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, August 8, 2022

Take a Short Cruise for a Relaxing Break

 If you dream of a quick break that will really take you away from it all, take a look at short cruises. Two or three days on a cruise ship isn’t a lot of time, but it can provide lots of fun and relaxation. Plus, a short cruise is a great option if you have a small vacation budget, limited vacation time, or you haven’t cruised before and want to find out how much you like it. You can also combine a short cruise with some extra time in a port city, giving you two vacation experiences in one. 


Several cruise lines offer two- or three-day cruises from a variety of ports. Let’s look at some of the places you can go. 


From Florida ports like Cape Canaveral, Fort Lauderdale, or Miami, you can board a ship for a short cruise to Key West; Nassau, the capital of The Bahamas; or, a visit to a cruise line’s private island (there are several in The Bahamas). A day on a cruise line’s private island is delightful and much like a visit to an exclusive beach club: there are no crowds, just sand, sun, shaded loungers, beachy fun, and delicious food. 


From Los Angeles or San Diego, you can take a short cruise to Ensenada, Mexico. Tour the historic city, go wine tasting in the Valle de Guadalupe, visit the La Bufadora marine geyser, or paddle a kayak near adorable sea lions. 


Some short cruises sail along the scenic West Coast between Seattle and San Francisco or Vancouver. All three cities are full of wonderful attractions, such as Vancouver’s Gastown neighborhood, Seattle’s Pike Place Market, and San Francisco’s Golden Gate Bridge. Some short itineraries to Vancouver also call on Victoria, the beautiful capital of British Columbia. 


When you choose a quick but refreshing cruise, be aware that cruise lines tend to assign smaller, older ships to these routes. The ships are still lovely and comfortable, but if you’re looking for the latest onboard entertainment and dining options, you may not find them on a two- or three-day cruise. 


Also, short cruises tend to attract younger passengers, including families with kids, who appreciate the affordability. This often creates a fun and lively atmosphere onboard; but if you tire of the party, you can always find a quiet corner or relax in your cabin for a while. 


For more ideas and details about short cruises, talk with Anita, your professional travel advisor. 


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Monday, August 1, 2022

Cruising With Baby

Can you bring your baby on a cruise? Yes, parents do it all the time, but there are some things to understand and think through. 

 First, there’s an age requirement for babies at sea. Many cruises welcome babies who are at least six months old, though some longer itineraries have a 12-month minimum age. But a few cruise lines don’t accept any passengers under age 18, including babies. 


Some cruise lines offer discounted fares for babies (and other children) who share your cabin; you should also ask your professional travel advisor to alert you to “kids sail free” promotions. Still, you may have to pay a regular fare for your baby.  


When you plan to bring a baby on board, it’s important to request a crib when you make your cruise reservation. And, as very few cabins have a bathtub or a sink large enough for bathing a baby, you may want to bring a small inflatable bathtub with you. 


Bring all the food and supplies (diapers, wipes, rash cream, changing pad, fold-up stroller, pacifiers, a favorite toy, and more) your baby will need. Some ships have small supplies of baby care essentials or offer a pre-embarkation delivery service, but these can be pricey. To make travel to the ship easier, arrive in port early enough to go to a store and buy baby supplies to bring on board. 


If your baby drinks formula, bring enough for the duration of the cruise; if they drink milk, find out if your ship carries the kind they like. On some cruise lines, the galley will mash or puree food for babies, but others expect you to bring jars of baby food. Fortunately, most onboard dining rooms and restaurants have highchairs; if you don’t see one, just ask. 


Note that babies and toddlers must be toilet-trained before they can use cruise ship pools, but a few ships have “splash zones” where babies in swim diapers are welcome. 


Babysitting services also vary by cruise line. Some don’t offer them, but others provide services at hourly rates; helpful when you want to take a baby-free shore excursion or have dinner on your own.  


Ultimately, you’re the best judge of whether or not to take your baby on a cruise, because you know how your baby reacts to new people, places, and routines. Contact Anita, your professional travel advisor, to talk about ships and itineraries that can provide a great cruise experience for you and your baby. 


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Monday, July 25, 2022

Open-Air Spaces to Enjoy on a Cruise

When choosing a ship for your next cruise, look for spaces where you can enjoy open sky and fresh air as you sail across the water. Some ships have especially appealing outdoor spaces; here are a few that we really like. 

 Celebrity Cruises Edge Class ships – the Edge, Apex and Beyond – have an incredible outdoor space called The Garden, decorated with beautiful live plants, metal sculptures, and comfortable seating. These ships also feature the Magic Carpet, a large, open-air platform off one side of the ship that moves up and down to serve different al fresco purposes. It can be a specialty restaurant, a music venue, an extension of the pool area or even an elegant way to disembark. 


Celebrity’s Solstice Class ships, first introduced in 2008, have an outdoor space that’s still unique in the cruise world. On the top deck, there’s a half-acre of real, growing grass, called the Lawn Club. Guests are welcome to remove their shoes, walk across the soft grass, and relax in a hammock, Adirondack chair or cabana. 


Onboard pools are often a good place to catch some fresh air and sun, but they don’t all have sea views. Holland America’s Sea View Pools, located at the rear (aft) of the ship, pools have a lovely view over the water. 


Royal Caribbean’s Oasis Class ships feature Central Park, a lush garden that’s located in the middle of the ship, but open to the sky. Each park has thousands of full-size trees, shrubs and flowers, with winding pathways, benches, shops, and restaurants. With a little help from technology, the parks are also filled with the soothing sounds of chirping crickets and singing birds (real birds sometimes find their way to these green spaces, too). 


On Oceania Cruises’ Marina and Riviera, the spa’s thalassotherapy pool, along with hot tubs and chaise lounges, are on the open-air Aquamar Spa Terrace. Here, you can combine some soothing spa treatments with an inspiring sea view. 


