26, 2012

Cruise Review: Allure of the Seas

This year, we had our annual Cruise Holidays convention aboard the Allure of the Seas, sailing to the Eastern Caribbean from Ft Lauderdale.  Prior to the start of the cruise, we spent two days in training at the Renaissance Hotel in Plantation, Florida. 

The hotel is about 10 miles west of the airport in Ft Lauderdale. Since the hotel didn’t offer a shuttle, we took a taxi from the airport.  The taxi charge (including tip) for the one way trip was $45. The hotel rooms were nice and the restaurant/bar was what you would expect from a Marriott property.  However, there is no other restaurant or lounge within easy walking from the hotel.  Personally, I prefer more dining choices than I found in the area – or the hotel.
Staying at the hotel over the weekend were several girl softball teams, in town for a tournament…  On Friday night, the girls next door to our room had a party that continued until after midnight.  I guess that team must have lost their game on Saturday because the room was quiet that night.

Duct Tape used to Attach Bag Tag
In our previous visits to Ft Lauderdale, we have stayed closer to downtown and the pier.  On our next visit to the area, we plan to return to our favorite area hotel, the Embassy Suites on 17th street. 
 
At noon on Sunday, our group left the Plantation Renaissance Hotel for the ship.  When we entered the pier, we could see the Allure of the Seas and several other cruise ships in the harbor. The Allure was much bigger than any of the other ships – much bigger.  Too big…


 I was amazed at the easy, and quick, embarkation.  Even the security screening was painless.  With 5400 passengers on board, this is NOT what I had expected.  For the embarkation process, I will give Royal Caribbean and the staff at the pier an A+ grade.  Maybe we were lucky, but it was easy to get on board the ship.
The ship has an ice ring, platform diving exhibitions, a zip line, two FlowRiders, and the musical, Chicago! Lots of things to see and do on sea days.  The ship has a sports car parked on the Royal Promenade near the shopping area and a working carousel on the boardwalk. 



Anita overlooking the Promenade

We had a balcony cabin on the starboard side of the ship, facing the ocean.   I know that sounds weird, but many of the balcony cabins on the Allure face into open air areas of the ship: Boardwalk and Park Place.
Balcony Cabins Facing Boardwalk
 
For the first time that I can remember, we had enough 110 volt plugs in the cabin for all my stuff!  In the past, we have always carried a small extension cord with multiple outlets.  This time, I didn’t take the extension cord out of our bag.


 

 
On the cruise, we had 3 sea days and 3 days in port. This was our first visit to Nassau, Bahamas.  While in port, Anita had an opportunity to tour the Disney Dream that was docked next to us.  It was her first time on a Disney ship and she was impressed with the ship.  Meanwhile, I toured downtown Nassau.  I wanted to visit the Straw Market.  However, I was very disappointed in the Straw Market and downtown Nassau. I returned to the ship without any purchases – not even a magnet.
The other two ports we visited were St Thomas and St Maarten.   We have been to both ports several times and looked forward to quiet time in these ports.  On St Maarten, we did take a 3rd party tour to the beach.  The beach was great, but the tour left a lot to be desired.  After we get a response from the tour vendor, I plan to write about the experience.  Sure glad it happened to me and not to one of our customers.

Orient Beach

To be continued (more about the Allure of the Seas).

Monday, November 19, 2012

Cruising the World


Cruise lines are seeing renewed interest in world cruises: the grand voyages of 80 nights or more that take passengers to amazing variety of ports on several continents. A world cruise is a truly special experience for retirees or anyone who is able to take an extended leave of absence to see the world. If you don’t fit in either of those categories, a world cruise is still something that you can dream about doing when the time is right.

Traditionally, world cruises depart in January and return in March, April or May. However, the window of departure dates is expanding – some world cruises are departing as late as March. And, some cruise lines are meeting demand by offering more than one world cruise a year.

Some world cruises don’t literally sail around the world, but they cover a plenty of nautical miles while visiting multiple continents. Some cruises truly do circumnavigate the globe, providing passengers with unforgettable experiences in dozens of ports of call.

