Available on the 13 July Dover-to-Dover sailing aboard Crystal Symphony, the new-for-2008 excursions provide guests with the opportunity to play at four championship courses, including Gleneagles King's Course; The Royal Belfast Golf Club, the oldest club in Ireland; O'Meara Course at Carton House; and K-Club, designed by golf legend Arnold Palmer. And because the ship stays in Edinburgh overnight, you could conceivably play at Gleneagles two days in a row (at $638 an excursion though) -- which brings the number of new golf options to five.
Note: Non duffers needn't worry: The traditional Crystal shore offerings will also be available in every port.
The cost to play at these top-end courses doesn't come cheap, however. Excursions cost from $446 to $995 depending on the course; that'll cover transportation from the port, use of the club house facilities, a warm-up bucket, greens' fees, and a light lunch in between the first and second nine.
Links enthusiasts who enjoy watching the best as much as they enjoy playing can catch the final day of the British Open in Liverpool (20 July) with a choice of two Crystal-sponsored excursions. The cost for the first is $292, and it includes transport and a general admittance grounds' pass. The second "VIP" package, for $991, includes transportation, access to a private hospitality area, a grounds' pass, open bar, invitation to a Champagne reception and a four-course lunch with wine. (One caveat: In the small print, Crystal notes that, "Due to the limited time in port, guests may not be able to stay for the entire duration of play" -- could be quite a blow if the final day came down to the wire.)
Experienced cruisers know that cruise line-sponsored shore excursions are almost always more pricey than those booked independently -- and we can't help but note the markups here. Case in point, I was able to book the same ticket for the final day of the British Open for 56 pounds (approximately $110 U.S.). You would, of course, have to book independent transport to make the approximately 20 mile journey to and from the course.
No stranger to golf-themed cruises, Crystal is also offering three other golf-focused itineraries this year in the Mediterranean, Canary Islands, and the maritime coast of Canada and New England. These cruises feature golf clinics, group and private instruction from the visiting PGA professionals, celebrity hosts and the unique opportunity to golf in as many as three different countries on each voyage.
--by Dan Askin, Assistant Editor