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, July 15, 2024

Overnight Port Stays Allow More Time on Shore

If you’ve ever had to rush back from a shore excursion to return to your cruise ship on time, you might enjoy a cruise that features one or more overnight port stays. When a ship has permission to stay in port overnight, it’s possible to enjoy a leisurely dinner in an onshore restaurant, attend an evening sporting or cultural event, or dance the night away in a local club. Plus, some daytime activities have a different look and feel at night – think European Christmas markets or Venetian gondola rides.

Many cruise lines offer overnight port stays, including Azamara, Celebrity, Oceania, Princess, Regent Seven Seas, Silversea, Virgin Voyages, and Windstar. Overnight stays are more likely on longer cruises that call on larger port cities. And, the cruise lines offer nighttime shore excursions that arrange special experiences for you.

These are just a few of dozens of ports where it’s possible to stay overnight on a cruise:

Reykjavik, Iceland. The sun is up for long hours during the summer months, so an overnight stay gives you plenty of time to see waterfalls, geysers, and the famous Blue Lagoon.

Copenhagen, Denmark. The rides, music stages, and restaurants of Tivoli Gardens amusement park literally sparkle at night. An evening tour of the Christianshavn neighborhood via canal is lovely, too.

Dubrovnik, Croatia. Walk the Old Town at night to imagine you’re back in medieval times; take a break in a charming bar to sip a glass of rakija, a local anise-flavored spirit.

Oranjestad, Aruba. Seaside bars and clubs are fun to visit in the cooler air of the evening. You can also try your luck at a glittering oceanfront casino.

Buenos Aires, Argentina. Dinner at an authentic parrilla (grill restaurant) is a treat, as is a visit to Plaza Dorrego – grab a table to enjoy a beverage, listen to music, and watch tango dancers.

Kyoto, Japan. Take an evening tour of Gion, the city’s best-known geisha district. In this historic neighborhood, you can visit teahouses where geishas entertain with music and dance.

An overnight port stay also lets you enjoy the quiet early morning hours of the place you’re visiting; in fact, your ship may not depart until noon or later.

In addition to overnight stays, some cruises include late-night port departures, which also give you a chance to enjoy an evening on shore. To consider all of your options for more time in port, talk with Anita, your professional travel advisor.

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Monday, July 8, 2024

Where to Go on an Expedition Cruise

Cruise ships visit enduringly popular ports of call, with time to enjoy fabulous onboard amenities while you sail between ports. But if you have an adventurous side, a different type of cruise may have just as much appeal.

Expedition cruises sail to remote and beautiful places around the globe, including some that are difficult to visit any other way. Some are well-known “bucket list” destinations, like Antarctica and the Galapagos Islands; others, like Tristan da Cunha and Zamami, may not be as familiar to you (at least, not yet).

Tristan da Cunha, a British territory, is a small group of extremely remote, mountainous islands in the South Atlantic. The islands have no airstrip or hotel, so it’s only possible to visit by ship. In addition to natural beauty, Tristan da Cunha has amazing biodiversity and is a haven for sea birds; it’s the world’s only known breeding site for two types of petrels.

The Bissagos Islands are only 30 miles from the coast of West Africa’s Guinea-Bissau, but the islands' people have preserved their own unique customs and traditions. On these unspoiled islands, you can explore wide beaches and mangrove forests, see remnants of colonial architecture, and meet a colony of saltwater hippopotamuses.

In the North Atlantic, midway between Scotland and Iceland, the Faroe Islands are a Danish territory with Viking heritage. Sunny days are rare on these windy islands, but the alpine wildflowers and puffin birds will charm you. Active pursuits include hiking to secluded waterfalls, biking, birdwatching, fishing and even surfing.

The archipelago of Japan includes more than 14,000 islands that stretch from subarctic to subtropical zones. Zamami, a subtropical island about 40 miles from Okinawa, is occupied by lush vegetation (and a few people). Narrow strips of white sand edge a series of bays with strikingly blue water. You can snorkel along coral reefs or hike up Mount Takatsuki to an observation deck with memorable views.

There are many more adventurous places to visit via expedition cruise; ask your professional travel advisor for additional recommendations. But remember that expedition cruise ships are small (it's better to visit remote places with few facilities). While they are very comfortable and even luxurious, they don’t have all the entertainment, dining options, or other features found on larger cruise ships. On an expedition cruise, the focus isn’t on the ship – it’s on the remote spots you’ll visit.

