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Crystal strongly refutes any incident on Red Sea deadhead transit

Crystal Symphony has safely transited the Red Sea and is in the Mediterranean en route to Limassol, Cyprus, to embark passengers April 6
Crystal Symphony, currently in the Mediterranean en route to Cyprus, deadheaded through the Red Sea under US Navy escort safely, without incident, Crystal said, despite some speculative reports.

The ship did not carry passengers and, according to the cruise line, US Navy radars confirmed there was never any aerial or marine threat nearby nor did Crystal Symphony report gunshots, as erroneously stated in a UK Marine Trade Operations tweet.

Crew could elect not to make the transit

On board were a reduced crew of around 200. They were not forced to be there; Crystal had given everyone two options to leave and rejoin the ship. Crystal Symphony also had two senior shoreside officials present: Fernando Delgado, chief product officer, A&K Travel Group, and Spyros Almpertis, VP port operations, Crystal.

In an effort to separate fact from speculation, Seatrade Cruise News spoke with Crystal about the transit, first asking why the company sent the ship through an area where it earlier had cited safety concerns.

Part of a US Navy-escorted convoy

'After careful consideration, we decided to sail through the Red Sea on a convoy escorted by the US Navy without guests and the limited crew that elected to stay on board,' Delgado said. 'We spoke with several maritime authorities and government officials before making our final decision.

'We gave our crew the opportunity to return home during the crossing, get paid two months' salary, and then be rehired. We also gave them the opportunity to disembark in Mumbai and reembark after the transit.'

Delgado maintained: 'At no time during the voyage was the safety of those on board in jeopardy.'

He added: 'We are very grateful to the US Navy and other navies who escorted us safely through the Red Sea and we are now looking forward to welcoming back guests on April 6, and continuing with our Mediterranean voyages.'

Rumors sparked

Rumors about gunshots sprang from an April 1 post on X, the platform formerly known as Twitter, in an incident notice by UK Maritime Trade Operations. It said: 'The master of the vessel reports that they were hailed by entity claiming to be Yemeni Navy who requested the vessel turn on its AIS. Shortly after the hailing, a crew member of the vessel reported that they heard suspected gunshots.'

Delgado said the UKMTO report 'contains some inaccuracies,' and that Crystal has reached out to the agency to provide it with accurate information and to request an update to its report.

No gunshots

'Our captain did not report being hailed by another vessel and certainly never reported hearing gunshots. Nobody on board heard any gunshot,' said Delgado, who was there.

What actually occurred is that after Crystal Symphony was out of the High Risk Area, it was contacted via radio by an individual claiming to be from the 'Yemeni Navy,' requesting that the ship switch on its Automatic Identification System.

'Following the advice of our US Navy escort, the ship did not reply to this request and continued on its planned route without incident,' Delgado said, adding military bases confirmed these types of calls happen frequently in the area and were happening prior to October 2023.

'Later, a crew member reported hearing a noise and subsequently noticed a cracked outer pane on their cabin window,' Delgado continued. 'This was investigated by us and by the US Navy and determined to be a minor technical issue, likely caused by harmless debris, and unrelated to any external threats. The glass was still in its position.'

He reiterated US Navy radars confirmed there was never any aerial or marine threat near Crystal Symphony.

Positive mood on board

Delgado added: 'Our crew is the heart and soul of Crystal, and we are so grateful to have returned more than 80% of our family since relaunching last year. The Crystal Symphony crew members that chose to make the transit with us had access to internet and social media throughout and the mood on board was nothing but positive.'

Crystal Symphony is now preparing to embark passengers Saturday in Limassol.