High standards in travel are especially important nowadays, and often get rewarded. With its 10th consecutive win as Best Cruise Line for Luxury in Recommend’s Readers’ Choice Awards, Crystal Cruises keeps proving that service of the highest caliber and commitment to agents are a win-win combination.
“I think we won because our staff genuinely takes pride in serving our guests and their agents,” says Bill Smith, senior v.p. of sales and marketing. “The hallmarks of the Crystal experience —service, space, quality and choices—have proved to be a winning formula. Why we win repeatedly is because of the consistency of the product delivery and our attention to providing such an enriching environment on board.
“We are thrilled,” he adds. “Travel agents are our primary distribution network, responsible for more than 99 percent of our business. We have been such ardent supporters of our travel partners and we are delighted that the feeling is mutual. In today’s challenging economic environment, it is more important than ever to be proactive, as we know the business is not going to walk through the door. It is gratifying to know that agents believe Crystal is the best for their affluent clients.”
Crystal does its part, of course, to meet clients’ expectations. Next year the company will visit 174 ports in 70 countries, with such show-stoppers as a 9-day Canary Islands jaunt, cruise series in Australia/New Zealand and the Mexican Riviera and a 7-day British Isles cruise. It will visit Sevastopol (Ukraine), Almeria (Spain) and Elizabeth (South Africa), among others, for the first time. And next month, the award-winning Crystal Serenity will set off on an unprecedented voyage of 108 days, its 15th World Cruise, new ports in the Middle East (including Iran, Saudi Arabia and Kuwait) as well as the Red Sea, Black Sea, South America, and several Mediterranean ports—41 ports in 37 countries. This World Cruise will include exciting workshops and lecturers such as broadcaster Hugh Downs, author Pat Conroy and Hall of Famer Johnny Bench.
Despite its many accolades (this year, Crystal also won, for the 16th time, Best Large-Ship Cruise Line from Conde Nast Traveler), even the most deluxe of cruise lines hit a few bumps this year. “The affluent market was challenged along with everyone else. We were not where we wanted to be in 2009 but we have very strong initiatives for 2010 that are garnering a lot of attention from agents and their clients,” explains Smith. “Multigenerational travel has remained strong. Guests are not merely acquiring new things; they are adding to their travel memories. The traveler today is seeking value-added travel that is meaningful and memorable.”
Value is certainly a common theme come next year. Crystal’s Price Guarantee ensures that should someone book a 2010 Crystal cruise and the fare for that stateroom category is later reduced, he will be protected at the reduced fare. Most of its two-for-one fares, available for all Crystal cruises in every category, will be lower than they were this year.
Should clients celebrate their birthday on board next year, they can save 50 percent on a second cruise before their next birthday. “We suggest contacting clients [so they can] take advantage of the Birthday Bonus or encourage them to consider a family reunion using the Crystal Family Memories program,” says Smith. The latter features two savings options: clients get a $500 credit toward a Crystal Private Adventure (offshore excursion) for six full-fare berths and kids under 17 sail free, among other extras. If they book 10 full-fare berths, they get the aforementioned plus one complimentary berth.
Guests paying in full six months in advance save 3.5 percent, and those who book their next cruise while aboard their current cruise receive between 4 and 4.5 percent off. Guests booking two or more cruises back-to-back can save up to 5 percent on each fare. Additionally, Crystal has a new Free Air program: With few exceptions, clients will enjoy complimentary economy-class air transportation from more than 20 U.S. gateways for cruises in Australia/New Zealand, New England/Canada and Europe; penthouse guests, who will also enjoy personal butler service, receive business class tickets in Europe.
This coming year will also see more cruise choices throughout Northern Europe and the Mediterranean, which can be combined to extended voyages without repeating ports of call. Moreover, 2010 will have 17 cruises of 10 days or less. Repeat Crystal guests—members of the Crystal Society—enjoy a wealth of perks, including dollar savings on every cruise.