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.

Thursday, February 28, 2013

Homeporting in Houston

The lovely Bayport Cruise Terminal in Houston, Texas, presents a new home port option for cruise passengers. Princess Cruises plans 27 departures from Houston during the 2013-2014 cruise season, sending the Caribbean Princess on seven-day cruises of the Western Caribbean.  In 2014, Norwegian Cruise Lines will also begin sailing seven-day Western Caribbean cruises from Houston on the Norwegian Jewel.

Bayport Cruise Terminal is actually located just outside Houston, in Pasadena, Texas, along the Houston Ship Channel. Travel experts believe that Houston will be a convenient port of departure for many vacationers: in fact, more than 15 million people live within a half-day drive of Houston. Cruise fans from the Western and Midwestern regions of the U.S. also have a shorter trip to Houston than to the cruise ports of Florida.

Traveling to Bayport Cruise Terminal by air is convenient, too, as the terminal is easily accessible from both of Houston’s airports, George Bush Intercontinental Airport and William P. Hobby Airport. In addition, Houston is a major airline hub, which makes non-stop service available from many cities in North America.

The cruise terminal itself is spacious and designed to minimize congestion and maximize passenger flow. Plasma screens provide directions and guidance to arriving passengers, and an ample number of security stations minimize time waiting in line.

Once on the ship, passengers can look forward to a sea-going exploration of some of the finest ports in the Western Caribbean. Both Princess and Norwegian are planning to sail from Houston to Roatan, Honduras; Belize City, Belize; and Cozumel, Mexico. All three ports offer beautiful beaches, snorkeling and diving, boating and other water sports, as well as unique attractions.

Roatan is known for its Garifuna community, where descendents of Black Carib Indians have maintained their traditional lifestyle while welcoming visitors. You can also have a dolphin encounter or visit a unique iguana farm.

In Belize, take a ride on a river through a jungle teeming with wildlife, pilot your inner tube through a series of caves, or zip-line through the canopy of the rainforest.

Cozumel offers access to fascinating runs from the Mayan civilization, as well as X-Caret, an ecological and archeological theme park with underground rivers and a replica of a Mayan village.

To make your plans to see all this and more by cruising the Western Caribbean from Houston, talk with Anita, your Cruise Holidays personal cruise expert.

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Monday, February 25, 2013

Exploring Barcelona

Barcelona, Spain, is a major launching point for cruises of the Eastern Mediterranean, and the city’s art, architecture and culture tempt many cruisers to add some extra days to their cruise vacations to explore the capital of Catalonia.

From the cruise ship dock, head to Las Ramblas, a wide avenue perfect for strolling. On the west side is the Raval neighborhood, known for theaters, nightlife and La Boqueria, an open-air market where you can sample Iberian ham and other regional specialties. On the east side is Barcelona’s oldest neighborhood, the Barri Gotic, full of historic buildings and airy plazas. Sprinkled among the stately churches and Roman-era walls are boutiques and cafes that serve delicious tapas (small plates) of Spanish omelet, Manchego cheese and Galician-style octopus, among other delicacies.

You don’t have to be an architecture buff to enjoy the work of Antoni Gaudi, the architect most closely associated with Catalan Modernism. Several buildings in Barcelona provide a close-up look at his distinctive, organic style. The best known is the Sagrada Familia, a multi-spired Catholic church that has been under construction since 1882. Gaudi also designed Casa Battlo (don’t miss the dragon-like spine on the roof); Casa Mila, with an undulating stone fa├žade and chimneys designed to scare away spirits; and Palau Guell, an elegant family home.

If the weather is fine, Barcelona has lovely beaches and wonderful parks. Parc Guell has a fabulous raised terrace and storybook buildings designed by Gaudi, and the park’s highest point offers panoramic views of the city. The views are also wonderful from Parc Montjuic, home to venues from the 1992 Summer Olympic Games, a fortress, the National Art Museum of Catalonia, and the Magic Fountain, where evening fountain shows are coordinated with music and lights.

