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 28, 2015

Cruise Ships are Making Better Connections


Until now, equipping ships with high-speed wireless Internet access hasn’t been a top priority for most cruise lines: after all, a cruise is an opportunity to unplug from daily life and put away your laptops, smart phones and other devices, right?

Actually, it’s not surprising that cruise travelers are demanding better Wi-Fi: some really can’t get away for a cruise without the ability to check in with work (hopefully, not too often) or with loved ones at home.

Many ships already offer some wireless Internet access, but the connections are often much slower than what you’re used to. But, some cruise lines have announced plans to meet the demand for fast, stronger Wi-Fi.

For example, Royal Caribbean has equipped its Oasis and Quantum Class ships with a high-speed Internet service that it calls Voom. The service uses satellite internet technology that provides high-speed connections, even in the middle of the ocean. Royal Caribbean doesn’t sayexactly how fast Voom is, but promises that, in addition to checking email and using the Web, guests can connect with their offices via VPN, stream music and movies, upload photos, and video chat with people back home. Voom will expand to more Royal Caribbean ships in 2016.

Be aware that, at least for now, there is often an extra fee for high-speed internet connections (satellite Internet technology is expensive). Royal Caribbean’s Voom costs $15 per day for a multi-day package; that gives you unlimited Internet access on one device, with a discount available for a second device.

Beginning in October 2016, luxury line Regent Seven Seas Cruises will offer free, unlimited, high-speed Wi-Fi access to all passengers on all of its ships. Regent Seven Seas already offers Wi-Fi throughout its ships, but it’s currently free and unlimited only for occupants of top-of-the-line suites; other passengers have a limited access and need to pay for upgrades.

Upscale cruise lines Silversea Cruises, Oceania Cruises and Crystal Cruises have also announced plans to expand the availability of free, unlimited Wi-Fi. And, Viking Ocean Cruises’ new Viking Star already offers complimentary and continuous Internet access on board.

If you can’t do without high-speed Internet access on your next cruise, talk with Anita, your Cruise Holidays personal cruise expert, about which ships can provide you with the access you need.

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Monday, December 21, 2015

Explore the Beautiful Rhine River


The Rhine is a storied river that begins high in the Swiss Alps and travels more than 750 miles to the Netherlands and the North Sea. As one of Europe’s main waterways, it’s a hardworking river that serves historic port cities like Basel, Strasbourg, Rudesheim and Cologne; but, it’s also a fairytale river that flows below majestic castles, past charming villages, and through forests and vineyards.

Here are some highlights of the ports you can visit on a cruise of the Rhine:

Basel, Switzerland, is located on the border with France and Germany; a literal crossroads of Europe. The cathedral is beautiful, and the alleyways of the MarketPlatz are lined with quirky craft shops.

Strasbourg, France, has picture-perfect cobbled streets and timbered houses. Top sights include the cathedral, one of the tallest medieval buildings in Europe, and the Rohan Palace, which hosted Marie Antoinette and now houses multiple museums.

Rudesheim, Germany, is at the southern end of the Rhine Gorge, the part of the river with the steepest cliffs and the most castles. Stroll the Drosselgasse, Rudesheim’s most famous street, and sample some local wine and brandy.

Cologne, Germany, has a beautiful Old Town, Medieval city gates, stunning churches, and a museum of chocolate. It’s also famous for the Cologne Carnival, one of Europe’s largest street festivals, which begins November 11 lasts until Ash Wednesday.

Rhine River cruises range in length from three or four nights (not nearly long enough, in our opinion) to 21 nights or even a few more. Longer cruises will combine your sail of the Rhine with other rivers, such as the Main and Danube or the Moselle.

Summer is peak season on the Rhine, but the weather can be quite warm, so some cruise passengers prefer the cooler spring or fall. In the late summer or fall, you might be lucky enough to catch one of the “Rhine in Flames” fireworks displays, which take place during regional wine festivals. If a chill in the air doesn’t bother you, November and December cruises of the Rhine are special because they call on the region’s wonderful Christmas Markets. Cologne is especially beautiful in the Christmas season; be sure to take the 10-minute walk from the river to the Christmas Market at the Cologne Cathedral.

There’s much more to know about cruising the Rhine, so talk with Anita, your Cruise Holidays personal cruise expert.


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Monday, December 14, 2015

Cruise to Holistic Wellness


A cruise can be a time to indulge in the luxury of delicious food available 24 hours a day, sleeping in comfortable lounge chairs on deck, and tasting new wines and cocktails without a thought to your usual workout routine.

But, it’s possible to come home from a cruise feeling better and fitter than when you left. Most cruise ships have fitness facilities, and many are comparable to the finest facilities on land; so, you can indulge, but also keep up your fitness routine.

Some cruises take it a step further and make the entire experience about health and wellness, offering lectures, classes, workshops, activities and dining choices that improve your wellness as you sail. Here are just a couple of the many options available:

Vegans and others interested in the vegan lifestyle will love the seven-night “Holistic Holiday at Sea” cruise, which will depart from Miami on the MSC Divina February 27, 2016, bound for the Eastern Caribbean and wellness in body, mind and spirit. There will be classes in vegan cooking and nutrition, vegan beauty products and routines, yoga and Pilates, Zumba, Qu Gong, managing chronic disease through plant-based diets, and much more. Dining will focus on delicious vegan cuisine.

