A new ship and far-flung destinations are among the exciting things on the horizon when Crystal Cruises’ resumes sailing – and in the meantime prospective passengers can whet their appetites with a virtual cruise programme. In the line’s 30th anniversary year Jeannine Williamson caught up with Helen Beck, Vice President, International Sales & Marketing, to find out what the line has been doing during lockdown, her predictions for travel ‘hot spots’ and more.
When do you think Crystal will start sailing again?
Crystal continues to closely monitor and evaluate the current COVID-19 situation. Due to temporary closures of European ports, we have cancelled all ocean and yacht cruises until November and all river cruises until September. We have also postponed the introduction of our expedition ship, Crystal Endeavor, and cancelled the remainder of its 2020 itineraries due to the closure of the shipyard where it is being constructed and the temporary closure of ports around the world.
What has happened to the Crystal ships during lockdown?
Our ocean ships, Crystal Serenity and Crystal Symphony, have remained in Asia. Those crew who we were unable to repatriate due to flight and border restrictions have remained onboard and enjoy use of all the guest leisure facilities. Our four river ships were laid up for the winter and they will remain in lay-up until cruises resume.
What initiatives has Crystal launched for customers during the Coronavirus outbreak?
As with every aspect of the Crystal Experience, we want to ensure that our guests have total peace of mind when making travel plans with us. To this end we’ve introduced a number of enticing new programmes such as Crystal Confidence which is applicable to all 2020 sailings with reduced deposits and revised cancellation schedules, allowing guests to cancel up to seven days prior to sailing for a 100% Future Cruise Credit; Easy Book which include reduced deposits of just 15% for all new bookings across all 2021, 2022 and 2023 Crystal Experiences made through to June 30 2020; and Advance Purchase Savings which is applicable on up to 70 seven-night Crystal River voyages in 2021 and offers guests a non-refundable fare of £2,974 per person – representing a savings of up to 50% – for the best available suite at the time of booking.
What feedback have you had from guests?
We know that our loyal guests are counting down the days until they can travel with us again, so we are offering them an abundance of choice and time to book. Our 2020, 2021 and 2022 deployment has been on sale for a while but we’ve also recently released our 2023 World Cruise, a multi-layered global odyssey that combines many of our guests’ ultimate travel wish lists, as well as Crystal Serenity’s 2023 itineraries which sail to the South Pacific islands, sun-drenched Africa and Egypt, the lush Americana and charm of New England and Canada, the romantic and legendary locales of the Mediterranean and the crystalline waters of the Caribbean. Every itinerary is crafted to offer travellers varied choices for exploration in each destination while showcasing a holistic experience of the regions. Crystal Symphony’s 2023 sailings will be unveiled in July.
We are also sharing our renowned Crystal Experience with an engaging virtual programme – Crystal@Home: A Virtual Cruise Experience – created to satisfy the wanderlust of our guests while they remain at home. Utilising various digital and social media platforms, travellers are invited to stay connected and interact with Crystal and each other via a weekly series of live streaming events, conversations on Crystal’s social media channels, compelling stories on the Crystal Insider blog, a re-release of Crystal Storytellers, Crystal’s podcast guest lecture series, and more.
How are you spending your days at the moment, have you done anything that you normally don’t get a chance to do?
While work continues to be busy for me, I’m making the most of my time at home by learning Portuguese to add to the French, Spanish and German that I already speak. I’m also enjoying quality time with my mum who is self-isolating with me and spoiling me with delicious home-cooked meals. I’m a very social person and miss face-to-face and physical contact with my family and friends who I can’t wait to reunite with – possibly on a cruise! In the meantime, I’ve tasked my mother with the job of creating ‘cuddle curtains’ from shower curtains so we can hug my niece safely when we see her on her 18th birthday.
What about the rest of your UK team?
In the UK we work with a general sales agent and some of their team have been furloughed while the rest are working safely from home. We are in regular contact via weekly Zoom meetings and they have been devising fun initiatives such as a Friday quiz for our trade partners which has been very well received.
When cruising resumes what destinations do you see as up and coming ‘hot spots’?
I believe that destinations that avoided the worst of the coronavirus pandemic – such as the Caribbean and the Greek Islands – will prove very popular, as well as the rivers of Europe. There will also be plenty of pent up desire for bucket list destinations such as Alaska, Australia and New Zealand and the Seychelles, especially on smaller ships such as Crystal Esprit which will sail to beloved ports as well as remote, less visited destinations beyond the traditional routes.
What news do you have to share?
Next year we will debut our brand-new expedition yacht, Crystal Endeavor. The German-built, 20,000-GRT ship will accommodate just 200 guests with elegantly casual, expansive public spaces; all-suite, butler-serviced guest rooms; Michelin-inspired dining options including Master Chef Nobu Matsuhisa’s Umi Uma & Sushi Bar; full-service Crystal Life Salon & Spa and state-of-the-art Fitness Center. Expedition-specific amenities and spaces will enhance guests’ experience, including designated “mud rooms” and helicopter lounge. Crystal Endeavor will sail to the farthest reaches of the world, from the Arctic via the fabled Northeast Passage to the Ross Sea in Antarctica, and to many regions few travellers explore, including New Zealand’s Sub-Antarctic Islands; the Russian Far East and Japan; New Zealand, Tasmania and the Great Barrier Reef; Borneo, Philippines and Indonesia; Aleutian Islands and Alaska; Western Europe and Canary Islands and South America. Guests will have opportunities to embark on thrilling adventures, cultivate deep cultural connections, and gain intimate understanding of the biodiversity and natural history of the destinations.
Is there any message you would like to pass on to Crystal guests?
With more than 30 years of cruising to the far reaches of the world, Crystal has a long tradition of implementing and maintaining the highest health and safety policies at sea. While our fleet is paused, the Crystal team is developing new procedures and policies that will support all public health and regulatory requirements and to ensure your next Crystal holiday continues to be not only relaxing and pleasurable but safe and healthy. Details of these new measures and initiatives will be available on the Crystal website very soon. Please know that our guests’ and crews’ safety is our number one priority and we will resume service only when our expert team as well as global health and government authorities indicate that it is safe to do so.
And anything you would like to add?
This year Crystal is celebrating 30 years of luxury cruising. We are immensely proud of Crystal’s legacy of offering luxury travellers the very best experiences in the world and are grateful to the world travellers who have journeyed with us. While many of our guests have been on this journey with Crystal since the beginning, the Crystal Family continues to grow with each new voyage. While we are all facing challenging times, here at Crystal we are optimistic for the future and we look forward to welcoming travellers back onboard again soon.
Known as the ‘River Cruise Queen’, Jeannine Williamson is an award-winning travel writer, cruise expert and our cruise correspondent, who has clocked up thousands of nautical miles.
Photographs courtesy of Crystal Cruises