I took a break from my role as a TV political reporter a few years ago so I could take my 85-year-old mother on a Crystal Cruise. It wasn't the best timing on my part because I was in the midst of covering one of the Presidential races, as I've done every four years. I worried that spending 12 days sailing the Mediterranean, even in the lap of luxury, would put me out of touch with the news. As it turned out, I was very wrong.
The first night of the cruise, at an onboard cocktail party, I looked across the deck and saw my mother engaged in an animated conversation with two people who looked very familiar. They turned out to be James Carville and Mary Matalin. Carville, of course, is an A-list Democratic insider who ran Bill Clinton's Presidential Campaign. Matalin has the same status in the Republican Party, including working for Vice President Dick Cheney. In short, we became friends over the course of the cruise, and I learned more inside gossip and tidbits about politics than I ever could have imagined. When I returned to work after the cruise I had plenty of story ideas to keep me busy reporting "exclusives" for weeks.
As it turns out, Carville and Matalin are frequent guest lecturers on Crystal's two luxury ships. And they are typical of the high quality speakers whom Crystal books. The upcoming season, just announced, will feature James Bradley, author of Flags of Our Fathers, CNN correspondent Richard Roth, General Anthony Zinni and my former colleague from The Washington Post, Shelby Coffey, who went on to become editor of The Los Angeles Times.
They will sail as Crystal celebrates its 20th year in a row winning the "Best Cruise Line" award from the readers of Conde Naste Traveler, which was just published. The award category is for midsize ships, however it's worth noting that Crystal's score this year is actually higher than all small, midsize or large ships. Crystal has also won the similar top award from Travel+Leisure Magazine for 18 years.
Crystal's new President and CEO, Edie Bornstein, said, "Every single member of the Crystal team works incredibly hard to give discerning vacationers a Six-Star standard of luxury travel that is unwavering."
Crystal's two ships sail from five to 108 days all over the world, and are "all inclusive." That means complimentary wine, spirits and soft drinks are served throughout the ship. Most gratuities are also included.
Who knows, you may strike-up the same kind of friendships I did with some of the brightest people at sea. ###