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Crystal Cruises – How Shiny is the NEW Crystal…So Far?

I know I am an optimistic skeptic, but it is with good reason. The New Crystal Cruises is a shiny example of why.

Crystal Symphony

Crystal loyalists have been, to my mind, overly enthusiastic about the line’s sort of rebirth.  And I have been concerned not only about the condition of the ship – for when finances get tight, the first thing to be deferred is maintenance – but the condition of its client base, for it is not like there aren’t newer ships and more options out there since Crystal’s failure a few years ago.

Well, Crystal Symphony just set sail, and Cruise Industry News just published an article that confirms that most of my concerns have come to be.  It is not that things are going to be below expectations forever, but right now…as I have cautioned…one must give Crystal at least six months in operation before passing judgment.

A&K CEO Cristina Levis said it perfectly:

I know we’re not yet perfect, although we aim for perfection. In 12 months, in 16 months, you cannot achieve perfection. But I can guarantee you the team has been working around the clock. And when I say around the clock I mean around the clock.

According to the article, while there was a significant reduction in guest accommodations from 960 to 606 – with many more larger suites installed – and total renovation of the Italian restaurant, there were very expensive surprises, such as the main engines needing to be replaced (a $50 Million expense that I can’t understand how it was a surprise – knowing the newer environmental constraints, as Windstar experienced) and overall below deck maintenance was seriously suffering.

With so much going on below decks, the telephone and TV systems are still a work in progress, and who knows what else, I – again – strongly suggest waiting six months to see how things shake out. 

Yes, I remain skeptical (I said it again) about old hardware that is updated, but not unique in any way, and a client base that leans heavily on the 70+ demographic supporting Crystal into the future. I am also concerned about the management and ownership, for I have seen what A&K co-owner Manfredi Lefebvre d’Ovidio did with the finances at Silversea when he owned it (and how much the product improved when he sold it).

But, too, I am optimistic that somehow this new Crystal Cruises will be successful and provide a viable alternative in the premium to luxury cruise market.

Only time will tell.


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