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Holiday 2020 Cruise Fares - Crystal vs. Regent

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Sailing "very full" is not necessarily a sign of a profitable cruise.  Cruise lines (including Crystal) gladly provide cabins that would otherwise be empty to travel agents, influencers, etc., at very low or nil fares.   

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10 hours ago, Stickman1990 said:


Welcome back - good to hear from you and glad you are enjoying cruising albeit with someone else - who have you chosen?

 

 

Thanks!  Actually I have been here all along, invisible.  I check the board frequently hoping that there will be news of a revision of the payment/cancellation policies.  I would like to sail on Crystal again, but those are deal-breakers for me.

 

I have been spending most of my cruising time on Silversea and have been quite pleased.  Newer ships and an expanding fleet with a larger variety of itineraries.  Larger standard cabins. Excellent food and service.  And butlers for every suite.  I was initially dismissive of the butler service, but I now find it very helpful.  And there are lots of attractive discounts (25% single supplements are available on some cruises) and free same-day laundry after 100 days is great!

 

The one area in which Silversea is well behind Crystal is "enrichment" -- sewing classes, computer classes, golf pro, language classes (has Berlitz left Crystal?), etc., etc.  But I am quite capable of entertaining myself with a book or a video on my computer or just gazing at the ocean, etc., and this strength of Crystal is lost on me.   

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I'm going to double down on the "struggling" narrative.

 
Crystal struggles, and will continue to struggle, because they are slow to identify and implement trends. They were slow to implement all-inclusive, they were slow to implement open seating. They were slow to implement business casual attire. They were slow, and still are slow, to implement new ocean ships. (New management has been in place since mid 2017 - that new ship should have been announced by now.) They were slow to add or "spice up" new specialty restaurants.
 
Earlier today, I was writing about how Magic Castle at Sea has been around since 2013, but instead of figuring out the next new thing, they're going to continue with that under a new name. They're always skating on their reputation, and frankly, their ocean ships, physically, aren't really luxury anymore. They're lagging behind Viking in that respect. (If Crystal wanted a foothold on river ships, those too should have come online five years earlier.) 
 
Crystal management is made up of followers, not leaders, and I think that's why they're always struggling to fill their ships. 
 
I will fully stipulate that Crystal service is second to none, that their cuisine is excellent most of the time, and that their enrichment programs are better than most ... but even so, their sales force has to work way too hard fill those ocean ship, despite now having fewer cabins. * 
 
======
 
* Observer was right that they often fill them with travel agents, which I experienced first hand in 2014 at a table for eight, six of whom were travel agents. It was very frustrating for me because they couldn't talk about the business!

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What an interesting thread.

 

Perfect post Christmas antidote...far more intelligent and informative than much of what goes on over the hols!

(did someone say bah-humbug.....?)

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1 hour ago, drib said:

I'm going to double down on the "struggling" narrative.

 
Crystal struggles, and will continue to struggle, because they are slow to identify and implement trends. They were slow to implement all-inclusive, they were slow to implement open seating. They were slow to implement business casual attire. They were slow, and still are slow, to implement new ocean ships. (New management has been in place since mid 2017 - that new ship should have been announced by now.) They were slow to add or "spice up" new specialty restaurants.
 
Earlier today, I was writing about how Magic Castle at Sea has been around since 2013, but instead of figuring out the next new thing, they're going to continue with that under a new name. They're always skating on their reputation, and frankly, their ocean ships, physically, aren't really luxury anymore. They're lagging behind Viking in that respect. (If Crystal wanted a foothold on river ships, those too should have come online five years earlier.) 
 
Crystal management is made up of followers, not leaders, and I think that's why they're always struggling to fill their ships. 
 
I will fully stipulate that Crystal service is second to none, that their cuisine is excellent most of the time, and that their enrichment programs are better than most ... but even so, their sales force has to work way too hard fill those ocean ship, despite now having fewer cabins. * 
 
======
 
* Observer was right that they often fill them with travel agents, which I experienced first hand in 2014 at a table for eight, six of whom were travel agents. It was very frustrating for me because they couldn't talk about the business!

 

I don't disagree one bit that Crystal is the most conservative line about evolution, but I point that finger not at Crystal's management, but their passengers.  IMHO I've heard lots of great ideas over the years -- some tried and some that never made it that far -- but at the risk of offending people here, as a whole Crystal's passengers are among the most change averse I've ever seen in luxury travel.  I feel like the lack of changing, and the massive amount of engineering and transition that goes into making big transitions feel small, is actually considered a feature by many of Crystal's clientele and not a bug like you present it. Crystal's management knows from market research what the market wants -- but you can see the process they have to go through every time they need to implement these changes. 