If you don’t have time to take an entire world cruise, some cruise lines make it possible to purchase a segment of a world cruise: for example, an 17-night segment from Miami to Lima, Peru on Crystal Cruises’ 2013 world cruise. The availability of world cruise segments helps create a mix of established and new passengers: each time a new group comes on board, there are fresh opportunities to socialize and make new friends.

Many world cruises include planned overnight stays in some ports, giving passengers more opportunity to experience the local sights and culture. Rio de Janeiro, Sydney, Hong Kong and Beijing are all popular places for world cruise ships to dock for a night or two.

World cruises also tend to seek out emerging ports, such as Laguna San Rafael (Chile) and Komodo Island (Indonesia). This gives even seasoned cruisers some new experiences.

Another trend in world cruising is “boomerang” cruising. A boomerang cruise takes passengers halfway through an extended itinerary on one ship, then makes the return trip on another. This gives passengers have the fun of experiencing two fabulous cruise ships. A boomerang cruise can also provide make it possible to spend a few days, weeks or even months in the halfway location before sailing home.

To learn more about world cruises – and find one that fits your schedule, budget and interests – talk with Anita, your Cruise Holidays personal cruise expert.
 
Visit our facebook page: www.facebook.com/AtthetaTravel



Monday, November 12, 2012

Water, Water Everywhere - Expecially on the Pool Deck

Cruises are all about travel on the water, but when choosing a cruise, check out the water that’s on the ship – specifically, in the pools. Pool decks are usually among the most popular places to hang out on a cruise ship, and many ships now have more than one.

Newer ships are also introducing fantastic new water features, such as the one-of-a-kind AquaDuck Water Coaster on Disney Cruise Line’s Disney Dream. The ride starts on Deck 16 with a thrilling drop and a loop that extends 13 feet over the side of the ship. The thrills continue through more turns, drops and rapids before the riders splash down on deck 12. This ship also features Donald’s Pool for family fun, Mickey’s Pool for young children and Nemo’s Reef for toddlers. There’s also a Quiet Cove area just for adults, with a pool and a swim-up bar.

The Aqua Park water park on Norwegian Cruise Lines’ Epic features three multi-level slides that range in excitement level from mild to wild. One is a smooth ride, though it does zip right through the ship’s rock climbing wall. For the more adventurous, another slide twists and turns its way down three decks. For true thrill seekers, the Epic Plunge uses centrifugal force to spin riders around before they splash down. The Aqua Park also includes two main pools, five whirlpools, a wading pool and a Splash and Play Zone for the little ones. NCL’s Breakaway, now under construction, promises an even larger water park.

Several Princess ships also have pool areas with sliding glass roofs, a terrific feature in inclement weather. In June 2013, Princess will introduce its largest top deck pool ever on the new Royal Princess. Each evening, the pool will become the setting for a water and light show, followed by the line’s signature “Movies Under the Stars” on a large, high-definition screen.

Whether you want your ship’s pool deck to be a place to show off your cannonball dive or a soothing retreat, talk with Anita, your Cruise Holidays personal cruise expert. She can help you find a ship with the perfect pool deck for you.
Visit our facebook page: www.facebook.com/AtthetaTravel

Monday, November 5, 2012

Connecting Thruough Social Media


One of the great things about working with travel professionals is that they are there for you before, during and after your vacation. They will help you select a cruise or tour, make your reservations, and provide advice and assistance with alternate arrangements if anything goes awry. After your vacation, they’ll want to hear about your experiences, which will help them advise other clients and serve you better on your next trip.

And, staying in touch with your travel professional before, during and after your vacation is getting easier. It wasn’t long ago that the only way to contact your travel agency was by old-fashioned land-line phone, or to take time from your day to stop in the agency’s office. Today, you can connect with your travel professional from just about anywhere, at any time, using a desk computer or a mobile device (studies show that 85 percent of international travelers use their smartphones while on vacation).

