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, December 30, 2013

Choices for Alaska Cruises

The next Alaska cruise season begins in May 2014, and while there’s plenty of availability on popular ships and itineraries, they’ll begin to fill up soon. That makes now a great time to book your Alaskan cruise.

What draws so many people to cruise the rugged coastline of Alaska? The coastline itself is a major draw, with thousands of miles of stunning scenery that segues from majestic mountain peaks to rainforest, glaciers, and Arctic tundra. And, there’s beautiful wildlife – including whales, seals, seabirds, eagles, moose and bears – that you can often see from the ship.

In addition, Alaska’s ports of call are fascinating and surprisingly diverse. Ketchikan is a center of Tlingit Indian culture; Skagway maintains the character of a Gold Rush-era town; and Sitka preserves important pieces of its history as a Russian settlement.

While the cruise lines that visit Alaska offer lots of variety in cruise length, itineraries and style of ship, there are two basic types of Alaskan cruises:

Inside Passage cruises. These cruises are typically roundtrip, departing from Seattle, Wash., or Vancouver, British Columbia, which both offer fantastic opportunities for pre- or post-cruise sightseeing. The Inside Passage is a relatively sheltered waterway, dotted with islands and edged by breathtaking coastal scenery. Common ports of call include Ketchikan and Skagway, and sometimes the city of Juneau.

Gulf of Alaska cruises. These cruises also depart from Seattle or Vancouver, but the greater distance to be covered by the ship means that many are one-way. In addition to the Inside Passage, you can expect to explore Sitka, Glacier Bay, Hubbard Glacier, College Fjord, and perhaps the Kenai Peninsula before disembarking in Seward, Whittier or Anchorage (or, select a reverse itinerary and end in Seattle or Vancouver). Occasionally, a cruise line will offer longer Gulf of Alaska cruises that depart from San Francisco, Calif.

Before or after cruising the coastline, many Alaska cruise passengers want to explore Alaska’s interior, tool. Some cruise lines combine land tours with their Alaskan cruises to create “cruisetours.” Popular choices for the land portion of an Alaskan cruisetour include Denali National Park, the Kenai Peninsula, Wrangell-Elias National Park or the Yukon Territory.


Talk with Anita, your Cruise Holidays personal cruise expert, soon to get more information about 2014 Alaska cruises and cruisetours.


Thursday, December 26, 2013

2014 Cruise Trends

Where will cruisers be headed in droves in 2014? For that, you’ll need to look not only to the turquoise blue waters of the Caribbean, but also the deep blue seas and the rivers of Europe. Here are some of the most interesting cruise trends of 2014 being highlighted by the cruise-specialty agency, Cruise Holidays International. The data was drawn from a survey of more than 130 Cruise Holidays professionals, as well as actual booking data by more than 600 Cruise Holidays cruise experts.


Top 10 Cruise Destinations

The Caribbean continues to enjoy the top spot in cruise bookings for the year ahead, by a wide margin. Thanks to its nearly year-round sunny weather and convenient access from the southern and eastern United States, the Caribbean drives the majority of all cruise bookings. Here is the full list of the top 10 cruise destinations being booked by Cruise Holidays professionals across North America:


1. Caribbean (includes Bahamas)
2. European Ocean Cruises (includes Mediterranean, Baltic, Scandinavia and Greek Isles)
3. Alaska
4. European Rivers
5. Bermuda
6. Panama Canal
7. Trans-Atlantic
8. Hawaiian Islands
9. South Pacific (includes Australia/New Zealand)
10. Canada/New England


Overall, there is little change in the list of top 10 destinations year over year. This is the first time European rivers have been broken out as their own category in this report, but had it been done in 2013, European rivers would have ranked fifth, just behind Bermuda. This year, they placed fourth, just ahead of Bermuda. In the Caribbean itself, Western Caribbean sailings are most popular, followed by Eastern Caribbean and Southern Caribbean, respectively.


“The enthusiasm over river cruising, particularly in Europe, continues to add a new dynamic to the vacation market. Even travelers who have never cruised before seem particularly drawn to river cruises as an attractive alternative to a land tour,” said Kevin Weisner, Senior Vice President, Cruise Holidays International.


River Cruising Continues to Rise in Popularity

Cruise Holidays analyzed data from across its network of agencies to see where most river cruise passengers are heading in 2014. The windmills and tulips of The Netherlands, as well as cruises along the Danube and “Grand Tour” cruises of the Rhine, Main and Danube lead the way in popularity. Below is a list of the top five river cruise cities, where voyages either begin or end.