Since it was introduced in 2004, Movies Under the Stars has become a signature feature on the ships of Princess Cruises. Passengers gather in these open-air, poolside amphitheaters to watch current films, sports events, and more. Programming runs all day, but in the evening the crew adds pillows and blankets to the poolside lounge chairs, then serves popcorn and special beverages. 


To find out more about fresh-air spaces on any cruise ship, talk with Anita, your professional travel advisor. 


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Monday, July 18, 2022

Fabulous Suites at Sea

On a cruise, you sail away from your daily routine to a very different kind of experience. Every passenger – even those who stay in the smallest inside cabins – can enjoy a high level of service, comfort, and cuisine. 

 Of course, if you’d like a little more space, you can book a suite; and on some ships, you can book a really extravagant suite. The most luxurious suites at sea may not fit within your budget, at least not yet…but we can all dream. Let’s take a quick look at a few suites to aspire to. 


The Garden Villa Suite on Norwegian Cruise Line’s Star Class and Jewel Class ships is enormous: nearly 7,000 square feet, or about three times the size of the average U.S. home. There are three bedrooms, three and a half baths, and a spacious living room with a baby grand piano. Walls of windows overlook outdoor spaces that offer amenities like a private hot tub, sun deck, and dining area. This suite is part of The Haven ship-within-a-ship complex, so it comes with extras like butler service and unlimited beverages. 


If you’re sailing with kids, it’s hard to beat the Ultimate Family Suite on Royal Caribbean’s Symphony of the Seas, Spectrum of the Seas, and Wonder of the Seas. This spacious two-story suite has a large balcony and private jetted tub, but what really sets it apart are the toys and games. There’s an in-suite slide, air hockey, and ping-pong tables, a giant Connect 4 game, a LEGO wall, and an 85-inch TV equipped with popular video games. A Royal Genie (butler), unlimited beverages, and specialty dining are all included. 


The Regent Suite on Regent Seven Seas Cruises’ Splendor, Explorer and Grandeur are one of the most opulent at sea; its 4,000+ square feet is filled with unique furnishings and rare works of art. There are two spacious bedrooms (featuring high-end, hand-made mattresses) and a living room equipped with a grand piano. There are views in three directions, an in-suite sauna and steam room, walk-in closets, and a private solarium. You and your companions will also be the only passengers who can reserve The Study, a luxe private dining room where you and up to 12 guests will dine off gorgeous French porcelain. 


These and other top-tier suites at sea are pricey, but also extremely popular and always booked well in advance. For more information, talk with Anita, your professional travel advisor. 


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Monday, July 11, 2022

Cruising the Hawaiian Islands

A cruise is a fantastic way to introduce yourself to the islands of Hawaii, the 50th state. Each of these stunning volcanic islands has its own distinct character, and a cruise gives you the chance to visit more than one. 

 Basically, there are three ways to cruise Hawaii: 


Hawaii-only cruises. Norwegian Cruise Line is the only major cruise line that offers regular, Hawaii-only cruises. Why? To comply with U.S. passenger shipping laws, cruise ships registered outside the U.S. (most of them are) must call on at least one international port during each cruise; this is why cruises to Hawaii that depart from the West Coast often call on Ensenada, Mexico. But, U.S.-flagged ships are exempt from this rule. Norwegian Cruise Line has one U.S.-flagged ship – the Pride of America – and it sails seven-day cruises of the islands, roundtrip from Honolulu.  


One-way or round-trip cruises from the West Coast. Several cruise lines offer cruises to Hawaii from Vancouver, San Francisco, Los Angeles, or San Diego. These cruises combine relaxing days at sea with stops at multiple Hawaiian Islands. These cruises can be lengthy; even one-way cruises are usually 10 days or more. If you have time for an even longer cruise, some itineraries that include Hawaii sail to other islands in the South Pacific. 


Repositioning cruises. Some ships that are moving from the West Coast to Asia or Australia, from Alaska to the Mexican Riviera, or from the Pacific to the Atlantic via the Panama Canal call on one or more of the Hawaiian Islands. These one-way, extended cruises are great fun for people who love to sail and have the time to take a longer voyage. 


After you decide which type of Hawaiian cruise is best for you, pick an itinerary. Here are some of the gorgeous places you can visit: 


·         Honolulu, on the island of Oahu, is the busy urban center of the islands and home to Waikiki Beach and historic Pearl Harbor. 

·         On the island named Hawai’i, also known as the “Big Island,” Volcanoes National Park is a must-see, along with the black sands of Kona and the orchid gardens of Hilo. 

·         The laid-back island of Maui is great for snorkeling, seasonal whale-watching, beachcombing, and hiking in the rainforest. 

·         Kaua’i is a stunning island where you can take in the beauty of Waimea Canyon, the Fern Grotto, and the Napali Coast. 

·         Talk with Anita, your professional travel advisor about all of your options for cruising the islands of Hawaii. 


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Monday, July 4, 2022

Elevate Your Cruise Experience

Should your next cruise experience deliver the luxury and intimacy of a small, elegant ship; or, the non-stop activities and amenities of a modern mega-ship? We have good news: There’s a way to enjoy both types of experiences on the same cruise. Popular “ship within a ship” programs deliver all the dining and entertainment choices of a big ship, with the option to retreat to a more private, opulent enclave whenever you like. 

 Some Norwegian Cruise Line ships feature The Haven, one of the first ship-within-a-ship concepts at sea. The Haven is a collection of suites that come with access to special onboard areas that vary by ship, but usually include a private pool deck, lounge, restaurant, and library. Guests of The Haven enjoy unlimited beverages, a specialty dining package, shore excursion credits, concierge services and some complimentary WiFi access. A third and a fourth guest can also share your suite at no extra charge.  