Social media applications such as Facebook have created even more new ways to connect. For example, the Cruise Holidays Facebook page, which represents Cruise Holidays professionals across North America has more than 50,000 fans. Many Cruise Holidays franchise owners across North America also have their own Facebook pages, where their fans/customers can connect with them, day or night.

For example, the next time you step off a cruise ship in a new port of call and wonder where to find a great lunch or the best local souvenirs, post a question on your travel professional’s Facebook page. Not only can your travel agent answer quickly, so can other customers who have been to that location.

Savvy travel professionals are using their Facebook pages to share great travel deals, offer prizes to customers who share their opinions through surveys, and share links to interesting travel articles. Cruise Holidays recently conducted a sweepstakes via its Facebook page in which one lucky fan won a fabulous cruise for two.

Some travel agencies get their customers involved in populating their Facebook pages, making them places for customers to post their favorite travel photos and videos (no need to wait until you return home), post reviews of cruise ships, or make recommendations about favorite destinations.

You can reach Anita Thompson by visiting her Facebook page: www.facebook.com/AtthetaTravel. We would love to hear from you!

Sunday, October 28, 2012

Cruising the Greek Isles

A cruise to the Greek Isles will give you a new understanding of the bright blue and white of the Greek flag: everywhere you look, there will be amazing blue seas and whitewashed villages under a welcoming sun. Still, each island has its own personality and charm, making the cruise a more varied experience than you might expect.

It’s possible to cruise the Greek Isles all year long, but the best time is May through October. July and August are the most popular months, and are also the region’s hottest: by cruising a bit earlier or later, you can enjoy smaller crowds and less heat. Many cruises call on one, two or all of the three most-visited Greek Isles: Mykonos, Rhodes and Santorini.

Mykonos has charming cobblestoned streets lined with artisans’ studios, shops and cafes. This island, known for gorgeous beaches, has a carefree atmosphere. Try some snorkeling or diving before visiting some of the many art galleries. Or, explore the interesting ruins on the nearby island of Delos, a popular shore excursion.

Rhodes is steeped in history, having been occupied since at least the 16th century BC. Stroll through the old town of Rhodes, a World Heritage site, or visit the village of Lindos, where the remains of an impressive acropolis overlook the sea. Unfortunately, the famous Colossus of Rhodes, a massive bronze statue of the Greek god Helios that once guarded the entrance to the harbor, was destroyed by an earthquake centuries ago.

Santorini is one of the world’s most magnificent-looking islands. Your ship will sail into the caldera of an ancient volcano overlooked by steep cliffs and the town of Fira. Take a cable car up to Fira to check out the delightful shops and soak in the view at one of the many cafes, or visit Akrotiri, an archeological site preserved under a thick layer 3,600-year-old volcanic ash.

Some cruises also visit islands not as well known as these three, but just as lovely. For example, a 10-night cruise offered by Regent Seven Seas that starts in Athens sails to Rhodes, Santorini, Mykonos and Lesbos before ending in Istanbul. A seven-night cruise by Royal Caribbean departs from Venice (Italy) for the Greek Isles of Corfu and Mykonos, then visits Dubrovnik (Croatia) before returning to Venice.

For more itinerary options for your Greek Isles cruise, talk Anita, with your Cruise Holidays personal cruise expert.

Monday, October 22, 2012

More Options for Antarctic Cruises

Seabourn Cruises will be the next cruise line to expand its reach to all seven continents when it begins sailing to Antarctica next year.

Beginning in November 2013, the Seabourn Quest, the luxury cruise line’s newest ship, will sail four cruises, each 21 to 24 days, between Valparaiso, Chile, and Buenos Aires, Argentina. A highlight of each voyage will be a visit to the remote, vast and beautiful continent of Antarctica.

While the ship is always an important consideration when selecting a cruise, when cruising to Antarctica it’s especially important. There are three basic types of ships that cruise to the icy waters of the White Continent – small, medium and large – and each provides a different Antarctic experience.

