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, August 19, 2019

Get Away to a Private Island on Your Next Cruise

If you don’t have friends who own private islands, don’t worry – just sign up for a cruise that features a visit to a private island. Several cruise lines own a small island (or part of a larger island) for the exclusive enjoyment of their guests. Most are in the Bahamas or the Caribbean, but at least one cruise line plans to establish private islands in other regions.

The private island trend began as a way for cruise lines to give guests a hassle-free beach day, complete with lounge chairs and a BBQ lunch buffet. Now, the trend is toward spectacular activities (although you can still enjoy lunch and a nap on the beach).

For example, Royal Caribbean Cruise Line recently unveiled a refurbishment of its private island in The Bahamas, “Perfect Day at CocoCay.” A new waterpark features North America’s tallest waterslide (the 135-foot Daredevil’s Peak), the Caribbean’s largest wave pool, a 1,600-foot-long zip line and a helium balloon that will take you up 450 feet to enjoy the view. Get a refreshing beverage from the swim-up bar at the freshwater Oasis Lagoon or rent a private cabana. December will bring the opening of Coco Beach Club, featuring overwater cabanas with their own water slides. Royal Caribbean plans to develop more private islands in the Caribbean and in Asia and Australia, too.

MSC Cruises is sharing some details about its new private destination in The Bahamas, Ocean Cay, scheduled to open in November. The area was a debris-strewn sand extraction site until MSC invested in it. There will be eight beaches to explore, plus Seakers Family Cove, which will offer fun and games in a shallow lagoon. An island spa will give guests the chance to be pampered while surrounded by nature. Active types can enjoy snorkeling, parasailing, paddleboarding or kayaking, followed by a sunset cruise and evening entertainment under the stars. In addition to delighting its guests, MSC plans for the island to serve as a base for marine biology and research.

Disney Cruise Line just purchased more than 700 acres of land on the Bahamian island of Eleuthera, known for pink sand beaches and beautiful surf. This will be Disney’s second private island in The Bahamas, the first being Castaway Cay. Watch for more information as Disney develops its plans.

To select a cruise (on these or other cruise lines) that will give you a private island experience, talk with Anita, your professional travel advisor.

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Monday, August 12, 2019

Cruising with Craft Brews

If you love trying new craft beers, it’s a pastime you can indulge in on your next cruise. Whether you prefer ales or lagers, more ships are featuring places to enjoy craft brews, so you’re sure to find one suited to your palate. You’ll have company, too: a recent Travel Leaders Group survey determined that 44% of consumers make a point of trying local or regional craft beers when they travel.

If you’d like to set sail with a variety of flavorful brews, here are some options.

The Equinox and the Eclipse are two Celebrity Cruises ships that feature craft beer lounges. Originally called Gastrobar on both ships, a recent refurbishment of the Equinox brought a name change to Craft Social. In both lounges, you’ll find about 40 boutique brews on tap or in bottles. There are also cocktails, a nice wine list, and a wide selection of gourmet bar bites, from steamed pork buns to truffled grilled cheese. The ambiance is sophisticated coziness, with low lighting, flat-screen TVs for viewing a game, and music in the evening.

Norwegian Cruise Line’s District Brew House, found on the Bliss and the Escape, offers more than 70 beers, including 24 rotating beers on tap and about 50 types of bottled beer. Some come from Miami-based Wynwood Brewing Company, with many other breweries represented, too. The cushy leather furniture creates a welcoming pub experience with wonderful views of the sea (or of the keg room, if you prefer). The District isn’t just for beer, though – if your companions would rather have craft cocktails, the District has them, along with gastropub-style small plates to share.

Several Royal Caribbean Cruise Line ships have a Playmakers Sports Bar and Arcade (a “barcade”), which serves a variety of domestic and international craft beers and ciders. If you find a selection your whole group likes, you can order pitchers. If you want to do some tasting, order a flight. In this casual spot, sports are always on big TVs, with local games and matches taking priority. You can order up classic bar food like Buffalo chicken wings, burgers, nachos, and stuffed potato skins. Then, try your skill at games like Connect Four, Jenga or foosball, or try for the high score on a variety of arcade games.

To make sure craft beer is part of your next cruise, talk with Anita, your professional travel advisor.

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Monday, August 5, 2019

The Quieter Caribbean

The Caribbean is a top cruise destination, and ports like St. Thomas, St. Maarten and Aruba are among the most popular places for cruise ships to visit. There’s a reason for that: these ports are full of wonderful things to see and do, from adventurous excursions to a lazy day at the beach.
However, there are other Caribbean ports that, while quieter, have just as much to offer. When planning your next Caribbean cruise, ask your professional travel advisor about itineraries that include some of these less-visited cruise ports.

Tortola, part of the British Virgin Islands, is surrounded by clear, calm water beloved by snorkelers, divers, yacht captains, and fish. The mountainous island offers hiking trails and white sand beaches where you can sun, swim or kayak. Or, take a day trip to surrounding islands like lively Jost Van Dyke or Virgin Gorda, where you can explore the “Baths” – boulder formations that shelter cool grottos – and the Treasure Caves of Norman Island.

Bonaire’s protective reef makes this island a paradise for snorkelers and divers. Windsurfing, kayaking, bird watching, kiteboarding, fishing, mountain biking, and horseback riding excursions are all available on Bonaire, as are tours of a flamingo sanctuary and a sanctuary for donkeys. Visitors are welcome to help feed the gentle herd.

St. Kitts was repeatedly fought over by the British and French in the 17th and 18th centuries, and pirates did brisk business from the port of Basseterre. Now its own nation with sister island Nevis, St. Kitts offers unspoiled beauty, hiking up an extinct volcano, rides on a scenic railway originally built to transport sugarcane, and the impressive Brimstone Hill Fortress.

St. Croix is the largest and perhaps most relaxed of the U.S. Virgin Islands. It’s a great place for history buffs with the Christiansted National Historic Site featuring Fort Christiansvaern and other historic structures. You can also tour rum factories, take a bike tour along the coast, or check out the Danish Creole architecture in Frederiksted.

