Thursday, November 26, 2015

Crystal Serenity - Lisbon to Monaco: Crystal As a "Move Up" & "Move Over" Luxury Option - Part II

When considering any cruise line, here Crystal Cruises, as an alternative to your present favorite...or simply the one(s) you have tried, there is much to consider.  What is the ship like?  What are the qualities of the amenities, venues and tours?  How is the cuisine?  What about service?  And, of course, does the style of the cruise work with yours...or what you think yours is.

In search of answers to those questions, our second day on the Crystal Serenity was a great opportunity as it was a sea day spent sailing from Lisbon, Portugal to the island of Madeira.  This gave me an opportunity to begin my careful look at the Crystal Serenity, how Crystal delivers its product and to observe who it is exactly that sails on Crystal.

After a very unusual for me sleep in (the bed is quite comfortable) with our suite balcony door open just enough to allow the sea air and sounds to compliment the very gentle rocking of the ship, it was time to check out the service and the ship.

Our butler brought us a lovely breakfast, cooked to order, served on our balcony – which has very comfortable all-weather wicker furniture with thick cushions – with actually very good coffee (as opposed to the disappointing coffee elsewhere on the ship) and excellent freshly squeezed orange juice.  The pastries were not memorable…not that I needed to eat them!  On subsequent breakfasts the poached and fried eggs were excellent and the granola and oatmeal top notch.  The buckwheat blueberry pancakes were quite good as was the smoked salmon (though curiously served with onion and capers, but without tomato.)
Crystal Serenity has beautiful and comfortable veranda furnishings
making your in-suite breakfast even more enjoyable
 My first truly critical impression:  You would never know the actual age of the Crystal Serenity, as the ship is immaculately maintained, though its interior style is more akin to the finer old school New York hotels and its exterior that of the grand Palm Beach hotel al fresco areas.  What made this more remarkable to me was the fact that I rarely saw staff cleaning, polishing or vacuuming in public areas during the day or evenings.  Crystal must make a serious effort to perform these tasks when guests are asleep.

Actually there is one area where the ship does show its age:  The in-suite entertainment system. While Crystal has fantastic news programming (CNN, Fox News, BBC, SkyNews) its movie offerings are frustratingly vintage 2000 with a different movie on a couple of movie channels supplemented by DVDs you must retrieve from the Library...when its open.  Crystal does offer some better entertainment on your iPad, but when lying in bed or sitting in your suite that doesn't really cut it.  (Another niggle:  In the Penthouse you really can't sit on the sofa and watch television as the screen is partially blocked by its cabinet.)

Crystal really shines with its enrichment programs.  On each of the three sea days there was a full schedule ranging from lectures by Richard Roth, a long time CNN reporter, and a former US brigadier general.  They were especially interesting in light of the Paris attacks that took place just as this cruise started.  Other enrichment options range from how to make movies with your iPad to bridge instruction, dance lessons, knitting classes and more. 

It would be great if this pool on the bow of the Crystal Serenity
was available to guests.
Crystal Cruises reserves this for its crew, but they say the almost never use it.
(Maybe I'm being a bit selfish!)
For the more active, Crystal Cruises offers paddle tennis, two golf driving nets and a putting green (with lessons if you would like them), ping pong tables as well as a nice size pool and a true promenade to run or walk around the entirety of the ship.  And that is just on the ship!

Crystal Serenity's Deck 6 Aft has a putting green,
two golf driving cages and two ping pong tables.
Before talking more about the ship, this Crystal cruise also included some ports worth talking about.  And while these were not the most exciting ports, if you looked there were some interesting and fun things to do…and Crystal had a number of excursions in each that catered to a range from extremely active (scuba diving, serious bike riding and long runs) to those most sedentary could enjoy.  Crystal again excels in making sure guests know what they are signing up for two ways:  The descriptions (written and on the television) are very clear about activity levels and why (number of steps, length of walks, limited sitting areas, etc.) and with an excellent lecturer on the upcoming ports.

But you know me and ship’s tours are a rarity.  Our independent ventures brought out one weakness:  Crystal’s shuttles into and from town.  They are spread out over 30 minute periods, regardless of demand, so if you don’t time yourself well, you will be sitting on a bus for a long time (or, alternatively, frustratingly wasting time doing something else as you wait.)  Fifteen to 20 minute shuttles would be far more appropriate.  (In Monaco there was no shuttle so if you had any mobility issues you were relegated to a tour or ordering a taxi as the ship may dock at the harbor, but it is a good distance and steeply uphill to the areas you want to visit.)

