Cruise

Crystal Cruises’ Karen Christensen on the changing face of cruise passengers

On the cusp of launching the world’s biggest superyacht and taking the plunge into expedition cruising, Crystal Cruises Sydney office has been a hub of excitement latelty.

Last month, the keel was laid for Crystal Endeavor at MC WERFTEN’s shipyard, Germany in the presence of Chancellor Angela Merkel and Crystal CEO Tom Wolber, bringing the build one step closer to completion.

Meanwhile, in Australia, the cruise line announced it will be a proud principal sponsor for the inaugural Australian Travel Awards, which will be making its debut on November 30.

We caught up with Crystal’s managing director and senior vice president Karen Christensen to find out how the cruise line manages to keep kicking goals.

“It’s been established as a brand for over 20 years in the ocean space, and a very successful one at that,” she told Travel Weekly.

“It’s gotten to the point where we’re the most awarded cruise line in that space.

“For me, what’s special is how they’ve evolved in terms of passenger experiences. Moving into the river market after being in ocean for so long and now bringing in yacht expeditions and expedition cruising really speaks to the brand’s ability to evolve with the customer.”

Part of this has been catering to the changing face of the luxury consumer.

CLIA’s 2018 Cruise Travel Report revealed millennials are seeking out luxury cruises at a record pace, with almost a quarter surveyed having sailed on a luxury cruise in the past three years. A further 70 per cent of those surveyed said they “definitely will” book a cruise for their next trip. That’s a huge 63 per cent climb from last year’s numbers.

“The demographics in the luxury space has been getting younger and Crystal are conscious of that,” Christensen said.

“This market now wants high-speed internet and all-inclusive holidays. They don’t want to worry about tipping, they want their beverages included, and they’re not necessarily worried about a suite but they do want the specialty restaurants and high-quality shows.

“They want immersive experiences, which we give them through our lecture program.”

Crystal Serenity
Crystal Serenity

In terms of its ships, the cruise line has been rapidly expanding since 2015 when they announced they would be growing their fleet and venturing into new markets. Since then they have not only revamped their award-winning ocean ships but also introduced two aircraft and five river cruise ships.

And now, in response to the growing demand for small, yacht style cruising, Crystal will launch their brand-new expedition yacht, Crystal Endeavor in 2020.

The ship will be the world’s largest and most spacious expedition yacht, with a gross registered tonnage of 20,000.

Compared with the cruise line’s ocean ships, which start at 51,000 tonnes, Endeavor’s size will allow her to explore remote destinations.

Think secluded fjords, rugged terrain, isolated beaches and areas with wild scenic beauty, unique flora and rare fauna.

The new build is a response to travellers’ feedback and their thirst for new experiences.

“There’s a lot of interest in the expedition market space for varying demographics of consumer within our own database,” she said.

“Crystal tends to look at what our loyal Society members want, and river was one area that they were looking to sail in, expedition was another.”

Crystal’s Society members are part of the cruise line’s loyalty program.

“They want to be able to immerse themselves in certain destinations and cultural experiences that you just have to have purpose-built ships for.”

Crystal Endeavor will embark on her first voyage just after the Japan Olympics, starting in Russia and the far east before coming down through Asia and into Bali, then heading down the east coast of Australia.

Christensen said having a ship in this region so soon after the office was opened shows the company’s confidence in the Australian market.

“To have that corporate confidence from a company to put a ship in a market when they’ve only just opened an office nearly two years ago is quite significant.

“It says a lot to the belief that the brand fits this market and that the customer out there that’s not already ‘crystalised’ will see this as a product to look at and certainly explore.”


This interview is an edited extract from Travel Weekly’s print magazine. To read the rest, subscribe here. 

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