Calif. Cruise Line to Explore Christian Heritage in Europe

A Calif.-based luxury cruise company is now offering new tours to help travelers explore the rich Christian history of Europe, providing opportunities to make a pilgrimage, attend mass, contribute to charitable works and witness the relics and architecture of religious sites.

Los Angeles-based Crystal Cruises will start Christian Heritage Tours to the Mediterranean, Western Europe and the North Cape from April to December as part of its upcoming European Season, the luxury cruise company said in a statement Friday.

If booked by Feb. 28, the all-inclusive cruises start at $1,360 per person in double occupancy with air add-ons from more than 90 airports in the United States. A sale ending Saturday (Feb. 11) offers up to $800 per stateroom in shore excursion credits on select European voyages.

Crystal Cruises, a Japanese luxury cruise line, is known for its two medium-sized, high-end ships, Crystal Symphony and Crystal Serenity, which each hold about 1,000 guests. These ships will take travelers to key destinations in Europe, including the Croatian city of Dubrovnik, Barcelona, Leknes town in the Norwegian archipelago of Lofoten, the south Italian town of Sorrento, the city of La Coruna in Spain, and Southampton and London in the U.K.

The Dubrovnik tour includes a pilgrimage into Bosnia, where reported visions of the Virgin Mary have made Medjugorje's Apparition Hill a top sacred site for Catholic pilgrims. The Barcelona tour has private mass with Crystal's onboard priest at Gaudi's infamous Sagrada Familia, a large Catholic church.

In Norway, it takes travelers to see the 18th century, wooden Russian-style Flakstad Church. The La Coruna tour includes the UNESCO World Heritage town of Santiago de Compostela, viewed from the rooftop of the largest Romanesque church in Spain. The London tour features the carved, canopied choir stalls of the almost 1,000-year-old Winchester Cathedral, once the seat of Anglo-Saxon and Norman royal power.

The cruise to Sorrento, Italy, involves a "voluntourism excursion," which gives an opportunity to travelers to assist the 400-year-old charity brotherhood of Pio Monte della Misericordia, the church famous for its art works, including Caravaggio's The Seven Works of Mercy.

"This program expansion builds upon our incredibly popular Jewish heritage tours offered around the world," John Stoll, vice president of land and port operations, said. "Religious-related shore excursions are just one more way our guests can experience the unique history and culture of a destination, and perhaps even connect with their own personal ancestry, as well."

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