 

In case anyone needs backup documentation for my observation, please see hundreds of pages of complaints about All Inclusive, trash can doilies, alternative dining themes, toiletry brands, bedside linens, lounge pianists, smoking policies, dress codes, and so on.

 

Again, that doesn't make your point untrue, I just see it through a little different lens.

 

Observer -- I've missed you and it's great to see you post here!  I completely understand your feelings on the policies.

 

Vince

 

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2 hours ago, Keith1010 said:

 

Observer I mentioned earlier that Revenue doesn't necessarily mean profitability.  My observation was the vast majority of guests were not TA's on the cruises we were on last year.  They changed things up with lots of short cruises and it seemed to fill the ship.  

 

Yes I do think the belief is better to fill ships than have them half full....

 

I believe that there is a way on CC to react to various pieces of a post serially.  But I have not mastered it.  So here are some brief responses:

 

  • Revenue doesn't necessarily mean profitability:  Of course not.  A high school economics student would know that.  Expense is the other side of the ledger.  And your point was....?
  • the vast majority of guests were not TA's on the cruises we were on last year: I should hope not.  If the vast majority were TAs (and it was not a special cruise associated with launching a new ship or showing off a very recent significant redo) it would be very, very sad.  I don't know who suggested that "the vast majority of guests" might be TAs.  10% is, for example, a significant number, but far short of "the vast majority."
  • They changed things up with lots of short cruises and it seemed to fill the ship.  There is a quality cost in dividing longer cruises into shorter ones to sell and collect revenue.  On one of my last Crystal cruises I had booked a 14 night Caribbean cruise.  After my booking, they sub-divided it into two 7 night cruises (and presumably lowered the fares significantly.)  Presumably this was to get some needed revenue and introduce folk to Crystal.  A group of 15-20 people got on in San Juan and spent much of the cruise loudly complaining that there was no sports bar, that there was no large screen outside to show football games, that there weren't the kinds of diversion they had been accustomed on mass market cruises.  Lots of short cruises does not IMHO imply that the cruise line is flourishing.  Yes, it's a way of filling ships.  But at what cost?
  • Yes I do think the belief is better to fill ships than have them half full.... Surely it is better for the cruise line if they are collecting full (or nearly full) fares from those filling the ships.  But from a guest perspective there is likely to be better, more personal service on less full cruises (shorter lines at Trident, easier to get a seat in Cove or Avenue, etc.).  And the quality of fellow guests -- e.g., the group referenced above -- can significantly affect one's cruise experience.  Some of the best cruises I took were in the months after the tragic 9/11 events when even the generally full holiday cruise was booked at less than 50%.

 

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11 minutes ago, BWIVince said:

 

I don't disagree one bit that Crystal is the most conservative line about evolution, but I point that finger not at Crystal's management, but their passengers.  IMHO I've heard lots of great ideas over the years -- some tried and some that never made it that far -- but at the risk of offending people here, as a whole Crystal's passengers are among the most change averse I've ever seen in luxury travel. 

 

 

 

Well, I certainly won't disagree with that characterization of Crystal pax, and I can't quibble with the industry expertise you bring to the subject.  But I remain a bit skeptical that Crystal pax are that radically resistant to change as compared to regular cruisers on other luxury lines.  Go to any other lux line thread here on CC, and it seems to me you'll find a similar amount of kvetching about changes, both large and small, some on matters that date back years.  Part of that is the nature of cruisers, and part of it is the nature of the subset who choose to hang around CC.

 

Also, you forgot to mention the turn down chocolates.  😁

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2 hours ago, Keith1010 said:

Yes I do think the belief is better to fill ships than have them half full so yes many promotions are in play and as I mentioned earlier we are seeing/hearing about more upgrades of people to suites which open up other rooms than I remember in all the years we've sailed Crystal


I’m not sure if this is correct given the recent feedback from the Caribbean and Central America cruises.


