TORONTO — One of the best-known brands in luxury cruising has been forced to temporarily suspend operations in the wake of bankruptcy filings for its parent company.
Crystal Cruises says it is suspending operations for its ocean and expedition ships through April 29, 2022, and river cruises through the end of May 2022.
The cruise line’s parent company, Genting Hong Kong, part of the Genting Group, filed for bankruptcy protection on Jan. 19, 2022.
Speculations about Genting’s financial stability have circled for years, even pre-COVID.
Genting Hong Kong’s holdings also include Germany-based shipyard MV Werften, which filed for bankruptcy on Jan. 10, 2022. Crystal vessels built at MV Werften include river cruise ships Crystal Bach and Crystal Mahler.
The statement on Crystal’s website, posted late afternoon on Jan. 19, 2022, says cancelling voyages will allow the cruise line to assess its options.
“Suspending operations will provide Crystal’s management team with an opportunity to evaluate the current state of business and examine various options moving forward.
“Crystal’s three ships currently in operation – Crystal Serenity and Crystal Symphony sailing in the Caribbean and Crystal Endeavor in Antarctica – will complete their current voyages. Crystal Symphony’s current voyage ends in Miami on January 22, Crystal Serenity in Aruba on January 30 and Crystal Endeavor in Ushuaia, Argentina, on February 4.”
The statement also includes this from Crystal Cruises president, Jack Anderson: “This was an extremely difficult decision but a prudent one given the current business environment and recent developments with our parent company, Genting Hong Kong. Crystal has been synonymous with luxury cruising for more than 30 years and we look forward to welcoming back our valued guests when we resume operations. We wish to thank our guests and travel advisors for their incredible support during these ongoing challenging times.”
The statement adds that travel agents and clients impacted by the cancellations are currently being notified. Crystal says it will provide a full refund of cruise fare paid, which will be processed automatically to the original form of payment so there is no further action on the guest’s part. If the cruise was paid via a Future Cruise Payment or Credit, the full value will be returned to their Crystal Society profile account.
CRYSTAL’S LONG HISTORY & RAPID EXPANSION
Crystal Cruises has been a favourite in the luxury cruise space for more than 30 years, and for the longest time sailed with just two ships: Crystal Symphony and Crystal Harmony. A third ship, Crystal Serenity, arrived in 2003.
Genting’s acquisition of Crystal Cruises in 2015 brought rapid expansion, including a fleet of river cruise ships, and later an expedition ship.
After the entire cruise industry, and the travel industry at large, came to a halt due to the pandemic, on March 11, 2021 Crystal announced that Crystal Serenity would set sail in July 2021 with all-Bahamas itineraries.
The news made Crystal the first ocean-going cruise line to offer 2021 sailings in the Americas amid the pandemic.
TRAVEL AGENT REACTION
Jennifer McPherson with Turnkey Travel – Travel Only in Brantford, ON, says she didn’t sell a lot of Crystal and neither did many of her colleagues. While other cruise lines made efforts to prioritize the Canadian market and Canadian travel agents, and offer Canadian dollar pricing, “[Crystal] always sold in USD so they were not that focused in adapting to a Canadian market,” says McPherson.
Sandra McLeod of Red Door Travel in LaSalle, ON, says she has sold Crystal Cruises for many years, including before the river cruise days. “In fact my first ‘real’ cruise was on Crystal – before I was in the travel industry – on the Symphony. I loved it then and the experience continues to be one of the best in the industry for customer service. My clients who have sailed on them loved the experience and had only great things to say about the ships, service, quality of food, entertainment, the entire experience.”
McLeod adds: “I personally think they expanded too fast and too far – with river ships, yachts and air (I am pretty sure this is gone now). They wanted to replicate the ocean experience on the river ships and yachts.”
McLeod also notes that without the years of experience of some of its competitors, Crystal’s river cruise operations sometimes faltered when it came to dealing with low water levels during dry European river cruise seasons, a chronic problem for the industry. “On the river [sailings] they didn’t have the years of experience that others do so my clients had a few issues with low water levels (not Crystal’s fault) which were taken care of – after some letters.”
McLeod says Crystal has always been easy to work with, and paid commissions early, fixed any issues – “until the pandemic. I could see a problem coming and have been concerned for a while – they still owe me commission for a cancelled cruise – where they protected the commission (I will probably never see it now).”
She says her clients’ upcoming river cruise with Crystal “is not immediately impacted by the temporary suspension – so we will see.”