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, April 8, 2024

Homeports You’ll Want to Explore

When selecting a cruise, consider the homeport – the port city your ship calls home, where you’ll embark on your cruise. Many passengers plan to arrive at their ship’s homeport a day or two before the cruise begins so that if there’s any travel delay, they can still reach the ship on time; but if all goes well, they’ll have a day or two to enjoy the port city.

This isn’t a complete list, but here are some homeports that are great destinations in themselves:

Boston, for cruises of New England or the Eastern Caribbean. Stroll the Freedom Trail, which starts in Boston Common and links 16 of the city’s historic sites, including Faneuil Hall, the Paul Revere House, and Old North Church. Visit the North End neighborhood for a delicious Italian meal before catching a Red Sox game at Fenway Park, home to home runs for more than 100 years.

New York, for cruises of Bermuda, New England, Maritime Canada, or the Eastern Caribbean. You can’t go wrong visiting iconic attractions like Central Park, the Empire State Building, Grand Central Terminal, and the Statue of Liberty. Explore unique retail neighborhoods like the Garment District, the Diamond District, and Times Square, where you can find discounted tickets for Broadway shows at the TKTS booth.

Miami, for cruises to The Bahamas, the Caribbean, Riviera Maya, the Panama Canal, or South America. Take a walking tour of the Art Deco District or see the Mediterranean Revival buildings along Espanola Way. Sample Latin restaurants in the Allapattah neighborhood or tour the Institute of Contemporary Art in the Miami Design District. Enjoy the beaches, visit Cape Florida Lighthouse, or take a tour of Everglades National Park.

New Orleans, for cruises to the Caribbean, Mexico, The Bahamas, or the Panama Canal. The flavorful blend of Creole and Cajun cuisine alone is a reason to visit; rev up for a tour of the French Quarter, the Garden District, or Mardi Gras World with a dish of gumbo, red beans, and rice or crawfish etouffee.

Seattle, for cruises to Alaska. Ride the monorail to the Space Needle for stunning views of the bays and forests that surround the city, then see the blown-glass sculptures at the Chihuly Garden and Glass Museum. Pike Place Market is a great place to enjoy fresh seafood and shop for artisan wares.

To plan a pre-cruise stay in your ship’s homeport, talk with Anita, your professional travel advisor.

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Monday, April 1, 2024

Cruising the South Pacific

If you’re looking for an island-focused cruise outside the Caribbean, look toward the South Pacific. This vast area of ocean is dotted with beautiful islands, calm blue lagoons, and coral reefs teeming with sea life.

Several cruise lines sail there, sometimes as a segment of a world cruise or during a repositioning cruise. At least two cruise lines – Paul Gauguin Cruises and Windstar Cruises – sail the South Pacific year-round. Others include Celebrity Cruises, Holland America Line, Oceania, Princess, Regent Seven Seas, Royal Caribbean, and Seabourn.

Given the time it takes to get there, South Pacific cruises tend to be at least seven to 14 days. If your cruise departs from a North American port, it’s likely to be an adventure of a month or more. With a cruise of any length, you could consider extending your vacation with a stay at a South Pacific resort (just think of relaxing in one of the charming bungalows perched over the water of Bora Bora’s lagoon).

The three main regions within the South Pacific are Polynesia, Melanesia, and Micronesia. Of the three, Polynesia may be the best-known cruise destination; it includes French Polynesia (where you’ll find Tahiti, Moorea, and Bora Bora), the Cook Islands, Tonga, Samoa, and Tuvalu.

Melanesia includes Fiji, Papua New Guinea, the Solomon Islands, Vanuatu, and New Caledonia. Many of the islands are mountainous, with some active volcanoes. Fiji, a cultural treasure, is also the gateway to the Yasawas, an archipelago that’s a haven for lovers of unspoiled nature.

Micronesia is a collection of small islands scattered across the northwestern South Pacific. It includes the Northern Mariana Islands, Guam, the Marshall Islands and Kiribati. Most ships that cruise there are smaller expedition ships, and most cruises of Micronesia also include stops in Melanesia.

