ONBOARD THE CRYSTAL SYMPHONY — Crystal plans to
differentiate its Europe river cruises from competitors in part by crafting longer itineraries
that travel a shorter distance and offer longer port stays, said the line’s
vice president of deployment, Claudius Docekal.
The line, for the most part, would forego the practice of
bracketing the river cruise with pre- and post-cruise hotel stays. “You will
see us offer longer cruises and use our ship as the hotel,” he said in an interview during the annual Sales Achievement Gala for top producers.
And, instead of offering a 14-day Amsterdam-to-Budapest
itinerary, for example, the line would sell a 14-day cruise covering only a
segment of the route.
“We’re going to slow things down a bit, plan a less
ambitious schedule,” he said. In practical terms, the schedule would build in what Docekal
said was “buffer time” to account for delays on the river, such as at locks.
it could also enable Crystal to offer passengers longer stays, evenings and
overnights in ports.
The line has not released specific
itineraries or prices. River cruise bookings open Dec. 1 for Crystal Society
Docekal was most recently at Azamara Club Cruises, which
advanced the practice of overnights and evening stays in ocean ports, and he
was enthusiastic about incorporating the concept on the Crystal river ships. A
two-day stay in Antwerp, for example, would enable passengers to experience
more of the Belgian city, perhaps going to a beer hall in the evening, or visit
“In the end, you may get one or two less ports with us, but
you’re going to get a more meaningful experience,” he said.
The pair of ships, which will each carry 140 passengers in
all-suite accommodations, will be constructed at the Lloyd Werft Bremerhaven yard
in Germany and launched in March 2017. Specific layout details have not been
Agents at the gala peppered Docekal and other executives
with questions such as whether the ships would have connecting cabins, how many
dining venues the ships would have, and about the onboard entertainment and
One seller asked what Crystal would do when high or low
water levels make the rivers unnavigable. Often river lines will switch
passengers to another vessel or put passengers up in hotels and switch to coach
Docekal said that agents should communicate with clients
during the sales process to raise their awareness of the possibility of a
disrupted river cruise.
“We will find a solution where guests don’t have to move
ships,” he said. “We will definitely have a very good alternative in our back
pocket, because we know it does happen every so often.”