Another cruise focused on mind-body-spirit health will depart from Fort Lauderdale October 16, 2016, on Royal Caribbean’s Oasis of the Seas. The seven-day “Cruise Into Spirit” will offer an onboard seminar at sea featuring guest speakers, readers and healers that will you help develop your spirituality. The seminar includes yoga practice and various workshops, plus vegetarian and raw food dining options. There will also be special “Cruise Into Spirit” excursions in each port of call, including Nassau, Bahamas; Charlotte Amalie, St. Thomas; and Phillipsburg, St. Maarten.
To explore more opportunities for cruising into improved wellness, talk with Anita, your Cruise Holidays personal cruise expert.

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Monday, December 7, 2015

Visiting the Port of Phuket, Thailand

Phuket, Thailand’s largest island, has a long and colorful history as well as amazing natural beauty. Once an important source of tin and rubber, Phuket Island was a frequent stop for Portuguese, French, Dutch and British traders. Today, people from around the world visit the island via cruise ship.

Most of the island is covered by mountains and forest, which still produce rubber and palm oil. For a rare experience, visit Khao Phra Taew National Park, the last virgin rainforest in Thailand. You can take a guided hike through the lush jungle, watching for wildlife and stopping for photos at crystal-clear waterfalls.

The island has lovely beaches, too, especially the sandy beaches along the western coast. Some of the most popular are Patong Beach, which offers watersport rentals and seasonal surfing; Karon Beach, a wide beach with a coral reef to explore; and Kamala Beach, where you can swim, sun and shop at a local market if you are there on a Saturday.

If you’re interested in Buddhist traditions, Phuket has 29 Buddhist temples and monasteries. The largest and most ornate is Wat Chalong, where many Thais come to be blessed and receive a good luck charm.

There’s a shrine to the Hindu deity Brahma at Promthep Cape, the southernmost point of Phuket Island. Take an excursion there to see the shrine, visit a lighthouse and take in the breathtaking views.
James Bond fans will want to visit Phang Nga Bay National Park, where hundreds of stunning limestone cliffs rise over the sea. The famous final scene of the Bond movie “The Man with the Golden Gun” was filmed here. For some adventure, you can paddle a canoe through the bay’s dramatic limestone sea caves.

Another popular excursion, especially for families, is to visit a herd of gentle elephants and ride them on a guided tour through a tropical forest. Children especially love meeting the adorable baby elephants!

Cruise itineraries that include Phuket often call on other ports in Southeast Asia, and possibly Australia, India and the Middle East, too. Phuket’s tropical climate means it’s warm and humid all year long: the driest season is December through March, although it can rain even then, so bring along a lightweight rain jacket.

To find cruise itineraries that include a call on beautiful Phuket Island, talk with Anita, your Cruise Holidays personal cruise expert.


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Monday, November 23, 2015

Cruise Where the Giant Tortoises Roam

The Galapagos Islands are like no place else on earth. This archipelago of small, volcanic islands are a World Heritage Site, a biological marine reserve, a national park and a province of Ecuador, which lies about 550 miles to the east.

A cruise is an ideal way to visit these special islands. The islands have two small airports, some small hotels, and a few opportunities for camping; but, a luxurious cruise ship provides easy movement between islands, along with comfortable accommodations and exceptional dining.

The cruise lines that can take you to the Galapagos Islands include Celebrity Cruises and Silversea Cruises. The Celebrity Xpedition carries 98 passengers at a time, while the Silver Galapagos accommodates 100 passengers. While both ships are great, the focus of a Galapagos cruise is always on the islands and their incredible flora and fauna, some of which are found nowhere else on earth. The noteworthy island residents include:

·       Marine iguanas, the only type of iguana to forage for food in the sea.
·       Blue-footed boobies, which have bright-blue feet that they show off when courting.
·       Giant tortoises, versions of which used to roam most of the earth; now, you’ll find them only in the Galapagos or the Aldabra Islands in the Indian Ocean.
·       Flightless cormorants, the only type of cormorant that has lost the ability to fly.
·       Galapagos penguins, the world’s only tropical penguin
·       The waved albatross, the world’s only tropical albatross.

Cruise ship routes in the Galapagos are carefully controlled for the protection of the islands’ unique ecology, but there is some variation in itineraries – be sure to compare before you choose.

You can sail to the islands at any time of year, but you may prefer one of the two main seasons. From December through May, the weather is warm (high 80s during the day) and the water is calm. From June through November, a change in ocean currents makes the water and the weather a bit cooler (high 70s during the day). In either season, you can expect a bit of light rain at any time with occasional heavier showers, so pack some lightweight rain gear.

A cruise to the Galapagos, one of the world’s truly distinctive places, is sure to be memorable (and the topic of dinner conversations for many years to come). To find out more about cruising the Galapagos, talk with Anita, your Cruise Holidays personal cruise expert.

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Monday, November 16, 2015

Cruising is a Great Way to See the World

For those of us who live in North America, cruises of the Caribbean are fantastic vacations. The water, islands and beaches are beautiful; and the weather is almost always welcoming. But as much as people love the Caribbean, remember that there’s a whole world waiting out there; and, you can see a lot of it via the cruise ship.