Wherever you sail in the South Pacific, you’ll find opportunities for active adventures like kayaking, snorkeling, and diving; hiking and swimming; and four-wheeling through lush tropical settings. You’ll also be able to learn about local food and culture and shop for locally-made crafts.

The tropical climate of the South Pacific is balmy all year, but there are seasonal differences. Some cruise lines sail there only during the dry season, from May through October; November through April sees more rain showers and humidity, which often enhances the beauty of the islands.

To learn more about cruising the South Pacific and the variety of available itineraries, talk with Anita, your professional travel advisor.

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Monday, March 25, 2024

There’s a Theme Cruise for Everyone

If you have a favorite interest or hobby, there’s probably a cruise for that. Theme cruises that immerse passengers in their favorite things are incredibly popular, and they tend to sell out quickly. Theme cruises celebrate a wide range of interests, including musical genres, crafting, TV shows, motorcycles, sports, LGBTQ+, the ‘80s, food and wine, comedy, cats, poker, and much more.

Part of the fun of a theme cruise is sailing with people who all have a passion for the same thing, creating an instant community at sea. Some people even take the same theme cruise each year.

If a theme cruise sounds like fun, here’s a quick sample of upcoming sailings:

Avid runners will board AMA Waterways’ AmaMora for a Run For Fun Cruise, departing October 14 from Basel, Switzerland, for seven nights on the Rhine River. Passengers can take part in guided runs in the ports of call, which include Strasbourg, Rudesheim, Lahnstein, and Cologne in Germany, and Amsterdam in The Netherlands.

Musical genres celebrated on theme cruises range from emo to hip-hop and rap, pop, classical, country, rock, heavy metal, and more. For example, fans of the blues will sail on Holland America Line’s Eurodam for the Legendary Rhythm & Blues Cruise, departing from Fort Lauderdale on October 26. The seven-day cruise includes more than 120 shows on seven stages, with autograph sessions and theme nights. The ship will call on the Southern Caribbean islands of Aruba and Curacao, too.

The Norwegian Poker Challenge will depart from Miami on October 27 on the Norwegian Jade. In addition to an onboard tournament, two World Series of Poker professionals will put on a clinic. This seven-day Caribbean cruise includes calls in Honduras, Belize, and Mexico.

Lovers of literature will sail on Cunard Line’s Queen Mary 2 for the Cheltenham Literature Festival, embarking on November 13 from Southampton, England, for an eight-day transatlantic voyage to New York. Authors, poets, journalists, critics, and historians will be on board for book signings, Q&A sessions, and panel discussions.

Comic-Con: The Cruise will sail the Caribbean on Royal Caribbean’s Serenade of the Seas, embarking on February 5, 2025, from Tampa. This four-night cruise will feature comedy stars, creators, and writers who will perform on stage, and then mingle, dine, and party with the passengers.

For guidance through the robust world of theme cruises and to find one that speaks to your passion, talk with Anita, your professional travel advisor.

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Monday, March 18, 2024

Incredible Things You Can Do on a Cruise Ship

Cruise ships are much more than a way to move from one port to another. They’re like floating resorts, bursting with features designed to please – and some of these features are truly surprising. Here are a few of the amazing things you can do on a cruise ship:

Get the feel of a Formula 1 race car. Some MSC Cruises ships are equipped with Formula 1 simulators that feel (and sound) like the real thing. You don’t even need a driver’s license to try it.

Watch a starry show. Cunard Line’s Queen Mary 2 has the only planetarium at sea. To enjoy the show, take a seat in the Illuminations theater and gaze up at a suspended dome where distant stars and galaxies sparkle.

Float in mid-air. Royal Caribbean Cruise Line’s Quantum-class ships introduced the first skydiving simulators at sea. These vertical, glass-enclosed wind tunnels provide the floaty, thrilling feel of skydiving, with the bonus of ocean views.

Sip a cocktail expertly prepared by a robot. Some Royal Caribbean ships feature the Bionic Bar, where the bartenders are a pair of mixologist robots. They reach up to select ingredients from a forest of hanging bottles, then pour, stir, and shake up delicious concoctions.

