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Crystal Cruises’ Crystal Sales Gala this year was divided into two portions to accommodate the line’s top travel agent partners and Crystal executives, as well as their guests, onboard river cruise vessel Crystal Mozart. The gala took place on the Danube River with stops in Vienna; Budapest, Hungary; and Bratislava, Slovakia.
Not long after Mozart set sail on March 22 for the first gala, it became clear — or rather, “Crystal clear,” as Edie Rodriguez would say with a wink — that the luxury brand will only continue to wow its increasing number of admirers.
Per Rodriguez, Crystal’s CEO and president, the last three years have amounted to record profitability for the line, and it plans on maintaining this lucrative trend.
“Brands either evolve or they die,” she said. “We will evolve perpetually, just as the consumer evolves. We want to stay ahead of that curve in the most luxurious way possible.”
For one, across Crystal’s fleet, all passengers will receive unlimited free Wi-Fi access, beginning this month. Rodriguez also emphasizes that unlike other lines, Crystal will continue to handpick its employees, rather than outsource them, which she believes results in superior service.
“We hire for the personality and train for the skill,” she said.
Here’s what else the luxury brand has in the pipeline, from noteworthy updates to its ocean-going fleet to its high-flying experience.
Crystal’s Ocean-Going CruisesCrystal Symphony and Crystal Serenity both have plans to spend time in drydocks for major refurbishments, which will include new restaurants; additional and larger suites; a revamp of evening entertainment; upgraded technology; and more. Symphony will be in drydock from September to October 2017, while Serenity’s exact drydock dates are to be announced.
Thomas Mazloum, chief operating officer for Crystal, says this is a massive investment in Crystal’s core business: ocean-going cruises.
“It’s not only to maintain Symphony and Serenity and make them look pretty, but it’s also to ensure that they are the real Crystal — the Crystal of our future,” Mazloum said.
With plans to offer about 40 additional suites onboard Symphony and Serenity, the line will be taking current staterooms out of inventory. Expect a higher space- and staff-to-guest ratio — Symphony’s passenger capacity will drop from 922 to 845, while Serenity will go from 1,070 to 980.
Two new categories — Seabreeze Penthouse Suite and Seabreeze Penthouse Suite With Verandah — will feature amenities such as larger walk-in closets and their own washer-dryers. Most of these suites will also have private entrances.
In terms of dining onboard the two ocean vessels, a “churrascaria,” or Brazilian steakhouse concept, will replace the former indoor-outdoor, buffet-style Lido Cafe. During the day, it will be called The Marketplace and offer casual buffet-style fare; come evening, the space will become the churrascaria, serving tapas, ceviche and, of course, grilled meats on skewers, carved to one’s liking.
Another addition will be Silk, a modern, Chinese-inspired restaurant open for breakfast, lunch and dinner. The daytime buffet will include items such as dim sum and wok-fried noodles. At night, Silk will offer family-style, shared dishes, ranging from crispy duck salad to scallops with black-bean sauce. Even refreshments will be on theme, such as a honey-infused ginseng and goji berry cocktail.
Crystal’s culinary partnership with celebrity chef Nobu Matushisa will continue; however, Silk Road and Sushi Bar will be retitled Umi Uma by Nobu. (“Umi uma” is the Japanese word for seahorse — a nod to Crystal’s logo.) Crystal Dining Room will also receive a new name: Waterside Restaurant. Prego will have an updated menu, serving up dishes such as broiled veal chop stuffed with seasonal wild mushrooms and a poached lobster paired with steamed octopus.
Expect new vegan and vegetarian options on Serenity and Symphony, as well as on other Crystal products. The line has teamed up with a Michelin-starred chef to produce innovative, quality dishes on par with the rest of Crystal’s food options.
Like on Mozart and the upcoming river vessels, Serenity and Symphony’s Vintage Room will showcase a set multicourse lunch or dinner, paired with a wine tasting.
Also debuting with the revamped vessels will be open seating, following the dining style’s success on Mozart. Rodriguez notes that traditionalists will still be able to book 6 p.m. and 8:30 p.m. time slots.
The ships’ onboard entertainment will only get better, too. In addition to stand-up comedy and performances presenting varying music styles, the cruise line has tapped Tony Award-winning Broadway producer Kevin McCollum to create interactive programs for guests, as well as bring top talent to the seas. Sales gala guests were offered a first look at “Crystal on Broadway,” this time starring Broadway actress and singer Rachel York.
