Onsite: Crystal Reveals Future Plans to Top-Producing Agents

ABOARD THE CRYSTAL SYMPHONY-Crystal Cruises is hosting its top-producing travel agent event this week aboard the Crystal Symphony. On board for the 17th Annual Sales Achievement Awards Gala are approximately 90 top travel agents who are sailing from Monte-Carlo to Le Verdon (Bordeaux) who met the required threshold of $650,000 in Crystal sales in 2006. (Nearly 100 agents met the threshold; however, some were unable to attend). In the first day of presentations, Greg Michel, president of Crystal Cruises, told the top-producing agents that a new ship is indeed in the works for the cruise line. "We are committed to a new ship," said Michel, who added that Crystal has been diligent in conducting market research to determine what the new ship should look like. Input thus far has come from guest feedback--in fact, over the past year, guests have provided more than 37,000 written-in comments on their shipboard surveys that relate to what they would like to see on a new Crystal ship. Additionally, the luxury cruise line has just conducted a series of one-on-one focus group meetings with travel agents in Los Angeles, San Francisco and New York to assess their thoughts on a new vessel. Crystal currently sails the Serenity and the Symphony; the Harmony left the fleet in 2005.

Michel said he feels that Crystal should introduce a new generation of ships that relate to the needs and desires of the baby boomer market, which is "expecting more." Recent studies show that 33 percent of Crystal's new customer base comes from the baby-boomer age group. "We are seeing an influx of baby boomers. They are demanding with an 'I-want-it-now' attitude, which means we have to stick to the details," he said.

While on board, this exclusive group of travel agents has been able to experience $35 million in enhancements to the 13-year-old Crystal Symphony that have been deployed over the past three years. Last November, the ship underwent an intense 10-day dry-dock renovation that updated the décor and technology in 418 staterooms, revamped its casino, added a posh new disco/nightclub called Luxe and completely restructured the Starlite Lounge, which now sports 360-degree views afforded by floor-to-ceiling windows. The ship's retail area also has been completely replaced and now serves up designer goods in several venues. Michel said since that move, on-board retail sales have increased. "We are making more money and we're providing a better experience for our guests," he noted.

Future enhancements to both the Symphony and Serenity include new mattresses in staterooms by December. Additionally, the five-year-old Serenity in August will have more triple-sized staterooms to accommodate family travelers. That ship next year will have a new casino and a new CrystalPlaza entry area.

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