Cruise Holidays - Attheta Travel

I am proud to be certified by CLIA (Cruise Lines International Association) as an Elite Cruise Counselor. The Cruise Counselor Certification Program is CLIA's most comprehensive training which requires agents to successfully complete a number of compulsory training courses and exams, attend cruise conferences, and conduct ship inspections. Anita Thompson, Attheta Travel, dba Cruise Holidays.

Monday, April 28, 2014

Cruise the West Coast

Cruise fans in the U.S. and Canada have an abundance of close-to-home cruise options, including the coast of New England and Maritime Canada; the Bahamas; the Eastern, Western or Southern Caribbean; the Mexican Riviera; and the coast of Alaska. And, if you’re looking for something a bit off the usual cruise pathways, there’s yet another option: the Pacific Coast.


Cruise lines like Princess and Holland America Line cruise the coastline of California, Oregon and Washington: some itineraries also include British Columbia. There are a number of appealing ports, including San Diego, Los Angeles and San Francisco, Calif.; Astoria, Ore.; and Seattle, Wash.


San Diego has enviable weather nearly every day and many wonderful attractions, starting with the shops, restaurants and galleries of Seaport Village, near the cruise terminal. The San Diego Zoo is one of the world’s best: don’t miss the giant pandas. The zoo is just one of the attractions in Balboa Park, which has numerous museums and gardens.


Los Angeles is a cultural generator and a great place to spot trends in fashion, food and entertainment. For a look at what makes Los Angeles run, tour a movie studio; head to Disneyland; browse the boutiques of Rodeo Drive; or visit Hollywood Boulevard to the Walk of Fame and the TCL (formerly Grauman’s) Chinese Theater.


Cruise ships dock at Pier 35 on San Diego’s Embarcadero (a new terminal at Pier 27 is scheduled to open this fall). You don’t need to go far to experience the charm of this city: Pier 39 is a busy marketplace of shops, restaurants and street performers. From there, venture out to Fisherman’s Wharf, the redwood trees of Muir Woods, the galleries of Sausalito or the infamous former prison on Alcatraz Island.


At the mouth of the Columbia River, Astoria offers stunning natural beauty and a gateway to Oregon’s wine country. If you prefer brewed beverages, follow the Astoria Ale Trail to a collection of excellent craft breweries. Visit historic forts built by Lewis and Clark and John Jacob Astor; or, take an excursion to Cannon Beach and its iconic Haystack Rock.


Seattle’s climate produces beautiful greenery that earned it the nickname “Emerald City.” At Pike Place Market, check out the famous flying fish and the work of local artisans, antique collectors and farmers. Take a ride up the Space Needle for gorgeous views; or visit Pioneer Square, Seattle’s oldest neighborhood.


To find out more about a relaxing Pacific Coastal cruise, talk with Anita, your personal cruise expert.


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Monday, April 21, 2014

An Exotic Cruise of China

China, a vast nation with a fascinating history, can be explored by ocean-going cruise or river cruise. Ocean-going ships generally call on two major ports, Shanghai and Tianjin (for Beijing); river cruises explore China’s mighty Yangtze River.


Shanghai, one of the world’s largest cities (24 million people as of 2013), is located where the Yangtze River joins the East China Sea. It’s the world’s busiest port for container ships, but also welcomes cruise ships at the Shanghai Port International Cruise Terminal. Some larger ships dock at Shanghai Waigaoqiao Port, about 20 miles from the city center.


The international terminal is close to the Bund, a waterfront street of colonial-era buildings that contrast with the city’s sleek skyscrapers. Cruise ship passengers flock to Nanjing Road, a major shopping street that extends from the Bund. Or, head to Shanghai’s Old Town and sample fragrant dim sum in the bazaar before strolling through the beautiful YuYuan Garden. Many cruises either begin or end in Shanghai, so you may want to extend your stay to see more of what the city has to offer.


After docking in Tianjin, about 80 miles southeast of Beijing, you can take a bus, taxi or high-speed train into Beijing. The massive city is a treasure trove of history, starting with the Forbidden City, a compound of palaces, temples and gardens that was home to the emperors of the Ming and Qing dynasties.