Sip a cocktail from a glass made of ice. The temperature is a cool 17°F in the Ice Bar on some Norwegian Cruise Line ships. The bar itself – as well as the barstools and cocktail glasses – are sculpted from crystal-clear ice (there are parkas for passengers who come in wearing shorts and t-shirts).

Stroll through a park. Celebrity Cruises’ Solstice-class ships have a half-acre of live, green grass on their top decks, perfect for a game of bocce or croquet. Royal Caribbean’s newer ships feature the Central Park neighborhood, where pathways wind through real, growing trees, shrubs, and flower beds.

Hang ten (or just hang on). Royal Caribbean scores again with the surf simulators found on some of its ships. Daring passengers can ride a boogie board or surfboard over the waves, created by more than 25,000 gallons of water rushing over the simulator’s platform.

Watch a movie in 4D. Some Costa Cruises ships have theaters that provide a four-dimensional cinematic experience (the fourth dimension consists of visual effects and sensory effects like vibration, scent, wind, precipitation, and temperature changes).

To try one or more of these fabulous shipboard experiences for yourself, talk with Anita, your professional travel advisor.

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Monday, March 11, 2024

Cruise Ship Internet Service

Some who cruise see their time on board as an opportunity to unplug from daily life, disconnect from work or school, and put their digital devices away. But others want to stay connected while they cruise, whether it’s to stream a favorite TV show, update family and friends at home, check in with colleagues at work, or even work remotely. If you’re in the second category, here’s what you should know about internet availability on cruise ships.

Internet service at sea has been improving, and most ships now provide service through their wireless networks (with the exception of some that sail to remote locations).

On many ships, WiFi access is an extra – it’s not included in your fare, so you’ll need to pay for it. If you want access for the duration of a cruise, you may be able to purchase a discounted WiFi package in advance. But if you know you’ll need to be connected for only part of a day or two, wait until you’re on board to purchase access at an hourly or daily rate.

Some cruise lines offer different levels of service. If you just want to check your email, you may be able to purchase a lower-cost level of access. If you want to stream TV or conduct video chats, you may need to purchase the strongest, highest-priced internet access.

Cruise ships get their internet service from multiple sources, including land-based signal towers when they’re closer to shore, and satellites when they’re out at sea. In either case, signal strength can vary, and the connection is likely to be slower than what you’re used to. Because signal strength is usually stronger when the ship is near the shore, you may want to do any streaming or video chatting when you’re close to a port. Regardless of the ship’s location, you may experience better signal strength very early in the morning or late in the evening, when fewer passengers are using their connected devices.

Even if you purchase the best and strongest internet service package you can remember to put your phone in airplane mode for the duration of your time onboard. You can turn on your wireless feature separately to connect to the ship’s Wi-Fi, and you’ll avoid unwanted data and roaming charges.

For more information about internet service on your next cruise and advice on making the best use of it, talk with Anita, your professional travel advisor.

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Monday, March 4, 2024

River Cruise Highlights

When travelers begin to think about a cruise vacation, they often think about ocean cruises: big ships sailing across big expanses of water to beautiful ports of call. But, there’s another option for a cruise vacation – sailing on one of the storied rivers of the world. If you haven’t tried one yet, here’s a quick look at what to expect on a river cruise.

River ships are much smaller than ocean-going ships, which makes it a different kind of cruise experience. The ships are small because they must be able to glide under bridges, through shallow water, and into narrow docks. Ocean-going ships may carry thousands of passengers, but many river ships carry less than 200, providing more opportunities to get to know your fellow passengers.

River ships stay close to land. Part of the enjoyment of a river cruise is watching the scenery on shore, which can quickly change from farmland to bluffs or from small villages to urban centers. The narrow design of river ships means almost all cabins are exterior, with big windows or sliding glass doors.

While river water isn’t always perfectly smooth, the chances of motion sickness on a river cruise are much less than on an ocean cruise.

