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, February 26, 2024

Be Entertained Aboard the Icon of the Seas


Everything about Royal Caribbean’s new ship, the Icon of the Seas, promises a new kind of cruise experience. That includes a terrific variety of onboard entertainment.

With an emphasis on the excitement of live music performance, the Icon sails with dozens of musicians on board. They perform at Lou’s Jazz & Blues, the Dueling Pianos bar, the Point & Feather English Pub, and several other venues around the ship.

Musicians are also an integral part of two productions in the Royal Theater. A 16-piece orchestra accompanies a spectacular staging of the beloved musical fantasy “The Wizard of Oz” (the classic tale has been updated with some modern touches, too). And, a show called “SHOWBAND! Live. Music. Now.” puts the spotlight firmly on talented musicians.

More than 75 other performers, from singers to skateboarders to ice skaters, will be ready to take their places under the lights of the ship’s multiple performance venues. Here are a few highlights:

In the AquaDome – an exciting new version of the Aqua Theater on other Royal Caribbean ships – a show called “Aqua Action!” combines the breathtaking skills of high divers, aerialists, skateboarders, and synchronized swimmers with of-the-moment performance technology. The AquaDome is also the stage for “Pirates vs. Mermaids,” a lighthearted show that reveals who truly rules the ocean.

The power and beauty of top-level ice skating is on display at Absolute Zero, the Icon’s ice arena. The choreography of “Starburst: Elemental Beauty” takes full advantage of Royal Caribbean’s largest ice rink yet. Another ice show, “Once Upon a Time: The King’s Royal Ball” features familiar fairytale characters.

Be prepared for excitement along the Royal Promenade – from time to time, groups of sailors, swashbucklers and scalawags turn it into a stage for an entertaining demonstration of their skills, as well as a battle of wits.

Before or after a performance, you can relax around one of the ship’s seven pools, take a trip down one of six water slides, enjoy one of the family play areas or try out some of more than 40 dining spots and bars.

With Caribbean ports to explore and so many options for onboard entertainment, it’s unlikely that anyone could be bored on the Icon of the Seas. The ship’s itineraries include Perfect Day at CocoCay, the cruise line’s fabulous private island, too. To learn more about the Icon and how you can sail on it, talk with Anita, your professional travel advisor.

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

 

Monday, February 19, 2024

Sail on a New – or Good as New – Cruise Ship

This promises to be an exciting year for cruise fans, as a variety of brand-new ships are scheduled to begin riding the waves.

Royal Caribbean’s highly anticipated Icon of the Seas is ready to begin its reign as the world’s largest cruise ship at the end of January. Passengers will enjoy the ship’s innovative new performance spaces and activities, comfortable cabins and suites, and exciting new restaurants and bars. And – for your advance cruise planning – Royal Caribbean plans to add two more new ships to the Icon class by mid-2026.

Princess Cruises will also introduce a new class of ship this year. The Sun Princess, debuting in February, will be the first ship in the Sphere class. This will be the largest ship in the Princess fleet, offering new types of suite accommodations, the first roll glider ride at sea, and new areas where kids, teens, and families can enjoy themselves. The Sun Princess will sail in the Mediterranean before moving to the Caribbean.

Disney Cruise Line’s new Disney Treasure will showcase the prankster-turned-hero Aladdin, among other popular characters. Onboard highlights include a water slide with a new Mickey and Minnie Mouse adventure story, three theaters, and a rotational dining plan that lets guests dine at different restaurants each day, but with the same familiar wait staff. The Treasure will sail in the Caribbean.

Several other cruise lines will launch new ships this year, including Cunard Line, Ritz-Carlton Yacht Collection, Silversea, and Viking Ocean Cruises, as well as river cruise lines Ama Waterways and Avalon.

New cruise ships have lots of appeal, but high demand can increase their fares. As an alternative, consider sailing on a ship that’s recently been refurbished and updated.

Norwegian Cruise Line’s Norwegian Joy will use a three-week stay in dry dock this January to reconfigure some suites, add two dozen balcony cabins and a thermal suite, and expand the Vibe Beach Club. The ship will sail in the Caribbean this spring before switching to Bermuda cruises.

Oceania Cruises will undertake a major refurbishment of the Marina this May, redesigning some suites and adding new dining options. The updated ship will have the line’s signature restaurant, Aquamar Kitchen; al fresco dining in a new Italian trattoria; and an all-day ice cream parlor. The refreshed Marina will sail in Northern Europe this summer.

For more information about a voyage on a new or renewed ship in 2024, talk with Anita, your professional travel advisor.

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

Monday, February 12, 2024

Planning a Spring Break Cruise

Spring break – that week or two each spring when many schools, from kindergarten through college, take a break from classes – has become a popular time to cruise. While spring break schedules vary by school, they usually take place in March or April, when much of North America is still emerging from winter.