Dominica is a special island – in a region full of natural beauty. Hence its nickname, the “Nature Island.” The mountains are covered with pristine rain forest, a dozen major waterfalls and pools of freshwater or bubbling hot springs, heated by volcanic activity beneath the surface. The deep water around the island makes it a great spot for whale-watching, too.

To discuss a cruise itinerary that features less-traveled Caribbean destinations, talk to Anita, your professional travel advisor.

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Monday, July 29, 2019

Cruising to a UNESCO World Heritage Site

When your cruise sails to a UNESCO World Heritage Site, it’s an automatic must-see. The United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization (UNESCO) has designated more than 1,000 sites around the world that are considered irreplaceable due to their outstanding cultural or natural importance.
Here are just a few of many UNESCO World Heritage Sites you can visit on a cruise:

The Amazon
The Amazon River and its massive drainage basin in and around northern Brazil is one of the most biodiverse areas on earth. It teems with wildlife like electric fish, giant otters, black caimans and freshwater dolphins, and colorful flora. Some cruises of the Caribbean include the eastern portion of the Amazon, but you can also find cruises that focus solely on the famous river.

Glacier Bay
Glacier Bay National Park, a highlight of many cruises of Alaska’s Inside Passage, protects sensitive marine ecosystems and ancestral homelands of the Tlingit people. About 80% of visitors arrive via cruise ship – the best way to watch tidewater glaciers calve new icebergs into the bay.

Acropolis of Athens
This ancient citadel above the capital of Greece is populated with historically important buildings. The Parthenon is the best known but there are remains of other structures of classical Doric and Ionic design. Many cruise ships visit Athens on itineraries that include the Greek Isles or ports along the Adriatic coast.

Great Barrier Reef
The world’s largest living organism stretches more than 1,400 miles just off the coast of Queensland, Australia. In addition to beautiful corals, the reef supports many species of fish, sea snakes, marine turtles, sponges, dugongs, dolphins, whales and sea birds. Look for a cruise itinerary that stops at the Whitsunday Islands. From there, you can take glass-bottom boat, snorkeling or diving tours of the reef.

Komodo National Park
Up to 10 feet long and weighing up to 300 pounds, the world’s largest lizard – the impressive Komodo dragon – dominates the ecosystem of Komodo National Park, which includes three of Indonesia’s Lesser Sunda Islands. The rugged and beautiful islands are also home to water buffalo, unusual birds and adorable civets. You can visit the park on a variety of Indonesian cruises, some departing from Australian ports.

There are so many more UNESCO World Heritage sites you can cruise to – talk about the possibilities with Anita, your professional travel advisor.

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Monday, July 22, 2019

Cruise Among the Fjords of Norway

The coastline of Norway, decorated with fjords and waterfalls, is dramatic and exciting. It’s a different type of cruise experience and a spectacular alternative to cruises of Southeastern Alaska.

Several ice ages helped to carve the Norwegian coastline with deep, U-shaped valleys. When the ice melted, these glacial valleys filled with water, forming the deep, breathtaking fjords you can sail among today.

With a wide variety of itinerary lengths and ship types – mainstream, premium, luxury and expedition – you have lots of choices for cruising Norway. To start, many people choose a 7- to 10-day cruise that focuses on the fjords along the southern third of the coast. Options for cruise lines include Norwegian Cruise Line, Disney Cruise Line, Celebrity Cruises, Costa Cruises, Holland America Line, MSC and others. To maximize your time among the fjords, look for a cruise that departs from Oslo or Bergen and visits ports like Stavanger, Geiranger, Alesund and Flam.

If you’d like to sail further north, check out itineraries from Hurtigruten. This Norway-based line has amazing itineraries that will take you beyond the Arctic Circle to the wonders of Tromso and the North Cape, prime areas for incredible northern lights viewing. This line has ships specially designed to sail up narrow fjords and into small ports.

If you can tear your eyes away from the scenery, choose from shore excursions that will take you hiking or kayaking, shopping for woolen goods, learning the history and culture of Norway or tasting local foods like brunost cheese and golden cloudberries.

You can also visit Norway on a cruise that will take you to other Northern European countries, combining your fjord viewing with port visits in northern Germany, Finland, Sweden, Denmark, and the British Isles. Some cruises that include Norway also venture west to the Faroe Islands and Iceland.

As one of the world’s northernmost countries, July and August is the most popular time to cruise Norway, but you can go as early as May and as late as September. The summer days are long – in the port of Bergen, the sun is up nearly 18 hours a day during the summer solstice, giving you more time to soak up the views.

To plan your Norwegian cruise adventure, talk with Anita, your professional travel advisor.

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Monday, July 15, 2019

A Cruise Ship May be Closer Than You Think

Where can you set sail aboard a cruise ship? Most of us are familiar with the biggest cruise ship home ports, including New York, Miami, Ft. Lauderdale, and Los Angeles. But there are more options, including some that may allow you to drive, instead of fly, to your ship. By some estimates, about half of U.S. residents live within driving distance of a cruise ship. Home ports also typically offer fun opportunities for a pre- or post-cruise stay.

Here is a list of cruise departure ports you may not be aware of:

In the northeast: 
Baltimore, MD: Board a Royal Caribbean Cruise Line ship bound for Bermuda, Canada or the Bahamas.

Boston, MA: Sail to the Caribbean, the Bahamas, Bermuda, or the New England and Canadian coast with Holland America Line, Norwegian Cruise Line, Seabourn Cruise Line, Windstar Cruises or Royal Caribbean.

Montreal, QC: From the cruise terminal in Old Montreal, sail with Oceania Cruises, Regent Seven Seas Cruises, Silversea Cruises, Viking Ocean Cruises and others down the St. Lawrence River to Maritime Canada and New England, or south as far as South America.

In the south:
Port Canaveral, FL: A quick drive from Orlando, this port provides an opportunity for a combined amusement park-and-cruise vacation. You can sail Disney Cruise Line, Royal Caribbean or Norwegian to the Bahamas and all points in the Caribbean.

Tampa, FL: Tampa offers a nice selection of short cruises to Cozumel or the Bahamas, plus longer cruises of the Western Caribbean via Norwegian, Royal Caribbean and Holland America.