Sure there were suite upgrades on offer (some were paid, albeit heavily discounted, as opposed to complimentary) and cruises split into two segments as well as generous discounting - but those changes don’t necessarily make for a great experience for guests (new or old) 

 

It seems that many new to Crystal guests were disappointed with their experience (a mismatch of expectations?) and some regular Crystal guests disappointed with the behaviour of the new to Crystal guests. Getting the mix of new and old right is a challenge as is the right revenue mix - and getting them to return and book some of the more profitable cruises in the future 

 

 

 

 

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31 minutes ago, BWIVince said:

 

 Crystal's management knows from market research what the market wants 

 

 

Thanks for your kind welcome back, Vince.  As I say, I been here all the while, waiting for good news from Crystal.  🙂

 

Does management really know?  I suppose the question is "which management?".  Did the market really want a wide body jet for world tours with Peninsula hotels?  Or the private jet to get people to and from cruise ships?  What has happened to those Crystal-branded planes?  I gather they fly the odd hockey team or Chinese tour group now and then, but the fly/cruise notion died before it took off, and (I assume) the plane(s) have remained.  Or river boats?  Was it really wise to enter this highly competitive market on already congested rivers?  And all the while, while making substantial investments in this new river/air hardware, the core ocean product was allowed to grow old largely unrefreshed. My current grievance is with current management's decision to impose what I consider to be draconian cancellation penalties, but I think it is difficult to underestimate the harm done to Crystal by previous management.

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1 hour ago, Noggins said:

What an interesting thread.

 

Perfect post Christmas antidote...far more intelligent and informative than much of what goes on over the hols!

(did someone say bah-humbug.....?)


Nice of you to pop in between cruises 🙂 

 

Haven’t you got (another) election to look forward to up there? - oh hang on that was 2019 wasn’t it - wonder what your Royals and Politicians will serve you up in 2020!

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20 minutes ago, KenzSailing said:

 

Well, I certainly won't disagree with that characterization of Crystal pax, and I can't quibble with the industry expertise you bring to the subject.  But I remain a bit skeptical that Crystal pax are that radically resistant to change as compared to regular cruisers on other luxury lines.  Go to any other lux line thread here on CC, and it seems to me you'll find a similar amount of kvetching about changes, both large and small, some on matters that date back years.  Part of that is the nature of cruisers, and part of it is the nature of the subset who choose to hang around CC.

 

Also, you forgot to mention the turn down chocolates.  😁


I wanted to include the turndown chocolates in the list, but I started to choke up just thinking back on them — it’s still far too painful for me personally.  😁
 

I wasn’t thinking of other cruise lines as much when I said that about luxury travel, but I think you may be on to that about cruisers in general.  When I think of a brand like Rosewood, their loyalists are all about the freshest and latest ideas and features.  It’s like the Crystal bizarro world.

 

Im not sure CC is an unrealistic subset — the CC members I’ve met are much less representative of that resistance to the grousing I hear onboard at the front desk, maitre d’ stand and hostess desk.  I’ve heard way worse onboard than I’ve read here, even in the endless threads.

 

Vince

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14 hours ago, Keith1010 said:

I've believe this when it comes to cruising and when I worked I believed it as well.  Always good to try another company.  In the end you might appreciate Crystal more.  Or you might like the other better.  Or you might like both and have two go to lines.

 

Whilst this might be your personal view, I highly doubt that the management of Crystal are sitting there thinking that it would be good for their customers to try their competitors. I can only imagine what would happen if I told my loyal customers to try out X and see how they treat you and you might appreciate us more. We would most likely never see them again, and in this highly competitive and fast paced world, no one can afford to take that risk.

 

Hence, you may have missed the point, but my original post was a call to see if anyone else is thinking the same as we are and also a shout out to Crystal (we all know they read these boards) to say “hey guys, this is what is happening out there and how people are thinking about you and your competition”. I don’t know how much market research they do or who their focus groups consist of (I know I have never been asked anything of them aside from the onboard guest surveys) but whilst we are just a focus group of 1 couple, it is clear that others feel and are thinking the same way. I find it interesting that Observer has totally moved away from Crystal as a result of the cancellation policy, which is a major issue of mine as well. Vince brings up very interesting points about the new generation luxury cruiser who embraces and wants innovation.

 

If Crystal were my company I would be conducting focus groups on not just the loyalists/defenders but more importantly the next generation luxury cruiser who, as we can see from this small focus group within this forum, have a very different set of requirements that are important to them. Simply saying choice is good go and try another cruise line is not the answer.

 

Glen

Edited by Fly Fast Cruise Slow

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Well said, Glen!

 

happy holidays and a happy new year to you and Shirin...we miss you both!!!
 

