The Crystal Harmony will be delivered on June 21, nine days ahead of schedule, according to Art Sbarsky, Senior Vice President of Marketing. He said that Crystal Cruises would keep the ship in Japan for the extra days to show it off. There is much national and civic pride surrounding the ship, he said.
The christening is scheduled for July 20 in Los Angeles where the ceremony will be performed by movie and television star Mary Tyler Moore.
Sbarsky also said that he expected the company to place an order on a second identical sistership by mid-April. He said the company would also likely take an option on a third vessel. While Crystal had previously announced that it was accepting bids from European and Japanese yards, it now looks as if the order will go to Mitsubishi, which has also built the Crystal Harmony.
The second vessel would be delivered in fall of 1992.
Alaska Sold Out
Sbarsky also said that the line’s inaugural season in Alaska was sold out and that Crystal was selling at the stated brochure rates. “We offer 15 percent off on group rates, but no other discounts,” Sbarsky stated. He noted that the line saves on selling and marketing expenditures by selling groups rather than selling all staterooms individually.
Sbarsky attributed the line’s strong bookings to the fact that it started its marketing campaign very early. He said that advertising to travel agents got underway in March of 1989 while consumer advertising began in November.
Sbarsky also said that Crystal had been able to distinguish itself in the marktplace. “If you take the covers off most cruise brochures, you cannot differentiate the lines,” he said.
“We also pay real close attention to giving travel agents close service,” Sbarsky said. He said that their trade program consisted of direct mailings, brochures, newsletters and videos. But agents get too much, Sbarsky noted, so it becomes increasingly important to be concise and relevant and to pay attention to how things are mailed. Therefore, Crystal’s first brochure was mailed out in a large pizza box.
Sbarsky also noted that travel agents’ biggest complaint about cruise lines is that they “cannot get through” to reservation agents or that these are unable to answer questions.
Sbarksy said that in addition to training, Crystal agents are also included in the in-house circulation of new materials and press clippings and should be able to answer any questions. “We also took three very visible people from the industry and sold their stories to the public,” Sbarsky added, referring to Art Rodney, Douglas Duncan and Erling Frydenberg, all of whom have long and successful industry track records.
“Avoid Filling Ships at Any Cost”
Sbarsky emphasized that the industry has to avoid the syndrome of filling ships at any cost. He said that Crystal’s average per diem for Alaska and transcanal sailings is $368, while the average per diem for the line’s 1991 European cruises is $488. Sbarsky attributed the increase to the air differential.
“Cruise lines are making a mistake by lowering their prices too much,” Sbarsky said, “because they then have to squeeze the passenger too much on board. Carnival, for instance, charges more for drinks than we, $4.50 compared to $2.50.”
The Crystal Harmony starts service on July 24 (1990) with four 12-day roundtrip sailings from San Francisco to Alaska. Other 1990/91 sailings include a series of ten 17-day transcanal cruises between Acapulco and San Juan.
Crystal Cruises’ European season begins on April 1, 1991, after a 12-day transatlantic crossing from Fort Lauderdale to Lisbon.
In the 1991 season, Crystal will be offering three 12-day Western Mediterranean cruises; seven 13-day sailings in the Eastern Mediterranean; a 14-day cruise to Western Europe; and four 13-day North Cape cruises.
In the fall, the Crystal Harmony sails a second transatlantic crossing from Lisbon to Fort Lauderdale. A winter program for 91/92 has not yet been announced.