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 26, 2014
Most cruise lines offer some form of customer loyalty program – do the luxury and specialty lines offer truly luxurious benefits to their members?
Like the resort-style cruise lines, most luxury line loyalty clubs offer rewards like special “welcome back” gifts, discounts for onboard services and onboard cocktail receptions. One difference is that more luxury lines go beyond discounted fares to offer complimentary cruises to their most loyal customers.
Crystal Cruises’ Crystal Society offers savings on every voyage, up to and including free voyages. Members also earn shipboard credits, discounts on onboard services, and a preview of itinerary and fare announcements before they are released to the general public.
Members of the Oceania Club get advance notice of new Oceania Cruises itineraries. They can also receive shipboard credits ranging from $200 to $1,000, pre-paid gratuities, complimentary spa treatments, and – at the very top levels of membership – complimentary cruises.
Paul Gaugin Cruises, which specializes in the South Pacific, has a different type of program for frequent guests. The Ambassador Referral Program was created to “entice our past guests and our loyal fans to share their experience with friends, family and colleagues.” The reward goes both ways: the returning guest and the new guest each receive a $200 shipboard credit.
Members of Regent Seven Seas Cruises’ Seven Seas Society can earn lots of rewards and benefits, such as complimentary pressing of formal garments, priority reservations for shore excursions and specialty restaurants, and free customization of air travel arrangements.
The Venetian Society gives Silversea Cruises’ loyalists savings of 5% and more on selected voyages. Members who accumulate enough days on board can earn complimentary seven- and 14-day voyages. Silversea also offers the unique benefit of allowing member’s family and friends to visit the ship.
Seabourn Cruises’ Seabourn Club provides discounts on future cruises booked while on board, discounts on shore excursions, savings on premium wines and spirits, and complimentary massages in the shipboard spa. This club also offers some innovative benefits, such as discounts on luggage shipping services.
Note that you do have to show quite a bit of loyalty before earning top rewards for any cruise line. Loyalty clubs deliver the greatest benefit when cruising is your main mode of vacation travel, and when you consistently choose one cruise line over others.
Ask Anita, your travel professional, to help you keep track of your cruise line loyalty program status so that you can take full advantage of the benefits available to you.
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Monday, May 19, 2014
While a cruise vacation assures fun, comfort and incredible value, everyone loves some extra perks and treats. Belonging to a cruise line loyalty club is a good way to qualify for some enjoyable extras.
Becoming a member of a cruise line loyalty club also makes sense if you have a favorite cruise line that you choose again and again. The more often you sail, the more special benefits you’ll earn: and, you may receive exclusive offers just for club members.
We’ll take a look at what the cruise lines offer for your loyalty in a two-part series. First up: resort-style cruise lines. These loyalty clubs frequently offer rewards like special “welcome back” gifts, discounts for onboard services, onboard cocktail receptions, and even discounts on cruise fares.
Celebrity Cruises Captain’s Club program has five levels of rewards for loyal customers. The top level offers luxuries such as access to an exclusive onboard lounge as well as complimentary beverages, laundry services and Internet access.
Anyone who cruises with Disney automatically becomes a member of the Castaway Club, which guarantees returning guests a “welcome back” gift on their next Disney cruise. Before embarking, Castaway Club members receive advance booking opportunities for shore excursions, onboard child care and spa appointments.
Holland America Line guests are automatically enrolled in its Mariner Society. Members earn points for each night they spend on a Holland America ship and for each purchase made on board. Basic membership includes a 50% discount on the third and fourth guests in a stateroom on selected sailings, and the discounts get even better from there.
Norwegian Cruise Line’s Latitudes Rewards program has four tiers, and the top tier enjoys benefits such as concierge service, complimentary chocolate-covered strawberries and sparkling wine, and a behind-the-scenes ship tour. All members receive special “Insider Offers,” such onboard credit of up to $250 on selected sailings.
The entry level of Princess Cruises’ Captain’s Circle program offers benefits such as up to $100 per person off cruise fares, reduced deposits, and collectible stamps depicting cruise destinations. The highest level includes such perks as priority tender service from ship to shore.
Royal Caribbean’s Crown and Anchor Society has six levels of membership, and all of them include an onboard booking bonus: if you book another Royal Caribbean cruise while on a cruise, you’ll receive onboard credits for the next cruise. Top-level members can earn complimentary seven-night cruises in balcony or suite staterooms.