1. Amsterdam, Netherlands
2. Budapest, Hungary
3. Paris, France
4. Basel, Switzerland
5. Nuremberg, Germany


Most Anticipated Ship

While river cruising proliferates, interest in large, new ocean-going ships is also soaring. In fact, when Cruise Holidays experts were asked which new ship they are anticipating the most in 2014, the overwhelming response was Royal Caribbean International’s Quantum of the Seas. This ship will not debut until November 2014, but it opened for booking in May 2013 and bookings have been very impressive, according to Cruise Holidays.


Best Value in Cruising

Cruise Holidays experts were asked the question: “In which region do you anticipate the best value in cruising during 2014?” The Caribbean again placed first, with European ocean cruises and European river cruises following. Alaska and the Pacific Northwest sit comfortably in fourth place, followed by trans-Atlantic cruising.


For more information about the top cruise trends of 2014, contact Anita, your personal cruise expert.

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Monday, December 23, 2013

Three days in New York City

In early November, we were fortunate to spend a few days in NYC. It was our first visit to the city since 9/11.  We stayed in the Millennium Hilton, in lower Manhattan – right across the street from the memorial that is still under construction. If you have an opportunity, you really should visit the site of the World Trade Center: so much history, so many memories… The new Tower 1 nears completion, just a short distance from the footprints of the old towers.  I was surprised to learn that seven towers are planned.  
New Memorial in World Trade Center
 If you want to see the World Trade Center, then consider staying at the Millennium Hilton, it’s in a good location, close to Wall Street, Battery Park, and the subway entrance is outside the main entrance of the hotel. The hotel was clean and the staff was courteous.

One World Trade Center

The best way to get around lower Manhattan is by walking or taking the subway.  We took the subway to Central Park. It took a few minutes to understand the intimidating subway map, but the change attendant give us a few pointers in getting around the subway system. No problem after our first attempt.
Foot Bridge in Central Park
 It was my first visit to the park and I was impressed.  The trees still had a lot of fall color.  I still regret not taking a ride in a hansom cab around the park.   

Pond in Central Park
The weather was seasonal (cold) and the stores were beginning to prepare for the holidays.  We saw the Christmas tree unloaded in Rockefeller Center. Walked and shopped along 5th Ave and Times Square – played tourist!  Anita fell in love with Macy’s on 34th Street.

Anita in Times Square
One minor disappointment: the security staff at the Empire State Building were rude and discourteous on the Saturday evening we visited the top of the building. In my mind, it reinforced the stereotype of New Yorkers. In three full days, that was the only bad experience.    Unless you count the Saturday night bus ride thru Times Square... 
Anita near Brooklyn Bridge

One surprise: the Wall Street Bull is not on Wall Street!  After 9/11, the bull was moved to a small park off Broadway in lower Manhattan.   Someone should put directions to the statue somewhere along Wall Street.
After much looking, we found the Bull!

This year, our annual convention was aboard the Norwegian Breakaway, NYC to the Bahamas and back.  For us it was a long way to go to visit Nassau.  However, the visit to the city made it worthwhile.  Thanks, New York!
Lower Manhattan from the deck of the Norwegian Breakaway

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Monday, December 16, 2013

Just in Case: Cruise Ship Medical Centers

If you have a medical condition, onboard medical facilities are probably part of your criteria for selecting a cruise ship. If not, you may be surprised by how well-prepared cruise ship medical centers are to provide care for minor injuries and illnesses, as well as more serious conditions.

The size of the medical staff depends on the size of the ship, but will include some combination of qualified doctors, nurses and medical technicians. Doctor’s office hours are usually published in the ship’s daily bulletin, and emergency assistance is always available, 24 hours a day. There will be a charge to see the doctor, which varies by ship.

In an onboard medical center, you can expect to see lifesaving equipment such as cardiac defibrillators, external pacemakers, ventilators and respirators. Diagnostic equipment – including EKG machines, X-ray machines and blood testing equipment – are also common, as are well-stocked pharmacies.

Some cruise lines have established telemedicine links with prestigious onshore medical institutions. These links provide two-way audio and visual communications so that the ship’s medical staff can consult with an onshore specialist at any time.

A few ships have operating rooms on board, where minor emergency surgeries can be performed. However, patients who require surgery, along with cardiac arrest and stroke patients, are usually stabilized in the ship’s medical center, then transferred to an onshore hospital at the earliest opportunity. Some newer cruise ships have helipads just for medical evacuation purposes.

