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 3, 2022

Must-Try Foods in Paris

Paris is known for many things, like the Eiffel Tower, romance, and cafes. But it’s also known for its food. Here are a few bites you shouldn’t pass up on your trip to Paris.

Macarons

Macarons (also called French macaroons, not to be confused with coconut macaroons) are a convection created with meringue cookies that sandwich a flavored filling. These cookie sandwiches showed up in Paris in the 1830s from Parisian confectioners and were made popular by Laduree, a famous French bakery. It wasn’t long until the macaron became famous world-wide. It even has its very own day to celebrate! But even though these tasty treats are accessible just about everywhere these days, there’s something about trying them in the country they originated.

Croissants

These are a staple in Paris. They are convenient, easy to eat on the go, and can be enjoyed in a multitude of ways, including on their own or as part of a sandwich. The croissant became popular in France because of Marie Antoinette. The story is that she wanted the baker to replicate her favorite bakery treat from her hometown in Austria. Over time, this treat became lighter and fluffier into what we know the croissant as now.

Some say that you know if a croissant is good if you don’t need to any anything to it. However, French people like to indulge at their weekend brunch and add jam or chocolate to their croissants.

Baguette

Another staple in Paris is the baguette. In the 1920s, laws were in place that prohibited bakers from starting to bake until after 4:00 in the morning. These laws prevented them from having fresh bread in the mornings. The bakers had to be creative to find ways to have bread freshly baked for the mornings and wound up changing the bread’s shape into the baguette we know today. This allowed the bread to bake faster and made it possible for the dough to receive the maximum amount of exposed heat, which gives it that thick crust.

The baguette has been an iconic symbol of France ever since. Like the croissant, it’s a great grab-and-go snack and versatile in the ways you can enjoy it. One way people will enjoy a baguette is to cut it in half with butter and jam. It also pairs wonderfully with chocolat chaud, which is similar to a hot chocolate.

Butter

This is a unique one, but the butter in Paris is a must-try, specifically the Le Beurre Bordier. Here is how this butter is different from the rest:

They only use milk from local farmers who demonstrate the best farming practices. They also take their time when making the butter. Bordier waits 72 hours to use the milk once they get it from the cows, where milk used to make a typical brick of butter is only left to sit 6 hours. This extra time allows the cream to develop its flavor. They even knead the butter at a much slower speed.

It’s also unique because the butter is slightly different based on what season it is. The cows’ diet vastly alters how the butter comes out. When the cows graze on fresh grass in the summer, the butter is much more yellow, smoother, and tastes more savory. In the winter, the butter tends to be lighter in color due to the grass. It’s also more brittle and tastes sweeter.

They also only make the butter on-demand, so you know you’ll be getting the freshest butter!

French Onion Soup

French Onion Soup is a comforting soup that has become widely popular. There are no definitive stories on the origin of the French Onion Soup, but many that in the 1800s, low-income workers would use the leftover onions that they were selling to make soup to keep them warm. The soup started as just the broth, which uses caramelized onions and beef broth.

In the 1900s, people started seeing this dish in restaurants. The recipe had expanded with the addition of baked bread with a layer of cheese crumbled on top. They then bake the soup until the cheese layer gets crispy and golden brown.

When the soup started being served in restaurants, it became more acceptable amongst all the people to enjoy, not just the working and low-income families, and it's now a staple in French cuisine!

These were only a few must-try dishes to try in Paris, but it's safe to say that there are many more to discover!

Monday, September 26, 2022

Travel Solo - Know Before You Go

Traveling solo can be a thrilling experience that pushes the boundaries of your comfort zone. However, you want to make sure you prepare before venturing off! Here are some “know before you go” on solo travel.

Leave Your Contact Info with Someone at Home

When traveling, especially overseas where communication might be trickier, it’s important to let someone know your travel plans. Let them know where you’re going, where you’ll be staying, and the travel dates. This will keep your loved ones at home in the loop just in case they need to get ahold of you.

Keep Copies of Important Documents

Always keep copies of your important documents, such as your passport, social security card, and other necessary paperwork. These copies can come in handy in case you misplace one during your travels!

Network

Talk to your contacts about where you’ll be traveling to, they may have connections in those places and could connect you with other people in their network. This is great for solo traveling because it can help give you more insight from locals into where you’re going and, if you feel so inclined, you can meet up!

Bring a Book and a Journal

You may face some long travel days, and since you’ll be traveling solo, having a book to read can help entertain you. Journaling is another excellent way to keep yourself entertained; it’s also great to have so you can document your journey! Trust us on this! It’s fun and special to find your travel journals and read back and recall those travel moments later in life.

Learn How to be Alone

Traveling solo means spending time alone. Depending on your personality, this might be the most challenging part of traveling solo. Being with yourself alone in another country is a big deal but learning to slow down can create a lot of growth, and you can learn more about who you are.

You May Never Feel 100% Ready

This one speaks for itself. It’s hard to find the time and energy to commit to traveling internationally with our busy lives. But is there ever really a “perfect” time to go? You might also be thinking that you aren’t ready to travel solo yet, but again, is there really going to be a “perfect” time? If you’re considering traveling alone, take the leap!

Things Will Go Wrong... That's Okay

No matter if you’re traveling alone or with others, something will go wrong. If you’re traveling solo and something goes wrong, it might be stressful in the moment, but it’s going to make great stores to tell and will help you learn to be more flexible. Roll with it!

Keep Emergency Contact Info on You

It’s crucial that you give someone at home your information on where you’ll be traveling, but it's also essential to keep their information on you as well. Ideally, it’s great to keep this information in multiple places, such as your mobile device and your journal. This is important just in case your phone is out of battery or misplaced and you need to call home.

Understand The Cultures You’re Entering

When entering new countries, we highly recommend learning more about the local cultures before visiting. This can help prepare you for anything you might face, such as clothing restrictions or norms and understanding mannerisms.

Stay Someplace Where You’ll Meet Others

One of the coolest parts about traveling solo is the people you meet. Staying at a place like a hostel, situates you perfectly to meet like-minded individuals who might be traveling solo as well. And who knows, the people you meet on your solo adventure might turn into life-long friends!

