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Updated: Crystal's top sellers scramble to assist clients after cruises are halted

Travel Weekly by: Johanna Jainchill

February 3, 2022

cruise • travel • media

The Crystal Symphony. Photo Credit: Crystal Cruises

For Crystal Cruises‘ top producers, the events leading to the line’s suspension of service at least through April, and having their clients disembarked early in the Bahamas on both the Crystal Serenity and Symphony, have made the last few weeks trying, to say the least.

On top of helping clients on the ships navigate their way — either home, onto other cruises or to hotels — these top sellers are mulling which products will work best to fill the void for their loyal Crystal clients. 

Tom Baker, president of CruiseCenter in Houston and a top Crystal seller for three decades, said Crystal represented 20% of the agency’s 2022 bookings. He called the loss of Crystal business as a result of the suspension “massive.”

Quite of few of his clients on the Serenity’s world cruise, which ended Jan. 31 in Bimini after less than two weeks at sea, moved over to Regent Seven Seas Cruises, which had specifically offered Crystal passengers cabins on three of its ships

But his agency’s future Crystal cancellations and loss “is pretty staggering,” he said.

“I’m gutted over it, to be honest, and still reeling in trying to find replacement vacations and concerned about refunds after those protected by the escrow agreement are left exposed,” he added.

mary jean

Mary Jean Tully, CEO of Tully Luxury Travel and Crystal’s top producer for the past 28 years, was in Palm Beach, Fla., last week. She flew in from Toronto to meet clients who had been displaced from the Serenity.

“We’re trying to rebook as many clients as we can on other luxury lines,” she said. “This has been very overwhelming for many clients. The problem is going to be space, as well, but Regent, Seabourn, Silversea and many of the river cruises are at the top of our list. It has just been daunting and very time-consuming and stressful for all involved, to say the least.”

Tully said that other cruise lines have been very helpful in trying to look after Crystal guests. Adding to the challenge of reaccommodating passengers is that the itineraries being offered are still very limited due to Covid.

But given that many of her clients had packed and prepared to be away for several months on a world cruise, quite a few do not want to go home and back to cold weather. And she is determined to find a solution for them.

“Second to our employees, our clients are our most important asset,” Tully said. “Many of these clients have been with me for 25-plus years.”

She said that because her agency is a top account for many cruise lines and other upscale travel companies, such as safari specialists, she has a lot of options to offer clients and said her agency will survive the hit.

More cruise lines reach out to Crystal passengers

It’s not only travel advisors who are bending over backward to accommodate Crystal clients.

Lines like Regent have gone the extra mile to take on Crystal customers, offering to fly them to its ships and paying for hotels in those destinations. After the Crystal Serenity changed course from Aruba to the Bahamas at the last minute, Regent, which had planned to embark many of its passengers onto the Seven Seas Mariner in Aruba, arranged to fly passengers, at its expense, from the Bahamas to Barbados to meet the Mariner, or to join its ships departing from Miami.

Scenic Group is also offering discounts to Crystal passengers who move to its ships and offering advisors bonus commissions. 

“We understand that those of you who have booked clients on these canceled cruises are experiencing distress of your own by not being able to deliver on the promises of someone’s dream vacation for reasons of which you have no control,” said Ann Chamberlin, vice president of sales for Scenic Group USA, in a note to travel advisors.

Seabourn is also offering guests with a deposited Crystal booking, made by Jan. 23, a 15% discount off select sailings.

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