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Crystal Cruises to return under new owners A&K

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It is no secret that Manfredi Lefebvre d'Ovidio, former owner of Silversea, has long held ambitions to acquire Crystal Cruises.

Indeed, had the owners of Genting Hong Kong been prepared to enter more seriously into discussions, the deal could have been done long before the collapse of Crystal earlier this year, avoiding much distress and heartache amongst crew, employees, partners and guests around the world.

Following Royal Caribbean's purchase of Silversea, the Lefebvre family's Heritage Group, of which Manfredi Lefebvre is Chairman, entered a strategic partnership with Geoffrey Kent, founder of Abercrombie and Kent, to jointly acquire A&K Travel Group.

Manfredi LeFebvre and Geoffrey Kent of A&K

In turn, Lefebvre's long held ambition has finally come to pass, as A&K Travel Group has acquired Crystal Serenity and Crystal Symphony. Word is that they have also acquired, in a separate transaction, the Crystal Cruises brand. They plan that the ships will resume service in 2023 after extensive refurbishment.

The two ships, although elderly, were built to a very high specification and have been looked after exceptionally well. The key to the group's success, it appears to us, will be the ability to put the core Crystal team and crew back together sufficiently well that their world recognised standards of service are resumed. Add to that A&K's care in looking after shoreside operations and land programmes, and they could have a winner on their hands.

Crystal Symphony and Crystal Serenity

One of their main challenges will be the historic loss of good will to the company following two years of broken promises and unpaid bills. Here in the UK, for example, our company was exposed to the tune of over £3 million, as we refunded customer monies for future cruises which had already been paid over to Crystal Cruises.

Industry watchers will not have missed that Tan Sri KT Lim, multi-billionaire and former chairman, CEO and executive director of Crystal's former owner Genting Hong Kong, along with Colin Au, deputy CEO, group president and executive director, have started a new cruise line in Singapore, Resorts World Cruises, having walked away after calling in the liquidators.

Rumour has it that Crystal's luxury expedition ship, Crystal Endeavor, which was launched in July last year, has been purchased by Silversea: good news for all if that one is true.

Crystal Endeavor, rumoured to have been bought by Silversea

Silversea remain tight-lipped, but have certainly not denied the rumour and, significantly, have registered the name Silver Endeavor. Meanwhile, the fate of the newly built river cruise fleet is still clouded in mystery, although the word is that the veteran Crystal Mozart already has a new owner.

We have also learnt more about Lindblad Expeditions' plans for Crystal Esprit, which the company acquired last year. Now renamed National Geographer Islander II, she is due to begin operating in the Galapagos later this year, accommodating just 48 guests and with a 1:1 crew-to-guest ratio.

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

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