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, October 31, 2016

Cruising in the Zika Zone

Venturing to areas where the Zika virus has become more prevalent continues to be a concern for some travelers, particularly those who are pregnant or wish to become pregnant imminently. If you are considering a cruise for this winter, you may be going to one of the areas with locally transmitted cases of Zika, including Mexico, the Caribbean, Central and South America to some of the South Pacific islands.

Zika is usually a mild illness: the majority of people who get it don’t even notice any symptoms. About 20 percent of infected people experience a mild fever, rash, joint pain, red eyes, headache or muscle ache. The illness typically resolves itself within a week.

For most people, Zika poses little to no risk. However, for women who are pregnant or trying to become pregnant, it’s a different story. There is a link between Zika in a mother and congenital birth defects in their children, including microcephaly (being born with an unusually small head as a result of incomplete brain development). That’s why the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) has advised that pregnant women and women actively trying to become pregnant postpone travel to regions affected by Zika.

For all other travelers, it is important not to be fearful, but to be educated about Zika, how it’s transmitted, and how to protect yourself.

Zika is a mosquito-borne virus, meaning a bite from an infected mosquito can transfer the virus to the person being bitten. Also, it’s now known that the virus can be passed between sexual partners.

There’s no vaccine for Zika, but you can protect yourself. To protect yourself against mosquitos, use an insect repellent that contains DEET, picardin or IR3535: these ingredients are considered safe and effective for pregnant women, too. Spray your clothes and exposed skin.

Take your repellent along on shore excursions so that you can reapply it as often as recommended. To avoid mosquitos, choose excursions that are mostly indoors or on air-conditioned buses.

After traveling to a Zika zone, the CDC suggests waiting before trying to conceive a child: for women, the recommended wait is two months; for men, six months.

Finally, if you’ve booked a cruise but wish to cancel due to Zika concerns, talk with Anita, your Cruise Holidays personal cruise expert: some cruise lines are offering to rebook guests on a cruise away from Zika zones, or to reschedule for a later date.

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Friday, October 28, 2016

Trip Report: Regal Princess, Canada - New England, October 2016

This report was written after a seven day, round-trip from New York in October, 2016

As usual we had a wonderful trip.  

New York.  We stayed at the Marriott Marquis because of it's perfect location for us.  The hotel is very nice.  We saw Lion King which was right across the street. We got our tickets 4 hours before show time and got to sit in the front row which was fantastic.  WE love it.  The theater was a  one minute walk.  Closeness is becoming very important to us as we get older.  We took the 6 hour Gray line tour around NYC again because it was close and because it did exactly what we wanted to see. We had perfect weather in NYC which made the tour very enjoyable.

Airports-  LGA is not good.  They have solved some of the near term construction woes but it is still not good.  Cab fare was $62 to the Marriott.

Cab to ship was $49 which again is in line of what you thought.  Fares are traffic dependent and the traffic is awful all over athe NYC area.

We found out 2 days before the cruise that one of our old Air Force friends were also on the Regal.  I email and text this guy every week but we never talked about this cruise.  The messages on Facebook were classic on how we fond out that we were both going to NYC, both on the Regal and our cabins were close.   Their cabin was one deck above us and 4 behind.  We got in our cabin and looked up and there they were.  It was fun to see them. 

Embarkation - Brooklyn did a very good job.  They have plenty of people directing travelers.  Our Premier line was empty when we arrived at noon.  Then we were directed right on to the ships.  Friends that arrived from Newark at 1030 had a 30 minute wait in line and another 45 minute wait to get on the ship.

The cruise was impacted one day by the effects of Hurricane Matthew.  We learned a lot about the wide spread effects of the hurricanes that affect the seas long distances from the center..  The captain said he was getting weather information from multiple sources including Princess, other ships in the area, and their special weather companies.  They missed their forecasts. 

Regal - Very nice because it looks just like all the other Princess ships.  The Buffet area is larger but there are more people so there is the same problem of finding a place to sit. Large flat screen on the wall was great. Our balcony cabin was just like all the other Princess ships but very satisfactory.   We were glad to be in the middle of the ship when we hit the bad weather and huge waves.. HUGE.   The crew said that it was the most rocking they had ever seen on their ship.  The waves and swells were incredible.

Food - Princess continues it's slow decline in food quality. Nothing was really bad but things just aren't the same as they used to be. We have learned to love the anytime dining option.  We  enjoy eating dinners in the buffet because of the flexibility, the many choices and the time savings.  I could eat the shrimp  and french bread every night. The International Cafe is one of our favorite places.  Very good food.  Sometimes tough to find a place to sit.

