Crystal Cruises is on its way back, with sailings starting July 31

Crystal Cruises is on its way back, after purchase by A&K Travel Group

MONACO — The buyer for two former Crystal Cruises vessels has purchased not only the ships, but the company too, with an eye to a comeback for the luxury cruise line.

The buyer is none other than A&K Travel Group, which includes Abercrombie & Kent, and is in turn owned by Heritage Group, headed up by Manfredi Lefebvre d’Ovidio.

Industry watchers might recall that in 2019 Lefebvre’s Heritage Group purchased an 85% stake in A&K Travel Group, with A&K founder Geoffrey Kent owning the remaining 15% as part of a strategic partnership.

Lefebvre is best known in the industry for his work with Silversea Cruises, founded by Lefebvre’s father in 1994. Lefebvre initially stayed on as executive chairman of Silversea Cruises when the Royal Caribbean Group bought a 66.6% stake in Silversea, a US$1 billion deal, in 2018.

This morning news broke that A&K Travel Group was the buyer of luxury cruise vessels Crystal Serenity and Crystal Symphony. That sale was announced last week, with a purchase price of US$128 million via auction, and only rumours and speculation about the buyer.

Both ships have been under arrest in The Bahamas since February 2022 when Crystal had ceased operations, following the bankruptcy filings of parent company Genting Group

A statement from A&K Travel Group says the two ships will resume service in 2023 “after undergoing extensive refurbishment and will operate under the award-winning Crystal Cruises brand that has also been acquired by A&K Travel Group Ltd.”

Says Lefebvre: “I am thrilled to start this new chapter and to be back in an industry that has always had, and always will have a special place in my heart. Thirty-five years ago, my family acquired control of Sitmar Cruises, building three of the first purpose-built cruise ships, and 30 years ago my family pioneered a new way of cruising. Our goal was to deliver the best experience, pampering guests from all over the world with around-the-clock butler service and extraordinary culinary experiences.”

The Royal Caribbean Group fully acquired 100% of Silversea in 2020. “Selling the cruise business that belonged to my family for a quarter of a century was a difficult decision, as I knew I would miss this industry immensely,” says Lefebvre.

“Therefore, when the opportunity arose to acquire Crystal Cruises, I did not think about it twice. Having next to me my incredible friend and inspiring leader Geoffrey Kent makes this venture even more enjoyable.”

Lefebvre is now Co-Chairman of A&K Travel Group Ltd., Crystal Cruises and Abercrombie & Kent.

Crystal Cruises and Abercrombie & Kent will report to Cristina Levis, CEO of A&K Travel Group Ltd. “Manfredi, Geoffrey and I look forward to welcoming past Crystal and Abercrombie & Kent guests onboard, as well as those seeking rewarding luxury experiences,” she said, adding: “The acquisition of Crystal has been extremely challenging but the satisfaction of having this jewel in our family is the best payoff for all the hard work and efforts of the A&K team. Ad maiora Crystal Cruises!”

Kent adds: “Even though it seems like yesterday, 30 years have passed since the Lefebvre family and I had our first ship together…Manfredi and I have been best friends and business associates ever since. The idea of combining the unparalleled onboard service that Crystal Cruises is known for, with the extraordinary tailor-made experiences Abercrombie & Kent has been successfully providing for our guests for the past 60 years, fills me with excitement, enthusiasm and pride.”

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