Funchal, Madeira, Portugal
In Madeira there was only one thing I wanted to do:  A Madeira wine tasting.  But it was Sunday morning and the only place that would be open was still closed.  So we took a stroll after finding out the local market was also closed, and took a gondola ride to the top of one of the hills surrounding the city of Funchal. 

A Hazy View of the harbor in Funchal, Maderia, Portugal
But that wasn’t the reason for taking the gondola; it was for the ride down…by toboggan!  Is sliding down the steep road in a wicker basket with rails with only two guys guiding it with ropes…and their feet…touristic.  Yes, but ya gotta do it!

Ancient wicker toboggans waiting to slide you down
the steep roads of Funchal! 

One of the benefits of cruising in November is that there
were almost no lines, so the toboggoneers were waiting for us
rather than us waiting for them.
Note: It will cost you only 15 Euros for two to get up the hill, but 50 Euros to get down (30 Euros for the toboggan that stops about half way down and 20 Euros for the taxi to go the rest of the way down and into town).

It was then on to Blandy’s which, fortunately was open because there was a tour…and we made in just in time.  Crystal did offer a few wine tours (this is a Food & Wine Cruise), but they were more of a hint of what I wanted.  As I will discuss in another article, onboard the Crystal Serenity Food & Wine events were truly WOW experiences.

Once the staff at Blandy's understood I wanted a true Madeira wine tasting and not the one euro stuff offered to the tours, the fun began.  Trust me on this:  Most Madeira wine is good for little more than cooking (if that), but the good stuff is really good stuff!

Not all Madeira wine is heated and shaken; a process that assists
in preserving this usually not so delicious fortified wine

This is the Good Stuff
And this is the Really Good Stuff!
Then it was time for lunch at a little spot in the marina with a view of the ship.  It was, of course, local fare with limpets (similar to clams with only one shell), 

grilled sardines 

and a local vicious looking fish, scabbard (it is long and a sword's scabbard), which is actually a very light fish with banana (strange, but it works).

Back on board the Crystal Serenity, it was time to relax before enjoying what I believe is the best alternative restaurant at sea:  Nobu’s Silk Road.  

It was outstanding; both beautiful in presentation and in taste.
Trust me:  Order the Black Cod with Miso!

Crystal allows you to dine in each of its two alternative restaurants once for no charge and then at an additional charge of $30 per person for each night thereafter. If you are in a Penthouse or higher you can order from either to be served in your suite at no additional charge.  

Crystal Serenity's Penthouse affords you the ability to
dine on Nobu in your suite!
Not bad, huh?

My impression so far is that Crystal Cruises has lots of strengths and options that other luxury and premium lines do not offer.  Yes, there are a few things I, so far, see as worthy of improvement, but as you will read in my following articles, Crystal Cruises is measuring up well as a "move over" and a "move up" alternative.

Our Crystal Cruises’ experience continues…

Interested in booking a Crystal Cruise? Please give me a call:

United States:       (877) 2GO-LUXURY
United Kingdom: 020 8133 3450
Australia:              (07) 3102 4685
Everywhere Else: +1 732 578 8585

Or email me at

Monday, November 23, 2015

The Unfriendly Skies of United Airlines...Again!

Yesterday I flew home from a wonderful nine day cruise on the Crystal Serenity.  Other than a very early wake-up and a short flight from Nice, France to Frankfurt, Germany, I was relaxed and happy...And then I was smacked in the face by yet another United Airlines example of how unfriendly its skies are.

United Airlines allowed a 6' 4"+, 350+ pound, man to sit in a middle seat
like this one.  If it wasn't for the solid barrier I would have
had even less of my aisle seat!
I had the perfect Economy Plus (premium economy) seat:  16C on a 777-200 aircraft.  It is a bulkhead aisle seat with pretty much not even a bulkhead in front of me.  Lots of legroom and a view forward (rather than of a seat back and a head).  Things had been looking good with the middle seat empty the day before the flight (and United, in you will see) is supposed to keep those middle seats open if there are Premier status folks in the adjacent seats unless there are no other options.  It would have been perfect for me to actually get some work done (like writing and posting some articles!), but then reality struck.