In addition to the National Art Museum, art lovers can visit museums dedicated to Picasso and Miro. Sports fans will want to see Camp Nou, home of Futbol Club Barcelona, one of the world’s most successful teams. Even when there’s no game on, it’s inspiring to tour the 99,000-seat stadium and immerse yourself in the FC Barcelona Museum.

With Barcelona as your base, you can take a train to Madrid for a day, or head south along the Mediterranean coast toward Valencia. For more insight into things to see and do in Barcelona, Catalonia and other parts of Spain, talk with Anita, your travel professional.

Wednesday, February 20, 2013

Valentine’s Day for Cruising Couples

Cruising is inherently romantic – picture you and your loved one out on the sea, away from the pressures of daily life, with nothing to do but enjoy yourselves. Taking a cruise that includes Valentine’s Day guarantees a romantic atmosphere – still, Cupid’s holiday calls for something extra-special.

When booking a Valentine’s cruise, consider two very important choices: your destination and your stateroom. Some destinations automatically conjure romance (think Hawaii, Tahiti, Rio de Janeiro).

Any cruise ship stateroom can be a romantic nest for two – but, for a Valentine’s cruise, think about stretching the budget a little to reserve the highest category of stateroom that you can afford. On many ships, higher-category staterooms come with extra amenities – private balconies, high-end linens, larger bathrooms, butler service or fresh flowers – that will make your Valentine’s Day more luxurious and memorable.

Many cruise lines can facilitate extra touches of romance – for example, you can usually arrange to have a bottle of champagne and some chocolate-covered strawberries waiting in your stateroom when you board. You can also choose an onboard specialty restaurant for a memorable dinner for two, or make a reservation for a relaxing spa treatment designed for couples.

Once on board, spend some time exploring the ship to find cozy nooks where you can canoodle. Even ships known for a “get the party started” atmosphere and large-scale entertainment venues have smaller, more intimate spaces where couples can dance cheek-to-cheek or share a glass of wine to the sound of low-key jazz. Out on the pool decks, some cruise lines rent private cabanas that will let you enjoy the activity around the pool but have your privacy, too.

Don’t overlook shore excursions as another opportunity to amp up the romance. Strolling through a charming port, hand-in-hand, can certainly be romantic – but, why not put a little thrill in your time on shore? Your Cruise Holidays personal cruise expert can give you all the options for shore excursions that will get your hearts pumping. Depending on your itinerary, you could go zip-lining through a tropical forest, horseback riding through the surf, or parasailing in a double harness high above the water.

For more ideas for a romantic Valentine’s Day cruise, talk with Anita, your personal cruise expert at Cruise Holidays.

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Monday, February 11, 2013

Cruising Europe: A Brief History

The rivers and seas of Europe have always been essential to life and trade. But, until the mid-1800s, European boats and ships were only concerned with moving cargo or hauling in the day’s catch – not with passengers or their comfort.

In 1835, Arthur Anderson, a sailor from the Shetland Isles, wrote about his vision of providing passenger service from Scotland to Iceland in the summer months, and from Scotland to the Iberian Peninsula (Spain and Portugal) in winter. Two years later, he co-founded the Peninsular and Oriental Steam Navigation Company (P&O), which became a major operator of passenger liners.

Other shipping lines, which got their start by carrying mail across the Atlantic, began to offer passenger service. More ships began to consider the comfort of passengers: in 1840 the Britannia, the first ship to sail under the Cunard Line name, reportedly took a cow on board to supply fresh milk on a trans-Atlantic crossing.

By the early 1900s, European passenger ships had taken on the characteristics of elegant, floating hotels. However, World Wars I and II interrupted the building of new cruise ships, and many ships were pressed into service as troop transports.

Interest in trans-Atlantic cruising surged between the wars and again after World War II, but the introduction of trans-Atlantic flights put a damper on that era. During the 1960s and 70s, the European cruise industry slowly refocused on sailing the coasts and rivers of the continent.

