On Crystal Serenity pictured from left, Diane Murphy Dunn, Crystal Cruises district sales manager; Greg Nacco, Cruise Specialists; Jack Anderson, Crystal Cruises senior vice president marketing & sales; Thomas Mazloum, Crystal Cruises senior vice president hotel operations.
Cruise Specialists’ Greg Nacco just returned from Athens, Greece, where he disembarked Crystal Serenity on Friday, following Crystal Cruises 22nd Annual Sales Achievement Awards Gala. The event recognizes the top cruise sellers in the world, and Cruise Specialists is among the top of the esteemed group.
Our reporter-at-large, Ralph Grizzle, caught up with Greg on Crystal Serenity and filed this report.
Q. Greg, this has been a great event with a lot of news from Crystal. What was the take-away for you?
A. The take-away for me was that the 2015 World Cruise is a circumnavigation from Miami. We’re very excited about that. The 2014 World Cruise is out, and we already have a number of bookings on it. I love that Crystal is pushing out its deployment earlier.
Q. Crystal execs spoke at length about the continual investments in their vessels. Is this something that benefits your clients?
A. When you don’t have a new ship to launch, you have to freshen up your product. And what Crystal has done has spent $100 million on both ships over the last five years, and most recently $15 million on Symphony. It was an extraordinary makeover. When you see it, you really do see a transformation, which directly benefits our clients.
Q. How has Crystal’s brand-new all-inclusive policy affected what I’ll call the cruising lifestyle on Crystal?
A. It completely changes the atmosphere on board. When you have people who are paying for things as they go, it’s a different vibe on the ship. It’s not a bad vibe, but it’s a different one from the free flow and ease of all-inclusive.
Q. Crystal also announced a new pattern of itineraries for 2013. What’s different looking ahead?
A. They’ve introduced some shorter cruises so that we can have an entry-level cruise for people who want to step up and try a luxury product. Two reasons for that: Crystal’s guest age demographic is dropping, and a lot of these guests are working professionals and can’t get away for a longer voyage, like 12 nights, but they can for maybe 7. These are people who have the money; they just don’t have the time. So Crystal has choreographed its itineraries so you can do a seven-day cruise, a nine-day cruise or if you want, a 28-day cruise. You can piece all of that together as back-to-back cruises.
Q. Does Crystal represent better value than it used to?
A. What they’ve done with the refurbishment and with the all-inclusive, if you do the math, and we do it all the time, just take a customer’s bill at the end of a premium cruise when they’ve paid for all their drinks, gratuities, extra restaurants, etc. You total that all up and they’ve pretty much paid for close to what a cruise on Crystal would cost. It’s the psychology of the sticker price that deters people from thinking they can’t afford a luxury experience.
Q. So given that sticker shock, what do you recommend?
A. I would encourage our clients to talk to their adviser to compare. We have some technology that we can use through our Virtuoso affiliation – a compare and share product. We can compare hotels, different cruise lines and more. It makes it very easy for our clients to see the difference.