I arrived at the gate to find those long boarding lines for all groups, even the "exclusive" Boarding Group 1; which was so long I was waiting in line next to the airport's public women's bathroom for 15 minutes (as United delayed boarding without notice).  And then it got worse.

Rather than recount it, what follows is my email to United Airlines, which pretty much sums it up:

Dear Sir/Madam:

My flight yesterday could, possibly, be the worst experience I have ever had with United regarding a flight that operationally had no serious issues.

Note that as I write this I am seriously stressed (recovering from my extended, but mild, claustrophobia attack) , sore (my back is out), furious and extremely disappointed.  

As my history with United Airlines reflects (Mileage Plus No. [XXXXXX], I fly with you often and complain rarely.  I say this with us all knowing the bar for service and performance at United has slipped horrifically over the past years with the focus having been placed on squeezing out every dollar through abusive practices rather than earning business through providing a great product.  Thus, and this is coming from a “loyal” customer (what are my options as I live in New Jersey?) who used to being abused, it is with that caveat that you must read this complaint.

In short: When I pay for my seat, I expect to get all of my seat.  If someone cannot fit within the confines of the assigned seat that should be his and United’s problem.  This is especially so on a 9+ hour flight.  See

I am 5’ 10” and weigh 195 pounds.  I am not a large person, but obviously not exactly petite....I, even more than normal, obviously seek out bulkhead aisle seats when I fly; especially on long flights.  That said, please note that I have flown about 995,000 revenue miles with United (and hundreds of thousands more on codeshares and rewards) and I have NEVER had any sort of claustrophobic issue. 

With that…

Yesterday, November 22, 2015, I was on Flight 961 from Frankfurt to Newark sitting in the bulkhead aisle seat, 16C.  All was fine with the seat until a United agent placed an obese (350+ pound) man who was at least 6’ 4” next to me – when sitting his legs were at least 50% wider than mine and his knees were about 6" further from the seat than mine - in the middle seat of what are much narrower seatsIt was physically impossible for him to sit in only his seat.  As a result I was required to sit on literally one of my butt cheeks leaning into the aisle for the entirety of the flight…with my head pushed against the raised portion of the head bolster.  It was so cramped that I literally had to leave my seat in order for the gentleman (he was a nice fellow) to be able to eat his lunch!

Let me add a bit of a bonus:  In my conversation with my seatmate he told me that he did not have status with United and that he normally flies on other airlines (and it is not really a frequent traveler).  How that heck he was given an Economy Plus bulkhead seat next to a Platinum Premier member (where the middle seat is supposed to be kept free if possible) is beyond me. (And there were other middle seats available on the flight…even in Premium Economy.)

And, of course, knowing the bulkhead seats are significantly narrower how a United Agent would put him…or better:  allow him…into that seat is beyond comprehension. 

But there is more! 

-       I complained to one of the flight attendants before we departed.  She offered me nothing other than to give me a card with the email address of where to complain.  That’s it! (Oh, yes, she never did give me that card.)

-       The flight was ridiculously hot.  I mentioned it to another flight attendant, who agreed and told me she was sweating herself (Really?).  She said she would lower the temperature, but only after the drink service was completed…and I was in 16C on a 777-200!  About an hour later she came by to say she lowered the temperature a bit, but it would take some time for it to change up front.  Seriously?  I said to her that she should note that virtually nobody was using the blankets, to no avail.  It was so hot that twice I literally sat in the bathroom for 5 minutes to get some cooler air blowing on my head. (I am sure that the heat emanating from my obese seatmate added to my temperature issues!)

-       I did spend about a total of 20 minutes standing by the midship lavatories trying to regroup from the mild claustrophobia caused by this massive incursion into my space coupled with the heat.

Being in the travel business, I am very much aware of United’s numerous failures - starting with not requiring the other person to purchase two seats or not allowing him to board.  There was much that could have been done, but other than belatedly slightly cooling the cabin to closer to normal temperature literally nothing was.  I say this noting that United’s website specifically states:
The additional seat must be available without downgrading or unseating another customer. If an additional seat is not available on the flight for which the customer is confirmed, he or she is required to rebook on the next United flight with seats available for accommodation. United will waive penalties or fees that may otherwise apply to this change.
If the customer is away from his or her home and must rebook for a flight for the following day, amenities including applicable meals and hotel accommodations for one night will be provided as appropriate. When the customer is able to rebook for a later flight on the same day as originally scheduled, amenities will not be provided

If you did not want to impose these requirements upon my seatmate, you should have at least offered me the same option.