In recent years, cruise lines have vastly expanded their itineraries to include amazing destinations in Europe, Asia, the Middle East, the South Pacific and beyond. You can visit truly exotic destinations like the Amazon, India, Africa, Greenland and Antarctica via cruise ship, too.

Given the opportunity to sail to so many destinations, cruising is the very best way that you can see the world. Why?

First, cruising is about as worry-free as a vacation can be. Just pick an itinerary that visits a series of ports that interest you, and you’re set. The cruise fare includes your onboard accommodations, dining, entertainment, and sometimes even your airfare.

Second, you’ll visit multiple destinations, effortlessly. When you walk into your stateroom, just unpack, relax and enjoy! There’s no need to plan how to get from one city to another, negotiate border crossings, or deal with language barriers. The captain will move the ship from one fascinating port to another, mostly while you sleep.

Third, you can spend your days exploring on shore while the crew takes care of the housekeeping. After a day of adventure, you’ll return to a clean and refreshed stateroom, with delicious food and an evening of live theater, comedy, or music and dancing waiting for you.

Finally, there are a variety of ways that you can explore on shore. While cruise lines offer a variety of excursions in most of the ports they visit, your Cruise Holidays travel agent can definitely help craft onshore experience to help you learn about and enjoy the destination you are visiting.  You can choose from cultural tours to outdoor adventures to a private guided option.

If you’re ready to cruise beyond the Caribbean, let Anita, your Cruise Holidays personal cruise expert, introduce you to a whole world of cruise opportunities, including spectacular “world cruises” that visit multiple continents – some even circumnavigate the globe.


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Monday, November 9, 2015

Look Like a Pro on Your First Cruise

Statistics show that a significant number of first-time cruisers become repeat cruisers, because of the overall satisfaction with their vacation experience.

If you are thinking of taking your first cruise, what if you could get onboard knowing the things that veteran cruisers already know? We can help with that! Here are some tips that should help you feel less like a cruise newbie:
·       Study the ship’s deck plans, which most cruise lines publish on their websites. See where the pools, spa, fitness center, dining rooms and restaurants, lounges and shops are located in relation to your stateroom. When you get onboard, you’ll be better able to orient yourself.
·       Read up on the ports you’ll visit. The cruise line will offer pre-arranged shore excursions. However, those excursions don’t always cover the entire time in port or allow for the experience you might like.  Do a little research, but also enlist the expertise of your travel agent to help craft the shore excursions that will delight you.
·       Don’t bring too much cash. You can charge any onboard purchases to your account, which you can settle with a credit card at the end of the cruise. If you want to take some cash when you go on shore, withdraw a small amount from the onboard ATM.
·       Make the most of embarkation day. Some ships offer “embarkation day specials” in their spas and specialty restaurants; take advantage of the opportunity for discounted spa treatments and gourmet dining.
·       Don’t try to skip the required muster drill, a time for you to practice what to do in an emergency. When the alarm sounds, put on the lifejacket you’ll find in your stateroom and report to your muster station. Don’t try to hide in your stateroom – the crew will check to make sure it’s empty.
·       Don’t tip at the bar, because most cruise lines automatically add service charges of 15 percent or more to bar bills (and specialty restaurant bills, too).
Here are a few quick packing tips that will help you look and feel like a cruise veteran. Be sure to bring along:
·       Some clothespins to keep the bright morning sun from coming through where your curtains meet.
·       A nightlight to help you navigate the unfamiliar stateroom in the dark.
·       A highlighter to mark things you want to do in the ship’s daily bulletin.
For even more tips, ask Anita, your Cruise Holidays personal cruise expert.
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Monday, November 2, 2015

The Best Gift of All: A Holiday Cruise

Cruising during the holidays is absolutely delightful. Onboard, you won’t miss out on any of the festivities, music, food or fellowship that you look forward to at the holidays. In fact, you can expect to enjoy all the fun of a Christmas at home, and then some.

Throughout the holiday season, ships are decorated from bow to stern with glittering ornaments, twinkling lights, Santa, snowmen and more. Photo opportunities abound! The sounds of the season will be heard around the ship: some even invite passengers to form choirs and go caroling.

Most ships offer special holiday dinners on Thanksgiving, Christmas Eve and Christmas Day, featuring roast turkey with savory stuffing and all of the traditional holiday favorites. It will be all the more delicious because you don’t have to shop for it, cook it or clean it up.

On a holiday season cruise, Santa is likely to make an appearance or two. Many cruise lines equip him with special gifts for each of the children onboard, one reason why holiday cruises are so popular with families. If you sail a mainstream line, expect to have lots of happy children onboard; even luxury cruises may have more children and family groups than usual.

Here are a few tips for adding to the merriment of your holiday cruise:

Choose your itinerary carefully. If you want to attend church on shore on Christmas Eve or Christmas Day, check the itinerary carefully. Because many onshore businesses and attractions are closed on Christmas Day, some ships spend the day at sea and offer onboard worship services.

Bring a little bling for your stateroom. Don’t bring strings of lights, which could be considered a fire hazard. Instead, bring a few sparkly ornaments or a tiny Christmas tree to decorate your stateroom.

Leave your gifts at home. You won’t want to use your luggage space or limited stateroom storage for gifts. You could bring one small gift for each family member to open on Christmas Day; or, agree to do your gift shopping during the cruise (and have any large purchases shipped home).

