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 31, 2018

Not Too Early to Plan for Spring Break Cruising

Before the winter holidays shift into high gear, take a little time to think about spring – specifically, planning a spring break cruise. Many people don’t think about making spring break cruise reservations until after New Year’s Day, but you should. Experienced cruise fans know that many of the best itineraries, staterooms, and discounts will be gone by January, so it’s smart to make your reservations now. As you plan, here are some things to keep in mind.

If you’ll cruise with kids, whether in kindergarten or about to graduate from college, their spring break is probably just a week long. So, cruises that leave from domestic ports to sail the Caribbean, Mexico’s Riviera Maya or Mexico’s Pacific Coast are good choices: you’ll have time to get to the port, cruise in delightful weather for five to seven days, and get back home before school starts again. If you’re not traveling with kids, you can look at longer cruises that set sail from domestic ports or take off for a home port in the Mediterranean, South America, or Australia.

If you’ll sail with younger kids, consider a family-oriented ship that offers special programs for kids. Many popular cruise lines offer supervised, fun and even educational activities for kids from age three to 12. Some also offer special clubs and reserved spaces for tweens and teens. If you prefer a luxury cruise experience, check carefully to see if kids programming is offered.

If you’re looking for a festive atmosphere, lots of popular cruise lines offer on-board activities – dance-offs, tournaments, games, and contests – that ramp up the party well into the night. If you’re looking for a calm and relaxing cruise experience, look toward premium and luxury lines that don’t attract as many families with children, or adults who are night owls.

The type of stateroom you want can guide your choice, too. Many ships offer a dozen or more stateroom categories. If you’re sailing with a family group, ask your professional travel advisor about ships that have adjoining staterooms or suites designed for families. If it’s just two of you, you might enjoy a small suite with butler service.

Whatever your taste in cruises, a spring break cruise will provide you with some warm breezes after winter’s chill. Plan now so you can dream of your spring break cruise during the long winter nights.

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Monday, December 24, 2018

Cruising to Thailand

Some people think of Thailand as a land shrouded in mystery. In reality, more than six million people visit the Kingdom of Thailand each year, and quite a few of them arrive on cruise ships.

Bangkok is a popular port although most ships dock at Laem Chabang, about two hours south. Once you’re transported to Bangkok you’ll be amazed by its mix of glittering skyscrapers and ancient temples (more than 400 of them). The must-see in Bangkok is the Grand Palace, built as the official royal residence and still used for ceremonies and state functions. The palace complex includes the most sacred temple in Thailand, the Temple of the Emerald Buddha (actually made of beautiful green jade) and the Temple of the Reclining Buddha, home to a famous statue of a Buddha ready to enter Nirvana.

Another popular excursion is the Damnoen Saduak floating market outside the city. A maze of canals is lined with long-tail boats piled high with a dazzling array of fruits and vegetables. It’s mainly a produce market but there are some souvenir sellers and some of the boats offer freshly cooked boat noodle soup.

Some cruises that visit Bangkok also call at Koh Samui, one of Thailand’s lovely islands. The white sand beaches are the main attraction but you can also go hiking, waterfall viewing or elephant trekking, or take an excursion to see temples along the north coast.

Another popular cruise ship port is the island of Phuket. There’s a lot to see, starting with Pha Nga Bay, where dramatic karst islands and cliffs rise straight up from the water. You’ll see why the bay has been featured in more than one Hollywood movie.

The beaches on the western shore of the island are beautiful and you can swim, snorkel and dive in the warm, clear water. From the beaches and many other spots on the island you’ll catch glimpses of the giant Big Buddha statue high on a hill. Drive or hike up to this impressive Buddha covered in white jade marble and you’ll see the smaller brass Buddha beside it while enjoying panoramic views down to the water.

For your Thai experience, you can select from several ocean cruise lines that visit Thailand or consider a river cruise as another way to discover this beautiful country. To find out more, talk with Anita, your professional travel advisor.


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Monday, December 17, 2018

Best add-ons for a cruise vacation

When you cruise, your fare includes everything you really need: your stateroom, dining, entertainment, and the use of many shipboard amenities. In addition, most cruise lines offer additional amenities – at a price. Which of these extras will add to your cruise enjoyment? Here are some to consider. 

Beverage packages
On a cruise ship, tap water, coffee and tea are usually gratis, but a bottle of water or glass of fountain soda can be $2 or more. A glass of wine starts at about $7. Most cruise lines offer pre-paid beverage packages that include some combination of bottled water, soda, juice, wine, and spirits at a reduced cost versus what you would spend buying one drink at a time. Give them a careful look.

Shore excursions
When your ship is in port, your cruise line will offer a variety of fun excursions on shore. Unless you’ve been to the destination before and know what you’d like to do, it’s probably best to choose and pay for an excursion in each port. You’ll have the security of knowing that the excursion is provided by a trusted operator and that it will get you back to the ship on time.

Specialty dining
Cruise ship food is delicious and you can eat well at standard shipboard dining venues like the main dining room and the lido deck buffet. But for a special experience, look at your ship’s specialty or alternative restaurants. There are surcharges, typically from $10 to $50 per person, which is most often worthwhile payment for high-quality, gourmet cuisine served in sophisticated surroundings. Specialty restaurants require reservations, which tend to go quickly, so make yours as soon as you can.

Internet access
Some cruise passengers want a few minutes of Wi-Fi access each day to post photos on their social media pages while others need more access to keep up with work, school or friends and relatives. Many cruise lines now offer cruise-long Internet packages that provide a much better value than buying an hour of access at a time.

Finally, note that the fare for a cruise on a luxury line will include some or all of these extras, making a luxury cruise a better value than you might think. Ask  Anita, your professional travel advisor, to help you compare mainstream cruises (plus extras) and luxury cruises.


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Monday, December 10, 2018

What’s new in culinary cruises

Dining is always a great part of cruising – sometimes, it’s the best reason to take a cruise. Many cruises offer truly exceptional culinary experiences, on and off the ship.

