When Crystal Cruises began planning a revamp for Crystal Symphony, work started in the kitchen.

A multi-million dollar makeover has resulted in a new configuration and an entire deck of luxury Penthouses, creating larger accommodation while reducing the overall capacity of the ship. And although attaining new levels of luxury was high on the agenda, it was the logistics around dining that drove the most significant changes and resulted in a ship that carries fewer passengers while tending to them with the same number of crew.

“We started with the open seating dining,” said Crystal’s new president and chief executive officer Tom Wolber while in Australia last month, during Crystal Symphony‘s first visit since the revamp.

“We were the last luxury line to stick to fixed seating times — an early and a late seating — which then dictates your entertainment… it restricts,” he said.

“What people in the luxury segment really want to do is get what they want, when they want it.”

The result is a ship with a capacity for up to 848 guests, featuring an entire deck of 12 Seabreeze Penthouse Suites and 28 Seabreeze Penthouses, each with its own verandah and butler service.

The main dining room has been relaunched as Waterside under the new open-seating concept and is backed by a succession of other dining options including a stylish new Asian restaurant, Silk, a daytime buffet, Marketplace, and a Brazilian steak-house, Churrascaria. The ship’s high-end Nobu restaurant remains, updated and renamed Nobu Umi Uma, while an Italian restaurant, Prego, continues to offer a fine dining option.

The model will be repeated aboard sister ship Crystal Serenity, which enters dry dock later this year to undergo a similar transformation.

Having announced new ventures in areas including expedition cruises, luxury yachts, river cruising and luxury air charters, Wolber, who took over from high-profile predecessor Edie Rodriguez in September, said the company’s attention was now returning to its ocean-going origins.

“We’ve done a lot of things that kind of took away a little bit of the focus from the blue water cruising,” he said. “So now we’re refocussing back on what really was the bread and butter of the business.”

Wolber acknowledged change had brought “growing pain” and that travel industry feedback would be used to address hiccups.

“The travel trade is very important to us, so that will be a very big focus over the next year.”

But despite any growing pains, Crystal Cruises has achieved huge success in the Australian market, where it established a dedicated office just over a year ago.

Wolber said Australian bookings in 2017 had been double those of the previous year, and that he expected further double-digit growth in the year ahead.

“We’ve always been very excited about Australia, because the Australian luxury traveller is a very good match for the Crystal brand,” Wolber said.


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