In 2012, Crystal Cruises will go "all-inclusive," folding the cost of gratuities (including Penthouse butler service and service in all specialty restaurants), fine wines and spirits into its cruise fares. The format becomes effective with the March 19, 2012 sailing of Crystal Symphony and the May 8, 2012 sailing of Crystal Serenity.
Since its 1988 launch, Crystal Cruises had shunned the "all-inclusive" format embraced by nearly all luxury lines, and in another nod to traditional cruising, remained one of the few lines (luxury or mass market) to offer fixed main or late sitting dining times rather than the open seating arrangement that allows guests greater flexibility. And yet, even in a world ruled by personal preference, Crystal continues to earn "Best Large Ship" and "Best Cruise Ship" honors from readers of leading publications like Condé Nast Traveler and Travel & Leisure.
In 2009, Crystal began to test the all-inclusive waters with the launch of its "As You Wish" program. A revolutionary promotion, "As You Wish" extended a generous $2,000 per couple ($1,000 single) on board credit that could be applied to bar tabs, shore excursions, spa treatments, gift shop purchases, gratuities—in fact, any charge except on board casino gambling. The ideal scheme—particularly for the teetotaler—it appears the "As You Wish" concept was never fully grasped by the consumer who had become more accustomed to seeking the "all-inclusive" tag when researching a luxury cruise experience.
Another change came in 2010 when Crystal, fairly quietly, announced the addition of "Perfect Choice Dining by Reservation," a supplement to the fixed main and late sitting options available in the Crystal Dining Room. Now, guests could select their own meal times or adhere to the more traditional main and late sittings. Crystal will continue to offer all three dining options as it moves into 2012 and the launch of the "all-inclusive" format.
On board Crystal Symphony, the ship's extraordinary staff seemed to willingly embrace the upcoming change. The salary increase that's being granted to each probably has a lot to do with that. Hotel Manager Herbert Jager, however, believes service staff compensation will remain largely unchanged. "Right now, service staff earnings vary week to week—some weeks more; some weeks less. With the change to all-inclusive and gratuities included in passage, our staff will receive a set wage each week. Further, we're not prohibiting our staff from accepting any tips that may be offered for extraordinary service."
With a happy staff—and exceptional staff and service is, perhaps, the greatest lure of a Crystal cruiseâthe next group to consider is The Crystal Society, the line's most devoted followers. In the past, the presentation of fine wines and spirits was a suitable way to recognize this important group. In 2012, with alcoholic beverages included in fares, Crystal is working on a soon-to-be announced program through which they might express their appreciation to those who return to Crystal again and again.