Whether you think you’ll need the services of an onboard medical center or not, you should be prepared to pay for any care that you may need. Many insurance plans do not cover routine or emergency care away from home; emergency medical evacuations, which can cost tens of thousands of dollars, are rarely covered. Check with your insurance provider; if you won’t be covered while on the ship, an easy solution is to purchase travel insurance that includes medical coverage. Anita, your Cruise Holidays personal cruise expert, can help you select an affordable plan.

Finally, if you have any special medical needs, let your cruise line know in advance. You may not experience any medical issues at all on your cruise, but it’s good to know that the onboard medical staff is prepared to help you if needed. That knowledge will help you relax and get the most out of your cruise!


Monday, December 9, 2013

Cruising Towards Spring Break

Spring break has evolved from a mid-term break for college students to a generation-spanning vacation phenomenon. College students still revel in the opportunity to party on the beaches of Florida, Texas, Mexico and the Caribbean, but Spring Break is now for all ages: who doesn’t need a “sun and fun” break after a long winter?

And, there’s no better way to enjoy a truly relaxing break than to take a cruise. Spring break cruises offer nonstop fun and terrific value, rolling accommodations, dining and entertainment into one affordable price.

But, the real key to a relaxed spring break cruise is to plan and book early. These popular cruises begin to fill even before the snow starts to fly: if you have a specific ship or dream destination in mind, make your arrangements now. Here are a few things to consider when choosing a spring break cruise:

If you have children under age 12, ask your Cruise Holidays personal cruise expert about cruise lines and ships that have organized programs for kids. Many cruise lines have developed fantastic programs, staffed by trained crew members who engage kids in fun activities and onboard adventures.

If you’re sailing with teenagers, ask about ships that have spaces dedicated to teens – a lounge or a club, perhaps even a pool. Teens often have a better cruise experience when they can hang out with peers, rather than parents. Many cruise ships now have teen-only spaces furnished with comfortable seating, game consoles, board games, music players, DJ equipment and soft drink fountains.

If you’re embarking with college-age children, know your cruise line’s policies on alcohol consumption and gambling. Most ships departing from U.S. ports require passengers to be 21 or older to be served or to consume alcohol. Some ships that depart from Europe set the age at 18. As for gambling in an onboard casino, most cruise lines allow gaming at age 18, though some require guests to be 21 and will not pay a jackpot to anyone younger.

Note that most cruise lines require passengers to be at least 21 to travel without a chaperone, so if you’re a college student, you may need to invite someone a bit older to join you on your Spring Break cruise.

To make all of your spring break cruise plans, talk with Anita, your Cruise Holidays personal cruise expert.



Monday, December 2, 2013

Cruise Holidays Holds 2013 Annual Convention at Sea

Cruise travel experts from across the United States and Canada met for one of the premier networking and educational events for those in the cruise travel industry: the 2013 Cruise Holidays Annual Convention. It took place November 10 – November 17, 2013, aboard Norwegian Cruise Line’s Norwegian Breakaway. More than 200 Cruise Holidays franchise owners, agents and top cruise industry executives were present.

Norwegian Breakaway

The convention is the most important educational and networking event of the year for Cruise Holidays travel agents, which are located across North America, the United Kingdom and Australia. Participants learned about the latest industry trends, networked with other travel experts, and discussed ways to help travelers get the most value out of their vacation.

Anita at Trade Show on Breakaway
Those in attendance said the conference reinforced their belief that there is an important place for travel agents in travelers’ lives. Participants honed their travel expertise even further to help people make the most of their vacation budget and save them time in planning their vacation.
Breakaway in Nassau

Prior to the convention, many of the attendees participated in a tour of New York City exclusively for Cruise Holidays travel professionals. The guided tour included highlights of the Big Apple’s most interesting, tourist-friendly attractions, dinner inside the Empire State Building along with a trip to the observation deck to take in the exhilarating views, stops in Battery Park to see the Statue of Liberty, and much more.

Anita in NYC near Brooklyn Bridge
The tour was followed up by a half-day workshop on ways to help vacationers make the most of their time in New York City prior to or after a cruise. Attendees also learned about exclusive Cruise Holidays hotel programs that provide distinctive perks to their clients, as well as special pricing or discounts available.

For more information, contact Anita, your Cruise Holidays personal cruise expert.