Know Where You’re Going

It’s always a good idea to create some kind of plan before your travels. This will help give you an idea of any transportation you might need to take and how to visit each place on your list effectively.

Ask Locals for Recommendations

Talking to locals is a wonderful way to learn about the place you’re visiting. They can tell you the best places to visit that you might miss if you’re just going to the tourist attractions, and as an added bonus, they’re likely to be much less busy!

Try Not to Overpack

When traveling solo, you’re in charge of all your bags. Make sure you’re able to carry all your items before you leave and have room left for any souvenirs you might be bringing back with you.

Try to Act Confidently in Public

Acting confident is key, especially if you’re not sure where you are or where you’re going. When you show confidence, it’s less likely someone will try and take advantage of you. We’d like to believe that most people you meet wouldn’t do this, but you can never be too cautious.

Traveling solo is truly an adventure of a lifetime, and we believe it can add so much value to your life. It can be a scary one, but well worth it!

Monday, September 19, 2022

Impressive Stage Shows at Sea

Engaging entertainment abounds on cruise ships. The exact mix of entertainment varies by cruise line and ship, but you may find anything from parties and games to first-run movies, magic shows, musical revues, intimate cabarets, cooking demonstrations, comedy workshops, and dancing to live music. Some ships also stage big-time shows in state-of-the-art theaters, with production values and talent that rival New York’s Broadway and London’s West End. 

 Cruise lines do change their entertainment offerings over time, sometimes with little notice; but, here are some of the biggest, best-known stage productions you can enjoy at sea now. 

Norwegian Cruise Line’s Norwegian Bliss features “Jersey Boys,” a musical that tells the behind-the-scenes story of Rock and Roll Hall of Fame inductees Frankie Valli and The Four Seasons. It’s full of real-life joy and drama, not to mention hits like “Big Girls Don’t Cry,” “Sherry” and “Working My Way Back to You.” On the Norwegian Encore, you can catch “Kinky Boots” (based on the 2005 film), with music and lyrics by Cyndi Lauper. Or, if you like some Tudor history mixed with your musical entertainment, you’ll love “Six” – a modern take on the stories of the six wives of King Henry VIII – on the Norwegian Bliss or Norwegian Breakaway

 Royal Caribbean’s Broadway at Sea program includes a fabulous production of “Mamma Mia!” on the Allure of the Seas. You’ll want to dance and sing along to the catchy ABBA tunes like “Dancing Queen,” “Take a Chance on Me,” and “The Winner Takes it All.” Other Royal Caribbean ships offer more Broadway classics, including the timeless “Cats” (Oasis of the Seas); the ‘50s fun of “Grease” (this version, on Harmony of the Seas and Independence of the Seas, was created just for Royal Caribbean); and the ’60 dance-show groove of “Hairspray” (Symphony of the Seas). 

The ships of Disney Cruise Line feature gorgeous stage shows based on some of Disney’s most popular and beloved animated features, including “The Little Mermaid” (on the brand-new Disney Wish), “Tangled, The Musical” (Disney Magic), “Beauty and the Beast” (Disney Dream) and “Frozen” (Disney Wonder and Disney Fantasy). All of these productions include enchanting special effects, along with wonderful costumes and sets – just what you would expect from Disney. 

 If you choose a ship by the entertainment that’s on board, be sure to check with Anita, your professional travel advisor, on exactly what you can expect to see on your next cruise. 

 Find us on Facebook: www.facebook.com/AtthetaTravel

 

Monday, September 12, 2022

Cruising to “The Ice”

Cruises can take you to just about any place on the planet that’s accessible by water, and that includes Antarctica, sometimes known simply as “The Ice.” This vast continent, home to the South Pole and almost completely covered by ice and snow is remote and harsh, fascinating and beautiful. 

 If you want to cruise to Antarctica, you need to ask yourself an important question: do you want to see the White Continent only from the comfort of the ship, or do you want to set foot on it? The answer will guide your selection of a ship and itinerary. 

 There are “viewing only” cruises that sail close to the Antarctic Peninsula, the part of Antarctica closest to the southern tip of South America. On this type of cruise, you can marvel at the spectacular scenery, including glacier-draped peaks and ice floes that glow blue and green. You may also see wildlife in and over the water – whales, seals, penguins, albatross, and more. 

 There are also cruises that sail right up to the peninsula and use inflatable Zodiac craft to take you from ship to shore. Only 100 visitors are allowed to land in the same spot at one time, so it’s a very special experience. If weather conditions are good, you may be able to hike among cold-weather creatures; visit a penguin rookery; go kayaking, climbing, or diving; or even camp onshore overnight. But, you need to be in good shape: the crew will be there to help, but climbing in and out of Zodiac craft and walking icy paths requires strength and balance. 

 Both types of Antarctic cruises use ships that are built to navigate through ice and the often-choppy waters of the Drake Passage. Most are small but quite luxurious, with high-end cuisine and excellent service. Onboard guides and naturalists will help you understand all that you’ll see and do. 

 Antarctic cruises are available from late September through early March: you may be surprised by how many cruise lines, ships and itineraries there are to choose from. However, Antarctic cruises are very popular and can fill quickly. Fortunately, Anita, your professional travel advisor, can help you reserve a spot. They can also provide information on what to expect, what to take with you, how to extend your vacation with a land stay in Ushuaia or Buenos Aires, and how important it is to have travel insurance for this cruise of a lifetime. 

 Find us on Facebook: www.facebook.com/AtthetaTravel

Monday, September 5, 2022

Living on Cruise Ships

For some people, cruising is more than a wonderful way to vacation; it’s a wonderful way to live. Living aboard a cruise ship is a chance to explore more of the world while enjoying a high level of service. 

 There are a couple of ways to live on a cruise ship, and one option is to purchase an apartment on a residential ship. Currently, The World is the only residential cruise ship afloat, but more are being planned and built. At least three companies – Blue World Voyages, Storylines, and Somnio – plan to launch residential cruise ships in the next year or two. Depending on the ship, starting prices for apartments range from about $700,000 to $15 million. Terms of ownership vary, too; some are for the life of the ship, for the life of the owner, or for a certain span of years. 