Fans of “America’s Test Kitchen” can immerse themselves in the popular public television show on some of Holland America Line’s ships. On days at sea, watch live demonstrations by staff from America's Test Kitchen, taking a close-up look at the show’s unique, science-based approach to great cooking. There are hands-on workshops, too, where you can try your hand at the America’s Test Kitchen’s techniques for perfect pasta, yummy breakfasts and more.

With an amazing 29 different food and beverage venues on board, Celebrity Cruises’ new Celebrity Edge will bring new, cutting-edge culinary experiences to cruising when it debuts in December. One of the most unusual is Le Petit Chef, a small animated character who inhabits the Le Grand Bistro restaurant. Just before your dish is placed in front of you, Le Petit Chef will appear on the tabletop to show you how the dish is made.

Oceania Cruises’ culinary director is famed chef Jacques Pépin, so you can count on the onboard dining experience being top-notch. On the Marina and Riviera, you can also get your hands and taste buds busy in a state-of-the-art show kitchen. The Culinary Center includes 12 cooking stations for classes and demonstrations with master chefs from around the world. You can also take excursions to local markets and help source ingredients you’ll enjoy later on the ship.

For serious home cooks, many Silversea cruises feature L’Ecole des Chefs by Relais & Chateaux, the international luxury hotel and restaurant group dedicated to the “the art of living.” Guest chefs share their insight into the culture and cuisine of the region you’re sailing in. Plus, you can expand your expertise with sauces, baking and more.

River cruises provide culinary adventures, too. While sailing the rivers of France, Avalon Waterways integrates the best of local cuisine into onboard and onshore experiences. For example, a cruise from Paris through the Normandy region features excursions to a hillside cheese farm and a Calvados distillery. On board, enjoy classic French dishes during a food and wine pairing dinner and a crepe-themed luncheon.

To learn about more options for memorable and delicious culinary cruises, talk with Anita, your professional travel advisor.


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Monday, December 3, 2018

Three Reasons to Reconsider and Choose a Cruise for Your Next Vacation

What’s stopping you from choosing a cruise for your next vacation? If you’ve heard people complain about cruising – about boring food, not enough to do on board or lackluster ports of call – there’s a good chance that the information is outdated.

Today’s cruise ships offer enough varied accommodations, creative dining, high-tech services, wellness programs, and exciting itineraries to catch anyone’s fancy. More specifically, here are three good reasons to reconsider, and then book, a cruise.

It’s So Easy.
It’s fun to learn about the incredible variety of ships, staterooms, destinations and itineraries you can choose from. And, once you make your choice, most of your vacation planning is done. You’ll have no worries about how to get from one port to another, where to stay each night, or where to find a restaurant for dinner. All you have to do is get to the ship on time, check in, settle into your stateroom, then enjoy all of the onboard amenities.

Of course, there will be a few more decisions to make, such as choosing interesting excursions for your days on shore – your Cruise Holidays personal cruise expert can help.

It’s So Affordable.
When you look at cruise fares, remember that they include everything you need for a great vacation: your accommodations, dining (meals, snacks and even room service) and onboard entertainment – not to mention transportation to each port on the itinerary.

There are some additional costs to consider: these are extras that are completely optional or that you control, deciding how much or little to spend. These include gratuities for the crew, excursions on shore, spa treatments, beverages and gourmet dining options.

By the way, some luxury cruises are truly all-inclusive, with fares that include all of the extras mentioned above, and even airfare to and from the port.

It’s So Appealing.
With lots to do on board, lots to experience on shore, and an atmosphere of fun and relaxation, cruising truly appeals to people of all ages and interests. It’s a great choice for a vacation with the whole family, as many ships have special activities for kids, teens, and adults, too. And, at the end of each day of fun, everyone can gather for dinner and a show.

If you’re ready to take a cruise vacation, contact Anita, your Cruise Holidays personal cruise expert.

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Monday, November 26, 2018

Top 5 Things You Should Never Do on a Cruise

Cruises are for fun – you can leave the cares and stresses of daily life at home and simply relax for a while. Still, it’s not an “anything goes” environment. In fact, there are a few behaviors that can bring serious consequences, including being dismissed from the ship before the cruise is over. Here are five things you never, ever want to do while on a cruise ship.

Throw something overboard. Maritime law is strict on the subject of littering; trash of any kind is dangerous for marine life. Also, air currents can draw anything tossed overboard back onto the ship. The results can range from highly annoying (discarded gum might land in the hair of a passenger three decks down) to highly dangerous (a still-burning cigarette can start a fire).

Skip the muster drill. The muster drill is designed to show you where to assemble (your muster station) in case of emergency. This is vital information:  you need to know which lifeboat you’re assigned to. Plus, attendance is mandatory – there are no exceptions. Don’t try to wait out the drill in your stateroom, because the crew will find you. Plus, your absence at your muster station will be noted.

Pursue romance with a member of the crew. If you’re ready to meet someone, it’s much better to attend the meet and greet event for single passengers. Relations between crew members and passengers are forbidden on most cruise ships, even when the crew member is off-duty. Being found out would mean immediate dismissal for the crew member. If you want to look each other up after the cruise, that’s a different matter.

Do some nude sunbathing. Even if you think you’re in a private spot away from the eyes of others, you’re probably not. Nude sunbathing is simply not allowed by most major cruise lines. Of course, you can ask your Cruise Holidays personal cruise expert for information about nudist cruises; there are a variety to choose from.

Get back to the ship late. Don’t be a “pier runner:” a passenger who stretches their time on shore to the absolute limit and then some, making it necessary to sprint down the pier as the gangplank is about to be raised. And, if you’re not even back in time to make the sprint, the ship will not wait. You’ll be responsible for getting yourself to the next port of call.

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Monday, November 19, 2018

Unusual Shore Excursions to Try

Shore excursions are a cruise highlight, taking you off the ship and into the sights, sounds and flavors of a new place. Popular choices include walking and motorcoach tours of major sights; in warm climates, beaches, watersports, and hiking are popular, too. But some excursions are quite out of the ordinary, here are just a few ideas:

Dunn’s River Falls and Bobsled, Jamaica, from MSC Cruises. At Dunn’s River Falls, water cascades over terraced limestone before emptying into the Caribbean. Some people climb up the falls, which can be very slippery – don’t attempt it without good shoes and a guide (there’s also a set of stairs). If that doesn’t satisfy your need for a thrill, no worries – the other half of this excursion takes you to Mystic Mountain for a bobsled ride. You’ll take a chairlift up the mountain, then come down a twisting bobsled track. Don’t forget to admire the views!

