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 30, 2013

Choices for Alaska Cruises

The next Alaska cruise season begins in May 2014, and while there’s plenty of availability on popular ships and itineraries, they’ll begin to fill up soon. That makes now a great time to book your Alaskan cruise.

 
What draws so many people to cruise the rugged coastline of Alaska? The coastline itself is a major draw, with thousands of miles of stunning scenery that segues from majestic mountain peaks to rainforest, glaciers, and Arctic tundra. And, there’s beautiful wildlife – including whales, seals, seabirds, eagles, moose and bears – that you can often see from the ship.

 
In addition, Alaska’s ports of call are fascinating and surprisingly diverse. Ketchikan is a center of Tlingit Indian culture; Skagway maintains the character of a Gold Rush-era town; and Sitka preserves important pieces of its history as a Russian settlement.
 

While the cruise lines that visit Alaska offer lots of variety in cruise length, itineraries and style of ship, there are two basic types of Alaskan cruises:

 
Inside Passage cruises. These cruises are typically roundtrip, departing from Seattle, Wash., or Vancouver, British Columbia, which both offer fantastic opportunities for pre- or post-cruise sightseeing. The Inside Passage is a relatively sheltered waterway, dotted with islands and edged by breathtaking coastal scenery. Common ports of call include Ketchikan and Skagway, and sometimes the city of Juneau.
 

Gulf of Alaska cruises. These cruises also depart from Seattle or Vancouver, but the greater distance to be covered by the ship means that many are one-way. In addition to the Inside Passage, you can expect to explore Sitka, Glacier Bay, Hubbard Glacier, College Fjord, and perhaps the Kenai Peninsula before disembarking in Seward, Whittier or Anchorage (or, select a reverse itinerary and end in Seattle or Vancouver). Occasionally, a cruise line will offer longer Gulf of Alaska cruises that depart from San Francisco, Calif.

 
Before or after cruising the coastline, many Alaska cruise passengers want to explore Alaska’s interior, tool. Some cruise lines combine land tours with their Alaskan cruises to create “cruisetours.” Popular choices for the land portion of an Alaskan cruisetour include Denali National Park, the Kenai Peninsula, Wrangell-Elias National Park or the Yukon Territory.

 

Talk with Anita, your Cruise Holidays personal cruise expert, soon to get more information about 2014 Alaska cruises and cruisetours.

 

Thursday, December 26, 2013

2014 Cruise Trends

Where will cruisers be headed in droves in 2014? For that, you’ll need to look not only to the turquoise blue waters of the Caribbean, but also the deep blue seas and the rivers of Europe. Here are some of the most interesting cruise trends of 2014 being highlighted by the cruise-specialty agency, Cruise Holidays International. The data was drawn from a survey of more than 130 Cruise Holidays professionals, as well as actual booking data by more than 600 Cruise Holidays cruise experts.

 

Top 10 Cruise Destinations

The Caribbean continues to enjoy the top spot in cruise bookings for the year ahead, by a wide margin. Thanks to its nearly year-round sunny weather and convenient access from the southern and eastern United States, the Caribbean drives the majority of all cruise bookings. Here is the full list of the top 10 cruise destinations being booked by Cruise Holidays professionals across North America:

 

1. Caribbean (includes Bahamas)
2. European Ocean Cruises (includes Mediterranean, Baltic, Scandinavia and Greek Isles)
3. Alaska
4. European Rivers
5. Bermuda
6. Panama Canal
7. Trans-Atlantic
8. Hawaiian Islands
9. South Pacific (includes Australia/New Zealand)
10. Canada/New England

 

Overall, there is little change in the list of top 10 destinations year over year. This is the first time European rivers have been broken out as their own category in this report, but had it been done in 2013, European rivers would have ranked fifth, just behind Bermuda. This year, they placed fourth, just ahead of Bermuda. In the Caribbean itself, Western Caribbean sailings are most popular, followed by Eastern Caribbean and Southern Caribbean, respectively.

 

“The enthusiasm over river cruising, particularly in Europe, continues to add a new dynamic to the vacation market. Even travelers who have never cruised before seem particularly drawn to river cruises as an attractive alternative to a land tour,” said Kevin Weisner, Senior Vice President, Cruise Holidays International.

 

River Cruising Continues to Rise in Popularity

Cruise Holidays analyzed data from across its network of agencies to see where most river cruise passengers are heading in 2014. The windmills and tulips of The Netherlands, as well as cruises along the Danube and “Grand Tour” cruises of the Rhine, Main and Danube lead the way in popularity. Below is a list of the top five river cruise cities, where voyages either begin or end.