 Another other option is to sail on back-to-back cruises that keep you at sea most of the time. With some careful planning, it’s possible to spend just a few nights a year on land. You can stick with a favorite ship or change things up by sailing on a variety of ships with different itineraries.  

 Before embarking on a lifestyle of continuous cruising, here are some things to consider. 

Try it out by taking a long cruise. Book a grand voyage or world cruise to see if long-term sailing agrees with you. Select an itinerary that includes at least one stretch of several days at sea. 

Talk with a financial planner to make sure living by cruising is within your means, and to get advice about managing your financial commitments, such as paying taxes and bills. 

 Talk with a doctor about your health and the best way to manage it at sea. Cruise ships are equipped with medical personnel and facilities, but they may not be able to meet all your needs. You may also need to purchase special health insurance that covers you while you’re sailing. 

Talk with your loved ones so they understand what you’re planning to do. If you intend to sell your current home, you may need their help to sort through belongings, establish a new address on land, re-home pets, and more. 

 Talk with Anita, your professional travel advisor, who can provide more information and advice about living at sea; the ships and itineraries you may enjoy most; and how to qualify for frequent cruiser discounts. 

 

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Monday, August 29, 2022

Getting to the Ship On Time

When you fly to the port to board a cruise ship, a flight delay or cancellation is always possible. But right now, a combination of factors – high demand for flights, some airline and airport staff shortages, plus the perpetual unpredictability of weather – is increasing the chances of a flight delay or cancellation. 

 As you know, cruise ships wait for no one; if you don’t get to the ship on time, it will sail without you. So, here are some tips to help ensure you arrive at your ship on time and ready to cruise. 

Plan to arrive in port at least two days before your cruise begins. For years, travel professionals have advised arriving a day early for your peace of mind; right now, a two-day cushion provides greater comfort. If all goes well, you’ll have time to enjoy the port city and buy anything you forgot to pack. 

 Pick the earliest flight of the day to your port. If it’s canceled, you may have a better chance of catching a later flight the same day. 

Fly to the port as directly as possible. The more flight segments you have, the greater the chance that at least one will be delayed. If you must make a connection or two, allow at least two hours between connecting flights. And if you can, don’t check any baggage; edit down your cruise wardrobe and pack it all into a carry-on bag to keep with you. 

 Expect long lines for airport check-in and security screening, so get there early and be prepared. For years, we have been advised to arrive at the airport two hours before a domestic flight and three hours before an international flight; right now, it’s wise to increase that amount of time. Dress comfortably, be patient and bring a mobile device loaded with reading and games to help pass the time. 

 Consider a different way of getting to your ship. If a car, bus, or train can get you to the port in a day or two, it may be a good way to go. Road and rail trips can be quite scenic and relaxing, especially if they take away the stress of worrying that a flight might be canceled. 

 Finally, keep your professional travel advisor’s contact information handy. If it looks like you might not get to your ship on time, get in touch for good advice on what to do next. 

 Find us on Facebook: www.facebook.com/AtthetaTravel

Monday, August 22, 2022

Really Relax in a Cruise Ship Spa

If relaxation is your reason for taking a cruise, raise that relaxation to a new level by planning a visit to the onboard spa. 

 Most cruise ships have a spa, and they rival the very best on land. The treatment menus are extensive, with massages, facials, body wraps, and scrubs that can revive and refresh you. Many onboard spas also offer facilities like steam rooms, therapeutic pools, snow and salt grottos, aromatherapy zones, and solariums; cosmetic treatments like Botox and teeth whitening; and salon services like hair styling, waxing, manicures, and pedicures.  

 

Here are some tips to help you plan your cruise ship spa experience: 

 

If you aren’t sure what type of treatment you’ll like, visit the spa on embarkation day, when you may be able to take a quick tour and ask questions. Some spas offer special treatments and discounts only on embarkation day; discounts may be available on days in port, too. 

 

If you haven’t visited a spa before, you might be surprised by the cost. The most basic massage on the menu may be $100 or more, and the more elaborate the treatment, the higher the price. Remember that cruise ship spas provide high-quality services using top-of-the-line products, and the prices are usually comparable to similar spas on land. So treat yourself, but make sure to select a treatment you’ll enjoy. 

 

Onboard spas are very popular, and reservations can fill quickly. But, different cruise lines have different policies for advance reservations. Some let you make reservations as soon as you book your cruise, some make reservations available two or three months in advance, and a few don’t offer any way to make reservations until you’re on board. Ask your professional travel advisor about the best way to make spa reservations for your next cruise. 

 

Expect the spa staff to recommend some products for you to purchase after your treatment. Don’t let this ruin your post-treatment calm; you are not required to purchase any products, and if you don’t want to, just say so. 

 

Finally, if you’d like to make your next cruise all about the spa, find out about “spa class” cabins. For example, Celebrity Cruises’ AquaClass cabins are equipped with spa-quality amenities and come with access to a spa concierge and a spa cuisine restaurant, complimentary passes for fitness classes, and the spa’s thermal suite, and special rates for spa treatment packages. Ask Anita, your professional travel advisor, about these and other spa class cabins. 

 

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Monday, August 15, 2022

When to Book the Best Cruise Fares

  How far in advance should you book your next cruise to get the lowest fare? Sadly, there’s no magic formula for snagging the best price every time. But, we do have some advice for you to consider: book early or book late. 

 Many cruise fans like to book as soon as a sailing opens for reservations, which can be as long as 18 months before embarkation (your professional travel advisor can alert you). At that time, fares may be the lowest they will ever be because they tend to rise as the ship fills. 

 

There are some other significant advantages to booking a cruise as early as possible. You’ll have access to the best choice of cabins and you might receive early booking incentives, such as discounted airfare or onboard credits. Early booking also gives you plenty of time to look forward to your cruise and plan what you want to do on board and on shore. 

 

Still, keep in mind that a lot can happen in 18 months. Cruise lines have the right to change itineraries due to travel warnings, port conditions, and other factors, so the cruise you purchase may be a little different than the cruise you actually take. And – although this doesn’t happen often – you can be “bumped” from a cruise for a variety of reasons, such as the ship needing some maintenance work or being chartered. In these situations, the cruise line usually provides as much advance notice as possible, a full refund or rebooking, and perhaps some extras like future cruise credits. 