Many river cruises call on a different port each day; a full day on the water is rare. Shore activities may include walking tours, hiking, bike rides, cultural experiences, visits to museums and markets, and more.

River cruise dress codes tend to be relaxed and casual. The focus is always on what there is to see and do on shore, so what you wear to explore on land is fine on board, too. There may be one gala evening suited to more formal clothes, but dressing up is usually not required.

As for where to cruise, Europe provides a variety of itineraries on major rivers. Sail through multiple counties on the Rhine or Danube, or enjoy France by cruising the Seine or the Rhone. For an Italian voyage, look to the Po. To spend time in Portugal’s wine country, sail the Douro.

River cruise options in Asia include China’s Yangtze, Southeast Asia’s Mekong, and India’s Ganges. You can take an adventurous cruise of South America’s Amazon, or stay closer to home for a cruise on the Ohio, Mississippi, or Columbia.

To find out more about the many delights of and options for river cruising, talk with Anita, your professional travel advisor.

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Monday, February 26, 2024

Be Entertained Aboard the Icon of the Seas

Everything about Royal Caribbean’s new ship, the Icon of the Seas, promises a new kind of cruise experience. That includes a terrific variety of onboard entertainment.

With an emphasis on the excitement of live music performance, the Icon sails with dozens of musicians on board. They perform at Lou’s Jazz & Blues, the Dueling Pianos bar, the Point & Feather English Pub, and several other venues around the ship.

Musicians are also an integral part of two productions in the Royal Theater. A 16-piece orchestra accompanies a spectacular staging of the beloved musical fantasy “The Wizard of Oz” (the classic tale has been updated with some modern touches, too). And, a show called “SHOWBAND! Live. Music. Now.” puts the spotlight firmly on talented musicians.

More than 75 other performers, from singers to skateboarders to ice skaters, will be ready to take their places under the lights of the ship’s multiple performance venues. Here are a few highlights:

In the AquaDome – an exciting new version of the Aqua Theater on other Royal Caribbean ships – a show called “Aqua Action!” combines the breathtaking skills of high divers, aerialists, skateboarders, and synchronized swimmers with of-the-moment performance technology. The AquaDome is also the stage for “Pirates vs. Mermaids,” a lighthearted show that reveals who truly rules the ocean.

The power and beauty of top-level ice skating is on display at Absolute Zero, the Icon’s ice arena. The choreography of “Starburst: Elemental Beauty” takes full advantage of Royal Caribbean’s largest ice rink yet. Another ice show, “Once Upon a Time: The King’s Royal Ball” features familiar fairytale characters.

Be prepared for excitement along the Royal Promenade – from time to time, groups of sailors, swashbucklers and scalawags turn it into a stage for an entertaining demonstration of their skills, as well as a battle of wits.

Before or after a performance, you can relax around one of the ship’s seven pools, take a trip down one of six water slides, enjoy one of the family play areas or try out some of more than 40 dining spots and bars.

With Caribbean ports to explore and so many options for onboard entertainment, it’s unlikely that anyone could be bored on the Icon of the Seas. The ship’s itineraries include Perfect Day at CocoCay, the cruise line’s fabulous private island, too. To learn more about the Icon and how you can sail on it, talk with Anita, your professional travel advisor.

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Monday, February 19, 2024

Sail on a New – or Good as New – Cruise Ship

This promises to be an exciting year for cruise fans, as a variety of brand-new ships are scheduled to begin riding the waves.

Royal Caribbean’s highly anticipated Icon of the Seas is ready to begin its reign as the world’s largest cruise ship at the end of January. Passengers will enjoy the ship’s innovative new performance spaces and activities, comfortable cabins and suites, and exciting new restaurants and bars. And – for your advance cruise planning – Royal Caribbean plans to add two more new ships to the Icon class by mid-2026.

Princess Cruises will also introduce a new class of ship this year. The Sun Princess, debuting in February, will be the first ship in the Sphere class. This will be the largest ship in the Princess fleet, offering new types of suite accommodations, the first roll glider ride at sea, and new areas where kids, teens, and families can enjoy themselves. The Sun Princess will sail in the Mediterranean before moving to the Caribbean.