The amenities of MSC Cruises’ Yacht Club are available to passengers who book specific accommodations – ranging from inside cabins to suites – on designated sailings. The Yacht Club provides extras like luxury bedding and 24-hour butler service, plus access to a private pool deck, a lounge with panoramic views, and an upscale restaurant. Yacht Club guests receive unlimited beverage service and a complimentary session in the onboard spa’s thermal suite. If your cruise calls on MSC’s private island in The Bahamas, you’ll have access to exclusive areas of the island, too. 


Some Royal Caribbean Cruise Line ships offer the Royal Suite program, which has three levels of extra amenities. These can include access to exclusive dining spots, service from butlers called Royal Genies, complimentary WiFi, priority boarding and tender access, and complimentary beverages. If you want extra perks without booking a suite, many Royal Caribbean itineraries offer another option: The Key, an extra-fee program that provides a VIP experience. The Key gives you priority boarding, special access hours for onboard attractions, preferential seating at shows, and other advantages. 


Guests who book certain suites on some of the Celebrity ships have access to The Retreat, which the cruise line compares to a high-end resort. It includes a private gourmet restaurant called Luminae at the Retreat, an exclusive pool deck, and lounge, concierge services, a Personal Retreat Host, complimentary beverages, and WiFi. A bottle of sparkling wine will be waiting in your suite, too. 


For more information on these and other ways to elevate your cruise experience, talk with Anita, your professional travel advisor. 


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Monday, June 27, 2022

Cruise Ship Spaces Just for Teens

Existing in the transition between childhood and adulthood isn’t always easy, and the teenagers in your life may not be quite as excited as you are about getting on a cruise ship together. The good news is that many cruise ships have dedicated spaces where teens can go to relax and be with other teens. And cruise lines have put a lot of effort into making these spaces truly welcoming, comfortable, and fun for teens.

Norwegian Cruise Line has Entourage, where teens aged 13 to 17 can play video games, watch movies, make art, or join in a game of basketball, soccer, or dodgeball. In the evening, Entourage hosts themed parties where teens can dance, sing, and show off their style.

Several ships in the Princess Cruises fleet have The Beach House, a lounge for teens aged 13 to 17, but the Royal Princess and Regal Princess take it a step further. They have teen clubs called Remix that include outdoor lounges with wading pools and space for open-sky parties. The indoor section of Remix offers a DJ booth, games, dance classes, and more.

Disney Cruise Line’s ships have Vibe, a space exclusively for teens aged 14 to 17. Vibe’s location and amenities vary a bit from ship to ship. On the Disney Magic and Disney Wonder, Vibe is in the forward funnel and is styled like an urban loft, with activities like games, dance parties, karaoke contests, and more. On the Disney Dream and Disney Fantasy, Vibe has the style of a downtown club, with the added attraction of an attached sun deck.

Royal Caribbean’s Adventure Ocean has separate, dedicated lounges and activities for younger teens (age 12 to 14) and older teens (age 15 to 17). Activities for both groups are similar – including movie nights, themed dinners, video games, karaoke contests, pool parties, and dances – but the two age groups can help some teens feel more comfortable as they meet new people.

Of course, whatever cruise line you sail on, your teen will want to explore the whole ship and enjoy some of the amenities, dining options, and entertainment that are available to everyone. Still, it’s good to have an exclusive onboard space where teens can take a break from parents and younger siblings and simply be with other teens for a while. It’s a fun experience that may help your teen enjoy the entire cruise that much more.

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Monday, June 20, 2022

Important Documents for Your Next Cruise

If you haven’t cruised for a while, remember that there are some important documents you should bring onboard with you, including your passport and COVID-19 vaccination card.

Your passport serves as an official ID and proof of citizenship. Bring your actual, physical passport; in some situations, a printed copy or an image of your passport may not be accepted. It’s also important to check your passport’s expiration date before you make a cruise reservation because many cruise lines require your passport to be valid for at least six months after the end date of your cruise.

Note that if you’re taking a “closed-loop” cruise – one that begins and ends at the same U.S. port – a passport is not required. But, you’ll still need to bring a government-issued ID that includes a photo (such as a driver’s license) and proof of citizenship (such as a birth certificate). And, some ports of call may still require a passport before you’re allowed to step off the ship.

If you’re cruising from the U.S. to certain destinations – including Canada, Mexico, Bermuda, and some Caribbean islands – you may be able to use a U.S. passport card instead of a regular passport. But some cruise lines always require each passenger to have a regular passport, regardless of the itinerary.

As with your passport, bring your actual, physical vaccination card, even if you provide a digital copy to the cruise line when you make your reservation. Many cruise lines now require most or all passengers to be fully vaccinated against COVID-19, and some ports also require proof of vaccination for passengers who wish to come onshore. Tip: If you can’t find your vaccination card, contact the organization that provided the vaccine – such as your doctor’s office, a pharmacy, or the local health department – to ask for a copy.

Requirements for proof of COVID-19 vaccination status may vary between cruise lines, and even among the ships of the same cruise line; specific requirements may also depend on your port of embarkation or debarkation. Plus, these requirements can change, so stay connected with your professional travel advisor for the latest information.

A quick note about visas: you can visit most places in the world via cruise ship without a visa, but when one is required, the cruise line is likely to make the necessary arrangements.

Finally, remember to pack any other documents your cruise line requires; consult with Anita, your professional travel advisor, to make sure you have all the documents you need.

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Monday, June 13, 2022

Considerations for Mature Voyagers

Many of today’s cruise ships provide non-stop, heart-pumping action onboard, from water coasters to ziplines, ropes courses, go-kart tracks, skydiving simulators, and more. But if your days of joyfully careening down a water slide or scaling a climbing wall are behind you, you may not need a ship with high-adrenaline attractions. If you’ve reached a more mature stage of life – say, age 60 or more – check out some mid-sized ships with amenities you may appreciate.

