Saturday, 28 September 2013

Cuddle A Panda With Crystal!

OK, we have have seen some pretty amazing shore excursions, and extended shore programmes, in recent years, but this one from Crystal Cruises probably takes not just the biscuit but the whole biscuit tin! It includes an opportunity for passengers to get up close and personal with a baby panda and visit the Dala Llama's summer palace in Tibet on Crystal's China and Japan voyages in April 2014. It's part of a unique new land programme offered with two cruises, and the full details are as follows from Crystal themselves:

Next Spring, seek solitude at the Dalai Llama’s summer palace, soak up the spirituality of Tibet’s holiest sites or learn about Tibetan culture through song, dance - and and yak meat. The mysteries of one of the world’s most isolated cultures will be on full display next spring when ultra-luxury Crystal Cruises offers guests the rare opportunity to add a five-night Extended Land Programme to Tibet on to their Asia cruise. Crystal Symphony’s April 9 Hong Kong to Beijing all-China voyage and April 16 Beijing to Tokyo sailing each offer the add-on both pre and post-cruise. Round-trip from Beijing, guests will fly first-class to Chengdu, China, and Lhasa, a Tibetan city perched at 12,000 feet that literally means “place of the gods.”

Highlights of the journey include:

  • Chengdu’s Giant Panda Research Base, where guests can safely snuggle with baby pandas while learning about the centre’s hugely successful conservation and breeding efforts.
  • Potala Palace, a 7th century UNESCO World Heritage Site, visible from every direction, that served as the Dalai Lama’s main residence until the 1959 uprising.
  • Drepung Monastery, once the world’s largest monastery and home to more than 10,000 monks, seemingly precariously set on a hillside and accessible only by a steep, unpaved road.
  • Jokhang Temple, the spiritual centre of Tibet, enshrining the country’s most precious treasure, the original gold Sakyamuni Buddha statue, dating back 1,300 years.
  • Barkhor Marketplace, the site of many Tibetan protests, as well as a busy commerce centre, striking an intriguing contrast between deeply rooted spirituality and the bustling nature of market economics.
  • Tibetan-style dinner, showcasing traditional song and dance while sampling a variety of yak-based dietary staples, from meat to tea.
  • Sera Monastery, where guests can watch monks prepare for their monastic exams with renowned mock debates in the picturesque courtyard.
  • Norbulingka, another UNESCO site that boasts distinctly Tibetan architecture and has served as the administrative and spiritual centres, as well as the summer palace, for past Dalai Lamas.
  • Jinli Street in Chengdu, an ancient market dating back to the Qing Dynasty, filled with everything from the aroma of spicy barbeque and authentic Sichuan favourites to local artists’ works and traditional lantern performances.

As with all of Crystal’s Extended Land Programmes, luxury accommodation, meals and transportation for the “Timeless Tibet” programme are included in the £4,775 per person, double occupancy fare. Accommodation includes one night at the Sofitel Hotel Chengdu, three nights at the St Regis Lhasa Resort and one night at the China World Hotel Beijing.

Crystal Symphony’s 13-night April 9 cruise visits Hong Kong, Shanghai, Dalian, Xiamen and Beijing, with all-inclusive fly/cruise prices starting from £4,721per person, plus a one-night complimentary pre-cruise hotel stay. The April 16 15-night itinerary calls in Beijing, Dalian and Shanghai as well as Nagasaki, Osaka, Shimizu and Tokyo with all-inclusive fly/cruise prices starting from £5,535 per person, plus a one-night complimentary pre-cruise hotel stay. The cruises offer savings of £1,613 and £1,097 respectively if booked by October 31.

Crystal’s passion for creating exclusive, eye-opening luxury shore-side experiences are cornerstones of its Crystal Adventures programme, helping earn the line top ratings for two decades.
For bookings, follow this link to The Cruise Line, the UK's luxury cruising experts.