 

1. Amsterdam, Netherlands
2. Budapest, Hungary
3. Paris, France
4. Basel, Switzerland
5. Nuremberg, Germany

 

Most Anticipated Ship

While river cruising proliferates, interest in large, new ocean-going ships is also soaring. In fact, when Cruise Holidays experts were asked which new ship they are anticipating the most in 2014, the overwhelming response was Royal Caribbean International’s Quantum of the Seas. This ship will not debut until November 2014, but it opened for booking in May 2013 and bookings have been very impressive, according to Cruise Holidays.

 

Best Value in Cruising

Cruise Holidays experts were asked the question: “In which region do you anticipate the best value in cruising during 2014?” The Caribbean again placed first, with European ocean cruises and European river cruises following. Alaska and the Pacific Northwest sit comfortably in fourth place, followed by trans-Atlantic cruising.

 

For more information about the top cruise trends of 2014, contact Anita, your personal cruise expert.

 
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Monday, December 23, 2013

Three days in New York City

 
In early November, we were fortunate to spend a few days in NYC. It was our first visit to the city since 9/11.  We stayed in the Millennium Hilton, in lower Manhattan – right across the street from the memorial that is still under construction. If you have an opportunity, you really should visit the site of the World Trade Center: so much history, so many memories… The new Tower 1 nears completion, just a short distance from the footprints of the old towers.  I was surprised to learn that seven towers are planned.  
New Memorial in World Trade Center
 If you want to see the World Trade Center, then consider staying at the Millennium Hilton, it’s in a good location, close to Wall Street, Battery Park, and the subway entrance is outside the main entrance of the hotel. The hotel was clean and the staff was courteous.

One World Trade Center

The best way to get around lower Manhattan is by walking or taking the subway.  We took the subway to Central Park. It took a few minutes to understand the intimidating subway map, but the change attendant give us a few pointers in getting around the subway system. No problem after our first attempt.
Foot Bridge in Central Park
 It was my first visit to the park and I was impressed.  The trees still had a lot of fall color.  I still regret not taking a ride in a hansom cab around the park.   

Pond in Central Park
 
The weather was seasonal (cold) and the stores were beginning to prepare for the holidays.  We saw the Christmas tree unloaded in Rockefeller Center. Walked and shopped along 5th Ave and Times Square – played tourist!  Anita fell in love with Macy’s on 34th Street.

Anita in Times Square
 
One minor disappointment: the security staff at the Empire State Building were rude and discourteous on the Saturday evening we visited the top of the building. In my mind, it reinforced the stereotype of New Yorkers. In three full days, that was the only bad experience.    Unless you count the Saturday night bus ride thru Times Square... 
 
Anita near Brooklyn Bridge

One surprise: the Wall Street Bull is not on Wall Street!  After 9/11, the bull was moved to a small park off Broadway in lower Manhattan.   Someone should put directions to the statue somewhere along Wall Street.
After much looking, we found the Bull!

This year, our annual convention was aboard the Norwegian Breakaway, NYC to the Bahamas and back.  For us it was a long way to go to visit Nassau.  However, the visit to the city made it worthwhile.  Thanks, New York!
Lower Manhattan from the deck of the Norwegian Breakaway

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Monday, December 16, 2013

Just in Case: Cruise Ship Medical Centers


If you have a medical condition, onboard medical facilities are probably part of your criteria for selecting a cruise ship. If not, you may be surprised by how well-prepared cruise ship medical centers are to provide care for minor injuries and illnesses, as well as more serious conditions.
 

The size of the medical staff depends on the size of the ship, but will include some combination of qualified doctors, nurses and medical technicians. Doctor’s office hours are usually published in the ship’s daily bulletin, and emergency assistance is always available, 24 hours a day. There will be a charge to see the doctor, which varies by ship.

 
In an onboard medical center, you can expect to see lifesaving equipment such as cardiac defibrillators, external pacemakers, ventilators and respirators. Diagnostic equipment – including EKG machines, X-ray machines and blood testing equipment – are also common, as are well-stocked pharmacies.

 
Some cruise lines have established telemedicine links with prestigious onshore medical institutions. These links provide two-way audio and visual communications so that the ship’s medical staff can consult with an onshore specialist at any time.

 
A few ships have operating rooms on board, where minor emergency surgeries can be performed. However, patients who require surgery, along with cardiac arrest and stroke patients, are usually stabilized in the ship’s medical center, then transferred to an onshore hospital at the earliest opportunity. Some newer cruise ships have helipads just for medical evacuation purposes.

 
Whether you think you’ll need the services of an onboard medical center or not, you should be prepared to pay for any care that you may need. Many insurance plans do not cover routine or emergency care away from home; emergency medical evacuations, which can cost tens of thousands of dollars, are rarely covered. Check with your insurance provider; if you won’t be covered while on the ship, an easy solution is to purchase travel insurance that includes medical coverage. Anita, your Cruise Holidays personal cruise expert, can help you select an affordable plan.

