Crystal’s expansion continues at an ever-accelerating pace. In Germany this week to initiate the steel-cutting for the luxury line’s first river ships, president and CEO Edie Rodriguez announced that the company has ordered six river cruise yachts – two more than the expected figure.
The vessels, to be delivered between 2017 and 2019, will take Crystal’s river fleet to a total of seven – Crystal Mozart, the largest passenger ship on Europe’s inland waterways, is currently being refurbished and re-fitted, and will make her maiden voyage in July.
Captain Greybeard was the only British journalist invited to join Rodriguez for the ceremony that marked construction of the first four river ships, at the Lloyd-Werft yard in Bremen, Germany.
She pressed the button to send a computer-controlled laser cutter into action, slicing through inch-thick steel plates like a knife through butter. Not as quickly as expected by Tan Sri Lim Kok Thay, the chairman and CEO of parent company Genting Hong Kong. He jokingly urged “speedy” Edie to hurry the work along.
Rodriguez said later: “This seemingly simple act was an absolute thrill, as it represents a very important milestone in the growth of the Crystal brand.
“It was my honour to stand with the leaders of our wonderful parent company and the Lloyd-Werft shipyard, and to enjoy the support of the local community leaders, as we continue the process of ushering in a new era of Crystal.”
The first four Crystal river ships will be delivered next summer. The 110-passenger Crystal Mahler and Crystal Bach will sail on the Rhine and the Rhine-Main-Danube; the 84-passenger Crystal Debussy and Crystal Ravel will be on the Seine from Paris and the Gironde, Garonne and Dordogne from Bordeaux.
Further details of the other two ships are yet to be announced.
As part of Crystal Mozart’s refurbishment, its capacity is being reduced from more than 200 passengers to 158, and it will be fitted with two 500 sq ft Penthouse suites, plus a Palm Court entertainment lounge and a fitness centre and spa.
Genting HK has spent billions buying Crystal Cruises and in financing its expansion from just two ocean cruise ships. Luxury yacht Crystal Esprit, launched last December in the Seychelles, will be joined by luxury exploration yacht Crystal Endeavour. The 12-passenger private Crystal Air jet in which I flew from Italy to Germany is the first of three Crystal Luxury planes that will offer world cruises by air.
The first of three new Crystal Exclusive class ships is scheduled for delivery in 2019, and the company is awaiting the results of a technical survey that will decide whether it is feasible to restore the historic liner SS United States.
In order to carry out the shipbuilding needed, Genting HK has also purchased four Lloyd-Werft shipyards in northern Germany. Rodriguez and Kok Thay today signed the contracts for the building of six river ships, Endeavour, the first of three planned Crystal Exclusive-class ships, plus two 5,000-passenger Global-class ships for Star Cruises, also owned by Genting.
Total value of the orders is €3.5 billion.