Disney Cruise Line’s new Disney Treasure will showcase the prankster-turned-hero Aladdin, among other popular characters. Onboard highlights include a water slide with a new Mickey and Minnie Mouse adventure story, three theaters, and a rotational dining plan that lets guests dine at different restaurants each day, but with the same familiar wait staff. The Treasure will sail in the Caribbean.

Several other cruise lines will launch new ships this year, including Cunard Line, Ritz-Carlton Yacht Collection, Silversea, and Viking Ocean Cruises, as well as river cruise lines Ama Waterways and Avalon.

New cruise ships have lots of appeal, but high demand can increase their fares. As an alternative, consider sailing on a ship that’s recently been refurbished and updated.

Norwegian Cruise Line’s Norwegian Joy will use a three-week stay in dry dock this January to reconfigure some suites, add two dozen balcony cabins and a thermal suite, and expand the Vibe Beach Club. The ship will sail in the Caribbean this spring before switching to Bermuda cruises.

Oceania Cruises will undertake a major refurbishment of the Marina this May, redesigning some suites and adding new dining options. The updated ship will have the line’s signature restaurant, Aquamar Kitchen; al fresco dining in a new Italian trattoria; and an all-day ice cream parlor. The refreshed Marina will sail in Northern Europe this summer.

For more information about a voyage on a new or renewed ship in 2024, talk with Anita, your professional travel advisor.

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Monday, February 12, 2024

Planning a Spring Break Cruise

Spring break – that week or two each spring when many schools, from kindergarten through college, take a break from classes – has become a popular time to cruise. While spring break schedules vary by school, they usually take place in March or April, when much of North America is still emerging from winter.

For many spring break cruisers, especially those who have one week off, that means the best destination choices are warm-weather places close to the U.S. For example, The Bahamas, just 80 miles or so off Florida’s Atlantic coast, is a very popular option. Several cruise lines offer three- and four-night cruises, which fit neatly into a week-off schedule.

More options for spring break cruises include three- to five-night cruises to either the Caribbean coast or the Pacific coast of Mexico. Cruises to Mexico’s beachy Caribbean ports may include stops in Progreso (near Mérida and Chichén Itzá), Cozumel, Cancún or Riviera Maya. On Mexico’s mountainous Pacific coast, port calls may include Ensenada, Mazatlán, Acapulco, or Cabo San Lucas.

It’s also possible to enjoy a spring break cruise in the Mediterranean, especially if you have two weeks off. There are a few Mediterranean cruises of three to five nights, but you’ll have more options to choose from if you can cruise for at least seven nights.

In addition to destinations, spring breaker cruisers should think about the kind of onboard vibe they’re looking for. There are at least two unofficial categories of spring break cruises: family-oriented cruises that cater to kids and their adults, and party-oriented cruises that provide young adults with lots of fun. College-age cruisers may want to consider a line like Virgin Voyages, which has a minimum passenger age of 18. And while Royal Caribbean and Norwegian Cruise Line are family-oriented, they are also known for having lots of entertainment and nightlife on board. For a family-oriented cruise, you can also look to Disney Cruise Line, Holland America Line, Princess Cruises, and more.

For college-age cruisers, it’s important to carefully check age requirements before booking. Many cruise lines require passengers under the age of 21 to be accompanied by someone who is over 21. And, 21 is often the minimum age for ordering and consuming alcohol on board. Cruise lines strictly enforce their drinking age policies, and violating them can result in removal from the ship.

For more advice about spring break cruising and help making reservations, talk with Anita, your professional travel advisor.

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Monday, February 5, 2024

Icon of the Seas Offers New Dining Options

Ever since Royal Caribbean first announced a project called “Icon” in 2016, anticipation for the Icon of the Seas, the line’s newest ship, has been ramping up. Icon of the Seas is unlike any ship to come before it, beginning with its size: it’s the world’s largest cruise ship, with 20 decks and the capacity for up to 7,600 passengers.