Bring small gifts for the crew members who serve you. They are not only away from home during the holidays, they are on duty, too. Some sweets or holiday cards will be appreciated.

To reserve your 2015 holiday cruise, talk with Anita, your Cruise Holidays personal cruise expert soon!

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Monday, October 26, 2015

Cruising the Greek Isles

Whitewashed buildings, deep blue waters, dramatic cliffs, ancient wonders and modern attractions: these are some of the highlights of a cruise of the Greek Isles.

The mainland of Greece lies at the southern tip of the Balkan Peninsula and includes the city of Athens and its port, Piraeus. If your cruise begins or ends in Athens, you may want to spend an extra day or two there, visiting spectacular historical sites like the Parthenon and the Acropolis.

Sprinkled in the waters around the Greek mainland (which include the Aegean, Ionian and Mediterranean Seas) are thousands of islands, as many as 6,000 by some counts. Cruise ships most often call on the islands of Santorini, Mykonos and Crete, although some luxury lines and their small to mid-size ships visit other, less-traveled islands, too.

You’ll want to be on deck when your ship reaches Santorini. You’ll sail right into the caldera of an ancient volcano, a stunning sight. Santorini is one of the most visually dramatic of the Greek Isles, with multi-hued cliffs nearly 1,000 feet high, beaches of black volcanic stone, and pastel-tinted houses. Take the funicular railway (or a donkey) up the cliff to the town of Fira, where charming cafes overlook the sparkling water below.

While Santorini is known for rugged beauty, Mykonos is famous for its golden-sand beaches and a carefree lifestyle. The island first became a retreat for the wealthy during the 1930s; by the 1960s, it was an exclusive playground for celebrities; today, it welcomes cruise ship guests, too. Visit Paradise Beach to party, or quiet Angrari Beach to relax; or, tour romantic Little Venice or the island’s Venetian-built windmills.

When you dock in Crete, you may be surprised by how big and modern the capital city of Heraklion is. Take a closer look, and you’ll see marvelous antiquities, too: a fort built in 1540 by occupying Venetians sits right next to the harbor. You can tour the nearby Knossos Palace, which dates back to the Bronze Age: this is where the Minotaur supposedly lived in an underground maze. Or, browse the shops and stalls of Market Street, then rest in Fountain Square, watched over by the fountain’s stone lions.

We’ve barely scratched the surface of the things you can see and experience on a Greek Isles cruise. Many itineraries call on ports in Turkey and Italy, too. Ask Anita, your Cruise Holidays personal cruise expert, for more information about the Greek Isles.


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Monday, October 19, 2015

What’s the Difference Between Saint-Martin and Sint Maarten?


What could be more delightful than the Caribbean island of Saint Martin? The 34-square-mile island is two islands in one: the northern 60 percent is the French Collectivity of Saint-Martin; the southern 40 percent is Sint Maarten, one of four constituent countries that form the Kingdom of the Netherlands. The French and the Dutch divided the island between them in 1648, living happily, side-by-side, ever since.

Both sides of the island have hills and mountains cloaked in greenery, traced with hiking trails and edged with lovely beaches. Both have lots of charm, too. And yet, they are surprisingly different.

·       If you want to party, Sint Maarten is waiting for you. The cruise ship port is in the capital of Philipsburg, which bustles with activity. There are lots of restaurants and clubs, casinos, and great duty-free shopping. At the south end of Princess Juliana International Airport, watching the planes is a very popular pastime: they fly as low as 30 feet over Maho Beach in order to land on the short runway.

·       If you’re looking for a more laid-back experience, try the relaxed vibe of Saint-Martin’s beach cafes, sidewalk bistros, pastry shops, high-end shopping and outdoor markets. The busiest area is Orient Beach (read on for more about that).

·       If you’ve always wanted to sunbathe in just your skin, head for Saint-Martin. Both sides of the island have wonderful beaches, but a portion of the beautiful and famous Orient Beach is officially “clothing optional.”

·       If you want to make your spending money go further, you can do so in Sint Maarten. Both sides of the island accept dollars, but the official currency of Saint-Martin is the euro; so, exchange rates make Saint-Martin more on the expensive side for visitors from the U.S. and Canada. Of course, you might be lucky and find a happy hour in Saint-Martin where the bartender will accept the dollar as equal to the euro.

The official language of Saint-Martin is French, and in Sint Maarten it’s both Dutch and English, but English is widely spoken all around the island. And, there’s no physical barrier between the two sides of the island, go from one country to another as often as you like.

If you’re intrigued by the world’s smallest island shared by two nations, talk with Anita, your Cruise Holidays personal cruise expert, about cruise itineraries that visit Saint Martin.

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Monday, October 12, 2015

What to Pack for a Cruise

If you haven’t cruised before – or if you have, but you brought the wrong clothes – here are some pointers on cruise packing.

Weather can change, even before you get to the cruise ship

First, a very important point: you can do laundry, or have it done for you, on the ship. That may help you pack lightly, which makes it easier for you to get your luggage through the airport and avoid paying more than you need to in baggage fees.

