Crystal Plans Major Expansion

Three new polar-ice-class rated Crystal Cruises ships will carry Zodiacs and allow the ships to offer more destination-related experiences, even in Antarctica. // Rendering courtesy of Crystal Cruises

Media and travel agents expected an announcement from Crystal Cruises on Sunday about new ships. They received that -- and a lot more. Fresh from new investment by Genting Hong Kong, the luxury line's new owner, Crystal announced the launch of several new high-end products. In summary: 

- The line ordered three new Crystal Exclusive Class ships for delivery, starting in 2018. These will be polar-ice-rated vessels. 
In addition to the normal cruise suite accommodations, the new ships will have a dedicated deck of 48 owned residences with their own dedicated lounge and restaurant. 
Crystal plans to create new luxury cruising products focused on yachting and river cruising with the same luxury standard that it now has on Crystal Cruises. Crystal Esprit, the new yachting vessel, will debut later this year. 
Crystal plans for two of its own new river vessels (to start) on European waterways.
The luxury line will roll out Crystal Luxury Air with its own private Boeing 787 Dreamliner jet for around-the-world itineraries. 

From left to right: Captain Birger Vorland, Crystal Cruises President and CEO Edie Rodriguez and Hotel Director Hubert Buelacher
From left to right: Captain Birger Vorland, Crystal Cruises President and CEO Edie Rodriguez and Hotel Director Hubert Buelacher

News for President's Cruise Guests

Exactly 25 years after Crystal Cruises entered the luxury cruise business with Crystal Harmony, the line made the robust announcements to loyal past guests sailing on the annual President’s Cruise on Crystal Serenity and Chairman’s Cruise on Crystal Symphony.

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Edie Rodriguez, Crystal’s president and CEO, and Tan Sri Lim Kok, the line's chairman, told guests that during the next three years, Crystal Cruises will introduce new ships – with new classes of luxury cruising – as well as its own Boeing 787 Dreamliner aircraft.

In their special address to guests, Rodriguez and Tan Sri Lim made clear that the new parent firm, Genting Hong Kong, has a commitment to investing in Crystal. Loyal past guests and agents had wanted the line to order new ships for some time. 

Chairman Tan Sri Lim stated, “Our intent is to make Crystal Cruises the core of what will become the world’s premier luxury hospitality and lifestyle brand portfolio, not only for the immediate future but for years to come.”

Rodriguez also shared her enthusiasm about the expansion of Crystal Cruises, saying, “We continue to think bigger, aiming to create unparalleled luxury experiences and adventures for our loyal and new guests, who – like Crystal – continue to seek broader horizons and new perspectives on the world. We are ecstatic to continue pioneering new areas of luxury travel. Crystal’s newly expanded fleet will truly be travelers’ passport to virtually the entire world.”

Crystal Yacht Cruises – December 2015

Late this year, Crystal Esprit will embark on its maiden voyage as the first expansion of the Crystal Cruises fleet. The line says the 62-guest vessel is an extravagantly appointed yacht, the former Taurus, to be delivered to Crystal Cruises by Genting Hong Kong. It will be extensively redesigned in the Crystal stylish elegance.

Set for delivery in 2015, this 3,300-tonnage yacht will offer intimate, exclusive, and immersive experiences with a boutique ambiance. Crystal Esprit marks the debut of the new all-inclusive Crystal Yacht Cruises program, which will sail regional, warm-water itineraries of seven days and offer thrilling experiences on water and ashore.

The aft section of the new Crystal Esprit will feature a watersports platform, which can be lowered for such activities as jet skiing, snorkeling and other water fun. // Rendering courtesy of Crystal Cruises

The all-suite yacht will feature posh, high-end finishes and modern technology, and is outfitted with some decidedly extreme features, like a two-passenger submarine, four 10-passenger Zodiacs for special excursions and a 12-passenger Wider 32-foot super yacht tender for special boating adventures. 

