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 30, 2017

What’s a “Ship-Within-a-Ship?”

If you and your family are looking for a family-friendly cruise experience on a big ship, but want the amenities of a luxury ship, you can have both.

Most luxury cruise ships are small – less than 2,000 passengers, and sometimes no more than 200 – and while they have top-notch everything, they don’t always suit the needs of cruising families. They don’t offer special facilities or activities for children, nor do they have space for the number of dining spots or entertainment venues found on ships that accommodate 4,000 passengers or more.

The good news is that the “ship within a ship” option offered by some cruise lines will give you a luxury experience on a ship that also has lots of features to please family members of all ages and tastes.

Examples include:

The Haven, featured on nine Norwegian Cruise Line ships, is a collection of suites and other spaces for the exclusive use of Haven guests. Staterooms in The Haven are the most luxurious and spacious on the ship, and they come with a dedicated concierge and 24-hour butler service. There’s no crowding at the serene private sundeck, whirlpool, or fitness area; or in the lounge and restaurant reserved just for Haven guests. Of course, you can enjoy the rest of the ship’s amenities, too, including the Splash Academy program for kids up to age 12 and the Entourage program for teens. Haven guests also receive priority service when embarking and disembarking, priority seating at shows and in specialty restaurants, and other nice perks.

The Yacht Club is popping up on more MSC Cruises ships as the cruise line goes through a growth spurt. This ship-within-a-ship is currently available on six MSC ships. Like The Haven, the Yacht Club offers concierge and butler service, plus exclusive facilities that are generally more tranquil than those open to all passengers. It’s Yacht Club guests only at the Top Sail lounge, where the views are panoramic. There’s also a dedicated restaurant and a pool deck with a private swimming pool, whirlpools, sun deck and bar. Plus, a dedicated elevator can whisk Yacht Club guests directly to the ship’s spa for pampering treatments.

Other lines that don’t have actual luxury enclaves on their ships (at least, not yet) are experimenting with offering special amenities to passengers who book certain classes of suites. Watch for this trend to continue, giving you more opportunities to satisfy your taste for luxury cruising without sacrificing the innovative and family-friendly amenities of today’s large cruise ships. Ask Anita, your Cruise Holidays personal cruise expert, to steer you toward the ship-within-a-ship concept.

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Monday, October 23, 2017

Cruising to the Bahamas

The Bahamas are a fantastic cruise destination: the archipelago of more than 700 islands (about 30 are inhabited) are close to home for most U.S. residents. The closest island, Bimini, is only 50 miles east of Miami, and there are lots of convenient departure ports all along the east coast.

You can cruise the Bahamas for two to eight nights at any time of year. Most days see temperatures in the 80s, with refreshing breezes and lots of sun. Any rainclouds usually pass over quickly. While the Bahamas can be affected by hurricanes, cruise ship captains are very good at monitoring conditions and avoiding rough weather.

The low, flat islands are full of unique plant and bird life. Whales and dolphins play in the turquoise water, while smaller and more colorful fish flutter around the world’s third-largest barrier reef. The Bahamas are also a great beach destination, with long stretches of powdery white or pink sand.

Common ports of call include:

Nassau, New Providence Island, home to about 70% of the nearly 400,000 residents of the Bahamas. A visit to the Straw Market is a tradition here. Many visitors purchase day passes to the Atlantis Resort, which has a fabulous waterpark, marine habitats and much more. Or, visit Fort Charlotte to tour the dungeons and underground passageways and see the beautiful views of the harbor from the ramparts.

Freeport, Grand Bahama Island, was hit by a pair of hurricanes in 2004, but has fully recovered with the development of its next-door neighbor, Lucaya. Shoppers love Port Lucaya Marketplace, with 70+ boutiques. Golfers can try the Lucayan Course or the Reef Course, a challenging 7,000 yards long. Grand Bahama has some of the best diving and snorkeling in the islands, and, Lucayan National Park is just 40 acres in size but includes five ecological zones.

Several cruise lines maintain private islands in the Bahamas, which are a treat. It’s be just you and your fellow passengers on a pristine beach, with lounge chairs and hammocks for all. The crew sets up a lunch buffet, and you can work off your lunch by beachcombing, swimming or playing volleyball.

Anita, Your Cruise Holidays personal cruise expert, can help you select a Bahamas cruise that includes a stop at a private island, and perhaps islands like Abaco and Bimini, too.

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Monday, October 16, 2017

Cruising to Bonaire

In the Southern Caribbean, the ABC Islands – part of the Netherlands – are unique and beautiful cruise destinations. This small line of islands doesn’t exactly follow its “ABC” nickname: from west to east, they are Aruba, Curacao and Bonaire. Aruba is the best-known, and Curacao is familiar to fans of the blue-colored, orange-flavored liquor produced there. But for many cruise passengers, Bonaire is an unknown waiting to be discovered.

You’ll come ashore in the Bonaire’s laid-back capital, Kralendijk, where the stucco buildings are painted in tropical pinks, oranges and greens. A stroll through town will reveal bargains on a wide variety of interesting gemstone jewelry and items made from wood, leather, silver and ceramics. There are always prints and paintings, painted fish and locally made dolls for sale.

If you have a chance to eat lunch on shore, you’ll find Creole-influenced dishes, along with Dutch staples like smoked meats and creamy cheeses. Cactus soup in a common, and tasty, local dish.