Second, before you pack, check your ship’s dress code (Anita, your Cruise Holidays personal cruise expert can give you a hand). Following the dress code is good form, a part of basic cruise courtesy. And, dress codes have become more casual, even on luxury ships. Ultimately, you can’t go wrong with “resort casual” which is typically polo shirts, khaki pants and loafers for men and slacks or skirts, nice tops, and casual dresses for women.

Swim suits, athletic shorts and tank tops are appropriate only around the pool and fitness center. Most of your packing should be longer shorts, capri pants and slacks, jeans (with no holes), sport shirts, button-down shirts and nice t-shirts. Women have the option of skirts and casual dresses, too. Bring a couple of light sweaters for cool evenings, plus a warmer jacket if you are cruising in a cooler climate.

A week-long cruise may include two formal nights, with the rest split between semi-formal and casual. Evening, “casual” means something you would wear to a nice restaurant; semi-formal means something you would wear to a traditional wedding; formal means what you would wear to a fancy New Year’s Eve party, right up to ballgowns and tuxedos.

Once your packing is done, take some things out of your packed bags and put them in your carry-on bag. This will ensure you have some space in your packed bags for things you’ll pick up during your cruise!

Here’s what to put into your carry-on bag, including items you’ll need if your luggage is delayed:
·       Important medications
·       Cruise documents, passport and other identification
·       Basic toiletries, hairbrush, toothbrush
·       A casual change of clothes – such as a bathing suit, shorts and a cover-up – for relaxing on deck
·       A dressier change of clothes to wear to dinner on the ship

Finally, enjoy one of the great things about cruising: once you get on board and unpack, regardless of how long your cruise is or how many ports you visit, you won’t have to pack again until you’re ready to disembark. What a luxury!

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Monday, October 5, 2015

Don’t Wait Any Longer to Take Your First Cruise


 If you’ve never been on a cruise, you’re missing out on a relaxing vacation! Everything you need is on the ship: comfortable lodging, delicious food, daytime activities and evening entertainment. Moving between ports is as easy as it gets (the ship and crew do it all, mostly while you sleep).

So, what’s holding you back?

Princess cruise ship arriving in Ushuaia Argentina (Patagonia)


·       If it’s cost, be assured that cruising is one of the best values in vacation travel. All the features mentioned above are included in the basic fare. And, you only pay for the extras – such as beverages, spa treatments and shore excursions – that you want.

·       If you worry that you’ll get seasick, today’s ships have excellent stabilizers that minimize rolling; most passengers adjust to the slight movement of the ship very quickly. For peace of mind, you can bring along a seasickness remedy, or get some from the ship’s medical staff.

·       If you’re concerned about claustrophobia, you may be surprised by how spacious the staterooms feel, not to mention the expansive public spaces. And, it’s hard to feel closed in when you’re on deck in the fresh air.

Are you worried that you’ll stand out as a first-time cruiser? Cruise ships are essentially big, floating resort hotels, so it may feel more familiar than you think. Still, there are a few important things to know:

·       Beverages are often not included in your fare. When you board, you can purchase a beverage package that will keep you happily hydrated.

·       You may be asked to select an early or late seating in the dining room. Some ships favor multiple, open-seating restaurants, but many still have two seatings for dinner in an elegant main dining room.

·       It’s customary to tip the crew at the end of your cruise. Each cruise line handles tipping a little differently; a Cruise Holidays personal cruise expert can give you the details for your cruise.

Finally, if you worry about choosing the right cruise, we understand – there’s an enormous variety of cruise lines, ships, destinations, fares and itineraries. Let your Cruise Holidays expert help you focus on what you want most. For example, where you do want to go? Do you want lots of activities on board, or a quieter experience? Are you most comfortable being casual, or do you love to dress up for dinner? Just let us know, and Anita can guide you to a fantastic cruise experience.

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Monday, September 21, 2015

Pre- and Post-Cruise New Orleans


Select a Caribbean cruise that departs from and/or returns to New Orleans and you’ll get an automatic bonus: some time in one of the most distinctive and historic cities in the U.S. There’s so much to take in that you could plan to spend a few days there before your cruise, after your cruise, or both.
The French Quarter is the oldest and most-visited neighborhood in New Orleans, and it’s a gem. The narrow streets are lined with Spanish-style buildings, many with ornate ironwork balconies (most were constructed during a time of Spanish rule in the late 18th century, after a fire destroyed the old French colonial buildings). Jackson Square is the heart of the Quarter, always busy with horse-drawn carriage rides, street performers and sidewalk artists; at night, palm readers will tell your fortune in front of the Cathedral of New Orleans. Some of New Orleans finest restaurants are in the quarter, serving up savory Creole and Cajun cuisine.

The French Quarter’s Bourbon Street turns into an exhilarating party zone nightly, and the crowd is lots of fun. But, don’t forget to see the rest of the Quarter: the walking tours (which morph into ghost tours in the evening) are fascinating. Afterwards, refresh yourself with beignets and café au lait at busy Café du Monde, a tradition for visitors. The French Quarter is just a 10-minute walk from the cruise ship dock, too.

There’s also a lot to see outside the French Quarter: just to the east, or downriver, is the Faubourg Marigny neighborhood, where Frenchman Street has become the center of the city’s live music scene. It’s a lively backdrop for the Frenchmen Art Market, which opens at 7 p.m. Thursday through Monday and stays open for browsing until 1 a.m.