It can take an entire day or more to explore the Forbidden City, but don’t miss walking through the Gate of Heavenly Peace into Tiananmen Square, site of several pivotal events in Chinese history. You can also tour some of the Olympic venues, including the “Bird’s Nest” stadium, “Water Cube” aquatic center and Olympic Forest Park. Another popular excursion is a trip to either the Badaling or Jinshanling sections of the Great Wall of China.


A wonderful option for exploring China’s interior is a river cruise on the Yangtze, which flows across the width of the country. Sights along the way include Shibaozhai Temple, the “Pearl on the Yangtze;” markets, temples, and much more in towns and villages along the river; and the 6,000 warriors of the Terracotta Army in Xian. You’ll also pass through the locks of Three Gorges Dam, a wonder of engineering that took 17 years to build.


For more information about cruising in China, talk with Anita, your Cruise Holidays personal cruise expert.


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Monday, April 14, 2014

What’s New in Australia?

Australia is a dream destination: its wonderful diversity of people, landscapes, cuisine and attractions are overlaid with a welcoming, relaxed attitude. To see as much of the continent as possible in one trip, consider an Australian cruise.


More than 10 major cruise lines visit Australia. You can enjoy the elegance of Cunard Line, Regent Seven Seas or Crystal Cruises; or, the family-friendly ambiance of Holland America Line, Royal Caribbean or Princess Cruises. Paul Gaugin Cruises calls on northern Australia ports in combination with Fiji or the islands of Southeast Asia. Seabourn’s intimate ships also call on ports in eastern and northern Australia on cruises that that also visit New Zealand or Southeast Asia.


Sydney is the anchor of many Australian cruise itineraries, with good reason. The beautiful harbor, the nearby beaches, the historic Rocks district and the misty Blue Mountains in the distance are just some of the features that elevate this sprawling city to a must-see destination.


The size of your ship determines where you dock in Sydney, but both have easy access to top attractions. Smaller ships dock at White Bay Cruise Terminal, which opened last year in Darling Harbor. This terminal is close to the city center and attractions like the Sydney Aquarium and the Maritime Museum. Larger ships dock at the Overseas Passenger Terminal at Circular Quay, adjacent to the Rocks, Sydney’s original old city. The Overseas terminal is scheduled to get a facelift in summer 2014 to help create better passenger flow.


Australian cruise itineraries may also include Adelaide, a gateway to the wine region (try the Shiraz from Barossa and the Riesling from Adelaide Hills). Melbourne is a multicultural city with lots of great shopping, dining and cultural attractions. Brisbane, Australia’s capital, has a wonderful riverfront – you can reach many attractions via boat – and is near the beaches of the Gold Coast. Cairns is the base for exploring the Great Barrier Reef or the ancient Daintree rainforest.


Some itineraries also visit Australia’s western capital, Perth; Hobart, capital of the island of Tasmania; the Whitsunday Islands off Australia’s northeast coast; and Noumea, capital of the islands of New Caledonia, a territory of France.


To select a cruise line, ship and itinerary for your Australian cruise, talk with Anita, your Cruise Holidays personal cruise expert.


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Monday, April 7, 2014

Ideas for Shore Excursions

Shore excursions – opportunities to step off a cruise ship to explore and experience a port of call – are one of the best reasons to choose a cruise vacation. And, there are an incredible variety of shore excursions available: anything from a simple a day at the beach to “flightseeing” in a private plane.


In its 2014 Cruise Trends Survey, Cruise Holidays asked its expert agents which types of shore excursions they book most often for their clients. You may be surprised by the activity level of the top responses: evidence that cruising isn’t just for lazy people who love to spend time at the buffet!


General sight-seeing tours. Getting to know a destination by touring its most famous, historic or scenic sites is a very popular choice. Depending on your itinerary, you might walk among ancient ruins, marvel at classic architecture, spot some wildlife or browse through a bustling market. For a more personalized experience, you can reserve a private vehicle and driver/guide for a day.