To make sure everyone is well-fed, Icon of the Seas has lots of places to drink and dine within the ship’s eight “neighborhoods.” There are established Royal Caribbean favorites, including Chops Grille, Izumi’s, Giovanni’s Italian Kitchen, and a popular bar called Lime and the Coconut. But, at least 20 of the ship’s dining options are brand-new.

The AquaDome neighborhood (a new twist on the Aqua Theater found on other Royal Caribbean ships) has several restaurants and bars. The AquaDome Market is Royal Caribbean’s first food hall, with five stalls dishing up a variety of family-friendly options. The AquaDome also has a new private dining experience called Celebration Table. And, the new Overlook Bar has terrific views over the bow of the ship.

The Chill Island neighborhood is all about having fun in the water, as four of the seven onboard pools are located there. It features Royal Caribbean’s first swim-up bar, Swim & Tonic, which specializes in tonic-based cocktails.

In the Thrill Island neighborhood, passengers can try out six exciting water slides, and then grab a tasty bite at Basecamp, where the menu includes bao buns with crispy shrimp and pretzel bites with cheese. Thrill Island visitors can also cool down and fill up with a gourmet milkshake from Desserted, which serves both alcohol-free and boozy options (which are for adults only, of course).

After passengers splash about in the water play areas of the Surfside neighborhood, they can enjoy a meal at the family-oriented Surfside Eatery or Pier 7, which serves brunch-style fare all day. Surfside Bites is another quick-serve venue, featuring kid-pleasers like burgers and popcorn chicken.

If the thought of sailing among these dining options (and many more) makes your mouth water, talk with Anita, your professional travel advisor. Beginning in late January, Icon of the Seas will homeport in Miami and sail seven-day cruises in the Eastern or Western Caribbean. Your travel advisor can also tell you about the amazing array of cabin categories and entertainment aboard this exciting new ship, as well as the adventures waiting for you on shore.

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Monday, January 29, 2024

Incentives to Look for When Booking Your Next Cruise

We’re approaching “Wave Season” – the cruise industry’s name for January 1 through March 31, a popular time to make cruise reservations. That’s because Wave Season is when cruise lines offer some of the best booking incentives of the entire year; sometimes they even let you choose the incentive you want most. So, what should you look for?

Onboard credits. Credits are a flexible incentive because they can be used to purchase a variety of goods and services while you’re on board. Exactly how they can be used varies by cruise line, but they can often be used toward purchases in the ship’s boutiques and shops, spa and specialty dining venues, and more. Be sure to use up your onboard credits during your cruise; you can’t redeem them for cash or on a subsequent cruise.

Wi-Fi access. A cruise is a good time to disconnect from it all, so access to onboard Wi-Fi may not be important to you. But if you need to stay connected to your home or office while at sea, Wi-Fi access can cost about $30 per day, making complimentary access a nice incentive. Note that the cruise line may limit the number of devices that can connect to Wi-Fi from your cabin; limit the time you can be connected; or block streaming.

Premium beverage packages. If you’ve cruised before, you know that quite a few beverages – including soda, fresh juices, premium coffee and tea, beer, wine, and liquor – may not be included in the cruise fare. A package that provides deep discounts on these beverages or makes them complimentary is a popular booking incentive. But, pay attention to the fine print: some packages don’t include required gratuities for beverage service or exclude “super-premium” brands.

Kids sail free. To help attract families, some incentives let kids under age 12 sail free in the same cabin as their parents; others offer discounts on kids’ fares. On some cruise lines, the third and fourth passengers in a cabin can sail for free regardless of their age or relationship to the fare-paying occupants. This incentive can be an exceptional value, but be sure you’re ready to share a cabin (and its bathroom) with three other people. Also, this incentive may not be available for cruises during major holidays.

For more information about these and other booking incentives – such as complimentary shore excursions, cabin upgrades, specialty dining packages, and more – talk with Anita, your professional travel advisor.

