A vacation on the water: “Crystal Cruising, 2010-Style”

csship22.jpg Hank Plante

On-board the Crystal Serenity, cruising the Mediterranean Sea –  There is no better way to smash the image of cruises being just for the old and idle than to actually take one.

In this case, I’m on the elegant Crystal Serenity ship, which seems to have as many youthful guests who look straight out of Silicon Valley as it does retirees.

And no wonder, our ports of call include some of the most urbane destinations in Europe:  Barcelona, Monte Carlo, Florence, Rome, Sorrento, and, after 12 days, Venice.csshiproom22.jpg

I first understood the appeal of cruises a few years ago when I took my mother on another Crystal Cruise to celebrate her 80th birthday.  (The trick to traveling with your parents is having separate staterooms.  It preserves the love and spares the sanity).

We had spent the morning touring Pompeii, which was wonderful but exhausting, especially for her.  The tour went until about noon.

From my previous trips to Europe, I knew that ordinarily this post-Pompeii time would be nothing but a hassle:  you’re exhausted, you need to find someplace for lunch, you’ll pay an exorbitant price (thanks to the weak Dollar), then you’ll pay another expensive cab fare back to your equally-overpriced hotel.  Those afternoons are the least-fun of any trip.

crystaldining22.jpg In this case, however, we simply rode back to the ship in an air-conditioned vehicle provided by Crystal, we strolled into the dining room, we had a lunch as good as any great European restaurant we could have found, and we didn’t take  out our wallets (since cruises are all-inclusive).  That’s when I “got” the whole notion of cruising.

Of course I’m spoiled since the two Crystal ships have been voted #1 in readers’ polls in both Conde Naste Traveler and Travel+Leisure magazines.  And since this is the cruise line’s 20th anniversary, they’re celebrating on-board in style.

Now for the bottom line:  a 12-day trip like this on Crystal begins at $6,470 per person.  That includes airfare, all meals, soft-drinks, entertainment, and, of course, travel to all those ports-of-call.  Crystal is also crediting up to $2,000 per couple in shipboard credits on some cruises, which can be used for shore excursions like our tour of Pompeii.  If you’re quick with a calculator, like I am, you’ll see that breaks down to $539 dollars per-day, per-person.

It would be easy to spend that much just on a top tier hotel room in Europe, with nothing else.

And in fact that’s what this ship is:  a giant, floating five-star hotel, but with extra amenities that make travel elegantly easy.  I’m sure I’ll do this again and again.

After all, with this kind of luxury, it’s easy to go overboard… if you’ll pardon the expression.hankplante221.jpg

About Hank:

Hank Plante is an Emmy Award-winning reporter who has spent 30 years covering California for TV stations in San Francisco and Los Angeles.  He lives in Palm Springs.  InstantRiverside.com is proud to have Hank as a contributing reporter.

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Saturday, August 14, 2010

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