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Monday, July 1, 2024

Medical Care on a Cruise Ship

We hope this is something you won’t really need to know, but if you ever become ill while on a cruise, medical care will be available on board. All cruise ships have onboard medical facilities staffed by trained, qualified professionals. And while the scope of care they can provide varies a bit from ship to ship, most can treat and manage a range of conditions.

You should visit the onboard medical center for the same reasons you would visit your primary care physician or an urgent care center at home, such as cold or flu symptoms, muscle strains, cuts and scrapes, or abdominal discomfort. Onboard medical centers usually stock over-the-counter medications like pain relievers and seasickness remedies, as well as some prescription medications (but if you take prescription medication, remember to bring enough of your own supply for the length of your cruise).

You should also go to the medical center for conditions that would have you calling 911 or going to a hospital emergency department at home, such as shortness of breath, chest pain, severe injury, and high blood pressure or blood sugar levels. If you need diagnostics or treatment beyond what can be provided on the ship (for example, onboard medical facilities usually don’t provide invasive testing, surgery or long-term care), the medical team will work to stabilize you and arrange a transfer to a medical facility on shore.

Note that most insurance plans don’t cover medical services and treatments you receive outside the country, whether you’re on a ship or in a medical facility on shore. This is a compelling reason to consider purchasing travel insurance, which would help cover out-of-pocket costs if you need extensive medical treatment, to be evacuated from the ship, or even to return home. Your professional travel advisor can help you select a travel insurance policy.

Hopefully, you’ll never need to use the services of an onboard medical center, but it’s comforting to know it’s there. While cruising, you can help protect your health by following safety guidelines, eating well, staying hydrated, and getting enough rest.

If you have a chronic medical condition or specific medical needs, ask Anita, your professional travel advisor, to help you check the capabilities of the medical facilities on cruise ships you’re interested in. And, visit your physician before you pay the final installment of your cruise fare, just to make sure you’re in good shape to sail away.

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Monday, June 24, 2024

Icon of the Seas Delivers on Its Promises

Before Royal Caribbean’s Icon of the Seas debuted, the cruise line said the new holder of the title “World’s Largest Cruise Ship” would provide fantastic family vacations. And, the Icon is delivering on that promise.

With eight distinctive neighborhoods, dozens of restaurants and bars, seven pools, a six-slide waterpark, a shape-shifting waterfall, multiple stage shows, and an ice arena – plus other long-time Royal Caribbean favorites like a rock-climbing wall, surf simulator, and mini-golf course – it’s clear that everyone in the family can have fun on board.

As the first ship in Royal Caribbean’s new Icon Class, Icon of the Seas has some features that have never been seen before. These include the Pearl, a beautiful kinetic sculpture in the atrium of the Royal Promenade. You can take a flight of stairs right through the Pearl: the interior is lined with more than 3,000 glass panels that play with light and color.

A ship designed for family entertainment needs family-sized accommodations, and the Icon delivers on this as well. More than half of the 28 stateroom categories have designs that are new to the Royal Caribbean fleet, and most were created with families in mind. For example, the Family Infinite Balcony stateroom can sleep up to six. It features an alcove with bunk beds for the kids and a separate sleeping area for adults, as well as a family-friendly split bathroom design.

For the ultimate family cruise experience, the Icon offers the Ultimate Family Townhouse, a three-level suite that accommodates up to eight in 1,772 square feet. It has a multi-level curving slide, a theater with a karaoke machine, and table tennis on the spacious patio. Plus, there are two balconies, a musical staircase, three bathrooms, and amazing ocean views through floor-to-ceiling windows.

But, the most unique feature on the Icon may be the Chief Dog Officer, a first for Royal Caribbean. She’s a Golden Retriever named Rover, whose duties include spreading love, joy, and happiness among passengers and crew.

While the Icon of the Seas is a great ship for families, anyone who loves (or wants to try) cruising is welcome to come aboard and enjoy. The ship sails seven-day Eastern Caribbean and Western Caribbean itineraries, roundtrip from Miami, which include a day at the cruise line’s private destination, Perfect Day at CocoCay. Talk with Anita,  your professional travel advisor, about making your reservation to sail on this spectacular new ship.

