“So how was your cruise?”
It’s a question asked out of courtesy as well as curiosity. Mostly it’s curiosity. Sometimes we live vicariously through others’ travels. Or because we want to know if the ports they visited might be places we’d like to see. Princess Cruises has created an intriguing way to share the cruise memories of their own destination experts to entice even the most devoted of armchair travelers.
It began with a blog.
As 2010 drew to a close and in hopes of preserving cruise memories, Princess Cruises created a blog (www.50EssentialExperiences.com) which was to be a collection of their own employees’ fifty most-memorable destination experiences. Published once a week for nearly one year, each article was an unforgettable personal accounting that in some way had etched itself deep into their lives. The only requirement was that the destination that they were writing about had to be a port of call for Princess Cruises. Not too difficult since Princess Cruises visits over 300 ports of call.
It was a very clever idea and a great way to forge relationships between the cruise line and their blog readers. Maybe even turn non-cruisers into Princess Cruise Cruisers. Whatever the intent, the end result was astonishing.
The first article posted on the blog, “In the Embrace of Rio’s Most Famous Monument” by Crystal Morgan (Director of Market Planning, Itineraries and Deployment) recounts the time that Ms. Morgan’s grandmother made her first visit to the towering statue atop Corcovado Mountain in Rio de Janeiro, Brazil. Many years later when Ms. Morgan was sent by Princess Cruises to work in South American, she also made the trek to the statue. While touring the chapel built into the base of the 130-foot statue, Ms. Morgan witnessed a strange coincidence which profoundly linked her visit to that of her grandmother’s trip many years ago.
The second blog post was a story about dog-mushing on a Glacier near Skagway, Alaska. But it was the third article that really brought this new blog to the forefront. It was written by Alan Buckelew, President and CEO of Princess Cruises. Mr. Buckelew and his family set sail on a cruise to Southeast Asia, which included a visit to Vietnam. From June 1969 to June 1970, Mr. Buckelew served in a highly elite recon platoon in the jungles and mountains of Vietnam. His story, as do many of the others, draws you in, all the while trying to imagine what he might have felt when setting foot from the Princess ship and onto Vietnamese soil.
The comment section below his blog article quickly filled with dozens of thank-you notes from other Vietnam veterans for his eloquent recounting of his visit. Even more amazing were the comments from non-military service readers commending him for his bravery. I remember reading this article when it was first published onto the blog. Within a day, this article and the blog itself had been catapulted into national status.
From blog to book.
The rest is history. Soon the blog took on a life of its own. With millions of unique views and thousands of comments, the only logical next step was to put all of these remarkable stories into a book. And so the book, “50 Essential Experiences – The Travel Bucket List” was created.
I received my copy of the book a few weeks ago. Reading through the list of “50,” I realized how little of the world I had seen. I began to create my own Travel Bucket List. Since I don’t fly, these destinations visited by Princess Cruises had even more meaning to me.
There are stories that nearly brought tears to my eyes. One of those was written by Michele Bosco, now a Shore Excursions Manager. Mr. Bosco’s memory was that of returning to Italy on his first transatlantic crossing, a place that he had left behind ten years earlier to start a new life in America with Princess Cruises. I’ve taken several trans-oceanic crossings. Even something as simple as the solitude of being in the middle of the Atlantic ocean is a unique and somewhat emotional experience. To hear it told through the eyes of someone who identified himself with the immigrants’ journeys from long ago, gave me a fresh and enlightened perspective.
It’s more than a simple bucket list.
This book isn’t just a list of places to see. Thoughtfully, after each article, there is background information about each writer entitled, “Meet Our Expert: 5 Revealing Questions.” You learn at bit about the author including how long they have been working at Princess Cruises, the number of countries visited, hometown and their job.
The five questions give the reader insight which definitely enhances the gist of the articles. Of the five questions asked of the writer, the one that I found most intriguing was, “What item is in your suitcase that you couldn’t travel without?” Answers ranged from iPhone and Playstation to binoculars to a manicure set. Interestingly, no one said a pocket size Roaming Gnome.
While not exactly a true coffee table book – it’s a thick glossy paperback cover not hardcover – this is definitely a book that is best shared with friends and family. It states on the cover that it’s “A collection of travel stories to inspire your next journey” and I must agree. I have only traveled to seventeen of the fifty destinations (all by ship, of course) and reading the small snippets of their experiences has indeed inspired me to finally type my travel must-see list. Since I do not fly, it was good news to learn of the lesser-known destinations that Princess Cruises can reach. Because as I always say, “if there’s a port, I can get there.”
50 Essential Experiences – the Travel Bucket List is available through Amazon and major retail booksellers. The book is priced at $18.95 and is well worth every penny. It’s a beautiful read, relaxing and informative. It would make a terrific gift for the cruise (and Princess Cruise) enthusiast.
Disclosure: I received a complimentary copy from Princess Cruises for this review. My words were not influenced in any way. The fact that my 23 year old daughter found the book interesting enough to finish, speaks volumes.