I am sure that you can appreciate the gross incursion into my seat combined with a hot aircraft over a period of almost 10 hours (boarding, flight delay and flight) is totally unacceptable and is not a minor issue.  Being a Platinum or Gold Premier member by actually flying on United consistently for many years makes this treatment even more unconscionable.

I appreciate that United Airlines cannot undo what has been done.  I hope that my stress and soreness subsides soon, but also that United will address this an assure that the supposed more customer friendly United actually is.

Thank you and I look forward to your prompt assistance.

Thursday, November 19, 2015

Crystal Serenity - Lisbon to Monaco: Crystal As a "Move Up" & "Move Over" Luxury Option - Part I

[Note:  Out of respect for those who were killed or injured in the attacks in Paris I have delayed the posting of this article.]

Crystal Cruises is, to my mind, a great “move up” from a premium cruise line (Celebrity, Oceania, etc.) and also a wonderful “move over” from the luxury lines (Seabourn. Silversea, Regent, etc.).  But there are a number of misperceptions that have kept this presently two ship (and rapidly expanding and diversifying) cruise line from being at the fore of many traveler’s thoughts.  And that is why I have taken this November 13, 2015 cruise from Lisbon, Portugal to Madeira to the Canary Islands to Malaga, Spain and ending, finally, in Monaco.

Crystal Serenity
I especially liked this itinerary, not for its uniqueness, but its economies; focusing on it being a great value proposition…and not just for the cruise.  Because the ship does not depart Lisbon until 1:00 a.m. technically on Day 2, we had the ability (with just a touch of trepidation) to fly into Lisbon the same day (avoiding the cost of a hotel stay) and have time to enjoy the city with a bit of cushion should there had been flight delays or lost luggage…which fortunately did not happen.

Lisbon, Portugal and its beautiful old trams
We arrived in Lisbon, Portugal early in the morning (7:30 a.m.) and, after a quick coffee, were met by our outstanding guide, Susana, for a private tour of Lisbon.  Susana honestly reaffirmed what I already knew:  Lisbon has suffered terribly from a depressed economy and a declining population.  It was understanding the attempted rebuilding of the business and financial sectors (and the accompanying residential market) by moving them to the new Expo area (with some wonderful modern architecture) that provided a first-up important perspective of the city…the famous older part being virtually abandoned other than for the tourism and hospitality industries.

Pasteis de Belem
We then visited Pasteis de Belem for one of Lisbon’s delicacies, custard tarts.  This bakery is well worth the visit as is taking some time to sit in one of the many rooms of is almost 200 year old building and enjoying a tart or two…with a glass of tawny port (even if it is only 10:00 a.m.)

Famous Lisbon Custard Tart with a Tawny Port or Espresso
After a few more sites, just near the famous Tower was a little, funky, van with a sign “Wine with a View”…and you know that sucked me right in.  Two glasses of white port, please!

White Port with a View
And then, Oh Boy! What I a view did we have. (And they did it because they wanted to sit in our chairs.  Seriously???

Not such a good view
From there we visited PadrĂ£o dos Descobrimentos (the Discoveries Monument) that was created during the dictatorship of Salazar, but remains one of my favorite modern sites.

As we were heading to the old town Susana pointed out Mercado da Ribeira, also known as the Time Out Market, in Lisbon.  This is a new venture with a farmer’s market on the right and a massive food hall with various take-away restaurants lining the walls.  I asked if we could stop for a look; as these sorts of places can either be a tourist trap or a real find.  (Anthony Bourdain is developing a somewhat similar, though more diverse, concept in New York.).  Susana said we could pop in for a look, or if we wanted to eat there we could.  Well, the food hall was interesting, but not for me.

Mercado da Ribeira
However, I found an area behind the food hall with a few restaurants that most never even venture into and there it was:  Mariscada Azul. What attracted me was the beautiful seafood display, but what got me to stay was the friendly, but understated, staff.  And with that we pulled up two stools (this is not a typical restaurant) and before we could even order the waitress placed three delicious things in front of us:  A gooey, smelly, runny…and wonderful…sheep’s cheese, an octopus salad and delicious Portuguese bread with a buttery herb spread.  I had been waiting for a pata negra (Iberico ham) and they had a leg of it right there and sliced off a plate for us.