Many of the small ships that sail to the Antarctic were originally icebreakers, specifically designed to break through large amounts of ice and sail into remote areas. These ships usually carry 100 to 200 passengers. Some have comfortable but basic accommodations, while others are quite luxurious. These ships can get close enough to the continent for passengers to board small, inflatable boats that allow them to land and actually set foot on Antarctica. However, be aware that opportunities for Antarctic landings are always dependent on the weather. Captains and their crews are experienced in assessing weather, ice and wildlife reports to determine when and where it’s safe to land.

Medium-sized ships, like the Seabourn Quest, generally carry 200 to 500 passengers. They are often equipped with reinforced hulls; they can’t handle as much ice as an icebreaker, but they can often get close enough to the continent to launch inflatable boats or tenders. These ships usually offer more amenities than smaller ships, such as lounges, fitness centers and more expansive public spaces.

Large ships carry up to 1,500 passengers to the waters off Antarctica.  These ships provide more of the amenities cruise passengers are used to, such as entertainment venues and multiple dining spots. However, they can’t get close enough to the continent for passengers to safely tender to the shore – so, these cruises are for Antarctic sightseeing only. Still, the sightseeing can be spectacular, featuring immense icebergs, jagged snowy peaks, seals, penguins, whales and exotic sea birds such as albatross.

Anita, Cruise Holidays personal cruise expert can provide more information on the different types of ships sailing to the Antarctic, as well as specific itineraries. A voyage to Antarctica can also provide the opportunity to explore the Falkland Islands, the Patagonia region of Argentina, the fjords of Chile and more.

Visit our page on Facebook: www.facebook.com/AtthetaTravel

Monday, October 15, 2012

Cruise Industry Contributes to Economy

As the U.S. economy continues to recover from the global recession of 2008-2009, the cruise industry is doing its part. The industry experienced a strong rebound from 2009 to 2010. And, during 2011, the industry continued to be an economic bright spot with a total impact on the U.S. economy of $40.4 billion, according to an independent study commissioned by the Cruise Lines International Association (CLIA).

Spending in the U.S. by cruise lines, their passengers, and their crew members totaled $18.9 billion during 2011, according to the study. Cruise industry employment grew to 350,000 jobs that paid $16.5 billion in wages to U.S. workers. Those wages and salaries showed an encouraging year-over-year increase of 8.3 percent, too.

While approximately 80 percent of the economic boost provided by the cruise industry is concentrated in ten states – most of them, not surprisingly, along the coasts – the study said the economies of all 50 states benefit in some way from the North American cruise industry. Florida’s economy gained the most during 2011: the state received nearly 9 million visits from cruise passengers and crew members, with direct spending of $6.7 billion. Other states that benefit most from cruise industry spending include California, New York, Texas and Alaska.

The positive economic effect of the cruise industry was also felt in Canada. According to the Atlantic Canada Cruise Association (ACCA), the cruise industry provided more than $82 million in direct economic impact to the region during 2011, with more gains projected for 2012. The ACCA estimated direct spending by passengers and crew members in 2011 at $42 million.
 
The CLIA report also confirmed that the U.S. is the driver of the cruise industry not only in North America, but worldwide. Americans accounted for 63.5 percent of the 16.5 million cruise passengers around the globe during 2011. U.S. ports also handle 60 percent of all global cruise embarkations.

So, for the benefit of vacationers and economies everywhere, cruise on! Talk with Anita, your Cruise Holidays personal cruise expert soon to make arrangements for your next cruise vacation.

Visit our page on Facebook: www.facebook.com/AtthetaTravel

Monday, October 8, 2012

Short Cruises

A leisurely cruise is a vacation to savor, but not everyone has the luxury of enough vacation time to sail away for 10 days, 14 days or longer. The good news is that if your vacation time is limited, you don’t need to rule out a cruise. Many cruise lines are now offering a greater variety of cruises that are seven nights or less.
 
Shorter cruises appeal to lots of vacationers – and not only those with limited time. There are first-time cruisers who want to “sample” a sea-going vacation before they commit to a longer voyage. There are experienced cruisers who want to try out a different part of the world before exploring it through a longer, more in-depth cruise itinerary. There are vacationers who rely on the value of a short cruise to deliver the most for their vacation dollars; and, those who want to pamper themselves with a brief, luxury-class cruise.