New Orleans, LA, or Galveston, TX: Drivable for many residents of the south-central U.S., both ports offer cruises to Mexico’s Yucatan peninsula, Costa Maya, the Cayman Islands or Jamaica on a Disney or Royal Caribbean ship.

On the West Coast:

San Diego, CA: From San Diego, hop on a ship from Crystal Cruises, Celebrity Cruises, Princess Cruises or others to sail to the Mexican Riviera, South America, Hawaii or the South Pacific.

San Francisco, CA: This is another place to begin a cruise to Mexico or Hawaii or sail north to see the Pacific Northwest or Southeastern Alaska. Cruise lines include Princess, Regent Seven Seas and Oceania.

Seattle, WA, or Vancouver, BC: These ports are best known for cruises to Alaska on Royal Caribbean, Holland America, Norwegian, Princess and Celebrity ships.

To discuss drive-to options for your next cruise, talk with Anita, your travel professional.

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Monday, July 8, 2019

Cruise to the Galapagos Islands

The Galapagos Islands have become an incredibly popular cruise destination and it’s no wonder. These small, volcanic islands are like no place else on earth. A remote province of Ecuador, which lies 550 miles to the east, the islands teem with wildlife found nowhere else on the globe. They are a World Heritage Site, a biological marine reserve, and a national park. In other words, a real treasure.

A small-ship cruise is an ideal way to visit these special islands. A luxurious ship provides easy movement between the islands, along with comfortable accommodations and exceptional dining. There are cruises as brief as four days and some as long as 18 days, which usually includes a pre-or post-cruise stay in Ecuador. To see a good variety of Galapagos habitats and species, experts recommend a cruise of at least eight days.

Cruise ship routes in the Galapagos are carefully controlled for the protection and preservation of the islands’ unique ecologies, but there are variations between itineraries. Be sure to compare carefully before you choose.

Guided shore excursions will help you fully experience the islands. Wear your sturdy walking or hiking shoes and bring your camera. You may be able to capture photos of:

Marine iguanas, the only type of iguana that forages for food in the sea.
Darwin’s finches, with species that vary in subtle ways from one island to another.
Blue-footed boobies, which have bright-blue feet they show off when courting.
Giant tortoises, versions of which used to roam most of the earth, however, now, the Galapagos are one of only two places on earth that you’ll find them.
Flightless cormorants, the only type of cormorant that has lost the ability to fly (although, with their small wings, they swim well).
Galapagos penguins, the world’s only tropical penguin.

You can sail to the islands at any time of year, but you may prefer one or the other of two main seasons:

December through May, the weather is warm (high 80s during the day) with sporadic rain and calm water.
June through November, the weather is a bit cooler and more comfortable for hiking (high 70s during the day), with little rain. A change in ocean currents means that the water, while rarely rough, may be choppy.

To plan your cruise to the Galapagos – one of the world’s most distinctive destinations – talk with Anita, your professional travel advisor.

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Monday, July 1, 2019

Crossing the Atlantic

Does the idea of crossing the entire expanse of the Atlantic Ocean tickle your imagination? If so, talk with your professional travel advisor to explore the options for a transatlantic cruise.

These ocean crossings are truly special. With a string of consecutive days at sea, a transatlantic cruise can put the stresses of everyday life into perspective, reminding you of the vastness and beauty of the ocean and our world.

You’ll be away from the pressures of home and work and the noise of social media, if you choose. You won’t even need to worry about what to see on shore each day. You’ll have time to enjoy all the amenities of the ship (spas and swimming pools, deck games and more), to curl up with a good book for a whole day (or longer), to relax on a deck chair and simply watch the changing colors and moods of the ocean, and to try out every dining venue on board.

A transatlantic cruise also provides time to get to know your fellow passengers and make new friends. Cruise lines often schedule special guest lectures and learning sessions, giving everyone something interesting to talk about at dinner.

Some transatlantic cruises are repositioning cruises, which means the cruise line is repositioning the ship from one part of the world to another. For example, some ships sail the Caribbean through the winter, then reposition across the Atlantic to sail Europe during the summer. These cruises range from about 11 to 20 nights or more, often visiting lovely ports at the beginning or end of the cruise, or both. To provide just two examples:

A crossing from Miami to Barcelona would take about 15 days and may stop in the Azores, Lisbon, and Majorca.

A ship that’s repositioning from Copenhagen might sail for about 20 days, with stops in London, Ireland, and Bermuda before reaching Miami.

There are also transatlantic cruises that are not for the purpose of repositioning a ship. Some cruise lines offer itineraries that regularly cross the Atlantic. For example, Cunard Line’s Queen Mary 2 crosses the Atlantic from Southampton, England, to New York at least once a month from April through November with voyages typically lasting six days.

Transatlantic sailings tend to provide excellent value, with costs per day as little as $50 per person – with all the relaxation and pampering you’ve dreamed of.

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Monday, June 24, 2019

A Day in Aruba

Just off the northeast coast of South America, the ABC Islands of the Southern Caribbean – Aruba, Bonaire and Curacao – are beautiful cruise destinations. Part of the Kingdom of the Netherlands, the islands have spectacular weather all year long. They also lie south of the paths of most Atlantic hurricane systems, so they’re a great choice for summer and early fall cruises.

Aruba, the most-visited of the three, isn’t your average tropical island. The climate is drier than you might expect, and the island is dotted with forests of cacti. If you explore them, you could see some animals found nowhere else, including the Aruban Whiptail – a blue-hued, long-tailed lizard – a brown-throated parakeet, or the endangered Aruba rattlesnake (don’t get too close).

The glittering casinos in the port of Oranjestad are an attraction, but many visitors choose Aruba due to its wonderful beaches. The southern and western shores are mostly sheltered from strong ocean currents, with stretches of soft white sand. One of the most popular is Eagle Beach – long, wide and often included on lists of the world’s best beaches. If you’re there during sea turtle nesting season (March through September), red-and-white markers will alert you to the protected nests. You might even see some tiny hatchlings make their way to the ocean.

If you have young children with you and want the calmest water, take an excursion to Baby Beach. Lovely Palm Beach, backed by resort hotels, is a good place for watersports. If you’re really feeling adventurous, Hadicurari Beach on the north shore offers strong waves and breezes for experienced swimmers and kite surfers.