For many spring break cruisers, especially those who have one week off, that means the best destination choices are warm-weather places close to the U.S. For example, The Bahamas, just 80 miles or so off Florida’s Atlantic coast, is a very popular option. Several cruise lines offer three- and four-night cruises, which fit neatly into a week-off schedule.

More options for spring break cruises include three- to five-night cruises to either the Caribbean coast or the Pacific coast of Mexico. Cruises to Mexico’s beachy Caribbean ports may include stops in Progreso (near Mérida and Chichén Itzá), Cozumel, Cancún or Riviera Maya. On Mexico’s mountainous Pacific coast, port calls may include Ensenada, Mazatlán, Acapulco, or Cabo San Lucas.

It’s also possible to enjoy a spring break cruise in the Mediterranean, especially if you have two weeks off. There are a few Mediterranean cruises of three to five nights, but you’ll have more options to choose from if you can cruise for at least seven nights.

In addition to destinations, spring breaker cruisers should think about the kind of onboard vibe they’re looking for. There are at least two unofficial categories of spring break cruises: family-oriented cruises that cater to kids and their adults, and party-oriented cruises that provide young adults with lots of fun. College-age cruisers may want to consider a line like Virgin Voyages, which has a minimum passenger age of 18. And while Royal Caribbean and Norwegian Cruise Line are family-oriented, they are also known for having lots of entertainment and nightlife on board. For a family-oriented cruise, you can also look to Disney Cruise Line, Holland America Line, Princess Cruises, and more.

For college-age cruisers, it’s important to carefully check age requirements before booking. Many cruise lines require passengers under the age of 21 to be accompanied by someone who is over 21. And, 21 is often the minimum age for ordering and consuming alcohol on board. Cruise lines strictly enforce their drinking age policies, and violating them can result in removal from the ship.

For more advice about spring break cruising and help making reservations, talk with Anita, your professional travel advisor.

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

Monday, February 5, 2024

Icon of the Seas Offers New Dining Options

Ever since Royal Caribbean first announced a project called “Icon” in 2016, anticipation for the Icon of the Seas, the line’s newest ship, has been ramping up. Icon of the Seas is unlike any ship to come before it, beginning with its size: it’s the world’s largest cruise ship, with 20 decks and the capacity for up to 7,600 passengers.

To make sure everyone is well-fed, Icon of the Seas has lots of places to drink and dine within the ship’s eight “neighborhoods.” There are established Royal Caribbean favorites, including Chops Grille, Izumi’s, Giovanni’s Italian Kitchen, and a popular bar called Lime and the Coconut. But, at least 20 of the ship’s dining options are brand-new.

The AquaDome neighborhood (a new twist on the Aqua Theater found on other Royal Caribbean ships) has several restaurants and bars. The AquaDome Market is Royal Caribbean’s first food hall, with five stalls dishing up a variety of family-friendly options. The AquaDome also has a new private dining experience called Celebration Table. And, the new Overlook Bar has terrific views over the bow of the ship.

The Chill Island neighborhood is all about having fun in the water, as four of the seven onboard pools are located there. It features Royal Caribbean’s first swim-up bar, Swim & Tonic, which specializes in tonic-based cocktails.

In the Thrill Island neighborhood, passengers can try out six exciting water slides, and then grab a tasty bite at Basecamp, where the menu includes bao buns with crispy shrimp and pretzel bites with cheese. Thrill Island visitors can also cool down and fill up with a gourmet milkshake from Desserted, which serves both alcohol-free and boozy options (which are for adults only, of course).

After passengers splash about in the water play areas of the Surfside neighborhood, they can enjoy a meal at the family-oriented Surfside Eatery or Pier 7, which serves brunch-style fare all day. Surfside Bites is another quick-serve venue, featuring kid-pleasers like burgers and popcorn chicken.

If the thought of sailing among these dining options (and many more) makes your mouth water, talk with Anita, your professional travel advisor. Beginning in late January, Icon of the Seas will homeport in Miami and sail seven-day cruises in the Eastern or Western Caribbean. Your travel advisor can also tell you about the amazing array of cabin categories and entertainment aboard this exciting new ship, as well as the adventures waiting for you on shore.

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

Monday, January 29, 2024

Incentives to Look for When Booking Your Next Cruise

We’re approaching “Wave Season” – the cruise industry’s name for January 1 through March 31, a popular time to make cruise reservations. That’s because Wave Season is when cruise lines offer some of the best booking incentives of the entire year; sometimes they even let you choose the incentive you want most. So, what should you look for?

Onboard credits. Credits are a flexible incentive because they can be used to purchase a variety of goods and services while you’re on board. Exactly how they can be used varies by cruise line, but they can often be used toward purchases in the ship’s boutiques and shops, spa and specialty dining venues, and more. Be sure to use up your onboard credits during your cruise; you can’t redeem them for cash or on a subsequent cruise.