 
Finally, if you have any special medical needs, let your cruise line know in advance. You may not experience any medical issues at all on your cruise, but it’s good to know that the onboard medical staff is prepared to help you if needed. That knowledge will help you relax and get the most out of your cruise!

 

Monday, December 9, 2013

Cruising Towards Spring Break

Spring break has evolved from a mid-term break for college students to a generation-spanning vacation phenomenon. College students still revel in the opportunity to party on the beaches of Florida, Texas, Mexico and the Caribbean, but Spring Break is now for all ages: who doesn’t need a “sun and fun” break after a long winter?

 
And, there’s no better way to enjoy a truly relaxing break than to take a cruise. Spring break cruises offer nonstop fun and terrific value, rolling accommodations, dining and entertainment into one affordable price.

 
But, the real key to a relaxed spring break cruise is to plan and book early. These popular cruises begin to fill even before the snow starts to fly: if you have a specific ship or dream destination in mind, make your arrangements now. Here are a few things to consider when choosing a spring break cruise:

 
If you have children under age 12, ask your Cruise Holidays personal cruise expert about cruise lines and ships that have organized programs for kids. Many cruise lines have developed fantastic programs, staffed by trained crew members who engage kids in fun activities and onboard adventures.

 
If you’re sailing with teenagers, ask about ships that have spaces dedicated to teens – a lounge or a club, perhaps even a pool. Teens often have a better cruise experience when they can hang out with peers, rather than parents. Many cruise ships now have teen-only spaces furnished with comfortable seating, game consoles, board games, music players, DJ equipment and soft drink fountains.

 
If you’re embarking with college-age children, know your cruise line’s policies on alcohol consumption and gambling. Most ships departing from U.S. ports require passengers to be 21 or older to be served or to consume alcohol. Some ships that depart from Europe set the age at 18. As for gambling in an onboard casino, most cruise lines allow gaming at age 18, though some require guests to be 21 and will not pay a jackpot to anyone younger.

 
Note that most cruise lines require passengers to be at least 21 to travel without a chaperone, so if you’re a college student, you may need to invite someone a bit older to join you on your Spring Break cruise.

 
To make all of your spring break cruise plans, talk with Anita, your Cruise Holidays personal cruise expert.

 

 

Monday, December 2, 2013

Cruise Holidays Holds 2013 Annual Convention at Sea


Cruise travel experts from across the United States and Canada met for one of the premier networking and educational events for those in the cruise travel industry: the 2013 Cruise Holidays Annual Convention. It took place November 10 – November 17, 2013, aboard Norwegian Cruise Line’s Norwegian Breakaway. More than 200 Cruise Holidays franchise owners, agents and top cruise industry executives were present.

 
Norwegian Breakaway
 


The convention is the most important educational and networking event of the year for Cruise Holidays travel agents, which are located across North America, the United Kingdom and Australia. Participants learned about the latest industry trends, networked with other travel experts, and discussed ways to help travelers get the most value out of their vacation.

Anita at Trade Show on Breakaway
 
Those in attendance said the conference reinforced their belief that there is an important place for travel agents in travelers’ lives. Participants honed their travel expertise even further to help people make the most of their vacation budget and save them time in planning their vacation.
 
Breakaway in Nassau

 
Prior to the convention, many of the attendees participated in a tour of New York City exclusively for Cruise Holidays travel professionals. The guided tour included highlights of the Big Apple’s most interesting, tourist-friendly attractions, dinner inside the Empire State Building along with a trip to the observation deck to take in the exhilarating views, stops in Battery Park to see the Statue of Liberty, and much more.

Anita in NYC near Brooklyn Bridge
 
The tour was followed up by a half-day workshop on ways to help vacationers make the most of their time in New York City prior to or after a cruise. Attendees also learned about exclusive Cruise Holidays hotel programs that provide distinctive perks to their clients, as well as special pricing or discounts available.

 
For more information, contact Anita, your Cruise Holidays personal cruise expert.

 

 

Tuesday, November 26, 2013

Customer feedback on Viking River Cruise

Our Thanks to Dick & Jeanine for writing this helpful review of their Viking River Cruise and allowing us to book it for them.  Thanks, Dick & Jeanine!

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Just want to thank you for helping with our trip - it was just wonderful!  Everything was perfect and we would highly recommend Viking to anyone!

 

Our flight on Delta from Sea-Amsterdam-Paris was very smooth.  The nonstop from Paris to Seattle was very smooth also.  Granted it was an 11 hour flight, but knowing that we didn't have to get off and change planes was very nice.  They fed us many times and we watched about 4 movies!

 

The car service you arranged at Paris was an excellent idea.  We picked up our luggage, walked out of baggage claim and there he was!  Simple and easy!