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Monday, January 22, 2024

Navigating the Cruise Ship Buffet

A welcoming destination for the hungry, a buffet is part of the dining scene on most cruise ships. Here are a few things to know (or be reminded of) before you visit the buffet on your next cruise.

The buffet should be easy to find: it’s usually on the same deck as the main pool, also called the Lido Deck. And it’s usually a casual venue, so you don’t need to be dressed up to go there. But if you’re in your swimsuit when you get hungry, you’ll need to put on some clothes and shoes before you visit the buffet (or any other dining spot on board).

Buffet service style varies by cruise line. Some are completely self-serve; some have crew members plate the food that you select; and some have a combination of self-serve and crew-served stations. Some buffets have scheduled serving hours and close overnight, but some are open 24 hours a day.

Whatever the serving style and hours of the buffet on your ship, it’s important to observe some basic rules of buffet etiquette. These include patiently waiting your turn; always using the provided utensils (not your fingers) to select food; and using a clean plate each time you return. These rules are simply good manners, and they’re essential to good buffet hygiene.

For breakfast, lunch, and dinner, the buffet will have a wide variety of entrees, side dishes, and desserts, both hot and cold. Some will be rich and decadent, but there should also be plenty of fresh fruits and vegetables, healthy grains, and lean proteins. Many buffets include some vegetarian, vegan, and gluten-free items, too. Most food is prepared in advance, but there may be made-to-order stations for items like omelets, pasta, or tacos.

If you’re allergic to or can’t tolerate certain foods, you may need to approach the buffet with caution. If you need to be sure about the content of a dish before you taste it, ask a server. But, remember that people sometimes use the same utensils at multiple food stations; it’s all too easy to drop a little food from one dish into another. If your allergies are severe, it may be best to eat in the main dining room or another onboard venue where the crew can accommodate your specific needs.

If you’d like to know more about dining options at sea, just ask Anita, your professional travel advisor.

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Monday, January 15, 2024

Enjoying a Cruise Ship’s Specialty Restaurants

On most cruises, several dining options are included in your fare, but many ships also have specialty dining venues you can enjoy – for an extra charge. Is the extra cost worth it? And if so, how can you make the most of a specialty dining experience?

Whether or not onboard specialty dining is worth the cost really depends on you. If you love good food with quality ingredients, sophisticated cooking techniques, and beautiful presentation, you’ll probably enjoy the experience. But if you like to be served right away and to eat quickly, specialty dining may not be the right choice for you – it’s usually a leisurely meal.

While there’s an extra charge for most specialty dining, it’s often significantly less than you would pay for a comparable meal in a fine-dining restaurant at home. To make it even more affordable, some specialty restaurants offer discounts if you make a reservation for the very first night of the cruise; if you come in for lunch rather than dinner; or if you purchase a specialty dining package (which may include more than one onboard specialty restaurant). Also, if you have any onboard credits, you may be able to use them to cover some or all of the cost of a wonderful meal in a specialty restaurant.

To make the most of a specialty dining experience, start by dressing for the occasion. These restaurants usually don’t require anything as formal as tuxedos and long gowns, but they may ask for no shorts, tank tops or flip-flops.

If you’re cruising with children who enjoy dining out, many specialty restaurants welcome children and even have special pricing for them. But if your kids would rather do their own thing, take them to the buffet or pizza stand for an early dinner, then check them into an onboard kids’ club; they’ll have fun while you savor your dinner.

One more tip: if you want more information about any item on a specialty restaurant’s menu, just ask. In the small and intimate environment of a specialty restaurant, the staff will be happy to explain ingredients and preparation, guiding you toward dishes you’ll love.

To enjoy specialty dining on your next cruise, talk with Anita, your professional travel advisor. You may be able to purchase a specialty dining package and make reservations in advance; if not, your advisor may have advice for securing reservations as soon as you get on board.

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Monday, January 8, 2024

Quieter Ports of Call

If you’d like to sail to some of the world’s quieter cruise ports, here are some that – at least for now – are visited by just a few cruise lines. These emerging ports are usually called on by smaller ships operated by luxury cruise lines (which is a wonderful way to travel, of course).

