Crystal reveals ocean, yacht, river and air plans to its top travel partners

Crystal leaders address top travel partners at the company's sales gala on Crystal Mozart. From left, Edie Rodiguez, Thomas Mazloum, Carmen Roig, Don Mason Crystal leaders address top travel partners at the company's sales gala on Crystal Mozart. From left, Edie Rodiguez, Thomas Mazloum, Carmen Roig, Don Mason (Photo: Anne Kalosh)

Five new dining concepts, open seating and larger staterooms on Crystal Symphony and Crystal Serenity, revamped entertainment and free, unlimited Internet for all are in the works at Crystal Cruises.

Plus, many concepts, names and styles will be made consistent across the ocean, expedition yacht, river and air offerings.

'We are now in a position to have brand consistency within very different products that makes it very easy for the consumer and very easy for you to communicate,' chief operating officer Thomas Mazloum told Crystal's sales gala for its top travel partners on board Crystal Mozart this week.

When it comes to larger accommodations, Crystal plans to add 40 to 50 penthouses aboard Crystal Symphony and Crystal Serenity in major upcoming drydocks, replacing smaller rooms. The new Seabreeze Penthouse Suite with Verandah will be the same size as the current penthouses but with a new look. And, in a trial, a few even will have their own washer-dryers.

Besides making Crystal Symphony and Crystal Serenity more competitive with other luxury ships from an accommodations standpoint, by reducing capacity the crew to guest ratio will go up, benefiting service.

Crystal Symphony's passenger capacity will go from 922 to 848, while Crystal Serenity's will be reduced from 1,070 to 980.

Concerning dining, Crystal has extended its partnership with celebrity chef Nobu Matushisa, and may have a Nobu venue on its expedition yachts. Replacing Silk Road on Crystal Symphony and Crystal Serenity will be Umi Uma by Nobu. ('Umi uma' means seahorse, the Crystal logo.)

Tastes will be replaced by Silk, serving casual breakfast, lunch and family-style dinner with Chinese-inspired dishes like barbecued ribs and dim sum. The Lido will be renamed The Marketplace and offer tapas, ceviche and other fare buffet-style during the day. In the evening, a section will become a churrascaria, a Brazilian-style steak house with meats served on skewers.

The Crystal Dining Room will be rebranded as Waterside Restaurant, featuring modern and classic dishes. Prego and The Vintage Room will continue, but updated with new choices. The Vintage Room will introduce a 'lunch and lecture' concept consisting of fewer courses than the dinner version, paired with a wine or beer tasting.

Suite guests will be entitled to unlimited dining in Umi Uma and Prego at no charge while non-suite passengers will get one complimentary dinner in each.

Since open-seating dining changes the flow on the ship, Crystal tapped entertainment veteran Keith Cox, formerly with Costa Cruises and Norwegian Cruise Line, to transform its evening entertainment and enrichment program, adding 'options, options, options.'

Sales gala attendees got a taste of what's in store when Broadway star Rachel York performed Tuesday night aboard Crystal Mozart, her show repeatedly punctuated by standing ovations. She sang and shared behind-the-scenes stories about working with co-stars like Julie Andrews and Liza Minnelli.

In a new Crystal partnership, Tony Award-winning producer Kevin McCollum will bring cast members and creative experts from some top Broadway shows for highly interactive programs. Perhaps, for example, they'll be working on scripts in development and share the process as the cruise goes along in a mingling of entertainment and enrichment.

And, as part of Crystal's efforts to improve connectivity in a range of areas. free, unlimited Internet will be provided across the ocean, yacht and river vessels, Mazloum said, to applause from the top travel partners. Crystal Mozart's system has been vastly upgraded, and the ocean ships are due for improvements as well.

Expedition yacht Crystal Esprit is currently is the company's highest rated experience, Mazloum said. The yacht will begin sailing from St. Martin's Marigot Bay in the Caribbean in late 2018. The Bahamas registry has granted permission for the captain to perform legal weddings on board and even in the submarine—a new opportunity for travel partners to tap into the wedding market.

When it comes to the expedition yacht newbuilds, starting with 2019's Crystal Endeavor, the line isn't planning only expedition service but a ship for all seasons and venues. So there may be seven to eight months of expeditions, with the balance of itineraries featuring the Mediterranean's yacht harbors. As Mazloum put it: 'We want the customer to feel as comfortable at the Monaco Grand Prix as in the Northwest Passage.'

