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Crystal Cruises’ next task is to win back travel agents: Travel Weekly

Crystal Cruises’ next task is to win back travel agents: Travel Weekly

Jack Anderson wasn’t trying to become president of Crystal Cruises. It was October 2020, the pandemic had halted operations and his predecessor parted ways. So Anderson, who had been a consultant for the line, reluctantly accepted the job.

Little did he know then that Crystal Cruises’ parent company, Genting Hong Kong, would leave the cruise line only to collapse into bankruptcy 15 months later. And he didn’t know he would launch a new cruise line under the same name five months later.

jack anderson

jack anderson

But that’s what Anderson does as the reincarnated president of Crystal Cruises, using his two ocean-going ships, which, along with the brand and his past guest list, were acquired by Abercrombie & Kent Travel Groupa company partly owned by Manfredi Lefebvre, whose family founded Silversea Cruises.

Anderson’s vision is to build the new company better than it was before. Crystal’s two ocean-going ships, Serenity and Symphony, are in drydock with plans for a summer 2023 revival (itineraries have yet to be confirmed, but Europe is likely on the menu).

But while Anderson envisions a new Crystal that’s more luxurious than the line of yore, the new version comes with baggage. While Crystal enjoys a reputation as a quality luxury product with a loyal passenger base, it has also inherited skepticism from travel partners and their customers who were burned by the collapse of the old company.

The closure of Crystal has left travel advisors and guests with millions of dollars in lost deposits, future cruise credits (FCCs) and commissions. These debts belonged to the now defunct Crystal Cruises, and the new company is not legally responsible.

If A&K Travel Group had purchased these two ships and chosen to name them A&K Cruises, no one would ask [about lost FCCs and commissions].– Jack Anderson, President of Crystal Cruises

However, Silversea, which bought the expedition ship Crystal Endeavor in bankruptcy, plans to honor deposits from customers who were booked on that ship if they rebook on Silversea or its sister brands, Celebrity Cruises. and Royal Caribbean International, on November 30.

The new Crystal won’t offer a similar program, Anderson said, because “we can’t.” He said the new company did not have the records to know individually whether money was owed and whether that bankruptcy petition had been processed.

“If A&K Travel Group had purchased these two ships and elected to name them A&K Cruises, no one would be asking that question,” Anderson said. “That’s basically what happened, they bought a few assets. But there’s an ambiguity or confusion because they’ve adopted that name.”

What Crystal plans to do is entice old customers to try the new cruise line in 2023 at lower prices than they traditionally paid on the old Crystal brand, he said. The company will also offer higher commissions to travel advisors in 2023, he said.

Keep the Crystal name: it works both ways

It’s not enough to heal those damaged by the old Crystal, said Alex Sharpe, CEO of Signature Travel Network. He said he had a good relationship with Anderson and Lefebvre and was in talks with Crystal about whether Signature would support the brand, but with no plan to compensate for lost commissions, FCCs and deposits, he said that couldn’t support the new Crystal. .

“You have to pick a side, and right now that side is we’re not selling them. They’re not preferred,” he said. “We cannot be neutral.

These are Crystal cruises. How to take all the advantages and none of the disadvantages? It just doesn’t seem right.– Alex Sharpe, CEO of Signature Travel Network

Sharpe acknowledged that settling commissions, deposits and lost FCCs was complicated.

“We hope that advisors and clients will be healed by the trustee and the bankruptcy process, but there are still so many questions, and we are probably several months away from knowing how this will play out,” he said. declared.

Alex Sharp

Alex Sharp

Sharpe also agreed with Anderson that A&K had named the new cruise line otherwise he could argue that it only bought the gear and not the luggage. But A&K named the brand Crystal Cruises, hired the former president and bought the brand name, he said. As such, most clients won’t understand the nuances of being a new business when Crystal markets them using the line-bought guest list.

“These are Crystal Cruises,” he said. “How do you take all the pros and none of the cons? It just doesn’t seem fair.”

In the four months since Anderson joined the new Crystal Cruises, he said he had done “virtually nothing” to reintroduce the brand to consortia and agents. The brand first needed to establish a core organization, he said, including hiring regional sales and marketing staff who would interface with travel partners, including three Crystal veterans who have were hired in September.

Anderson said he has started conversations with key consortia and is in the early stages of developing new strategic partnership agreements. With a sales team in place, he plans to launch more consistent communication with advisors over the next month about updates on ship renovations, itineraries and the launch. He expects the line’s salespeople to speak face-to-face with agents “to reaffirm what this new company is, what the vision is and what our commitment is” over the coming months.

He also plans to begin regular communications with former guests soon to share what the ships will look like, what renovations are underway, and to address their “hopes and expectations about the things we won’t change that they love,” a- he declared. These communications will also introduce guests to the vision for the new Crystal, how they are bringing the crew back and what they can expect from the new brand.

Dennis Nienkerk, a Dallas-based travel consultant and former major Crystal producer, hasn’t “heard a word” of the new Crystal or Abercrombie & Kent, he said. Like Sharpe, he is not attracted to Anderson’s promise of higher commissions and would rather hear that Crystal will honor the FCC. This spring, he doubted he would rush to resell Crystal after losing $7,000 of his own FCC to bankruptcy.

But now that A&K owns the line, it’s inclined to book them again.

“There are definitely die-hard Crystal enthusiasts out there… they would come right back if they had the chance because they love Crystal,” he said.

With A&K as the premium provider of land tours, he believes the high standards will carry over to Crystal Serenity and Symphony, and he was pleased to hear that the ships will have reduced capacity and larger suites.

Some customers might have reservations about the new Crystal, he said, “but they’ll want to try it out” and see if it’s as good as it was.

They hope to see as much of the old crew as possible, he said, and service as good as before.

Crystal crew rehired

Nienkerk is among many travel advisors and guests who say what made the original Crystal special was the crew. The line “hires for attitude,” Anderson said, knowing it could train people in service skills and not the other way around. The new Crystal will have the same philosophy: “All internal discussions are, we’ve had great service,” he said. “What can we do to make it even better than it was when it relaunched?”

The cruise line is making ‘extraordinary efforts’ to get as many ex-crew members back as possible, with many reaching out and saying they want to come back, including some who work for other cruise lines. cruise and hope to join Crystal between contracts, Anderson said. “We are extremely optimistic that we will bring back a very high percentage of Crystal’s crew, because it is the heart and soul and the difference that has made Crystal special.”

While Crystal’s former crew will be given priority in hiring, Anderson said the line will also be looking to hire people who work at other luxury cruise lines.

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