Rodriguez told Travel Agent that guests are so excited about the submarine that the line has already had requests for guests to get married in the underwater craft. 

Additionally, the vessel will carry water skis, wake boards, kayaks, jet skis, fishing, scuba diving equipment and snorkeling gear.  

The first voyage sails December 23, 2015, exploring the Seychelles Islands, followed by an inclusive, post-cruise New Year’s Eve celebration at the Taj Dubai Hotel.

Bookings on Crystal Esprit through August 15 will be exclusively available to Crystal Society members, and after that all consumers. // Rendering courtesy of Crystal Cruises

Effective immediately, the vessel is available for booking exclusively (through August 31) by Crystal Society members (the line’s repeat guest loyalty program) for voyages in 2015 through early 2018. After that, the bookings will open to other consumers.

For 2016 and 2017, and early 2018, Crystal Esprit routes for the Seychelles Islands, Dubai and Adriatic Coast include:

Seychelles Islands – Mahé, Victoria; St. Anne Island, La Passe, la Digue; Baie Ste. Anne, Praslin; Laraie Bay, Curieuse Island; Anse Saint Jose, Curieuse Island; Cousin Island; Aride; Big Sister Island; and Desroches Island
Dubai - Khasab and Muscat, Oman; Doha, Qatar; Sir Bani Yas Island and Abu Dhabi, UAB)
Venice, Italy/Dubrovnik, Croatia - Rovinj, Sibenik, Trogir, Vis, Hvar, and Korcula, Croatia
Dubrovnik, Croatia/Venice, Italy - Kotor, Montenegro; Split, Zadar, and Opatija, Croatia; and Piran, Slovenia
Dubrovnik, Croatia/ Athens, Greece - Kotor, Montenegro; Corfu, Parga, Itea, Hydra, and Navplion, Greece)
All-inclusive “Book Now” yacht fares start at just $2,690 per person for a four-day, roundtrip Mahé, Victoria, Seychelles itinerary in 2017.

Crystal River Cruises – 2017

The spring of 2017 brings more growth with Crystal River Cruises. In what the line terms "expertly curated itineraries," Crystal River Cruises will offer the hallmarks of the all-inclusive Crystal experience – six-star service, world-class dining, and enriching shore-side adventures.

The line's press release said "spacious suites with exquisitely designed interiors and elegant public rooms will punctuate Crystal’s entry into worldwide river cruising."

Rodriguez told Travel Agent on Monday that the line doesn't plan to partner with any existing river line -- such as in the way that Adventures by Disney has done with AmaWaterways.

Instead, she said, Crystal plans at least two new river ships dedicated to the European market. She said no further details will be released as yet. 

Crystal Luxury Air – 2017

Also in 2017, Crystal’s brand of luxury will soar to new heights with the launch of Crystal Luxury Air, making it the first in the luxury travel industry to offer extravagant around-the-world trips on the world’s most advanced twin-aisle Boeing 787 Dreamliner.

The plush aircraft, which typically seats 300, will fly 60 guests in fully reclining business class seats to coveted destinations to which major airlines do not offer nonstop service.

A rendering of Crystal Luxury Air's new Boeing 787 Dreamliner // Provided courtesy of Crystal Cruises 

Each approximately 28-day itinerary will start on the first of each month and visit 10-12 remote and/or sought-after locales, with accommodations at some of the world’s finest hotels and resorts; cuisine prepared by celebrity chefs inspired by the destination; and world-class cultural entertainment.

Will the line package the air travel with a cruise? "The Crystal Exclusive Class vacation exprience allows individuals to totally customize their vacation to their individual needs," says Rodriguez, so she says that Crystal won't package the air-cruise together. 

What will happen, says Rodriguez, is that that the client could go on the 28-day air trip, get off for a few days, take commercial air to hook up with Crystal Esprit or one of its larger ships. "They're all combinable," says Rodriguez, "but not as combination packages."