Mountain Point Snorkeling Adventure, Alaska, from Princess Cruises. You may not think of Alaska as a snorkeling destination, but this excursion is a fabulous opportunity to see multicolored sea stars, spiny sea urchins, leathery sea cucumbers, and other marine life in and around a forest of kelp. Your state-of-the-art wetsuit with hood, boots and gloves will keep you warm as you explore, and a hot beverage will be waiting after your adventure.

City, Cable Car, Monte and Toboggan, Madeira, from Royal Caribbean. A tour of Funchal, capital of the Portuguese island of Madeira, is capped off in an unforgettable way – with a ride on a wicker toboggan. A cable car rises from downtown to Monte parish, known for beautiful gardens. Come back down in a toboggan, or “basket car,” equipped with wooden runners and driven by two carreiros who use their rubber boots as brakes. The thrilling ride ends in the town of Livramento, and you may be ready to visit the wine lodge there.

The Kitchen Table, variety of destinations, from Viking Ocean Cruises. This is a wonderful way to learn to market-to-table cooking from a cruise line chef. It begins when you accompany the chef to a market in your port of call to select fresh, distinctive local ingredients. Ask questions and make suggestions –ingredients that interest you may find their way into the chef’s basket. Later that day, you’ll help transform the market basket into a three-course feast. Bring your food curiosity, willingness to try new flavors and questions about the food and wine pairings.


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Monday, November 12, 2018

Turn Your Cruise into a Cultural Experience

Cruises are perfect for vacationers who simply want to relax and be entertained; but, a cruise can also be a chance to experience a new culture, something at the top of the wish list for a growing number of travelers. Here are a few quick tips for selecting a cruise that will satisfy your appetite for cultural travel:

Consider a Luxury Cruise Line
Most luxury cruise lines operate fleets of smaller ships that offer advantages for those interested in cultural experiences. These ships don’t have all the family-friendly features of larger ships, such as water parks, ziplines or kids clubs. Instead, they offer sophisticated comfort and a focus on what you’ll discover on shore. Smaller ships can visit many out-of-the-way places that can’t accommodate larger ships, opening new possibilities for culture-focused itineraries. In addition, these cruise lines often bring guest lecturers on board to help you prepare for what you can do and see on shore.

If you’re worried that the cost a luxury cruise might be outside your budget, be sure to look at everything that’s included in the base fare; it will probably include extras that you would pay for separately on a big-ship cruise. Also, ask your Cruise Holidays travel professional to help you find seasonal bargains or special discounts.

Look for Itineraries with Longer Port Calls
Again, smaller luxury ships have advantages when making port calls. Not only can they sail into smaller ports, but they can also often depart later than a larger ship that has more passengers to re-board. This will give you more time to explore the cultural attractions and enjoy some authentic local cuisine on shore. Also, some luxury cruise itineraries feature overnight stays in selected ports, giving you the option to travel farther inland.

Design Your Own Shore Excursion
Many shore excursions focus on sightseeing or adventure, but others focus on local culture through architectural tours, culinary experiences, museums, performances, personal tours of culturally significant sites, and more. If you find a cruise you like but it doesn’t offer the specific on-shore cultural experience you’re looking for, you have the option to design your own shore excursion. Ask your Cruise Holidays personal cruise expert for help in selecting a reputable local tour operator or finding a personal driver for the day.

For more ideas about cultural cruising, including themed cruises, talk with Anita, your Cruise Holidays personal cruise expert.


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Monday, November 5, 2018

Cruising to Guadeloupe

Guadeloupe’s Caribbean beauty and distinctive character will charm you. The main island is actually two, separated by only a narrow sea channel: Grande-Terre to the east and Basse-Terre to the west. Together, they feature the tallest mountains in the Caribbean (including an active volcano), rolling hills, grassy plains, white sand beaches, and deep blue-green water.

There’s lots of history and lots to see in Guadeloupe, with its blend of Afro-Caribbean and French culture. Here are some ideas for spending a day there:

Take a walking tour in Pointe-a-Pitre, where your cruise ship will dock. Guadeloupe is a French territory, and it shows in Pointe-a-Pitre’s colonial architecture and pretty wrought ironwork. Stop at the fragrant Spice Market and the Musee St. John Perse, dedicated to the poet and Nobel laureate who spent his childhood in Guadeloupe. The beautiful Musee Schoelcher features the life of French abolitionist Victor Schoelcher (slavery was abolished in France and its colonies in 1848. All over town, you’ll see lovely madras fabrics crafted into shirts, tablecloths and other items.

To experience some of the natural beauty of Guadeloupe, visit the tropical forest, waterfalls and active volcano in Guadeloupe National Park. Walk the trails to see some of the exceptional biodiversity of the island, including beautiful birds, the endangered agouti, and some rather cute indigenous raccoons.

Rum has a long and delicious history on Guadeloupe, which you can view at the Musee du Rhum  (interestingly, this museum has displays of model ships and insects, too). IN the tasting room at the distillery next door, use your new knowledge of rum to appreciate the free samples.

Of course, Guadeloupe also offers great beach excursions, including Plage de Grande Anse on the lightly inhabited islet of Terre de Bas. There’s a mile-long stretch of fine white sand lined with shady palms and backed by steep bluffs. You might see some and curious iguanas, birds and hermit crabs. If you’re looking for water sports, visit Plage de Malendure and its black sand beach.

It’s easy to find a cruise that calls on Guadeloupe; you have a wide choice of cruise lines, departure ports, and cruise durations. Be prepared to call on some of the neighboring islands, too, such as Antigua, Dominica and St. Lucia. To choose your Caribbean cruise, talk with Anita, your Cruise Holidays personal cruise expert.

