Thursday, September 17, 2015

Crystal Cruises - They Liked it So Much They Bought the Shipbuilding Company! (Sort of)

Crystal Cruises' parent, Genting Hong Kong has announced what it has been working on for months: The purchase of the controlling interest in Lloyd Werft, the shipyard in Bremerhaven, Germany which will be building Crystal Cruises' new ships.  Essentially Genting Hong Kong will own 70% of the operations and 50% of the land; effectively given it control of the yard and protection from the landowner forcing the shipbuilding company off of the real estate (or charging it excessive rent).

Why would Genting do such a thing?  The reasons are many...and it starts with the purchase price:  A mere 17,500,000 Euros and continues with Genting's preexisting involvement in the struggling yacht construction industry (from where Crystal Cruises acquired the Crystal Esprit) followed by the ship/yachtbuilding industry being one that requires huge sums of cash to operate, but operates on extremely thin margins...and this Chinese company has lots of cash.

The result is Crystal will theoretically significantly cut the cost of its new ships (ocean and river) since it has little motivation for its bargain-basement priced shipyard to turn a profit while theoretically eliminating much of the gamesmanship of charging for changes, extras and overages.

HOWEVER...and it is a BIG HOWEVER, having been the managing director of a superyacht shipyard in Brisbane, Australia (Australian Yacht Builders, Pty. Ltd.) and having been in the industry for decades I can tell you that there have been many who have purchased shipyards with the same theory and then sorely regretted it.

It also is not so long ago that shipyards were begging for work and were teetering on closing their doors.  Naming names is not necessary, but let's just say if you know anything of cruise ship industry you know who they are...or were.

To me there are many warning signs where, as here, the purchase price is so low and virtually all of the control regarding ship construction is now in the hands of the Owner.  It also concerns me that Genting Hong Kong has another, much smaller, yachtbuilding facility and I cannot help but anticipate the melding of these two yards...potentially creating even more areas for conflict.

A quality shipyard requires truly talented workers that are fiercely loyal.  They not only assure a high level of quality control, but efficiencies both as to time and materials.  If those loyalties are split between the Owner and the Shipyard, those workers can find themselves frustrated and feeling like that are forced to be loyal to two masters.  And that is where the breakdown occurs.

Hopefully this will be a success story with the European craftsmen and technicians having secured years of high quality work, a shipyard that is assured of existing into the next decade and Crystal Cruises having its ships delivered on time, under budget and with the highest of quality.

Wednesday, September 2, 2015

Seabourn's New Cruise Documents - A Real Touch of Class

I just received Seabourn's newest cruise documents which should start rolling out soon and am quite impressed both for their elegance and functionality.  It is refreshing to see that Seabourn is bucking the trend of cutting back on or eliminating cruise documents by creating new and better ones!

There is still a joy for many guests receiving a package which announces the true start to their voyage, but in this age of e-Tickets, apps and cost-cutting what is actually this very rich, and for more than you can imagine, a bit of an emotional experience is being lost.  (And, of course, Goldring Travel, makes sure the experience is even better including high quality jackets, backpacks, briefcases, tote bags, carry on bags, hats, or other gifts along with travel flashlights, umbrellas, wine tool kits or other fun, but functional, items.

Seabourn's new cruise documents are elegant, functional and
assures receiving them is an impressive first impression
of what is to come.
Would you like some detail?

Seabourn's Cruise Documents consist of a soft, padded, black matte finish, Seabourn logoed portfolio encased in a non-woven Velcroed pouch (useful by itself for later holding some of those Goldring Travel gifts and other small items!) along with luggage tags and and cruise documents.

The Portfolio is extremely well made (so you can use it for years) and nicely holds an iPad or Surface in the rear compartment with the front compartment holding your full color and richly printed Cruise Documents.  And there is a business card holder so your travel agent's information can be front and center and you can add your information in case you misplace the portfolio.

The Cruise Documents are much easier to read and are far more compact with all the essential information provided on two sets of side-by-side pages.  The Cruise Booking Pages have the basic information along with your suite number, layout of the suite and deck plan showing where your suite is located.  Also included is the exact pier terminal (you cannot imagine how many times that question is asked of me) as well as boarding and departure times.  The Your Itinerary Page gives you a concise itinerary setting forth not only any tender ports, but which nights are Formal Optional (another question regularly asked of me).  Facing that page is the Onboard Arrangements Page where an Onboard Credits, etc are shown.  After these pages are the expected checklists, ship contact numbers and safety information.

Finally are the Luggage Tags.  Each tag is sturdy and has a matching black matte finish with your Seabourn Club status and Seabourn logo embossed on the front.  The interior has a great picture of the Seabourn ship on one side and a place for your address or business card on the other.  They are the nicest luggage tags I have seen from any cruise line.  (One possible issue is the elastic to attach them to your luggage which I might suggest substituting for a stronger material.)

With Seabourn's new ships (the Seabourn Encore and Ovation) coming soon, Thomas Keller redesigning Seabourn's menus, Adam Tihany designing and redesigning Seabourn's ship interiors, a blossoming partnership with UNESCO and Seabourn's expedition-style experiences expanding these new cruise documents reminds you that so many times people forget, but what really matters, are: The Little Things.