At the time of this writing, I'm headed to a cruise in the Baltic Sea on the Crystal Symphony. I've taken my own advice to sample this ultra luxury line, while the first deep discounts in its history are in effect.
This will be my family's first experience with a 6-star ship, and our first visit to Northern Europe and Russia. When I look back at my vacation experiences, it seems that the "firsts" were frequently the best.
Having sailed on more than my share of 3-star ships, and on a couple that may have been 2-stars in disguise, Crystal should round out my understanding of all the wondrous vacation options that await at sea. I'll do anything for the company...
On the opposite end of the spectrum of cruise ship luxury, a few years back I sailed on the SS Independence, the only cruise ship authorized to sail wholly within the Hawaiian Islands due to its status as the last remaining cruise ship built in America. Its unique status had the effect of keeping the ship in service long past its normal life. Our cabin had an enormous hole in the ceiling of our closet, leading into the bowels of the ship. The "abandon ship" whistles sounded on 3 separate occasions (false alarms, all) in the middle of the night. And I'll never forget the elevator with the burned-out control panel lights that forced you to stick your head out on each deck to see where you were.
Then there was the Costa Rican adventure cruise on the 100-passenger Temptress Explorer. We slogged thru 6-inch-deep mud on our rain forest hikes. Our "triple" cabin was 2 twin beds with a 2" thick by 24" wide mat on the floor (guess who got the floor?). And as we sailed into a violent Pacific storm one night crossing to a Panamanian out-island, tossing wildly, I staggered to the bridge searching for a bit of reassurance from the Captain. I found the "night" captain, a 20-something sailor sitting in total darkness and steering the ship with his bare feet.
It was hardly an exaggeration when I went back to my cabin and told my anxious 10-year-old son that the Captain was not the least bit concerned by the storm.
You may be surprised to hear that we loved both of these cruises, even the quirky, casual ships. And so our luxury cruise this summer is not so much an evolution from the low end to the high as it is passing that point on a circle. We'll be slogging thru the mud again in no time.
Vacations To Go
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