Shorter cruises have become an option for more vacationers as the number of home ports has expanded. With ports of embarkation located all along the East Coast, Gulf Coast and Pacific Coast, experts estimate that half the population of the U.S. lives within driving distance of a cruise port. Likewise, several cruise ports are an easy drive for residents of Canadian cities such as Vancouver and Halifax.

The variety of home ports also expands the list of short-cruise destinations beyond the popular, time-honored choices of the Bahamas and the Eastern Caribbean. Home ports like Boston, New Orleans, San Diego and Seattle extend the short-cruise market to places like New England and Canada, Mexico’s Caribbean coast, the Mexican Riviera, and Alaska.

The increase in shorter cruise itineraries isn’t limited to the ocean cruise market. River cruise lines are finding that shorter voyages suit many of their passengers, too. For example, four- or five-night European River cruises are growing in popularity, especially during December, when historic European Christmas Markets are open.

 There’s yet another reason to select a shorter cruise – to combine it with a land-based tour. Imagine a few days of cruising the Mediterranean or the coast of Alaska, followed by some time to explore what lies inland.

For more information on selecting a short cruise for your next vacation, talk with Anita, your Cruise Holidays personal cruise expert.

Visit our page on Facebook: www.facebook.com/AtthetaTravel

Monday, October 1, 2012

Happy Halloween Cruises

Ghosts of pirates past, creatures from the deep, mermaids and sirens – along with an array of witches, vampires, cowboys and even giant M&Ms – are known to prowl the public spaces of cruise ships each Halloween, October 31. No need to fear: these fantastic creatures are simply your fellow cruise passengers in costume.

On a cruise, any night is a good night for a party, but none is better than Halloween. Many ships decorate their public spaces for the celebration – you may see ghosts swooping around the ship’s main atrium and haunted houses popping up on deck.

Many ships host costume parties, sometimes with attractive prizes for the most outrageous, beautiful or creative costumes. Given the setting, nautical-themed costumes are popular: in addition to pirates and mermaids, you may see penguins, sharks, sailors and characters from the Love Boat TV series.

For efficient packing, you may want to keep your costume simple, or focus on a creepy make-up effect or glamorous mask. Of course, there are always quite a few toga-clad revelers at cruise ship Halloween parties: a closer inspection will reveal that these ancient Romans have simply borrowed the sheets and towels from their cabins.

Some ships take the celebration a step further, running Halloween-themed movies and holding costume parades for kids and adults. Family-oriented cruise lines, such as Carnival and Royal Caribbean, offer extensive programs of Halloween fun for kids, including costume-making workshops, face painting and Halloween arts and crafts. Kids will delight in scavenger hunts, on-deck trick-or-treating, and scary storytelling sessions (but not so scary that younger kids won’t eventually go to sleep that night). There may even be a different type of trick-or-treat for adult passengers, such as a cabin-to-cabin wine and cheese tasting.

On Disney Cruise Lines, even the beloved Disney characters get into the spirit, wearing special Halloween costumes. Disney chefs do their part, too, whipping up special treats for the celebration, including chocolate cake with pumpkin filling, tempting “spider cakes” and a mysterious “Witch’s Brew.”

To find out what your ship of choice has going on this Halloween, or to make a last-minute booking, talk with Anita, your Cruise Holidays personal cruise expert.

Visit our page on Facebook: www.facebook.com/AtthetaTravel

Friday, September 28, 2012

Cruise Terminology Explained


Are you thinking of taking a cruise vacation, but aren’t sure you want to travel on a ship that includes something called a “poop deck”? Or, have you been on several cruises and still don’t know what the “lido deck” is? Let go of your worries: the answers to these and other perplexing cruise questions are right here.

