Crystal Cruises said it plans multimillion- dollar refurbishments to its two existing ocean ships, but at the same time it extended the arrival date of its three new ships for the fourth time.

When Crystal announced its trio of 1,000-passenger Exclusive-class ships, the first was to be delivered in 2018. That schedule slipped first to 2019, then to 2021 and now to the first quarter of 2022.

The ships are being constructed at shipyards in Germany that are now owned by Crystal parent Genting Hong Kong. Crystal said the ocean ships are being delayed in order to build two more expedition yachts in addition to the Crystal Endeavor, a 200-passenger expedition vessel set for delivery in 2019.

"I take full accountability," said Crystal CEO Edie Rodriguez. "I made the decision; we're going to delay ocean [ships] because of the plethora of other things we're going to get."

The Crystal Serenity and the Crystal Symphony have been refurbished numerous times, most recently in 2014 when the Symphony received $20 million of improvements. A year earlier Crystal spent $52 million on the Serenity.

Crystal said upgrades of a similar scale will be done on the Symphony in 2017 and the Serenity in 2018.

The new expedition yachts, meanwhile, will be copies of the Crystal Endeavor and are set for delivery in 2020 and 2021.

Rodriguez said luxury expedition cruising is poised for the same growth that hit river cruising about 15 years ago.

"I think it's an excellent idea," Sharon Fake, director of operations at Travel Experts, in Raleigh, N.C., said of the refurbs to the Serenity and Symphony. She said that the ships are still popular but need features to pull in a younger generation.

High on her list would be additional large cabins, she said.

Rodriguez said Crystal would like to have more penthouse suites, which sell out quickly. She hinted that some reduction in capacity would allow for larger suites and single-seat dining, which Crystal has lacked.

"Our goal is to go to a headcount that makes [possible] single-seat dining — true, full open-seating dining," she said.

The Crystal Serenity carries 1,070 passengers at double occupancy, while the Crystal Symphony is at 922 passengers.

Several other luxury lines are taking new ships this year or next, while the next Crystal newbuild will be five years away, but Rodriguez downplayed the competitive advantage of new ships.

"New is only new for less than a year," she said.


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