On Site: Luxury Travel On the Rise, Crystal Cruises Positions Itself Up Front


Crystal Cruises is working hard to appeal to luxury travelers. // (c) Crystal Cruises 2011

Travel Agent is on location this week attending Crystal Cruises' 21st Annual Sales Achievement Awards Gala aboard Crystal Symphony. We embarked yesterday from San Francisco and are headed up to Vancouver. The cruise will continue up to Alaska on the Treasures of Tlingit itinerary, following the gala. The program was in full swing today, May 10, with an itinerary packed with presentations from some of Crystal's top executives, and we think the news they shared is sure to fill the sails of the luxury traveler.

According to Jim Taylor, vice chairman of the Harrison Group, luxury travelers' wallets are now open and they are ready to spend. Vacation travel is up 14 percent from 2009 in the affluent market (the top 10 percent of U.S. households), according to the 2011 Survey of Affluence and Wealth, a study that the Harrison Group conducts in conjunction with American Express. In fact, 35 percent of the market is looking forward to spending more money this year, and we are seeing a 9 percent increase in travel spending in 2011 overall. According to the survey, 44 percent have been on a cruise, 20 percent have not been on a cruise and want to, 22 percent have not been on a cruise and have no intention to do so and 14 percent have cruised but will not again. This means that 64 percent of the luxury market is a future cruiser and Crystal Cruises is working hard to position itself to be the number one choice among this market.

So what is in store for Crystal Cruises? Travel Agent has already made you aware of the brand new referral rewards program, but this is just the tip of the iceberg (no Titanic pun intended). Also on tap: Crystal Cruises will have a total of 60 overnights in 2011 and 109 in 2012. There will be 35 turnaround ports this year, with 63 in 2012; 16 embarkation overnights in 2011, with 28 in 2012; and 19 disembarkation nights in 2011 with 35 in 2012.

At the moment Crystal Serenity is in drydock in Hamburg, Germany undergoing a $25 million redesign which will include its Penthouses and Penthouse Suites, new retail areas, new shops, new furniture, a new pool area and more.

The company will also be introducing 35 percent new entertainers this year and will be launching a brand new comedy improv group. There will be more interactive enrichment onboard, with guests such as James Carville and Mary Matalin, Mary Higgings Clark, Regis Philbin and Hank Aaron.

Experiences of Discovery sailings will continue in 2012 from June to December and feature themes such as big band, film and theater, golf, emerging artists, wine and food, jazz and more.

A peek into 2013: Crystal will offer a roundtrip Miami cruise that sails fully around South America on a 74-night sailing. There will also be an Australasia itinerary from Auckland, New Zealand to Los Angeles.

According to Crystal Cruises president Gregg Michel, 60 percent of Crystal's guests selected the company based on reputation alone, and these new offerings were designed in the spirit of maintaining such a high level of standard.

There was some concern over Crystal's recent announcement to switch over to an all-inclusive model, but Eric Graves, vice president of field sales was eager to put these concerns to rest. He confidently conveyed to the room of about 80 top travel agents that this was, in fact, the right move for Crystal. Many traditionalists believe that Crystal's "As You Wish" model was the best option, but the ability to sit at a table or bar, order a drink and walk away will greatly simplify matters. And, true to Crystal standards, this does not mean that wines and liquors will be bottom shelf. A selection of fine wines and premium liquors will be made available.

In 2010 Crystal Cruises brought in approximately $160 million in revenue. So how can you get in on the action? The company is unveiling a host of ways that travel agents can more easily sell a Crystal Cruise experience.

First, an agent should create a Personalized URL, or a PURL, attached to Crystal's main site. Agencies and agents can use PURLs to create a personalized version of Crystal. All leads will go straight to the agent and it can be used on any agency site. Secondly, Crystal Cruises' Travel Agent Center page is updating its Email Builder. Here agents follow a simple template to highlight Crystal Cruises itineraries and offerings and is then able to send it out to their entire mailing list. The main Crystal Cruises website is also being updated. It will show pages that feature cruise-only fares as well as have a tab that focuses just on all-inclusive. A shore excursion finder will also be available, similar to the itinerary finder.

Stay tuned to Travel Agent Central for more updates.

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