Today, multiple cruise lines visit an amazing variety of European ports. Major cruise lines that sail Europe include the contemporary lines Royal Caribbean and Norwegian Cruise Line; premium and deluxe lines Azamara Club Cruises, Celebrity Cruises, Holland America Line and Princess Cruises; and luxury lines Crystal Cruises, Cunard Line, Oceania, Regent Seven Seas, Seabourn, Silversea, Uniworld and Viking River Cruises. Uniworld River Cruises and Viking River Cruises are noteworthy because they cruise the rivers of Europe – the Danube, the Rhine, the Seine and more – providing access to inland cities and villages.

European cruises cover four regions: The Baltic and Northern Europe; the British Isles and Western Europe; the Western Mediterranean; and the Eastern Mediterranean. Some cruise itineraries focus on ports in one region, while longer cruises may include ports in two or more regions.

A cruise of Northern Europe might include the stunning fjords of Norway’s west coast. Or, choose a Baltic-based itinerary, enjoying Scandinavian capitals like Copenhagen, Stockholm and Helsinki. Some cruises also visit Russia’s jewel of the Baltic, St. Petersburg.

Cruises of the British Isles and Western Europe often launch from London and may stop at Inverness and Edinburgh, Scotland; Dublin, Ireland; Amsterdam, The Netherlands; Hamburg, Germany; and Le Havre (for Paris), France.

Western Mediterranean itineraries can stretch from Gibraltar and coastal Spain to the west cost of Italy. Ports of call might include Cannes and other cities on the French Riviera; and the Italian ports of Livorno (for Florence), Citavecchia (for Rome) and Naples. Some itineraries also call on the islands of Sicily, Sardinia and Malta.

The Eastern Mediterranean includes a classic cruise destination– the Greek Isles. However, there is much more to see, including the ports of Croatia (Dubrovnik and Hvar); the gorgeous, watery city of Venice, Italy; and the exotic ports of Turkey (Istanbul, Izmir and Kusadasi).

With so many places to see, deciding on a European itinerary can be challenging. Fortunately, Cruise Holidays can help narrow down your choices based on your interests, budget and the time of year. We can also help you choose shore excursions that will let you experience European history and culture.

For more information and help in planning your European cruise, rely on Anita, your personal cruise expert at Cruise Holidays.
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Monday, February 4, 2013

All-Inclusive Vacations: is a Resort or a Cruise Right for You?

All-inclusive vacations are an attractive option for many people who want to spend their vacation dollars wisely. “All-inclusive” means the basic costs of the vacation – lodging, dining entertainment and local transportation – are included in one base price. Cruises are considered to be all-inclusive, as are the all-inclusive resorts that dot the globe. What are the similarities and differences?

Whether you choose a cruise or a resort, you can expect your accommodations, meals and snacks, nightly entertainment and use of the ship’s or resort’s facilities to be included in the base price. A cruise or a resort will also have separate charges for optional extras, which can include airfare, specific beverages, spa treatments and gratuities, as well as shore excursions on a cruise and some activities at a resort. One other important similarity: with both types of vacations, you only have to unpack once.

Many vacationers would be equally happy on a cruise or at resort, but there are some important differences. Resort guests experience the relaxation of having everything they need in a single location. Guests can spend each day on the beach or in their favorite lounge chair beside the pool. Those who want to be a bit more active can pick from a variety of water sports and other activities within or close to the resort.

A cruise takes guests to more than one destination and usually offers a wider selection of possible activities. Generally, a seven-day cruise stops at three to five ports of call and includes a day or two at sea, which gives passengers the chance to fully enjoy the amenities of the ship. Shore excursions often provide a huge range of activities – anything from nature hikes to winery tours to deep-sea fishing.

There are cruises and resorts to suit all types of travelers – singles, couples, groups and families. Both offer activities for everyone from small children to seniors, as well as delicious cuisine for all ages. And, both offer terrific service.

If you’re still not sure which type of all-inclusive vacation is right for you, the travel professionals at Cruise Holidays not only have expertise in cruising – they also have strong relationships with some of the most respected all-inclusive resort operators in the business. Let Anita, your personal travel expert, help you select the all-inclusive cruise or resort of your dreams.

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