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Monday, October 29, 2018

Adjusting Tips on a Cruise

During the past few years, cruise lines have changed the practice of tipping the crew. Tipping used to a manual process: on the last day of the cruise, passengers would put cash tips in small envelopes and hand them out as thanks for the service they had received. This could be a problem when passengers found they didn’t have enough cash, or the right denominations, or couldn’t find the crew members they wanted to tip, or simply forgot.

Now, most cruise lines automatically add these gratuities to the onboard account you settle at the end of the cruise. The cruise line takes care of distributing tips among the crew. This is easy and convenient for you, and ensures that tips reach members of the crew, like kitchen staff, who provide behind-the-scenes service.

But, what if you would like to make changes to your automatic gratuities, or keep with the traditional practice of presenting cash tips?

·         If you think the automatic gratuities are fine but would like to give additional tips to certain crew members, you can simply present those individuals with some cash in an envelope or card.
·         If you want your gratuities to remain automatic, but want to increase or decrease the amount, visit the ship’s service desk and ask to adjust your gratuities. If the amount can’t be adjusted, see the next option.
·         Ask for automatic gratuities to be removed from your account. This leaves you with the ability to present your own tips, in cash, to the crew members you choose.

If you decide to hand out your own cash tips, remember that it’s traditional to tip the cabin stewards, butlers, waiters, sommeliers and maître d’s who provide service to you. It’s certainly acceptable to tip other members of the crew, such as kids’ club staff or fitness trainers. You may want to give a favorite bartender or masseuse a small tip, but note that gratuities of 15% or so are usually added to onboard bar bills and spa services.

There’s more to know about cruise ship tipping; for example, some luxury lines include gratuities in your fare, so they are paid up front. For more information about the specific tipping practices on your next cruise, talk with Anita, your Cruise Holidays personal cruise expert.

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Monday, October 22, 2018

Cruising Canada’s Inside Passage

There’s dramatic scenery all along the Inside Passage, the waterway that stretches from Puget Sound to the Gulf of Alaska. With coastal mountains and fjords on one side and a long chain of protective islands on the other, the water is usually quite calm. That’s why the Inside Passage is a prized route for ships of all kinds, including cruise ships.

The Inside Passage stretches for more than 1,000 miles, but numerous fjords, bays, and coves give it many more miles of shoreline; for example, the section that borders Canada’s British Columbia has more than 25,000 miles of shoreline. Here’s what to watch for as you cruise through.

The Georgia Straight, part of the Salish Sea, lies between Vancouver Island (not to be confused with the city of Vancouver) and the mainland of British Columbia. At least 15 miles wide at all points, the strait has the feeling of an inland sea. Depending on when you cruise, you might spot great blue herons; bull kelp, which has amazingly long stalks that can grow up to two feet per day; or black oystercatcher birds with bright orange bills.

At the north end of Georgia Straight, ships sail into Discovery Passage and on to the Johnstone Strait, a narrower strait that threads between the eastern edge of Vancouver Island and the coastal islands of British Columbia. Be sure to watch for a pod of about 150 orca whales that live in the strait during the summer.

North of Johnstone Strait, your ship will sail through Queen Charlotte Strait, which is more open to the Pacific, and into Queen Charlotte Sound. If you’re on a smaller ship, you might explore FitzHugh Sound and part of the beautiful Dean Channel.

Then, it’s on to Hecate Sound, which lies between the mainland and Haida Gwaii (islands of the Haida People, formerly known as Queen Charlotte Islands). The islands have been the heart of the Haida Nation for more than 17,000 years, with rich traditions of sailing, weaving, carving and jewelry making.

At the Dixon Entrance, you’ll say goodbye to the Canadian portion of the Inside Passage and continue into the Alaskan portion, sailing toward Ketchikan, Sitka, Juneau and Glacier Bay.

To explore itineraries that will sail you through the Inside Passage, talk with Anita, your Cruise Holidays personal cruise expert.

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Monday, October 15, 2018

Top four reasons to take a December cruise

Winter is coming and the warmth of the sun is calling you from the Caribbean and the Southern Hemisphere. If you need more reasons than that to plan a December cruise, we’ve got them:

1. You need to use your vacation days.
 The end of 2018 is coming fast, which means it’s time to check your cache of vacation days. If you have some you need to use before the clock strikes midnight on New Year’s Eve, consider a December cruise to take a real (and really fun) escape from the stresses of work and the routines of daily life.

2. Make winter shorter.
 December usually brings the beginning of true winter weather. If you live where the snow falls, the desire to avoid the start of the cold weather goes without saying. But even if you live in the southern U.S., December can bring chilly and/or rainy weather. Fortunately, December is warm and wonderful in the Caribbean and in the Southern Hemisphere, where December is the beginning of summer. Just imagine discovering South America, South Africa, Australia or New Zealand by cruise, and bringing home some unique holiday gifts.

3. Hurricane season ends in November.
 It has been an active hurricane season in the Atlantic and the Pacific, but things usually settle down by November, and November 30 is the official end of the season. In fact, December through April are the driest months in the Caribbean so you may not see any rain at all during your cruise.

4. Enjoy the calm before schools break for the holidays.
 Cruising in early or mid-December provides some great advantages. Ships tend to be not as full as they are during the peak summer months, the winter holidays or spring break. So, you may have an easier time finding a prime deck chair, a table in an alternative restaurant or a great seat at the evening show. There tend to be fewer children on board, too, which can make things quieter in general (especially around the buffets and pools). You’re also likely to encounter fewer visitors in the ports of call, making it easier for you to see and experience more.
For more information on cruising in December, contact Anita,  your professional travel advisor.

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Monday, October 8, 2018

Cruising to Anguilla

The island of Anguilla, a British territory, is a little off the usual cruise path, which is part of its charm. Most cruise itineraries bypass this northernmost island in the Leeward chain to call on its neighbors, including St. Martin and St. Barts. Still, some cruise lines – especially those with smaller, yacht-style ships – bring guests to this peaceful coral island.

