I’ve just read an interesting story about a change in the planned deployment of Crystal serenity, Crystal Cruises’ 68,000 ton flagship. First launched in 2003 and refurbished (I believe) in 2013, Crystal Serenity has spent most summers cruising in Europe – the Mediterranean, western Europe and the Black Sea. She’ll be deployed in Europe again in 2016 and it was intended to do so in 2017 as well, but those plans have now been changed. Instead, she will remain in American waters, cruising on both the east and west coasts of the US, into the Caribbean, and even to Hawaii. There’s not much information on the reasons for the change – Crystal’s President and CEO Eddie Rodriguez is quoted as saying “The Mediterranean and surrounding regions have long been favorite destinations for our guests, and will continue to be, with the launch of Crystal Yacht Cruises and Crystal River Cruises. These new ventures allow us to expand our offerings for our guests, so they can continue to experience their favorite Crystal vacations in new ways.”
The mention of Crystal Yacht Cruises and Crystal River Cruises is interesting, but I’m not sure they’re a direct alternative to Crystal Serenity. Crystal River Cruises will sail a fleet of five (new?) river vessels on the usual river cruise itineraries – along the Danube (from 2016), and the Rhine, Seine and Garonne (beginning 2017). There’s already a lot of competition on those itineraries, of course; Viking, for example, have been launching river cruise ships literally by the dozen over the last few years, and of course there are many other river cruise lines. In any case, I’m not sure the extent to which this is a substitute. If you want the Med (and who doesn’t?….) does the Danube cut it?
Crystal Yacht Cruises is a new venture involving a much smaller ship – just 62 passengers – which will do a range of itineraries in the Indian Ocean and the eastern Mediterranean; the Indian Ocean itineraries begin on 23 December. Still, with (as I said above) just 62 passengers that’s hardly a replacement for the 1,000-passenger Crystal Serenity. Furthermore, it’s actually a rather old ship; up until recently she was sailing as MegaStar Taurus, and was originally launched in 1989. Here’s a link to a page with some information about her.
So why is Crystal Serenity being pulled out of Europe in 2017? In the absence of any other information, I can only conclude that it’s down to the market. We already know that cruise numbers in Europe have stayed fairly static over recent years (except for Germany, but that’s a bit different) and perhaps, with all the troubles in the world, affluent Americans have decided to not travel outside the US so much. (Crystal Cruises is ultra-luxury – it describes itself as “6 star”, with prices to match – and its customer base has always been very much American.) I can’t help wondering if this might extend to other lines – Celebrity’s non-UK-based cruises, for example; they’ll have a total of five ships in Europe in 2017 which includes one based at Southampton and therefore four based elsewhere. Experience tells me that they’ll mainly look to travelling Americans to fill those four.
To compound the possible difficulties, there’s a lot of new tonnage coming in the next few years, including as it happens three new, large ships for Crystal Cruises – each of 100,000 tons or just over. They’ll be arriving from 2018 onwards, and Crystal must be hoping that they can fill them. At Crystal’s prices that might prove difficult, especially if their American base of passengers decides to forgo international travel.