Luxury cruise line Crystal plans to grow fast after restart with new ships

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Editor’s note: TPG’s Gene Sloan accepted a free trip from Crystal to attend a preview event for the relaunch of the brand. 

The comeback kid of cruising is about to get bigger fast.

The top executive at ultra-luxury line Crystal on Saturday revealed that the brand planned to unveil four new ships by the end of the decade.

“Our aim is to have four newbuilds by the end of 2029,” A&K Travel Group CEO Cristina Levis told travel writers and travel agents early Saturday at a press conference aboard the 740-passenger Crystal Serenity.

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A&K Travel Group is the parent company of Crystal as well as the luxury tour company Abercrombie & Kent.

Crystal has yet to sign a contract for the new ships with a shipyard, but the planning for the new vessels is “quite advanced,” according to Levis.

The plan is to start construction on the first two vessels — one a traditional cruise ship and one an expedition ship — by the second quarter of 2024.

“We’re working closely with our lenders, with the export credit agencies … with very talented naval architects and with two ship building companies in Europe,” Levis said.

Levis offered relatively few details of what the ships would be like but said two of the vessels would be expedition ships and two traditional ships.

Levis said the expedition ships were being designed to hold about 220 passengers. The traditional ships would hold about 650 passengers, she said.

“We are keeping it small,” she noted.

During a question-and-answer session after the announcement, Crystal’s senior vice president for hotel operations Bernie Leypold said the four new vessels would have similar amenities to what is found on Crystal’s existing ships.

“The idea is to keep consistency within the product,” Leypold said. “We cannot tell you exactly [what amount] the gross tonnage, but the idea is to give you the same spaces, the same restaurants, the same experience.”

The announcement comes as Crystal is in the midst of relaunching as a brand.

The iconic luxury cruise company shut down in early 2022 after its parent company at the time, Genting Hong Kong, collapsed. But it’s making a comeback this month under new owners led by longtime cruise industry leader Manfredi Lefebvre d’Ovidio.

Lefebvre d’Ovidio and his family for many years owned and ran Silversea Cruises. He sold the company to cruise giant Royal Caribbean Group in two transactions starting in 2018. Lefebvre later bought a controlling stake in A&K Travel Group.

The first of two Crystal ships that Lefebvre’s holding company and A&K Travel Group bought from the liquidators of the original Crystal — Crystal Serenity — will sail its first comeback cruise with paying passengers on Monday out of Marseille, France.

Related: Crystal plans an epic, around-the-world cruise for 2024

It’s currently on a short pre-comeback “shakedown” voyage — a sort of test sailing — with just company executives, travel agents and media on board.

A second Crystal ship, the 606-passenger Crystal Symphony, will restart operations on Sept. 1.

Both of the vessels underwent massive overhauls in a dry dock in Italy that lasted for months. As part of the overhauls, whole cabin decks were gutted and rebuilt with bigger suites, and some public areas including restaurants were also completely rebuilt.

Levis made the ship-order announcement as Crystal Serenity sailed off the coast of Italy on its way from Naples to Livorno.

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