With little in the way of industry, agriculture or shopping, Anguilla is all about the water. Boat racing is the national sport, but you should board a slower day cruise to get to know the island and perhaps call on one of the pretty outer cays.

If you like to be active on the water, you can board a fishing charter; the waters around Anguilla are full of swordfish, marlin, tuna and more. You can also go waterskiing, tubing, kiteboarding or windsurfing over the turquoise-hued water.

Explore the underwater life of Anguilla with a snorkeling excursion to one of the warm, calm bays. The island is also a paradise for scuba divers: seven marine parks offer a variety of dive experiences, including wall dives, ledge dives, wreck dives and dramatic underwater rock formations at Scrub Island.

For a relaxing day on the sand, choose from the more than 30 beaches of white, powdery sand. Stroll the shoreline at Rendezvous Bay, enjoy one of the colorful beach bars at Shoal Bay, or lie beneath the coral cliffs at Crocus Bay.

You can explore the interior of the island by walking, biking or hopping on a guided tour. Experience bird-watching at the island’s salt ponds, take a garden or gallery tour, or visit the old salt factory and Anguilla’s only remaining plantation house.

Lunch on Anguilla is a treat, whether you choose a casual beach barbecue or a gourmet seafood restaurant. In fact, the island is known for high-end cuisine that combines Caribbean, African, Spanish and French influences.

A cruise that calls on Anguilla may also include beautiful destinations like the U.S. and British Virgin Islands, St. Kitts, Guadeloupe and St. Lucia. Discover all of your options for cruising to Anguilla by talking with Anita, your Cruise Holidays personal cruise expert. 

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Monday, October 1, 2018

A Day on Martinique

Exotic Martinique, part of the Republic of France, blends the French and Caribbean cultures in its food, lifestyle, and celebrations. This sprawling and mountainous island, located between Dominica to the North and St. Lucia to the south, has a lot to see when your ship docks in Fort de France.

In the capital city, don’t miss La Savane, 12 acres of park fringed by trees and flowers. There’s a fascinating statue of Josephine de Beauharnais, Martinique native and wife of Napoleon Bonaparte. Years ago, the statue’s head was broken off and the remainder splashed with red paint, presumably by islanders who blame her for urging Napoleon to re-establish slavery there.

For wonderful views of the sea, stroll up the hill to Fort Saint Louis. It’s a historic site, but also an active French naval base; take care where you wander, as not all areas are open to the public. In the highlands north of the fort, there’s a botanical treasure, the Balata Gardens, where colorful flowers live among the palms and mahogany trees. Walk through the tree canopy on a series of wooden bridges to enjoy a birds-eye view.

Across from La Savane park is the Bibliotheque Schoelcher, a Byzantine-style library built for the Paris Exposition of 1889, then shipped to Martinique and reassembled. Also of historical interest is the beautiful Gothic-style Cathedral Saint-Louis, standing strong since 1895 after six previous churches on the site were destroyed by fire, earthquake or hurricane.

Venture to the island’s northwest coast to visit Saint-Pierre, the island’s original settlement and capital. Saint-Pierre flourished until volcanic Mt. Pelee erupted in 1902; of the city’s 30,000 residents, the only survivor was the lone occupant of the jail. Today, the rebuilt town has a lovely waterfront; sip a drink at one of the cafes or stroll along beaches of black volcanic sand, backed by lush rainforest.

Sugar came still grows on Martinique, some of which is transformed into excellent rhum (rum). Sample some in the tasting room at Habitation Clement, a distillery that also features local art on the walls of its historic structures.

Note that this island is truly French – outside the main tourist areas, it’s difficult to find someone who is fluent in English. That’s part of the charm of Martinique. To visit the island on your next Caribbean cruise, talk with Anita, your Cruise Holidays personal cruise expert.


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Monday, September 24, 2018

Underrated Cruise Ports

Some cruise ports are better known than others, and when looking at itineraries, we might focus on favorite destinations like Cozumel, Rome, or Copenhagen. However, lesser-known ports deserve your attention, too; often, they are so much more than just a convenient stop between bigger and more famous ports. Here are a few examples.

Kralendijk, Bonaire. Among the ABC Islands of Southern Caribbean, Aruba and Curacao get the most attention, but Bonaire is just as lovely. It’s also one of the best snorkel and dive locations in the Caribbean, with easy access to surrounding reefs. Watch for colorful flamingos that live in a preserve (one of only four areas in the world where flamingos breed), or feed some carrots to the gentle donkeys at the Donkey Sanctuary.

Progreso, Mexico. This small port city 30 miles from the Yucatan capital of Merida is often seen only as a starting point for excursions to Mayan ruins at Chichen Itza or Uxmal; but, Progreso itself offers wonderful experiences. You’ll love the white sand beaches, and when you’ve had enough sun, you can stroll the amazing 4.3-mile wharf or visit El Chorchito, a beautiful ecological preserve.

Livorno, Italy. It’s the starting point for excursions to Florence or Pisa, but it’s a shame to miss the charms of the lovely city just beyond the busy docks. There are ancient city walls and the remains of impressive fortresses, a network of canals known as Little Venice, and a waterfront promenade near restaurants that serve fresh pasta and seafood.

Kotor, Montenegro. This small town at the edge of the Adriatic Sea is incredibly scenic. The Gulf of Kotor lies slightly inland, and your ship will travel through gorgeous mountains and fjords to reach the town. There, you can explore the medieval fortifications, cobblestone streets, a cathedral that dates from 1166, and more.

Kirkenes, Norway. In far, far northeastern Norway, close to the borders of Finland and Russia, Kirkenes delivers unparalleled views of the Northern Lights. The lights are at their glowing peak between October and March, which is also when you can enjoy an overnight at the Kirkenes Snowhotel (which is exactly what its name implies). You can learn about some WWII history here, as well as the culture of the Sami people.

Talk with Anita, your Cruise Holidays personal cruise expert, about itineraries that include one of these (or dozens of other) underrated ports, and enjoy your discovery!

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Monday, September 17, 2018

American River Cruise Options

For an enchanting and close-to-home cruise, consider sailing one of the mighty rivers of North America. There are historic paddleboats that cruise the Mississippi River, small ships that bring you so close to Alaskan glaciers and wildlife, leaf-peeping cruises on the St. Lawrence River along the U.S./Canadian border, and more.

