COLORADO SPRINGS. Going on a pilgrimage cruise can be a vacation, but to limit it to such is to miss out on a much more enriching, fascinating experience, Bishop Michael Sheridan highlighted on the December edition of his local radio show, “The Joy of the Gospel.”
In his latest episode, Bishop Sheridan interviewed Edita Krunic, founder and president of Select International Tours, about the bishop’s upcoming Danube Cruise Pilgrimage Oct. 31-Nov. 10. Bishop Sheridan, Msgr. Bob Jaeger, pastor of St. Paul Parish in Colorado Springs, and former Colorado Catholic Herald editor Bill Howard will lead this special cruise pilgrimage of Germany, Austria, Slovakia and Hungary.
According to Krunic, approximately 25 cabins remain available, and the ship is expected to sell out by March. As of Jan. 16, there are 28 pilgrims registered from the Diocese of Colorado Springs, which will be one of several groups filling the ship. Remaining cabins are reserved on a first-come, first-serve basis. Registration can be made online or a brochure with registration form can be printed for mailing at www.selectinternationaltours.com. Select staff can also be reached at 800-842-4842.
In their discussion for the show, Bishop Sheridan and Krunic recalled the history of pilgrimages in Catholic history, and cruise participants can continue this rich tradition.
“There is very, very ancient evidence of pilgrimages, with people long ago walking great distances sometimes to a specific shrine or where a saint is buried, to venerate the tomb of that saint,” Bishop Sheridan said. “A pilgrimage is symbolic and representative of really what our lives are about. We’re all on pilgrimage, making our way through this world to our eternal home in heaven.”
Cruises are particularly appealing to anyone who wants to be a pilgrim but may have medical issues or are not able to walk long distances.
“What’s nice about being on a cruise is that, if we have people who are older and have mobility issues, this is a slower pilgrimage,” Krunic said. “If they get tired, they can go right back to the ship, relax and not worry about if they can make (an excursion with long walks).”
Krunic said that stocks for cruise companies have skyrocketed in recent years because people — particularly Americans — are more interested in cruising. When Krunic decided to delve more deeply into the cruise option, her goal was to find a balance between the comforts that kind of travel with maintaining the rich Catholic tradition of pilgrimages.
“Our focus is on pilgrimages. We don’t do (vacations around) religious occasions, we do pilgrimages,” Krunic said. “Our mission . . . is for us to bring Catholics closer to their faith.”
Bishop Sheridan, who has participated in or led many pilgrimages, said he is excited to experience one from a cruise perspective.
“I have been fascinated by the idea of a pilgrimage done as a river cruise,” Bishop Sheridan said. “We’ll be cruising and stopping at a different site each day. There will be prayer, Mass in the local church or cathedral — and they’re all magnificent. Those churches of Eastern Europe are magnificent.”
Among the churches where Masses are being finalized are the shrine in Altotting in Bavaria (Altotting is called the “Lourdes of Germany”), Maria Plain Basilica in Salzburg, St. Martin Cathedral in Bratislava and St. Stephen’s Cathedral in Budapest. Pilgrims will get to explore a deeply rich Catholic part of the world and will be prepared in advance with emails highlighting travel tips and spiritual formation for the journey.
The Amadeus Silver III ship combines the luxuries of a 5-star hotel with first-class crew service. There are three room decks, with the top featuring 12 luxury suites with walkout balconies. The majority of the other cabins have automatically lowering panorama windows, offering a spectacular view of the passing river landscapes. All cabins have a modern bathroom and a walk-in closet. The top deck of the Silver III features a glass-shielded River Terrace, and the main restaurant offers panoramic views.
Pricing is based on double occupancy and ranges from $3,695 to $4,195 cash/check (credit card pricing is also available at a slightly higher cost). While the pilgrimage begins at JFK or Newark airports, Select can also book the leg from Denver or Colorado Springs for additional cost.
[NOTE: This article is the seventh of a series that will flesh out the incredible itinerary of this pilgrimage. Bishop Sheridan’s full interview with Krunic can be heard on the audio/video page of the diocesan website (www.apubz.com/pubz/CCH/JoyoftheGospel/).]