Wi-Fi access. A cruise is a good time to disconnect from it all, so access to onboard Wi-Fi may not be important to you. But if you need to stay connected to your home or office while at sea, Wi-Fi access can cost about $30 per day, making complimentary access a nice incentive. Note that the cruise line may limit the number of devices that can connect to Wi-Fi from your cabin; limit the time you can be connected; or block streaming.

Premium beverage packages. If you’ve cruised before, you know that quite a few beverages – including soda, fresh juices, premium coffee and tea, beer, wine, and liquor – may not be included in the cruise fare. A package that provides deep discounts on these beverages or makes them complimentary is a popular booking incentive. But, pay attention to the fine print: some packages don’t include required gratuities for beverage service or exclude “super-premium” brands.

Kids sail free. To help attract families, some incentives let kids under age 12 sail free in the same cabin as their parents; others offer discounts on kids’ fares. On some cruise lines, the third and fourth passengers in a cabin can sail for free regardless of their age or relationship to the fare-paying occupants. This incentive can be an exceptional value, but be sure you’re ready to share a cabin (and its bathroom) with three other people. Also, this incentive may not be available for cruises during major holidays.

For more information about these and other booking incentives – such as complimentary shore excursions, cabin upgrades, specialty dining packages, and more – talk with Anita, your professional travel advisor.

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

 

Monday, January 22, 2024

Navigating the Cruise Ship Buffet

A welcoming destination for the hungry, a buffet is part of the dining scene on most cruise ships. Here are a few things to know (or be reminded of) before you visit the buffet on your next cruise.

The buffet should be easy to find: it’s usually on the same deck as the main pool, also called the Lido Deck. And it’s usually a casual venue, so you don’t need to be dressed up to go there. But if you’re in your swimsuit when you get hungry, you’ll need to put on some clothes and shoes before you visit the buffet (or any other dining spot on board).

Buffet service style varies by cruise line. Some are completely self-serve; some have crew members plate the food that you select; and some have a combination of self-serve and crew-served stations. Some buffets have scheduled serving hours and close overnight, but some are open 24 hours a day.

Whatever the serving style and hours of the buffet on your ship, it’s important to observe some basic rules of buffet etiquette. These include patiently waiting your turn; always using the provided utensils (not your fingers) to select food; and using a clean plate each time you return. These rules are simply good manners, and they’re essential to good buffet hygiene.

For breakfast, lunch, and dinner, the buffet will have a wide variety of entrees, side dishes, and desserts, both hot and cold. Some will be rich and decadent, but there should also be plenty of fresh fruits and vegetables, healthy grains, and lean proteins. Many buffets include some vegetarian, vegan, and gluten-free items, too. Most food is prepared in advance, but there may be made-to-order stations for items like omelets, pasta, or tacos.

If you’re allergic to or can’t tolerate certain foods, you may need to approach the buffet with caution. If you need to be sure about the content of a dish before you taste it, ask a server. But, remember that people sometimes use the same utensils at multiple food stations; it’s all too easy to drop a little food from one dish into another. If your allergies are severe, it may be best to eat in the main dining room or another onboard venue where the crew can accommodate your specific needs.

If you’d like to know more about dining options at sea, just ask Anita, your professional travel advisor.

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

Monday, January 15, 2024

Enjoying a Cruise Ship’s Specialty Restaurants

On most cruises, several dining options are included in your fare, but many ships also have specialty dining venues you can enjoy – for an extra charge. Is the extra cost worth it? And if so, how can you make the most of a specialty dining experience?

Whether or not onboard specialty dining is worth the cost really depends on you. If you love good food with quality ingredients, sophisticated cooking techniques, and beautiful presentation, you’ll probably enjoy the experience. But if you like to be served right away and to eat quickly, specialty dining may not be the right choice for you – it’s usually a leisurely meal.

While there’s an extra charge for most specialty dining, it’s often significantly less than you would pay for a comparable meal in a fine-dining restaurant at home. To make it even more affordable, some specialty restaurants offer discounts if you make a reservation for the very first night of the cruise; if you come in for lunch rather than dinner; or if you purchase a specialty dining package (which may include more than one onboard specialty restaurant). Also, if you have any onboard credits, you may be able to use them to cover some or all of the cost of a wonderful meal in a specialty restaurant.

To make the most of a specialty dining experience, start by dressing for the occasion. These restaurants usually don’t require anything as formal as tuxedos and long gowns, but they may ask for no shorts, tank tops or flip-flops.

If you’re cruising with children who enjoy dining out, many specialty restaurants welcome children and even have special pricing for them. But if your kids would rather do their own thing, take them to the buffet or pizza stand for an early dinner, then check them into an onboard kids’ club; they’ll have fun while you savor your dinner.