Iberico Ham, Octopus Salad, Sheep Cheese and Portuguese Bread
was just the start!
 But then there was a sign for cod, or bacalao.  Interestingly, as Susana had mentioned earlier, the Portuguese eat a tremendous amount of cod, but never fresh.  It is always salted and, thus, made into bacalao.  Even more interesting, just this past June on the 2015 Goldring Travel Culinary & Cultural Cruise we visited Tromso, Norway (where I held one of our events) and visited one of the processing areas where the cod is dried and salted.  [I am really blessed to be able to tie this very important and international culinary and cultural item together in a matter of a few months!  And now you know why Goldring Travel doesn’t just have Food & Wine cruises; we do so much more!]

Bacalao with Potatoes
Anyway, we obviously ordered the cod with potatoes.  It was fantastic, but actually the potatoes could have stolen the show on that plate!

But while that was being prepared I spotted two of my favorite foods:  Razor clams and Gooseneck barnacles; the latter being a real delicacy with a unique flavor and texture.
Razor Clams with Garlic
Gooseneck Barnacles!
We, of course, paired our feast with a Portuguese Alvarinho wine.

After lunch we drove through the old town portion of Lisbon, which is really being renovated and upscaled with many more restaurants, cafes and shops being present than the last time I was here.  But with full stomachs and the Crystal Serenity waiting for us we decided to head to the ship (now it was about 2:30 p.m.).

From the time we arrived to getting to our Penthouse took less than 15 minutes and our bags arrived about five minutes after that.  Very impressive.

What I notice almost immediately is the layout of the Penthouse is very similar to the layout of the new Crystal Esprit yacht!  So over the next nine days I will be figuring out how well it “lives”.  But no sooner did I notice that my doorbell rang with our butler, quickly followed by our two room stewardesses, introducing themselves.  Crystal Cruises really does a wonderful job of making you feel welcome as soon as you board.

We had contemplated getting settled, but then heading out into the town (which in Lisbon is walking distance), but with the mandatory muster at 8:00 p.m. we decided it would be better to enjoy the Crystal Serenity for the evening rather than try and do too much.  Options are a good thing, and to be sure, as you will see throughout my articles, one of the strong points of Crystal Cruises is that you have many options available to you…and being able to check in and then go out on this cruise is just one of them.
Crystal Serenity Pool Area
(Note the two paddle tennis courts aft)
After unpacking we took a stroll around the ship, which is similar, but still different from, the Crystal Symphony which I sailed on a few years ago.  Most of the public spaces are located in the aft third of the ship on Decks 7 and 6 with Reception and the Main Dining Room midship on Deck 5.  The larger lounges are on Deck 12 and 6 forward.  In other words, this midsized ship is very easy to understand and get around.  (The concern by some luxury travelers that the Crystal Serenity is too large simply is not well-founded.)

After our stroll, we sat in our suite and enjoyed a glass of champagne before heading to dinner.  On Crystal Cruises your alcoholic beverages are included, so reaching into your stocked refrigerator is very convenient…as is stopping by one of the various bars and lounges.  (A little niggle is that the refrigerator gets cool, but not cold.)

Time for dinner!  On Crystal there are three dining times:  Early (6:30 p.m.), Late (8:30 p.m.) and Dining By Reservation.  As I did not want to bother with making a reservation each evening, Crystal’s late seating at a table for two was perfect.   The service and cuisine was very good and a sommelier serves the complimentary wines.  I must note that the complimentary wines so far are superior to those offered by Seabourn…though I am not so sure the sommelier is really as knowledgeable as he should be. (I was having a seared ahi tuna appetizer and he suggested I switch to the offered pinot grigio rather than the cabernet I was drinking.  Not a good pairing.)

After dinner it was time to enjoy the rest of the evening.  We started in the Connoisseur’s Club which is, by far, the nicest cigar lounge at sea.  The staff quickly brought me a Glenfiddich, which I noticed is in higher quality glasses then elsewhere on the ship, and I was quite happy.  Literally steps away is Avenue (a very social and popular piano bar) the Stardust Club (a larger venue for dancing and talks) and, Pulse (the disco) and just a few steps further is the movie theater.  

The concept that Crystal Cruises is only for older travelers is not exactly accurate.  Debunking that was the last stop on our first evening:  Pulse.  Suffice it to say, the night went past 2:00 a.m. and that is just not an option on most luxury cruise ships.

All in all an excellent experience…and this cruise is just getting started!

