Cruise Holidays - Attheta Travel

I am proud to be certified by CLIA (Cruise Lines International Association) as an Elite Cruise Counselor. The Cruise Counselor Certification Program is CLIA's most comprehensive training which requires agents to successfully complete a number of compulsory training courses and exams, attend cruise conferences, and conduct ship inspections. Anita Thompson, Attheta Travel, dba Cruise Holidays.

Wednesday, May 29, 2013

Customer feedback - MS Amsterdam, 3 Day Pacific Northwest Cruise on 21 May

Note: this client returned to Seattle from Vancouver the day AFTER the bridge collapsed on I-5.

We left Vancouver at 11:30 am and finally arrived in Seattle at 6:00 pm!  It was a long bus ride, but we saw some very nice scenery!  If you have any clients that are going on a cruise leaving out of Vancouver, you might want to advise them of this bridge problem.  People might want to take the train or if they drive or take a bus, might want to get up to Vancouver a day ahead of schedule.  Also, upon returning to Seattle, people might want to take the train back (although you get into Seattle late - about 9 pm) and if they're flying out, spend the night in Seattle.

We had a really great cruise -  the suite was perfect for 4 people!  Room service was super fast!  Of course, I called them about 5 am for coffee and not many people are up that early!  We really enjoyed the Neptune Lounge!  Our cabin steward was great!  A wheelchair was waiting for Tammie and it worked out great and she was glad to have it to board the ship.  The weather was really nice and a good time was had by all of us.  One little "oops" was during our stop in Seattle.  Apparently when the ship was shifting from port energy to it's own energy, something happened and we lost power!  Thankfully they had back-up generators!  They fixed the problem within a few hours (dinner was only delayed 45 minutes), but for some reason we didn't leave Seattle until after 9 pm!  That was okay because we got to see the lights come on in the city and sail away in the dark - it was beautiful!

 Just a couple of comments, not complaints, but as an agent I thought you'd want to know:

1.  We were invited to the Mariner's lunch and because Tammie and Versal were staying in the same cabin with us, they were also invited.  Unfortunately, we arrived at the dining room at 1:15 pm and were told that there was no room for us.  I thought this was strange as we were told it was served until 2 pm and you would think they would know how many Mariners were on the ship.  Oh well, we went to the Lido Deck.  Food was very good - I had the best curry pumpkin soup, but they no longer provide trays which was difficult for Tammie as she was using her cane.  She had soup and a sandwich, so I took her soup and beverage and found a table for us.  It was very obvious that HAL has cut back on staff as the Lido Deck ran out of silverware and glasses; not just once but twice during the 4 days, and we also had to bus our own tables because there just weren't enough people working and they couldn't keep up. 

 2.  The food in the dining room was also very good, however, the service was very slow.  We would just be finishing our desert or coffee when they would walk through the dining room ringing a bell indicating that we needed to get out so that the next seating could move in.  Once again it appeard that HAL was cutting back on the staff in the dining room also.  Our waiter took our order, brought our food, cleared our plates - did everything!  Usually there's a person to take our drink orders and another one to help serve and clear the tables, but not on this cruise.  We talked to several people and they noticed it also.  We heard from one very seasoned cruise couple that they were told that HAL was trying to save money and maybe the cut-back in staff was due to this.  One thing really nice is that the portions are smaller - which is great because I was able to have an appetizer and salad with my entrĂ©e and not get overstuffed.  They had cold soup every evening which my Mom was thrilled about.

3.  Bar service was also slow because of the lack of employees.  The bartender took our order, made the drinks and then brought them to us.  He was so busy, I felt bad for him - but as usual, they always had a smile of their face!

4.  Finally, other then the magician one night, the entertainment was horrible - and we weren't alone in this feeling.  First night the Amsterdam singers/dancers performed a tribute to the British invasion.  I think there were 5 singers and 2 dancers.  No colorful or fancy costumes, just jeans and t-shirts that I think looked like the British flag.  The only prop was black steps like we had in high school choir.  The second performance was some type of tribute to songs for movies - it was heard to tell.  Once again the only prop were those stupid black steps, however, they did change their costumes - this time they were black pants with black jackets.  I think the dancers changed once into some type of white outfit.  We were so disappointed - it certainly wasn't at all up to HAL standards.