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Monday, June 17, 2024

Sailing the World in 2025

If you dream of traveling the world, a world cruise can make it easy. World cruises are usually 90 days or longer – enough time to call on multiple continents. Some world cruises truly do circumnavigate the globe, while others cover a large part of it.

Several cruise lines offer world cruises, including Azamara, Cunard, Holland America, Oceania, Princess, Regent Seven Seas, Seabourn, Silversea, and Viking. Many depart in January, which makes for an adventurous start to a new year. To provide a taste of the variety found in world cruise itineraries, here’s a look at some that will set sail in 2025.

Cunard Line’s Queen Anne will set off on her first world cruise from New York on January 18, and this 98-day cruise comes close to circling the globe. The ship will take a westward path that includes a transit through the Panama Canal. Passengers will enjoy overnight stays in ports like San Francisco; Honolulu; Auckland, New Zealand; Sydney, Australia; Hong Kong, China; Singapore; Dubai; and Luxor, Egypt, before disembarking in Southampton, England.

Holland America Line has scheduled several Grand Voyages and World Voyages for 2025, including one on the Volendam that will sail “pole to pole” on a 133-day roundtrip from Ft. Lauderdale, departing January 25. The ship will sail through the Panama Canal and down the Pacific Coast of South America to Antarctica; then up South America’s Atlantic Coast, with some time to explore the Amazon River. After crossing the Atlantic, the ship will visit Morocco as well as ports in Western Europe, and Scandinavia before turning west for Iceland, Greenland, and a return to Florida.

Oceania Cruises Insignia will take 196 days to sail around the globe, departing from Miami on January 5. This six-month voyage includes port calls in more than 40 countries. Overnight stays include Manaus and Rio de Janeiro, Brazil; Walvis Bay, Namibia; Cape Town, South Africa; The Maldives; and Tahiti. Ports that are well off the usual cruise path include the islands of Tristan da Cunha; the Comoros islands; Borneo and Brunei; Komodo Island, Indonesia; New Caledonia; and American Samoa.

Many world cruises provide attractive extras, such as onboard credits you can spend as you like, concierge services, and complimentary shore excursions. Air transportation and onboard gratuities may be included in the cruise fare, too.

World cruises tend to sell out, so talk with Anita, your professional travel advisor, soon about sailing the world in 2025.

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Monday, June 10, 2024

Truly Local Shore Excursions

It’s a thrill when you sail over the water on a cruise ship, but also when you get off the ship and explore a port of call. Many ports offer a variety of entertaining, educational, or adventurous shore excursions: guided tours, beach days, and visits to cultural sites are always popular. But, some locations offer excursions you won’t find anywhere else. Here are a few of our favorites.

On a cruise of the Alaskan coast, ships can often get close to glaciers as they meet the Gulf of Alaska. If you want to get even closer to these slow-moving rivers of ice, some itineraries offer helicopter viewing and trekking excursions. First, you’ll fly over the glaciers for breathtaking views; then, you’ll land on a glacier for a memorable hike over the ice. For even more adventure, you can add in some dogsledding behind a team of swift Alaskan huskies.

Truffles – not the chocolate kind, but the very rare kind that grows underground – deliver so much complex, earthy flavor that they’re among the world’s most prized ingredients. If your cruise takes you to Livorno, Italy, you can forage for truffles with an experienced tartufaio and a specially trained dog (some truffle hunters use pigs, but they tend to eat the truffles). The excursion may include a glass of wine and some truffle-infused delicacies, too.

Cruises that begin or end in Rio de Janeiro or Buenos Aires, Argentina, may offer a pre-or post-cruise excursion to spectacular Iguazú Falls, the world’s largest complex of waterfalls. Located on the inland border between Brazil and Argentina, the falls are a string of cascades more than 260 feet high and almost two miles wide. The area around the falls is beautiful, too, and is home to some rare and endangered species like jaguar, tapir, and ocelot. There are also hundreds of types of birds, butterflies, and flowers.