Sabatini's Grill-  Boy were we disappointed.  Service and food were just not that good.  Won't pay again.  Friends ate in the Crown Grill and said the same thing.

Service -  Very good.  We only saw our steward twice the whole trip but everything was just fine. Crew was very good.

Photos -  Princess is way behind Royal Caribbean.  They still put pictures up on the walls and we never seem to be able to find them even with helpers.  Digital is the way to go.

Shopping - bigger area and nice shops.  But the price creep is slowing our shopping down. No bargains on board

Entertainment.  Plenty to do.  Theater was full for every show.  We couldn't even get a seat for one at 8 and had to go to the 1000 show..  Still too many people saving seats. We did enjoy the fountain show along with about 10 other passengers.  I guess it was too cold for the rest. 

Activities - Always plenty to do. Always very well run and they always have good attendance at everything we did.  

Excursions -  We did a Princess one in every port. The tender operation in Newport was a real adventure.  The driver had to make 2 passes before finally catching on to the ship  The waves in the harbor were mighty big.  Not sure what the captain was thinking letting folks in wheel chairs and walkers get off/on.  It was mighty rough.  The short cruise between Newport and Boston was another adventure..  The crew was forced to slow the ship down because of the very rough seas and that made us 4 hours late getting into Boston.  Princess did a fantastic job in rescheduling excursions.  They had plenty of folks in the Shore excursion desk area and in lines answering questions.  The ship got lots of compliments on how they handled all this confusion.  The folks that did not use Princess excursions were not happy because they had to either phone or email their companies. Not sure how they resolved the money issues.  Another vote for using cruise line excursions.  Bar Harbor was our favorite port.  Tender operation was smooth because the day was perfect.  Lots to do in that small town.  I had a lobster roll which is one of my all time favorites.  Saint John and Halifax were excellent too.  All our buses and tour guides were excellent.

Clientele-  Most of the Princess passengers were just like us.

Disembarkation - usually one of my least favorite parts of the vacation but this time Princess got it right.  The elevators on get off day are always full with luggage, walkers and powered chairs.  We were called 3 minutes after schedule which is the best ever.  There were plenty of port folks there to help us find our luggage.  Then the customs line took about 5 minutes. And then we were off to our bus which was very clearly marked.  We only sat on the bus for 7 minutes before leaving for LGA.  Our friends got off an hour before we did and had to sit on the bus for 40 minutes for their trip to Newark.  They were not happy campers. Both us had very bad Saturday traffic getting to our respective airports.  Our driver took all kinds of back roads because the regular freeways were gridlocked.

Value -  our friends were traveling with 3 other couples and non of the 5 couples paid the same for our balconies.  None of us got exactly the same perks.  Overall the price/value were close.

Platinum-  We sure like the perks of Platinum.  While the internet is still slow, it is nice to get a whole lot of free minutes.  We never did attend the special cocktail hours to get the free hors d'oeuvres .  They still charge for drinks and the lines were long.  The Captains reception line was again way too long for us.

Cruising-  Lots of talk about cruising and cruise lines.   Disney seems to be the best but everyone knows it is really pricey.  Carnival is probably the least popular.  Some have tried it once and usually won't do it again.  Viking was the most often river cruise line used by our friends.  This is based on a small sample size...
Ned and Carolyn

Monday, October 24, 2016

Tips for Cruising with Food Allergies

If worries about maintaining your special diet have prevented you from taking a cruise, know this: cruise lines go above and beyond to accommodate special dietary needs, and they do it well.

If you are vegetarian or vegan; follow a low/no fat, low/no salt, lactose/dairy free, gluten- or wheat-free, low cholesterol, low sugar, Kosher or Halal diet; or are allergic to specific foods, the ship’s culinary staff can accommodate you. But, it’s your responsibility to alert the cruise line about your special needs well in advance of your cruise. Many cruise lines have an official special needs form just for this purpose. Your Cruise Holidays personal cruise expert can help you provide the cruise line with complete and specific information about your needs.

While on board, the chefs and crew will do their best to give you a great dining experience: but, it’s up to you to let them know if there’s been a mistake and you find a forbidden food on your plate.

Here are some tips to make sure all goes well, and you don’t go hungry:

· When you board, ask to talk with the restaurant manager in order to make sure that any special foods and drinks you require are on board. You can also ask to see menus for each day so you can plan in advance what to eat and what to avoid.

· Talk with each crew member who serves you to make sure your food doesn’t contain anything that it shouldn’t. Servers are accustomed to helping guests who have special dietary needs and will do their very best for you. Be sure to thank them for helping you remain true to your diet.