 

If it’s not possible for you to commit to a cruise many months in advance, booking late can also deliver a good deal. Late booking bargains usually emerge two to four months before the sail date, when passengers with reservations have their last chance to cancel without paying a penalty. Other low-fare opportunities may come up when passengers have to cancel at the last minute. And, some slow-selling cruises may still have space available just a few weeks or days before the cruise begins. 

 

If you look for a late booking deal, be flexible about your destination, as well as cabin type and location; you’ll have to choose from what’s available. And, understand that some cruises simply sell out early and stay sold out, with no options for late booking. 

 

To try booking your next cruise early or late, reach out to Anita, your professional travel advisor, for the best assistance and advice. 

 

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Monday, August 8, 2022

Take a Short Cruise for a Relaxing Break

 If you dream of a quick break that will really take you away from it all, take a look at short cruises. Two or three days on a cruise ship isn’t a lot of time, but it can provide lots of fun and relaxation. Plus, a short cruise is a great option if you have a small vacation budget, limited vacation time, or you haven’t cruised before and want to find out how much you like it. You can also combine a short cruise with some extra time in a port city, giving you two vacation experiences in one. 

 

Several cruise lines offer two- or three-day cruises from a variety of ports. Let’s look at some of the places you can go. 

 

From Florida ports like Cape Canaveral, Fort Lauderdale, or Miami, you can board a ship for a short cruise to Key West; Nassau, the capital of The Bahamas; or, a visit to a cruise line’s private island (there are several in The Bahamas). A day on a cruise line’s private island is delightful and much like a visit to an exclusive beach club: there are no crowds, just sand, sun, shaded loungers, beachy fun, and delicious food. 

 

From Los Angeles or San Diego, you can take a short cruise to Ensenada, Mexico. Tour the historic city, go wine tasting in the Valle de Guadalupe, visit the La Bufadora marine geyser, or paddle a kayak near adorable sea lions. 

 

Some short cruises sail along the scenic West Coast between Seattle and San Francisco or Vancouver. All three cities are full of wonderful attractions, such as Vancouver’s Gastown neighborhood, Seattle’s Pike Place Market, and San Francisco’s Golden Gate Bridge. Some short itineraries to Vancouver also call on Victoria, the beautiful capital of British Columbia. 

 

When you choose a quick but refreshing cruise, be aware that cruise lines tend to assign smaller, older ships to these routes. The ships are still lovely and comfortable, but if you’re looking for the latest onboard entertainment and dining options, you may not find them on a two- or three-day cruise. 

 

Also, short cruises tend to attract younger passengers, including families with kids, who appreciate the affordability. This often creates a fun and lively atmosphere onboard; but if you tire of the party, you can always find a quiet corner or relax in your cabin for a while. 

 

For more ideas and details about short cruises, talk with Anita, your professional travel advisor. 

 

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Monday, August 1, 2022

Cruising With Baby

Can you bring your baby on a cruise? Yes, parents do it all the time, but there are some things to understand and think through. 

 First, there’s an age requirement for babies at sea. Many cruises welcome babies who are at least six months old, though some longer itineraries have a 12-month minimum age. But a few cruise lines don’t accept any passengers under age 18, including babies. 

 

Some cruise lines offer discounted fares for babies (and other children) who share your cabin; you should also ask your professional travel advisor to alert you to “kids sail free” promotions. Still, you may have to pay a regular fare for your baby.  

 

When you plan to bring a baby on board, it’s important to request a crib when you make your cruise reservation. And, as very few cabins have a bathtub or a sink large enough for bathing a baby, you may want to bring a small inflatable bathtub with you. 

 

Bring all the food and supplies (diapers, wipes, rash cream, changing pad, fold-up stroller, pacifiers, a favorite toy, and more) your baby will need. Some ships have small supplies of baby care essentials or offer a pre-embarkation delivery service, but these can be pricey. To make travel to the ship easier, arrive in port early enough to go to a store and buy baby supplies to bring on board. 

 

If your baby drinks formula, bring enough for the duration of the cruise; if they drink milk, find out if your ship carries the kind they like. On some cruise lines, the galley will mash or puree food for babies, but others expect you to bring jars of baby food. Fortunately, most onboard dining rooms and restaurants have highchairs; if you don’t see one, just ask. 

 

Note that babies and toddlers must be toilet-trained before they can use cruise ship pools, but a few ships have “splash zones” where babies in swim diapers are welcome. 

 

Babysitting services also vary by cruise line. Some don’t offer them, but others provide services at hourly rates; helpful when you want to take a baby-free shore excursion or have dinner on your own.  

 

Ultimately, you’re the best judge of whether or not to take your baby on a cruise, because you know how your baby reacts to new people, places, and routines. Contact Anita, your professional travel advisor, to talk about ships and itineraries that can provide a great cruise experience for you and your baby. 

 

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Monday, July 25, 2022

Open-Air Spaces to Enjoy on a Cruise

When choosing a ship for your next cruise, look for spaces where you can enjoy open sky and fresh air as you sail across the water. Some ships have especially appealing outdoor spaces; here are a few that we really like. 

 Celebrity Cruises Edge Class ships – the Edge, Apex and Beyond – have an incredible outdoor space called The Garden, decorated with beautiful live plants, metal sculptures, and comfortable seating. These ships also feature the Magic Carpet, a large, open-air platform off one side of the ship that moves up and down to serve different al fresco purposes. It can be a specialty restaurant, a music venue, an extension of the pool area or even an elegant way to disembark. 

 

Celebrity’s Solstice Class ships, first introduced in 2008, have an outdoor space that’s still unique in the cruise world. On the top deck, there’s a half-acre of real, growing grass, called the Lawn Club. Guests are welcome to remove their shoes, walk across the soft grass, and relax in a hammock, Adirondack chair or cabana. 

 

Onboard pools are often a good place to catch some fresh air and sun, but they don’t all have sea views. Holland America’s Sea View Pools, located at the rear (aft) of the ship, pools have a lovely view over the water. 

