Watters at the Helm of Crystal

Joseph A. Watters, who is now aboard as the new President of Crystal Cruises, said that he will be bringing Crystal into its second phase of development.

“I feel real comfortable where the company is today,” he said, “it is emerging as the leader in the large luxury cruise ship market. And, we will continue to make our position stronger.

“The initial start-up efforts and expenses are behind us,” Watters explained. “With a second ship, we are achieving economies of scale.”

When the 960-passenger Crystal Symphony, sister ship to the Crystal Harmony, is introduced in 1995, Crystal becomes the largest operator in the luxury market, with the newest ships, and with 1,900 berths.

Watters was previously President of Royal Viking Line, and before that, President at Princess Cruises, before forming his own travel company, the Watters Group.

Watters said that RVL had its most profitable years while he was at the helm in 1985, 86 and 87, and that he never compromised on quality. He decided to leave, however, when RVL was merged into the parent organization in Miami. “I had no interest in being part of anything but an autonomous RVL organization on the West Coast,” Watters said.

Watters, who has been living in San Francisco, will be relocating to Los Angeles this month.

World Cruise

Watters said that Crystal Cruises will offer its first world cruise in 1996.

“We are now able to do this since we have the base support with 60,000 former passengers who have already cruised aboard the Crystal Harmony,” said Watters.

Watters said that the world cruise, which will be in the range of 99 to 110 days, will also be sold in segments. The rate for the full world cruise can be expected to start at $40,000 per person, according to Watters.


Watters is optimistic about the outlook for the luxury market. He said that the luxury segment of the market will consist of seven ships in 1995 and will have about six percent of the total beds in the industry.

Watters defined the large ship cruise market to consist of the Crystal Harmony and soon, the Crystal Symphony, Sagafjord and Vistatjord, Royal Viking Sun, partially the QE2, and the Europe.

“That doesn’t seem like much to me,” said Watters.

Watters also underlined that the luxury market cannot be defined by passengers’ income alone since the cruise line also get business from the premium market from which passengers trade up.

Watters also pointed out that while the small luxury ships take a rifle aim at the market, Crystal appeals to a wider range of the market.

In addition, Watters promised that he will take a hard look at international sales “to see if we can grow.”

In 1995, industry projections call for 5.3 million North American cruise passengers. According, to projections made by Cruise Industry News, the luxury lines need approximately 200,000 passengers to sail full, or less than four percent of the total cruise market.

Also according to CIN estimates, Crystal would need a maximum of 48,000 passengers to sail at capacity year-round with the first full year of service of two ships.

With the evolving luxury market, two lines have emerged as the leaders, Crystal in the large ship luxury market, and Seabourn Cruise Line in the small ship, luxury market.

Not #1?

“We do not consider ourselves to be number one (the best) except in the number of beds (in 1995),” said Watters. His statement was explained by a spokesperson who said that “once you adopt the philosophy that you are number one, it is a quick trip south.”

“Instead, Watters said, “we’ll always try to be better.”

“If it can be done, it will be done” is a company slogan, which Watters fully subscribes to.

According to Watters, luxury are not only defined by hardware and software – crew, food and entertainment, but also by the passengers. Passengers are more likely to enjoy their cruise if they share backgrounds with other passengers, Watters noted. “Every aspect of the cruise has to be at the luxury level,” Watters underscored.

Crystal enjoys a 33 percent repeat passengers rate in 1994 up from a 28 percent repeat rate in 1993. The key to success in luxury cruising is to get repeat passengers, according to Watters. It was a correct decision to build a second sistership, according to Watters.

He recounted his experience at RVL where past passengers looked for the same characteristics in all the ships. “Down the road, we’ll also build a third sister ship,” Watters added.

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