Crystal’s River CruisesAt the start of the gala, Rodriguez confirmed that newbuilds Crystal Bach and Crystal Mahler had been delayed, and four sailings on Bach and two on Mahler subsequently had been cancelled. Bach’s inaugural voyage has been delayed to Aug. 13, and Mahler will first sail on Sept. 30. Crystal Debussy and Crystal Ravel will arrive later in 2018.
Despite this setback, Crystal Mozart — which is double the width of an average river ship — has experienced a sold-out inaugural season. According to Walter Littlejohn, vice president and managing director for Crystal River Cruises, this is chiefly due to features such as European butler service for every suite, onboard wine sommeliers, gourmet dining, 24-hour room service and a high staff-to-guest ratio.
Starting with the season’s first sailing, Crystal will be adding a Crystal Society host or hostess onboard every sailing. Crystal Society members will be able to utilize him or her for additional support.
Also new this year will be two local lecturers onboard each river cruise sailing and four additional private yacht experiences. Mozart will have two private yacht vessels with heated cabins, enabling year-round access, while other the other river vessels will each have one.
In 2018, distinguished international and regional speakers will join 10 river voyages across all five ships. Furthermore, the Michelin-starred dining program will be modified and renamed; top local restaurants (that may not have Michelin stars) will be added, and the program will be complimentary only for passengers staying in a penthouse category or higher.
“This will allow us to give the luxury and intimacy that guests are expecting from the program,” Littlejohn said.
Crystal’s Yacht CruisesCrystal Endeavor is set to arrive in 2019 and, in true Crystal fashion, not without making a splash. It will have two helicopters and two submarines; an indoor pool; a guest capacity of approximately 200 passengers; and more. The ship will also sail year-round to a wide variety of destinations,
“We have specifically designed Endeavor to be equipped and beautiful whether it’s on the Northeast Passage or in the Mediterranean,” COO Mazloum said.
Sales for Endeavor will open in October, and more information is to come.
Meanwhile, Esprit will reposition to the West Indies from November 2017 to January 2019, opening the expedition yacht to a new demographic. A seven-day roundtrip itinerary to the British Virgin Islands is available, as well as a classic seven-day West Indies trip.
Blissful couples can even get married by the captain while onboard, so agents can present the option of chartering the ship for an unforgettable wedding.
Crystal is also offering agents the chance to sail Esprit for free if they sell at least three suites.
Crystal’s AirCruisesCrystal Skye will be the line’s newest innovation as part of Crystal AirCruises, starring a state-of-the-art, customized Boeing 777 aircraft with all-inclusive offerings for 84 passengers. The inaugural AirCruise journey will span 27 days, from Aug. 30 to Sept. 25, 2017.
Details include Crystal Skye butler service; global cellphone connectivity and complimentary Wi-Fi access; a staggered seat layout so that all passengers receive a window view; 24-inch monitors at each seat; male and female amenity kits; complimentary use of iPads and Bose headphones; four restrooms (including two larger VIP restrooms); a dedicated social space that will host lectures; and a bar with a wine cellar that includes 300 bottles.
According to Kris Endresen, director of sales and marketing for Crystal AirCruises and Crystal Yacht Expedition Cruises, passengers will ideally spend only four hours in the air at a time.
For an average 29-day itinerary, there will be about six land experiences available per destination, as well as five fine-dining options per destination. Crystal will also host a special event every seven days.
2018 Sales Gala QualificationsLike the year prior, Crystal is raising the bar for sales gala qualifications. This year, agents were required to sell at least $750,000 in Crystal products in order to attend; 2018, however, will require a minimum of $1 million in sales from agents — a first for the line.
“Although we’re raising the bar for you and expecting more from you, we’re raising it for ourselves, as well,” said Kim Guimaraes, vice president of sales and strategic partnerships for North America for Crystal.
According to Guimaraes, this year’s gala included 89 qualified partners from across 15 countries, despite the increased qualification threshold of $750,000. And out of those partners, 29 have sold more than $2 million with Crystal, she says.
Collectively, partners make up more than $200 million in revenue for Crystal, further emphasizing the strength and importance of the line’s relationship with agents.