Friday, July 24, 2015

Crystal Cruises - Have Patience and Don't Forget What Crystal Is...Because It's a Long Wait for Edie Rodriguez's Vision

I am excited by Crystal Cruise's announcement of new ships, a new yacht, a new charter aircraft experience and, possibly even, the river cruise addition BUT...hype is one thing, however remembering your roots and your current guests is critical to Crystal Cruises' success.

Crystal Symphony
These are some of the facts:

1.  Its a Long Time From Now to Then

Crystal Cruises will not have a new ship until almost 2019.  That means its product will not have a dramatic change for 2015, 2016, 2017 and 2018.  And, let's not forget that Crystal Cruises has not firmly committed to more than one new ship.  To the extent there is a commitment, Edie Rodriquez has admitted that Ships 2 and 3 won't be delivered until 2019 and/or 2020 at the earliest.


That is essentially 3.5 years with the same hardware (oceanview and veranda staterooms with a limited number of suites) and guest profile...which is upper premium to luxury; not exclusively luxury.  And then there is potentially going to be either a transformation over the following two to three years as (five years from now) with Crystal eliminating its mixed category older ships (Crystal Serenity and Crystal Symphony) or Crystal expanding to five ships and selling two different products. (I won't eliminate the possibility of a transformation of the Crystal Serenity or Crystal Symphony so that they have more suites.) 

It is a long time from now to then and I am concerned that the hype may well cause people to balk at sailing on Crystal now because of the intimidation factor, the dislike of such bold hype or a feeling of downgrading while they are excitedly waiting for the new ship(s).

Personally, with only one ship truly committed to and a long wait for that one, I believe a significant amount of focus needs to be made on the present excellent Crystal Cruise product.  The reality is that there are some tremendous deals for late 2015 and early 2016 because sales are a bit soft.

2.  Crystal Esprit Yacht Is Nice, But...

Crystal Esprit
With Crystal Cruises selling over 4,000 cruises (1,000 staterooms with two berths per stateroom) on average every ten days, a 62 berth yacht sailing on average seven day cruises is not exactly going to radically change Crystal Cruises' bottom line.  Yes, it is sexy, but there is more to it.

As I previously wrote, the acquisition of the Crystal Esprit from another Gentling HK enterprise that held it as a burdensome asset provided two solutions:  Ridding one company of a problem and giving Crystal Cruises, which had had a bit of a stodgy reputation, a bit of flash.

However, and I know Edie Rodriguez loves the charter market, I predict this yacht is not going to be primarily for those individuals wanting a quite yacht-like holiday, but for the incentive market where corporations can charter  the entire yacht.  And that is where the practical problem lies.

I, personally, love the SeaDream Yacht Club ships and the overall product.  However, because these small, 100 guest ships, are small, groups (family, partial charters, etc.) can radically change the individual cruiser's experience.  On the even smaller Crystal Esprit the issue may be even more serious.

One other note, I recently had clients booked for a March 2016 cruise on Crystal in a Penthouse Suite with Veranda and another couple in a Penthouse.  Crystal chartered out the entire ship...and cancelled their cruise with minimal compensation to the guests no less.  Unless Crystal installs a "no cancellation for charter" policy and also has a proactive notification of partial charters (with the ability to cancel without penalty if that were to occur anytime after booking the cruise) I would be extremely cautious about booking this product for your quiet yacht holiday.

3.  Crystal River Cruises May Be Interesting, But...

While I understand the concept of not losing guests to other cruise lines, I also understand that (1) the river cruise product is significantly different than the ocean cruise product, (2) the river cruise market is - to my mind - probably at or beyond its saturation point (as soft sailing now exist that never did), (3) the onshore experiences are far more important overall than the onboard experiences; and, (4) those onshore experiences are quickly becoming degraded because there are just too many river cruise ships coming into these small, quaint, towns to the point that tourists are overwhelming the local populations.

And, of course, there is another factor:  Most people that take a river cruise in an area are not going to be repeating it anytime soon so with a very limited number of river cruise ships in a very limited number of areas, the concept of keeping the Crystal guest with Crystal when they river cruise may be a one shot deal (though some may be better than none).

There are some great luxury products out there already. I enjoy both Scenic and AmaWaterways, with AmaWaterways having far more diverse itineraries.  And there is Tauck, Uniworld and a few others. I am very interested to see what Crystal Cruises is going to be doing to differentiate itself or if it is planning to just rely on similar formula, brand recognition and guest loyalty.

