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, August 28, 2017

Cruising to Saint Lucia

As your cruise ship approaches the Caribbean island of St. Lucia, what you will notice first are the Pitons – dramatic twin peaks that rise a half-mile above the sea. Their beauty is simply a prelude to what you’ll find on this lovely island, where thousands of acres of protected rainforest help maintain an authentic and unspoiled feeling.

Cruise ships call on the town of Castries, where there’s some fine duty-free shopping. But, to truly see this lush, hilly and historic island, you’ll want to take an excursion.

Many visitors go to the southern part of the island to visit Soufriere, a charming town in the shadow of the Pitons, established by French colonialists in 1746. It offers great beaches including Sugar Beach, a stretch of white sand located right between the Pitons; and Malgretoute Beach, a more rugged beach of grey sand and pebbles.

From Soufriere, it’s a short distance to Sulphur Springs, often described as the world’s only “drive-in” volcano. It’s true you can literally drive right up to the edge of the steaming mineral springs. But, you’ll want to get out to really see and experience the thermal features formed by a weak spot in the crust of an enormous, collapsed volcanic crater. It’s short walk down to some bubbling pools of mud where you can enjoy a therapeutic mud bath. Then, get sparkling clean under a 50-foot waterfall in a lovely tropical garden.

There are more mineral springs nearby at Diamond Falls Botanical Gardens, fed by Diamond Waterfall. The springs and garden are part of Soufriere Estate, occupied by the Devaux family since 1713. Tall, tropical trees provide shelter for the brilliantly colored flowers that grow beneath.

More options for excursions on St. Lucia include rainforest hikes, snorkeling adventures, ziplining through the rainforest canopy, skimming over the water on a catamaran, touring a rum distillery or playing a round of golf. Or, visit the working plantation at Morne Coubaril to learn about cocoa and coconut processing and enjoy a French Creole lunch.

It’s easy to cruise to St. Lucia, which is on the itineraries of many cruises of the eastern and southern Caribbean. You have your pick of cruise lengths, lines and ships, from the family-oriented to the luxurious. For help exploring your options, talk with Anita, your Cruise Holidays personal cruise expert.

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Monday, August 21, 2017

Cruising the Lofoten Islands in Norway

Vikings once roamed Norway’s Lofoten Islands, carving out a rugged existence on these mountainous islands that lie inside the Arctic Circle. Today, you can roam the islands, too, with all the luxurious comforts of a modern cruise ship.

The scenery of the islands is spectacular, with dramatic peaks and cliffs that loom over sheltered bays and stretches of open water. Summer temperatures are surprisingly mild, averaging in the 50s and 60s, with long hours of daylight; the sun doesn’t really set from the end of May through mid-July.

All that daylight gives you plenty of time to explore these fascinating islands. There are tours that will take you to picturesque fishing villages flanked by white beaches and crystal-clear water. For example, Nusfjord is one of the best-preserved cod fishing villages in all of Norway – you’ll feel as if you stepped back into the late 1800s. If you’re ready for some exercise, there’s a popular cycling trail that passes through Nusfjord.

Henningsvaer is a larger fishing village spread out over several small islands – the Venice of the Arctic. The brightly painted tug boats bobbing in the harbor are a photographer’s dream. There are some fine galleries to browse in town, which is also a base for mountaineering and climbing adventures.

If you’re an experienced surfer – or want to learn how – visit the village of Unstad, the surfing capital of the Arctic (yes, surfing is a popular sport in the Lofoten Islands).

The waters around the islands also contain the recently discovered Røst Reef, believed to be the world’s largest deepwater coral reef. A day cruise will take you out among the area’s rich sea life, including sea eagles and cormorants, puffins and otters. You may even spot one of several species of whales that enjoy life within the Arctic Circle.

To learn how the Vikings lived, visit the Lofotr Viking Museum, located in a reconstructed long house on the island of Vestvagoya. This is the site of an archaeological excavation of an entire Viking village. After you browse the many artifacts in the museum, stroll the grounds and admire the surrounding views, just as Viking chieftains once did.

For more information about cruise lines and ships that visit the Lofoten Islands, often as part of a longer cruise of the scenic Norwegian coastline, talk with Anita, your Cruise Holidays personal cruise expert.

