Wednesday, March 17, 2010

Crystal Cruises - New Dining Option and Some Thoughts About The Line

One year ago Crystal Cruises was, by its own admission, not doing very well.  It had an excellent product, but fairly empty ships.  What a difference a year makes...and Crystal Cruises has made the changes in some rather elegant ways.

Yesterday, at the Cruise Shipping Miami Conference (a/k/a "The Home Port of the Cruise Industry") Crystal announced its new dining option:  Perfect Choice Dining.  It is not "open seating", but rather a reservation option, where you are able to reserve dinner at different times on different days and at different sized tables. Crystal calls this opening dining with a reservation.

When combined with its continuing fixed seating (main or late) option, it allows its guests to mix it up a bit.  So one evening you may dine later with your spouse, but another evening you may arrange for dinner with a group of people you are cruising with or just met or have not yet met (as sort of an open/fixed seating mix).  This is assuming, of course, that as with any restaurant there is a table available...hence the need for a reservation.

When this is combined with the hefty onboard credits offered by Crystal with its "As You Wish" program I think Crystal Cruises has elegantly allowed for the newer, more inclusive, product to be meshed with the mainstay fixed seating and pay as you go product, it allows for those that wish to have their drinks included, included in the price, and those that do not drink alcohol (or not enough to justify it being included in the price), to use their cruise fare toward tours or the spa.

Both of these enhancements actually fold quite nicely into what it unabashedly touted at the Conference is its focus on families, children and multi-generational cruising. This is, once again, balanced against a truly noteworthy array of intellectually and culturally challenging onboard experiences.

Combining that with its significant refurbishments to the Crystal Symphony and plans for the Serenity and you have a true force in the luxury cruise market.  Yes, there are the issues of larger cabins vs. suites, 1,000 guests vs. smaller capacities, etc.,  but what is certain is with these two major changes (dining and onboard credits) Crystal has added its flavor to the selections available for the new breed of luxury traveler that want what they want, when they want it and how they want it.  (But more on that in another post...hint, hint!)