News Analysis: Crystal's All-Inclusive Move Signals Shifts in Clientele and Luxury Expectations

Baby boomers ready to step up from a premium line to a luxury cruise experience want a pampering product, but they also want simplicity and inclusivity. So starting in spring 2012, Crystal Cruises will launch a new “All Inclusive” program that includes gratuities, fine wines and bar service within its cruise fares.

Even gratuities for penthouse butler service and service in all specialty restaurants and the line’s sushi bar will be included. No longer will clients have to sign chits for drinks.

Ruth Turpin, owner, Cruises Etc., a Virtuoso agency in Fort Worth, Texas says: “I think it is a terrific move on Crystal’s part. I think it will really stimulate sales, because our clients do love the ‘All Inclusive’ as it makes cruising so carefree.”

Luxury client demographics are changing rapidly, agents say. Over the past few years, Crystal has worked to balance the wishes of its long-time, mature Crystal Society members, who have sailed 50 to 100 voyages, with the quite different expectations of the next generation -- upstart baby boomers with a perennial teenager mindset.

Crystal’s existing All InclusiveAs You Wish” program was designed with both groups in mind; it offers substantive onboard credits for guests to spend how they want – on everything from shore trips to gratuities, from wine to spa treatments. But while that program has been successful, particularly as a point of differentiation in selling the product, Bill Smith, the line’s senior vice president of marketing and sales, says guest feedback shows it’s time for that for that to evolve to a simpler All Inclusive concept.

“To be perfectly honest, there will be the Crystal cruiser who has cruised 100 times or more with us, that understands our product and appreciates our product, and they’d just as soon not see a change,” says Smith. “But you have a new market out there – Baby Boomers,” he says, and the market is huge.

More than 10,000 boomers a day turn 65 in the United States, many with high discretionary income. Market research has consistently shown that boomers desire a vacation that’s simple, hassle-free, fun and easy.

For example, a mature traveler might evaluate all inclusions, ponder what they don’t plan to use, and thus, appreciate the choice of paying or not for gratuities or drinks. Boomers, in contrast, generally view inclusive pricing as a plus; they don’t want the hassle of signing for drinks or spending the last day of their cruise tending to gratuity payments.

“With no more signing of chits for drinks, it makes [the experience] a whole lot smoother,” says Smith. Crystal carries a lot of solo travelers, he says, noting that soon when they meet up with friends or relatives, they won’t need to fuss over what’s socially correct – whether to pick up the tab or not.

In addition, Smith says many boomers actually are stepping up from another cruise segment product. Travel agents have told him that Crystal “really needed a stronger story” as to why a guest should move up from Celebrity, Holland America or another premium line.

“New clients, they understand all the ‘buzz’ words such as open seat dining and all inclusive,” Smith stresses, so “I think we’re pretty much in touch” with their perspective. Yes, the line certainly will continue to offer such onboard choices as Crystal’s Perfect Choice Dining with both flexible and fixed dining options, but as far as the cruise fare itself, simplicity and inclusivity will reign moving forward.

Onboard Crystal Serenity the day of the Crystal announcement, Mary Jean Tully, CTC, chairman and CEO, The Cruise Professionals, says “I think that the decision was well thought out by Crystal and this is what the majority of passengers want.”
That said, Tully says one of the main factors that’s always separated Crystal from other luxury products was the exceptional service from the Crystal crew. “I always thought that because the gratuity wasn't included that they worked harder for it, but that is not the case,” she now realizes. “I experienced it myself just how hard they do work, even when they know it’s included. For the past three years the majority of agencies have been including pre-paid gratuities as part of their amenities to offer their clients, so the crew have been used to this.”

The new All Inclusive program will begin – and current All Inclusive As You Wish onboard credits will no longer apply  -- with each ship’s first transatlantic cruise next year: Crystal Symphony’s “Beyond the Sea” sailing from Miami to Lisbon on March 19, 2012 and Crystal Serenity’s “New World to Norway” voyage from New York to London on May 8, 2012.

Smith says Crystal couldn’t make the change sooner as it already had pricing out in the marketplace through the end of the first quarter 2012. Guests also booked based on that credit, and they are expecting to use those credits when they sail this year or early next. So Smith says implementing the new All Inclusive program in one singular motion in spring 2012 is the easiest way to go.

Yes, there may still be added charges if guests forego the line’s wine selections and instead order from the connoisseur’s wine list, for example. And the line will still charge for such items as spa treatments and shore excursions. But Crystal’s highly inclusive fare includes a host of features that other lines don’t include – such as alternative restaurant dining and certain classes.
“I think this is a wonderful product and I think having this all included will drive in new business to Crystal,” says Tully. “No one does ‘attention to detail’ better than what Crystal does. This will be a ‘win win.’”

Contemporary lines – striving to keep the fare low for budget minded travelers – have consistently added more extra charges for onboard services and choices over the past few years. But upper premium and luxury lines have recently strived for a bit more inclusivity, which appeals to boomer luxury clients.

At Cruise Shipping Miami last week, upper premium Oceania Cruises announced it will include one pre-cruise hotel stay for all 2012 voyages. “I only wish Crystal had added a complimentary pre-cruise night [into All Inclusive] as I think this would have really been a smart marketing tool,” notes Turpin.

Overall, though, Turpin is a big supporter of what Crystal has done and says of the new program: “It will be hard to beat.”  Smith believes it will make selling Crystal much easier for travel agents: “They will embrace this right away.”

A complete list of 2012 Crystal itineraries and fares is at

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