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The new Crystal Cruises to launch with bigger rooms, familiar faces

Crystal Serenity and Crystal Symphony are undergoing significant work to enlarge their passenger accommodations, resulting in decreased occupancy
The new Crystal Cruises is launching with the website now live and inaugural voyages for Crystal Serenity and Crystal Symphony — with their enlarged accommodations and reduced occupancy — set for July and September.

Bookings will open for pre-registered customers on Wednesday.

'Crystal: Exceptional at Sea'

The new tagline is 'Crystal: Exceptional at Sea.' 

And the name will just be Crystal.

Larger guest rooms and suites

'Crystal is known for its spaciousness, service and quality entertainment but newer ships have larger staterooms. So, part of Manfredi Lefebvre's and Geoffrey Kent's vision is to decrease the total number of guests and increase the average size of the staterooms,' Crystal President Jack Anderson told Seatrade Cruise News.

Anderson said thousands of people had put down a $500 refundable deposit to have the first opportunity to book. Those who do also get a $500 onboard credit.

A&K Travel Group acquired Crystal Serenity and Crystal Symphony for $128m at auction in June last year as well as the rights to the Crystal brand. The two vessels have been undergoing a 'huge amount of work,' Anderson said, at Fincantieri's Trieste yard, with enlarged accommodations the main focus.

Crystal Serenity debuts July 31, Symphony Sept. 1

Crystal Serenity is scheduled to resume service July 31 with a 12-night Marseille to Lisbon cruise, and Crystal Symphony Sept. 1 with a seven-night Athens to Istanbul sailing. (Before each, a couple short preview cruises will be available to travel advisors and media.)

Northern Europe, Canada/New England, Caribbean, world

Serenity will then operate in Northern Europe, Iceland, Canada/New England and the Caribbean, positioning it for the 2024 world cruise, which will start from Los Angeles (or, earlier, from Miami with a Panama Canal transit added).

Mediterranean, Asia Pacific, Australia/New Zealand

Symphony will sail in the Mediterranean, then reposition via the Suez Canal for Asia Pacific and Australia/New Zealand cruises.

As with Crystal previously, many seven-, 10- and 12-day cruises will be combinable without repeating ports. Historically, about 20% of Crystal travelers book two or more sailings back to back.

All itineraries and pricing are up on

Bigger rooms, reduced occupancy

In some cases, three staterooms will be transformed into two, or two into one or three into one.

As a result, on Crystal Serenity, capacity will be reduced from 980 to 740, or 24%. And on Crystal Symphony, capacity will go from 848 to 606, a 28% decrease.

A significant portion of the accommodations will be completely renovated with new furniture, wall coverings and finishings including Italian marble plus fine cotton linens.

Solo rooms, butlers for all categories

Some (entry-level) classic ocean-view rooms, at 19 square meters/204 square feet, will be kept; there will just be fewer of them. And butler service will be extended to all accommodations.

Ten to 20 single-occupancy rooms will be available.

Public spaces/potential partnerships

The ships' public areas were already spacious so with the lower capacity, that will make them even more so. In one change, Crystal Symphony's nightclub will be reinstated.

Familiar rooms like the Palm Court, Le Bistro, the theater, the show lounge and Connoisseurs Club remain.

Some public areas could be getting new names as a result of partnerships, to be announced. Anderson wouldn't say if those might be restaurants but noted various companies have made proposals.

New carpeting, wall coverings, drapes and furniture are going into public areas.

According to Anderson, Crystal loyalists will recognize the ships and the renovation is 'just enhancing what was already excellent.'

The 'secret sauce'

With occupancy going down, crew numbers will be reduced but a near 1:1 crew to passenger ratio will be maintained.

One of the things that always set Crystal apart for brand loyalists was its crew and their longevity. Crystal already announced the return of seasoned captains, and news on hotel managers and cruise directors is to come.

'These will be names that please and reassure our travel partners,' Anderson said. He added that on the crew side, Crystal had been 'overwhelmed' with applications, giving him a 'very high confidence level that a very significant percentage of past crew will be returning.'

They're part of the 'secret sauce' he added.

A&K land programs

As expected, Crystal will be taking advantage of its sister company, Abercrombie & Kent, with 60 years of leadership in land programs, to 'elevate and enhance' pre- and post-cruise land programs and shore excursions. Anderson said Crystal and A&K plan to partner wherever possible.

As earlier reported, 17-year Crystal veteran John Stoll returned as VP destination experiences.

Goodwill gestures

Crystal's new owners have no responsibility to creditors from the prior company's collapse nor anything to do with the court-appointed assignee who is handling claims. Despite that, goodwill gestures are planned.

'The vast majority of feedback we've received from travel advisors and past guests has been positive,' according to Anderson. 'We're sympathetic for what may have occurred to individuals in the past and remain optimistic that through the legal process with the assignee that those will be resolved ...

'We will have extraordinarily welcoming offers and coordination with travel advisors and our past guests to thank them and welcome them back. Those announcements will be coming soon.'

Rebuild, recreate and reimagine

Anderson said new Crystal owner Manfredi Lefebvre's 'tenacity to rebuild, recreate and reimagine this brand is unbelievably exciting and the team that has been put together throughout the world and the coordination with Abercrombie & Kent make this personally and professionally satisfying to see it coming together.

'I have overwhelming confidence that the product is going to be exceptional and the reception from travel agents and our guests and those that will be new, trying Crystal for the first time, is going to be phenomenal. And I'm happy to be a part of it.'

See also 'Inside Crystal Serenity and Crystal Symphony's new guest rooms and suites'