New Orleans’ loveliest homes and gardens are in the Garden District, where the live oak trees are draped with Spanish moss. This is another wonderful neighborhood for a walking tour: many of the stately homes are historic and some are owned by celebrities. For antique shopping and lunch, visit Magazine Street. The elegant Commander’s Palace, generally regarded as the finest Creole restaurant in the city, is in the neighborhood, too, just across from one of the city’s famous above-ground cemeteries.

To visit the Audubon Zoo in Uptown, or expansive City Park – which has a sculpture garden, art museum, small amusement park and more – hop on one of New Orleans’ streetcars.

For more ideas for a memorable pre- or post-cruise stay in New Orleans, talk with Anita, your Cruise Holidays Personal Cruise Expert.

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Monday, September 14, 2015

Cruising to Cuba


The United States and Cuba, which lies just 93 miles south of the Florida Keys, recently resumed diplomatic relations; and, the U.S. is slowly lifting decades-old travel restrictions between the two countries. As a result, several cruise operators are planning new Caribbean itineraries that include port calls in Cuba.

The largest island in the Caribbean, Cuba lies at the confluence of the Atlantic Ocean and the Gulf of Mexico. Tropical warmth is moderated by constant trade winds, and the dry season – November to April – is an ideal time to visit. Cuba has lovely rolling plains, rugged mountains and beautiful white sand beaches along its coastline. There are also more than 4,000 offshore islands and cays, adding to the beauty of the surrounding water.

Cuban ports are fascinating because life there is still much as it was before the Cuban Revolution of 1959. The media is state-owned, as are most businesses, and Internet connectivity is available only in some large resorts specifically built for tourists. As a result, Cuba has no pop culture, no familiar brands like Starbucks or Pepsi, and no pier-side hawkers of jewelry or duty-free goods. But, the warming of U.S./Cuban relations may mean that Cuba is on its way to change: one reason you may want to visit soon.
Fathom, a new cruise line that combines Caribbean cruising with social projects on land, is planning to begin sailing to Cuba in 2016. This socially responsible approach fits with current U.S.-to-Cuba travel restrictions, which specify that Americans traveling to Cuba must engage in cultural, educational, artistic, humanitarian, or faith-based exchanges with the Cuban people.

In addition to fathom, Globus (best-known as a tour provider) and Haimark, a small-ship cruise line, plan to begin sailing from Miami to Cuba this winter. These cruises will also be structured as people-to-people exchanges, as cruising from the U.S. to Cuba for the sole purpose of leisure is not yet allowed.
In addition to the capital of Havana, cruises to Cuba may also stop in Santiago, the cradle of the Cuban Revolution; Trinidad, a picture-postcard town with cobbled streets and Spanish architecture; Cienfuegos, home to the National Botanical Garden, with more than 2,000 species of plants; or Holguin, near to Cayo Barjay, where Christopher Columbus made landfall centuries ago.

To explore all of the new possibilities for sailing to Cuba, contact Anita, your Cruise Holidays personal cruise expert.

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Monday, September 7, 2015

Wine-Themed Cruises


If you appreciate wine and cruising, why not combine the two? Many cruise itineraries include wine appreciation lectures, tastings, and even shore excursions to local wineries; but, some cruises truly immerse you in wine from beginning to end. Here are a few cruises designed for wine lovers:

Celebrate National Drink Wine Day, February 18, 2016, by raising your glass on Princess Cruises 5-night cruise from Fort Lauderdale, departing February 15 on the Emerald Princess. You’ll enjoy an exclusive wine-tasting event; wines by the glass and flight in Vines Wine Bar; complimentary champagne and
chocolate-covered strawberries; and discounted shore excursions. You can also bring a bottle of your favorite wine on board with you.

A wonderful choice for singles who enjoy meeting fellow wine lovers, the Mediterranean Wine Lovers Singles Cruise aboard Norwegian Epic will depart June 19, 2016, from Barcelona. You’ll enjoy a wine tasting experience in every port you visit, including Naples, Rome, and Livorno/Florence, Italy; Cannes, France; and Palma de Mallorca, Spain. You’ll expand your knowledge of the Mediterranean, too, with a drive along Italy’s Amalfi Coast, a visit to the Tarquinia Necropolis museum, a pasta-making lesson in Tuscany, and more.

Gold medal-winning wines will be part of Oceania Cruises’ 8-night voyage from Rome to Venice, embarking July 20, 2016. Special features include a dinner with expert winemakers, a tasting of Gold Medal wines from the Sunset International Wine Competition, and classes on cooking with wine. Ports of call include Cantania, Italy; Zadar, Croatia; and Argostoli, Greece, where you’ll have more opportunities to enjoy regional wines.

If you love Zinfandel, check out Uniworld’s Rhone River Cruise, departing July 31, 2016, on the new SS Catherine from Avignon to Lyon, France. On board, you can attend the “University of Zin,” which offers a welcome party, two seminars and group dinner (featuring fine Zinfandel and other wines to drink, of course). Wine tastings will be hosted by leading winemakers from the Zinfandel Advocates & Producers group. Shore excursion opportunities will include touring the wineries at Chateauneuf-du-Pape and Hermitage Hill, the birthplace of Syrah.

There are many more options for sailing to the wine regions of the world, including Chile, Australia, South Africa, the West Coast of the U.S. and more. Talk with Anita, your Cruise Holidays personal cruise expert about all the delicious possibilities.

