Crystal Symphony Gets Retooled
Crystal president Greg Michel told agents that the company has spent about $40 million in three years refurbishing its two ships. With a very intensive upcoming refurbishment of Crystal Symphony, the line will have spent more than $65 million before its 20th anniversary next year.
Crystal has already spent $24.8 million on the Symphony in recent years, and upgrades during her next drydock will bring a more residential ambience to the ship’s accommodations. The Penthouse Suites will be completely transformed using some of the veranda space to create a larger dining area with ocean views and a larger bathroom and library, in addition to a raised ceiling. The suites will have flat-screen televisions, updated bathrooms, and new soft goods will present a rich color palette. Agents applauded the company’s decision to return to leather couches instead of club chairs, which proved less popular.
Public areas on the Symphony are also getting an update, with a new concept for the Lido Cafe centered on stations rather than lines. The ships also will extend the hours of the shore excursion desks, which will now remain open during port days to advise independent travelers, who will also receive new port maps.
Recent changes to Crystal Serenity include a renovation of the Crystal Cove atrium bar and a new casino to make the entire area more open. Crystal also converted 12 AA staterooms into eight penthouses to meet demand, which runs high even in the current economy.
Sixty-seven travel sellers, each producing $750,000 or more in sales for Crystal Cruises during 2008, qualified for the company’s 19th Annual Sales Achievement Awards Gala onboard the Crystal Serenity in late May. The cruise included meetings, feasting and reveling on a 1960’s-themed sailing from Miami to Bermuda.
Bill Smith (left), Crystal president Gregg Michel (right) and Edyta Tepper, Crystal district sales manager, honor travel agent Eric Maryanov of All-Travel.com at the gala event. // © 2009 Crystal Cruises
This year, the number of qualified agents onboard increased by four agents from 63 in 2007, which Crystal had characterized as its best year. Among the high producers, Crystal honored 42 agents who generated at least $1 million in sales and an additional 19 agencies that reached the $2 million mark. These attendees produce around 80 percent of Crystal’s business. Several agents have qualified for this honor all 19 years it has been awarded and some came from as far away as Indonesia to be a part of the celebration.
Customers of these high-producing agents are equally loyal. Known as Crystal Society members, these past passengers made up 49 percent of the line’s passengers in 2007 and 57 percent in 2008. So far, in 2009, 66 percent of Crystal’s cruisers are past passengers. Bill Smith, senior vice president of marketing and sales, admitted that this year’s figure may be skewed because of the World Cruise, which attracts far more past guests than other sailings. He emphasized that there is still plenty of 2009 inventory to sell as passengers, particularly new ones, are booking much closer in — 35 percent of Crystal’s bookings are uncharacteristically coming in within three months of the sail date.
Still, Smith said that past passengers know that the best deals are offered very early and that Crystal’s ticket prices are protected and will drop if the line cuts rates.
During the cruise, Crystal executives advised agents to look at sales in multigenerational family travel, noting that while other business may have eroded, this area is still strong. Clients can take advantage of the incentives offered from Crystal Family Memories and the new Birthday Bonus in which customers who book a 2010 birthday cruise by Dec. 31 can save 50 percent on a future Crystal cruise taken before their next birthday.
Crystal strongly urged attendees to keep in close contact with prospects as signs of light appear in the economy. In early May, Crystal had the best booking week in the company’s history, and another record followed in early June. After an alarming period of consumer waffling, guests are starting to follow through more typically, moving back toward a normal rate of three bookings for one that sticks rather than a recent average of eight bookings taken before one becomes a paid reality.
“They keep coming,” Smith told agents. “They need a great deal of contact; they need permission to buy a cruise when the world is telling them they shouldn’t spend; and they are worried about getting the best deal.”
Smith said Crystal is, indeed, offering fares that have been lowered by as much as $2,000 a couple through the Celebrations Fares for many 2009 itineraries, which will continue in 2010 as Anniversary fares. The booking deadline for both is Dec. 31.
The As You Wish policy, which gives passengers up to $2,000 per couple in onboard spending, will most likely continue during most 2009 sailings and nearly all sailings in 2010. Agents applauded a day-by-day breakdown of how the credit can be used at sea and in port on gratuities, wines, shore excursions, spa treatments, the shops and more. Since the onboard credit takes nothing away from the ticket price, agents’ commissions are not affected, and with the special fares, the program makes 2010 pricing lower than pricing in 2006.
“All of this is going to make [agents] lives an awful lot easier than in the past,” said vice president of sales Eric Graves. “Never has Crystal been a better deal.”