Travel Insights: Crystal Gets a New Owner and a New Ship
PHOTO: The Crystal Symphony. Courtesy Crystal Cruises.
Last year I sailed on Crystal Cruises' annual gala for top-selling travel agents and had the opportunity to interview Crystal President Edie Rodriquez. I've known Edie for several years now and was very pleased when she was named to her current post at Crystal after several years with Azamara Club Cruises and Carnival. The only question I had at the time was just what was in Crystal's future.
For years, travel agents and much of the industry had speculated that the line, which has two of the largest ships in the luxury market, would be sold. Agents also were very interested to see if Crystal would ever build a new ship that would expand on its popular 922-passenger Crystal Symphony and 1,070-passenger Crystal Serenity. Last year Edie seemed pretty confident that Crystal would indeed build a new ship, given the high occupancies and great business the line was recording. But many agents wondered if all that would be sidetracked if Crystal was sold.
Well, this month two things happened: Crystal was sold by NHK, the Japanese shipping company that has owned it for the past 25 years, to a unit of Genting, the Hong Kong-based company that is heavy into resort building around the world and also is a major shareholder of Norwegian Cruise Holdings through its Star Cruises unit. Genting, in turn, has vowed that it will indeed build a new ship for Crystal, possibly as early as 2018.
That means that travel agents who have helped virtually sell out Crystal's inventory over the past few years will finally get their wish: More Crystal inventory. Better yet, this appears to be happening with no change in management at the cruise line. Rodriguez and her team will stay in place and presumably continue their agent-focused distribution strategy. Indeed, Edie has been a visible and popular presence at travel agent conferences and events ever since she got Crystal’s top job in 2013.
One other interesting result of the Crystal sale. Crystal will now effectively be a sister company to Norwegian, Regent Seven Seas and Oceania. Put Regent Seven Seas, which is set to debut a new ship itself next year, and Crystal together and you have the largest number of luxury berths in the market today. I’m not exactly sure what that means in the long run, because there's no evidence that the two lines will coordinate or are even contemplating any communication on their strategies, but if nothing else it's just more evidence of the increasingly consolidated cruise industry.
Meanwhile, good luck to Edie and her team. After months, even years of speculation about Crystal's future, that future seems to be all but crystal clear now!
More by James Shillinglaw
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