For example, Viking Ocean Cruises has a lot to offer mature passengers who are interested in learning more about the places they visit. The line sails in Scandinavia, the Mediterranean, Greece, South America, Australia, Alaska, and more, and every ship sails with a resident historian who provides cultural insights along the way. Viking’s nine ocean-going ships each accommodate 930 guests in a serene atmosphere, with Scandinavian-style furnishings and luxuries like heated bathroom floors. There are no onboard casinos, and no children: Viking requires passengers to be at least 18 years of age.

If you enjoy cruise traditions like dressing up for dinner, consider Cunard Line. Its three ships sail to many parts of the world, and it’s the only cruise line with regular transatlantic service. Queen Victoria, Queen Elizabeth, and Queen Mary 2 each accommodate about 2,000 passengers. There are fun activities for all ages, but mature travelers might particularly enjoy the cultural programs and the large shipboard libraries. The Queen Mary 2 has a lovely planetarium, too. The level of elegance reaches a peak each afternoon when white-gloved waiters serve traditional British tea with finger sandwiches, scones, and pastries.

The ships of Holland America Line also appeal to mature travelers, with lots of itineraries for those who have time to sail to destinations like the Panama Canal, South America and Antarctica, the South Pacific, or Australia and New Zealand. These ships accommodate 1,500 to 2,100 passengers, and cultural activities may include “port-to-table” explorations of local cuisine; learning more about our world with BBC Earth Experiences; and plenty of great live music.

There are additional tempting options for mature cruise fans, including luxury lines like Regent Seven Seas Cruises, Silversea Cruises, Windstar Cruises, and Seabourn Cruise Line. These cruise lines have beautiful ships, great cultural programs, and gourmet dining; and, the fares may include amenities you would pay for separately on other lines.

For more information and to select your next cruise, talk with Anita, your professional travel advisor.

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Monday, June 6, 2022

The Perfect Gift for Dad

Dads who are better at giving than receiving may not give much thought to what they would like to receive for Father’s Day, so we have a suggestion. If you asked your dad what he wants and he said something like, “Nothing,” “I don’t know,” or “Just a hug,” here’s an idea for a really special Father’s Day gift: a cruise.

If your dad is already a cruise fan, you may have a good idea of his preferences. If not, here are some things to consider:

How long can he cruise? If he has time only for a quick getaway, check out short cruises, such as two-, three- or four-day cruises to The Bahamas or the Mexican Riviera. Even a short cruise can give him time to relax, refresh, enjoy the scenery and visit an interesting port or two. An affordable short cruise may be a good fit for your Father’s Day gift budget, as well.

If he has more time available to cruise, there are lots of options for voyages of seven nights or more. He could sail the Caribbean, the Mediterranean, Northern Europe, South America, or other parts of the world.

If you have a generous gift budget and dad has lots of free time, a regional grand voyage or a world cruise is a spectacular gift for a dad who loves travel.

Is he casual or dressy? In general, cruise line dress codes have been trending toward casual; on many ships, shorts and t-shirts are fine for daytime, and casual slacks and a collared shirt are good for the evening.

But some ships maintain the tradition of dressing up for dinner, at least on designated formal evenings. If your dad loves to put on a suit and tie or even a tuxedo, ask your professional travel advisor to recommend some cruise lines and ships where he can do just that.

Is he a nature lover, or really adventurous? There are lots of cruise options for dads who enjoy the outdoors: cruises to Alaska, the Caribbean, or Mexico all provide stunning natural beauty and opportunities to see wildlife.

These destinations can also provide some heart-pumping action for dads who love a thrill – such as dog sledding over a glacier, parasailing over the ocean, scuba diving in the deep, or ziplining through a forest canopy.

To learn more and select a cruise for your dad (and for you, if you can cruise with him), talk with Anita, your professional travel advisor.

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Monday, May 30, 2022

The New Way to Muster

The muster drill may not be anyone’s favorite activity on a cruise ship, but it is one of the most important. It’s a safety drill that makes sure you and your fellow passengers know where to gather (“muster” means to collect or assemble) and what to do in the rare instance of an emergency. Some people call muster drills “lifeboat drills,” because passengers traditionally gather close to the lifeboats they’re assigned to if the ship must be evacuated; again, that’s a very rare occurrence.

The most important things to know about muster drills is that they take place before or just after embarkation, and you must participate. Muster drills are required, and the consequences for skipping them can be serious. If you don’t complete the drill, expect the crew to search for you; when they find you, they may invite you to attend a “catch-up” drill or to leave the ship.

In traditional muster drills, after a ship-wide announcement, everyone goes to their muster stations at the same time (the location of your station is usually printed on your passenger card and posted in your cabin). Some cruise lines ask you to bring a life jacket from your cabin, while others store life jackets at the muster stations. At your station, your passenger card will be scanned, or your attendance recorded in some other way as the crew provides important safety information.

But now, muster drills are changing. Even before the COVID-19 pandemic began, some cruise lines were rethinking their drills and moving toward a more digital experience. Now, several cruise lines conduct digital muster drills, sometimes using passenger smartphone apps.

The specifics vary by cruise line, but in a digital muster drill, passengers can review safety information by watching a video on their smartphones or cabin TVs. Some lines even allow passengers to watch the safety video before they board the ship. Then, once onboard, each passenger must physically check-in at their assigned muster station. This removes the need for everyone to gather at their muster stations at the same time, which helps with COVID-19 safeguards and is simply more convenient.

It’s still important to complete a digital muster drill, and to do so as soon as possible, perhaps even before you go to your cabin for the first time.

For more information on the muster drill procedure for your next cruise, talk with Anita, your professional travel advisor.

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Monday, May 23, 2022

Cruise Ship Packages for Specialty Dining

Cruise lines have long offered beverage packages to make it easy for passengers to pre-purchase the drinks they plan to enjoy while onboard the ship. Now, some cruise lines are offering specialty dining packages, too.

Some cruise ships, especially newer and larger ships, have a dozen or more specialty restaurants, which often charge extra fees for their high-end dining. These extra fees can be quite affordable individually, but if you want to dine at a different specialty restaurant every evening of your cruise, the individual fees can add up. As with beverage packages, specialty dining packages – especially when purchased in advance of your cruise – can be a help to staying within your cruise budget.