The wreck of the SS Pedernales, a World War II tanker sunk by a German U-boat, is a relatively shallow but interesting snorkel site. Experienced divers can take a catamaran tour out to the wreck of the Antilla, a German freighter.

To see Aruba’s interior, choose from ATV, horseback, Jeep and bike tours. You can visit Arikok National Park to see wildlife, caves, sand dunes and limestone cliffs. Around the island, there’s also an ostrich farm, a butterfly farm, a lighthouse, and a donkey sanctuary that cares for the descendants of donkeys that were once the island’s main form of transportation.

Cruise itineraries that call on Aruba are usually seven days or more, departing from Ft. Lauderdale, Miami or San Juan. Ask Anita, your professional travel advisor, to help you select a cruise that will bring you to this one-of-a-kind island.

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Cruising: The Best Way to Explore Hawaii

Cruising: The Best Way to Explore Hawaii

There’s more than one way to see Hawaii, and we would pick a cruise every time. Here’s why:

While they’re all stunning, each Hawaiian Island has its own unique landscape and special character, from the volcanoes of the Big Island to the towering waterfalls of Kauai. You’ll want to see more than one island, and a cruise makes that easy. You board your ship, unpack and relax, with no worries about having to repack to catch a flight each time you change islands.

A cruise is cost-efficient, too: Taking flights between islands gets expensive. Also, meals on shore can be pricey. As a cruise passenger, you’ll have the option of returning to the ship for delicious meals that are included in your cruise fare.

A cruise also guarantees some spectacular over-the-water views of the islands from the ship’s decks, if not from your very own stateroom. That’s something you don’t necessarily get from a hotel or resort, even if it’s on the water.

When you choose to cruise Hawaii, you have a choice of two basic cruise options. One is to fly to Honolulu and board a ship that cruises only among the islands. This will maximize your vacation time in Hawaii. Another option is to sail from a west coast port like San Diego, Los Angeles or Vancouver. This will give you time to enjoy the amenities of your ship as you sail across the Pacific.

However you get there, what can you plan to see on a Hawaiian cruise? Popular ports include Honolulu on the island of Oahu, with the iconic peak of Diamondhead and Waikiki Beach. A visit to the lovely and solemn USS Arizona Memorial in Pearl Harbor is a must, too.

Some people say Kauai is the most beautiful of the islands. Popular shore excursions include lush Waimea Canyon or a visit to the island’s breathtaking Napali coast.

Maui is known for its laid-back, artsy ambiance, with fantastic beaches and Haleakala National Park, which offers some adventurous excursions.

The Big Island of Hawaii has plantations that produce world-famous Kona coffee, plus, the stark beauty of Volcanoes National Park.

Some cruises visit the tranquil, less-developed islands of Lanai and Molokai, too. Talk with Anita, your professional travel advisor, soon to make your plans for cruising the Hawaiian Islands.

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Monday, June 17, 2019

Eight Thrilling Cruise Ship Attractions for Kids

The best cruise ships for families are equipped to keep kids entertained, especially while at sea. Many cruise ships offer great child- and family-friendly activities, but some offer truly heart-pumping attractions to thrill the kids. We find that Norwegian Cruise Line and Royal Caribbean Cruise Line ships offer quite a few activities that fall into the “thrilling” category. (Parents, note that many of these thrills can be enjoyed by the whole family.)

Racetracks. Norwegian Cruise Line’s Joy and Bliss are the first ships at sea to offer two-level racetracks designed for competitive racing. Kids can zoom along at up to 30 mph.

Escape Rooms. Several Norwegian ships have escape rooms with a carnival theme. When a carnival act goes wrong, the kids must solve puzzles to “Escape the Big Top” before time runs out.

Ziplines. On Royal Caribbean’s Oasis-class ships, kids can zip from deck 16 to 15, high above the Boardwalk neighborhood. Norwegian also features ziplines on the Getaway and Breakaway as part of a multi-level ropes course.

The Plank. Norwegian Cruise Line’s ropes courses also feature The Plank: eight feet long and just six inches wide, it extends over the ocean to give kids the experience of walking the plank, just like a pirate. (Parents, don’t worry – there’s a secure safety harness involved.)

Trapeze School. The Sea Plex on Royal Caribbean’s Quantum-class ships offers several heart-pumping experiences for kids, including Trapeze School. Kids six years of age and older can take lessons on the flying trapeze (with safety equipment).

Skydiving. The same Royal Caribbean ships offer RipCord skydiving simulators. In this glass-enclosed wind tunnel, kids can experience the feeling of free-fall skydiving.

The North Star. Royal Caribbean’s Quantum class also has the North Star, an enclosed glass capsule that rises 300 feet up and extends out over the water for fabulous, 360-degree views.

Waterslides. Norwegian’s Breakaway class ships have no less than five multistory waterslides, including one that drops a pair of kids nearly straight down for several stories before spinning them through loops. Kids on Royal Caribbean’s Harmony of the Seas get a warning that the Ultimate Abyss is one of the cruise world’s most thrilling waterslides. They start the 10-story drop by stepping into the mouth of a monster-like fish.

If you’re looking for a cruise ship that offers fun and thrills for your kids, talk with Anita, your professional travel advisor about where these ships can take you, too.

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Monday, June 10, 2019

Wildlife on an Alaskan Cruise

The stunning scenery is a huge draw, but some people cruise Alaska for a different reason: to see the wildlife that abounds there. What animals can you expect to see – at least through binoculars, and perhaps close-up – on a cruise of southeast Alaska?

On Land
The most commonly sighted Alaskan bear may be the “rock bear,” which turns out to be a boulder on the shoreline. However, it’s common to spot brown or black bears while sailing near shore or even while hiking: some shore excursions will take you to salmon streams where bears (and eagles) love to feed on fresh fish.

Mountain goats can be spotted throughout southeast Alaska. When you sail close to craggy mountains or cliffs, watch for the shaggy, surefooted creatures on high ledges.

So that you won’t be disappointed, know that one Alaskan animal you’re unlikely to see while cruising is the moose. There’s always a chance, but they usually stay farther inland.

