Susan Young was onboard the Crystal Serenity for Crystal Cruises' Top Producers Gala, and she got the latest news about the cruse line and the industry. Here's here latest report.
Crystal Serenity's atrium
New Ship Potential
Gregg Michel, Crystal Cruises’ president, spoke to news media on the recent Crystal trade gala. Did Michel feel the line missed its opportunity to order a new ship last year? “I think our position was ‘okay, let’s see what’s out there’” he said. “Let’s see what rolls in for new construction. And then we’ll make some decisions based on that.”
Crystal is apparently still biding its time. Neither Michel nor Bill Smith, senior vice president of sales and marketing, seemed discouraged about not having a new ship in the pipeline – given the current economic situation and the surge in the industry’s luxury segment berths coming this year with several other lines taking on new tonnage.
If we had another 1,000 passenger ship in the market right now, we’d figure it out [in terms of how to market and sell in this environment],” said Smith. “But I think our timing is good [for not having a new ship coming online now].”
Both Michel and Smith stressed that Crystal’s parent company, NYK, continues to pump millions into keeping the product fresh. The Crystal Serenity and Crystal Symphony also continue to score high in quality surveys, such as the recent Travel & Leisure awards.
Eric Graves, the line’s vice president of sales, says the line’s competitors have often criticized what Crystal offers as those competitors have all-inclusive drinks or gratuities included in the cruise fare. Now, however, Crystal has “As You Wish,” a $2,000 shipboard credit per couple, now in place on many 2009 sailings and nearly all 2010 sailings.
“No, we haven’t taken this off commission [by rolling it into the fare as other luxury lines do],” Graves noted. But guests use the credit for such items as gratuities, shore excursions, the gift shop, wine with dinner, spa treatments and whatever else they choose. The result is a highly inclusive offering, based on what the guest desires. Some guests may not drink alcoholic beverages as much, and would prefer a complimentary shore trip, he noted. “It’s going to change their universe,” said Graves.
Add to that Celebration fares this year (now being renamed Anniversary fares and offered in 2010), couples can reap a $4,000 savings in Europe, Graves said. “Never has Crystal been a better value.”
Five and Alive
Michel addressed the Conde Nast Traveler “Five and Alive Fund” that Crystal joined as a founding partner and sponsor late last year. While Crystal supports a number of charities, “it gave as a focus and it focuses on children under five years of age,” said Michel. “It gives them a chance to get an education and live the life they should.”
He emphasized that more than 10 million children under the age of five throughout the world die every year. Most of the deaths are preventable. The fund provides families with malaria nets to prevent that disease; it offers treatment for those children who develop malaria; and it provides clean water. In what he terms “a very moving experience,” Michel visited children, families and a hospital in Rwanda last April.
Since December, Michel said Crystal has raised $85,000 for Five and Alive through onboard auctions for galley tours, bridge tours and a chance to perform with the entertainment staff. Some contributions also come through items sold in the line’s onboard shops. New friendship bracelets, costing $40-$49 will be introduced in those shops soon – with proceeds going to the Five and Alive Fund.
The shops on Crystal Serenity
Recent Serenity Enhancements
What’s new on Crystal Serenity? In a drydock this past November, the line redesigned the Crystal Cove, opening up the space, taking out the bar, and giving guests sea views.
In addition, new décor was added in the corridors on Decks 5 and 6. Michel said the line also converted 12 AA stateroom categories to 8 PHs citing “continued demand for Penthouse level categories.”
“And we built out a new casino, saved some space, but I think we made it a lot better,” said Michel. “We opened it up a bit, let people get through a bit better,” he said. The casino upgrade was a $15 million refurbishment.