Most of these river cruises feature a combination of port days and river days, giving you time to both explore on shore and enjoy the ever-changing scenery as the ship moves. Here are just a few of many options:

The Mississippi. From its headwaters in northern Minnesota to its delta in the Gulf of Mexico, the Mississippi River has inspired countless stories and songs. It’s the major river between the Rockies and the Appalachians, ranking among the world’s longest and largest rivers.

You can cruise the Upper Mississippi between St. Paul, Minn., and St. Louis, Mo., on a paddlewheel riverboat. It’s especially lovely during the fall color season when the woodlands along the river turn shades of red, orange and gold.

For a taste of the Antebellum South, cruise the lower Mississippi between St. Louis and New Orleans, La. These voyages provide a look back at plantation life, the lessons of the American Civil War, and the diverse cultures of the region.

Southeast Alaska. A cruise in this region is always a spectacular experience; still, a small boat that will take you places larger ships can’t. Sail into the Clarence Strait and Frederick Sound, visiting off-the-beaten-path wilderness areas and ports like Petersburg and Kake.

The Saint Lawrence River. The Thousand Islands archipelago is at the head of head of the river, where it exits Lake Ontario. Your captain will steer your ship expertly among the beautiful, rocky islands, some of which feature stunning residences, great blue herons, museums and more.

The Columbia River. Paddleboat cruises aren’t limited to the Mississippi; you can sail a paddleboat on the scenic Columbia, on the border between Washington and Oregon. This is part of the route taken by explorers Lewis & Clark in 1805 as they surveyed unknown territories and found a way to the Pacific.

Just like ocean cruises, river cruise operators offer pre- and post-cruise land tours and hotel stays. Talk with Anita, your Cruise Holidays personal cruise expert, about all the options for cruising North America’s most scenic rivers.

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Monday, September 10, 2018

The Ins and Outs of Choosing a Cruise Ship Cabin

Smaller than your favorite hotel room but very well equipped, your stateroom is your home base during your time on a cruise ship. When you make your cruise reservation, you choose the stateroom you want: here’s what you need to consider.

Most ships offer several different categories of staterooms, and the larger the ship, the more categories there are. Still, there are really just four basic types of staterooms:

· Inside: usually the smallest, with no window (though some new ships have “virtual” windows)

· Outside/Oceanview: located on an exterior wall, with a porthole or window; often a little larger than inside staterooms

· Balcony: an outside stateroom that opens to a private balcony

· Suite: a larger outside stateroom that may have separate sleeping areas, plus extra amenities and perks

After you decide which of the four basic types you want, you can pick exactly which stateroom you want (as long as no one else picked it first). Your choice should be guided by what you need and want in terms of location and amenities.

To start, ask your Cruise Holidays personal cruise expert to help you review the ship’s deck plans. Are you a sound sleeper? If so, it may be OK to locate closer to an elevator, which is convenient for getting around the ship. If not, you should probably choose a location away from the elevators and public spaces (including those that may be right above or below your stateroom).

To minimize how much you feel the ship’s movement while in your stateroom, choose one as low and as near the middle of the ship as possible. If you’d like to be close to a certain part of the ship – such as the pool deck, the spa, the dining spots – consider that in your choice, too.

All staterooms have nice amenities – a cabin steward who tidies up, toiletries, individual climate control and more. But, ask about extras for some stateroom categories: for example, suites often come with a complimentary mini-bar, fresh flowers, butler and concierge services, access to exclusive lounges and more.

If you’re traveling with family or on your own, some ships offer family suites or solo staterooms, too. Be sure to talk with Anita, your Cruise Holidays personal cruise expert about all the options.

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Monday, September 3, 2018

Best Things to do in Curaçao

The ABC chain of islands – Aruba, Bonaire, and Curaçao – offer the best of the Southern Caribbean to cruise passengers, and each has unique charms. Curaçao’s many painted houses provide a colorful welcome to this beautiful island, which lies just 40 miles north of Venezuela but is part of the Kingdom of the Netherlands.

Cruise ships dock in the capital of Willemstad, a vibrant and walkable city with tempting waterfront shops and cafes. The historic downtown, divided into two districts by Saint Anna Bay, is a UNESCO World Heritage site. Cross the bay on a water taxi or by walking across the floating Queen Emma Bridge. Highlights of Willemstad include the much-photographed Penha building; the Mikve Israel-Emanuel Synagogue, the oldest surviving synagogue in the Western Hemisphere; Fort Amsterdam; and Wilhelmina Park.

On the North side of the island, the Hato Caves were once used by native Arawaks, and then by escaped slaves, for shelter. A tour will give you more of the caves’ history, and you can admire the limestone formations that have been carved by nature through the years.

Of Curaçao’s many beaches, Blue Bay may be the most popular. It has a children’s play area, shady spots, restaurants, and bars, but the real attractions are the coral reefs – perfect for snorkeling and diving – not far off the beach. Beautiful Playa Porto Mari has fewer facilities, but features excursions to a unique double coral reef.

The north side of the island is home to two national parks, Shete Boka and Christoffel. Shete Boka means “seven inlets,” and the most popular is Boka Tabla inlet, where you can walk down rock-carved steps to get closer to the magnificent waves crash on the rocky shore. Christoffel has hiking trails and views of Mt. Christoffel, the island’s highest point.

When in Curaçao, it’s natural to sample the island’s signature liqueur, famously blue and flavored with the peel of the laraha orange (other popular flavors include coffee and chocolate). Tour the production facility on the Landhuis Chobolobo estate, then enjoy some cocktails and dishes inspired by the flavors of Curaçao in the café.

There’s much more to Curaçao, including museums, art galleries, golf courses, an excellent sea aquarium and an ostrich farm. To pick out a Southern Caribbean cruise that calls on Curaçao, talk with Anita, your Cruise Holidays personal cruise expert.