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Thursday, September 3, 2015

Cruising the British Isles


Full of history and trend-setting culture, the British Isles are a wonderful destination for small and mid-size cruise ships. In addition to the main islands of Great Britain (which contains England, Wales and Scotland) and Ireland, there are more than 6,000 offshore islands, including the Hebrides, Orkneys, Shetlands and Channel Islands. The major islands offer more than 19,000 miles of coastline, much of it accessible to smaller ships; the islands themselves are wonderfully scenic, offering everything from rolling green countryside, historic ports, dramatic cliffs and craggy mountain peaks.
Cruises of the British Isles range from 3- to 14-nights, and the relatively compact size of the islands means you’ll have a port call almost every day.

What can you expect to see?

London, England, isn’t a sea port; it’s on the River Thames, and only the smallest cruise ships can actually dock in London. It’s more common for London to be a pre-cruise, post-cruise or shore excursion destination, with nearby Southampton serving as its sea port. The city is not to be missed: there are fantastic museums and galleries, amazing historical sites and royal palaces, plus great shopping and dining in the many charming and quirky neighborhoods. As you sail the English coast, you might also call on Dover, Newcastle or Liverpool, England; Holyhead, Wales; or Guernsey in the Channel Islands.
Edinburgh, Scotland’s Medieval Old Town and Georgian New Town are shadowed by the impressive Edinburgh Castle. Stroll down the Royal Mile to Holyrood Palace, an official residence of Queen Elizabeth. Golf fans will want to visit Fife and St. Andrew’s Links, one of the oldest courses in the world. Your ship may also call on Glasgow or Invergordon, Scotland.

Belfast, Northern Ireland, is a must for fans of the television show Game of Thrones; scenes are filmed at the Castle Ward Estate, where you can take a behind-the-scenes tour. Or, visit the shipyards where the Titanic was built and the award-winning Titanic Belfast, with five stories of history and artifacts. You may also call on the Irish ports of Dublin or Cork.

You can sail the British Isles all year. Summer is the peak season, with the warmest weather and long hours of daylight, but the countryside is lovely in spring and colorful in fall. Winter weather can be chilly, especially in northern England and Scotland, but it brings the warmth of Christmas markets and other seasonal events on shore. For more information about cruising Britain, talk with Anita, your Cruise Holidays personal cruise expert.

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Monday, August 24, 2015

Cruising the Upper Amazon Basin

The mighty Amazon River – portions of it so broad and deep that it’s more of a slim inland ocean that a river – is most closely associated with Brazil. However, the world’s largest river originates high in the Peruvian Andes, and takes the name “Amazon” at the confluence of the Marañón and Ucayali Rivers in Peru.

The incredible biodiversity of the Amazon region can be enjoyed on a cruise of its Upper Basin. You’ll start by flying from Lima to the remote city of Iquitos, Peru; then, you’ll travel by bus to Natua, where you’ll board a comfortable river boat equipped to tour the intricate web of waterways, bordered by thick jungle, that flow into the storied river.

Most of the cruise will be within the Pacaya-Samiria National Reserve, 8,000 square miles of protected, flooded rainforest bursting with animal and plant life. Each day, you’ll hike or ride a skiff on a jungle safari. Monkeys, macaws, caiman, heron, butterflies, iguanas, enormous lily pads, towering ceiba trees, piranhas and pink river dolphins are just a few of the amazing inhabitants. Many cruises also provide opportunities to visit native villages and learn how the people live.

The tastes of the Amazon are wonderful, too. You’ll be able to try fruits and vegetables you may never have seen before, such as aguaje and chayote, along with more familiar passionfruit, yucca, plantains, corn, rice and grilled fish, often flavored with ginger and chili peppers.

There’s a lot to know about Amazon cruising, starting with when to go. The flood season is December through April, and the (relatively) dry season is May through November. There are advantages to cruising in either season: in flood season, water levels are higher and more tributaries are navigable; in the dry season, water levels are lower and more jungle paths are available for hiking. Whichever season you choose, be prepared for rain at any time! Temperatures don’t change much: the dry season’s average daily temperatures are in the mid-80s, the flood season in the mid-90s.

Preparation is important. You’ll need vaccinations or preventive medication for malaria, typhoid, yellow fever and dehydration; strong insect repellent; the right clothes (long sleeves and pants in light, breathable materials); and sturdy shoes that can stand up to mud. You’ll be well-equipped for the cruise of a lifetime!

For more information and options for Amazon cruising, talk with Anita, your Cruise Holidays personal cruise expert.

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Monday, August 17, 2015

Cruising Europe with the Kids

A European cruise is an adventure for families who want to experience a different part of the world, explore centuries worth of art and architecture, and check out the latest trends in European cuisine and fashion. Family-friendly options for European cruises have increased in recent years, with popular cruise lines like Royal Caribbean and Norwegian Cruise Line positioning more ships there, especially in summer. The family-oriented Disney Cruise Line sails Europe, too.

A wonderful thing about cruising Europe with the kids is that both ship and shore hold so much interest. At every stop, there are wonderful things to see: Gothic castles, medieval city walls, museums and galleries, street markets, and so much more. If the kids get tired of sightseeing, you can go back to the ship, get a bite to eat, and let the kids play. On a European cruise you’re likely to meet families from around the world, giving your kids a new, international set of friends.

