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Can Small Exclusive Lines Survive? I Hope So. Help Me Understand.

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Like all of us who love Crystal, I've been thinking about their future a great deal. We are attracted to their intimacy, fine cuisine, inclusive service, small size, intellectual enrichment and ambiance. Not to mention their wonderful, unusual and always-changing ports of call. With only a few ships, they rely on a smaller audience with the means to invest in a superior experience. I've tried to imagine how this model can survive without a widespread, effective vaccine. I certainly don't mind wearing a mask onboard, but there seem to be so many other hurdles too.


As I see MSC seeming to make a go of it, their model is vastly different from Crystal's, and would be similar to Carnival's and RCCL's. They go to the same ports over and over, but their clients can drive to get there. They have a vast amount of space in which people can spread out to rock climb or parachute or ride bumper cars or whatever. And with more passengers, even at lower price points, they will have more future income with which to get over their current losses. They also have the bandwidth to mothball some ships if necessary.


Like many of us, I have no desire to get on a ship with 4,000 other people, walk around their indoor shopping mall/arcade and cruise to their private cay where I can ride jet skis and drink unlimited rum Kool-Aid.  But, sadly, it seems that those mega ships have a much better chance of surviving just based on the way they operate. 


Here's  my biggest concern: Since corporations that run mass-market lines also own Silversea, Seabourn and Regent, I fear that Crystal may be left in the wake, so to speak.


I know there are many on here with much better knowledge of the whole GHK/Berhad operation. Hopefully you can shed some light on what I'm missing? I'm assuming we're way into 2021 (or beyond) before we have a widely vaccinated populace, so that port cities will feel safe to open to us all again. Can Crystal wait that long?

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The Telegraph reported that Edwina Lonsdale, managing director of Mundy Cruising, said that in the past month, 90% of ocean-going bookings had been for ships carrying fewer than 1,000 passengers. For river cruises in Europe, people don’t want to be on boats carrying more than 160 people. Viking Cruises is building a ship for 80 people, Emerald Waterways is about to build a boat with just 50 cabins, and Swan Hellenic–which stopped trading in 2017–will begin again, with a ship for just 150 passengers. Windstar operates a fleet of six small yachts carrying 150 to 340 guests and is known for visiting small ports and hidden harbors around the world. 


Betsy O'Rourke, chief marketing officer for Windstar believes that many people are making the transition from other ‘big ship’ brands to smaller boats. During its one-week sale in early June, 36% of Windstar’s bookings were from new-to-brand guests, which would have been highly unlikely for first-time cruisers in a year such as this, suggesting they transferred from other bigger companies.

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This is completely opinion on my part and not based on any calculations...


I feel like every cruise business model is broken in every market segment, personally.  The challenges ARE vastly different, but for each new challenge that one segment doesn't have, another new one takes it place.  I don't see Crystal having it any worse overall than Cunard, or MSC, or the Carnival brand in the end.


In Crystal's case (ocean), pricing will be challenging.  They will have to limit capacity to ensure proper spacing in restaurants and facilities, and pricing is almost certain to be under pressure anyway because of the recession and people's hesitancy to travel, so having to sell fewer cabins at a lower price when higher occupancy and higher fares was unprofitable is a recipe for disaster.  It only needs to be less of a disaster than not operating the ships at all though in order to be an improvement, so the bar is kind of low.  Operationally, they'd be able to operate with the same rules hotels are using here locally, which pretty much mirror MSC's precautions minus the testing.  (Those won't be to everyone's liking, but that's no different than it is now.)


I think improved access to testing is going to be more of a game changer than a vaccine, not that vaccines aren't also important.  When we get to the point where we can inexpensively saliva test people daily for being contagious, which seems to be one of the next benchmarks we're reaching for, it will be a lot easier to manage passengers onboard.



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I think smaller ships also have a chance if they sail below their occupation capacity. We have cruised with smaller ships than those from Crystal, for example those from Azamara, Silversea, Oceania, Windstar or Star Clippers. When those ships are fully booked, physical distancing is very difficult because they are small. However if they would sail at 60% or 70% and would have good biosecurity measures, including a way to properly control transmission per aerosols, I think smaller ships can continue to attract many people and could survive this crisis.


I would not like to take a smaller ship for a transatlantic or pacific crossing though. But I am looking at very exclusive ships for no more than 20 passengers in river cruises in Europe. This is also for us a good option.




Edited by travelberlin
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So far I am aware of the bankrupcy  of CMV only providing very basic cruises to the UK market however there were plans to start operate a ship for the French market.  In the German market Transocean is finished also the old Berlin  I heard.  

The German concern TUI owner of Mein Schiff and Hapag Lloyd already twice received a giant loan fom the German Republic 

( once 1.8 bil € second time  1.2 ) 

For the moment Ponant is sailing from 4 French  ports  and from Dubrovnik , I am booked on one and I had to fill in quite a rather personal medical questionnaire and some parts must be attached by my GP , and a covid test 72 hours prior to embarkation. 

I find it less trouble as the policy by German companies only accepting guests from German speaking countries. I do not know the situation in Austria however  some parts of Germany and Switserland are not performing good neither.  

For the moment I do not intend to go on mega ships ,not even for a cheaper  cruise between two luxury cruises.

I noticed the Crystal Esprit is scheduled to do Eilat to Larnaca in 2023 , I find the  part from Port Said to Larnaca risky on such a small ship, it can be rough. 

Years ago the 2 Crystal ocean ships were - with some proverbial  exceptions -  never full ( before all in ) 

On those mega ships how can they survive without doing "buffets" ??  Also on luxury ships few people are going to the MDR for breakfast  -  

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