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Monday, August 27, 2018

The Cruise Line Private Island Experience

Have you dreamed of spending a day on a private island? It’s easy – just look for a cruise itinerary that includes a call on the cruise line’s private island. These enclaves are designed to provide a wonderfully relaxing day on an island that you can imagine is your very own.

Here’s a quick look at some of these idyllic islands:

Disney Cruise Line’s Castaway Cay is 1,000 acres of sun and sand in the Bahamas. Like Disney’s parks, the island has a tram that can whisk you around. There are lots of family-oriented activities on the beaches, and you can snorkel in the lagoon, try the water slides or hit the water play area.
Holland America’s island in the Bahamas, Half Moon Cay, is less developed than most, and that’s by choice: the cruise line wants you to experience the island’s natural beauty. There are pristine white beaches, private villas for rent, horseback riding, snorkeling, kayaking, bicycle tours and more.

Royal Caribbean has operated CocoCay in the Bahamas since 1990, where guests enjoy the beaches, shopping and activities like lounging, beachcombing, and nature walk. The island has a beachside spa and private waterfront cabanas, plus excursions for scuba diving, wave jet riding, and parasailing. Royal Caribbean also operates Labadee, a private beach resort on Haiti's north coast. Activities range from flying over the water on a 2,600-foot zipline to taking a great nap in a beach chair.

Norwegian Cruise Line's Great Stirrup Cay in the Bahamas has several beaches and snorkeling spots, and you can rent wave runners, parasails, paddle boards or kayaks. Norwegian recently refurbished the island, adding more sand and lounge chairs, plus an underwater sculpture garden. Norwegian also takes guests to Harvest Caye in Belize, which has a nature center, a 3,000-foot zipline, and snorkeling along the world’s second largest barrier reef.

Princess Cruises’ Princess Cays, on the southern end of the Bahamian island of Eleuthera, has more than 1.5 miles of white-sand beaches, food, water sports, and shopping. This low-key paradise has non-motorized water sports and private bungalows for rent.

Ask Anita, your Cruise Holidays personal cruise expert,  to will help you select a cruise itinerary that includes a day on a beautiful private island.


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Monday, August 20, 2018

Making the Most of the First Day of Your Cruise

There are a few tips and tricks to making the most of embarkation day – the day you board your ship and prepare to sail to an exciting destination. Here are some of our favorites:

Dress casually and comfortably. If your cabin is being cleaned, you may not be able to go there to change clothes right away (remember, your ship probably just returned from the previous cruise). Plus, you’ll check your bags at the dock and it might be a few hours before they are delivered to your cabin. So, unless you pack a change of clothes in a carry-on bag, you’ll be wearing your boarding outfit for a while. Dress comfortably and incorporate a layer or two so you won’t get too warm or too chilly.

Make your reservations. Boarding is a good time to order beverage packages; make reservations for shore excursions, specialty restaurants, and spa treatments; and enroll the kids in any special programs. Then, take a dip in the pool or hot tub (bring a swimsuit in your carry-on bag), hit the gym, relax in a lounge chair or just walk around to get a feel for the ship.

Enjoy lunch. When you board, some of the bars and restaurants will be open and ready to serve you. Lots of passengers will join the line at the buffet; if you’d rather avoid the crowd, ask if there are any other options for lunch. All of the restaurants and dining rooms will be open by dinnertime.

Go up on deck for the sailaway party. It’s fun to enjoy live music and celebratory drinks with your fellow passengers as your ships sails away from the port and toward adventure. Listen for the ship’s horn or an announcement that the ship is ready to leave: otherwise, you might not even notice the slight movement of the ship as you set sail.

Finally, don’t skip the muster drill. It really is mandatory. All cruise ships must hold a muster drill within 24 hours of embarkation – it’s important to your safety. You’ll hear announcements before the drill and will get specific instructions on how to participate. Don’t try to hide out in your cabin; crew members check to make sure that all cabins are empty. Plus, passengers who attempt to avoid the drill may be dismissed from the ship.

For more tips about enjoying embarkation day, talk with Anita, your Cruise Holidays personal cruise expert.


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Monday, August 13, 2018

Cruising to Chile

With 2,653-miles of Pacific Ocean coastline, the South American nation of Chile is simply made for cruising. Nestled between the coast and the peaks of the Andes, blessed with diverse and stunning natural beauty, several scenic ports along the lengthy coastline give a warm welcome to cruise ships.

Several cruise lines offer voyages to Chile, which are generally 14 days or longer. Many itineraries sail around the southern tip of South America to call on Argentina, Uruguay, the Falkland Islands or Brazil, too.

In Chile, popular ports include:

Santiago. Valparaiso, the port for Santiago, and has its own attractions; funiculars travel up and down the steep hills dotted with colorful homes and colonial architecture. Still, you won’t want to miss the opportunity to visit Santiago and its historic center, beautiful parks and spectacular views of the snow-capped Andes in the East and sparkling Pacific waves in the west. In the shops, look for jewelry made with brilliant blue lapis lazuli, Alpaca woolen sweaters, and wooden crafts created by indigenous Mapuche people. Or, take an excursion to the beautiful San Antonio Valley to visit one of the boutique wineries known for their spicy red and delicate white varietals.

Puerto Montt. This fast-growing city was settled by German immigrants, and you’ll see a Bavarian influence in the local architecture and cuisine. This is the capital of the Lake District, a spectacular area of sparkling lakes, rushing rivers, and impressive fjords. A variety of excursions can take you to see these and other natural wonders, including the magnificently brooding Osorno volcano.

Punta Arenas. The port is often cool and blustery but you’ll want to disembark to see the sculpted cypress trees and ornate mausoleums of the City Cemetery. Drive up La Cruz Hill for panoramic views of the city and the Strait of Magellan, or visit adorable penguins at one of the nearby reserves. Some cruise lines offer day excursions to scenic Torres del Paine National Park, or even to Antarctica.

You may also have the option of making a pre- or post-cruise visit to Patagonia, a region of unspoiled beauty that’s shared by Chile and Argentina.

November to March – the South American summer – is the best time to go, so talk with Anita, your Cruise Holidays personal cruise expert soon.

