Tuesday, March 22, 2011

Crystal Cruises - Going "All Inclusive"

Crystal Cruises has been hinting, whispering, suggesting...and now it is doing it.  With all of the luxury lines offering their versions of "all inclusive" Crystal Cruises is aligning itself with the rest of the luxury market.

Crystal Cruises announced, in part:

Crystal Cruises is enhancing its already expansive host of luxury services and amenities. Effective spring 2012, vacations on the award-winning Crystal Symphony and Crystal Serenity will include complimentary fine wines and premium spirits throughout the ship, open bar service in all lounges, and pre-paid gratuities for housekeeping, bar and dining staff. The complimentary gratuity amenity also includes Penthouse butler service as well as service in all of Crystal’s fine specialty restaurants and sushi bar...

The new benefits begin with each ship’s first Trans-Atlantic cruise next year: Crystal Symphony’s “Beyond the Sea” sailing from Miami to Lisbon on March 19, 2012, and Crystal Serenity’s “New World to Norway” voyage from New York to London on May 8, 2012.

 Also included with all cruises is free round-trip air transportation from two dozen North American gateways (or a generous air credit), with airport/ship transfers included.

I do want to observe that in a world where the word "inclusive" has become the mantra of the younger and move up cruising guests, the more stayed and traditional manner of "pay as you go" is going out the proverbial window.  While this is surely upsetting to many of the traditional and longtime Crystal Cruise guests, the fact is that Crystal Cruises must find new guests in order to survive as a viable cruise line and business.  Those new guests, as I have said, want "inclusive" cruise experiences so to stick with the traditional way...even giving large onboard (or "As You Wish") credits so that there is no additional cash coming out of those new guests' pockets...just hasn't worked.  [Don't' get me started on "free air" not actually being "free" and the credits usually not equaling what air actually costs, but I digress.]

Now, before those who want to "pay as you go" start complaining that now they will be paying for something they don't use, please try to look at this logically; not emotionally.  The cruise lines set your fare.  That fare takes into account guest lecturers, bridge, meals, etc.  As Crystal's announcement continued:

Always included at no additional cost are: all non-alcoholic beverages such as bottled water, specialty coffee drinks, soft drinks and fresh juices; all meals, including dining in specialty restaurants that feature the cuisine of Nobu Matsuhisa and Piero Selvaggio; high tea; ice cream and frozen yogurt bar; gym, steam, saunas and whirlpools; numerous fitness classes such as Spinning and group Pilates Reformer instruction; golf lessons with PGA pros; Walk-on-Water weighted vests and Nordic Pole walking equipment; Yamaha keyboard classes; Berlitz language classes; paddle tennis; dozens of computer/technology classes; art classes; Crystal Visions lecture series, featuring Crystal Visions lecture series featuring distinguished speakers; award-winning entertainment; in-stateroom movie and CD rentals; film screenings in the onboard cinema; dance lessons; dedicated junior cruiser facilities; early embarkation luncheon; welcome champagne; comfortable shuttles to town; pillow menus; self-service laundries; twice-daily housekeeping with nightly turndown service; and 24-hour room service.

Some guests eat five times a day...always going for the seafood...and others dine twice and do so modestly. Some never walk into a specialty restaurant. Some guests play bridge and use the instructor as a twice daily ritual, while many guests never even walk into the card room.  Some guests have...wait for this...children who use the Junior Cruise Directors.  Some live for the art classes.

So while these inequities have always been overlooked because "traditionally" that is the way it has been, the fact is there are many costs that are unequally shared because each guest utilizes the ship's facilities and offerings differently...and the cruise lines adjust their fares to cover those unequal costs...for every guest.  This is, well and truly, no different.  The fact is that Crystal Cruises has the most robust and high quality enrichment programs on the high seas and they cost Crystal far more than what will be expended on inclusive liquor...so I don't accept that, especially on Crystal Cruises, becoming "inclusive" is unfair to those who drink alcohol.

Now, you can argue that your present As You Wish credits can be spend as you wish...but the fact is loading up on perfume from the shops costs the cruise line and raises your fare...and you never really wanted two gallons of the stuff anyway.  And don't argue that doesn't happen because you take tours, etc.  The fact is that Crystal knows where most of the credits are spent and you have seen the crowds in the shops on the last days of almost every cruise! 

To further underscore the need for this change, Crystal Cruises ventured into the semi-open seating arena - having broken from its historical fixed early and late dining traditions by offering "Dining by Reservation".  That too became less than a satisfactory solution as many of its longtime guests simply used it to move fixed seating from early or late to "in between" booking the same table at the same time with the same people every night.  This closed out many of the new guests from enjoying what is normally considered "open seating" and left Crystal with a second area of large concern for the younger traveler.  That is changing too.

I am looking forward to sailing on the Crystal Symphony on April 17, 2011 with my family.  I will be "Dining by Reservation" and I will be drinking wines and whiskey...and maybe even a beer.  And, to be sure, I will partake in a cigar or two.  But I will not take art, music, language or bridge classes.  Unfortunately for me, I will have to pay for my drinks as I do not get a credit for that which I don't use and am sailing long before the "all inclusive" experience starts. 

I plan on enjoying myself because I am going on a wonderful ship with excellent service and cuisine, fine facilities, an interesting itinerary, a children's program over Spring Break, etc.  I do not plan on complaining that someone else is using part of my cruise fare to subsidize their vacation.

What do you think?  Join the conversation on The Gold Standard Luxury Travel Forum!

If you are interested in booking a Crystal Cruise email me at eric@goldringtravel.com, call me at (877) 2G0-LUXURY in the U.S.; +44 20 8133 3450 in the U.K.; +61 7 3102 4685 in Australia; and +1 732-383-7398 elsewhere.