View of Guernsey in the Channel Islands from the Crystal Symphony
Crystal Cruises treated its top-producing travel advisors to a full-day of company marketing and product updates today, as well as a full array of affluent consumer trends.
The group is aboard the Crystal Symphony, sailing on its "Ballads of Britain" cruise, which departed Dover/London yesterday and traveled to Guernsey in the Channel Islands today. The ship is currently en route to Waterford, Ireland, where it will arrive tomorrow morning.
This is Crystal Cruises' 20th annual Top Producers Gala, at which it rewards its highest performing travel agencies. This year 74 agencies qualified, having reached the required minimum $500,000 annual sales volume for 2009. That $500,000 sales minimum reflects a decline from the $750,000 sales minimum required for the 2008 Gala. The move was made, said Bill Smith, executive vice president of sales and marketing for Crystal, to reflect the difficulty of last year's economy. The plan is to restore the $750,000 sales minimum for 2010, Smith told us.
One of the biggest news items revealed to the travel advisors in attendance is the "Perfect Choice Dining" program, which will be introduced in the Crystal Dining Rooms on both the Crystal Symphony and Crystal Serenity in January 2011. The move means that passengers will still be able to dine at the standard 6:15 p.m. and 8:30 p.m set dining times. However, they'll now have the added option of reserving a table at a specific time as well. The program allows guests to reserve their desired dining times online at www.crystalcruises.com prior to arrival. They'll also be able to reserve open dining once on board. However, that seating will be confirmed on a first-come, first-served basis.
Crystal said it made the move, which was two years in the making, only once it established the technology platform that would allow it to provide the service seamlessly. It kept its set dining times because its repeat passengers have stated that they enjoy having the same waiter each evening, who knows their preferences, as well as the same traveling companions.
Check out some snapshots of the newly-refurbished Crystal Symphony in the photo gallery below, all photos provided by Crystal Cruises:
The same technology platform allows Crystal passengers other conveniences, such as the ability to submit their check-in information online before they leave for their trip. They can also make reservations in the ships' spas and specialty restaurants, Prego and Silk Road. Other services that can be pre-arranged include Luggage Concierge services, airport transfers and tuxedo rental, which includes the selection of color, style and, of course, size. Once the selections have been made, the passenger is able to print out a full day-to-day itinerary with their reservations. The "Outlook" style calendar also includes the ports being visited each day as well as the style of dress suggested for the evening.
Details of the program were outlined to the travel advisors attending the Gala by recently promoted Thomas Mazloum, senior vice president of operations. Mazloum previously oversaw hotel operations for Crystal, he is now in charge of hotel and operations on the marina side, as well.
Mazloum also revealed that Crystal's Computer University @ Sea is entering its 2.0 phase, by adding new iMac workstations that will run both on both the Windows 7 and Mac OSC 10.6 platforms, starting in September 2010. Introductory classes to the Mac OSX 10.6 platform will also be introduced. Social media classes will also be taught in the Computer University @ Sea program.
Mazloum also announced that Crystal is launching a "You Care/We Care" program, which will enable guests to participate in at least one voluntourism-style shore excursion per cruise in 2011. The luxury cruise line is also establishing a sustainable tourism program to preserve and protect the sites it visits by contributing a portion of revenues from select shore excursions to local attractions.
Crystal has several other large-scale initiatives in the works, said Mazloum, including adding water bottling plants to its ships to produce both still and sparkling water on board. The move, which is still undergoing approval by public health institutions, can save the need to produce 1 million plastic bottles per year, says Mazloum.
The cruise line is also working to move its guest survey online. Crystal relies heavily on passenger feedback, however, surveys are now filled out manually and some passengers have commented that the form takes a long time to fill out.
One of the highlights for travel advisors aboard the Gala cruise is to review the $25 million in refurbishments that have been made to the Crystal Symphony. The majority of the investment was made in renovating the cruise line's Penthouse category accommodations and pool decks. The Lido Deck has also been reconfigured to provide a more luxurious environment; all stainless steel fixtures were replaced with stone surface fixtures. The service strategy has also been altered. Guests no longer carry trays from the Lido Deck buffet. Instead, they are assisted by staff who bring their selected food to tables that are pre-set with silverware.
Crystal's President Gregg Michel told us that the Crystal Serenity, which will be refurbished in May 2011, may undergo a similar change. That move, however, is still under consideration.