Water activities. See the colorful world that lies under the surface of all that deep blue water by choosing a snorkeling or diving excursion. The excursion operator will provide equipment, safety gear and instruction. Divers should carefully check excursion descriptions and choose one that matches their level of experience. More options for enjoying the water include catamaran rides, parasailing, deep-sea fishing and riding horseback through the surf.


“Soft adventure” experiences. These excursions include activities that will get your adrenalin flowing, such as zip lining, kayaking, rafting, swimming with dolphins, all-terrain vehicle tours, hiking or rock climbing. Soft adventure excursions are exhilarating, and they provide an opportunity to truly enjoy the natural beauty of a destination.


While you do have the option to explore a destination on your own, there are advantages to choosing shore excursions arranged by the cruise line or with a provider specifically recommended by your travel agent. The biggest advantage is that the cruise lines and your travel agent work only with reputable local tour providers. These local experts know how to organize excursions to give you the maximum amount of time to enjoy the experience; how to keep you safe, or ensure that you understand any risks; and how to get you back to the ship on time.


Anita, your Cruise Holidays personal cruise expert, can help you select shore excursions that will provide a wonderful experience, within your budget.


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Sunday, April 6, 2014

International Roaming Charges – Mea Culpa

After 40 years working in telecommunications with the last 15 in wireless services (mobile), you would think I would know more about international roaming charges.  Well, I may understand the enabling technology, but how the roaming charges are calculated is still a mystery.  My experience during a recent trip to South America demonstrates my ignorance.


Before leaving on a month long trip to South America, I knew we would need some kind of international roaming package.  Therefore, I visited an AT&T office to discuss international roaming options.  After talking to the agent, we agreed to a limited “roaming package” that contained both voice and data for my iPhone.  I told the agent that we would be on a cruise ship and visiting several countries during our trip.  No problem, I agreed to a purchase an international roaming package for about $120.  We knew that we needed to limit our voice and data usage during our trip.


The day before our trip, I called AT&T to activate the roaming service for one month.  Again, the agent (different agent) asked if we would be on a cruise ship and visiting different cities.  After our conversation, the agent activated our international roaming service.


The first few days in Argentina, we controlled our data use and didn’t make any calls.  We then boarded the ship and left for Montevideo.  Much to my surprise, I received a text message from AT&T telling me that our international data use had exceeded $300.  Since I didn’t have a data package (per the message), the rate was $28 a KB – note the KB, not MB. Wow!  How did that happen?  Most of the time, the iPhone was left in “airplane mode” (no GSM traffic) and WiFi enabled.  This allowed me to use the phone while in the hotel (free WiFi).  Needless to say, the phone was then turned off!


While in Montevideo, we stopped at a cafĂ© with free WiFi and “chatted” with AT&T via their website.  The agent on line told me that I had a “cruise ship only” package that gave me a reduced rate on the Celebrity Cruise ship, but not from a land-based cellular operator.  I was told there is no single roaming plan that covers both maritime service and land based operators!  In addition, the ship can only provide service when it is more than 12 nautical miles from shore. When the ship approaches shore, the shipboard telephone switch is disabled and mobile phones will attach to a land-based operator.  The only way to tell when the phone changes carrier is by reading the abbreviated name of the operator on the screen.  User friendly, not!


For the remainder of our 28 day trip, we left the mobile phone is “airplane mode” and used it at “WiFi hotspots.”  When we got home, we received international roaming charges in excess of $300.  The charges trickled in for the next two months.  After reading the fine print in the AT&T agreement with Celebrity, I discovered the maritime agreement is only for the Caribbean.  I don’t think Argentina and Uruguay are considered part of the Caribbean…


Now, the good news: AT&T wrote off all the international roaming charges!  Thanks, AT&T, you kept a customer!  


The moral of this story, check with your mobile service provider before you leave the country, don’t assume anything, and understand what you are buying.  If you need to use the phone for voice and data, buy a roaming package, but be sure you know what the package covers – and where it is covered.  A smart phone sends/receives a lot of information and the data rates are excessive.  You need a roaming package.  Or, leave the phone in airplane mode.