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, May 21, 2012

Cruising the Coast of China

While China has been steadily emerging as a destination for ocean-going cruises, many cruise enthusiasts are surprised by the variety of itineraries available for seeing the cities and scenery along the country’s long eastern coastline. While many cruises of the region are 10 nights or longer, there are itineraries as brief as five nights. And, many of these itineraries include ports in neighboring countries, such as Japan, Taiwan or Vietnam, providing a more complete Asian cruise experience.

 For example, Oceania Cruises offers a 17-night cruise on the Nautica that begins in the cosmopolitan Chinese city of Hong Kong, then sails to Taipei, Taiwan; Okinawa, Kyoto and Hiroshima, Japan; Shanghai, China; Seoul, South Korea; and finally to the Chinese capital of Beijing (via the port of Tianjin). Established by Kublai Khan in 1267, Beijing is a massive city with incredible historical treasures. Tian’anmen Square, the largest public square in the world, has impressive monuments and is near the China National Museum. Just north of the square is the Forbidden City, which serves as China’s imperial palace complex and government center for almost 500 years.

Princess Cruises offers several different itineraries, one of which – a 24-night cruise – begins in Australia. After an overnight stay in Sydney, the Diamond Princess sails north to call on Port Douglas and Darwin, Australia, then threads its way through the islands of Indonesia to call on Hong Kong. The ship continues to Taipei, Taiwan; Kagoshima, Japan; Busan, South Korea; and Dalian, China, before proceeding to Beijing. Dalian has a strategically important position on the tip of the Liaodong peninsula, and the influence of past invaders and traders from Russia, Japan, and Western Europe can be seen and felt in the city.

Princess also offers a 16-day repositioning cruise that begins in Anchorage, Alaska, and ends in Beijing – a great opportunity to experience two distinctive destinations, with a relaxing sea voyage in between.

For a briefer look at China and Southeast Asia, Royal Caribbean offers a five-night cruise on the Legend of the Seas that departs from the cruise terminal in Xiamen, China, and sails to Halong Bay, Vietnam, known for its striking limestone formations. On the return trip to Xiamen, the ship also calls on Hong Kong.
For a truly China-centric cruise experience, you might also consider a cruise of the country’s mighty Yangtze (Yellow) River, which passes through spectacular scenery. Or, consider a “cruisetour” package that combines your cruise with a land-based exploration of China’s interior. For more information on your China cruise options, talk with Anita, your Cruise Holidays personal cruise expert.
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Monday, May 14, 2012

Seeing What's Behind the Scenes

What does it take to prepare fantastic meals for hundreds or thousands of cruise ship guests, to stage a Broadway-quality show at sea, and to power and steer a mighty cruise ship? You can get a first-hand look at all this and more on a “behind the scenes” tour of your ship.

 A growing number of cruise lines offer these tours for a fee, which is usually between $50 and $150. Often, sign-up is available only after you board the ship – look for a sign at the front desk that advertises the tours, which are booked on a first-come, first-served basis. Because all tours are supervised and the group is likely to pass through some small or narrow spaces, groups are usually limited in size to a maximum of 10 to 20 people. If there is high interest, some ships are able to add more tours.

Norwegian Cruise Line offers behind-the-scenes tours led by an officer of the ship. You’ll explore areas that are usually off-limits to guests, including food storage and preparation areas, the backstage area of the theater, the laundry and the bridge, where a senior officer explains how the movement of the ship is controlled. An extended version of the tour adds amenities such as a group photo on the bridge, specialty coffees, evening cocktails and dinner in the Cagney’s Steakhouse restaurant.

 Princess Cruises offers the Ultimate Ship Tour, which allows passengers to explore the engine control room, medical center, print shop, laundry and photo lab. The tour concludes in the command center on the bridge, where guests meet the captain and take in the dramatic views from the wraparound windows.

Royal Caribbean introduced its “Behind the Royal Advantage All Access Tour” in 2011. Guests can “step inside the crew’s shoes” in areas such as the galley, laundry, engine control room and bridge.

Celebrity Cruises’ “See How it’s Done Tour” features a lunch with wine pairings for each course. After all, guests can work up an appetite touring the bridge, mooring deck, crew gym, engine control room, food preparation areas and the main galley. A shorter option for those who just want to see the bridge is the “Bridge Sail Away Experience,” which allows passengers to watch the navigational team at work as the ship sails away from port.

 Keep in mind that a behind-the-scenes tour can be quite an active excursion, requiring extended periods of walking, standing, and climbing or descending stairs. For more information on any tours that may be offered on your next cruise, talk with your Cruise Holidays personal cruise expert.

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Monday, May 7, 2012

Cruising Offers an Education for the Kids

For the sake of their children, lots of parents like to include a little education in their summer vacations. But, while tours of museums, libraries and other cultural institutions can be fascinating and fun, some kids don’t have a high level of tolerance for them. Instead, they long to be doing something active, playing with other kids – or even dissecting a squid.

Cruising meets kids’ desire to be active and to socialize, and many cruise lines and ships offer programming and facilities designed especially for kids. The programs usually divide children into several groups to ensure age-appropriate activities, which might range from finger painting to deck parties to teen-only ship tours. And, while youth programs help assure that kids have fun and meet new friends while on board, they often have an educational component, too.

For example, Royal Caribbean’s Adventure Ocean program includes hands-on experiments that are so much fun, the kids may not even realize they are “doing science.” With the help of the Adventure Ocean staff, kids can learn more about fossils, volcanoes, how ocean waves are formed, and more.