If your ship calls on a port in the Andalusia region of southern Spain – such as Cadiz, Malaga, or Seville – take the opportunity to experience a flamenco show. Flamenco is an art form, most often expressed through music and dance, which has a complex history but is uniquely Andalusian. The bold and elegant music, movement, and costumes tell a fascinating story, especially when accompanied by some Andalusian tapas and a glass of sangria.

Talk with Anita, your professional travel advisor, for help selecting great shore excursions for your next cruise.

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Monday, June 3, 2024

Where to Find Live Music on Board

 There’s something wonderful about listening to live music, and most cruise lines include some live music in their entertainment programs. Imagine relaxing in a comfortable chair with a beverage beside you, floating on the waves but also on the sounds of music; or, jumping up out of your chair to dance to a live beat.

Cruise lines employ first-rate musicians to provide the soundtrack for your cruise. Depending on the ship, you might hear live music in the atrium and by the pool during the day, and in lounges and bars at night.

Holland America Line is known for presenting a variety of live music in special venues on its ships. The venues vary but may include B.B. King’s Blues Club, featuring classic rhythm & blues; Billboard Onboard, a unique piano bar; the Rolling Stone Rock Room, which highlights classic rock from “best of” lists published by Rolling Stone magazine; or the Rolling Stone Lounge, where the band might play any genre.

Norwegian Cruise Line has a variety of live music venues, too. Depending on the ship, you might hear rock hits at Syd Norman’s Pour House; dueling pianos at Howl at the Moon bar; or Merseybeat at The Cavern Club, an homage to the legendary Liverpool club where the Beatles used to perform.

Royal Caribbean Cruise Line has live music across its fleet, showcasing jazz, blues, big band swing, Latin music, and more. To hear some sweet tunes, look for venues like Boleros, Centrum, Jazz on 4, and the Schooner Bar. Quantum-class ships feature Music Hall, a two-deck-high venue where you can chill, dance, or even play a game of billiards. The entire club is designed for unobstructed views of the main stage, with nothing to block your enjoyment of the music.

Cruise lines that sail smaller ships present live music, too. For example, Regent Seven Seas’ Regent Signature Orchestra plays dance music all around the cruise line’s ships; and Windstar Cruises has live music in the Compass Rose lounge and bar.

Many cruise ships have main-stage productions that also feature live music from a resident combo or orchestra. Some theme cruises are entirely devoted to an era or genre of music, turning a ship into one big performance stage and the cruise into an immersive musical experience.

To find out more about the live music venues on your next cruise, talk with Anita, your professional travel advisor.

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Monday, May 27, 2024

Staying on the Ship in Port

Did you know that passengers are welcome to stay on a cruise ship while it’s in port? It’s fun to get off the ship and explore every port of call on the itinerary, but you can also take a break from shoreside adventures and simply stay on the ship. Here’s a quick look at what to do if you stay aboard while your ship is in port.

You can sleep in and have a later, more leisurely breakfast – or, just wake up in time for lunch. If your ship has specialty restaurants, you may be able to walk in for lunch without a reservation.

While most of your fellow passengers are on shore, you’ll have great access to onboard amenities. If you’re on a big ship with things like water slides, zip lines, laser tag, or surf simulators, any lines should be small, with only a short wait before you unleash your inner daredevil.

Fitness centers, pools, and spas will be quieter as well. You could hop on your favorite fitness machine or get help learning to use a new one; score a lounge chair at poolside; and possibly get a discount on a spa treatment.

Some ships offer special activities for passengers who remain on board during a port call. There might be a trivia contest, deck games, first-run movies, or ship tours.

If you like to record your travels in photos, you can take better onboard photos when fewer passengers are around. You can write in your travel journal, or take a marvelous afternoon nap. You’ll be refreshed for the evening when you can talk with cruise friends about what they did on shore.

If you wake up one cruise morning wanting to stay aboard rather than take a shore excursion you reserved, you can do that. But, be aware that excursion cancellation policies vary. Check with the passenger service desk to find out if you might be eligible for a full refund, partial refund, or on-board credit.

On the other hand, it’s possible to select a port where you’ll stay onboard before you sail; perhaps the itinerary includes a port you’ve been to before. In that case, you can avoid reserving a shore excursion for that day (if you change your mind, you can book an excursion on the ship).

For more about the joys of staying onboard on a port day, talk with Anita, your professional travel advisor.