 

The hotel was okay, but I wouldn't recommend it - it's more of a business hotel.  Not charming at all, but it was nice to be at the hotel where Viking is situated as the Seine River was too high because of recent rains so the boat had to stay in Conflans.  We wouldn't have known this if there wasn't a Viking representative at the hotel!  We opted to take a cab to Conflans instead of waiting for the bus.  Sure glad we did as it was only about a 45 mins cab ride - we arrived about Noon, our cabin was ready, we had lunch, was unpacked and were already out walking the time the bus showed up.

 

Where do I start about how wonderful Viking is?  Might be easier if I list all the pluses (there are no negatives).  They are very much like Vantage, but just a little classier.

 

1.  Cabins are very nice, the bed and pillows were super comfy - we slept very well!  Our cabin had a huge picture window which opened!  We spent a lot of time just relaxing, reading and watching the world go by from our room!  Bottled water was provided in the cabin and our cabin person (Loretta) was excellent!  Every night there was a towel animal and a special note from her, even one wishing us a Happy Anniversary!

 

2.  The Hotel Manager, Oliver, was very nice and personable - and was always around chatting with everyone.

 

3.  The Cruise Director, Annika, was one of the best I have ever met!  I don't know when she slept because she was always around socializing and providing information.  She was super nice, made us all feel important and kept us informed of everything!  Everything ran smoothly!  The front desk was staffed 24 hours with the best people!

 

4.  Food was excellent and the staff amazing!  At our first dinner, every lady received a red rose!  Such a nice touch!  For breakfast, they had a nice buffet or you could order off the menu (or do both!).  They even served breakfast on the last morning, even a lite breakfast for one couple who had to be off the boat by 5:30 am.  Lunch was the same - nice salad bar and good menu.  Dinner was menu only with lots of choices, or you could always have steak, chicken or salmon.  I had salmon two nights and it was excellent!  I heard that the steak was also very good.

 

5.  The day of our Normandie Tour, it was an all day trip and very cold.  Upon arriving back at the boat, they had hot towels and hot chocolate waiting for us as we boarded!  Once again, a simply thing, but so appreciated!  They also provided bottled water every time there was a shore excursion.

 

This was the most fun, relaxing and well organized trip we have ever taken.  We will take Viking again!  So, if you get any information on a Holland or Italy boat cruise on Viking, let me know!

 

Thanks again for all your help - it was greatly appreciated and you made our 30th wedding anniversary trip a huge success!

 

Dick and Jeanine

Monday, November 25, 2013

The Thriving Cruise Port of Baltimore

You may know Baltimore as a terrific Eastern seaboard city, but did you know it’s also a great cruise ship port? Baltimore’s position on the map makes it an easy “drive-to” port for more than 40 million people. Currently, about 100 cruises embark from the Port of Baltimore each year. And, ships depart all year long: a state-of-the-art, climate-controlled boarding bridge will keep you warm as you board a ship for a winter cruise to the Caribbean.

Depending on the season, ships depart from Baltimore for New England and Canada, Bermuda, the Bahamas or the Caribbean. For example, the port of Baltimore can send you:

·       On a brief but relaxing cruise to Bermuda and back.

·       On a roundtrip cruise to Port Canaveral, Fla.; Nassau in the Bahamas; and Key West, Fla.

·       To the Eastern Caribbean, with stops such as San Juan, Puerto Rico; Charlotte Amalie, St. Thomas; and Philipsburg, St. Maarten.

·       To the western Caribbean, featuring ports like Falmouth, Jamaica; George Town, Grand Cayman Island; and Cozumel, Mexico.

·       To the coast of New England and Canada, with visits to historic seaports like Boston, Mass.; Bar Harbor, Maine; and Halifax, Nova Scotia. Fall is the prime time for these cruises, when you can admire colorful leaves against dark evergreens.

A roundtrip cruise from Baltimore also presents a terrific opportunity to explore this historic city for a few days before or after your cruise. Baltimore’s Inner Harbor, once a center of shipping that fell into disuse as ships became larger and heavier, has been beautifully redeveloped as a neighborhood that connects the city with the waterfront. There are award-winning parks and plazas, hotels, shops, and lots of places to feast on fresh seafood.

The Inner Harbor is home to the National Aquarium, an amazing attraction where you can see more than 650 species of fish, reptiles, birds and more. Be sure to check out the shark tank, the Atlantic coral reef exhibit and the bottlenose dolphins.

It’s a short walk from the Inner Harbor to Camden Yards, home of the Baltimore Orioles and the Sports Legends Museum in a beautiful former railroad station. Or, take a water taxi to explore Fort McHenry or the Fells Point neighborhood.