In the Water
Alaska’s Inside Passage is a good place to spot adorable sea otters; they swim on their backs, the better to show their cute, whiskered faces. You’re also likely to see harbor seals and colonies of sea lions – the males can weigh up to a ton.

The nutrient-rich waters of Southeast Alaska attract humpback whales, and more than 500 spend the summer in the Inside Passage. These massive creatures love to “breach,” rising out of the water and dramatically splashing down on their backs. Also present, but harder to spot, are black-and-white orcas, or “killer” whales (which are actually part of the dolphin family).

Many cruises offer whale-watching excursions (via boat or kayak), which usually include sightings of other sea life, too. If your cruise calls on Seward, take an excursion to the Alaska SeaLife Center, an excellent aquarium that offers behind-the-scenes animal encounters.

In the Air
Puffins are actually better at swimming and diving than flying; watch for their distinctive orange beaks on the water or among the rocks. The oystercatcher’s bill is orange, too, though longer and slimmer than a puffin’s; they’re most often seen wading and feeding along shorelines.

Alaska also has a large population of bald eagles. You’ll spot them soaring overhead, plucking fish from the water or resting on nests high in the trees. You can take an excursion to the Alaska Raptor Center in Ketchikan, a rehabilitation center for injured eagles, owls and other birds.

To select an Alaskan cruise for the wildlife lover in you, talk with Anita, your professional travel advisor.

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Monday, June 3, 2019

The Pearl of the Adriatic: Dubrovnik

Dubrovnik, known as the Pearl of the Adriatic, is perched on the Dalmatian Coast of Croatia, directly across the Adriatic Sea from Italy and not far from Venice. Dubrovnik has become a mainstay of Eastern Mediterranean cruise itineraries that also include Venice, Athens, and the Greek Isles. When you visit, you may find that Dubrovnik is one of your all-time favorite port calls.

Larger ships often dock in suburban Dubrovnik, where you can hop a bus or take a taxi to the historic Old Town. Some smaller ships are able to dock right in the midst of this medieval treasure, which is best experienced by walking tour. Under the terracotta roofs, you’ll find centuries-old monasteries, churches, synagogues and even one of the oldest pharmacies in Europe.

Get your bearings by first walking atop the Old Town city walls. About 80 feet high, the walls provide a birds-eye view of the historic heart of the city, the sparkling Adriatic, and the brooding mountains to the east.

Come down from the walls to walk along the narrow, cobblestoned streets (there’s no vehicle traffic in the Old Town). Take a selfie beside a fountain, such as the “big” and “small” Onofrio’s Fountains at either end of Stradun, a limestone-paved street that connects the east and west entrances to the Old Town. Look at the Renaissance-era structures that survived the massive earthquake of 1667, such as the Rector’s Palace and Sponza Palace. Browse the quirky shops, then claim a table at an open-air café and enjoy a little fresh seafood or a rozata, Dubrovnik’s signature dessert.

If you’re a fan of the popular TV show Game of Thrones, you can take a walking tour of locations used for the show. Dubrovnik is the real-life location of King’s Landing, the capital of the realm’s seven kingdoms. You can see where Ayra Stark hid from the Lannisters, the city walls attacked by the Baratheons and Lovrijenac Fortress, featured in the Battle of Blackwater.

It’s easy to spend an entire day in the Old Town. There’s a lot to see, and the people-watching is top-notch. But, there are also wonderful beaches near Old Town harbor, where you can enjoy the view and soak up the sun. Or, take a boat excursion to a nearby island. The forested island of Mljet is considered to be one of the most beautiful along the Dalmatian Coast. If you’d like an active shore excursion, try a bike tour (some include a bit of wine-tasting, too).

To find a cruise that will take you to wonderful Dubrovnik, talk with Anita, your professional travel advisor.
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Monday, May 27, 2019

Try a Different Kind of Summer Cruise

Are you looking for an alternative to the Caribbean for a summer cruise? Look to the northeast: New England and Maritime Canada aren’t just for fall color cruises. The area’s natural beauty, rich history and love of celebrations come alive in the warmer months, making it a great choice for a summer voyage. In fact, you may find that summer is the best time to sail the region. Here are a few reasons why.

Summer is prime time to follow the Cliff Walk in Newport, Rhode Island. It’s the best way to admire the Gilded Age mansions along the shore – The Breakers, Marble House, The Elms and more. Many of these were built as summer homes for the wealthiest families of the day and are at their best when the gardens are in bloom.

July and August are soft-shell lobster season in Maine. The tasty crustaceans shed their hard shells (so they can grow bigger ones), providing a seasonal treat. Soft shell lobsters are known for their sweet taste. They don’t travel well, so they are best eaten when and where they are caught (look for them on menus in Bar Harbor).

Halifax, Nova Scotia, celebrates its seafaring heritage and culture all year long, but especially in the summer. You may dock in the midst of a yacht race, an international military tattoo, a jazz festival, a celebration of indigent peoples or immigrant heritage, or even the International Busker Festival. You’ll enjoy the lively pub life of Halifax, too.

Prince Edward Island is a bucket-list destination for many fans of "Anne of Green Gables,” which is set on this island province. From mid- June through September, you can catch a musical version of the beloved book at the Confederation Centre of the Arts in Charlottetown. It’s been the headline event of the Charlottetown Festival, a celebration of the arts, for more than 50 years.

As an added incentive, the best time to see whales off the Atlantic coast is June through September. You may spot some playful seals, too.

You can choose from a delightful variety of itineraries of various lengths for your summer cruise of New England and Canada. Depending on your cruise line, you can embark from Baltimore, Boston, New York City, Quebec or Montreal. There are round-trip cruises, as well as one-way cruises that may enable you to experience more of the region. To explore all of the options, talk with Anita, your professional travel advisor.

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Monday, May 20, 2019

The Suite Life at Sea

Sailing in a cruise ship suite is a wonderful treat.  While “suite” can mean different things on different ships (and many ships have a range of suite sizes and designs), suites generally have more square footage than a regular stateroom, with separate sitting and sleeping areas. Many boast larger bathrooms, sometimes with bathtubs, and almost always have a balcony or verandah. However, suites deliver more than additional space; they come with special amenities that provide great value, too.