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Monday, August 14, 2017

How to bypass lines on a cruise

Among the many appealing elements of a cruise vacation are ease and convenience: everything you need is right on board, where and when you need it.

Still, there might be a wait for some of the things you want to do, especially on larger ships that sail with thousands of passengers. For example, you might need to wait in line to get on or off the ship, at the buffet, or even for a lounge chair around the pool. (Note that trying to cut the line, for whatever reason, is terribly rude and won’t be tolerated by your fellow passengers.)

The good news is, there are some simple ways to avoid waiting in line on a cruise ship. Here are a few:
  • If you tend to sail on the same cruise line most of the time, join its loyalty program. Many cruise lines maintain separate, faster-moving lines for their most loyal customers at embarkation, debarkation and the guest services desk onboard. Plus, you’ll enjoy the other perks and special offers that come with being a loyal customer.
  •  Depending on the policies of the cruise line, booking a higher-category stateroom or suite may come with perks such as priority seating for dining and shows, or access to exclusive (and less-crowded) restaurants, lounges, sun decks or pools. 
  • Just as you plan to avoid “rush hour” at home, showing up a little early or late can work well on a cruise ship. For example, early risers will have their pick of deck chairs, as will those who venture out later in the day, when some sun-worshipers have returned to their staterooms for a nap. When leaving the ship for a day of shore excursions, showing up a little early or a little late can mean shorter or no lines.
  •  And, this may be the best way to avoid lines on a cruise ship: book a cruise on a mid-sized or smaller ship. Sailing with fewer passengers minimizes the potential for waiting lines. Smaller ships often have more square footage per passenger, too, creating a spacious and uncrowded vibe. You may also find that you enjoy the higher crew-to-passenger ratio on smaller ships, which enables a higher level of service.

Anita, your Cruise Holidays personal cruise expert, can help you find cruise lines, ships and accommodations that offer these types of advantages.

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Monday, August 7, 2017

Cruising to Barbados

The easternmost of Caribbean islands, Barbados is known to many as the birthplace of pop singer Rihanna. But, cruise fans know Barbados as a beautiful island with gentle green hills (and some steep cliffs on the eastern side) that slope down to white sand beaches. The daytime temperature is between 75 and 90 all year, with a refreshing breeze from the trade winds.

Cruise ships dock a mile west of downtown Bridgetown, the island’s capital. Stroll down the Princess Anne Highway to Pelican Village to visit artisan boutiques, a cigar factory and a fish market; then, stroll through a lovely park and into downtown. Watch for cars driving on the left side of the road, one of the many traditions left over from Barbados’ long tenure as a British territory.

There’s a lot to see, beginning with the Mount Gay Rum Factory, producing delicious rum for three centuries. You’ll have the chance to taste and enjoy the flavors of all six varieties. Barbadians are also proud of their pottery. The family-owned Earthworks Pottery Studio is the home of beautiful hand-made, hand-painted pottery that makes a wonderful souvenir.

An island tour can take you to George Washington's House in St. Michael, once visited by the first U.S. president; Cherry Tree Hill in St. Andrew Parish, which overlooks the Atlantic Ocean and the green hills and valleys of the island’s Scotland district; or Farley Hill National Park in St. Peter Parish, where you can explore the ruins of a grand manor house and take in more views. All around the island are places to enjoy afternoon tea, another British tradition that remains popular.

Take a tram through Harrison’s Cave, full of large caverns dotted by stalagmites, stalactites and waterfalls. Outside the cave, walk the nature trails to enjoy the plentiful flora and birdlife. You may even see some furry, playful green monkeys. For a different view of the island, the Andromeda Botanical Gardens’ lovely collections of tropical ferns, trees, orchids and palms cling to a cliff overlooking the ocean.

Barbados is known for its pristine white sand beaches: some offer water sports and other amenities, some are quite secluded and private. If you need a break from the luxurious sand, you can snorkel around reefs or shipwrecks, encountering colorful fish, sea turtles and even some seahorses.

Anita, your Cruise Holidays personal cruise expert can help you select a cruise the visits Barbados and share more ideas for a memorable day on the island.

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Tuesday, August 1, 2017

Review of Cruise on Disney Wonder - Pacific Costal Cruise

This review was written by good friends and experienced cruisers.  It is posted with additional comment.


