My parents did a World Cruise in 1990 on the Royal Viking Sun, the top class ship of her day. Ever since then I have wanted to go myself, and when I saw the itinerary for Crystal's 2008 World Cruise on Serenity, I knew it would be perfect! I chose this cruise based on the destinations, the ship, service, food, and my previous experiences sailing with Crystal.
Over the course of 108 days I would visit most everyplace on earth I had never been, but had always want to see. Out of 45 ports of call, thirty eight were new to me. From Tahiti and French Polynesia to New Zealand, Australia, Vietnam, Singapore, Thailand, India and Egypt, this voyage had everything I was looking for. Serenity is a state-of-the-art vessel that is rated the best in class with six star food, service and accommodations. I had last sailed on this ship in 2006, when I did a circumnavigation of the British Isles. I knew and loved many of the officers and crew. When I stepped aboard this January, it was like coming home. Serenity is very luxurious, but understated. My stateroom was a deluxe outside on Deck 7, which is the Promenade. This is the standard category of cabin, but is very spacious at 225 square feet. There was plenty of room for me and all my belongings for this extended voyage.
For this year's World Cruise, over 100 of us would be sailing solo, due in part to Crystal's very reasonable single supplement. Everyone on my hallway would make the full voyage with me. This was Crystal's largest and most successful World Cruise to date; fully one third of the ship's capacity of 1,080 were on for the duration. The cruise was divided into eight segments ranging from 11 to 17 days each. Some passengers were only on for a segment or two, so there were always fresh faces coming and going.
When we embarked in San Pedro, CA on January 19th, the ship was almost full. Later segments became progressively lighter with fewer than 600 passengers as we neared the end of the World Cruise. The service never varied and each passenger was treated as a most valued guest by the crew. Many of the passengers were repeat World Cruisers, some on their tenth such voyage. Some of the older passengers never left the ship as they were here only for the onboard experience. Others, myself included, went ashore in every port exploring and doing excursions, some of which went overland to destinations such as the Taj Mahal.
Crystal Cruises offers an unmatched onboard experience. Destination lecturer Jay Wolff made presentations almost every sea day for the entire cruise. Special interest guest lecturers, celebrities and entertainers changed every segment. Financial advice was offered by Jane Bryant Quinn and Dr. Bob Froehlich. World affairs information was provided by the likes of anti-war activist Scott Ritter and retired General Nick Halley. A WC Olympics program was headed up by Cathy Rigby and Mitch Gaylord, with competitions ranging from putting to paddle tennis. Onboard entertainment was offered every night by the resident dancers and singers supplemented by stars such as concert pianist Hyperion Knight, singer Michele Belle, flautist Gary Arbuthnot and Broadway dancer Tommy Tune. This is in addition to college level computer courses, Berlitz language lessons, Yamaha piano lessons, and the Chorus, which I sang in.
Highlights of my experiences included a return visit to Maui, discovering Bali Hai on magnificent Moorea, marveling at the Fjords of New Zealand and making a long awaited visit to Australia. My return visit to Hong Kong was long overdue and was where I acquired my favorite souvenir of the journey; an incredible custom made silk dinner jacket. Southeast Asia brought many revelations, not the least of which were exposures to Hinduism, Buddhism and the Muslim world. My best day was undoubtedly spent on Kata Beach in Thailand. My least favored destinations were Oman, India and Vietnam, but all were incredible learning experiences. The Shwedagon Pagoda in Yangon was the most incredible of sights, right up there with the Temple of Luxor. I savored visiting Krete, Sicily and Valencia for the very first time.
A World Cruise is an incredible experience that is a huge investment of time and capitol. Serenity was the perfect choice of ship to carry me safely around the World in comfortable luxury. While I met many wonderful people onboard and ashore, some of my fellow passengers were most unpleasant company. As with any cruise, the people can make or break the experience. Fortunately the positives outweighed the negatives, but it took some getting used to the selfish and demanding attitudes of some of the older, repeat World Cruisers. I feel so incredibly fortunate to have been able to take such an incredible journey while I was still young enough to participate in the most demanding of excursions. My only regret is that I did not have a companion available to share my experiences. What a wonderful World we live in!