Let’s take a look at a few cruise line dining packages:

Norwegian Cruise Line offers a specialty dining package that lets you select the number of specialty meals you want to enjoy during your cruise, with savings of about $10 per meal. The exact specialty restaurants available vary by ship, but those covered by the specialty dining package include American Diner; Cagney’s Steakhouse; Food Republic, which specializes in the fusion of global cuisines; Le Bistro, which offers sophisticated French fare; Los Lobos; Moderno Churrascaria; celebrity chef Geoffrey Zakarian’s Ocean Blue; Pincho Tapas Bar; Q Texas Smokehouse; and Sushi and Teppanyaki.

MSC Cruises has a variety of dining package options that, when purchased in advance of your cruise, can save you up to 35% on specialty restaurant fees. You can choose from packages that cover the extra fees at one, two, or three different specialty restaurants. Depending on your ship, these restaurants may include L’Atelier Bistrot; Kaito, which features sushi, sashimi, and tempura; Butcher’s Cut, which serves mouthwatering steaks; Hola Tapas Bar; Ocean Cay Seafood; and Asian Market Kitchen.

Royal Caribbean’s specialty dining packages can save you up to 40% on specialty restaurant fees. You can choose a package that sets you up to dine in three different restaurants; or, one that gives you unlimited opportunities for specialty dining, as well as discounts on bottles of wine. Again, the selection of restaurants depends on your ship, but may include Samba Grill, a Brazilian-style steakhouse; Izumi, where sushi is the star; Giovanni’s Italian Kitchen; Portside BBQ; Wonderland Imaginative Cuisine; Sabor; Chops Grill; and Jamie’s Italian from celebrity chef Jamie Oliver.

Ask Anita, your professional travel advisor, to help you choose a cruise line and specialty dining package that can save you money and get your taste buds dancing.

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Monday, May 16, 2022

Discovering Nassau

If you live in North America, one of the world’s most popular, warm-weather cruise destinations is always close by: The Bahamas. This nation of more than 700 islands, cays, and islets, is sprinkled over more than 500 square miles of the Atlantic Ocean. Some of the islands are less than 100 miles off the Florida coast, just north of the Caribbean.

During the winter, Bahamian weather is clear and balmy, with daytime temperatures hovering around 80 degrees. Summers are a bit warmer and wetter, but that doesn’t diminish the beauty of the islands and their palm-fringed beaches.

Most cruises to The Bahamas call on Nassau, the capital and home to about 70% of the population. It’s one of the world’s busiest cruise ports, with plenty to see and do.

History buffs will find historic sites in walking distance of the cruise ship dock, Prince George Wharf. These include buildings that date from the 17th and 18th centuries when Nassau was home to pirates and those who wanted to capture them. In Parliament Square, the Bahamian Assembly, Senate, and Supreme Court meet in pink, colonial-era buildings. Climb the Queen’s Staircase to Fort Fincastle, which offers beautiful views. Or take an excursion to the historic villages of Adelaide, Fox Hill, and Gambier, settled by Africans who gained freedom from slavery in the 1800s.

If you want to enjoy the water, take an excursion in a glass-bottom boat or ride a jet ski; go snorkeling, scuba diving or fishing; or simply enjoy a nap on a beach. Beaches popular with cruise ship visitors include Junkanoo Beach, a leisurely walk from the dock; Cable Beach, prized for soft sand and clear water; and Montagu Beach, which has another historic fort. You can also take a water taxi to Paradise Island, a beachy district where some hotels and resorts offer day packages for cruise ship passengers.

If souvenir shopping calls you, head to the Bay Street retail district, steps away from Prince George Wharf. The Straw Market offers locally made crafts and gifts, while nearby shops are filled with luxury designer goods. When you’re ready for lunch, you can find it anywhere from an outdoor market stall to a gourmet restaurant. Local delicacies include fresh conch fritters and peas n’ rice, made with brown pigeon peas.

Ask Anita, your professional travel advisor, to help you select a cruise to The Bahamas that includes a day in colorful Nassau.

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Monday, May 9, 2022

The World’s Largest Cruise Ships

Royal Caribbean Cruise Line just introduced the newest and largest cruise ship in the world, the Wonder of the Seas. This mega-ship is earning positive reviews for the terrific variety of things to do, see, eat, and otherwise enjoy onboard.

What makes the Wonder of the Seas the world’s largest cruise ship? It can carry the most passengers: 6,988 at maximum capacity. But cruise ship size is often expressed in terms of gross tonnage, which is a measure of overall interior volume. At more than 236,800 gross tons, the Wonder of the Seas is the world’s largest cruise ship by that standard, too.

All that volume provides space for thousands of passenger cabins and suites, as well as 2,300 crew members; more than 30 restaurants, bars, and lounges; entertainment that includes a karaoke venue, a zip line, a solarium, a surf simulator, rock climbing walls, clubs for kids and teens and an ice-skating spectacular; multiple pools and whirlpools; and much more.

Operating the world’s largest cruise ship is nothing new to Royal Caribbean, which sails the five biggest cruise ships at sea: Wonder of the Seas, Symphony of the Seas, Harmony of the Seas, Oasis of the Seas, and Allure of the Seas. All of them are loaded with great features, and each can host more than 6,600 passengers.

If you like cruising on a big ship, consider the largest ships from some other cruise lines, too:

 MSC Cruises: MSC Grandiosa, up to 6,761 passengers; and MSC Virtuosa, up to 6,334 passengers

Costa Cruises: Costa Smeralda and Costa Toscana, up to 6,554 passengers each

 Norwegian Cruise Line: Norwegian Epic, up to 5,183 passengers

 Princess Cruises: Sky Princess, up to 4,610 passengers

There’s a lot to like about mega-ships; they have so many activities, entertainment options, and dining venues that you really can’t get bored. However, they only visit ports that have facilities that can accommodate large ships and lots of visitors.

