ruise editor Rebecca Tobin caught up
with Crystal Cruises president Gregg Michel in Phoenix as he was
finishing a U.S. tour to promote the line's new ship, the Crystal
Travel Weekly:Has the war impacted your
Gregg Michel: Overall, our European
cancellations have not been abnormal. They fit the typical pattern
of cancellations before final payment is due.
However, [there's] not a lot [of new bookings] coming in for
2003 European cruises. We had some increases for the Crystal
Serenity and some for the Crystal Symphony's [Baltic voyages], but
for the most part it's been flat.
TW:How have travel agents and their
clients responded to the cancellation insurance?
Michel: The new cancellation penalty has been a
good psychological and practical tool for agents. We've had many
guests upgrade their insurance. Others have maintained their
regular travel insurance, aware that we take care of them if we
have to make a drastic itinerary change.
We had developed this post-9/11, so it's really a matter of just
dusting it off. It's an endorsement from us of travel and
TW:What kind of endorsement?
Michel: We're saying, "Go ahead and book that
part of the trip. We have confidence in our program, you can, too."
I think it helps the agent to endorse the whole thing, to say,
"Hey, look, if you're really worried, Crystal offers this."
TW:What's the status of the Crystal
Michel: We're ramping up for our July inaugural
events. Our vice president of food and beverage is working closely
with [celebrity chef] Nobu Matsuhisa to develop [the entire]
culinary program we have scheduled for our newest restaurant, Silk
TW:What else is new and different about
Michel: The Serenity will be, at 68,000 tons,
38% larger than our existing ships, but it will carry only 12% more
guests. So the passenger-to-space ratio is climbing
There will be the Studio, a hands-on workshop area for our
lecture series. It'll be a kind of lab setting. Our Vintage room
will be available for wine tasting, or, when we have our guest
chefs, for food tastings. The spa will be some 60% larger.
In accommodations, 85% of the suites will have verandas. We'll
have no obstructed staterooms. And that'll go a long way toward
TW:How are bookings, so far, for the
Michel: Overall, it brings 58% more capacity to
We have very good load factors for the cruises throughout the
inaugural year. We are fighting, of course, to a certain degree,
the uncertainty regarding travel.
That's why it's important we stay out there with these kinds of
promotions, keep the Crystal name out there.
TW:What trends are you seeing in the
Michel: We see that people really want to learn
and experience more. I think our Crystal Visions program -- that's
our lecture series -- really speaks to that. We just introduced
French- and Spanish-language classes on our world cruise, and the
response is fabulous.
Health and fitness is another area, and that's why we committed
the funds to the [refurbishment of the] Harmony and the space on
And service: They want value, but they're willing to pay for
TW:What's the most frequent question asked
of you these days?
Michel: I think people ask about safety. They
want to be comforted, and sometimes I'm asked what specifically
we're doing. Or a lot of times our past guests will say: "Well, we
see you're asking for a second picture ID coming off and on the
ship, and we think that's great."
They'll ask about crew on the Serenity. We're bringing about 30%
to 35% of the crew off each [of our other vessels] to the Serenity.
With the training they've had and with 70% of the crew existing, we
feel very confident.
Harmony gets a spruce-up
LOS ANGELES -- A multimillion-dollar renovation improved the chi
of the Crystal Harmony.
The ship's redesigned spa area was "designed in accordance with
the principles of feng shui, the ancient practice of balance and
harmony," according to Crystal.
The spa now includes a canopied sun deck, where passengers can
sit before or after their treatments, seven treatment rooms and a
larger fitness center.
The Harmony also features a Connoisseur Club cigar bar, which
previously was only on its sister ship, the Symphony.
The ship's Palm Court, an open lounge used for afternoon teas
and the captain's parties, and the Galaxy Lounge performance space
were freshened up.
Both spaces were redone with new soft goods, including carpeting
and cocktail tables. New wicker chairs were placed in the Palm
Court, and the Galaxy Lounge was outfitted with new window
treatments and stage curtains. -- R.T.