For more information about things to do in Baltimore before or after your next cruise, talk with Anita, your Cruise Holidays personal cruise expert.
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Monday, November 18, 2013

Caribbean Getaway: Dominican Republic

Winter is approaching quickly, and it’s prime time to book one of the best winter getaways: a Caribbean cruise. Be sure to take a look at itineraries that include the Dominican Republic, which continues to develop as a vacation paradise.

Christopher Columbus claimed the island of Hispaniola for Spain on his 1492 voyage of exploration. About 200 years later, the Spanish ceded the western third of the island – now known as Haiti – to France. Spain retained the eastern two-thirds of the island, the present-day Dominican Republic.

In the capital city of Santo Domingo, cruise ships dock at the Sansouci Pier, the main cruise terminal. It’s a quick taxi ride to the sights of the city, which include the Zona Colonial (Colonial City), a UNESCO World Heritage site with the first cathedral, first hospital and first fort built in the Americas.

No one is certain where the remains of Christopher Columbus lie, but residents of Santo Domingo will tell you they are at El Faro a Colon, where a tomb is watched over by an impressive lighthouse. Pope John Paul II visited during the 500th anniversary of Columbus’ arrival, and his “Popemobile” is still on display.

To explore shops, restaurants and casinos, head to the Malecon, an oceanside walkway. Or, choose an excursion to the town of Boca Chica, which has great shopping and a lovely beach dotted with food stalls that offer local specialties, such as empanadas stuffed with fresh fish, rice and spices.

Some ships that call on Santo Domingo also visit La Romana, a town next to the resort village of Casa de Campo. Many cruise ship visitors take a shuttle up to Altos de Chavón, a hilltop re-creation of a 16th-century European village. The lovely stone buildings house restaurants, art galleries and shops with handiwork from local artisans. Don’t miss the 5,000-seat Roman-style amphitheater or St. Stanislaus Church and plaza, a popular site for weddings. There’s also a museum of archaeology with a collection of pre-Columbian artifacts found in the area.

Serious golfers will love the resort’s 18-hole course, Teeth of the Dog, ranked 46th in the world by Golf Magazine in 2013. Visit the Cueva de las Maravillas (Cave of Wonders) to see fascinating cave drawings; or, simply relax on nearby Bayahibe Beach.

To select a Caribbean cruise that will take you to the Dominican Republic, talk with Anita, your Cruise Holidays personal cruise expert.

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Monday, November 11, 2013

Travel Agents Provide Valuable Service

While talking about how technology has changed the workplace, President Obama recently said that travel agents no longer exist. With all due respect, we must disagree. Not only do travel agents still exist, they provide significant value to the traveling public. We know this because our clients regularly tell us so.

A vacation is a big investment, and travel agents can ensure that travelers receive the best value for their vacation dollars. Travel professionals have access to deals, discounts and special offers that are not available to the general public. And, their long-standing relationships with a variety of preferred travel and lodging providers enable them to offer airline, hotel, restaurant and tour reservations that travelers can’t easily make on their own.

Travel agents love to travel, and their first-hand experiences – combined with their professional training – give them the expertise needed to provide wise travel guidance. They are passionate about their work and continually research new destinations and the best ways to get there.

Agents are also trained to listen and understand what clients really want from their vacation investment. There’s no need to wade through hundreds of confusing online travel offers when a travel professional can narrow it down to the best options in a fraction of the time.

Travel professionals can help with everything from a simple weekend getaway to a complex, lengthy trip involving multiple destinations and a mix of lodging, tours and transportation. They are also essential to smooth group travel – such as a wedding or a family reunion – getting everyone where they need to be on time and on budget.

Possibly the very best reason to work with a travel agent is peace of mind. You’ll rest easy knowing that you made a good investment of your vacation budget. And, a travel agent’s service to you doesn’t stop after your reservations are made. Call your agent if you have questions, need to make changes before you leave, or need help while you’re on your vacation.

Travel agents are committed to providing the best possible service: after all, they want you to come back to them for your future travel needs. In addition to handling all the details of your travel arrangements and reservations, they act as your advocate for quality and value in travel services.

That’s why travel professionals still exist. To find out more about what a travel professional can do for you, call Anita, your Cruise Holidays travel experts today.

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Monday, November 4, 2013

Take a Distinctive Voyage

Booking a cruise lets you look forward to the thrill of sailing on the open sea, the ease of having everything you need right on board, and the excitement of seeing new places. And, when you work with a Cruise Holidays expert who specializes in cruises, you can look forward to some luxury amenities – at no additional cost.

Cruise Holidays’ Distinctive Voyages program selects sailings on premium cruise lines and on ships bound for some of the world’s most desirable destinations, then adds extra amenities to enhance your cruise experience. These extra touches include:

·       The services of a concierge host, who will be available to assist you and answer your questions throughout the voyage.

