Meet Mr. C. Thorne Corse, age 76, a retired San Francisco attorney who, in less than six years, has embarked on 63 cruises aboard the Crystal Symphony and her sister ship, the Crystal Harmony. No other passenger has logged more miles with the company that T&L readers voted the World's Best cruise line. Crystal has taken him to six continents and scores of islands, with two complete circumnavigations of the globe, for--at last count--a total of 787 days of cruising, 424 ports of call, 1,574 soft-boiled eggs, and more backgammon matches than anyone can remember. Days prior to his latest sailing, Corse climbed aboard the Symphony while it was moored in San Francisco Bay for a brief homecoming. Amid constant interruptions to greet old friends ("Hello, Sadako!" "Regina, my dear, how are you?" "Tove!"), he filled us in on a life at sea.
Which are your favorite ports? Hong Kong, Sydney, Oslo, Copenhagen, Guayaquil, Moorea, Bora Bora, San Francisco.
What's an ideal itinerary? Any of Crystal's cruises in the South Pacific, because they involve the most time at sea.
How many pairs of underwear do you pack for a month-long excursion? Six. The laundry service is very efficient and the self-service washing machines are free.
Do you have a cabin of choice?No. 8001, deck 8, on the starboard side. It's the forward-most cabin on the lowest [i.e.,. lowest-priced] deck with verandas.
Where do you like to be during arrivals and departures?The bridge because it has the best views, but it's private and can't hold more than 20. I'm allowed by special invitation from the captain.
What's the difference between the Crystal Symphony and the Crystal Harmony? The Symphony is a bit wider and shorter, so the cabins are bigger. That means when you take a bath your knees are up around your chin rather than your ears.
Which after-dinner show is worth seeing more than twice?Some Enchanted Evening, a Rodgers and Hammerstein medley, with great singing and perfectly acceptable ballet.
Cruise ships designers are known to go for glitz. Is this the case with Crystal?Both ships are extremely tasteful but each has a two-deck-high atrium with a stained glass roof and a two story-high fountain filled with gold dancers. Sounds godawful but it's quite impressive.
Who's the most entertaining shipboard lecturer? Barbara Walters, talking about herself and the wild politicians she has known.
Crystal's leading backgammon players?Retired U.S. Navy captain James Clement, Symphony's chief radio officer Per Mikalsen, ventriloquist Gary Hunter, classical guitarist George Sakellariou.
Any other onboard amusements?At 9 a.m. I stop by the library, which is excellent, to pick up the ship's quiz. It's always either too hard or too easy.
Do you exercise at sea? I get up between five and six a.m., have coffee delivered to my room, then walk a mile-and-a-half on Deck 12. It's less crowded than the Promenade Deck and covered in AstroTurf, so it's easier on the feet than wood.
Most pounds gained on a cruise? Ten, and I'm a light eater. A lot of people end up saying, "The sea air shrinks clothes, particularly at the waist."
What do you consider a great lunch? Nasi goreng, a spicy Indonesian dish of skewered lamb and shrimp with rice, served in the main dining room. Never eat dessert.
A favorite dinner? Impossible to say; I've been aboard for several thousand.
Highest waves you've encountered? In the Tasman Sea, which I've been through it at least a dozen times, you can run into 50-foot waves. But I've never been seasick.
Worst storms? One night in the Tasman Sea a statue fell on me while I was asleep in my cabin. More than once, I've had to grab the bed to keep from sliding out. And being in the front of the ship can be noisy: when the bow comes pitching down it makes a hell of a bang.
Spotted any sharks or dolphins or whales? In Hawaii, off Lahaina, two large gray whales followed the ship for over a mile. They said goodbye by jumping in tandem and creating a great splash.
What are the best deckshoes? I'm very happy with my current pair purchased in the store, and I mean the store, in Wrangell, Alaska. No idea what brand; I would never wear anything with a big label.
What do you do when the ship's in port? I don't like to be herded around and I don't like buses, so I often stay onboard. If I do go ashore, I hire a car with friends and drive into the countryside.
One regret? I stayed onboard in the Maldive Islands and missed a picnic the ship organized. Everyone raved about it. Next year in the Maldives, I'll be picnicking.
Can you suggest a useful conversation stopper? I have heavy eyebrows and silver hair. People say I look a bit intimidating; I don't try to but I don't try not to.
How long does it take for you to acclimate onshore? The ground stops rocking after a day, sometimes two. But I'm always planning my next cruise.