Cruise Holidays - Attheta Travel

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

Monday, February 25, 2019

Fun Themed Programming for Kids

Cruising is a wonderful family vacation, but you might want to be sure your chosen cruise line and ship offer special activities for children. You may look forward to spending a day reading an entire book while stretched out on a poolside lounge chair, but your kids may need to be a bit more active than that.

Not to worry – family-oriented cruise lines know how to keep kids happy. And, some lines that offer supervised (and often educational) programming for children have teamed up with big names in entertainment to ensure your young cruise companions have fun.

Disney Cruise Line has a built-in advantage in this area, as Disney is one of the biggest names in entertainment. The house of mouse puts its beloved characters to good use on its four cruise ships, where they can often be found in the Oceaneer Club and Lab (for ages 3 to 12). Characters vary by ship, but just imagine your kids playing and learning alongside Woody from Toy Story, Tinker Bell, Jedi knights from Star Wars, the superheroes of MARVEL (Doctor Strange makes appearances to teach the Mystic Arts), Anna and Elsa from “Frozen” and, of course, Mickey Mouse.

Princess Cruises recently teamed with Discovery Inc. (the media company that runs the Discovery Channel, Animal Planet, HGTV and more) and rebranded its youth program as Camp Discovery. Facilities include a colorful Tree House for ages 3 to 7, a cozy Lodge for ages 8 to 12, and a relaxed Beach House for teens. Daily activities may include hands-on science experiments based on the popular “Myth Busters” TV show, interactive scavenger hunts à la “Shark Hunters,” animal puppet and mask making, cake decorating, and much more. There are fewer scheduled activities at the Beach House, but teens are welcome to drop in as they like to enjoy the computer stations, air hockey tables, video games and dance floor.

MSC Cruises has teamed up with LEGO, maker of the enduringly popular snap-together plastic bricks. Kids who attend the Miniclub (ages 3-6) or the Juniors Club (ages 7-11) can play and create with a massive selection of LEGO bricks and equipment. Plus, each cruise includes the LEGO Experience on Board – a whole day at sea that’s dedicated to fun LEGO activities the whole family can enjoy together.

For more information on these and other creative, kid-oriented cruise programs, talk with Anita, your professional travel advisor.

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Monday, February 18, 2019

Lots of Options for Cruising Alaska

Alaska has long been a favorite cruise destination, consistently ranked among the top five domestic vacation destinations. The 49th state’s spectacular scenery – perhaps best seen from a ship – is a consistent draw.

There are two common Alaska cruise itineraries. One focuses on the Inside Passage, the waterway that threads between the coastline of the southeast panhandle and a string of barrier islands. This is a popular choice for a seven- or eight-night, roundtrip cruise from Seattle or Vancouver. The scenery is breathtaking and the towns you might visit – Ketchikan, Skagway, Sitka, Juneau – are historic and interesting. 

The second typical itinerary also sails the Inside Passage but takes in some of the Gulf of Alaska, too, giving you more of the glaciers, mountain peaks and wildlife that make Alaska so memorable. These are often one-way cruises, meaning you’ll embark and disembark in different cities. For example, you might go from Seattle or Vancouver to Seward, the closest port to Anchorage. You can sail most of these one-way cruises from south to north or north to south.

That said, two standard paths for Alaska cruising does not mean your choices are limited – there are lots of cruise lines and itineraries to choose from. Here are just a few:

Princess Cruises provides options for its week-long Alaska cruises. One itinerary takes you roundtrip from Seattle to the lovely city of Victoria, British Columbia, then on to Ketchikan, Juneau, Skagway and Glacier Bay. Another departs from Vancouver and sails further north, visiting beautiful College Fjord and ending in Whittier, near Anchorage.

Azamara Cruises offers a 10-night voyage from Seward with stops at Hubbard Glacier, where 400-year-old ice calves into Disenchantment Bay. You’ll also visit Sitka, first occupied by Tlingit and then Russian settlers, plus Juneau, Ketchikan and Victoria before you disembark in Vancouver.

Windstar offers an 11-night voyage that takes in the mountains and fjords of the Kenai Peninsula, as well as Sitka, Tracy Arm, Haines, Juneau, Wrangell and Ketchikan before arriving in Vancouver.

When you cruise Alaska, you may want to see some of its inland wonders, too. Several cruise lines offer a combination of cruise and land tours. Many of these “cruisetours” take you to majestic Denali National Park, while other destinations in Alaska and the Yukon are available, too.