·       An invitation to a private cocktail reception where you can meet fellow passengers and make new friends to share in your cruise adventures.

·       An exclusive on-shore event that will truly be a highlight of your cruise. The details of the event depend on the destination, but it’s always designed to give you a true connection with the local culture.

For example, if your ship calls in Bangkok, Thailand, you might visit the extraordinary Sanctuary of Truth, an awe-inspiring temple adorned with traditional Buddhist and Hindu motifs. You’ll also see the stunning lakeside complex of Wat Yansangwararam, where temples of various architectural styles are set among landscaped gardens, and a 500-foot-tall Buddha is carved into the side of a mountain.

In Sorrento, Italy, you might be driven into the hills that look over the Amalfi Coast. As an honored guest at a family-owned farm, you would sample their outstanding mozzarella, olive oil and home-cured salami. Your hosts would also show you how they make Limoncello, the delicious lemon liqueur, using the fruit of their own lemon trees; and, teach you to make hand-rolled gnocchi for gnocchi alla Sorrentina.

These special on-shore events are arranged and guided by local experts to be a more personal type of shore excursion, available to just a few of the passengers on your ship.

Distinctive Voyages are not limited to just a few sailings – you can choose from more than 200. The special amenities are provided at no additional cost – consider it Cruise Holidays’ gift to you.

To learn more about Distinctive Voyages, talk with Anita, your Cruise Holidays personal cruise expert.
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Thursday, October 31, 2013

Short Cruise on Royal Princess, October 27 - 29

This past weekend, Princess Cruises invited us to spend two nights on the new Royal Princess.  Of course, Anita said yes! We both wanted to see the new ship.  We were to board the ship, in Ft Lauderdale on October 27, the day the ship arrived in the US from Europe. This is the ship that was christened by Her Royal Highness The Duchess of Cambridge.
 

We always try to travel to a cruise port a day or two before the ship sails.  Too many things can go wrong when you travel on the same day as you board the ship…  This time, we spent two extra days in Ft Lauderdale at the Embassy Suites on 17th Street.
 

The hotel was under renovation – and we didn’t know it.  I believe the hotel should have advised us of the construction at the hotel.  We may have stayed there anyway, but we would have made an informed decision.  Better the inconvenience happen to us than to one of our customers. On Friday night, the hotel hosted two wedding receptions.   I suspect both wedding parties were disappointed in the renovation.  We couldn’t hear any noise in our room, but many of the public areas were closed.
 

If you stay at this Embassy Suites, you will find shopping and restaurants nearby. In fact, there is a nice book store in the small mall just east of the hotel.  No reason to carry books on the plane that you plan to read on your cruise, the WELL READ Bookstore has new and gently used books for sale.  In the winter, the book store is even open on Sundays. 
 


The Embassy Suites is a healthy walk (about 2 miles) to the Ft Lauderdale beach -- and we wanted the exercise.  We enjoyed the walk and had lunch at an outdoor café across from the beach.  The weather was GREAT -- good time of year to enjoy Ft Lauderdale!  After lunch, we started to take a taxi back, but decided we could use another walk to compensate for the extra calories consumed during lunch.  Still didn’t ride the water taxi in Ft Lauderdale.  Maybe next time…
 




On Sunday afternoon, we boarded the Royal Princess and found our cabin. We were assigned a balcony room on Baja Deck (11th floor), slightly forward of the first elevator bank.  The room was about the same size as most balcony rooms on other Princess ships, it seemed slightly smaller than a similar balcony room on Holland America or Royal Caribbean ships.  The room safe is too small to hold a laptop or a large digital camera. However, the cabin had adequate shelves and storage compartments.  The TV was moved to the wall at the foot of the bed, leaving room on the table for personal items.  The balcony was narrow.  I would want a larger balcony on a longer voyage.  Princess does offer a larger balcony cabin on the Royal Princess that is priced lower than a mini-suite.

 
Princess did a fantastic job with the atrium and other public areas on the ship.  The Piazza on deck 5 can be used for a dance floor.  Many of the public areas on decks 6 & 7overlook the Piazza.
  


For a ship that carries 3500+ passenger, I thought the library and the internet café were too small.  I was told that more passengers are bringing tablets and laptop computers onboard, reducing the need for dedicated space that can be used for other purposes.
 

The Royal Princess has two theaters: the larger Princess Theater and the Vista Lounge.   Most of the Las Vegas style performances take place in the Princess Theater.  Not sure of the capacity, but the Princess Theater appears to be smaller and the theater is not as ornate as similar theaters on other Princess ships.  There are no isles down the sides of the Princess Theater so it is difficult to get to the seats at the end of the row. We didn’t see any tables or table foldouts to hold drinks – not sure if Princess will serve drinks in the Princess Theater.
 