Yes, if you want to get into the river cruise business you have to start somewhere, but this a relatively small investment with plans that do not, as of yet, seem to speak too much into the future.

Conclusion

Crystal Cruises presently has a wonderful product that people need to experience to appreciate.  I have sailed on Crystal Cruises and I regularly book my clients on Crystal.  It has the best overall Onboard Education and Lecture Programs, Ballroom Dancing, a fantastic Cigar Lounge, Volun-tourism shore excursions, Nobu at Sea and other great Dining Experiences, a well-trained and enthusiastic staff and crew all in an inclusive (beverages and gratuities are included in your fare) experience.

So while all of the recent hype has been about the Hardware, I will continue to focus on the Software and cruise experience that presently exists and not chase away those who are not of the "suite or better" economies.

There is plenty of time to see how this all plays out.  But there is a time to take a Crystal Cruise right now!

Interested in a Crystal Cruise? Call me:

United States:      (877) 2GO-LUXURY
United Kingdom: 020 8133 3450
Australia:            (07) 3102 4685
Everywhere Else: +1 732 578 8585

Or email me at eric@goldringtravel.com

Monday, July 20, 2015

Seabourn's "Dirty Little Secret" - It Blocks Suites and Sailings to Make Longer Sailing More Expensive, Appear Almost Sold Out...and Then Offers Less Desirable Suites

This post pains me to write, but I must be honest and maintain my integrity.



While I believe Seabourn provides one of the best cruise experiences out there, Seabourn engages in a practice that I find incredibly troublesome and, to my mind, one that seems to be - when the evidence is put together - by design.

Seabourn's "dirty little secret" of which I speak can easily:

  • Cause you to unnecessarily pay more for your cruise; 
  • Create a false sense of urgency to book when there is none by giving you an inaccurate impression that there is high demand for certain of its cruises; and,
  • Limit your choice of suite to the less desirable ones.
This would, of course, increase Seabourn's revenue and keep the most desirable suites available to make sales easier for the shorter, higher profit, cruises.

I have been, without success, asking...then begging...then fighting to have Seabourn fix this for quite a while. Seabourn's brass first told me that it did't happen, so I kept providing examples of it.  Then I was told that is a limitation within its reservation system.  But then today I was told, Seabourn expressly refuses to fix what supposedly is an innocent programming error or software limitation. Seriously?   One would think that Seabourn would, if it was a problem and not by design, FIX IT; not refuse to!

So how does this work?  Let me give you an example:  

Sunday a client emailed me in a panic.  They want to sail for 21 days in August 2016, but there is no a 21 day cruise (only a 7 day and the following 14 day) and there is very limited availability for the 14 day segment.,,even though  the cruise is over a year away.  So how is it that over a year way a 21 day cruise in the same suite cannot be had?  The reality of it is, it can be...but it is not easy and if done wrong it can cost you thousands of dollars.

Because it is Goldring Travel, also on Sunday, I log into the Seabourn reservations system and see the 7 day cruise is wide open with the very best suites remaining available.  But when I go into the 14 day sailing I see limited availability, and almost none of the better suites in the category can be booked; and those pretty much do not match up with what is showing as available on the earlier 7 day cruise.

But what I also see is that Seabourn is offering the cruise as a 21 days sailing, but it is not shown in its brand new brochure (mailed just this past week).  And as a 21 day cruise it qualifies for a Grand Voyage discount; making it almost $1,200 less expensive than booking the 7 day and 14 day cruise back-to-back.  As I look at this significant savings for my client I see that there are only two suites, and most certainly, not the better ones, available to book as a 21 day cruise.  And those suites are not available for either of the 7 or 14 day cruises!

I then manually take an inventory of suites that are available if I booked the cruise in the most expensive way: Three seven day cruises.  Low and behold:  EVERY SINGLE OF THE BEST SUITES IN THE CATEGORY WERE AVAILABLE FOR THE FULL 21 DAYS.

Now, having booked my clients at the lower Grand Voyage fare I attempted a number of ways to secure the desired suite through the reservations system.  The result:  "Invalid Entry".  Huh?

Not satisfied (I do the best I can for my clients), first thing this  morning I called Seabourn Reservations and asked for that prized suite to be placed on the reservation.  Nope. Can't be done by Reservations.  "Permission" from another department....which was eventually had....was required!

Wait a minute.  There is a system in place to have suites that are blocked from being unblocked, but only at the discretion of someone in a back-office department!  That is not a software limitation or programming error.  "Permission" should not be a factor.