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Monday, May 20, 2024

Cruising the Ohio River

For a close-to-home cruise, consider sailing a US river; one option is the mighty Ohio. Cruising the Ohio River is a wonderful way to discover the region that stretches from Western Pennsylvania to the Mississippi River. The river touches six states – Pennsylvania, West Virginia, Ohio, Kentucky, Indiana, and Illinois – and there’s so much to see and explore along its banks.

Depending on your ship and the time of year, your ports of call may include:

Pittsburgh, where many cruises of the Ohio start or end. The river forms in Point State Park, where the Allegheny and Monongahela Rivers meet. It’s fun to take an extra day just to enjoy the city, which has 90 unique neighborhoods and many cultural attractions, plus great shopping and dining in the Strip District.

Moundsville, West Virginia, where the centerpiece of the Grave Creek Mound Archaeological Complex is a sacred, conical burial mound built by the Adena people more than 2,000 years ago.

Marietta, Ohio, was founded in 1788 as the first permanent settlement in the Northwest Territory. There’s a complex of mounds at the Marietta Earthworks archaeological site, built by the Native American Hopewell culture.

Cincinnati, Ohio, is another major city along the river. A highlight is the National Underground Railroad Freedom Center, a museum that celebrates the secret network that helped enslaved people escape to freedom before and during the US Civil War.

Louisville, Kentucky, where you can learn about the state’s famous bourbon distilleries, see how Louisville Slugger baseball bats are made, and visit Churchill Downs, home of the annual Kentucky Derby Thoroughbred horse race.

Henderson, Kentucky, was for a time home to John James Audubon, the naturalist and painter who produced more than 400 hand-colored bird prints for his landmark 1827 book, The Birds of America. You can visit the Audubon Museum and Nature Center, which includes some of his personal memorabilia.

Paducah, Kentucky, is the meeting point of four major rivers: the Ohio, the Tennessee, the Cumberland, and the Mississippi. Visit the Inland Waterways Museum, where a pilothouse simulator gives you the feel of guiding a river ship; or, visit the National Quilt Museum.

Some cruises of the Ohio also include a bit of Mississippi River cruising at the western end, calling on Cape Girardeau and St. Louis, Missouri.

To find out how you can cruise the Ohio or another storied US river (like the Mississippi or Columbia), talk with Anita, your professional travel advisor.

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Monday, May 13, 2024

Tips for Cruising in Asia

Asia is a vast continent, and its long Pacific coastline offers cruise passengers wonderful places to discover. Here are some things to know if you plan to explore Asia by cruise ship.

You’ll have a choice of cruise lines. A variety of cruise lines visit Asian ports, including Celebrity, Holland America, MSC, Norwegian, Oceania, Royal Caribbean, Princess, Seabourn, Silversea, and Viking. This gives you a terrific choice of ships, itineraries, and onboard vibes.

You may want to focus on Northeast or Southeast Asia. Depending on how much time you have to cruise, you could choose to focus on either Northeast Asia (including Japan, South Korea, and China) or Southeast Asia (including Vietnam, Cambodia, Thailand, Malaysia, Singapore, Indonesia, and The Philippines). Both regions are rich in beauty, history, and culture, with everything from glittering cities to traditional villages. Of course, if you have the time to cruise it all, your professional travel advisor can help you select an itinerary that covers more of Asia’s Pacific coast.

There’s an alternative to cruising along the coast. Asia offers river cruises along some historic and scenic waterways. Options include China’s Cháng Jiāng (or Yangtze) River, which passes through the stunning Three Gorges region; and the Mekong River, which will take you to Cambodia’s most famous temple complex, Angkor Wat, and the floating markets of rural Vietnam.

Pack for the weather and be ready to cover up. Bring lightweight clothing you can layer, including some long-sleeved shirts and long pants – temples and other religious and cultural sites may require modest clothing that covers most of your skin. A light jacket or shawl is a good item to take along on shore excursions.

Be observant about local customs. In some Asian cultures, people don’t shake hands as a way to say “Hello” or “Thank you;” instead, they may bow or press their palms together in front of their hearts. Watch what the local people do, and do the same. In some places, merchants use both hands when presenting or receiving payment as a sign of respect for the transaction; you can do so, too. And, tipping practices vary; in some areas, tips are not expected, and in others they are welcome. If you’re not sure about the tipping practices on shore, ask a member of the ship’s crew.

