Edwina examines the changes at Crystal Cruises


Oh, we so hate change! It is no secret to regular readers of these pages how highly we rate the World's Best Crystal Cruises product, so the announcement earlier this year that Genting Hong Kong were to acquire the company caused unsurprising ripples of unrest, compounded by a short delay in finalising the deal as compliance issues were sorted out. Finally, on Friday May 15th Genting Hong Kong completed its purchase of Crystal Cruises from Japanese company Nippon Yusen Kaisha, and we have the opportunity to take time to consider the implications.

Tan Sri Lim Kok Thay, executive chairman of the Genting Group and the former chairman of Norwegian Cruise Line, has been named chairman, and this addresses one of the first concerns expressed by many, that Crystal would be sucked into the NCL/Prestige stable. Genting's active efforts to distance itself from that group, including share disposal and the resignation of key executives from the board, have made it more than clear that their future lies in developing the Crystal Cruises brand, not amalgamating it with another.

Their confidence in the US team has been confirmed by the promotion of Edie Rodriguez to president and chief executive, while Executive Vice President Thomas Mazloum will replace her as COO.

"Genting Hong Kong is delighted and honoured to add Crystal to our global hospitality and leisure brands," Lim said in a statement. So just a quick look at those global hospitality and leisure brands, which include mass market Asian cruise line Star Cruise, and Resorts World with destination resorts and casino operations in Malaysia, the Philippines, Singapore, the United Kingdom, the Bahamas, the United States and soon in South Korea. Many have expressed their fears that Crystal Cruises will be swallowed into Star Cruises, or become a glorified casino at sea. But astute Genting would not take the trouble to acquire a new brand simply to absorb it into existing operations, which would self-evidently be a pointless exercise.

It has been no secret that over recent years, Crystal Cruises' US management team have been trying to persuade their ultra-cautious former parent to invest in their future. But of course NYK's expertise never lay in the hospitality industry - they are the world's largest shipping company, and their two little cruise lines Crystal Cruises and Japanese Asuka Cruises always represented a minute part of their global business.

Genting Hong Kong have lost no time in committing to future growth for the Crystal brand, announcing immediately plans to build a new ship to be launched in 2018. But could there be wider ambitions? Edie Rodriguez mentioned that GHK's experience in the leisure and hospitality sector 'will help Crystal expand its offerings to guests and travel partners as well as for employees.' So what other plans are afoot? Watch this space, but it is clear that Genting's ambitions extend way beyond a single additional ship.

And of course, things have not been standing still. There are rumours that Crystal executives have been spotted at European shipyards, and further announcements should be expected shortly.

So far on board we have seen no significant changes - we understand that Genting are delighted to acquire a brand with such a strong reputation, and have no wish to tamper with Crystal Cruises and everything it stands for. But stand by for more news from the experts!

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Edwina Lonsdale
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Edwina Lonsdale is Managing Director and, together with husband Matthew, owner of Mundy Cruising.

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