Cruise Holidays - Attheta Travel

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

Monday, July 29, 2013

The Delights of Small Ship Cruising

When you choose a cruise, remember to include the size of the ship in your decision. Ship size determines not only the number of fellow passengers, but the amount and style of dining spots, entertainment choices, and even the cost of your vacation. Cruise ships of all sizes offer the same wonderful ease of planning, budgeting and sailing between ports: but, small ships deliver a unique kind of cruise experience.

While big ships provide an amazing, resort-style vacation that’s memorable even if you never step off the ship, small ships tend to focus on the destination as the main vacation experience. The per-passenger cost for a small ship cruise is usually higher than on a big ship: however, extras such as alcoholic beverages, gratuities, shore excursions and even airfare may be included.

While some small ships welcome families, there is often limited or no special programming for children, and some ships are unapologetically “adults only.”

Most small ships offer luxurious comfort, with high-end furnishings and finishes everywhere (small specialty ships, like those made to cut through Antarctic ice, are less elegant but still very comfortable). Small ships also tend to have more crew members per passenger, delivering a higher and more personalized level of service.

 With a smaller number of guests to serve, the galleys produce high-quality cuisine and accommodate a multitude of special requests. It’s rare to see a line of people waiting for seating.

As for dress codes, most small ships don’t go formal every night – in fact, there may just be one or two “black tie” evenings. However, the level of casual dress is likely to be “resort” or “country club” casual: no shorts, jeans, midriff-baring tops or stretched-out t-shirts. Small ship casual means slacks and collared shirts for men, casual dresses or slacks and blouses for women.

One of the best things about small ships is that they can go where larger ships cannot. Small ships have access to smaller islands, ports that require a bit of river travel, and exotic places that can’t accommodate big ships, such as Pisco, Peru; Katakolon, Greece; or Langkawi, Malaysia.

There are some wonderful small-ship cruise lines, but some lines known for massive ships have smaller, cozier ships, too. Ask Anita, your Cruise Holidays personal cruise expert about your options for a small-ship cruise.

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Monday, July 22, 2013

Celebrate Independence at Sea

A cruise vacation is all about independence from the daily routine and the freedom to do what you like: sail to new places, stay up late, nap in the afternoon, and enjoy everything your ship and ports of call have to offer.

Cruises that sail during the United States’ Independence Day holiday often place extra emphasis on independence and appreciation of the freedom. Fourth of July observances vary by cruise line and ship, but you’re likely to find public spaces festooned with American flags and other decorations of red, white and blue.

There may be organized games on the sports deck, with classic contests like tug-of-war, sack races and water balloon tosses. You’re likely to be invited to a patriotic deck party, too, so be sure to bring some red, white and blue to wear.

Some ships celebrate through the day’s menus, offering all-American favorites – think grilled hot dogs and burgers with all the fixings, potato salad and coleslaw, watermelon and brownies. The elegant dining spots on board may offer gourmet versions of fried chicken, barbecued pork and grilled steak, with strawberry-blueberry whipped cream parfaits for dessert – or perhaps a spectacular baked Alaska. Look for special red, white and blue drinks, too, such as lemonade with red berries and a rim of blue sugar.

Traditional Fourth of July fireworks are a rarity on cruise ships, as the rockets can be a fire hazard. Of course, if you happen to be sailing in sight of the U.S. coastline, you may see multiple fireworks displays lighting up the skies.

For a cruise that’s truly focused on the Fourth, take a look at Cunard Line’s annual Fourth of July Getaway cruise. Even though it may be too late to plan for this year, you may have options in 2014 and beyond. This year’s five-night cruise departs July 1 from New York City on the Queen Mary 2. The ship arrives in Boston the morning of July 4 and stays overnight, giving guests plenty of time to discover historic sites like the Freedom Trail, the Old State House and Faneuil Hall before taking in the Boston Pops Fireworks Spectacular along the Charles River near the Boston Common.

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Monday, July 15, 2013

Cruise the Diversity of South America

The long Atlantic and Pacific coastlines of South America stretch from equatorial rainforests to the sub-Antarctic: frankly, they are simply too long to take in on a single cruise, so you’ll have a choice of itineraries. It’s possible to embark from the U.S.: some ships sail from Florida across the Caribbean to Manaus, Brazil, a gateway to the Amazon region. But, if you have two weeks or less, look at itineraries that include flying to and from South America.
One popular itinerary sails the Atlantic Coast between Manaus and Buenos Aires, Argentina. Ports may include:
  • Rio de Janeiro, Brazil, has a spectacular setting of beaches, forests and mountains. Take a cable car to the top of Sugarloaf Mountain or a funicular railway up Corcovado Mountain to the feet of the statue of Christ the Redeemer.

  •   Montevideo, Uruguay, has a relaxed urban atmosphere, with lovely public squares, an 18th-century old town, and gorgeous leather goods and artisan crafts.

