What travel advisors think about new ships for Crystal

Andrea Zelinski

A&K Travel Group travel partners onboard the refurbished and relaunched Crystal Serenity applauded when the company’s president Christina Levis revealed plans to order four more ships for delivery by 2029.

Crystal, under its new ownership, plans two traditional oceangoing ships and two expedition ships, according to Levis. As of now, there is no contract. But the plan, if activated, would mean the first new traditional tonnage for Crystal since the Serenity debuted 20 years ago.

And it would be a new chance to try for the expedition market: Crystal’s expedition newbuild, the Endeavor, was in service for about six months before the previous version of Crystal ceased operations; the ship was later purchased by Royal Caribbean Group for use by Silversea.

Advisors onboard were excited about the prospect of new ships for Crystal.

Chuck Conine, owner of an independent travel agency in the Avoya network based in Athens, N.Y., said he was confident the line would have enough clients to support the expansion. That’s in part because of the involvement of Levis and Manfredi Lefebvre, the founder of Silversea and now A&K Group’s executive chairman, and because the brand has strong “legacy support” from past clients, he said.

“I’m confident that not only my clients, but those like them, will be very, very excited to come back on board, and the numbers will show it,” he said.

Diana Castillo, San Antonio-based owner of Integra Travel Group, an affiliate of Protravel International, said she was excited about Crystal’s planned growth spurt. People are so loyal to the brand and eager to come back that “we don’t even have to sell it,” she said. “They’re so loyal to the brand because the service [was] so perfect.”

But others were more reserved, recalling the 2015 announcement from the former Crystal Cruises to build three oceangoing ships, as well as a river cruise line, a yacht product and an air-tour division.

While some of those projects came to fruition — the yacht, for example, operated before the line’s bankruptcy and was subsequently sold to Lindblad, and the river line grew for several years and is now part of Riverside — the cruise ships never came to market.

Ricci Zukerman of Trip Matters Inc. in Tustin, Calif., said she’s skeptical of the plan. The old Crystal expanded too fast before it failed, she said. “Why are you already thinking about new ships? What’s the rush?”

But, she added, “They have deep pockets and Manfredi is a very smart man. Maybe this will be different.”

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