LOS ANGELES, Sept. 17, 2013 /PRNewswire/ -- Create a soul connection with a Giant Panda. Seek solitude at the Dalai Llama's summer palace. Soak up the spirituality of Tibet's holiest sites. Connect with Tibetan culture through song, dance...and yak meat. The mysteries of one of the world's most isolated cultures will be on full display next spring when ultra-luxurious Crystal Cruises, offers cruisers the rare opportunity to add a five-night Extended Land Program to Tibet onto their Asia cruise. Crystal Symphony's April 9 Hong Kong-Beijing/all-China voyage and April 16 Beijing-Tokyo/all-China and Japan sailing each offer the add-on post- and pre-cruise, respectively. 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 center'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 center 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 center, 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 centers, 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 favorites to local artists' works and traditional lantern performances.
"With Tibet being such a remote, restricted, and still-developing land, the advantages of visiting with Crystal are priceless," says John Stoll, vice president of land programs. "From complex social mores--such as how to navigate sacred sites or pointing directions with one's lips rather than one's fingers--to how to dress or simply call home, Crystal's legendary Six-Star service will be there to guide travelers every step of the way."
As with all of Crystal's Extended Land Programs, luxury accommodations, meals, and transportation for the "Timeless Tibet" program are included in the $7,400 per person, double occupancy fare. Accommodations include one night at the Sofitel Hotel Chengdu, three nights at fellow "World's Best" award-winner, the recently-opened St. Regis Lhasa Resort, and one night at the China World Hotel Beijing.
Crystal Symphony's 13-day April 9 cruise visits Hong Kong, Shanghai, Dalian, Xiamen, and Beijing, with fares beginning at $4,910/person. April 16's 15-day itinerary calls in Beijing, Dalian, and Shanghai, China, as well as Nagasaki, Osaka, Shimizu and Tokyo, Japan with fares from $6,620/person. Both cruises offer savings—of $2,500 and $1,700, respectively—if booked by October 31.
Crystal's passion for creating exclusive, eye-opening luxury shore-side experiences are cornerstones of its Crystal Adventures program, helping earn the line top ratings for two decades.
For more information and Crystal reservations, contact a travel agent, call 888-799-4625, or visit www.crystalcruises.com.
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SOURCE Crystal Cruises