Sorry this has taken so long but I have no excuses. Feel free to use as you see fit.

Disney Wonder Pacific Coastal Cruise  5 Nights- San Diego to Vancouver BC with a stop in San Francisco

Airline -  Alaska is one of the best. Good planes and always on time.  Baggage was available by the time we reached the claim area.

Transportation to hotel.  We took a cab that cost $17

Hotel - Stayed at the Residence Inn Bayside.  Great location across the street from the cruise terminal.  Hotel is unique in that it shares a lobby, eating area and elevators with a sister property, the Spring Hill Suites. Highly recommend this hotel.  It was great and everything worked just fine.

Embarkation - Disney had made a big deal about only showing up at our assigned time.  So we did only to be put in a long line with Celebrity Infinity passengers who all happened to be there early.  The line was horrific.  The port staff was trying to be nice by telling us just to enjoy all of our fellow passengers.It was a nice day but the line moved painfully slow.  After getting inside the gate, we had to proceed to the ship to drop off our luggage and then get back in another long line that ran the entire length of the port building.  Once you got inside there was a completely packed queing line that eventually led to Security. And yes we are still commingled with our friends from Celebrity  After getting through security, we were led to an almost empty bank of Disney check in lines.  This took 2 minutes and we were ready for our picture. Very organized and quick.  A minute later we were on the ship and heading for our cabin.  Not so fast.  The cabins were blocked off--Not ready.  The whole process was not the way you want to start a cruise.

The Disney Wonder-  Good ship. They did have a major water leak that caused a lot of pipe banging one day.

Cabin - We had an aft balcony cabin.  Two small bathrooms. One with a shower and sink and the other with the commode and sink.   We grew to like this arrangement.

Passengers - Surprising number of kids on board in the middle of May.  Happy group of travelers.

Dining - Another new plan for us.  We stayed at table 25 with our same table mates and waiters but rotated to 3 separate dining rooms.  We had the second seating at 815 which is too late for us, but we survived. Food and service were excellent.

Buffet - Always crowded all day long.  Good choices.

Photos - Best system we have seen on cruise ships.  Lots of photographers always around.  They were especially helpful and accommodating as we sailed under the Golden Gate Bridge.  System is all digital and you don't have to stand in long rows of printed pictures.  Disney uses face recognition technology.  So you go to their photo computer and put in your cabin card and just like magic there are all your pictures.  The  system isn't perfect but when the pictures weren't of us we just hit a button and they disappeared.  There is an option of getting your pictures on a flash drive or prints.  We bought the 10 picture flash drive for $150.  Disney isn't pushy on the photos.  The staff was always willing to help take pictures with our camera.

Internet Service.  Another first for us.  The cost was by the Mb not by the minute  as we were used to. They gave us the first 50 Mb free but we found out we went through that in very few minutes.  Not sure what caused the high use rate. The next 100 Mb were $19 so we didn't use our phones much at all. Lots of cruisers were confused by the billing system.

Entertainment - Exceeded our expectations and they were already high.  The production shows were the best we have seen. And the shows on the outdoor decks were fantastic.  How about really good fireworks too !!!  

Meet the Disney Characters -  All day long the Disney Characters are available to meet and greet. Not each one is there all day but if you had time at 11 you could count one one or two being available  Most of the time the lines were reasonable and  they didn't make you hurry.  It was a pleasant experience. There is a set place and time for each   Disney really handled this well.

Movies - First run Disney movies were available along with all the classics.

Shopping - High priced Disney merchandise along with the usual high end classics.

Disembarkation - The best ever.  Again a unique system.  You go to your last dining room and table and have a nice breakfast.  About the time we finished , our character and color was called and we proceeded directly to the gangway.  We were off the ship in record time. There were plenty of baggage helpers and we found our bags in a minute.  Next was Canadian customs which took another 30 second with NO lines.  We estimated that it took us 10 minutes from the time we left the dining room until we were through customs.  We rented a car at National which was right in the terminal and 3 hours later we were home in Issaquah  

Value - We loved the cruise but it was very expensive. It was really fun and we have fond memories but we have them on more reasonably priced cruises We recommend Disney Cruises if you have the money.

Ned and Carolyn