In the end Goldring Travel's client received the best suite at the best price (along with a discount and onboard credits), but only because I know about Seabourn's "dirty little secret" and how to protect my clients from it.

Do I still believe Seabourn is one of the best cruise experiences out there?  Yes.  But am I sincerely disappointed that Seabourn is doing business this way?  You better believe it.

Interested in a Seabourn Cruise? You know I will make sure you get the best suite at a great price! Call me:

United States:      (877) 2GO-LUXURY
United Kingdom: 020 8133 3450
Australia:           (07) 3102 4685
Everywhere Else: +1 732 578 8585

Or email me at eric@goldringtravel.com

Seabourn One Week Sale - Great Deals on Antarctic, South America, Asia, Canada, Mediterranean and Caribbean Cruises

Seabourn Cruises is holding another of its One Week Sales.



This sale offers some deals such as purchase a cruise at the price of an  Oceanview Suite and receive a Veranda Suite and even seven day Mediterranean cruises for as low as $2,499 + tax per person.

Below are only some of the offerings.  But when looking at the prices, remember that Goldring Travel will provide you with even better prices and on certain sailings added amenities such as onboard credits or shore excursions.

The Seabourn Odyssey and Sojourn have suites on sale on many sailings from late August through October including an October Black Sea cruise starting at $2,499 + tax per person, a Veranda Upgrade on its August 22, 2015 sailing for 11 nights starting at only $4,499 + tax.

The Seabourn Quest's beautiful Montreal to/from Boston sailings are now being offered at prices as low as $5,499 + tax per person with a Veranda Uprade.

South America...even the November 29, 2015 Antarctica sailing...have some attractive prices. How about Antarctica in a Veranda Suite for only $10,999 + tax.

Interested in an Asia cruise?  There are a few included as well.

Seabourn has even include a limited number of Caribbean sailings.  And if you want to sail Seabourn in the Caribbean now is the time to do it, because it won't be until 2017 that Seabourn will return to the area!

Interested in a Seabourn Cruise? Call me:

United States:      (877) 2GO-LUXURY
United Kingdom: 020 8133 3450
Australia:             (07) 3102 4685
Everywhere Else: +1 732 578 8585

Or email me at eric@goldringtravel.com

Sunday, July 19, 2015

Crystal Cruises Announces Three Ships (including Residences), River Cruises, a Yacht and Boeing 787 Journeys

Crystal Cruises' new owners have announced some pretty exciting and extraordinary plans!  And, to be sure, it sounds like they have a lot of money and are attempting to fill the wishlist of yacht charterers, owners of The World cruise ship and wealthy retirees, luxury cruisers and expedition lovers all while also maintaining the traditional Crystal guest.

It is a very complicated scenario that will require much more than a wealthy owner, and it is going to be wild ride, but let's see where it takes us!

Crystal Cruises's new 100,000+ ton, 1,000 guest luxury cruise ship.
The first of three is expected to be delivered Late 2018
The first part of Crystal's announcement are three (3) 100,000+ gross ton ships that will carry 1,000 guests with 1,000 cruise in an all-suite configuration (standard suites being a very large 400 square feet) with a few extra amenities including eight foot high ceilings and polar-classed hulls (so visits to the Antarctic and Arctic are possible).

The top deck will be reserved for 60 Residences (ranging from 600 to 4,000 square feet)...with,of course, their own private restaurant.  For me this is a far more exciting luxury proposition than, say, Regent Seven Seas' concept of dedicating a relatively huge amount of space for a few luxury suites in the traditional cruise market as its way to claim bragging rights to an otherwise relatively ordinary higher end cruise product.  (For perspective, the Crystal ships will have 1,000 guests spread throughout 100,000 tons of space while Regent Seven Seas Explorer will have 750 guests "crammed" into 54,000 ton of space...or 25% less per guest.)

But before you get too excited, you will have to wait until late 2018 for the first ship to be delivered which means it will probably be late 2019 - over fours years from now - at the earliest that all three ships are sailing the seas.

Crystal Cruises' Crystal Esprit 62 Passenger Yacht
with two person submarine and zodiacs
The second part is Crystal's entry into the sort of yacht charter market in November 2015 through the transfer of a yacht already owned by Gentling HK.  The Crystal Esprit is a 3,300 ton yacht that carries 62 guests and will include some interesting features such as a two man submarine, four ten person zodiacs and a Wider tender as well as kayaking, scuba, snorkeling, water skiing, wake boarding and fishing equipment.


For size perspective, this yacht is 50% larger than SeaDream Yacht Club's two yachts and will carry 40% less guests.  I do not know the pricing yet, so I am not sure how to compare the two...if comparing more than size is even appropriate.)