 

Royal Caribbean’s Oasis Class ships feature Central Park, a lush garden that’s located in the middle of the ship, but open to the sky. Each park has thousands of full-size trees, shrubs and flowers, with winding pathways, benches, shops, and restaurants. With a little help from technology, the parks are also filled with the soothing sounds of chirping crickets and singing birds (real birds sometimes find their way to these green spaces, too). 

 

On Oceania Cruises’ Marina and Riviera, the spa’s thalassotherapy pool, along with hot tubs and chaise lounges, are on the open-air Aquamar Spa Terrace. Here, you can combine some soothing spa treatments with an inspiring sea view. 

 

Since it was introduced in 2004, Movies Under the Stars has become a signature feature on the ships of Princess Cruises. Passengers gather in these open-air, poolside amphitheaters to watch current films, sports events, and more. Programming runs all day, but in the evening the crew adds pillows and blankets to the poolside lounge chairs, then serves popcorn and special beverages. 

 

To find out more about fresh-air spaces on any cruise ship, talk with Anita, your professional travel advisor. 

 

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Monday, July 18, 2022

Fabulous Suites at Sea

On a cruise, you sail away from your daily routine to a very different kind of experience. Every passenger – even those who stay in the smallest inside cabins – can enjoy a high level of service, comfort, and cuisine. 

 Of course, if you’d like a little more space, you can book a suite; and on some ships, you can book a really extravagant suite. The most luxurious suites at sea may not fit within your budget, at least not yet…but we can all dream. Let’s take a quick look at a few suites to aspire to. 

 

The Garden Villa Suite on Norwegian Cruise Line’s Star Class and Jewel Class ships is enormous: nearly 7,000 square feet, or about three times the size of the average U.S. home. There are three bedrooms, three and a half baths, and a spacious living room with a baby grand piano. Walls of windows overlook outdoor spaces that offer amenities like a private hot tub, sun deck, and dining area. This suite is part of The Haven ship-within-a-ship complex, so it comes with extras like butler service and unlimited beverages. 

 

If you’re sailing with kids, it’s hard to beat the Ultimate Family Suite on Royal Caribbean’s Symphony of the Seas, Spectrum of the Seas, and Wonder of the Seas. This spacious two-story suite has a large balcony and private jetted tub, but what really sets it apart are the toys and games. There’s an in-suite slide, air hockey, and ping-pong tables, a giant Connect 4 game, a LEGO wall, and an 85-inch TV equipped with popular video games. A Royal Genie (butler), unlimited beverages, and specialty dining are all included. 

 

The Regent Suite on Regent Seven Seas Cruises’ Splendor, Explorer and Grandeur are one of the most opulent at sea; its 4,000+ square feet is filled with unique furnishings and rare works of art. There are two spacious bedrooms (featuring high-end, hand-made mattresses) and a living room equipped with a grand piano. There are views in three directions, an in-suite sauna and steam room, walk-in closets, and a private solarium. You and your companions will also be the only passengers who can reserve The Study, a luxe private dining room where you and up to 12 guests will dine off gorgeous French porcelain. 

 

These and other top-tier suites at sea are pricey, but also extremely popular and always booked well in advance. For more information, talk with Anita, your professional travel advisor. 

 

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Monday, July 11, 2022

Cruising the Hawaiian Islands

A cruise is a fantastic way to introduce yourself to the islands of Hawaii, the 50th state. Each of these stunning volcanic islands has its own distinct character, and a cruise gives you the chance to visit more than one. 

 Basically, there are three ways to cruise Hawaii: 

 

Hawaii-only cruises. Norwegian Cruise Line is the only major cruise line that offers regular, Hawaii-only cruises. Why? To comply with U.S. passenger shipping laws, cruise ships registered outside the U.S. (most of them are) must call on at least one international port during each cruise; this is why cruises to Hawaii that depart from the West Coast often call on Ensenada, Mexico. But, U.S.-flagged ships are exempt from this rule. Norwegian Cruise Line has one U.S.-flagged ship – the Pride of America – and it sails seven-day cruises of the islands, roundtrip from Honolulu.  

 

One-way or round-trip cruises from the West Coast. Several cruise lines offer cruises to Hawaii from Vancouver, San Francisco, Los Angeles, or San Diego. These cruises combine relaxing days at sea with stops at multiple Hawaiian Islands. These cruises can be lengthy; even one-way cruises are usually 10 days or more. If you have time for an even longer cruise, some itineraries that include Hawaii sail to other islands in the South Pacific. 

 

Repositioning cruises. Some ships that are moving from the West Coast to Asia or Australia, from Alaska to the Mexican Riviera, or from the Pacific to the Atlantic via the Panama Canal call on one or more of the Hawaiian Islands. These one-way, extended cruises are great fun for people who love to sail and have the time to take a longer voyage. 

 

After you decide which type of Hawaiian cruise is best for you, pick an itinerary. Here are some of the gorgeous places you can visit: 

 

·         Honolulu, on the island of Oahu, is the busy urban center of the islands and home to Waikiki Beach and historic Pearl Harbor. 

·         On the island named Hawai’i, also known as the “Big Island,” Volcanoes National Park is a must-see, along with the black sands of Kona and the orchid gardens of Hilo. 

·         The laid-back island of Maui is great for snorkeling, seasonal whale-watching, beachcombing, and hiking in the rainforest. 

·         Kaua’i is a stunning island where you can take in the beauty of Waimea Canyon, the Fern Grotto, and the Napali Coast. 

·         Talk with Anita, your professional travel advisor about all of your options for cruising the islands of Hawaii. 

 

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Monday, July 4, 2022

Elevate Your Cruise Experience

Should your next cruise experience deliver the luxury and intimacy of a small, elegant ship; or, the non-stop activities and amenities of a modern mega-ship? We have good news: There’s a way to enjoy both types of experiences on the same cruise. Popular “ship within a ship” programs deliver all the dining and entertainment choices of a big ship, with the option to retreat to a more private, opulent enclave whenever you like. 

 Some Norwegian Cruise Line ships feature The Haven, one of the first ship-within-a-ship concepts at sea. The Haven is a collection of suites that come with access to special onboard areas that vary by ship, but usually include a private pool deck, lounge, restaurant, and library. Guests of The Haven enjoy unlimited beverages, a specialty dining package, shore excursion credits, concierge services and some complimentary WiFi access. A third and a fourth guest can also share your suite at no extra charge.  

