There might be good news on the horizon for fans of Crystal Cruises, the former prestigious cruise line that has fallen victim to the bankruptcy of its parent company Genting MV and ceased operations.
Experienced industry insider Abercrombie & Kent (A&K) has now purchased the Crystal brand as well as two of their ships, the Crystal Symphony and the Crystal Serenity, and plans to make a comeback in 2023.
When Crystal went under I had already speculated that someone would snatch up both the brand and the ships which were in excellent condition and a favorite of Crystal’s well-heeled customer base.
The “Crystal Symphony” has previously made headlines as it fled creditors in the U.S. after dodging Millions in unpaid fuel bills in Florida.
U.S. authorities then issued a warrant against the vessel and the owners decided to let it anchor in the Bahamas (Bimini) to avoid the Symphony being seized in Port Everglades, FL. This was shortly before the line went under and ceased operations – the writing was obviously on the wall.
Now Cruiseline.com reports that Crystal is arising from the ashes.
Luxury operator A&K Travel Group Ltd. has officially been named purchaser of Crystal Symphony and Crystal Serenity. The vessels will operate under the ‘Crystal Cruises’ brand, which the company has also acquired.
A&K Travel Group has said it will give both ships extensive refurbishments to prepare for their return to passenger operations. They will resume cruising at an unconfirmed date in 2023 under the Crystal Cruises name.
This announcement comes on the heels of last week’s news that the two ships sold at an auction held by The Supreme Court in the Bahamas. Crystal Serenity is said to have garnered a whopping $103 million from a buyer listed as ‘CDE Ltd,’ and Crystal Symphony’s buyer was listed as ‘CSY Ltd’ with a reported purchase price of $25 million. We now know these undisclosed buyers to be A&K Travel Group Ltd. …
A&K Travel Group Ltd. has partnered with leading cruise ship manager V.Ships Leisure to operate Crystal Symphony and Crystal Serenity. According to the company, V.Ships was a natural partner with their unique experience and global scale.
Details on the ship’s upgrades, as well as upcoming itineraries and operation dates, will be shared by A&K Travel Group Ltd. and Crystal Cruises later.
According to online data, the Serenity was built in 2003 at a cost of $350M, now 20 years later A&K still paid $105M for it. The Symphony had its maiden voyage in 1995 and cost $250M back in the day, a tenth of what the new owners paid for it now.
If ships are extremely well maintained then even an upper age isn’t exactly a problem but it all boils down to renovation and maintenance costs for the operators as well as the economics of fuel consumption and environmental features of the vessel, especially in ecologically sensitive regions such as Alaska where they have a lot of restrictions.
To restart Crystal will cost A&K a pretty penny even though they got the ships for a reasonable price.
What remains to be seen is how the brand will be able to recover from the reputational loss of having to repatriate passengers by a common ferry back to the U.S. and still owing a lot of money in refunds.
I somehow can’t see a new operator resurrecting the Crystal Society which was Crystal’s loyalty program but I feel that would be an elementary piece of the puzzle in order to build goodwill with the existing client base. It’s just difficult to look at the economics of it all as previously Crystal was able to charge a premium based on its reputation as a luxury brand. They now have to prove themselves all over again.
Other cruise lines had the advantage that they always kept going, even at major losses, and therefore never really suffered damage to the brand. Cruising with Celebrity for example was just bliss for the last year as they sailed with very limited capacity at excellent prices. Great for the passenger, not so great for the cruise line though.
Crystal Cruises will reportedly make a comeback sometime in 2023 with new owners at the wheel. A&K Travel Group Ltd. has purchased the Crystal brand as well as two vessels which they plan to use in order to resurrect the brand.
It will be interesting to see if they’ll be successful with this attempt. Restarting a cruise line that was affected by bankruptcy and has previously burned some passengers isn’t going to be easy. It will cost a lot in investment, goodwill, and marketing expenses to get Crystal going again. I’m very curious to see where this is going!