Crystal Esprit - The Patio restaurant

 The interesting thing here, for me at least, is that Genting just purchased a yacht building company and has a very significant interest in the submarine company (U-Boat Worx) that is supplying the vessel and Wider Yachts that is supplying the tender.  With a floundering superyacht market  Genting is leveraging its positions in the yacht and submersible market to possibly offload some inventory (as it the yacht will be operational later this year) while boosting Crystal's overall position in the luxury travel market by giving it something fresh while everyone waits for three and one half years for the first of its new ships to arrive.
Crystal Espirt - The Cove lounge
The yacht bookings are going to range in length from as short as 4 days, but will generally be 7 day cruises booked in the typical cruise ship fashion.  Itineraries for 2015-2017 include:
  • Seychelles Islands – Mahé, Victoria; St. Anne Island, La Passe, la Digue; Baie Ste. Anne, Praslin; Laraie Bay, Curieuse Island; Anse Saint Jose, Curieuse Island; Cousin Island; Aride; Big Sister Island; and Desroches Island) ·
  • Dubai  - Khasab and Muscat, Oman; Doha, Qatar; Sir Bani Yas Island and Abu Dhabi, UAB) ·
  • Venice, Italy/Dubrovnik, Croatia - Rovinj, Sibenik, Trogir, Vis, Hvar, and Korcula, Croatia ·
  • Dubrovnik, Croatia/Venice, Italy - Kotor, Montenegro; Split, Zadar, and Opatija, Croatia; and Piran, Slovenia ·
  • Dubrovnik, Croatia/ Athens, Greece - Kotor, Montenegro; Corfu, Parga, Itea, Hydra, and Navplion, Greece) 
Crystal Esprit - Yacht Club Restaurant
The third part of Crystal Cruises' plan is to enter into the already crowded river cruise market in Spring 2017.  Crystal has released very little information about their new ships other than they will be all-suite.  While I am confident Crystal will provide a great product, I am concerned that there will be even more over-saturation of the rivers caused in great part by Viking River Cruises (whose ships definitely cannot compare to what Crystal Cruises will offer.)


The final part is Crystal (dare I say Cruises) - actually is it named Crystal Luxury Air - chartering a 60 passenger all business-class 787 offering four approximately 28 day itineraries with stays in 10 to 12 locations (a combination of remote and highly desired) staying at luxury resorts and hotels with cuisine and events appropriate for each destination.  I know the person who is in charge of this product and I have no doubt that it will provide an extraordinary experience for those looking for an extended journey without stepping foot on a ship.

Interested in a Crystal Cruise? Call me:

United States:       (877) 2GO-LUXURY
United Kingdom: 020 8133 3450
Australia:              (07) 3102 4685
Everywhere Else: +1 732 578 8585


Or email me at eric@goldringtravel.com

Tuesday, July 14, 2015

Windstar Cruises - Going "All Inclusive" in Tahiti, Caribbean, Costa Rica & Panama -For a Limited Time


Windstar Cruises has put together some very impressive packages to go along with its premium product with prices starting as low as $2,499 per person (double occupancy) + taxes.


From today through September 18, 2015 if you book your Windstar cruise to Tahiti, the Caribbean, Costa Rica or Panama you will receive..in addition to the already enjoyable Windstar experience:

  • Beverages (alcoholic and not) throughout the ship and in your stateroom or suite, including select "top shelf" brands and wines normally priced at up to $12 per glass.
  • Unlimited Wi-Fi where available
  • Three Shore Excursions PLUS the Windstar Private Event
  • Gratuities
This offer is available on all of its ships, including the all-suite power yachts, the Star Breeze, Star Legend and Star Pride (formerly the Yachts of Seabourn) that have undergone some pretty spectacular renovations and redesigns.  You can read and see how Windstar's power yachts look by reading my articles by clicking here. (And if you scroll down further, you can see the Windstar Wind Surf sailing yacht as well.)

Of course there are some limitations and the sailings are for the remainder of 2015 and some through March 2016.


So if you are looking for a getaway that is a wonderful small ship experience...or even simply dreamed about what it would be like sailing on one of the former Seabourn yachts...and doing it at an fantastic price, this could be perfect for you.



Interested in a Windstar Cruise? Call me:

United States:      (877) 2GO-LUXURY
United Kingdom: 020 8133 3450
Australia:             (07) 3102 4685
Everywhere Else: +1 732 578 8585


Or email me at eric@goldringtravel.com