 

The amenities of MSC Cruises’ Yacht Club are available to passengers who book specific accommodations – ranging from inside cabins to suites – on designated sailings. The Yacht Club provides extras like luxury bedding and 24-hour butler service, plus access to a private pool deck, a lounge with panoramic views, and an upscale restaurant. Yacht Club guests receive unlimited beverage service and a complimentary session in the onboard spa’s thermal suite. If your cruise calls on MSC’s private island in The Bahamas, you’ll have access to exclusive areas of the island, too. 

 

Some Royal Caribbean Cruise Line ships offer the Royal Suite program, which has three levels of extra amenities. These can include access to exclusive dining spots, service from butlers called Royal Genies, complimentary WiFi, priority boarding and tender access, and complimentary beverages. If you want extra perks without booking a suite, many Royal Caribbean itineraries offer another option: The Key, an extra-fee program that provides a VIP experience. The Key gives you priority boarding, special access hours for onboard attractions, preferential seating at shows, and other advantages. 

 

Guests who book certain suites on some of the Celebrity ships have access to The Retreat, which the cruise line compares to a high-end resort. It includes a private gourmet restaurant called Luminae at the Retreat, an exclusive pool deck, and lounge, concierge services, a Personal Retreat Host, complimentary beverages, and WiFi. A bottle of sparkling wine will be waiting in your suite, too. 

 

For more information on these and other ways to elevate your cruise experience, talk with Anita, your professional travel advisor. 

 

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Monday, June 27, 2022

Cruise Ship Spaces Just for Teens

Existing in the transition between childhood and adulthood isn’t always easy, and the teenagers in your life may not be quite as excited as you are about getting on a cruise ship together. The good news is that many cruise ships have dedicated spaces where teens can go to relax and be with other teens. And cruise lines have put a lot of effort into making these spaces truly welcoming, comfortable, and fun for teens.

Norwegian Cruise Line has Entourage, where teens aged 13 to 17 can play video games, watch movies, make art, or join in a game of basketball, soccer, or dodgeball. In the evening, Entourage hosts themed parties where teens can dance, sing, and show off their style.

Several ships in the Princess Cruises fleet have The Beach House, a lounge for teens aged 13 to 17, but the Royal Princess and Regal Princess take it a step further. They have teen clubs called Remix that include outdoor lounges with wading pools and space for open-sky parties. The indoor section of Remix offers a DJ booth, games, dance classes, and more.

Disney Cruise Line’s ships have Vibe, a space exclusively for teens aged 14 to 17. Vibe’s location and amenities vary a bit from ship to ship. On the Disney Magic and Disney Wonder, Vibe is in the forward funnel and is styled like an urban loft, with activities like games, dance parties, karaoke contests, and more. On the Disney Dream and Disney Fantasy, Vibe has the style of a downtown club, with the added attraction of an attached sun deck.

Royal Caribbean’s Adventure Ocean has separate, dedicated lounges and activities for younger teens (age 12 to 14) and older teens (age 15 to 17). Activities for both groups are similar – including movie nights, themed dinners, video games, karaoke contests, pool parties, and dances – but the two age groups can help some teens feel more comfortable as they meet new people.

Of course, whatever cruise line you sail on, your teen will want to explore the whole ship and enjoy some of the amenities, dining options, and entertainment that are available to everyone. Still, it’s good to have an exclusive onboard space where teens can take a break from parents and younger siblings and simply be with other teens for a while. It’s a fun experience that may help your teen enjoy the entire cruise that much more.

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Monday, June 20, 2022

Important Documents for Your Next Cruise

If you haven’t cruised for a while, remember that there are some important documents you should bring onboard with you, including your passport and COVID-19 vaccination card.

Your passport serves as an official ID and proof of citizenship. Bring your actual, physical passport; in some situations, a printed copy or an image of your passport may not be accepted. It’s also important to check your passport’s expiration date before you make a cruise reservation because many cruise lines require your passport to be valid for at least six months after the end date of your cruise.

Note that if you’re taking a “closed-loop” cruise – one that begins and ends at the same U.S. port – a passport is not required. But, you’ll still need to bring a government-issued ID that includes a photo (such as a driver’s license) and proof of citizenship (such as a birth certificate). And, some ports of call may still require a passport before you’re allowed to step off the ship.

If you’re cruising from the U.S. to certain destinations – including Canada, Mexico, Bermuda, and some Caribbean islands – you may be able to use a U.S. passport card instead of a regular passport. But some cruise lines always require each passenger to have a regular passport, regardless of the itinerary.

As with your passport, bring your actual, physical vaccination card, even if you provide a digital copy to the cruise line when you make your reservation. Many cruise lines now require most or all passengers to be fully vaccinated against COVID-19, and some ports also require proof of vaccination for passengers who wish to come onshore. Tip: If you can’t find your vaccination card, contact the organization that provided the vaccine – such as your doctor’s office, a pharmacy, or the local health department – to ask for a copy.

Requirements for proof of COVID-19 vaccination status may vary between cruise lines, and even among the ships of the same cruise line; specific requirements may also depend on your port of embarkation or debarkation. Plus, these requirements can change, so stay connected with your professional travel advisor for the latest information.

A quick note about visas: you can visit most places in the world via cruise ship without a visa, but when one is required, the cruise line is likely to make the necessary arrangements.

Finally, remember to pack any other documents your cruise line requires; consult with Anita, your professional travel advisor, to make sure you have all the documents you need.

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Monday, June 13, 2022

Considerations for Mature Voyagers

Many of today’s cruise ships provide non-stop, heart-pumping action onboard, from water coasters to ziplines, ropes courses, go-kart tracks, skydiving simulators, and more. But if your days of joyfully careening down a water slide or scaling a climbing wall are behind you, you may not need a ship with high-adrenaline attractions. If you’ve reached a more mature stage of life – say, age 60 or more – check out some mid-sized ships with amenities you may appreciate.