You may be relieved to know that a “poop deck” has nothing to do with dog walking or diaper failure. The poop deck is a raised deck at the rear of the ship; often, it forms the roof of a cabin below. In the days of the Roman Empire, sailors would place sacred statues on the raised deck, perhaps so the idols could look down upon the rest of the decks and grant protection to the ship and crew. These statues were called puppis, and the raised deck was called a puppim. The French translated this term to la poupe; over time, this evolved to “poop” deck.

“Lido” is an Italian word for beach: for example, Lido di Venezia is the name of the barrier beach that protects the lagoon of Venice, Italy. Through the centuries, lido became a term referring to a place where people can swim, enjoy water sports and relax in the sun. On a cruise ship, the Lido Deck is where you’ll find the ship’s main pools (and often a terrific buffet as well). Back in the days when European steamships divided passengers by fare classes, the Lido Deck was restricted to first-class passengers only; today’s Lido Decks are enjoyed by all passengers.

Perhaps you’re not sure whether you should refer to your accommodations as a “cabin” or a “stateroom.” You can use either term, or both – they are interchangeable, though you may find that some cruise lines consistently use one or the other. The more important word may be the one that comes before cabin or stateroom – you definitely want to know whether you are booking “inside” (no window), “outside” (a window), or “balcony” (a step-out balcony, sometimes quite spacious) accommodations.

If you’re wondering where to get your “sea legs,” you’ll get them automatically after your ship sets sail. Sea legs is a term for the ability to maintain balance and walk steadily on the deck of a moving ship. Today’s cruise ships are built for stability in the water, and most passengers get their sea legs very quickly – if yours take a little time to arrive, take advantage of the hand rails you’ll find all around the ship.

If there are other cruise terms that puzzle you, turn to your best resource for all cruise information: Anita, your Cruise Holiday’s personal cruise expert.

'Like' our page on Facebook: www.facebook.com/AtthetaTravel

Monday, September 24, 2012

Combine Your Cruise with a Land Tour


Many cruise vacationers know about “cruisetour” packages that add a land tour to the beginning or end of your cruise. Cruisetours are especially popular in Alaska and Europe, where the ports of call issue a strong invitation to explore what lies beyond. But, did you know that some cruisetours offer a way for you to see more of the continental U.S.?

Cruise Holidays offers special cruise and land tour packages, sometimes in unexpected combinations that enable you to explore two diverse areas.

For example, the Coasts, Canyons and Cowboys cruise and land tour will begin in the Pacific Northwest on September 22, 2012, with a one-night hotel stay in Seattle. In the morning, you’ll board a motor coach bound for beautiful Vancouver, British Columbia, where you’ll board Norwegian Cruise Line’s Norwegian Pearl. The Pearl will take you on a six-day cruise along the Pacific Coast, visiting Astoria, Ore.; San Francisco; and Los Angeles. From Los Angeles, you’ll begin a four-day motor coach tour of some of the most scenic areas of Arizona, including Sunset Crater Volcano Monument, Wupatki National Monument, the south rim of the Grand Canyon, Sedona and the Verde Valley.

You can also book the unusual combination of a Caribbean cruise and a Boston-based land tour. The Carib-Beantown Rail & Sail package includes a 13-day cruise on Norwegian Cruise Lines’ Norwegian Dawn, departing from Tampa on April 21, 2013. The ship will visit several gorgeous islands – including Jamaica, Curacao, Aruba, St. Maarten and St. Thomas – before sailing up the Atlantic Coast to Boston for a two-night hotel stay. After exploring this historic city, you’ll board a train for an overnight trip back to Tampa.

Another option is the Fall Foliage & Caribbean Rail & Sail, which begins October 27, 2013, with a train journey from Tampa to Boston. During four days in Boston, you’ll be able to explore the city and appreciate the beauty of a New England fall. On November 1, you’ll board the Norwegian Dawn and set sail for a 15-day Caribbean cruise. You’ll disembark in Tampa, refreshed from the experience of enjoying the glory of colorful autumn leaves and the warmth of the Caribbean islands – all in one memorable vacation.