For example, sailing in a suite can eliminate the need to purchase onboard beverage packages. Some cruise lines include a generous beverage package in the price of a suite or stock up your suite’s minibar with complimentary beverages.

As a suite passenger, you’ll find other extras included in your fare. These may include fitness classes, in-suite movies, gratuities for the crew, WiFi access, laundry, and some ship tours or shore excursions. Ask your professional travel advisor to help you explore the extras included in suite fares for a cruise you would like to take.

And, there’s more. When you book a suite, you’ll receive priority check-in, which makes the process of boarding the ship faster and easier. You may even be escorted to a comfortable lounge to await your turn to check in – much nicer than standing in a long line. Also, when the ship visits a port, you’ll be among the first to disembark or board a tender.

More cruise lines are setting aside special spaces on their ships just for suite dwellers. You may receive a key to an exclusive lounge, sun deck or pool where you can relax and enjoy complimentary snacks, cocktails, specialty coffees, and a great view. Some ships even have specialty restaurants accessible only to suite passengers. Examples include Celebrity Cruises’ Luminae, Royal Caribbean’s Coastal Kitchen and Norwegian Cruise Line’s Haven Restaurant.

Butler and concierge services are increasingly popular luxury amenities for suite passengers. Your butler will unpack your bags, bring you snacks and drinks, shine your shoes, serve dinner in your suite and more. Your concierge will make spa and specialty dining reservations, help you plan a day in port, and manage any billing questions or concerns.

Finally, to enjoy the suite life at sea, be sure to make your cruise reservation as early as possible. Suites are usually the first category of accommodations to sell out.

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Monday, May 13, 2019

Cruising With a Special Diet

Cruise ships are well-known for offering delicious, plentiful food that you don’t have to shop for, prepare or clean up. What’s not as well-known is that the dining staff can accommodate all kinds of special or restricted diets – important at a time when an estimated 15 million Americans have food allergies or need food that’s free of fat, salt, nuts, meat, sugar, dairy, cholesterol, carbohydrates or gluten. Cruise lines are also accustomed to working with guests who need kosher, halal and vegan dining options.

Mealtime on a cruise ship used to be more of a challenge for passengers on medically restricted, religious or healthy lifestyle diets. But, that’s a thing of the past. Cruise lines today have expansive menu options and familiarity with different methods of cooking.

If you have special dietary needs, the key is to be diligent about communicating those needs. When you make your cruise reservation, let the cruise line know exactly what your dietary needs are (your professional travel advisor can help you with this). Many cruise lines have a special form for you to complete.

When you board the ship, make sure your dietary needs are on record. Ask to speak with the maître d’ or another member of the dining staff to review menu options and make sure your needs are understood (some cruise lines will automatically set up this meeting for you).

When you sit down for a meal, tell your server about your special dietary needs. And when your food arrives, don’t hesitate to ask your server about anything that doesn’t seem right. Your server and the chefs will do whatever is needed to give you delicious meals that stay within your dietary guidelines.

If you don’t have dietary restrictions but simply want to be able to make healthy dining choices while on your cruise, don’t worry. The lido deck is one place to look for a well-stocked buffet with fresh and healthy choices while main dining room menus virtually always feature healthy options, as well. Plus, you can always ask for a rich dish to be prepared in a different way. For example, with protein that’s broiled instead of sautéed, with less or no salt, and with sauces and dressings served on the side. Tasty!

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Monday, May 6, 2019

Cruise Line Private Islands

If you haven’t taken a Caribbean cruise that includes a day on a cruise line’s private island, you should definitely consider it. A day on a private island is about as relaxing and stress-free as a day can be and several cruise lines have been updating and upgrading their private islands.

For example, Princess Cays in The Bahamas – the private island of Princess Cruises since 1992 – has some updates, including refurbished bars and beach bungalows, new shops and landscaping, plus a big addition to the infrastructure: WiFi access. There’s a choice of activities, including a clear-bottom kayak adventure across a beautiful lagoon, and a great bicycle tour of the island. Guests can rent water sports equipment or interact with stingrays in at the Stingray Beach Encounter.

Royal Caribbean is currently updating one of its two private islands, CocoCay in The Bahamas, to provide what the cruise line promises will be a “Perfect Day.” A brand-new pier will open soon, and several new features are scheduled to open in May. These include the Thrill Waterpark, which will have some of North America’s tallest waterslides and a huge wave pool. A 1,600-foot zip line with a fun a water landing and Chill Island, with water-view cabanas and daybeds will also be introduced. More attractions will debut later this year, including South Beach, where guests can play volleyball, basketball, and soccer, or get on the water for paddle boarding or “zorbing” in an inflatable zorb ball.

MSC Cruises has been developing Ocean Cay MSC Marine Reserve in the Bahamas, scheduled to open in November 2019. The cruise line says it’s focused on showcasing the island’s natural beauty and there will be seven different beaches for guests to enjoy. To help ensure beautiful underwater experiences, too, the cruise line has planted a coral nursery that will help develop new types of coral resistant to climate change. MSC also plans to let guests stay on the island until late in the evening so they can enjoy island sunsets and even movies on the beach.

While these private islands (and others) are in The Bahamas, cruise lines’ private islands can be found in other locations around the Caribbean, as well. Talk with Anita, your professional travel advisor, about cruises that will take you to one of these little pieces of paradise.

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Monday, April 29, 2019

Theme Cruises Amp Up the Fun

Theme cruises offer an unbeatable combination: the fun, adventure and relaxation of a cruise with a chance to immerse yourself in a favorite hobby or interest. Sound like fun? Read on.

First, it’s important to know that theme cruises can be either full-ship or partial-ship. A full-ship theme cruise means everyone on board shares the same interest. On a partial-ship theme cruise, a sizable group of people interested in the theme will be on board. Some of the venues may be devoted to the group, but many passengers will not be involved in themed activities (though they may want to learn about your group).

Some of the most popular cruise themes revolve around food, wine and craft beer, but that’s just a slice of a very large theme-cruise pie. There’s an amazing variety of theme cruises. Here are a few that are coming up soon.

