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Crystal Wakes Up To Late Risers 


You have a routine. The alarm rings at the same time, day after day. Your trip to the shower is short enough you could use a hand towel to dry off. Breakfast has to be eaten quickly. There’s a bus to catch or traffic to face or a clock to punch, literally or otherwise.

Deadlines. That’s what life us until…


Then you set your schedule, at last, be it for a week or two or longer. You decide what time you do virtually everything.

Cruises are vacations, aren’t they?

So what’s with these shore excursions that leave at the crack of eight o’clock so that you can spend all day touring around and get back, sometimes exhausted, before the ship leaves without you? What ever happened to sleeping in on vacation?

Crystal Cruises has the answer, or at least an answer.

Shore excursions called Crystal Adventures will have a special, effective a week from today. It’s called Late-Risers Adventures. Shore excursions that require you to be ready by sometime between 11 a.m. and noon. Crystal still gives passengers enough time on shore to see Anne Frank House and Van Gogh’s Museum in Amsterdam…to see a cathedral and a palace in Oporto, Portugal…to visit the Navy Yard, Boston Common, the Freedom Trail and the pre-revolutionary Old State House in Boston.

It’s a test, of course, because such innovations always are. That means it’s on “select sailings” — starting with Boston to Quebec on the Serenity next week — and much of the evaluation will come from the passengers who try it out. They’ll be asked for their unvarnished opinions, good or bad.

Just don’t call before 11.

Today at portsandbows.com: Uniworld’s unique itinerary

Holland America Eurodam
7 nights
October 26, 2014
Fort Lauderdale (return): Half Moon Cay, Ocho Rios, Grand Cayman, Key West
Inside: $409
Cost per day: $58

Cruise Voluntourism Crystal Clear


Cruise ships attract poverty. Because passengers are considered affluent, rightly or wrongly, poor people in ports flock to wherever cruise people go, sometimes to sell wares, often to beg. For passengers, this can be a help-or-not-help dilemma, just as it is on the streets of major cities in North America.

Many cruise lines have come to the aid of both.

An organization called Hope Floats went to five Caribbean Islands on the Caribbean Princess to do volunteer work and now arranges such opportunities for individual cruise passengers. Royal Caribbean has taken Oasis of the Seas passengers on voluntourism shore excursions in Cozumel.

Then there's Crystal.

Last year, every trip on the Crystal Serenity and Crystal Symphony (above) included a complimentary shore excursion that gave guests and crew a chance to help a "community-in-need." There were 45 such socially-responsible excursions in 2011 and this year there are more.

In January, Crystal added ports in Colombia, Curacao, Spain, Italy, Greece, Estonia, Germany, Croatia, Hawaii and Boston. Now there are more communities in Europe — a social services center in Odessa, a 400-year-old charity brotherhood in southern Italy, supporting disabled persons in Valencia, and protecting endangered marine life in Barcelona.

"The feedback from this program has been incredible, with stories of tears, hugs, pen pals, and generosity above and beyond anything we could have hoped for," says Thomas Mazloum, Crystal's senior vice-president operations. "We are thrilled to continue to 'pay it forward.'"

Everybody wins. Cruise lines, employees and passengers all feel better about themselves, and people who need help get it.

Coral Princess
3 nights
September 17, 2012
Vancouver, Los Angeles
Inside: $199
Cost per day: $66

Posing, posing, posing…on high seas

Vanity, thy name is photography. Let us begin by pointing out that we take hundreds — no, thousands — of pictures. We’re not even in all of them! But the idea of getting our pictures…oops, portraits…done after private consultation, unlimited shoot time, unlimited pictures (portraits) and a photo review is…

Maybe we’re just not sophisticated enough for this.

Evidently, Crystal Cruise passengers are. Or at least Crystal thinks its passengers are. Why else would this upscale — is that the definitive word here? — cruise line feature master photographers on eleven sailings next year. Make that Master Photographers.

They’re all award-winning shutterbugs, to be unsophisticated about it, and the final retouched photographs in “handcrafted, custom-bound, 16×12-inches, embossed-aluminum albums” will surely be a sight to behold. Maybe we just have a problem with seeing ourselves in a photo or portrait that’s 16 inches by 12.

There’s unquestionably a cost involved, one that goes beyond sailing on either the Crystal Symphony or Crystal Serenity. Since we already gave away our first-born, as well as our second and third, we would probably be in trouble here.

The “fun” starts January 18 on a sailing from Los Angeles to Sydney on the Serenity. The last sailing is October 31 from New York to Los Angeles on the Symphony. In between are nine more cruises of 12 to 22 days…

And it never occurred to us until right now: Just what do they have in mind by “unlimited shoot time?”

Cunard Queen Victoria
8 nights
March 16, 2012
Transatlantic:  New York to Southampton
Inside $595

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