If the places you sail to are of more interest to you than the ship itself, consider a smaller ship – ask your professional travel advisor for suggestions. Smaller ships may not have quite as many onboard attractions, but they often provide a wider selection of itineraries.

And, whatever the size of your next cruise ship, don’t make the mistake of calling it a boat. Just remember that “a ship can carry a boat, but a boat can’t carry a ship.”

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Monday, May 2, 2022

Culinary Excellence at Sea

If you happen to love both fine food and cruising, you’ll be glad to know that some chefs with Michelin-starred restaurants also oversee culinary programs and specialty restaurants on cruise ships.

The highly coveted stars that the Michelin Guide awards to restaurants indicate where you can find the finest food on land. Restaurants can earn one, two or three stars; the standards are so high that there are currently just 132 restaurants in the world with three Michelin stars. As the guide explains, three stars mean a restaurant serves “exceptional cuisine that is worth a special journey.”

Here are some of the Michelin-starred chefs who influence exceptional cuisine at sea:

Chef Daniel Boulud, the global culinary ambassador for Celebrity Cruises, has restaurants around the world. One of them – New York City’s Daniel – has two Michelin stars. You’ll soon be able to taste Boulud’s global flavors at LeVoyage on the new Celebrity Beyond, scheduled to launch this April. Guests of The Retreat, Celebrity’s ship-within-a-ship concept, can already enjoy Boulud’s dishes at Luminae at The Retreat.

Thomas Keller is the only U.S.-born chef with two different restaurants (The French Laundry in Yountville, Calif., and Per Se in New York City) that have three Michelin stars. He partners with Seabourn Cruises on three restaurants, including The Colonnade, which serves great American comfort food – like barbequed ribs and clam bakes – family-style. The Patio features Keller’s Napa Burger and Yountwurst, while The Grill by Thomas Keller serves updated versions of classic steak and lobster dishes.

Chef Arnaud Lallement’s l’Assiette Champenoise is a Michelin three-star restaurant near Reims, France. He also advises on the menu at Remy, an adults-only restaurant aboard Disney Cruises’ Dream and Fantasy. Named for the main character in the film “Ratatouille,” Remy’s special dining experiences include a Champagne brunch, a five-course dessert service and six courses of small plates with wine pairings.

Marco Pierre White, the first British chef to earn three Michelin stars, partners with P&O Cruises. The restaurants he oversees restaurants for the line include the Ocean Grill aboard the Arcadia, which serves steaks and seafood in the tradition of London’s finest grill restaurants. White also creates menus for P&O’s black-tie Gala Evenings. And when he sails on a P&O ship, he presents very popular master classes in cooking, as well as hosted dinners.

To reserve your place on a cruise ship that features dishes from a Michelin-starred chef, talk with Anita, your professional travel advisor.

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Monday, April 25, 2022

Smoothing the Motion of the Ocean

If you haven’t taken your first cruise yet and you’re worried about seasickness, we have one word for you: stabilizers.

Seasickness is motion sickness that’s experienced on the water, which can happen when waves make the ship sway. Seasickness is not inevitable – some people are never bothered by it, while others are more sensitive. If you’re sensitive to motion sickness, the good news is that modern cruise ships are equipped with stabilizers that effectively minimize any side-to-side rocking of the ship.

Stabilizers, shaped like the wings of an airplane, extend underwater from each side of the ship. They can tilt forward or backward to help steady the ship as it moves through waves and swells. When the water is calm and the stabilizers aren’t needed, they fold away into special compartments.

Depending on its size, your ship may have one or two sets of stabilizers. Most stabilizer systems work automatically; sensors monitor the movement and effect of waves and deploy the stabilizers as needed.

And, stabilizers are not the only tool a ship has for smooth sailing; officers continuously use their navigational skills to set the calmest possible course to the next port.

As you plan for your cruise, you can also take steps to guard against potential seasickness. Ask your professional travel advisor to help you select a cabin on a lower deck, close to the middle of the ship; these cabins are less affected by the motion of the ship than those higher up or closer to the front or back. Some people like to wear acupressure-inspired bracelets to guard against motion sickness, while others bring some ginger tea or candy along. You can also pack over-the-counter or prescription motion sickness medication, just in case you need it.

When your ship sets sail, if the motion makes you feel a little odd, don’t panic – there are some things you can try even before you reach for a seasickness remedy. Go out on the deck, sit down and focus your gaze on the horizon, which can help your body regain its sense of balance and equilibrium. And, many cruise ship crew members recommend eating green apples and crackers; that’s actually a room service item on some ships.

Finally, as you adjust to the feel of the ship as it moves through the water, remember that the ship’s stabilizers will be working as hard as the crew to give you a great cruise experience.

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Monday, April 18, 2022

World Cruise or Grand Voyage?

If you would like to see the world (or a significant part of it) on a cruise ship, consider a grand voyage or world cruise. These long, luxurious cruises take you away from your usual routine for an extended time. They also introduce you to beautiful and intriguing places, people, and cultures around the globe.

So, what’s the difference between a grand voyage and a world cruise? The answer may depend on which cruise line you’re sailing on. Some lines use these terms interchangeably, while others make a distinction between the two. For this discussion, we’ll define grand voyages as cruises that explore a region of the world, usually for a month or two; and world cruises as voyages that nearly or completely circumnavigate the globe, sailing for three months or longer.

Both types of extended cruises offer you the luxury of unpacking just once, then effortlessly sailing to dozens of interesting ports. Many grand voyages and world cruises have enhanced onboard education, entertainment, and enrichment programs for delightful days at sea; these programs also prepare you to make the most of your time onshore.

