Explaining Crystal Cruises’ 12/9/7 Itineraries: Combo Itineraries & More Overnights

Crystal Cruises Worldwide Atlas features the company’s new 12/9/7 itineraries. What’s 12/9/7? Read on.

I’m currently on Crystal Serenity attending Crystal’s 22nd Annual Sales Achievement Awards Gala. The event recognizes top-selling travel agents for Crystal Cruises. Though most of the news from the gala has been trade-oriented and will be reported this week in the publication Cruise Week, there has been a fair amount of news that could be of interest to avid cruisers.

For starters, Crystal executives discussed the luxury line’s new itinerary patterns in Europe for 2013.

Crystal’s new mantra, according to Jack Anderson, senior vice president of marketing and sales, is “12/9/7,” which represents 28-day itineraries comprised of three sailings divided into 12 days, 9 days and seven days. Still following us? Let me simplify it for you.

When you open Crystal’s Worldwide Cruise Atlas for 2013, you’ll see these new patterns primarily for Mediterranean, the Baltics and Canada/New England.

Let’s take one of the sailings to illustrate how the itineraries work. Let’s say you have the luxury of vacationing for 28 days. You depart on July 13, 2013, on a 28-day Athens-to-Barcelona Explorer Combination on Crystal Symphony. Because you’re effectively combining three cruises to achieve the longer itinerary, you receive a 5 percent savings.

Now, if you have only 12 days, you could do Athens to Istanbul beginning July 13 on Symphony’s Bounties of the Black Sea itinerary. This is the first of three cruises that make up the Explorer Combination.

You begin with an overnight in Athens on Symphony, then cruise to Greek isles of Mykonos and Samos, continuing to Constanta, Romania; Odessa, Ukraine (overnight); Yalta, Ukraine; Sochi, Russia; and ending with an overnight on board in Istanbul on July 24, debarking the next morning, unless . . .

. . . you combine it with the 9-day Empires of Art & Beauty itinerary from Istanbul to Rome. That cruise picks up where the last one ended, in Istanbul on July 25, and it begins with an overnight in Istanbul. Okay, I’ll give you a moment to backtrack and take all of this in.

Ready to continue? So if you’re combining the two cruises previously mentioned, you get three nights in Istanbul, which is about the right amount of time to take in all that there is to see and do in this wonderful city.

Sailing from Istanbul, Symphony continues to the Turkish ports of Canakkale and Kusadasi, then charts a course to Valletta, Malta; Taormina (Sicily), Italy; overnighting in Sorrento and ending in Rome (in the port city of Civitavecchia).

The next itinerary is only seven days, and, by the way, nearly all of Crystal’s 2013 seven-day itineraries depart on Saturdays. So if you’re a working professional, you leave home on Friday (if coming from abroad), arrive Saturday morning and sail away, ending your cruise the following Saturday.

The seven-day Riviera Rendezvous beginning on August 3 departs Rome to visit Livorno (the port for Florence, Pisa and Tuscany); Portofino; overnight in Monte Carlo; continuing to Palamos, Spain; before ending with an overnight in Barcelona on August 9.

If you’ve been on since July 13, boarding in Athens, you’ve cruised for 28 days repeating no ports of call, and you’ve had five overnights.

I particularly like the overnights at the embark ports for two reasons: 1) your luggage has a chance of catching up with you should it be delayed; and 2) you get to the see the embarkation city instead of sailing away on the same day you arrive.

The intent of the 12/9/7 was to introduce shorter cruises for those who are “time poor” but can have the money and inclination to cruise Crystal.

At the same time, Crystal maintained a product to satisfy those who prefer longer cruises. The 12/9/7 can work in any number of combinations, a 12/9, a 9/7, a 12, 9 or 7, or a 28-day cruise.

Combining cruises is nothing new. In fact, back-to-back cruises are one of my favorites for a thoroughly relaxing vacation and for added value. You not only get an additional discount but also amortization of the cost of air, spreading the cost out over a few weeks rather than a few days. When you’re paying more than $1,000 to fly to Europe (and sometimes a lot more), why not stay longer?

Avid Cruisers, what’s your ideal length of cruise? And do you value overnights in ports? Or would you rather be cruising?

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