Runaway to Paradise with Jon Bon Jovi. Norwegian Cruise Lines’ partnership with Sixthman delivers theme cruises focused on music, including a four-day Mediterranean journey starring Jon Bon Jovi. The Norwegian Pearl will sail from Barcelona on August 20, meeting up with Jon at Palma, Majorca. He’ll come aboard for some Q&A and a memorable concert and there will other music throughout the cruise, too, from musicians like Johnny Rzeznik and Grace Potter.

Grand Prix and Cannes. This cruise takes in two events that will get your heart pumping: the Cannes Film Festival in France and the Monte Carlo Grand Prix auto race in Monaco. You’ll enjoy overnight stays in both Cannes and Monte Carlo, soaking up the star-studded atmosphere. This 11-day cruise on the Azamara Journey begins in Rome on May 18 and will take you to Sorrento, Corsica and Barcelona, too.

Cooking with Jacques Pepin. Oceania Cruises presents an opportunity to sail and refine your kitchen skills with master chef Jacques Pepin, Oceania’s executive culinary director. Enjoy special menus, lectures, culinary demonstrations and more on this annual cruise. This year, the Oceania Marina will depart on September 17 from Amsterdam, visiting castles and vineyards before sailing into Lisbon 12 days later.

Anita, professional travel advisor can help you find theme cruises for just about any interest – crafting, dancing, investing, wellness, LBGTQ lifestyles, nature photography, history, games, and so much more.

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Monday, April 22, 2019

The Latest Cruise Trends

The Cruise Lines International Association (CLIA) keeps a keen eye on the state of the cruise industry, and recently shared what they see as the top trends in cruising for 2019. Here’s what cruise fans can look forward to.

1.      Instagrammable Cruise Travel: With greater ability to instantly post to social media sites from a cruise ship, more of the 350 million-plus daily posts with the #travel tag will be from the deck of a cruise ship or the middle of a shore excursion.
2.      Total Restoration: Cruise lines are doing more to meet travelers’ interests in wellness through restorative spa experiences, onboard oxygen bars, healthy menu choices, and the latest fitness equipment and techniques.
3.      Achievement Over Experience: Vacationers want immersive cultural experiences beyond sightseeing, and cruise lines deliver. Shore excursions provide bucket-list experiences like exploring Machu Picchu or cooking alongside Le Cordon Bleu chefs.
4.      On-Board with Smart Tech: More cruise lines are adopting wearable digital technology such as bracelets and other devices that serve as convenient room keys, onboard credit cards and more.
5.      Conscious Travel: Cruise lines are working more closely with local communities to preserve their heritage and decrease the imprint of cruise travel while providing the benefits of tourism to local economies.
6.      Access is the New Luxury: Cruising is one of the best ways to visit certain remote destinations, such as Antarctica, the Galapagos Islands or Greenland.
7.      Gen Z at Sea: The desire to travel and a preference for authentic experiences is expected to attract the young adults of Generation Z to cruising.
8.      Off-Peak Adventures: Winter in the northern hemisphere is becoming a more popular time to cruise, whether to escape the cold in a tropical place or embrace the chill while sailing toward the Northern Lights, a penguin colony, or the Christmas Markets of Europe.
9.      Working Nomads: Some professionals find it difficult to disconnect from work for the entire length of a cruise and need to mix a little work time with their leisure. These “digital nomads” can work remotely from ships equipped with Wi-Fi, desks and work-friendly cafes.
10.  Female-Centered Cruising: Tourism and travel companies are catering to the interests of women travelers, presenting opportunities to connect and create female empowerment communities at sea.
11.  Going Solo: There are more Google searches for “solo travel” and “traveling alone” than ever before, and cruising is a great option. It provides the security of traveling in a group with the option of privacy, too.

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Monday, April 15, 2019

Great Mediterranean Cruise Options

Europe’s Mediterranean Basin overflows with diverse natural beauty and an abundance of historic ports perched at the edge of sea. It’s too much to see on a single cruise, so most itineraries focus on part of this this legendary region. So, what are some options for a week-long Mediterranean cruise?

Greek Isles. The classic choice is a voyage among the Greek Isles in the Aegean portion of the Mediterranean. It has been a bucket list item for generations. A cruise is the best way to see the islands, ringed by deep blue water, edged with sunny beaches and adorned with whitewashed cottages. Favorite port calls on a cruise from Athens include the islands of Mykonos and Santorini. Some visit Crete, as well, where there’s an amazing variety of excursions to enjoy, from snorkeling to the high, windmill-studded Lasithi Plateau.

Adriatic Sea. This arm of the Mediterranean sparkles between the Italian and Balkan Peninsulas. Many cruises begin in Venice, perfect for a pre- or post-cruise stay. Where else can you see so many beautiful medieval buildings via gondola? As you sail along Croatia’s Dalmatian Coast, port calls may include Split and Dubrovnik. You might also call on Kotor, Montenegro, a dramatic mix of medieval city walls, Venetian-style palaces, museums and churches. Some cruises then sail west to end in Naples or Rome, and others continue east to call on Athens.

French Riviera. The southern coast of France, lined with glamorous ports, is all about the finer things in life: vineyards, golden beaches, and flavorful cuisine. Port calls may include Marseille, with its multicultural vibe (take an excursion to the Chateau d’If of The Count of Monte Cristo fame); the seaside resort of Sant-Tropez; luxurious Cannes; and Monte Carlo. Some cruises include a stop in Corsica, known as the birthplace of Napoleon and appreciated for its spectacular mountain scenery.

Western Mediterranean. Many Western Mediterranean cruises provide the chance to spend a few extra days in the city of Barcelona, where there’s so much to see in the famous Gothic Quarter and beyond. Cruises from Barcelona often call on Cannes or Marseilles on the French Riviera; Livorno, Italy, a port city that gives you a choice of excursions to Florence or Pisa; the Eternal City of Rome; and perhaps Naples, backed by brooding Mount Vesuvius. It’s a treat if your itinerary includes Palma on the lovely island of Mallorca, rich in historic sites.

Talk with your professional travel advisor about the part of the Mediterranean that you would most like to cruise.

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Monday, April 8, 2019

Spending Time in San Juan

It’s been 18 months since Hurricane Maria devastated the beautiful Caribbean island of Puerto Rico, and while there are people and places that are still recovering, the port city of San Juan has rebounded. It’s the starting and ending point for many cruises of the Eastern and Southern Caribbean, and a fantastic place for a pre- or post-cruise stay.