As for their differences:

If you would like to immerse yourself in the food, art, customs, and fashions of a certain region of the world, a grand voyage may be the right choice. For example, Regent Seven Seas’ “Grand Asia Exploration” is scheduled to depart in late January 2023 from Sydney, Australia, then spend 60 days visiting ports in Indonesia, Thailand, Vietnam, China, Taiwan, Japan, and South Korea.

If your dream is to visit most or all of the world’s continents on a single cruise, look into world cruises. For example, Viking Ocean Cruises’ “Ultimate World Cruise” will depart in late December 2023 from Fort Lauderdale and call on 28 ports in the Americas, French Polynesia, Oceania, Asia, the Middle East, Africa and Europe over the next 138 days. If you’re looking for, even more, Royal Caribbean’s upcoming 274-night World Cruise, set to begin in December 2023, will touch all seven continents and visit 60 countries.

And, there are even more options for long cruises; ask your professional travel advisor about booking a segment of a world cruise. For example, if you can’t be away from home for 274 nights, you can reserve one of four segments of Royal Caribbean’s World Cruise: choose from Europe, the Americas and Antarctica, Asia and the Pacific, or the Middle East and the Mediterranean.

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Monday, April 11, 2022

Which Polar Cruise to Choose: Antarctic or Arctic?

Cruising is a way to see some of the most remote and fascinating parts of our world, including the polar regions – the Artic in the north and the Antarctic in the south. Which would you choose? It may be helpful to know that while the Arctic and Antarctic have many similarities, they have some significant differences. 


Antarctica is a continent that’s entirely made of ice. It has no Indigenous people, and the only human residents are military personnel and scientists at a few research stations. Antarctica’s extreme whiteness, tinged with glacial blues, can feel like a different planet. The rugged scenery includes massive glaciers, icebergs, and ice floes, but no vegetation except some lichens that grow at the edges of the ice. 


The Arctic isn’t a continent, but a frozen ocean bordered by landmasses such as Alaska, Canada, Greenland, Scandinavia, and Russia. Indigenous peoples have inhabited the Arctic for centuries, so there’s human history and culture to explore. In addition to glaciers and icebergs, the Arctic has more greenery – even tiny, tundra-loving flowers – than you may expect. 


Antarctica is home to millions of penguins, including the Gentoo, Adelie, chinstrap, king, and emperor species. In the water, you may see humpbacks and other types of whales, as well as Weddell and leopard seals. Albatross and storm petrels glide through the sky. 


The Arctic is home to polar bears (though they can be shy), as well as foxes, wolves, muskoxen, and reindeer. There aren’t any penguins, but there are lots of other birds, from kittiwakes to puffins. Arctic waters – a little warmer than in the Antarctic – are home to walrus, seals, and several types of whales.  


Cruise ships sail to Antarctica from November to March. Some ships offer only scenic cruising, but many use inflatable Zodiac craft to take passengers from the ship to the icy shore. Some itineraries offer activities like camping, kayaking, skiing, and even scuba diving. 


The Arctic cruise season is May through September, but there’s a trend toward cruising the Arctic in early spring, when it’s easier to see spectacular northern lights. Your ship will call on seaside villages, and excursions may include kayaking, hiking, camping, ice fishing, dog sledding, and mountain biking. 


Several cruise lines can take you to the polar regions, including Hurtigruten, Ponant, Princess, Silversea, Viking, and more. Talk with Anita, your professional travel advisor, about how you can sail to the Arctic or the Antarctic – or both. 


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Monday, April 4, 2022

What Not to Bring on a Cruise Ship

It’s good to put some serious thought into what you should pack for your next cruise. It’s also important to remember there are things you should not even attempt to bring on a ship, even if you think of them as essential to your daily routine. Here’s a look at some of the things you must leave behind as you prepare to cruise. 


Perishable food. Delicious meals and snacks abound on cruise ships, but if you do want to bring a favorite food, be sure it’s packaged and non-perishable; homemade food and anything that requires refrigeration may not make it on board. 


Liquor. Many cruise lines allow guests to bring a bottle of wine or two, but any amount of hard liquor (or beer) is usually forbidden. Fortunately, cruise ships are well stocked with liquor of all sorts, as well as expert bartenders. 


Candles. Candles with wicks are not allowed due to the risk of fire (but small, battery-operated tea lights are usually okay). 


Small appliances. Small, plug-in appliances can be fire hazards, so you’ll need to leave your iron, clothes steamer, toaster, coffee maker, hot plate, slow cooker, air fryer, blender, and other gadgets at home. Many cruise lines make an exception for curling irons and hair straighteners (note that most cabin bathrooms are equipped with hairdryers). 


Power strips with surge protectors and extension cords. These are also banned as fire hazards; power strips may be permitted if they are not equipped with surge protectors. 


Weapons, and toys that look like weapons. Don’t bring any firearms or sharp blades; and leave realistic-looking toy guns, swords, spears, and knives at home, along with fireworks and drones. 

Sports equipment. Items like martial arts equipment, baseball bats, hockey sticks, roller and inline skates, skateboards, and pool cues won’t be allowed on board. 


Communications equipment. It’s fine to bring your mobile phone, but many ships prohibit items that could interfere with ship communications, such as ham radios, baby monitors, metal detectors, communication scanners, and satellite phones. 


If you do bring any prohibited items to the cruise ship dock, they are likely to be confiscated before you’re allowed to board. The items might be returned to you when you disembark at the end of your cruise, but it’s best to leave them safely at home. 


For more guidance on what to pack for your cruise and what you should leave behind, talk with Anita, your professional travel advisor. 

Monday, March 28, 2022

Cruise Line Loyalty Programs

Cruise lines love repeat customers and reward them through loyalty programs. Similar to airline frequent flier programs, cruise line loyalty programs offer special discounts and amenities, from the nice (such as a small “welcome aboard” gift) to the spectacular (such as a free cruise). 