Nancy

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2 hours ago, Stickman1990 said:


Nice of you to pop in between cruises 🙂 

 

Haven’t you got (another) election to look forward to up there? - oh hang on that was 2019 wasn’t it - wonder what your Royals and Politicians will serve you up in 2020!

I'm often hangin' around - got to do something between cruises....

 

(and we're done with elections for a while. just going to enjoy other people's now 😎)

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16 minutes ago, Fly Fast Cruise Slow said:

I find it interesting that Observer has totally moved away from Crystal as a result of the cancellation policy, which is a major issue of mine as well.

 

A friend who saw my message texted me, "What's your beef w/ Crystal?  What abt the cancellation penalty?"  For her benefit and others who may be interested, here are specifics.

 

Nearly all of my cruises are b2bs of more than three weeks -- often as many as 6-8 weeks.  I also book (and with Silversea pay, with a 10% discount) long in advance, often when the schedules are published. One would think that these were passengers Crystal would covet, but we are discouraged by being charged hefty (and to my mind unacceptable) cancellation fees.  I find those on Silversea -- my current cruising poison 🙂 -- much more reasonable.

 

These examples are for 2020 cruises of 22 days or longer.

 

For example, the administrative fee (applicable to a future cruise) is $1000 for a couple on Crystal but only $200 on Silversea.

 

  • A cancellation 130 days before departure yields zero penalty on Silversea, but a 50% penalty on Crystal.
  • A cancellation 100 days before departure yields a 15% penalty on Silversea, but a 75% penalty on Crystal.
  • A cancellation 75 days before departure yields a 50% penalty on Silversea but a total/100% forfeiture of the fare on Crystal.

That's my beef.  Pretty clear differences, aren't there?  I have not researched Seabourn or Regent (both of which I have sailed multiple times), but I assume they are much closer to Silversea than to Crystal.  Someone may want to correct me.

 

Finally, please don't say I can buy insurance.  I know about that.  I self-insure.  Policies from cruise lines when last I checked added ~ 10% to the fare.  And those policies do not cover lots of situations (e.g., very close friend but not family member takes seriously ill, unexpected professional demands arise, etc.)

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32 minutes ago, Fly Fast Cruise Slow said:

 

Whilst this might be your personal view, I highly doubt that the management of Crystal are sitting there thinking that it would be good for their customers to try their competitors. I can only imagine what would happen if I told my loyal customers to try out X and see how they treat you and you might appreciate us more. We would most likely never see them again, and in this highly competitive and fast paced world, no one can afford to take that risk.

 

Hence, you may have missed the point, but my original post was a call to see if anyone else is thinking the same as we are and also a shout out to Crystal (we all know they read these boards) to say “hey guys, this is what is happening out there and how people are thinking about you and your competition”. I don’t know how much market research they do or who their focus groups consist of (I know I have never been asked anything of them aside from the onboard guest surveys) but whilst we are just a focus group of 1 couple, it is clear that others feel and are thinking the same way. I find it interesting that Observer has totally moved away from Crystal as a result of the cancellation policy, which is a major issue of mine as well. Vince brings up very interesting points about the new generation luxury cruiser who embraces and wants innovation.

 

If Crystal were my company I would be conducting focus groups on not just the loyalists/defenders but more importantly the next generation luxury cruiser who, as we can see from this small focus group within this forum, have a very different set of requirements that are important to them. Simply saying choice is good go and try another cruise line is not the answer.

 

Glen

Glen, but I am not Crystal so my view is my view.

 

I always think it is good for people to try different products so in the end they can figure out what works best for them.  This is what we did having sailed on close to ten different cruise lines including three different Luxury Lines.


And you are always going to have customers who do leave a company no matter what the product is from cruise lines to stores to automobile companies to smart phones to everything.  This happens for a variety of reasons.  Sometimes it is because the customers no longer are happy with the company.  Sometimes it is because they desire a change.  Sometimes it is because they have more or less financial resources.  Sometimes it is age.

 

For years Crystal didn't change and catered to one type of customer but that customer aged and several passed.  That was a formula for failure.

 

I find one thing very interesting.  I was remarking to Anne Marie a few weeks ago that overall the live reports and reviews that I have been reading on this board from both first time Crystal Cruisers and from seasoned Crystal Cruisers overall were pretty glowing and more positive over the last 18 months than I remember along time ago.

 

Likewise we sailed this year with both long time  Crystal Cruisers and newbies and overall most of the people we met also raved about the product.  

