Aboard the Crystal Symphony: Whither all-inclusive?

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Cruise editor Johanna Jainchill was onboard the Crystal Symphony for Crystal's 20th annual Top Producers Gala. The ship cruised the British Isles and Ireland. Her third and final dispatch follows.

With the luxury market tumbling over the past two years, Crystal Cruises made major changes to the way it prices products. Executives here were steadfast that Crystal has found the right policies and programs for its market.

While competitors have billed themselves as all-inclusive by offering an open bar (and, in the case of Regent Seven Seas, including some shore excursions), Crystal last year introduced a $1,000-per-person onboard credit called "As You Wish, All Inclusive." Passengers can spend the $1,000 on anything they want.

Smith said that the bar is not even close to the top item. "Shore excursions and spa," he said. "That’s what’s so good about it. Near the end of the cruise, they check their credit and have $200 to go back to the spa or get that great bottle of wine or get their grandkids something in the shop."

With Crystal’s program, Smith said, "guests have the opportunity to design the onboard experience they want."

The line also recently introduced "Perfect Choice Dining," and here at its top-producers gala, Crystal explained why it’s not going totally informal and to an open-seating policy, like its competitors.

The new program, starting in 2011, will allow passengers to choose classic dining (a set time and table at the early or late seating) or open dining times by reservation.

"Lots of Crystal Society members want the same waiter,” said Greg Michel, Crystal’s president. "And believe it or not, some people still like to dress up."

Crystal did introduce a program to make it easier for its passengers to get spiffy on formal nights – passengers can now rent tuxedos onboard.

Click to read Johanna's first and second dispatches from the Crystal Symphony.

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