One more tip: if you want more information about any item on a specialty restaurant’s menu, just ask. In the small and intimate environment of a specialty restaurant, the staff will be happy to explain ingredients and preparation, guiding you toward dishes you’ll love.

To enjoy specialty dining on your next cruise, talk with Anita, your professional travel advisor. You may be able to purchase a specialty dining package and make reservations in advance; if not, your advisor may have advice for securing reservations as soon as you get on board.

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

 

Monday, January 8, 2024

Quieter Ports of Call

If you’d like to sail to some of the world’s quieter cruise ports, here are some that – at least for now – are visited by just a few cruise lines. These emerging ports are usually called on by smaller ships operated by luxury cruise lines (which is a wonderful way to travel, of course).

Dingle, Ireland, is on a County Kerry peninsula that stretches about 30 miles into the North Atlantic. The scenery is stunning, with pristine beaches backed by rugged cliffs and mountains. There are pre-historic and early medieval ruins to explore, including the remains of Dunbeg Fort. The Dingle Oceanworld Aquarium highlights the area’s abundant marine life. There are also some sweet memorials to Fungie, a bottlenose dolphin who lived in close contact with the people of Dingle for more than 35 years.

Crotone, in Italy’s Calabria region, looks out over the blue Ionian Sea. A castle from the 16th century houses a municipal museum, and a National Archaeological Museum displays significant finds from dig sites around the area. Fires and earthquakes have caused the Cathedral of Crotone to be rebuilt a few times, but it has artifacts that are centuries old. Crotone also has wonderful restaurants, including some that have earned Michelin stars.

Asau, on the Samoan island of Savai’i, has a surprisingly turbulent history. It was partially destroyed by volcanic activity in the mid-1700s; hosted U.S. Marines during World War II; and survived a huge explosion when the New Zealand Navy tried to blast a deep-water channel through a coral reef. Today, reefs are a prized feature of Asau’s pretty harbor. The island also has lava tubes, caves, blowholes, waterfalls, rainforests, and cloud forests to explore.

Kotor, Montenegro, lies along a stunning bay where impressive mountains rise directly from the water. It takes more than an hour for a cruise ship to sail up the bay and into the city, and the scenery is breathtaking the entire way. The city’s Old Town is one of the region’s best-preserved medieval town centers and includes a cathedral from 1166. Wear good walking shoes to explore the ancient city walls, narrow streets, and charming squares. You’ll notice that cats are beloved here because they’re thought to bring good luck; the Old Town even has a cat museum.

Talk with Anita, your professional travel advisor, about cruising to these and other ports that are a little off the usual cruise ship routes.

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

Monday, January 1, 2024

Cruise Dining at the Chef’s Table

It’s fascinating to learn how chefs use their skills and artistry to create culinary delights, and it’s even better to get to taste those creations, which has made the “chef’s table” dining concept popular. Fortunately for food and cruise lovers, some cruise lines offer chef’s table experiences at sea, which can be a memorable highlight of your voyage.

On a cruise, a chef’s table dinner is usually a multi-course tasting menu that’s not available anywhere else on the ship. It’s fine dining, and it’s exclusive: a chef’s table may be offered just one or two evenings of a cruise, and only for small groups (usually 12 or less). If the table isn’t actually in the ship’s galley, it’s usually in a private dining area nearby.

Here’s what you and your taste buds can expect at the chef’s table on some popular cruise lines:

Azamara Cruises offers chef’s table dinners that reflect the region the ship is sailing through; a lovely way to get familiar with the local cuisine. If you’re sailing in a wine-producing region, each course will be paired with a local vintage, too.

Oceania Cruises, known for its culinary focus, offers a variety of chef’s table menus in an intimate venue called Privee. These include a degustation (tasting) menu that starts with an amuse-bouche and ends with petit fours; a wine pairing menu; and “Best of Oceania Cruises” selections.

Princess Cruises offers chef’s table dinners for up to a dozen guests. The executive chef visits the table to explain the preparation of each course and gives some tasting suggestions, then sits down with the guests to enjoy dessert and conversation.

Royal Caribbean offers a chef’s table on selected ships and sailings. The menu offers five gourmet courses in a formal setting, and the chef de cuisine serves as host. Each course is accompanied by a special wine chosen by the head sommelier.

Ama Waterways, a river cruise line, offers a chef’s table dinner in a glass-enclosed space with beautiful river views, as well as a full view of the galley.

Most onboard chef’s table experiences come with a cover charge, although the chef’s table on Ama Waterways is an exception: reservations are required, but there’s no cover charge. Still, onboard chef’s table experiences always sell out – a good sign that it’s worth the splurge. To reserve a cruise and a place at the chef’s table, talk with Anita, your professional travel advisor.

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