Tuesday, November 3, 2015

fathom Cruises: A Great Way to Have a Great Time Doing Really Good Stuff!

Last week, during the Ensemble Travel Group International Conference, I had the opportunity to spend some time with the folks from fathom (small "f"); a little startup cruise line (ironically part of the huge Carnival Corp.) and found the that magic which has been missing terribly from the cruise industry has been found in fathom's passion and inspiration. (And fathom cruises to Cuba and the northern portions of the Dominican Republic...which is pretty cool.)

Why fathom?
Let's fathom (contemplate) why a measure of depth (a fathom)
is a great name for a cruise line focused on social impact!
In a cruise world that has been so overwhelmed with hyperbole and, unfortunately, "smoke and mirrors", here is a one ship cruise line that tells you like it is...from the heart.  And it has a really interesting product that everyone from luxury to mainstream travelers should consider not only for themselves, but as a meaningful multi-generational experience that will give the family a richness (rather than little more than enormous bills and Mickey Mouse ears).

fathom's Cuba Itinerary

fathom's Dominican Republic Itinerary
What is fathom?  

Let's face it: "Social impact" to many means bad accommodations and otherwise "roughing it".  I, personally, believe that fathom's market (that would be you!) needs to know that fathom is not about a bunch of backpackers who haven't showered in two weeks living in tents eating packets of freeze-dried food and beans.  Fathom is about having social impact while being able to have a great and physically comfortable time.

Possibly because fathom is so focused on the social impact of its product it has made the decision to hold back on the cruise/travel aspect of its experience.  Goldring Travel is keenly aware that everyone has a different perspective on what their "luxury" is, but also that social consciousness alone is not going to grab those that can afford this wonderful product.  

fathom's Adonia - A beautiful R-Class ship
Because of this finding information about its ship, Adonia, on the fathom website ( can be difficult. 

So while the "software" is the most important, let's talk about the you can see that your experience starts with a very nice cruise ship and then we can - with you now relaxed about where you will be living for a week - focus on what is a wonderful experience.  

Adonia; formerly a Renaissance (actually the newest of the R Class ships), Swan Hellenic (Minerva II), Princess (Royal Princess) and P&O Cruises ship is your "home" for these one week cruises to the Dominican Republic and Cuba.  

You can expect a typical cruise line onboard experience as far as main dining and accommodations go.  Waiters and room stewards.  Clean beds, hot showers and all meals (curated dining experiences at additional cost) and lunches while having an "impact", ground transportation, lectures and more.

fathom offers Balcony, Oceanview and Inside Staterooms
There are even some truly spectacular Suites:

Now, let's move on to the Good Stuff:  The Software!  fathom is very passionately they call it "Impact Travel" or "Traveling with a Purpose".  As fathom explains:
The adventure begins in Spring 2016 with separate round-trip voyages from Miami to two of the Caribbean’s most desired destinations: the Dominican Republic and Cuba. In the Dominican Republic, you’ll have the opportunity to work side by side with local residents in existing programs that focus on improving the lives of children, families and communities. In Cuba, you’ll participate in an ongoing cultural exchange program that gives you the opportunity to interact with the Cuban people, one on one.
I can tell you from personal experience that you will receive more enrichment than those that you are helping...and they will truly appreciate your help.  Isn't that awesome? Imagine the "impact" that can have on your children or grandchildren?

Imagine how differently your children and grandchildren will look not only at the world, but you?

By the way, fathom doesn't just dump you shoreside.  Your experience starts onboard with lectures and training with workshops and activities.  You can even learn some Spanish!.  But you also have time for the pool, yoga and a host of other fun activities.  To be sure, the more you put into it, the more you will get out of it...but you get to decide how much!  (Even if you are taking this trip for your grandchildren - who have to be at least 8 years old - you can sit poolside while they delve into the world of social impact.)

Here is the general scheme for your Cuba cruise:

Getting a bit more specific, but focusing on the other destination (I can't put all the information in one article!) your projects in the Dominican Republic may include assisting people improve their speaking English (so they can get jobs in the tourism industry, etc.), assisting with reforestation or distributing water filtration systems.  How about working in a cooperative for chocolate production or arts & crafts?  Assisting with new home construction or special needs individuals?  The possibilities that are being developed by fathom in advance of your visit are truly diverse.