One of the best things to do in San Juan is see the Old San Juan neighborhood, the oldest settlement in Puerto Rico. It rests on its own narrow island, linked to the city by bridges. There’s a lot of well-preserved Spanish Colonial architecture here, including the Catedral Metropolitana Basilica de San Juan Bautista; one of the oldest cathedrals in the Americas, it contains the tomb of Spanish explorer Juan Ponce de Leon. In the park outside, are whimsical animal sculptures, including a charming cat with the neck of a giraffe.

Another imposing sight is the Castillo de san Cristobal, where the first shot of the Spanish-American War was fired in 1898. There’s also La Fortaleza, which began life as a fortress and has now housed more than 170 governors of Puerto Rico.

By day, the La Placita market in San Juan’s Santurce neighborhood is a traditional open-air market filled with fresh fruits, vegetables, and other produce, and surrounded by delightful restaurants and bars. On Thursday, Friday and Saturday nights, the market becomes the center of a lively block party, with music and dancing into the night. Be sure to fortify yourself with classic Puerto Rican dishes like mofongo (seasoned mashed plantains) and arroz con dulce (sticky rice cooked with spices, coconut milk, raisins, and rum). Santurce is also a center of the arts in San Juan, so there are lots of galleries to browse.

San Juan may be your starting point for a cruise to the beaches of the Caribbean, but some of the best are right in San Juan – made of soft white sand, lapped by turquoise water, and lined with palm trees. Some popular beaches are Escambron Beach, Condado Beach, and Ocean Park Beach.

There’s also a lot to see within an hour’s drive of San Juan, including El Yunque National Forest and the bioluminescent bay at Laguna Grande.

Ask your professional travel advisor about a great cruise from San Juan and where to stay for a few days to enjoy this historical and lovely city.

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Monday, April 1, 2019

What’s New in River Cruising

River cruises are getting more popular, and it’s easy to understand why. River cruise ships sail the inland waterways of North America, Europe, Asia and other spots around the globe, treating passengers to constantly changing scenery, immersive experiences on shore, and an intimate onboard environment. If you haven’t been on a river cruise yet, ask someone who has – we think they’ll recommend it. If you’re already a river cruise fan, what will be new and different in 2019? Here are some of the biggest trends in river cruising:

Special Interest Cruises. Voyages that appeal to specific interests aren’t just for ocean cruising. There are river cruises that focus on food or wine (think sailing through a winemaking region, with plenty of tours and tastings on the way), including beer-themed cruises for the brew masters among us. Others focus on art, World War history, Jewish heritage, gardens, golf and more. Some of the most popular special interest voyages focus on the charming, sparkling Christmas markets of Europe (a wonderful option for a holiday season cruise).

Multigenerational Cruises. This is important if you’re looking for a family cruise vacation. Some river cruise lines welcome children, while others are limited to adults. So, as you browse itineraries, make sure all the members of your family – including any tots, tweens and teens – will be able to get on board (your professional travel advisor can help you with this). If you plan to roll on the river with kids, check out the next trend, too – active cruises.

Active Cruises. Passengers who consider daily exercise a must want to work out on board, so river cruise lines are creating larger fitness centers with a greater variety of equipment and, in some cases, professional fitness instructors. As for being active on shore, river cruises call on a new town nearly every day, and you can explore them on walking tours of various intensities. Some port calls also give you the chance to explore via bike or kayak, or to swim at local beaches, too.

Eco-Sensitivity. River cruise ship lighting systems, heating and cooling, water treatment systems and windows are getting more energy-efficient all the time. During the next few years, watch for ships with higher-performing engines that have the potential to reduce fuel consumption. Some lines are also reducing the use of plastic products (straws, for example). After all, it’s essential for river cruise lines to protect the ecology and beauty of the rivers they sail upon.

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Monday, March 25, 2019

New Choices for Expedition Cruising

If you want to combine your love of cruising with your desire for adventure, you’re not alone. There’s growing interest in expedition cruising, because it’s thrilling to set foot in a beautiful spot where few other visitors have been. Expedition cruises are designed to familiarize you with the unique cultures, ecosystems and histories of remote locations from Alaska to the Amazon.

It’s important to know that expedition cruises put the focus on their awe-inspiring destinations, rather than shipboard amusements. The ships are much smaller than their ocean-going counterparts, often accommodating less than 100 passengers. Instead of shows and casinos, you’ll have experts on board who will share their knowledge about the destination. However, there’s no shortage of comfort.

Some cruise providers have already announced expedition itineraries for 2020 and beyond. For example, Crystal Yacht Expedition Cruises just announced 11 new itineraries for 2021 aboard the Crystal Esprit. The 62-guest yacht will visit Turkey’s Turquoise Coast, Croatia’s Dalmatian Coast, and in the Middle East, where port calls in the United Arab Emirates, Dubai and Abu Dhabi; Qatar, Oman and Bahrain, or Israel, Egypt and Jordan.

Silversea Cruises is in the process of preparing a ship for polar expeditions. The 254-passenger Silver Wind is receiving an upgrade now, and a second refurbishment in summer 2020 will give it ice-class status in advance of Antarctic voyages set to begin that November. The ship will be equipped with a fleet of Zodiac boats (inflatable craft that take you from ship to shore) and additional equipment for cruising in remote regions. The ship’s 15-day Antarctic itinerary, roundtrip from Ushuaia, includes the Falkland Islands, the Drake Passage, the Antarctic Peninsula, and the South Shetland Islands.

The Hurtigruten cruise line focuses only on exploration voyages, and it plans an expansion to Alaska in 2020. Voyages through the Inside Passage will call on places rarely visited by other cruise lines, such as Petersburg, a picturesque village founded by Norwegian fishermen. Passengers will see it all on the first hybrid-powered cruise ship in Alaska, Hurtigruten’s MS Roald Amundsen, equipped with large battery packs. The ship will end its first season in Alaska by sailing the Northwest Passage from Nome to Greenland, then on to Halifax, Nova Scotia.

For more expedition cruise options to satisfy your taste for adventure, talk with Anita, your professional travel advisor.

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