Crystal Cruises’ future was up in the air when its ships were seized and it declared bankruptcy in 2022. But a new owner bought its two ocean-going vessels, which combined went under $170 million makeovers, and they are sailing again trying to win back its luxury sailing clientele.
New owners Abercrombie & Kent Travel Group renamed the line simply Crystal, and one of its ships, Crystal Serenity, made its way to PortMiami this month to begin a winter sailing season of the Caribbean.
“It’s great to be back in Miami. It’s been a while,” said Capt. Birger Vorland at an event on Nov. 2 at the port. “We had faith. We knew we were going to be back. … We have a fairly drastically redesigned ship here in many areas. Still same old captain though.”
He said he is among 80% of former crew that returned to sailing when the ships came back into service over the summer.
“In the time that we have been out of service, it was a little stressful for everybody,” he said. “We had faithful guests who saw their home away from home suddenly disappearing and maybe it wouldn’t come back, but for us that work there, we were kind of unsure too.”
He said people would ask him if the makeover meant the signature service and feel for the ship were changing.
“It totally blew me away, so I said, ‘Listen, it’s the same, just better,’” he said.
That includes several of the suites and cabins getting complete renovations with more contemporary designs and two new categories catering to solo travelers.
Part of the line’s allure is its dining selection, including the partnership with Chef Nobuyuki “Nobu” Matsuhisa and his venue Umi Uma, a mix of Japanese and Peruvian cuisine. It’s among 11 options along with fine Italian venue Osteria D’Ovidio, The Vintage Room that features wine pairings from a large onboard cellar and family-style dining with tapas-style offerings at Tastes Kitchen & Bar.
The new spa on board is called Aurōra, with an illuminated fiber-optic starlight ceiling adding to the ambience.
“Rebuilding Crystal has been a challenging but rewarding endeavor,” said CEO Cristina Levis. “We’ve invested in revitalizing our ships and are committed to keeping our loyal guests as excited about the brand as ever.”
Serenity, which was built in 2003, and 1995′s Crystal Symphony, pave the way for Crystal’s plans to build new two new ocean cruise ships and two new expedition vessels.
“The effort to rebuild a brand always comes with challenges,” Levis said. “One of the most significant aspects is continuing to build our guest confidence and loyalty. We’ve invested a considerable amount of money, time and effort in communicating our commitment to excellence and exceptional experiences while demonstrating tangible improvements.”
For now, the older ships look to bring back what had been a loyal customer base while having to compete with new cruise lines in the luxury market like Explora Journeys, Ritz-Carlton and Four Seasons, along with new ships from existing brands like Regent Seven Seas, Silversea Cruises and Seabourn.
“The company has to navigate the competitive, industry landscape with new ships joining each year, ensuring that our offerings continue to attract discerning travelers looking for the most exceptional experience while exploring all corners of the globe,” Levis said.
Part of that is sailing out of Miami this year, but shifting to Port Everglades in 2024. And also pulling on the expertise of Abercrombie & Kent with its land-based tours to enhance its destination offerings.
“Crystal has exciting plans for Florida in the future. Our 2025 itineraries were recently announced, with our ‘World Cruise’ leaving from Port Everglades in Fort Lauderdale along with many other voyages with South Florida turnaround days,” she said noting more than 17 voyages departing from the port stating in November 2024.
“We see Florida as a strategic hub that allows us to offer a wide range of itineraries and cater to the diverse preferences of our guests,” she said. “Crystal is committed to expanding presences in Florida as the state continues to be a top destination for cruise departures.”