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Monday, August 6, 2018

Cruising to Papua New Guinea

Humans arrived in Papua New Guinea, which occupies the eastern half of the island of New Guinea (the other half is part of Indonesia) as many as 45,000 years ago. Still, it’s one of the world’s least explored countries, thought to be home to numerous groups of uncontacted people living in the dense rainforests and rugged, mountainous terrain. It’s also one of the most culturally diverse countries, having been settled and then colonized by an array of African, European and Asian peoples.

Clearly, Papua New Guinea is a fascinating place to visit on a cruise. You can visit one or more of several ports of call:

Alotau is a gateway to some of the most remote communities and pristine offshore islands in Papua New Guinea. You can get acquainted with the area on a tour that also provides a history World War II’s Battle of Milne Bay, which changed the town. It’s fun to simply walk around and meet some of the friendly local residents (the local word for “foreigner” is dimdim, so please be aware that no one is calling you “stupid”). The local market features exquisite wood carvings and other locally-made crafts.

The port of Rabaul is a survivor – the town has been destroyed more than once, by bombs during World War II and by volcanic eruptions, most recently in 1994. Still, blessed with abundant natural beauty, Rabaul keeps rising from the ashes. You can take a tour of the area’s volcanos, including Mount Vulcan, which has twin cones, and Tavurvur, the most active volcano. A visit to the Volcanological Observatory provides awe-inspiring views of Simpson Harbor, too. For World War II historians, there are Japanese war planes, half-buried in volcanic ash, and hundreds of miles of tunnels built by Japanese soldiers to conceal ammunition, hospitals and barracks.

You might also visit one of Papua New Guinea’s offshore islands, where life remains much as it was hundreds or thousands of year ago. Enjoy a white sand beach fringed with shade trees while island residents perform traditional dances; or tour a village, where the residents will be as curious about you as you are about them.

Some cruise lines offer itineraries that focus on Papua New Guinea, departing from Australian ports; or, you can visit on a longer cruise of the South Pacific and Oceania. For the details, talk with Anita, your Cruise Holidays personal cruise expert.


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Monday, July 30, 2018

Top reasons to choose a luxury ship

We think there’s no such thing as too much pampering while you’re on a cruise. It’s your chance to disconnect from the hustle and pressures of daily life; to enjoy great cuisine, fun activities and new sights while the crew and captain take care of transportation and so much more.

If you love that carefree and pampered feeling, consider taking a luxury cruise. Luxury lines take all the wonderful services and amenities provided by mainstream, family-oriented cruise lines step it all up a notch (or several). Luxury cruises also tend to be more inclusive of “extras,” such as beverages and shore excursions; so, you may find that the cost is not much more than your last mainstream cruise.

What are the differences you can expect when you choose a luxury ship? Here are a few:

There are more crew members per passenger, and the crew is trained to anticipate your needs. They will often provide what you’re thinking of – such as drawing hot bath, refreshing your drink or polishing your shoes – before you even ask.

The ship will probably be smaller, but every inch will be full of comfort and style. Generally, luxury ships carry 200 to 600 passengers. This is great for getting to know your fellow travelers, and many luxury cruisers make friendships that last long after the cruise. The ship can also visit ports that can’t accommodate large ships – so, even if you cruise in a familiar region, you may see places you haven’t seen before.

Many luxury ships offer all-suite accommodations with ocean views – no inside cabins. There is usually a balcony or verandah, too (unless you’re on a river cruise ship, where you’ll have expansive windows and perhaps a Juliette balcony). You can expect high-end amenities and finishes, including top-of-the-line toiletries and linens, fresh flowers, black-out curtains or shades and granite or marble tops in the bathroom.

For many itineraries, luxury lines offer great pre- and /or post-cruise land-based experiences. These packages give you the chance to explore the port where you’re embarking or disembarking, or an inland sight – places like the Taj Mahal, Machu Picchu, or the Australian Outback. Sometimes, these pre- or post-stays are included in your cruise fare.

Interested? Talk with Anita, your Cruise Holidays personal cruise expert about sailing with a luxury line.

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Northern Lights Cruises

Northern lights, or aurora borealis, appear when energized particles released by the sun zip through space on solar winds. As they enter the Earth’s magnetic field, they lose their energy and produce a diffused glow in luminous shades of green, red and blue. Mysterious and beautiful, the northern lights are a featured attraction on a growing selection of Artic cruises.

Be aware that these winter cruises can’t guarantee an appearance by the northern lights – there’s always an element of luck. However, the lights are quite common on clear winter nights from October through March. A variety of cruise lines and ships, small to midsize, can take you along the coast of Norway, and perhaps to Iceland and Greenland, too, with the potential to see the aurora borealis each night.

During the days, you can visit snow-covered fishing villages, ride on sleds pulled by husky dogs or reindeer, tour historic settlements, and learn about people live in a region of nearly perpetual winter.

The majority of northern lights cruises travel along the spectacularly scenic coast of Norway, stopping in ports such as Bodo, Tromso and Alta.

Just north of the Arctic Circle, Bodo is surrounded by mountains and fjords. Cultural attractions include the Salten Museum, with exhibits on commercial fishing, indigenous Sami people and Vikings. There’s World War II history in this region, too: much of Bodo’s center was destroyed by bombing, and the Bodo Cathedral is a symbol of post-war rebuilding.

Tromso’s historic center is intact, with colorful wooden houses dating from the mid-1800s (the building of wooden houses was banned after 1904). At the Polar Museum, learn about the many Arctic expeditions that have launched from Tromso. Visit the Arctic Cathedral, Tromso Museum or Polaria Aquarium; or, simply enjoy a drink in one of the many welcoming local pubs.

Alta is a historic Sami settlement where you can see petroglyphs and rock paintings created thousands of years ago. There’s little precipitation here, and the generally clear skies make it ideal for northern lights viewing and study.  If your ship stays overnight, you can have dinner or even spend the night at the Igloo Hotel, made entirely of ice and snow (with lots of furry wraps for warmth).

For more information on northern lights cruises, talk with Anita, your Cruise Holidays personal cruise expert.

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