But is it all serious?  Absolutely not.  That is the entire point! You may well have the ability to play baseball with some of the local children.  Oh, you don't want to play baseball?  You can be a waterboy!  You don't know what a waterboy is?  They'll teach you!  You just want to watch and laugh?  That's cool too!

And, when your time in port is finished and you are sailing back to Miami you can sit back, with a smile, enjoy your time at sea and say, "I not only did something for others, I really did something for myself (and, possibly, even my family.)"

If you are interested in a fathom cruise to Cuba or the Dominican Republic? Please give me a call:

United States:        (877) 2GO-LUXURY
United Kingdom:  020 8133 3450
Australia:               (07) 3102 4685
Everywhere Else:  +1 732 578 8585

Or email me at

Friday, October 23, 2015

Seabourn Is Going to Alaska in 2017!!!!

Later today Seabourn will be releasing the Seabourn Sojourn's 2017 Alaska itineraries. As an expert on Seabourn and Alaska Goldring Travel is the perfect travel consultant to not only get your information from, but to book your vacation with.  (All of the photos are taken by me...and I can share hundreds more with you.  I love Alaska!!!)

Allow me to explain the difference with a Seabourn experience and, of course, Alaska.

Bookings for Seabourn's Alaska are now open!!!!
The Seabourn Sojourn will sail from Vancouver, British Columbia and Seward, Alaska on 11, 12 and 14 day cruises.  Here is a typical 11 day itinerary:
  • Vancouver, British Columbia, Canada
  • Cruising Seymour Narrows
  • Cruising Queen Charlotte Sound
  • Ketchichan, Alaska
  • Rudyerd Bay (Misty Fjords) and Rehm Narrows
  • Wrangell, Alaska and Cruising Sunmer Strait
  • Cruising Decision Passage
  • Sitka, Alaska
  • Cruising Tracy Arm and Endicot
  • Haines, Alaska
  • Juneau, Alaska
  • Icy Strait Point, Alaska
  • Sea Day
  • Seward, Alaska
Incredible Views...
But don't expect this much ice in the water if you cruise in  July or August!
Your cruise will include (in addition to the "normal" fantastic Seabourn service, cuisine and amenities):
  • Optional Ventures by Seabourn excursions using both zodiacs and kayaks
  • Guidance from our onboard Expeditions Team 
  • Complimentary Seabourn All-Weather Jackets 
  • Inspiring Seabourn Conversations with special onboard guest speakers 
  • "Caviar on the Ice" deck party and other special deck events
Add a beautiful train to or from Anchorage to Seward. 
The beauty of an Alaska cruise is that it can be as active as you wish (hiking through rain forests, fishing for salmon, ziplining, kayaking and more) or as sedate and peaceful as possible (beautiful train rides, whale watching, sipping champagne as you slowly cruise through awesome fjords).

Of course Seabourn will be utilizing all of the freshest seafood and produce.  So, unlike other lines, you can be sure you will enjoy actual, true, fresh Alaskan salmon (trust me I have seen some other lines try to pawn off farmed salmon as being the real deal...and you can see and taste the difference),crab and more.  And, of course, no matter what the ingredients are, the dishes will meet the exacting specifications of world-renowned American chef and restaurateur Thomas Keller. 

Bald Eagle in a rain forest
Alaska is a fantastic destination, which I have enjoyed twice (once on Regent Seven Seas and once on Silversea).  I am so looking forward to experiencing it a third time...with Seabourn.  The addition of the Expedition Team's naturalists, zodiacs and kayaks will most certainly add many layers of additional experiences...just like they did during the 2015 Goldring Travel Culinary & Cultural Cruise through the Norwegian fjords. (You can see one of our experiences in Norway here).

Want more than zodiacs, kayaks and hikes?
How about ziplining in Sitka, Alaska!
Of course there is more to Alaska than what you see from the ship or a shore excursion.  You can - and I highly recommend - you spend some time in the northern parts of Alaska including Denali or Kenai. 
Bear tracks
And, of course, if you are ending your cruise in Vancouver, you can take a beautiful train ride and spend some time in Seattle.

There is no place like Seabourn's hometown:  Seattle
If you are interested in cruising Alaska and doing it with Seabourn, why not reserve your vacation with a travel agent that is an expert on both?  Please give me a call:

United States:          (877) 2GO-LUXURY
United Kingdom:    020 8133 3450
Australia:                 (07) 3102 4685
Everywhere Else:     +1 732 578 8585

Or email me at