Surrounded by a protective reef, Bonaire is a paradise for snorkelers and divers, with more than 85 marked dive sites. The waters around the island form Bonaire National Marine Park, where sea turtles, seahorses and other sea life is protected. You can also go windsurfing, kayaking, bird watching, kite boarding, fishing, or ride on a glass-bottomed boat.

Bonaire has charming small beaches sprinkled among outcroppings of coral and rock along the shore. Pink Beach offers good snorkeling and scuba diving, and there’s windsurfing at Lac Bay Beach.

In addition to the protected marine life around the island, Bonaire has protected spaces for flamingoes and donkeys. It’s one of few places in the Caribbean where flamingoes nest. Visit these delicate pink birds at Goto Meer, a saltwater lagoon; or at a flamingo sanctuary located next to one of Bonaire’s solar salt farms. The 135-acre sanctuary has contributed to an increased flamingo population – from about 1,500 to 15,000 – during the past 25 years.

Donkeys were originally brought to Bonaire to work in the island’s salt trade, but as technology improved these gentle creatures were left to roam in the wild. The Donkey Sanctuary was established by an island couple to help donkeys who are injured, orphaned or otherwise in need. Visitors can pet and help feed the herd, which often includes some adorable babies.

To find a Southern Caribbean cruise that includes time on Bonaire, talk with Anita, your Cruise Holidays personal cruise expert.

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Monday, October 9, 2017

Consider a Luxury Cruise

Have you thought about taking a luxury cruise vacation, but worry it won’t fit your casual lifestyle or your budget? Read on to find out why luxury may suit you.

The ships and staterooms. Luxury ships tend to be small or mid-size, with all-suite, all-balcony accommodations. In your suite, you’ll find high-end linens and bath products, granite or marble countertops, elegant fabrics and thoughtful touches like fresh flowers or binoculars for wildlife viewing. While sophisticated, luxury ships aren’t stuffy. In recent years, dress codes have become more casual, closer to those of mainstream cruise lines.

The service. Luxury cruises sail with more crew members per guest, and the crew is trained to provide highly personalized service: they will know your name, remember your preferences and anticipate your needs. Don’t be surprised to come back to your suite to find your shoes polished (even if you didn’t ask).

The dining. There won’t be as many dining venue available as on some the largest cruise ships, but there will be options. And, your dining choices will be top-notch from breakfast through late-night snack.

The shore experience. Luxury ships don’t have the space to offer a huge variety of onboard entertainment, as larger ships do; instead, they focus on memorable on-shore experiences. Shore excursions showcase the local culture and often venture off the usual tourist path. Some luxury lines also offer concierge services for shore excursions: just describe what you’d like to do, and the staff will make it happen.

The inclusions. At first glance, luxury fares can be about twice as much as those of mainstream cruise lines. But, take a close look at what’s included in a luxury cruise fare. It will likely include gratuities; all beverages, including beer, wine and liquor; shore excursions; Wi-Fi access; access to all restaurants, with no surcharges; and laundry and dry cleaning. When you consider all the extras, it may be more affordable than you thought: it’s all part of creating an atmosphere of ease and relaxation. Luxury lines want their guests to come on board and simply enjoy, without having to sign for every drink or worry about the cost of Wi-Fi.

Let Anita, your Cruise Holidays personal cruise expert, help identify what cruise line and itinerary will fit your budget and travel desires.

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Monday, October 2, 2017

Cruising the Norwegian Arctic

If you’ve already cruised Alaska’s coastline or even ventured to the Antarctic, here’s another cruise destination you may enjoy: Norway’s Arctic region. It’s a special place of abundant natural beauty where you can follow in the steps of early Arctic explorers.

While some adventure cruise lines sail this region all year long, the most popular time to sail is summer, with its long hours of daylight. Early in the season, itineraries tend to be a bit shorter and more southerly as winter ice continues to melt. Sailing during July or August will give you the experience of high summer in the Artic, with warmer temperatures and the tundra in full bloom. You may spot polar bears and other Artic wildlife raising their young, too. In September, the ice begins to advance again and ships return to more southerly routes.

Cruises of the Norwegian Arctic depart from a variety of North Sea ports, including Hamburg and London (Southampton). Typically, cruises are 10 nights or more, giving you plenty of time to enjoy the beauty of the region. Ships sail along the west cost of Norway, threading in and out of gorgeous fjords and calling on historic towns, like Bergen and Trondheim, before crossing the Arctic Circle.

Within the Arctic Circle, popular stops include Spitsbergen (also called Longyearbyen), capital of the Svalbard Archipelago of islands. Scenery and wildlife are the stars here. There are jagged, snow-covered mountains and windswept tundra populated by artic fox, reindeer and polar bears. You can visit the Global Seed Vault and the Svalbard History Museum, or trek over Longyear Glacier – don’t be surprised if your guides carry rifles to protect against unexpected wildlife encounters.

Most itineraries also include the city of Tromso, which has a spectacular setting enhanced by the beautiful Artic Cathedral, a stunning structure of concrete, steel and glass. The Polar Museum, housed in a restored 19th-century warehouse, contains exhibits on Tromso’s history as a base for hunting expeditions and polar explorations. Take the cable car to the top of Mt. Storsteinen for panoramic views, or ride behind the friendly husky dogs at a wilderness camp.

To choose a cruise of Arctic Norway – and get advice on what to pack – talk with Anita, your Cruise Holidays personal cruise expert.

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