For example, Viking Ocean Cruises has a lot to offer mature passengers who are interested in learning more about the places they visit. The line sails in Scandinavia, the Mediterranean, Greece, South America, Australia, Alaska, and more, and every ship sails with a resident historian who provides cultural insights along the way. Viking’s nine ocean-going ships each accommodate 930 guests in a serene atmosphere, with Scandinavian-style furnishings and luxuries like heated bathroom floors. There are no onboard casinos, and no children: Viking requires passengers to be at least 18 years of age.

If you enjoy cruise traditions like dressing up for dinner, consider Cunard Line. Its three ships sail to many parts of the world, and it’s the only cruise line with regular transatlantic service. Queen Victoria, Queen Elizabeth, and Queen Mary 2 each accommodate about 2,000 passengers. There are fun activities for all ages, but mature travelers might particularly enjoy the cultural programs and the large shipboard libraries. The Queen Mary 2 has a lovely planetarium, too. The level of elegance reaches a peak each afternoon when white-gloved waiters serve traditional British tea with finger sandwiches, scones, and pastries.

The ships of Holland America Line also appeal to mature travelers, with lots of itineraries for those who have time to sail to destinations like the Panama Canal, South America and Antarctica, the South Pacific, or Australia and New Zealand. These ships accommodate 1,500 to 2,100 passengers, and cultural activities may include “port-to-table” explorations of local cuisine; learning more about our world with BBC Earth Experiences; and plenty of great live music.

There are additional tempting options for mature cruise fans, including luxury lines like Regent Seven Seas Cruises, Silversea Cruises, Windstar Cruises, and Seabourn Cruise Line. These cruise lines have beautiful ships, great cultural programs, and gourmet dining; and, the fares may include amenities you would pay for separately on other lines.

For more information and to select your next cruise, talk with Anita, your professional travel advisor.

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Monday, June 6, 2022

The Perfect Gift for Dad

Dads who are better at giving than receiving may not give much thought to what they would like to receive for Father’s Day, so we have a suggestion. If you asked your dad what he wants and he said something like, “Nothing,” “I don’t know,” or “Just a hug,” here’s an idea for a really special Father’s Day gift: a cruise.

If your dad is already a cruise fan, you may have a good idea of his preferences. If not, here are some things to consider:

How long can he cruise? If he has time only for a quick getaway, check out short cruises, such as two-, three- or four-day cruises to The Bahamas or the Mexican Riviera. Even a short cruise can give him time to relax, refresh, enjoy the scenery and visit an interesting port or two. An affordable short cruise may be a good fit for your Father’s Day gift budget, as well.

If he has more time available to cruise, there are lots of options for voyages of seven nights or more. He could sail the Caribbean, the Mediterranean, Northern Europe, South America, or other parts of the world.

If you have a generous gift budget and dad has lots of free time, a regional grand voyage or a world cruise is a spectacular gift for a dad who loves travel.

Is he casual or dressy? In general, cruise line dress codes have been trending toward casual; on many ships, shorts and t-shirts are fine for daytime, and casual slacks and a collared shirt are good for the evening.

But some ships maintain the tradition of dressing up for dinner, at least on designated formal evenings. If your dad loves to put on a suit and tie or even a tuxedo, ask your professional travel advisor to recommend some cruise lines and ships where he can do just that.

Is he a nature lover, or really adventurous? There are lots of cruise options for dads who enjoy the outdoors: cruises to Alaska, the Caribbean, or Mexico all provide stunning natural beauty and opportunities to see wildlife.

These destinations can also provide some heart-pumping action for dads who love a thrill – such as dog sledding over a glacier, parasailing over the ocean, scuba diving in the deep, or ziplining through a forest canopy.

To learn more and select a cruise for your dad (and for you, if you can cruise with him), talk with Anita, your professional travel advisor.

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Monday, May 30, 2022

The New Way to Muster

The muster drill may not be anyone’s favorite activity on a cruise ship, but it is one of the most important. It’s a safety drill that makes sure you and your fellow passengers know where to gather (“muster” means to collect or assemble) and what to do in the rare instance of an emergency. Some people call muster drills “lifeboat drills,” because passengers traditionally gather close to the lifeboats they’re assigned to if the ship must be evacuated; again, that’s a very rare occurrence.

The most important things to know about muster drills is that they take place before or just after embarkation, and you must participate. Muster drills are required, and the consequences for skipping them can be serious. If you don’t complete the drill, expect the crew to search for you; when they find you, they may invite you to attend a “catch-up” drill or to leave the ship.

In traditional muster drills, after a ship-wide announcement, everyone goes to their muster stations at the same time (the location of your station is usually printed on your passenger card and posted in your cabin). Some cruise lines ask you to bring a life jacket from your cabin, while others store life jackets at the muster stations. At your station, your passenger card will be scanned, or your attendance recorded in some other way as the crew provides important safety information.

But now, muster drills are changing. Even before the COVID-19 pandemic began, some cruise lines were rethinking their drills and moving toward a more digital experience. Now, several cruise lines conduct digital muster drills, sometimes using passenger smartphone apps.

The specifics vary by cruise line, but in a digital muster drill, passengers can review safety information by watching a video on their smartphones or cabin TVs. Some lines even allow passengers to watch the safety video before they board the ship. Then, once onboard, each passenger must physically check-in at their assigned muster station. This removes the need for everyone to gather at their muster stations at the same time, which helps with COVID-19 safeguards and is simply more convenient.

It’s still important to complete a digital muster drill, and to do so as soon as possible, perhaps even before you go to your cabin for the first time.

For more information on the muster drill procedure for your next cruise, talk with Anita, your professional travel advisor.

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Monday, May 23, 2022

Cruise Ship Packages for Specialty Dining

Cruise lines have long offered beverage packages to make it easy for passengers to pre-purchase the drinks they plan to enjoy while onboard the ship. Now, some cruise lines are offering specialty dining packages, too.

Some cruise ships, especially newer and larger ships, have a dozen or more specialty restaurants, which often charge extra fees for their high-end dining. These extra fees can be quite affordable individually, but if you want to dine at a different specialty restaurant every evening of your cruise, the individual fees can add up. As with beverage packages, specialty dining packages – especially when purchased in advance of your cruise – can be a help to staying within your cruise budget.