· If you are served any food that contains the wrong ingredients or is not prepared as you requested, talk with your server, who will have the galley prepare another plate for you. Then, let the maĆ®tre d’ or restaurant manager know what happened to help ensure the mistake doesn’t happen again.

· Ask the chefs and servers at the buffet about the ingredients of any dishes you’re not sure about.

· Take a tour of the ship’s galley. You’ll be able to see for yourself how careful the staff is about food preparation, for you and everyone else on board.

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Monday, October 17, 2016

Cruising to Jamaica

Just a bit larger than the state of Massachusetts, the island of Jamaica boasts three major cruise ports: Ocho Rios, Falmouth and Montego Bay. With a central spine of rugged mountains, waterfalls that cascade into deep valleys, and pretty beaches lapped by turquoise water, it’s easy to fall in love with this Eastern Caribbean destination.

Each port has its attractions, and each is a great starting point for excursions all around the island. Here’s a look at what’s unique about each Jamaican port:

A bustling town during Jamaica’s days as a British colony, Falmouth has been reborn as a cruise port. The cruise terminal, opened in 2011, has Georgian style: but, in Falmouth itself, you can see buildings actually constructed during the Georgian Era. Just beyond the port complex, there are gems like the Falmouth Court House and St. Peter’s Anglican Church. It’s an easy walk, but there are also trolley tours that leave from the port.

Montego Bay
Popularly known as MoBay, Montego Bay is a hotspot for reggae music, authentic Jamaican food and cultural festivals, lively beaches, golfing and duty-free shopping. Catch a shuttle or taxi into town and head to City Centre, Half Moon Village or Whitter Village to browse the jewelry, watches, perfumes, crystal, leather goods and clothing. For an unforgettable round of golf, try any of the five championships courses nearby. Montego is also near some of the great plantation houses of Jamaica, including Rose Hall, said to be haunted by the ghost of Annie Palmer, the “White Witch.”

Ocho Rios
Ocho Rios is nestled in a particularly lush part of Jamaica’s north coast with some of the island’s most famous attractions, including Dunn's River Falls, where the water cascades 600 feet into a pool right on the beach. Music fans should visit the town of Nine Mile in the mountains of St. Ann Parish, where Bob Marley was born. Gardeners will enjoy a drive through Fern Gully, a dense jungle of tropical foliage with more than 200 different species of ferns. Or, take a self-guided tour of Shaw Park botanical gardens, with 25 acres of tropical plants, flowers and trees – plus, a stunning view of the blue Caribbean.

To start planning a visit to Jamaica and other Caribbean islands via cruise ship, talk with Anita, your Cruise Holidays personal cruise expert.

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Monday, October 10, 2016

Planning an Alaskan Cruise

Cruising is a great way to explore the world, but some of the most memorable destinations are actually close to home. Alaska is a U.S. destination that has some of the most incredible coastal scenery anywhere on the planet, as well as beautiful wildlife and multi-cultural experiences waiting on shore.

When we say the scenery is breathtaking, it’s no exaggeration. There are majestic mountains, dense forests, thundering waterfalls, and massive glaciers that glow deep blue and green. Along the shore, you may see brown bears, black bears or moose; Dall sheep and mountain goats scamper on the ridges. In the water, you may spot whales and seals, with seabirds gliding above.

As you plan an Alaskan cruise, the first decision is when to go. The cruise season is May to September, perfectly aligned with summer vacations. June, July and August are the warmest, with daily high temperatures from the mid-50's to mid-70's, but can also be a bit rainy. May and September are cooler but drier, and September is the best time to catch the Northern Lights.

Once you decide when to go, consider exactly where to go. There are two basic choices:

  • An Inside Passage cruise is typically a seven-night roundtrip, usually from Seattle or Vancouver. The Inside Passage is the waterway between the coast of the Southeastern Alaska panhandle and a series of islands that shield the passage to the more turbulent water of the Pacific Ocean. The main ports of call are Juneau, Skagway and Ketchikan.

  • A Gulf of Alaska cruise is frequently a seven-night, one-way cruise between Seattle or Vancouver and Seward or Whittier, which are the seaports for Anchorage. These cruises sail the Inside Passage, but because they are one-way rather than roundtrip, they can take you farther north. These itineraries often feature a call in Sitka as well as Anchorage.

If you’d like a longer cruise, there are a few that go beyond seven nights, or you could combine your cruise with a land-based journey to the interior. Another option is an expedition cruise, which will focus on nature and wildlife. The smaller expedition cruise ships are able to dock in villages and venture into inlets that are not accessible to larger ships. Ask Anita, your Cruise Holidays personal cruise expert, for more information about Alaska’s ports, onshore activities and options for land tours, too.

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