e books the same stateroom on every cruise. He sits at the same table for every meal, where he dines alone. He seldom leaves the ship at ports of call, but he always watches as the ship maneuvers to dock or pulls away.

Let's call him Mr. X -- his travel agent asked us to withhold his name to protect his privacy.

But she did tell us he's a retired San Francisco-area attorney who has spent about 150 days at sea for each of the past 10 years, aboard either the Crystal Symphony or Crystal Harmony. That's more than any other passenger (and a good percentage of the ships' crews).

He's been on more than 115 Crystal cruises, some of them back-to-back, 10 in a row.

His travel agent, Leslie Fambrini, owner of Personalized Travel Consultants in Los Altos, Calif., used to book him regularly on Royal Viking before Crystal existed. She was introduced to him by a friend who had met Mr. X on a Greek cruise.

"He was married -- his wife has since passed on," she said. "They used to cruise together."

During the course of all these extended cruises, Mr. X found an extended family.

"The experience has so enriched his life," Fambrini said. "He enjoys people and life, and it's the personal experience that attracts him. The crew comes flocking to him when he comes aboard, and he plays backgammon with them. Needless to say, he's treated extremely well -- they anticipate his every need."

Gregg Michel, president of the cruise line, held a luncheon for him and gave him a plaque to commemorate his 100th cruise.

"He really enjoys the navigational aspects of the cruise, perhaps more than the destinations," Fambrini said. "He appreciates the captain's skill in getting in and out of port, and has become close to the captains. Going ashore just isn't important to him."

The ships have become his second home. He stays aboard during the Christmas cruise season, and he'll sometimes travel with his family, or have friends meet him aboard.

Most of Fambrini's communication with Mr. X is by e-mail, but she always has lunch with him when he returns home to hear about how things went and to look at photos.

She has never, she said, sold him anything but a cruise. And since he first boarded the Harmony, never any cruise but Crystal.

"I know better than to try," she said.

Comments
JDS Travel News JDS Viewpoints JDS Africa/MI