On this ship, Princess has upgraded the Horizon Court and included the Horizon Bistro for lighter fare.  It’s easier to get to and through the buffet lines. The waiters bring tableware and glasses to your table -- less to carry from the buffet!  In addition to the seating in the Horizon Court and Horizon Bistro, Princess has extra seating outside on the rear deck and near the main pool.


The food was excellent! The first night, we ate in the Horizon Court, but the second night, we ate in the main dining room.  I had a hamburger the first night and lobster the second.  Both mornings, we ate in the Horizon Court.  The food and the service was great.
 
 
Over all, the Royal Princess is a beautiful ship and we look forward to a longer voyage on her.  The ship will sail the Caribbean this winter and return to Europe next spring.  Perhaps a repositioning cruise to Europe in the spring?

Sunday, October 20, 2013

One Night Not Enough for World’s Largest Cruise Sale

Not long ago, cruise fans looked forward to the annual “World’s Largest Cruise Night,” when special discounts were available from many cruise lines. In recent years, the Cruise Lines International Association (CLIA) decided that one night is not enough. CLIA has announced plans for National Cruise Vacation Week, a full seven days of great cruise discounts, to be held October 20-27. It’s all part of National Cruise Vacation Month, when cruising takes the spotlight in the travel industry.

 

“There’s no other promotion in the travel industry of the size and scope of National Cruise Vacation Week,” said Christine Duffy, President and Chief Executive Officer of CLIA. Special offers during the week are expected to include two-for-one pricing, free stateroom upgrades, credits that can be used for extra amenities onboard, and more.

 

So, if you’ve been considering a cruise, National Cruise Vacation Week is an ideal time to book it. The special offers may allow you to:

 

·       Select a ship you haven’t experienced before. If you’re interested in cruising on a ship with innovative onboard features – anything from cell phone access to surf simulators – there may be a special offer that will get you on board.

 

·       Cruise somewhere you’ve always wanted to go. A two-for-one cruise fare may mean that you can pad your budget for flying to your port of embarkation – whether it’s in the U.S., Europe, Asia or Australia.

 

·       Select a higher category of stateroom. Stateroom upgrades may put you in a stateroom with a balcony of your own, in a luxurious suite, or even in a multi-room villa that can accommodate the whole family.

 

·       Enjoy special shore excursions. Some luxury lines include shore excursions in their cruise fares, but many treat it as an extra, optional expense. You could apply cruise fare savings to a spectacular shore excursion: say, a private vineyard tour and wine tasting or a parasailing adventure.

 

·       Lengthen your vacation with a pre-or post-cruise tour. Cruise savings may enable you to add a land-based tour around the port, giving you a chance to experience a great city such as New York, New Orleans, Barcelona or Sydney.

 

Anita, your Cruise Holidays personal cruise expert has all the details on special fares and discounts that will be available during National Cruise Vacation Week, and can help you make the best use of your savings!

 

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Monday, October 14, 2013

Surprises Await at Nanaimo, BC


While just a few of the cruise ships bound for Alaska currently call on Nanaimo, British Columbia, this delightful harbor-front town is poised to grow as a port of choice.

 

Nanaimo is centrally located on British Columbia’s Vancouver Island, almost directly across the Strait of Georgia from the city of Vancouver. The cruise terminal is able to accommodate even the largest cruise ships, and passengers step right off the ship into town.

 

Visitors enjoy the water and mountain views while strolling on the Nanaimo seawall, which winds along the waterfront. If you walk far enough, you’ll pass quaint shops, a lighthouse, and the Bastion, the oldest free-standing Hudson's Bay Company fort in North America. The Bastion now houses historical exhibits; and, during the summer, the old fort’s cannon is fired daily at noon. Right next door is the impressive new home of the Nanaimo Museum, where you can learn about the island’s early history from the perspectives of First Nations people, European visitors and Chinese immigrants.

 

The seawall also leads to Swy-a-lana Lagoon Park, where the saltwater lagoon, full of sea life, links to the ocean during high tide. A footbridge across the lagoon leads to Maffeo Sutton Park, which has a great playground, a public fishing pier, and benches where you can relax and soak in the view.

 

For an easy and scenic hike, hop on a ferry to Newcastle Island, a lovely provincial park. While hiking through the forest or along the coast, you may come across an old quarry, or some remnants of the fish packing and coal mining industries that once thrived on the island. Present-day island inhabitants include unusual albino raccoons, deer, bald eagles, mallards, geese and other wildlife.

