Catching Up With Crystal Cruises In Vancouver

with Ming Tappin

Ming with Edie Rodriguez, President & CEO Crystal Cruises

Crystal Symphony at Canada Place

Crystal Plaza lobby area with waterfall feature and new seating area.

A pleasant place to enjoy a burger or ice cream on the covered Lido deck.

Penthouse category bath and bedroom

Crystal Symphony visited Vancouver last week after a $20 million-plus drydock refit in September. And Crystal hosted a group of travel agents while in port to connect and update them on the ship's and the company's changes.

Our tour highlighted several newly updated areas, and Edie Rodriguez – now President & CEO - thanked us for our support and to emphasize Crystal's continuing partnership with the travel agent community.

I had a chance to speak to some of the agents in attendance to hear their comments about Symphony, and of Crystal in general.

Since Crystal has been absent from the Alaska cruise market for several years, many agents had either not seen the ship, or haven't seen her for a long time. Everyone I spoke to agreed the ship is stunning. Many like the modern and sleek furnishings and spaciously designed spaces that flow well. Stand-out features admired by all are the living wall resembling the world map on the Lido deck, and the high back chairs in the Palm Court.

When I asked about their customers, agents told me they sell Crystal with utmost confidence. Rarely do they receive any complaints from clients and a high percentage of those clients repeat with Crystal.

Another interesting fact is that their customers are willing to pay for an all-inclusive product, despite the fact that many of them may not even imbibe in the plentiful upscale liquor on offer. Their clients at this level are looking for an inclusive experience without being nickel and dimed and enjoy the improved service quality. A valuable reminder to us that all-inclusive cruising is not all about the booze.

Ben Chan of Cruise Holidays made a good point in that his clients buy luxury brands because it is a lifestyle choice. Using an everyday example - you can drive a Honda or a Mercedes. Both get you everywhere, but each provides a very different experience.

Similarly, all cruise ships offer food, accommodations and transportation. But a luxury cruise offers a refined experience, higher space ratio and exemplary service. Price is really not the focal point. I think we should all train ourselves to think this way and sell luxury with confidence.

On the agents' working relationship with Crystal, all had positive things to say. Pennly Lim from Expedia CruiseShipCenters praised Crystal's shoreside team in Los Angeles and Vancouver-based District Sales Manager Peter Nowicki, for being easy to work with and very supportive of their initiatives.

Her only lament is that Crystal, as with almost all cruise lines, does not pay commission on shore excursions. She has groups that book customized private tours through Crystal to the tune of $20-30K, and wishes that Crystal would provide compensation. Her alternate choice is to book with a 3 rd party that pays commission, but she wants to ensure her clients have a seamless experience, which she knows will happen with Crystal. Loyalty like this speaks volumes, and hopefully Crystal will reconsider amending its policy.

With new owner Genting HK, Crystal is poised for growth in the luxury market. Edie's oft stated vision for Crystal Cruises is 7 continents, 7 ships, 7 seas. We're looking forward to this expansion.

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