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by Deanna Ting | August 25, 2015
For most of its 25-year history in the cruise industry, Los Angeles-based Crystal Cruises has operated just two large ships. Today, however, all of that is changing for the luxury cruise brand, which is now launching into a variety of new ventures.

Following the cruise line's recent $550-million acquisition by Genting Hong Kong earlier this year, Crystal is branching out into a number of new facets of the travel industry - river cruising, luxury air jet tours, and yacht cruising to name a few. 

Within those new markets, particularly yacht cruising, there's a renewed focus on the meeting and incentive group market, too, say Helen Panagos, vice president of marketing sales for the new Crystal Esprit, and Bruce Setloff, vice president of charter sales for Crystal Cruises.

Crystal Yacht Cruises
In December, Crystal will launch Crystal Yacht Cruises with the debut of the Crystal Esprit, a 62-passenger, all-suite yacht that will come with its own two-passenger submarine, four 10-passenger zodiacs, and a 12-passegner Wider 32-foot-long super yacht tender. When she debuts on Dec. 23, Crystal Esprit will sail to the Seychelles Islands, and later take up routes toward Dubai and the Adriatic Coast through early 2018. 

"This is a unique situation for groups," says Setloff. "There are 62 guests max - it's the perfect number for an incentive or meeting group of about 60. Here, you're not part of a larger ship; you own the ship."

Setloff notes that each and every charter of the Crystal Esprit will be tailored toward the group and that there are 1.5 crew members for every passenger, ensuring the highest levels of service.

The suites onboard Crystal Esprit are rather spacious by industry standards, too, measuring anywhere from 250 to 280 square feet when most lines have cabins and suites ranging from 180 to 200 square feet. 

Says Setloff, "The Crystal Esprit is an absolute bucket list venue for a meeting or incentive. It's not your ordinary hotel meeting space at all, and we can go where the big ships can't."

He says more than 20 organizations have submitted inquiries about chartering the vessel, many from the automotive, pharmaceutical, and insurance industries. 

Both Setloff and Panagos also emphasize that while Crystal is all about cultivating a luxury experience, there's tremendous value in holding a meeting or an event at sea. 

"This is a high-end vessel, and planners are not going to get nickeled and dimed for a projector," says Setloff. "Hotels charge $2 to $4 just to deliver something to someone's room but when you sail with us, there's nothing where you have to put your hand in your wallet for. It's all included."

Crystal already offers all-inclusive meeting and incentive packages onboard its larger ships, the Crystal Serenity and Crystal Symphony, too.

With regard to Wi-Fi connectivity, Panagos says that because the yacht will sail close to the coastlines and shores, and because the maximum passenger capacity is only 62 aboard Crystal Esprit, planners should be confident that Internet connectivity will be good. Wi-Fi is also included in Crystal's charter rates, and an iPad will be in every suite for each guest for notifications and communications.

On Aug. 20, the cruise line also announced that it will expand complimentary Internet access to all guests beginning Aug. 30. Passengers staying in Deluxe Stateroom or Penthouse room categories onboard the Crystal Symphony and Crystal Serenity will receive one free hour per guest, per day; Penthouse Suite guests will receive 90 minutes per guest per day. There is also free access to Crystal's 24-hour satellite-enable Wi-Fi service, which will also be available onboard the soon-to-debut Crystal Esprit. 

Increased interest among meeting planners for planning meetings, events, and incentives at sea appears to be growing. At the recent Meeting Professionals International (MPI) World Education Congress held from Aug. 1-4 in San Francisco, MPI debuted its new Meetings and Events at Sea Certificate. Presented in partnership with the Cruise Line International Association (CLIA), the course explores the advantages of hosting events on cruise ships compared to traditional venues. 
 
Crystal River Cruises
In Spring 2017, Crystal Cruises will debut its new river cruise line, Crystal River Cruises. Its fleet of 70-suite river yachts will feature 250-square-foot guest suites and two 500-square foot Penthouse Suites. Information regarding itineraries, fares, and bookings will be available in December.

Crystal Luxury Air 
 Also in 2017, expect to see the launch of Crystal Luxury Air, offering around-the-world trips on a twin-aisle Boeing 787 Dreamliner.  The aircraft, which typically seats 300, will fly 60 guests in fully reclining first-class seats to destinations in which major airlines do not offer nonstop service. It will offer 28-day itineraries visiting 10-12 remote or highly desirable locales, with accommodations at luxury hotels and cuisine prepared by celebrity chefs inspired by the destination.

Crystal Exclusive Class
In late 2018, Crystal plans to debut the first of three new Crystal Executive Class cruise ships. These all-suite, all-balcony ships will accommodate 1,000 guests each, similar to the capacity available on Crystal Symphony (922) and Crystal Serenity (1,070). The minimum square footage for suites will be 400 square feet.