Through Princess Cruises’ partnership with the California Science Center, the cruise line’s youth program staff is trained to lead exciting, interactive science activities such as whale watching, squid dissection and rollercoaster construction. The Pete’s Pals program teaches kids about threatened and endangered species in the regions where Princess ships sail. And, on cruises to Alaska, National Park Service rangers give kids insights into glaciers and animals that live in the region.

Kids can learn basic cooking techniques, kitchen safety, and how to follow a recipe in Holland America Line’s spectacular Culinary Arts Center demonstration kitchens. There are both demonstration-style and hands-on classes for youth, and questions are always encouraged.

To explore more options – including shore excursions – for sprinkling a bit of education into the mix on your summer cruise vacation, talk with Anita, your Cruise Holidays personal cruise expert.

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Tuesday, May 1, 2012

Review of Uniworld River Cruise– Amsterdam to Frankfurt

This year, we wanted a change of pace.  Therefore, we decided to try a river cruise in Europe. Over the next few days, we will provide our feedback on the ports of call, the ship, and the overall cruise experience.

Of the four major lines providing river cruises in Europe, we picked Uniworld and we are happy to report that it was a great experience.  Well, excluding the weather, it was a great experience. 

In hindsight, I am not sure kind of weather what I was expecting, but high temperatures in the 50s and rain was not in my personal forecast.  I didn’t need the shorts or sandals that I carried, but I did need the jacket that I didn’t pack.  Fortunately, I did pack a sweater, a poncho, and an umbrella.  Lesson learned: skip the warm weather gear and take a jacket!  Like London, Amsterdam can be cool and damp in the spring.

Like all international flights, our trip from the middle of the US was long and tiring.  We purchased “economy plus” seats from United, but those seats were bulkhead: no real room to stretch out and no place to store anything you wanted to use on the flight.  Bummer…  The “extra room” was not worth the $200 it cost for the “upgrade” on the overnight flight.
We arrived in Amsterdam at 9AM the next day.  It was a quick ride to the hotel thru old Amsterdam from the airport – the taxi charge was 40 Euro.  Once at the hotel, we discovered that our room would not be ready until 2PM.  Therefore, we left our luggage in storage and took a long walk thru the streets and canals of Amsterdam. It’s a very beautiful city!  We did find the flower market and the flea market.

We had two extra days in Amsterdam.  We spent the time enjoying the city and walking near the canals.  We did learn a few things about the city:
·        The little old lady on the bicycle will run over you
·        Street parking near our hotel cost $38 Euro a day
·        It’s still cold/windy in Amsterdam – not the type of weather that I expected
·        Many things that are outlawed in the US are legal here, marijuana, prostitution...
·        Public restrooms are not free
·        Many Europeans come to Amsterdam on holiday, like Americans going to Las Vegas
·        Easter is a two day holiday in Amsterdam: Sunday & Monday
·        Many Europeans take vacation during Easter week

On Easter Sunday, we boarded the River Empress.  It is an older ship/boat in the Uniworld fleet, but it is in excellent condition.  With the “extra touches,” it’s easy to see why Uniworld is considered one of the top river cruise companies in Europe.  The cabins on the ship are considered as 5 star accommodations.

Many of the tours on the ship are complementary.  While in the Amsterdam area, we took a canal ride, visited the Van Gogh museum, went to Keukenhof, and visited an old restored Dutch town – with working windmills!  If you are in Amsterdam in the spring, make the trip to Keukenhof Garden,  It’s a beautiful flower garden that is only open for six weeks in a year.

Additional photos of Amsterdam & Zaandam

Amsterdam - 2012
Zaandam - 2012

More Choices for Australian Cruising

This November, the number and variety of cruise itineraries available for Australia and New Zealand will grow when Royal Caribbean moves the 3,840-passenger Voyager of the Seas to Sydney for a five-month cruise season.
The fifth Royal Caribbean ship to home port in Sydney, the Voyager of the Seas is roughly twice the size of any other ship currently based in the region. The larger ship brings some favorite Royal Caribbean amenities– including an on-board ice rink, inline skating track and four-story atrium, the Royal Promenade – to the region for the first time.

The Voyager of the Seas is also equipped with Royal Caribbean’s signature rock climbing wall and a 9-hole mini-golf course. The Adventure Ocean Club for kids includes the Adventure Beach water park, and there’s a dance club and video arcade just for teens.

 Guests will be able to choose from 11 different dining venues that feature everything from gourmet Italian dining to 1950s-inspired fare at Johnny Rockets. To keep everyone entertained, the ship has more than a dozen lounges and clubs, as well as the Coral Theater, an indoor pool, a spa and fitness center, boutiques and art galleries, and the gorgeous Skylight Chapel, a perfect location for a wedding.
Voyager of the Seas will sail 12 different itineraries around Australia, New Zealand and the South Pacific, ranging from eight to 18 nights and departing from Sydney or Fremantle (the port for Perth). For example, an eight-night roundtrip cruise begins with an overnight stay in the wonderful city of Sydney, then sails south to Melbourne and on to the island of Tasmania. A nine-night roundtrip cruise from Sydney ventures into the South Pacific, calling on the islands of New Caledonia and Fiji. And, an 18-night provides a terrific look at the diversity of Australia and New Zealand. The cruise begins in Perth; calls on Adelaide, Melbourne, and Tasmania; sails to New Zealand for port calls in Doubtful Sound, Dusky Sound, Dunedin, Christchurch and Wellington; then returns to the ship’s home port in Sydney.
To find out more about your options for sailing on the Voyager of the Seas around Australia, New Zealand and more, talk with Anita, your Cruise Holidays personal cruise expert.

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