I have to admit being as surprised as almost everyone else by Genting’s acquisition of Crystal Cruises the other week. It certainly threw the entire industry a curve ball; quite a fait accompli that still leaves a lot of unanswered questions and, in some- mainly traditional quarters- a sense of vague unease as palpable as Atlantic fog.
That said, what we do know is that the line is finally getting a new build- the first since Crystal Serenity back in 2003. To even contemplate competing with the likes of Regent and Seabourn in terms of itinerary reach, Crystal needs to be a minimum three ship fleet. I have always felt- and still do- that the loss of Crystal Harmony hurt the brand in terms of the global deployments it could offer. It was, in my mind, a big mistake.
So, in that framework, three really could be a magic number again. But should we expect something radical and new, full of flash rather than substance?
God, I hope not.
Part of the reason why Crystal has been so uniquely successful is what I would describe as it’s proven policy of gently rolling, smooth evolution. The hardware and construction of the two current stalwarts- Crystal Symphony and Crystal Serenity- has allowed them to gradually ingest and absorb a series of thorough, yet superbly done updates and enhancements over two decades now. While continuing to offer the deft, attentive levels of service and outstanding cuisine that has made the product a modern day legend almost on a par with the old French Line, the ships continue to be the cool, welcome retreats so beloved of a whole generation of loyal guests. In short; if it ain’t broke, don’t fix it.
This is not a rallying cry against innovation; far from it. And, like as not, the new ship will have bigger cabins and suites across all grades. Perhaps the line will go for an all balcony design, which would be nice. But Genting should remember and treasure the core Crystal values and unique selling points, rather than trying to create a kind of maritime floating exclamation mark that would ultimiately fail under the weight of it’s own hype and expectation.
I, for one, am thrilled at the news of the new Crystal sibling (Crystal Symmetry, anyone?) and long to see the end result of the decision making process
. While she will no doubt sail- like her sisters- to a whole raft of exotic, thrilling destinations world wide, it is to be hoped that this new Crystal swan is not too much of a departure.
As ever, stay tuned.