Dingle, Ireland, is on a County Kerry peninsula that stretches about 30 miles into the North Atlantic. The scenery is stunning, with pristine beaches backed by rugged cliffs and mountains. There are pre-historic and early medieval ruins to explore, including the remains of Dunbeg Fort. The Dingle Oceanworld Aquarium highlights the area’s abundant marine life. There are also some sweet memorials to Fungie, a bottlenose dolphin who lived in close contact with the people of Dingle for more than 35 years.

Crotone, in Italy’s Calabria region, looks out over the blue Ionian Sea. A castle from the 16th century houses a municipal museum, and a National Archaeological Museum displays significant finds from dig sites around the area. Fires and earthquakes have caused the Cathedral of Crotone to be rebuilt a few times, but it has artifacts that are centuries old. Crotone also has wonderful restaurants, including some that have earned Michelin stars.

Asau, on the Samoan island of Savai’i, has a surprisingly turbulent history. It was partially destroyed by volcanic activity in the mid-1700s; hosted U.S. Marines during World War II; and survived a huge explosion when the New Zealand Navy tried to blast a deep-water channel through a coral reef. Today, reefs are a prized feature of Asau’s pretty harbor. The island also has lava tubes, caves, blowholes, waterfalls, rainforests, and cloud forests to explore.

Kotor, Montenegro, lies along a stunning bay where impressive mountains rise directly from the water. It takes more than an hour for a cruise ship to sail up the bay and into the city, and the scenery is breathtaking the entire way. The city’s Old Town is one of the region’s best-preserved medieval town centers and includes a cathedral from 1166. Wear good walking shoes to explore the ancient city walls, narrow streets, and charming squares. You’ll notice that cats are beloved here because they’re thought to bring good luck; the Old Town even has a cat museum.

Talk with Anita, your professional travel advisor, about cruising to these and other ports that are a little off the usual cruise ship routes.

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Monday, January 1, 2024

Cruise Dining at the Chef’s Table

It’s fascinating to learn how chefs use their skills and artistry to create culinary delights, and it’s even better to get to taste those creations, which has made the “chef’s table” dining concept popular. Fortunately for food and cruise lovers, some cruise lines offer chef’s table experiences at sea, which can be a memorable highlight of your voyage.

On a cruise, a chef’s table dinner is usually a multi-course tasting menu that’s not available anywhere else on the ship. It’s fine dining, and it’s exclusive: a chef’s table may be offered just one or two evenings of a cruise, and only for small groups (usually 12 or less). If the table isn’t actually in the ship’s galley, it’s usually in a private dining area nearby.

Here’s what you and your taste buds can expect at the chef’s table on some popular cruise lines:

Azamara Cruises offers chef’s table dinners that reflect the region the ship is sailing through; a lovely way to get familiar with the local cuisine. If you’re sailing in a wine-producing region, each course will be paired with a local vintage, too.

Oceania Cruises, known for its culinary focus, offers a variety of chef’s table menus in an intimate venue called Privee. These include a degustation (tasting) menu that starts with an amuse-bouche and ends with petit fours; a wine pairing menu; and “Best of Oceania Cruises” selections.

Princess Cruises offers chef’s table dinners for up to a dozen guests. The executive chef visits the table to explain the preparation of each course and gives some tasting suggestions, then sits down with the guests to enjoy dessert and conversation.

Royal Caribbean offers a chef’s table on selected ships and sailings. The menu offers five gourmet courses in a formal setting, and the chef de cuisine serves as host. Each course is accompanied by a special wine chosen by the head sommelier.

Ama Waterways, a river cruise line, offers a chef’s table dinner in a glass-enclosed space with beautiful river views, as well as a full view of the galley.

Most onboard chef’s table experiences come with a cover charge, although the chef’s table on Ama Waterways is an exception: reservations are required, but there’s no cover charge. Still, onboard chef’s table experiences always sell out – a good sign that it’s worth the splurge. To reserve a cruise and a place at the chef’s table, talk with Anita, your professional travel advisor.

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