There’s more to know about cruising in Asia – touch base with Anita, your professional travel advisor for ideas and advice.

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Monday, May 6, 2024

Last-Minute Cruise? Essentials for Your Suitcase

It’s fun to plan a perfect wardrobe for an upcoming cruise, but when you grab a last-minute cruise deal there may not be much time for planning. Here’s an overview of the basic items to pack for most cruises (remember to adjust for the climate and length of your cruise).

Travel Documents. Bring tickets and other required paperwork for your cruise, reserved flights and tours. Bring the proof of identity requested by your cruise line, which may be a birth certificate or passport. Keep these documents with you rather than in a checked bag,

Medications and Toiletries. Pack enough prescription medication for the length of the cruise, and a little more. Small quantities of over-the-counter remedies for pain, allergies, and upset stomach often come in handy; they’ll be available on board but at a price. And while most ships provide toiletries like soap, shampoo, and conditioner, you may want to bring small quantities of your favorites. Sunscreen and bug repellent will be pricey on board and in port, so bring your own.

Clothes for daytime. Casual clothing is the daytime standard on most cruise ships. Warm climates call for shorts, casual shirts, and beachwear; for cooler regions, pack long pants with shirts and jackets you can layer. Bring a set of workout clothes for the onboard gym, if you like. And, it’s surprisingly easy to forget what goes underneath, so be sure to pack underwear and socks.

Clothes for nighttime. Some cruise lines have a “come as you are” attitude toward dressing for dinner and a show, while others have evening dress codes. For a casual ship, pack what you would wear on a date night; where dress codes are in effect, pack what you would wear to an elegant cocktail party. Bring your favorite pajamas for bedtime, too.

Shoes. Shoes have their own category because they can take up too much luggage space. Try to limit shoes to three pairs: comfortable walking shoes; flip-flops or sandals for the pool; and dressier shoes that go with your evening outfits.

Accessories. Pack a few favorite accessories, like belts, jewelry, ties, scarves, and a baseball hat or sun hat.

It’s best to keep your luggage as compact and light as possible; your cruise cabin will have limited storage space. Most ships have laundry and dry cleaning services, so you can plan to wear the same outfits multiple times. For more packing advice, talk with Anita, your professional travel advisor.

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Monday, April 29, 2024

What to Know About Tender Ports

“Tenders” are part of cruising – but we’re not talking about the delicious chicken variety. A “tender port” is one where your ship won’t be able to pull right up to a dock, but will drop anchor off shore. The small boats that will ferry you from ship to shore and back again are called “tenders.”

Some cruises don’t include any tender ports, and some include several. Tender ports are usually indicated on the cruise itinerary. Some tender ports simply don’t have dock facilities; others do, but the dock area may be too small or the water too shallow to accommodate your ship. Some ports that require tenders are in appealingly remote destinations, but some are in popular vacation spots like Bar Harbor, Cabo San Lucas, and the Greek Isles.

Tender boat style varies from one ship to another. Some ships use their lifeboats, while others carry boats dedicated to tendering. Some cruise lines hire local tender boat operators; their boats may be basic or equipped with roofs to provide shade, cushioned seats, and bathroom facilities. All boats used for tendering have life vests and other safety gear.

One of the best things about a ride in a tender is the view. Trips between ship and shore may take about five to 15 minutes – time to admire views of the ship, the water, and the place you’re visiting.

There’s usually a rush to get on the first tender boats of the day; if you wait a bit, you can have a leisurely breakfast and avoid the rush. When you’re coming back from shore to ship, though, don’t wait too long: if you miss the last tender back, you may be left to make your own way to the ship’s next port.

Note that priority tendering is a common reward for members of cruise line loyalty programs – it’s a nice extra.

Tenders may not be able to operate in poor weather, so be aware that rough seas may give your ship’s captain no choice but to skip a tender port. And if you have limited mobility, a tender boat might not be for you; ask Anita, your professional travel advisor for advice and guidance.

If you want to avoid tender ports completely, look for itineraries that call on larger ports that have more extensive docking facilities. Or, look at sailing on a smaller ship that can dock at smaller piers that can’t accommodate bigger ships.