Talk with Ainta, your professional travel advisor, about your options for discovering Alaska via cruise or cruisetour.

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Monday, February 11, 2019

Cruising the Panama Canal

The history of the Panama Canal is dramatic, and its reputation as one of the world’s great feats of engineering is well deserved. A cruise is a fantastic way to see this manmade waterway and the surrounding scenery in the beautiful Central American country of Panama.

The canal cuts through a slim, jungle-covered isthmus that connects North and South America, allowing ships to glide between the Atlantic and Pacific Oceans. Begun by the French in 1880, the difficult work of canal construction was finally finished by the U.S. in 1914.

There are interesting options for cruising the canal: you have a choice of how far to go. Specifically, you can choose from a full crossing, partial crossing or no crossing at all.

Full-crossing itineraries sail all the way through the canal,  a 50-mile voyage that includes three locks, Lake Gatun and the Culebra Cut on the Continental Divide. Be sure to check out the shore excursion options within the canal. You could ride on the Panama Railway, built in the 1850s to speed prospectors across the isthmus on their way to the gold fields of California. Or, take a boat tour around Lake Gatun to spot monkeys and other wildlife, and stop on an island where you can swim, kayak or fish.

Partial crossing itineraries don’t go through the entire canal; instead, they venture through one lock and often a call on the town of Gamboa, where you can enjoy a variety of shore excursions.

A no-crossing itinerary calls on Colon, Panama, the city at the Atlantic/Caribbean entrance to the canal. Your cruise ship won’t enter the canal at all, but you can take an excursion into the canal on a smaller boat.

Clearly, it’s a thrill to traverse the entire canal. But an advantage of a partial- or no-crossing cruise is that your ship may have more time to visit other Central American ports, such as Costa Rica’s Limon or Puntarenas (fantastic ports for seekers of adventure and tropical beauty).

A wide variety of cruises lines sail to the Panama Canal, which means you have a great choice of ships and staterooms. For this cruise, you may want to reserve a cabin with a balcony.

There’s a lot more to know about Panama Canal cruises, and Anita, your professional travel advisor, can give you all the details on shore excursions, the Caribbean and/or Pacific portions of various itineraries, and the variety of North American home ports from which you can sail.

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Monday, February 4, 2019

Digital Innovation on the High Seas

Digital technologies are making the cruise experience even better. Many cruise lines now offer smartphone software applications (or “apps”) passengers can use to access lots of helpful information, such as daily activity schedules, spa reservation assistance, or trackers for onboard spending.

Some cruise lines are now going beyond. For example, some Royal Caribbean ships now equip passengers with WOW bands: wristbands with RFID chips that serve as stateroom keys and onboard credit cards. Passengers love them because they eliminate the need to carry around one of Royal Caribbean’s SeaPass cards, which are easier to misplace or forget. Royal Caribbean intends to make WOW bands available on all of its ships within a few years.

Princess Cruises is also introducing a digital wristband, the OceanMedallion, which debuted this fall on the Caribbean Princess. It serves as a stateroom key and onboard credit card, as well as an onboard wayfinder and a means to locate your travel companions. Plus, there are portals all around the ship where passengers can use their OceanMedallions to check itineraries and activity schedules, stream travel shows, and play games with family and friends.

MSC Cruises offers a digital wristband, too – called MSC for Me – and a digital personal assistant, called Zoe, now available on the new MSC Bellissima. In every stateroom, Zoe uses interactive voice technology to answer questions that passengers would otherwise need to take to the guest services desk. Zoe understands seven languages: English, French, Italian, Spanish, German, Brazilian Portuguese, and Mandarin.

Some ships already use facial recognition technology to match the candid photos taken by ship photographers with on-file passenger photos (usually taken at check-in). In the future, facial recognition and other biometric data may be used to help streamline passenger boarding and off-boarding, and to make onboard payment for extra services even easier.

Who knows – future cruise ship technologies might mean you’ll arrive at breakfast with your coffee already poured and your eggs cooked just the way you like them; or, you’ll return to your cabin after a day of activity to find your bathwater ready, at just the right temperature!

To check out the latest digital innovations on ships like the Anthem of the Seas, the Caribbean Princess or the MSC Bellissima, talk with Anita, your professional travel advisor.

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