As Crystal River Cruises comes out of the pandemic, operations are expected to be more efficient and flexible. According to Walter Littlejohn, Senior VP and Managing Director, the crisis proved to be an opportunity to learn and improve the product in many ways.
While travel restrictions kept ships from sailing for an extended period of time, the lay up processes, for instance, were revaluated.
“We are used to laying up three months a year, because the rivers are all frozen. When we realized this layup would be a lot longer, we learned how to do it more efficiently, in order to keep the cash burn down,” Littlejohn pointed out last week in Miami.
Sustainability also came into play, especially through shoreside power supply, which, according to Littlejohn, is already available in the river sector.
“Particularly when we are in extended lay up situations, so that we are not using our generators but rather plug in into the shore power and keep it affordable at the same time,” he said.
Looking for the future, Crystal has also prepared its product for other potential sanitary crises.
“It became much more important to us to look at which health and safety protocols we’ll need to adapt, so when this happens again, we are prepared,” Littlejohn explained.
One of the examples is the HVAC systems on the ships, he noted.
“We realized that with just a few tweaks, we could install HEPA filter systems on public spaces, creating a lower risk profile on those areas.”
The company also looked into labor contracts to “understand how they could be modelled in the future, in order to protect the crew and ensure they will have a job when all is over.”
On the commercial side, “the resiliency of the guests” was evident through the crisis.
“It’s been amazing to see so many of these travelers saying: ‘I know this is happening now, but you call me and let me know when you are ready to go because I’m going with you,’” Littlejohn said.
The pandemic has driven at least one change in the product.
“We have seen an incredible interest in families and friends looking for opportunities to reunite and reconnect in a very private way. So, we have developed some shorter duration cruises for 2022 and 2023,” Littlejohn said.
The five-night cruises make it easier for the groups to get together and go away together, he said.
“We have seen tremendous demand for that product, which evolved from inquiries that we were getting,” he added.