When you join a loyalty club, be sure to tell Anita, your Cruise Holidays personal cruise expert, who can help you get the most out of your membership.
Monday, May 12, 2014
Of all the places you can catch a ride on a Caribbean cruise ship, New Orleans is one of the most magical. Famous for its Mardi Gras celebration, there’s much more to this unique city near the delta of the Mississippi River.
An important port since the early 1700s, New Orleans was ruled by the French and Spanish before Napoleon sold it to the U.S. as part of the Louisiana Purchase. The city has welcomed influxes of Creoles, Africans, Haitians and other immigrants, all of whom contributed to the distinctive art, culture and cuisine of the city.
The first stop for many visitors is Bourbon Street, which stretches the length of the historic French Quarter. There are lots of drinking establishments, live music venues and a non-stop party atmosphere – enjoy it, but be sure to explore the rest of the Quarter, too.
Ironically, most of the Quarter’s historic structures were built by the Spanish after the French colonial buildings had been destroyed by fire. Wander the narrow streets to admire the stucco buildings with elaborate ironwork balconies. You may come across voodoo shops; Pat O’Brien’s Bar, famous for the Hurricane cocktail; and Antoine’s, where Oysters Rockefeller is a signature dish.
The Quarter connects with Jackson Square, dominated by beautiful Saint Louis Cathedral and a variety of street performers. Walk across the square to enjoy delicious café au lait and beignets at Café du Monde.
Beyond the French Quarter, visit the Garden District to see the lush gardens and beautiful homes. The district’s southern border is Magazine Street, known for boutiques and antique shops.
Venture to Uptown to see Audubon Park, site of a former plantation and right across St. Charles Avenue from Tulane University. There’s a golf course, a zoo and a rookery for wading birds like great egrets and blue herons.
Visitors are also fascinated by the Cities of the Dead: above-ground cemeteries that are absolutely fascinating (the city’s high water table makes traditional burial problematic). Some of these cemeteries offer informative tours.
For more information about New Orleans’ wonderful lodging, entertainment and dining options, talk with Anita, your Cruise Holidays personal travel expert. Cruise Holidays is holding its annual meeting of franchise owners and agents in New Orleans this month, so they’re likely to have first-hand NOLA information and experiences to share with you.
Monday, May 5, 2014
The summer cruise season is here, and that means lots of choices for cruise vacations – but, you’ll need to act fast to get the itinerary, ship and dates you want.
Summer is prime time for cruising the southeastern coast of Alaska, as daytime temperatures can rise into the 60s and 70s. If you delay just a bit and sail in September, you’re likely to see some fresh snow decorating the mountains and perhaps some stunning Northern Lights: however, snow may also limit the number of available shore excursions.
New England and Maritime Canada used to be popular for cruising only in autumn, when turning leaves create stunning panoramas of color. Now, this region’s cruise ports begin to hum with activity in early summer. The fine weather and warmer temperatures make it a great time to explore historic ports and enjoy the beaches, fishing and other water-based activities along the Atlantic coast.
The beauty of the Mediterranean Sea and the ports that ring it are in full force during the summer, and a number of ships reposition there from their winter homes in the Caribbean. In the eastern Mediterranean, the whitewashed buildings of the Greek Isles glow in the sun all summer long – in fact, a wide-brimmed hat and sunscreen are “musts” on your cruise packing list. In the Western Mediterranean, summer brings weather that’s perfect for touring the attractions and enjoying the outdoor cafes of ports like Naples, Marseilles and Barcelona.
In Northern Europe, the people of Scandinavia and the Baltic countries tend to live outdoors as much as possible during the summer, as the winters can be quite cold and snowy. You’ll find lots of open-air cafes, food carts and outdoor entertainment as you explore this region’s cruise ports.
There are more terrific choices for summer cruising, including the island of Bermuda, the South Pacific (it’s winter there, which is drier than summer and still warm), and European or Asian river cruises. And, even though some ships depart the Caribbean to spend summer in other parts of the world, it’s still a wonderful time to enjoy the Caribbean’s turquoise waters, soft sands and warm breezes.
For details on any of these summer cruise destinations, talk with Anita, your Cruise Holidays personal cruise expert soon!