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.

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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