Rather, Crystal's luxury global guests like to put together their own vacation pieces -- perhaps taking the air, including a city stay, flying off in a private jet to meet a cruise ship and so on.  "It's all about options and exclusivity," says Rodriguez. 

Ocean Vessels: “Crystal Exclusive Class” – Late 2018

Crystal also is focusing on its core cruise product -- ordering three new Crystal Exclusive Class cruise ships with the first expected for delivery in late 2018.

The all-suite, all balcony ships will accommodate 1,000 guests, similar to the capacity on Crystal Symphony (922 guests) and Crystal Serenity (1,070 guests), and weigh more than 100,000-grt or gross registered tons.

What's unusual? Genting Hong Kong has signed a letter of intent with Lloyd Werft in Germany to build the polar-ice-class vessels.

Lloyd Werft has much experience in shipbuilding, having built many new vessels and lengthened six Norwegian Cruise Line vessels, including the Pride of America.

“Our vision and revolutionary plans for Crystal’s ocean vessels requires us to partner with a premium shipyard that has the expertise and resources to deliver the ‘Crystal Exclusive Class’,” said Tan Sri Lim. “Lloyd Werft is synonymous with successful world-class new builds and luxury mega yachts, including Luna, the second largest expedition private yacht in the world, measuring at 337 feet long." 

With the introduction of these new vessels, Crystal says it's the first cruise line to deliver expedition-capable ships with all the signature features and amenities of a luxury ship or private yacht. 

“With an impressive 100 tons of space per guest, the average space ratio for luxury cruise ships being 60 tons per person, our new ships’ guest-to-space rations will be vast in comparison to past, current and under-construction luxury ships, reaching all corners of the world safely, smoothly and in the utmost style and comfort,” said Rodriguez.

Will the line add more jets down the road? Rodriguez said "never say never," and that if that the luxury air product is as successful as she thinks it will be, that's definitely a possibility. 

Dedicated Deck for Crystal Residences 

Additionally, for the first time ever, guests will have the opportunity to call a Crystal ship “home,” with innovative Crystal Residences. Situated on the top deck of the new ships will be 48 homes, boasting their own private restaurant, reception and facilities, and much higher ceilings (nine feet) than residences on any other cruise ships or yachts.

Crystal says the individual homes will equal in size to most land apartments. Residences will start at 600 square feet and go to more than 4,000 square feet of interior living area, which will be the largest on the high seas.

Rodriguez told Travel Agent that she doesn't anticipate this will detract from the existing guest loyalty program or World Cruise product, as the line already has some guests living on its ships year-round.

Also, she noted the number of homes is limited, and since it's within the pre-construction period, a guest could buy up two homes and combine those for a larger space, even more limiting the number of owned residences on each ship. Apparently, Crystal has already had inquiries about combination of several apartments. 

New Ship Features & Amenities

Other revolutionary features being introduced on Crystal’s new vessels are:

A minimum of 400 square feet for the guestroom suites. That compares to a minimum of 226 square feet on Crystal Serenity and 202 square feet on Crystal Symphony. 
Increased ceiling heights by one foot to eight feet in all suites and decks;
Raising the bar on personal attention and service with 1,000 crew members per ship or a one-to-one crew-to-guest ratio;
Options centered on the art and expertise of Michelin-starred and celebrity chefs; 
Adventurous yacht-like special amenities including submarines, helicopters and Zodiacs.

The newly announced plans fulfill Rodriguez’s growing vision for the company since taking the helm in 2013, while also solidifying Crystal’s reputation for innovation within the luxury segment.  “It has been a personal mission of mine since joining Crystal to see this incredible company reach new potential – and thus, new luxury travelers – as we continue to deliver unparalleled guest experiences and superior standards of excellence.”

Rodriguez said she's having the time of her life dreaming up higher and higher levels of luxury experiences -- the best time in her entire 34-year cruise industry career.

Fortunately, it appears from the big announcement, that the new ownership has the deep pockets to make those dreams a reality.  

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