The Bucket Interview
A Great Way to See the World
Dr. Mary Jane Cryan
By Judy Colbert
There’s a lot you can learn from Dr. Mary Jane Cryan. The bilingual writer, historian, and lecturer has been living abroad since 1965. She sets up study abroad programs and works with tour operators and adult learners. Her talks and website cover insider information on the Italian lifestyle and insight into Italian history, art, antiques, and culture.
From her palazzo near Rome she publishes history and travel books about central Italy (Travels to Tuscany and Northern Lazio, Affreschi: Exploring Etruria, Etruria Storie E Segreti, The Painted Palazzo, and Rome-Civitavecchia “Stories and Secrets of Civitavecchia) and has received numerous awards for her website, books and conferences.
Yes, you can learn a lot from Mary Jane. Such as how to turn your expertise into free (or almost free) passage on a variety of cruise lines. Recently, I caught up with Mary Jane online to ask her about her experience as a cruise ship lecturer. – Judy Colbert
Judy Colbert (JC): What is your background?
Mary Jane Cryan (MJC): I was born in the Boston area, moved to Italy to teach right out of college and have been here 55 years (do some math). I started with cruise lectures after a long career in similar fields and now it’s been 12 years and countless cruises later. It’s a great way to see the world in comfort and style, and share my knowledge and expertise about the Mediterranean area.
JC: How did you get started on the crusie ship circuit?
MJC: I met some cruisers who were visiting our area near Rome and asked which company their lecturer was connected to. I contacted them, expressing my interest and giving my background as an educator, author, resident and expert in Italy. They immediately contacted me, saying “You are just the kind of person we are looking for.” They booked me on the first cruise, a Princess ship from Southampton on a Mediterranean itinerary. I had four or five presentations ready for the itinerary. There was the booking fee of $65 per night, plus gratuities. It was quite an experience since the seas were rough from the UK to Spain and the lectern was sliding across the stage. Twelve years later and many, many successful cruises on different cruise lines, and I am now contacted (sometimes directly) by the luxury cruise lines and private residential ship The World that do their own scouting for celebrity speakers or very experienced lecturers with a good record.
JC: How often do you cruise?
MJC: More than how many cruises, I count how many weeks/months I’m away from home on a ship. Very often, it’s a back-to-back, two seven to ten-night cruises. I usually spend one-to-two months away in the months April to October. I have a huge bookcase full of cruise material: books, pamphlets, material on each port visited, as well as copies of the ships’ “newspaper” which lists my talks and other ship activities. These are from cruises I’ve done between 2008-2019. There are photos, a bibliography, and lists of my presentations in English and Italian on my website.
JC: The Mediterranean is seasonal for cruising. What do you do the rest of the year?
MJC: During the month of November we have our olive harvest, our local music group (Operaextravaganza.com) has events in their indoor auditorium and open-air theatre located in the terraced gardens beneath my palazzo. I give book presentations, write for Italian and English magazines and give talks to groups on local history, archeology, and historic travel. I am hoping to continue this fantastic work for another five to eight years. When I decide to give it up I will be happy to pass the baton (and my 50+ presentations) to a new generation. Maybe with an online seminar/podcast or similar. During these months that we have not been able to travel I used ZOOM and YouTube to give presentations to groups in South Africa and an American University.
JC: Do you have a favorite cruise line?
MJC: I have tried many different lines, including a cruise on The World which is a residence at sea, not a cruise ship. My favorite cruise line is Azamara, a small boutique line which until recently belonged to Royal Caribbean. Just a few months ago they became independent and added a fourth ship to their fleet: Journey, Quest, Pursuit and the new Onward. They have great crews, Cruise Directors and very faithful passengers. We feel like family.
JC: What’s your favorite part of cruising and lecturing?
MJC: Seeing first hand so many places I only thought I would read about is a huge plus. As a resident in Europe since 1965 (Moscow, Rome, Genoa), a professor, researcher and author of guides and history books, I am delighted to share my insider knowledge and meet interesting people from all over the world.
JC: Do you make friends with passengers and stay in touch with them?
MJC: Yes, I often hear from passengers who have become friends and get to see them when I’m in the USA or they come to Italy, or aboard another cruise. I am in touch with a few other lecturers, cruise officials and staff thanks to Facebook, Instagram and Twitter.
Learn more about Dr. Mary Jane Cryan at her website www.elegantetruria.com for more insider information on Italian lifestyle, itineraries, art, antiques, culture, stories, and curiosities from five decades of life in Italy.
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