Some cruise lines run their kids’ programs all day even while the ship is in port, meaning that you can tour or shop to your heart’s content while the kids are safe, entertained and happy on board. Don’t worry that they’ll miss too much on shore; you’re still planting a seed of interest in exploring the world.

On top of all that, you’ll move from one port to another with no effort at all. Seeing Europe with the family could mean complex arrangements for travel by train, bus or car; hotel reservations in different countries with different currencies; and daily foraging for food that everyone will agree to eat. When you cruise, you can get on board, unpack and request room service 24 hours a day.

As you plan, involve your kids in picking a cruise line, ship and itinerary. But, be aware that three of Europe’s most spectacular cities – London, Paris and Rome – all lie a bit inland, an hour or two away from the port. The scenery and companionship can make these drives a lot of fun, but let the kids know they won’t be able to step off the ship right into the Tower of London, the Louvre or the Coliseum.
To reserve your family’s European cruise, talk with Anita, your Cruise Holidays personal cruise expert.

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Monday, August 10, 2015

Plan Now to Cruise Through School Breaks

The kids are heading back to school and you have their schedules for the academic year – why not plan a family cruise during one of their breaks? It’s a wonderful way to spend time together and share the adventure of visiting new places, with the assurance that everyone will find an activity (or several) to enjoy on the ship.

The first thing to do is decide where to go and when, so you can book your cruise as soon as possible. Book as early as you can to have the best chance of reserving a stateroom or suite that can accommodate the entire family.

Your destination options depend on when you’ll be sailing. The Caribbean, Mexico and the Bahamas are open for cruising all year long, and there’s a fantastic variety of itineraries that depart from the East, Gulf and West Coasts. Kids from toddlers to teens love the beaches, making the region a perfect choice for Christmas, New Year’s and Spring Break getaways.

Hawaii is another beautiful, year-round destination. But, if you’re departing from the West Coast rather than flying to the islands, remember that it takes some time to sail there and back (usually two or three days each way). However you get there, an advantage of seeing Hawaii via cruise is that you get to visit multiple islands with ease.

If the kids have a fall break, consider a cruise along the coast of New England and Maritime Canada. Ports can include historic cities like Boston, Quebec City and Halifax, as well as iconic summer resorts like Newport and Bar Harbor, all set against a backdrop of colorful autumn leaves. This is also a great choice if you’re planning to cruise next summer – it’s beautiful when the leaves are green, too.

Another option for spring, summer or fall is Europe, especially if your kids are old enough to have an appreciation for history and antiquities. Spring and fall are especially good times to cruise the Mediterranean, before the heat and crowds of summer arrive. The Baltic, ringed by beautiful capital cities, is a summer destination.

Once the question of where to cruise is answered, you’ll also need to select a cruise line, ship and itinerary (some are more suited to families than others). Count on Anita, your Cruise Holidays personal cruise expert to guide you!

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Monday, August 3, 2015

Music-Filled Theme Cruises

If you love music and you love cruising, there may be a music-themed cruise just made for you. All year long, ships sail with special musical guests from a wide array of genres, from old-school country to electronica.

A music-themed cruise lets you immerse yourself in your favorite sounds while enjoying all the features of the ship and visiting great ports, too. Here are a few that are coming up soon – some are currently sold out, but it can’t hurt to join the waiting list – plus some that you can book now for 2016.

The mellow sounds of Crosby, Stills & Nash will float from Cunard Line’s Queen Mary 2 Sept. 4-11 on a cruise from Southampton to New York. In addition to concerts, guests can attend autograph and Q&A sessions with the folk rock icons.

Norwegian Cruise Line’s Norwegian Pearl will be very busy this fall with a series of four-day, music-themed cruises. The ship will rock to the sounds of KISS on an Oct. 30-Nov. 3 cruise from Miami to Jamaica: that includes the Halloween weekend, a perfect time to enjoy the band known for elaborate stage makeup and costumes.

The Norwegian Pearl will host popular country band Florida Georgia Line Nov. 7-11, departing from Miami and cruising to Cozumel. In addition to three Florida Georgia Line performances, you can expect a few other country artists to pop up on board.

Club music and EDM stars Alison Wonderland, Dillon Francis and Diplo will have everyone dancing on the Norwegian Pearl’s Nov. 11-15 cruise from Miami to Cozumel. There will be six stages on board, plus an excursion to Cozumel’s Playa Mia Grand Beach and Water Park.

If smooth jazz is your style, Holland America Line offers two sailings of The Jazz Cruise, departing Jan. 10 and Feb. 21 from Ft. Lauderdale and sailing to the Dominican Republic, U.S. Virgin Islands and Bahamas. More than 100 jazz musicians will perform.

And, if you love Rock & Roll oldies, sign on for Royal Caribbean’s cruise on the Navigator of the Seas, Feb. 28-March 5. Artists like Phil Dirt & the Dozers and McGuffey Lane will take you back to prom night as you sail from Ft. Lauderdale to Grand Cayman, Jamaica and Labadee, Haiti.

There are themed cruises for lots of other interests, too, from food and wine to quilting, ghost hunting and tattoo art. To learn more, talk with Anita, your Cruise Holidays personal cruise expert.

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