Let’s take a look at a few cruise line dining packages:

Norwegian Cruise Line offers a specialty dining package that lets you select the number of specialty meals you want to enjoy during your cruise, with savings of about $10 per meal. The exact specialty restaurants available vary by ship, but those covered by the specialty dining package include American Diner; Cagney’s Steakhouse; Food Republic, which specializes in the fusion of global cuisines; Le Bistro, which offers sophisticated French fare; Los Lobos; Moderno Churrascaria; celebrity chef Geoffrey Zakarian’s Ocean Blue; Pincho Tapas Bar; Q Texas Smokehouse; and Sushi and Teppanyaki.

MSC Cruises has a variety of dining package options that, when purchased in advance of your cruise, can save you up to 35% on specialty restaurant fees. You can choose from packages that cover the extra fees at one, two, or three different specialty restaurants. Depending on your ship, these restaurants may include L’Atelier Bistrot; Kaito, which features sushi, sashimi, and tempura; Butcher’s Cut, which serves mouthwatering steaks; Hola Tapas Bar; Ocean Cay Seafood; and Asian Market Kitchen.

Royal Caribbean’s specialty dining packages can save you up to 40% on specialty restaurant fees. You can choose a package that sets you up to dine in three different restaurants; or, one that gives you unlimited opportunities for specialty dining, as well as discounts on bottles of wine. Again, the selection of restaurants depends on your ship, but may include Samba Grill, a Brazilian-style steakhouse; Izumi, where sushi is the star; Giovanni’s Italian Kitchen; Portside BBQ; Wonderland Imaginative Cuisine; Sabor; Chops Grill; and Jamie’s Italian from celebrity chef Jamie Oliver.

Ask Anita, your professional travel advisor, to help you choose a cruise line and specialty dining package that can save you money and get your taste buds dancing.

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Monday, May 16, 2022

Discovering Nassau

If you live in North America, one of the world’s most popular, warm-weather cruise destinations is always close by: The Bahamas. This nation of more than 700 islands, cays, and islets, is sprinkled over more than 500 square miles of the Atlantic Ocean. Some of the islands are less than 100 miles off the Florida coast, just north of the Caribbean.

During the winter, Bahamian weather is clear and balmy, with daytime temperatures hovering around 80 degrees. Summers are a bit warmer and wetter, but that doesn’t diminish the beauty of the islands and their palm-fringed beaches.

Most cruises to The Bahamas call on Nassau, the capital and home to about 70% of the population. It’s one of the world’s busiest cruise ports, with plenty to see and do.

History buffs will find historic sites in walking distance of the cruise ship dock, Prince George Wharf. These include buildings that date from the 17th and 18th centuries when Nassau was home to pirates and those who wanted to capture them. In Parliament Square, the Bahamian Assembly, Senate, and Supreme Court meet in pink, colonial-era buildings. Climb the Queen’s Staircase to Fort Fincastle, which offers beautiful views. Or take an excursion to the historic villages of Adelaide, Fox Hill, and Gambier, settled by Africans who gained freedom from slavery in the 1800s.

If you want to enjoy the water, take an excursion in a glass-bottom boat or ride a jet ski; go snorkeling, scuba diving or fishing; or simply enjoy a nap on a beach. Beaches popular with cruise ship visitors include Junkanoo Beach, a leisurely walk from the dock; Cable Beach, prized for soft sand and clear water; and Montagu Beach, which has another historic fort. You can also take a water taxi to Paradise Island, a beachy district where some hotels and resorts offer day packages for cruise ship passengers.

If souvenir shopping calls you, head to the Bay Street retail district, steps away from Prince George Wharf. The Straw Market offers locally made crafts and gifts, while nearby shops are filled with luxury designer goods. When you’re ready for lunch, you can find it anywhere from an outdoor market stall to a gourmet restaurant. Local delicacies include fresh conch fritters and peas n’ rice, made with brown pigeon peas.

Ask Anita, your professional travel advisor, to help you select a cruise to The Bahamas that includes a day in colorful Nassau.

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Monday, May 9, 2022

The World’s Largest Cruise Ships

Royal Caribbean Cruise Line just introduced the newest and largest cruise ship in the world, the Wonder of the Seas. This mega-ship is earning positive reviews for the terrific variety of things to do, see, eat, and otherwise enjoy onboard.

What makes the Wonder of the Seas the world’s largest cruise ship? It can carry the most passengers: 6,988 at maximum capacity. But cruise ship size is often expressed in terms of gross tonnage, which is a measure of overall interior volume. At more than 236,800 gross tons, the Wonder of the Seas is the world’s largest cruise ship by that standard, too.

All that volume provides space for thousands of passenger cabins and suites, as well as 2,300 crew members; more than 30 restaurants, bars, and lounges; entertainment that includes a karaoke venue, a zip line, a solarium, a surf simulator, rock climbing walls, clubs for kids and teens and an ice-skating spectacular; multiple pools and whirlpools; and much more.

Operating the world’s largest cruise ship is nothing new to Royal Caribbean, which sails the five biggest cruise ships at sea: Wonder of the Seas, Symphony of the Seas, Harmony of the Seas, Oasis of the Seas, and Allure of the Seas. All of them are loaded with great features, and each can host more than 6,600 passengers.

If you like cruising on a big ship, consider the largest ships from some other cruise lines, too:

 MSC Cruises: MSC Grandiosa, up to 6,761 passengers; and MSC Virtuosa, up to 6,334 passengers

Costa Cruises: Costa Smeralda and Costa Toscana, up to 6,554 passengers each

 Norwegian Cruise Line: Norwegian Epic, up to 5,183 passengers

 Princess Cruises: Sky Princess, up to 4,610 passengers

There’s a lot to like about mega-ships; they have so many activities, entertainment options, and dining venues that you really can’t get bored. However, they only visit ports that have facilities that can accommodate large ships and lots of visitors.

If the places you sail to are of more interest to you than the ship itself, consider a smaller ship – ask your professional travel advisor for suggestions. Smaller ships may not have quite as many onboard attractions, but they often provide a wider selection of itineraries.

And, whatever the size of your next cruise ship, don’t make the mistake of calling it a boat. Just remember that “a ship can carry a boat, but a boat can’t carry a ship.”

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