On these 25,000gt vessels, crew will outnumber guests: 208 crew to 200 passengers.

Three expedition yachts are on the drawing board now, and sales for Crystal Endeavor will open in October or November.

As for the large, Exclusive Class vessels—the first not due until 2022—many top travel partners would like to see them come earlier, Crystal executives acknowledged.

Chairman, ceo and president Edie Rodriguez noted parent company Genting Hong Kong is also building up Star Cruises and Dream Cruises so adjustments were made to the brands' newbuild scheduling.

'Lots of ships are being launched in the next six to seven years,' Mazloum added. 'There may be a pricing impact. We've got to establish a successful model with our river and sister brands.'

The Exclusive Class ships are promised to be game-changers. Their residential component will be very different from that of The World resembling, instead, the Ritz-Carlton and Four Seasons hotels that have residences.

Turning to the river business, Crystal aspires to reinvent it. Unlike others, the company doesn't use outsourced services but directly employs all personnel, including those who work in the spa. Also, there are extra safety measures—two licensed captains are on Crystal Mozart's bridge at all times, 'more security cameras than on the rivers altogether' and 'highly professional security staff from Vienna guarding the vessel wherever it goes.'

Crystal Mozart is also a testing ground for much of the new technology that's going to be implemented fleetwide such iPads for room controls and ordering services. In other plans, when Crystal goes to open seating dining on the oceans, travelers will be able to see the availability on their smartphone and book a table or just arrive to eat when they wish.

The 22-year Crystal veteran Josef Lumetsberger was brought over as gm operations to make sure the Crystal attitude and values are maintained on the rivers. Lumetsberger personally interviews each recruit, and works closely with river md Walter Littlejohn, a former river cruise executive and travel agency owner. Mazloum called them 'the dream team.'

Littlejohn announced Crystal Mozart will add a dedicated on-board host to handle repeat cruise sales in 2017—a first, he said, on the rivers. In other news, two expert lecturers will join every sailing, and excursions will be 'taken to another level' thanks to the involvement of destinations expert Helen Panagos. Tours will be categorized into five areas, from 'tantalizing gastronomy' to 'exhilarating adventures.' And top-rated local restaurants will be added to the Michelin-star dining experience ashore, with the Michelin program included for Penthouse category and up.

As recently reported, the newbuilds Crystal Bach and Crystal Mahler are delayed by a month because 'We need more time to be sure they come out truly exceptional,' Littlejohn said. New crew for those are in training and will rotate onto Crystal Mozart for four months of live experience.

The newbuilds, though smaller than Crystal Mozart, actually will be more spacious with fewer guests, a higher crew to passenger ratio and nearly all the same amenities (but no Blue alternative restaurant or cigar club). The Palm Court lounge is topped by glass for easy viewing of Rhine castles. Each suite will sport an entire wall of glass, with the top part sliding down to create a French balcony.

The river and yacht products 'allowed us to innovate new experiences and test them for the ocean,' Mazloum said. For example, open-seating dining has been refined on Crystal Esprit and Crystal Mozart.

As for Crystal AirCruises, 'think of it as a cruise in the sky,' said Kris Endresen, director, sales and marketing. Crystal owns the Boeing 777 and is fully customizing it, with just 84 seats, a lounge for 24 guests, a bar and a wine cellar stocked with more than 300 bottles. Everything will be lavish, with one Skye Butler for every six travelers. Up to seven land experiences in each destination for small groups of six to eight people will be offered, with stays at five-star resorts, eco lodges and safari lodges.

Crystal cfo Don Mason told the sales gala attendees Genting Hong Kong is investing 'in the billions of dollars' to fuel Crystal's growth. 'We have an outstanding team and will bring those to fruition,' Mason said. Genting HK chairman Tan Sri KT Lim, he added, is 'incredibly bullish on us.'

Rodriguez, who reports directly to Lim and group president Colin Au—no change from the past—said Crystal has posted the three most profitable years in the company's 27-year history.

'Try hitting and exceeding EBITDA three years in a row in growth mode,' she said. 'Our shareholders are very happy with me and the team we've built.'

Posted 29 March 2017

© Copyright 2019 Seatrade UBM (UK) Ltd. Replication or redistribution in whole or in part is expressly prohibited without the prior written consent of Seatrade UBM (UK) Ltd.

Anne Kalosh

Editor, Seatrade Cruise News & Senior Associate Editor Seatrade Cruise Review