 

I really wish Cruise Critic archived all of the posts forever because I can tell you that as a newbie in 2002 I remember posting how wowed we were by Crystal.  But even back then some of the long timers were complaining.  

 

Observer and David are certainly not the only cruisers who used to sail Crystal who no longer prefer the product.  They are not the only ones. But this is not new.

 

By the way the same goes for all the luxury lines.  Back when we sailed  Seabourn some of the old timers were  complaining and when we sailed Silversea the  same thing.  I can go through a  litany of items people complained about.  When  we see  you and Shirin I will be happy to  share them.

 

This is not unusual and there is no way any one line will  appeal to everyone.


For example, while some  like new ships I can't tell you how different our experience on Silversea was from Seabourn  and Crystal.  Are we alone.  No.  Do  some love  Silversea.  Yes.

 

So speaking for  Keith and certainly not Crystal I do encourage people  if they think there is something better out there  to give it a try.  You'll never know for  sure unless you try it.

 

Anyway the  irony to all of  this is I truly think (I can't prove it   but it  is  my feeling) that overall people are pretty happy with the Crystal product.  I read it here.  I hear it on board.  

 

As to competition yes the cruise lines do have focus groups and yes they certainly are aware of what other lines are doing.  

 

This is my view. Everyone is entitled to their view.


Keith

 

 

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22 hours ago, Fly Fast Cruise Slow said:

 

Drib - your website is fantastic and we have been using it for some time. I didn’t realize that you can run trend analysis on the category/pricing etc. It is very good, thank you.

What is that website please?

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16 minutes ago, teamflames said:

What is that website please

 

I tried but apparently it’s a banned by CC site... 

Edited by Stickman1990

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1 hour ago, Keith1010 said:

the live reports and reviews that I have been reading on this board from both first time Crystal Cruisers and from seasoned Crystal Cruisers overall were pretty glowing and more positive over the last 18 months than I remember along time ago.

 

Anyway the  irony to all of  this is I truly think (I can't prove it   but it  is  my feeling) that overall people are pretty happy with the Crystal product.  I read it here.  I hear it on board.

 

Again, I think my point is being missed, however, just for the record - nowhere have I said that I am unhappy with Crystal, we like Crystal very much and are some of their biggest fans, although newer ones. However, their strategic choices with the hard product have pushed us to try another line for reasons indicated in my original post, and as I don’t  have access to their senior management team like others here do, I felt that this was a way to let them know - I realise we are just two people out of thousands - so what they do with it is up to them. Feedback is a gift, so I give it often.

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1 hour ago, Keith1010 said:

the live reports and reviews that I have been reading on this board from both first time Crystal Cruisers and from seasoned Crystal Cruisers overall were pretty glowing and more positive over the last 18 months than I remember along time ago.

 

Anyway the  irony to all of  this is I truly think (I can't prove it   but it  is  my feeling) that overall people are pretty happy with the Crystal product.  I read it here.  I hear it on board.

 

Again, I think my point is being missed, however, just for the record - nowhere have I said that I am unhappy with Crystal, we like Crystal very much and are some of their biggest fans, although newer ones. However, their strategic choices with the hard product have pushed us to try another line for reasons indicated in my original post, and as I don’t  have access to their senior management team like others here do, I felt that this was a way to let them know - I realise we are just two people out of thousands - so what they do with it is up to them. Feedback is a gift, so I give it often.

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Glen I really do get it.  I do.

 

And I know you both like Crystal.

 

I am very sorry if I have not conveyed this in my comments.  

 

As much as I love Crystal , I still think there is nothing wrong  trying other cruise lines and also understand why circumstances might result in people trying other lines.


I also think feedback is great both the good and the not so good.  

 

Best to you and Shirin.

 

Keith

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6 hours ago, Fly Fast Cruise Slow said:

If Crystal were my company I would be conducting focus groups on not just the loyalists/defenders but more importantly the next generation luxury cruiser ....

 

 

 

Another group who might yield useful insights would be previously loyal/frequent guests who have no returned recently.  Why not?  Crystal should certainly have these data and should be able to run a query with ease -- people with x number of Crystal Society credits who haven't earned credits in y years.  

 

For many (certainly five, perhaps as many as ten) years, I stayed each year for a week or two at a resort.  I then stopped going.  After the second year during which I had not returned, I got a letter from the GM (whom I didn't know) asking if s/he could call.  The letter made clear that this was not to be a sales call.  I said yes.  And they wanted to know why I had not returned.  They said they make such calls routinely and find them very profitable.    

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