The butlers and dance hosts are back on Crystal Cruises’ Serenity. And so are their most ardent fans – the passengers.

Abercrombie and Kent Australia MD Deb Fox has just returned from the newly minted line’s inaugural voyage filled with wonder that, after just a year, ships are on the water and guests are in the suites.

And not just any suites.  Many have been enlarged, refitted with contemporary designs.  In the words of Fox: “It’s Crystal – only better!”

“A number of times there were tears, there were hugs – this emotional connection that the Australians had with the ship and the crew was incredible.

“The cruise director was bouncing around like a jelly bean. ‘I can’t wait for the next guest to get on board,’ he kept saying. He knew like 90% of them.”

Crystal Cruises was snatched from insolvency by the luxury tour operator – an ignominious position for a brand with more awards than almost any other operator on the seas.

Now, its two ships have not just been refitted – decks have been taken back to bare metal and passenger numbers cut back to ensure the amazing level of service Crystal was renowned for.

Back and better.

The line has just announced world cruises: the 2025 World Cruise will soon be opening reservations.

It departs January 7, 2025 aboard Crystal Serenity, and sails from Fort Lauderdale to Barcelona, crossing continents and cultures and visiting 31 countries and 62 ports with 17 overnights. 

It will go to Mexico, Belize, Honduras, and Colombia. Transit Panama’s iconic Canal before sailing along South America’s western coast visiting Guayaquil, Lima, and Pisco. It will include the Chilean Fjords and the riotous energy of the Rio Carnival, Africa and Europe.

In addition to deep destination exploration, the line’s exclusive partnership with Abercrombie & Kent means bespoke events and overland experiences will be on offer.

Compensation for past passengers

A crucial move in the successful return of crystal was to offer cruise credits to passengers who lost money when the line’s former owners shuttered it. A&K didn’t legally have to do that.

Australian passengers, who lost not inconsiderable sums, where among the most loyal passengers and A&K’s shrewd boss Manfredi Lefebvre d’Ovidio, who built Silversea Cruises before selling it to Royal Caribbean, knew that breathing life back into the brand meant winning back its biggest fans first.

Passengers who lost out need to activate their credit by the end of August.

Continuity was a key. And crew returned in droves – up to 80% came back, many leaving jobs with other lines to “come home.”

The next masterstroke from the legendary Manfredi was to announce four more ships – two ocean and two expedition.  It had the industry in no doubt that he meant business.

And there is more to come. As many lines desperately try to link land-based product to satisfy demand for longer luxury stays, A&K already has it in spades.

So a seamless stay aboard luxury ocean vessels followed by an A&K land tour makes sense. Back and better.

Says Fox: “This joining of Crystal Cruises and A&K is quite unique for a number of reasons: the first is really the brand culture, emotion side of it.

“I’ve never been on Crystal before, only having been on expedition ships. I was going on with an open mind and a blank piece of paper.

“I’ve walked away going, these two brands are so closely aligned, they care. It’s bespoke. About the individual person.

“It’s understated luxury, it’s elegant, all of those things that A&K deliver on the ground for our tailor-made bespoke touring.

“I thought those two things coming together are so natural.”

She added: “it was really interesting hearing people on board of crystal, the clients, media and trade who have been on crystal ten or 20 times, and the one consistent piece of feedback was: ‘it’s like the old crystal, but better’.

Adds head of marketing Michelle Mickan: “It’s little things like, for example, the sheets have been hand chosen by a company in Italy which normally does sheets for Royalty.

Back and better

“My necklace broke one day. So somebody said to me, the butlers will do anything. I went ok. So I left my necklace out and I said: ‘Not sure if you’re going to be able to fix it, but if there’s any way you can, I would be so appreciative.

Of course, legendary service is as Crystal Cruises watchword. And Fox has first-hand experiences.

“I came back that afternoon and I had a fixed necklace. I broke my belt two days later. Exactly the same thing. Fixed.”

And how are Australians reacting to the Crystal resurgence?

Raja at work
Raja the butler at work.

“It’s absolutely fantastic,” says Fox. “The Australian market is probably double the size of what we think it was under the old crystal. And that’s all people talking about it, the buzz that it’s created and people calling up.

“Australians go for a long time. We want to dig a little bit deeper. We’re different to the Americans,” says Fox.

“Americans have got their list of the top four or five things that everyone must do when they go to, you know, Rome Florence, wherever it might be. Tick, tick, tick.

“The Aussies may have already done that, but they also want to do something a little bit deeper and richer.

“So they’re building a future program with A&K for pre post shore excursions. You’ll be able to come off the ship in Lima and do your three-night Machu Picchu experience, then back to your cabin on the ship.

“So you’re able to have this integrated experience.”

New announcements shortly

It’s a list of unique integrations that the company will be announcing shortly, when the link between A&K and Crystal will begin to make sense.

Australia will see Crystal Symphony on home waters at the end of the year, and Crystal Serenity on her World Cruise next year.

Expect to see some fascinating combinations with local A&K tours. And a Perth Auckland cruise that Fox anticipates will be very popular.

“I’ll be there when the ship arrives in Perth on December 6.” She says.

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