For more information on these and other Cruise Holidays cruise and land tours, talk with Anita, your Cruise Holidays personal cruise expert.

'Like' our page on Facebook: www.facebook.com/AtthetaTravel

Friday, September 21, 2012

Barcelona’s Architectural Treasures

For centuries, Barcelona, Spain, has been an important port on the Mediterranean Sea, attracting a series of invaders who contributed to the city’s rich cultural mix. Today, visitors arrive on ships not to invade the city, but to appreciate the incredible architecture, art, parks and atmosphere of the capital of the Catalonia region.

Many visitors head straight for the Barri Gòtic, or Gothic Quarter, the center of the old city. Many of the buildings date from the medieval era; there are even some remnants of Barcelona’s days as a Roman military camp.  Outside the Gothic Quarter, the city has many more architectural landmarks. Some of the best-known, such as the Casa Mila and the Sagrada Familia, were designed by architect Antoni Gaudi, famed for his quirky, organic style. Barcelona has walkable neighborhoods that contain lovely examples of Art Nouveau and Modernist architecture as well.

Some of the city’s beautiful works of architecture contain many more pieces of art. The National Museum of Art is noted for its Romanesque works; the Barcelona Museum of Contemporary Art has post-World War II works by Catalan and Spanish artists. There are also museums dedicated to the work of iconic artists like Miró and Picasso.

Barcelona has marvelous parks, including Montjuïc, the central location for the 1992 Summer Olympic Games; Park Guell, with fanciful architectural features designed by Gaudi; and Parc del Laberint, where you can find your way through a hedge maze. For some time in the sun, you can also visit one of the seven beaches located in the city.

For inspiring views, visit Montserrat and its monastery, established in 1592. This is still a working monastery, but the Benedictine monks welcome visitors and you may be lucky enough to hear the choir. The Montserrat complex includes shops and cafes, too.

If you do just one thing while in the city of Barcelona, make it a stroll along Las Ramblas, the city’s famous and fabulous promenade. Watch street performers, browse unique shops, breathe the perfume of the flower stalls and enjoy the colorful people you’ll encounter. Las Ramblas ends in the Placa de Catalunya, a wonderful place to enjoy a beverage and watch Barcelona go by.

To find out more about Mediterranean cruises that include a call in the memorable city of Barcelona, talk with Anita, your Cruise Holidays personal cruise expert.

'Like' our page on Facebook: www.facebook.com/AtthetaTravel

Tuesday, September 18, 2012

Cruise Into the Heart of Cartagena

The emerging Caribbean cruise port of Cartagena, Colombia, expects to welcome more cruise passengers during the upcoming 2012-2013 cruise season than ever before. An estimated 313,000 passengers will disembark to explore the port from 175 arriving ships, 11 more ship arrivals than last year.

While cruise passengers are just beginning to discover this port, Cartagena has long been a popular tourist destination. The city offers a variety of things to do and see, from lovely beach resorts to a historic old town.

The fortified walls of the old town enclose a World Heritage site. There’s an inner ring divided into two districts, El Centro and San Diego; and an outer ring, called Getsemani. You may be tempted to linger in Getsemani to enjoy the cafes and shops, but you’ll want to continue into to the heart of the old town to experience the atmosphere of colonial Cartagena.

The Plaza de Bolivar is a lovely square filled with fountains and a statue of Simon de Bolivar, the leader who played a key role in liberating South America from the Spanish Empire. Explore the streets around the square to admire the colonial churches, palaces and homes. There are lots of cafes where you can sip fragrant Colombian coffee.

For an echo of the Spanish Inquisition, stop at the Palacio de la Inquisicion. In addition to the rather gruesome history of the inquisition in Cartagena, the museum presents art, a map collection and intricate dioramas of the city.

To enjoy the waterfront, visit the seaside districts of Castillo Grande, El Laguito and Bocagrande. Relax in a waterfront restaurant, or jump into the water to snorkel or scuba your way through Cartagena’s underwater attractions.