The best cruise line loyalty program for you is probably the one offered by your favorite cruise line; it’s usually better to sail often on a line you love than to choose a line based on its loyalty program. Still, it may be helpful to take a quick look at how these programs work and some of the top-tier benefits. 


In most cruise line loyalty programs, you earn points based on how often and how long you cruise, as well as your cabin category. Most programs have four to six “tiers” to move through as you accumulate points. There are attractive rewards even at the lowest tiers, such as gift shop discounts and “members only” events. Rewards in the middle tiers may include lovely extras like complimentary internet time, priority booking for shore excursions, or discounts for onboard specialty restaurants. 


It can take time to earn enough points to qualify for the top tiers, but the rewards – such as priority boarding, cabin upgrades, and deep discounts on future cruises – can be very worthwhile.


Here are some specific examples: 

·         The top tiers of Holland America Line’s Mariner Society offer a nice benefit for families or groups of friends: on select sailings, the third and fourth guests in your cabin are free.  

·         Guests at the highest levels of MSC Cruises’ Voyager’s Club have priority status on port calls that require the use of a tender to reach the shore, which can give you hours more to explore. This program also “status matches” your tier in many other cruise line, hotel, and tour operator loyalty programs.  

·         The top level of Royal Caribbean’s Crown & Anchor Society provides a sweet reward – a free, seven-night Caribbean cruise in a balcony cabin, plus the opportunity to earn additional free cruises. 

·         If you sail to the top level of Norwegian Cruise Line’s Latitude Rewards program, you’ll enjoy a free, seven-night cruise – in a balcony cabin – to any of the cruise line’s destinations. 


Loyalty program enrollment is usually free, so you have nothing to lose by joining your favorite cruise line’s program. In fact, some lines automatically enroll you as soon as you book a cruise. For more information, talk with Anita, your professional travel advisor. 


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Monday, March 21, 2022

Celebrating Women Who Command Cruise Ships

March is Women’s History Month in the United States, so it’s a good time to celebrate women who have made history by commanding cruise ships. It’s been 15 years since the first time a woman took command of a cruise ship; a welcome change from more superstitious times, when simply having women on board was thought to bring bad luck.

To give you an idea of what the job of being a cruise ship captain is like, the captain – sometimes referred to as the “ship master” or “master captain” – is responsible for the operation and safety of the entire ship and everyone on board. All of the ship’s department heads – the hotel manager, executive chef, cruise director, purser, guest relations manager, chief engineer, etc. – report to the captain, who is on-call 24 hours a day during each voyage.

A captain must have a wide range of skills and knowledge, with the ability to do everything from navigating the seas to socializing with passengers. They bring years of experience to the job; most have four-year degrees from a maritime academy, then spend a decade or two working in a variety of onboard jobs before becoming a captain.

These are some of the women who are making history as cruise ship captains:

  •       Karin Stahre-Janson of Sweden took command of Royal Caribbean’s Monarch of the Seas in 2007, making her the first woman captain of a large cruise ship.
  •       Inger Klein Thorhauge of the Faroe Islands became Cunard Line’s first woman captain in 2010.
  •          Margrith Ettlin of Switzerland became Silversea Cruises’ first woman captain in 2013.
  •          Kate McCue, the first U.S. woman to captain a cruise ship, took command of Celebrity Cruises’ Celebrity Summit in 2015.
  •          Belinda Bennett of Saint Helena became the first Black woman to command a cruise ship, Windstar Cruises’ MSY Wind Star, in 2016.
  •          Serena Melani of Italy took command of Regent Seven Seas’ Splendor in 2020, making her the first woman to command a brand-new cruise ship.

In addition to these pioneers, there are women who hold top administrative leadership positions in the cruise industry, including Lisa Lutoff-Perlo, president and CEO of Celebrity Cruises, and Jan Swartz, group president of Holland America Group. And, these leaders are working to attract more women to cruise careers. For example, in 2020, Lutoff-Perlo assigned Captain Kate McCue and an international, all-female bridge and officer team to sail the Celebrity Edge on International Women’s Day – a fitting salute to women in command.

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Monday, March 14, 2022

Photo Packages Preserve Cruise Memories

Equipped with the latest smartphone cameras or standalone digital cameras, lots of passengers love to take photos throughout their cruises. And in addition to your own photos, you can purchase photos taken by the photographers who are part of the crew on many cruise ships. 


Photos taken by a ship’s roaming photographers are very high quality. Not only do these skilled professionals understand light, color, composition, and the other elements of photography, they also understand the types of photos that delight cruise passengers and help preserve wonderful cruise memories. 


Even if you know how to take excellent photos, when part of your mind is on capturing “must have” photos, you could miss out on some of the fun and relaxation of your cruise. It can be helpful to let a ship’s photographer capture some of the joyous moments.  


You can preview the images captured by your ship’s photographer and select the ones you like best. Each cruise line manages this process a little differently. Some print photos daily and hang them in a walk-through gallery; some have electronic kiosks where you can browse through digital images; and some let you preview photos on your own phone, laptop, or other devices. 


If you’d like to go beyond candid shots and have some posed photos taken, you can make an appointment with a ship’s photographer for a more formal photo session. This is a wonderful way to capture individual, family, or group portraits, especially if you’re celebrating a wedding, graduation, birthday, reunion, or other special events. 


While you can individually purchase as many photos as you like while on board, consider buying a photo package that will let you select multiple photos at a significant discount from per-photo prices. Photo packages are especially budget-friendly when purchased in advance of a cruise. Some packages even include fun accessories, like physical or digital photo frames and photo albums. Ask your professional travel advisor to help you compare the cost of purchasing individual photos with a photo package on your next cruise.  


However, many photos you decide to purchase, you can usually receive them digitally, as 5 x 7 or 8 x 10 prints, or in both digital and printed formats.  


And finally, if you’re interested in photography, ship’s photographers may offer classes you can attend while the ship is at sea. It’s a great opportunity to learn from these professionals and leave the ship a better photographer than when you stepped on board. 


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