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Monday, April 22, 2024

Cruising with Limited Mobility

If you use a cane, walker, wheelchair, or other equipment to support your mobility, cruising can be a good way to see the world. Cruise ships must abide by international standards for accessibility, and cruise ships that dock in U.S. ports must meet the requirements of the Americans with Disabilities Act.

Even older cruise ships have accessible cabins, bathrooms, restaurants, and common spaces. Newer ships are designed to make even more features easily accessible to passengers who have limited mobility or other disabilities.

To help ensure an enjoyable and happy cruise, here are a few tips:

Bigger and newer may be better. Bigger, newer ships usually have more space to work with when maximizing accessibility. However, some older ships – especially those that have been renovated – may fit your needs just as well. Ask your professional travel advisor to help you look at deck plans for ships you’re interested in; it’s important to be sure that your top choice will meet your needs.

Check for tender ports. For passengers with limited mobility, the best cruise itineraries may be those where the ship can pull up to a dock in all ports of call. When a cruise ship can’t dock (usually due to its size), it anchors off the coast and uses smaller boats, called tenders, to take passengers to shore. It can be difficult for passengers who use mobility equipment to get on and off tender boats.

Book early. Even on the biggest ships, the number of accessible cabins may be limited, so make a reservation as early as possible. If you need to check on details, such as the width of cabin and bathroom doorways, your professional travel advisor or the cruise line’s staff can help.

Consider renting the equipment you need. Instead of packing your own mobility aids and other equipment that may be difficult to bring with you, look into renting what you need. Cruise passengers can rent anything from wheelchairs to hospital beds and shower chairs to commodes from suppliers that make sure everything is waiting for you when you board the ship. Ask your professional travel advisor or cruise line to recommend an equipment rental company.

Your cruise line may ask you to complete a form that will tell them more about your mobility and your needs. Be sure to provide complete and detailed information, which will help the crew to accommodate you and ensure a terrific vacation.

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Monday, April 15, 2024

Interesting New Ports

The continuing popularity of cruising means more beautiful places at the water’s edge are becoming new ports of call or adding to their cruise ship capacity, providing new experiences even for seasoned cruisers.

Port Cabo Rojo in the Dominican Republic is the newest cruise ship port in the Caribbean. The port welcomed its very first cruise ship, Norwegian Cruise Lines’ Norwegian Pearl, to the dock on January 4, 2024. When development is complete, the port can accommodate up to four ships simultaneously. It’s a gateway to the Pedernales Province, the Dominican Republic’s southernmost province. There are plans to develop resorts and attractions here, but for now, there’s untouched beauty and a laid-back vibe.

Cabo Rojo is close to pristine beaches of white sand, including Bahia de las Aguilas. This gorgeous, remote beach with clear turquoise water and coral reefs that makes it lovely for swimming and snorkeling. But, you can spend an entire day just relaxing in the sun and watching for endangered hawksbill, leatherback, and green sea turtles.

Bahia de las Aguilas is inside Parque Nacional Jaragua, part of a UNESCO Biosphere Reserve. It encompasses islands, caves, and at least 400 species of flora, 130 species of birds, and rare iguanas. The park’s Laguna de Oviedo is a coastal saltwater lagoon popular with birdwatchers, who can see flamingos, herons, pelicans, and other winged species.

Far north of the Dominican Republic, Stornoway Port in Scotland’s Outer Hebrides Islands has welcomed small cruise ships for some time, but a new, deepwater port that can accommodate larger ships is scheduled to open for the summer 2024 season.

Stornoway, capital of the Lewis and Harris islands, is a center of culture in the Outer Hebrides, known for their stark and unspoiled beauty. There are beaches and rocky bays along the North Atlantic; 5,000-year-old standing stones and historic castles; calm lakes and peat bogs, grassy plains studded with flowers and rugged hills.

Stornoway has a vibrant arts scene and a museum, located in a castle, that shares the islands’ history. In local mills, fleece from Cheviot and Scottish Blackface sheep is carded, spun, and woven into warm Harris Tweed fabric crafted into shirts, jackets, handbags, and more. It’s also fun to sample local delicacies like Stornoway black pudding, kippered herring, and smoked salmon.

To find out how to sail to these or other new and growing ports, talk with Anita, your professional travel advisor.

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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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