If you’d like to venture outside the city, a popular shore excursion is a motorboat ride to the Rosario Islands, which are a National Nature Park.  The Isla del Sol has an aquarium full of tropical fish, sea turtles and sharks, as well as a dolphin show. After lunch, take a nap on the beach or snorkel around the coral reef.

To find cruise itineraries that include a stop in Cartagena, talk with Anita, your Cruise Holiday personal cruise expert.

'Like' our page on Facebook: www.facebook.com/AtthetaTravel

Monday, August 27, 2012

Win a Free Cruise!


It's easy for big companies to come up with lavish prize giveaways. But here at Cruise Holidays, as a locally owned business, it's not too often that we get the opportunity to make an offer like this: Join our Facebook community for a chance to win a free cruise for two!
 
All you have to do is go HERE and enter the contest for your chance to win.

The best part is, unlike some online contests that you may not trust, you can be certain this one is the real deal, because it is offered by a local business owner with a vested interest in being part of the community. If you are the lucky winner, we'll contact you and help you plan the cruise to your specifications.

Details:


  • Win a free cruise for 2, offered by Cruise Holidays and Royal Caribbean International
  • Royal Caribbean will present the winner with a list of cruises to choose from available at the time of the drawing
  • Entries accepted until September 30, drawing to take place October 12, 2012
  • One entry per person
  • More terms and conditions are posted on the Cruise Holidays website 
Whether you join the sweepstakes or not, thank you for your business. And remember, when it is time for you to plan your next getaway, you can "Relax, You're With Us!"

Visit our page on Facebook: www.facebook.com/AtthetaTravel

Monday, August 20, 2012

Cruise the Chilean Coast

A long, narrow strip of land between the Andes Mountains and the Pacific Ocean, the South American country of Chile has nearly 2,900 miles of coastline. At its northern end is the world’s driest desert, Atacama, a source of copper and gold. Heading south, the scenery becomes greener in the Central Valley, which includes the capital city of Santiago. In southern Chile, the coast becomes a maze of fjords, inlets and islands, backed by forests, lakes and snow-topped volcanoes. Clearly, Chile is a dream come true for fans of scenic cruising.

Arica, just south of the border with Peru, is Chile’s northernmost cruise port. Arica has miles of beaches, and the waves are famous among surfing enthusiasts around the world. The San Miguel Archaeological Museum has an excellent collection of pre-Columbian artifacts and mummies that date back to 5000 BC. Take a short drive through the desert to visit Codpa, a historic village in a narrow, fertile valley filled with fruit trees. Be sure to sample the pintatani wine made from locally grown grapes.

Valparaiso is a centrally-located port built on dozens of steep hillsides overlooking the Pacific. Funicular cable cars take residents and visitors up and down the hills to visit landmarks such as the Iglesia de la Matriz church and La Sebastiana, home of the late Nobel Prize-winning poet Pablo Neruda. Valparaiso is also the port for Santiago, located in a mountain-ringed valley about 60 miles inland. Visit the sights around busy Avenida Alameda, the city’s main thoroughfare, including the Church of San Francisco – the oldest standing building in Santiago, having somehow survived at least three devastating earthquakes. The charming and historic neighborhoods around Avenida Alameda include Barrio Paris-Londres, Parque Forestal, and Bellavista. Visit some of the jewelry shops to look at pieces made with beautiful Chilean lapis lazuli.

Puerto Montt was settled by immigrants from Germany, which explains why you’ll find German-style beer, architecture and food in southern Chile. The abundant natural beauty of this area of lakes, rivers and fjords will tempt you to spend the day outdoors. Take a drive to Puerto Varas, the “city of roses,” situated on shimmering Llanquihue Lake with a view of the impressive Osomo Volcano. More active pursuits in or near Puerto Montt include fly fishing, horseback riding, kayaking and river rafting.

Chile’s summer begins in December, making a Chilean cruise a perfect getaway from a North American winter. For more information on itineraries, ports and things to do on shore, talk with Anita, your Cruise Holidays personal cruise expert.
Visit us on Facebook – www.facebook.com/AtthetaTravel