 

Most surprising to many first-time visitors is Nanaimo’s reputation as a scuba divers’ paradise. British Columbia is generally acknowledged to have North America’s finest diving, and the waters off Nanaimo feature artificial reefs, made by deliberately sunken ships, that have been colonized by sea life. While the cool water isn’t hospitable to tropical fish or coral, divers can meet up with the giant Pacific octopus, six-gill sharks, wolf eels and harbor seals as well as colorful kelp, anemones and sponges.

 

Ask Anita, your Cruise Holidays personal cruise expert how you can visit Nanaimo on a cruise to Alaska or on a ship repositioning cruise.

 
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Monday, October 7, 2013

Love the Diversity of Vancouver, BC

What began as Gastown, a small settlement built around a sawmill and a tavern, is now the vibrant coastal city of Vancouver, British Columbia. Positioned between the water and the North Shore Mountains, Vancouver is a busy port for cruise ships bound for Alaska. Some ships even home port in Vancouver, providing an opportunity to spend a few extra days in the city.
 

Cruise ships dock at one of two terminals: Canada Place, just steps from downtown’s hotels, restaurants, and attractions; or Ballantyne Pier, just a 10-minute taxi ride away.

You can still walk the cobblestoned streets of Gastown, which is now a hip neighborhood of fashion and design boutiques, antique stores and galleries. There are lots of enticing restaurants, as well as clubs that spring to life at night.
 

Vancouver's Chinatown is the second largest in North America (after San Francisco’s). There’s an impressive China Gate on Pender Street; the historic Sam Kee building, the world’s narrowest commercial building; and classic Chinese gardens. Browse the shops and markets for traditional Chinese foods, crafts, and herbal treatments.

 
Vancouver is a diverse city full of interesting neighborhoods. In trendy Yaletown, old industrial buildings have been renovated into loft apartments, with shops, microbreweries and galleries at the street level.  The Kitsilano neighborhood was an enclave of hippie counterculture in the 1960s and still has a bohemian vibe. It’s near to Granville Island, which has a terrific public market.

 
Vancouver’s most popular attraction is the beautiful 1,001-acre Stanley Park, which is almost completely surrounded by water, as well as a 5.5-mile paved seawall. It’s a wonderful place to walk, bike, or just watch the ships go by. The park’s free shuttle service will take you to the Vancouver Aquarium, a water park, and a display of First Nations totem poles as well as beaches, playgrounds and picnic areas.

 
A popular excursion for cruise ship visitors is a visit to Stanley Park combined with a ride up Grouse Mountain, where a tram whisks passengers up to 3,700 feet in just eight minutes. At the top, you can have lunch while enjoying the spectacular view.

 
There’s much more to see and do in and around Vancouver. Talk with Anita, your Cruise Holidays personal expert about cruises that call or depart from there – and about how you can lengthen your stay in this world-class city.

 
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Thursday, October 3, 2013

Beautiful Victoria, BC


Victoria, British Columbia, is a frequent stop for cruises to Alaska that depart from Seattle or farther south. On the southern tip of Vancouver Island, Victoria, the capital of British Columbia, is a lovely city known for parks and green spaces. Victoria is strongly influenced by its past as part of the British Empire, and there’s a European flair to the grand Parliament Buildings that dominate the city’s Inner Harbor.

 

Most cruise ships dock at Ogden Point Cruise Terminal, though small ships sometimes dock right in the ­­Inner Harbor. From Ogden Point, it’s a quick shuttle or taxi ride to the Inner Harbor and downtown. But, if the weather is fine (and it almost always is), you may enjoy the 20-minute walk along the shore of the Juan de Fuca Strait, then up Government Street. Be sure to pause now and then to look in the shops that offer treasures like English china, Irish lace and the work of First Nations artisans.

 

At the Inner Harbor, you’ll see the beautiful Parliament Buildings and the historic Empress Hotel. There’s also a variety of non-stop entertainment by street performers. Just beyond the Inner Harbor, you can visit Victoria’s Chinatown neighborhood – don’t miss the artist studios along Fan Tan Alley. If you love antiques, stroll along Fort Street, also known as Antique Row. On the north end of Fort Street, things turn modern with a collection of fun, trendy boutiques.

 

To learn more about British Columbia, visit the Royal British Columbia Museum, full of amazing exhibits about First Nations people, European settlers, and the natural history of the land and ocean. For another look at the area’s history, visit Craigdarroch Castle Historical Museum, housed in the Victorian castle of a wealthy family that once owned a large part of Vancouver Island.

 

To find out why Victoria is called the Garden City, take an excursion to nearby Butchart Gardens, a beautiful formal garden planted in an old quarry. Or, stretch your legs by riding a bike along the Galloping Goose Trail; strolling through a vineyard on the Saanich Peninsula; or taking a whale watching trip.

 

To find a cruise that will take you to beautiful Victoria and beyond, talk with Anita, your Cruise Holidays personal cruise expert.

 
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