We did have a really great time - the weather was perfect!  Thanks again for all your work - I'm looking forward to our November cruise!

Monday, May 20, 2013

Where the New Ships are Sailing

So far, 2013 has been an incredible year for new ship launches, especially for river cruise lines. No launch has been more attention-getting than one held March 20 in The Netherlands, where Viking River Cruises christened 10 new ships in a single day. In fact, the event received recognition from the Guinness Book of World Records: Viking is now entered as having “the most ships inaugurated in one day by one company.”

All 10 ships are identical Viking Longships, a series first introduced in 2012. These long and low ships (made to glide under low bridges and into narrow docks) include river cruise ship innovations such as indoor-outdoor viewing areas and two-room suites; they are also equipped with herb gardens, solar panels and energy-efficient hybrid engines. The ships are now sailing major rivers in France, Germany and Austria; in the Eastern European countries of Hungary, Serbia, Romania, Croatia and Bulgaria; and through the springtime tulip fields of The Netherlands.

River cruise line AmaWaterways just launched the AmaPrima and the AmaVida, which offer sun decks, pools (still unusual on river ships), and a choice of dining venues. The AmaPrima is sailing the Danube and other great rivers of Europe; the AmaVida is sailing Portugal’s Douro River.

Avalon Waterways is expanding its fleet of river-going “suite ships” in 2013 with the Avalon Artistry II and the Avalon Expression. Avalon’s suite ships have two full decks of 200-square-foot Panorama Suites and 300-square foot Royal Suites, designed to provide ample storage, comfort and great views through a wall of windows. Board the Artistry II to sail between Amsterdam and Zurich or Basel, Switzerland, while the Expression will take you between Amsterdam and Budapest.

As for ocean cruise ship launches, some of the most highly anticipated new ships are Norwegian Cruise Line’s Breakaway, set to debut in early May; and Princess Cruises’ Royal Princess, scheduled to be christened by Catherine, Duchess of Cambridge, on June 13.

For more information on new ships and their itineraries, talk with Anita, your Cruise Holidays personal cruise expert.

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Monday, May 13, 2013

Cruise Ship Godmothers Bring on the Glamour

Since ancient times, ships have been ceremoniously blessed before their first voyages in the hopes that the gods, and the seas, would treat them kindly. Long ago, ships were blessed with a splash of water, wine – or human blood. As time went on, the ship-christening liquid of choice became champagne, and the honor of breaking a bottle over the ship’s hull was given to female members of royal families.

More recently, ship christenings have become major red-carpet events, and the bottle-breaking honors belong to “godmothers” who lend their star status, prestige and glamour to the launch of a new ship.

 Female royalty still rank among the most elegant godmothers. Queen Elizabeth has christened two ships for Cunard Line; Catherine, Duchess of Cambridge, will be the godmother of Princess Cruises’ new Royal Princess when it launches on June 13.

 Some godmothers bring Hollywood style to cruising, including actresses Julie Andrews (Crystal Cruises’ Crystal Serenity); Sophia Loren (a total of nine MSC Cruises ships); Sharon Stone (AmaWaterways’ new AmaVida); and Jennifer Hudson (Disney Cruise Line’s Dream). Hudson was actually a musical performer on the Disney Wonder for six months, just before her breakthrough on the television show “American Idol.” Another popular singer, Mariah Carey, is a Disney godmother (Fantasy).

Country music star Reba McEntire is godmother, too (Norwegian Cruise Line’s Epic), and a long-time cruise fan. For its next ship, the Breakaway – set to sail from its home port of New York City this summer – NCL named a whole line-up of godmothers: the world-famous Radio City Music Hall Rockettes.

