Tourism & Cruises

With new owners, two-ship Crystal Cruises plans major expansion

Crystal Luxury Air, using a Boeing 787 Dreamliner, is expected to start flying in 2017.
Crystal Luxury Air, using a Boeing 787 Dreamliner, is expected to start flying in 2017.

Just months after being acquired by investment company Genting Hong Kong, Crystal Cruises announced plans late Sunday for a three-year expansion that will add a yacht, river cruising operation, three more oceangoing ships and a business-class-only airplane.

The plan would position Los Angeles-based Crystal, now a niche luxury operator with two ships, as a bigger player in the upscale cruise world.

“Our intent is to make Crystal Cruises the core of what will become the world’s premier luxury hospitality and lifestyle brand portfolio, not only for the immediate future but for years to come,” Crystal chairman Tan Sri Lim Kok Thay said in a statement.

He and Crystal president and CEO Edie Rodriguez announced the news Sunday on separate voyages on the Crystal Serenity and Crystal Symphony, 25 years after the cruise line launched its first ship.

Genting Hong Kong, which owns Asia’s Star Cruises and a stake in Miami-based Norwegian Cruise Line Holdings, completed the $550 million acquisition of Crystal Cruises in May. The company did not disclose how much the expansion is expected to cost, though Rodriguez characterized the investment as “several billions of dollars.”

Genting Hong Kong is part of Genting Group, which in 2011 bought the downtown Miami site where the Miami Herald was then headquartered.

Crystal’s first addition — a 62-passenger megayacht to be called Crystal Esprit — will join the fleet by the end of 2015. Coming from the parent company, the former Taurus is being refitted “in the Crystal style,” Rodriguez said. The all-suite vessel will sail itineraries in the Seychelles Islands, Dubai and Adriatic coast through early 2018.

Crystal River Cruises is expected to debut in spring of 2017, but the announcement did not include information about ships or itineraries. In an interview, Rodriguez said the company is building two new riverboats. She declined to give details about the plans for competitive reasons.

Also in 2017, Crystal plans to introduce Crystal Luxury Air using a Boeing 787 Dreamliner outfitted with 60 reclining business-class seats. The company will fly passengers to roughly a dozen remote locations across the globe on a 28-day itinerary.

Rodriguez said the plan is based on customer interest in around-the-world trips in less time than a globetrotting cruise would take.

“It’s sort of Crystal in the sky,” Rodriguez said. “Our guests tell us this is what we’re looking for and we’re happy to deliver.”

By late 2018, Crystal expects to add the first of three new 1,000-passenger cruise ships built by German shipyard Lloyd Werft. The all-suite vessels will encompass more than 100,000 gross tons, and each suite will have a balcony. The top deck will include 48 private residences available for purchase.

Miami-based cruise expert Stewart Chiron, CEO of CruiseGuy.com, said the cruise line was definitely in need of new tonnage. But he wondered if adding all of the new capacity in a short period of time — especially three 100,000-plus-ton ships — would prove a wise move.

“Being measured and tempered with your expansion is always a good move,” he said. “Will they be able to maintain the Crystal luxury quality that people have become accustomed to and demand?”

Rodriguez said the ships will boast 100 tons of space per guest and a one-to-one crew-to-guest ratio, which she said will enhance the experience.

“I have every confidence we will be in a position for these three triplets to deliver that Crystal service,” she said.

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