  • Buenos Aires blends Argentinean culture with Spanish, French and Italian influences. Tour the colorful neighborhoods, enjoy the gardens and parks, learn the tango, and sample the country’s famous beef.
Another choice is to sail “around the Horn:” Cape Horn, the southern tip of South America. Cruises often sail between Buenos Aires and Santiago, Chile, with port calls such as:
  • Ushuaia, at the southern end of Argentina, just about 1,000 miles from Antarctica. See Tierra del Fuego National Park, or take an excursion boat into the Beagle Channel.
  • Puerto Montt, Chile, settled by German immigrants and set among mountains, lakes and fjords. You can hike or fish, go ziplining or canoeing, or enjoy a picnic on the beach.
  • Santiago, Chile, is ringed by the majestic Andes. You’ll dock in the coastal city of Valparaiso, where colorful houses cling to the steep hills around the harbor. In Santiago, visit the artistic neighborhood of Bellas Artes or enjoy the view from San Cristobal Hill.
For yet another South American cruise option, fly to Quito, Ecuador, to cruise to the fascinating Galapagos Islands.
If you have trouble choosing an itinerary, remember that you can see another part of this wonderful continent on a future cruise. And, check out cruisetours that will take you to some of the wonders of South America’s interior, too. For more information, talk with Anita, your Cruise Holidays personal cruise expert.
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Monday, July 8, 2013

Cruising Africa

Surrounded by the Mediterranean and Red Seas and the Indian and Atlantic Oceans, Africa is a natural cruise destination. The coastlines are dotted with ports that are ready to welcome cruisers who want a destination that’s out of the ordinary. Here’s a quick look at some of the places where cruise ships call.

On Africa’s Mediterranean coast, Tunis, Tunisia’s capital, lies just beyond the port of La Goulette. The souk (market) is the city’s cultural and social center: sip mint tea while bargaining for antiques, rugs and silver jewelry. Just outside Tunis are the remnants of the ancient city of Carthage, center of the Carthaginian Empire.

Cairo, Egypt, is served by the ports of Alexandria and Port Said. This is the gateway to the Pyramids of Giza and the Sphinx, but Cairo itself offers the Egyptian Museum of Antiquities, overflowing with artifacts such as treasures from King Tut’s tomb; and the Citadel fortress, which offers more museums and magnificent views.

Located on the Egyptian side of the Red Sea, the port of Safaga is the gateway to some of Egypt's most memorable destinations: Luxor, Karnak and Thebes.

The island of Madagascar sits in the Indian Ocean opposite Mozambique, and the port of Anakao has a laid-back atmosphere with a beach, swimming, diving and surfing. Just to the south, Tsimanampetsotsa National Park’s picturesque flora and fauna include pachypodium trees and lemurs.

The most iconic symbol of South Africa’s Cape Town, Table Mountain can be covered by a “tablecloth” of clouds – if the sky is clear, take the cable car to the top and enjoy the views. Take an excursion to see Cape of Good Hope, where the Indian and Atlantic Oceans meet; or, explore the city’s Victoria & Alfred Waterfront.

There are a number of other South African ports also included in some cruise itineraries, including Port Elizabeth, Durban, Richards Bay and Mossel Bay.

On Namibia’s Atlantic Coast, Walvis Bay is a popular vacation spot. The natural lagoon is beloved by seabirds, including rare flamingos and pelicans. Try sandboarding, the sandy equivalent of snowboarding, down the sand dunes.

For information on specific African cruise itineraries, talk with Anita, your Cruise Holidays personal cruise expert.

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Monday, July 1, 2013

Cruise on a Europe-Based Cruise Line

If you would love to see Europe via cruise, consider enhancing the experience by choosing a cruise line based in Europe, such as MSC Cruises or Silversea. In fact, the latest industry report from Cruise Industry News says that Europe-based lines are set to add passenger capacity during the next few years: by 2020, Europe-based cruise lines are expected to increase passenger capacity 23 percent. This will provide more opportunity for North Americans to enjoy European flair on board and centuries of European history and tradition on shore.

MSC Cruises is part of Mediterranean Shipping Company, an Italian company based in Geneva, Switzerland, that operates cruise ships built in the shipyards of St. Nazaire, France.  MSC’s focus is affordable cruises on ships that carry about 1,500 to 3,300 passengers. MSC attracts passengers from across Europe as well as North America, so expect the daily announcements to be read in Italian, French, Spanish, German and English. The line’s main destination is the Mediterranean, and itineraries may include stops in Italy, Greece, Malta, Croatia, Portugal, Morocco, Spain, Turkey and the Ukraine. MSC also offers increasingly popular cruises of Northern Europe, including round-trip Scandinavian itineraries from Hamburg or Amsterdam.

Silversea Cruises is a luxury line based in Monaco and owned by an Italian family, with Italian-built ships that carry about 100 to 540 passengers. Silversea ships are commanded by Italian officers and have international crews. Most passengers are affluent professionals – these elegant, all-suite ships are not well suited for families with children. After debuting with a single ship in 1994, Silversea now has six beautiful vessels that sail all over the world, including the Mediterranean and Northern Europe. Silversea ships can take you from Barcelona to Lisbon, Athens to Istanbul, Copenhagen to Stockholm and more.

If you aren’t sailing on a Europe-based cruise line, there are other ways to add an international flair to your cruise. Consider a shore excursion that opens your eyes to a new culture, or take a little extra time in port to visit with a local shopkeeper. Sometimes these are the most enriching experiences of a trip. You can also rest easy knowing your English-speaking crew is waiting for you aboard the ship to transport you away to your next dream destination.

For more ideas about experiencing Europe to the fullest, talk with Anita, your Cruise Holidays personal cruise expert.

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