 Some godmothers are selected for the inspirational quality of their lives and work. For example, Royal Caribbean’s Freedom of the Seas is godmothered by Katherine Louise Calder, who has fostered more than 400 children with special needs.

After the christening of a ship, godmothers usually don’t have many official duties – still, you never know when you might see one of these glamorous and accomplished ladies checking up on her “godchild.” For more information about upcoming ships and their godmothers, talk with Anita, your Cruise Holidays personal cruise expert.

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Monday, May 6, 2013

Shore Excursion Survival Tips

One of the best parts of a cruise is the opportunity to get off the ship for a shore excursion! These excursions can enhance your cruise by giving you great experiences on shore: think wine-tasting in France, glacier hiking in Alaska, or swimming with dolphins in Mexico.

So, when it’s time to leave the ship to enjoy some time on land, what should you take with you? You’ll want to pack your bag as lightly as possible, but there are some essentials you should bring along.

It’s always a good idea to take a bottle of water with you, especially in warmer weather or a low-humidity location. Even when the weather is cool, it may be difficult to find a readily available source of drinking water on shore.

In a sunny location, bring some sunscreen and a hat with a brim, especially in locations – such as the Greek Isles – that have little shade.

If you’ll be near water – say, taking a hike up to a waterfall – bring a small towel to wipe away water spray or sweat. If temperatures will vary as you climb, bring a long-sleeved shirt or light jacket you can pop on and off.

If you’re not already wearing them, bring proper shoes for your activity on shore. You may need sturdier shoes for rough ground or cobblestoned streets, or water shoes for splashing through a creek.

Be sure to bring your camera to capture the images of the day (remember to charge the battery the night before).

In general, there’s no need to take your passport on a shore excursion. First, it’s probably more secure in the safe in your stateroom (along with other valuables, like jewelry and watches).  Second, you should only need a photo ID and your keycard when it’s time to re-enter the dock area. Watch your ship’s daily bulletin for any special information on documents that you may need on shore, or ask at the ship’s shore excursion or customer service desk.

Finally, however sad you’ll be to leave the wonderful places you discover on shore, be back on the ship before sailing time. That’s your responsibility, and ships usually will not wait for stragglers.

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Wednesday, May 1, 2013

Summer Travel Tips

Summer is coming, which means your summer vacation is fast approaching, too. Summer is the busiest travel time of the year, but a little advance thought and planning can help ensure that your vacation travel will be lovely and relaxing.

Whether you are heading off on a cruise or a different type of vacation, you’ll probably be spending some time in a car, bus, train or plane. If you’re traveling with kids, think about what you’ll need to keep them occupied and happy. Pack some small toys and games, as well as some healthy snacks. Remind tweens and teens to bring along the chargers for their mobile phones and music players and to charge the devices up before setting off. Be sure to keep close tabs on all electronic devices so they aren’t lost or stolen.

If you haven’t flown for a while, remember the Transportation Safety Administration’s 3-1-1 rule for carry-on bags. Any liquids, aerosols or gels must be in individual containers of 3.4 ounces or less; they must all fit in one quart-size, clear plastic, zip-top bag; and just one bag is allowed per passenger.

If you’re traveling internationally, check your passport expiration date. Many countries require your passport to be valid for at least six months beyond your date of entry.  If it’s less than 12 months until your passport expires, take steps to have it renewed.

The current government sequester that is causing reductions in federal budgets – including that of the Federal Aviation Administration – has certainly been in the news. As of this writing, the cuts are no longer expected to impact air travel, but could still impact border control operations at airports and cruise ports with delays and longer wait times.

With or without sequestration, here are some tips as you make summer air travel plans. Flying at non-peak times (early in the morning, later at night) may help, as will being prepared to move efficiently through airport security screening. You can also work with your travel professional to find out if you can reach your destination through airports other than the often-congested major hubs, which could also save you some travel time and money.

For more tips and assistance planning your summer vacation, talk with Anita, your Cruise Holidays personal travel expert.

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