Crystal's new booking incentives include:
For all 2009 itineraries (except the full world cruise), the required deposit will be 5 percent of the cruise fare, rather than the previous 10 percent.
Booked passengers can now cancel trips without penalty up to 45 days before sailing (formerly 75 days).
Potential Crystal travelers now have seven days after booking (rather than three) to pay their deposit.
Deposits for the 2010 world cruise have been reduced from 20 percent of the cruise fare (which would have amounted to around ten grand per person) to $1,000 or $1,500 (depending on stateroom booked).
Crystal will continue to offer a price guarantee, and booked passengers will pay the lowest applicable fare, should their cruise price change after booking. Alternately, they may be offered the choice of an upgrade in lieu of a reduced fare.
We spoke with Mimi Weisband, Crystal's vice president of public relations, who told us these new policies are intended to make customers more confident about booking their vacation during these troubling economic times. "We found that our affluent guests are more resilient and resistant to the economic situation, but they're not immune," she says. "We see that people are somewhat paralyzed about their purchasing decisions and we wanted to make it easier for them."
The changes make it easier for wary customers to book a cruise because they don't have to pay as much up front, and if they need to, they can back out at almost the last minute. Although Crystal has not seen a dramatic increase in canceled bookings, sales are down from last year, which proved to be the line's best year ever. In addition, Crystal discovered that many customers did not know about the line's price guarantee and were waiting for a better deal before booking, not realizing they could lock in their preferred cabin and sail date up front and still take advantage of future discounts.
According to Weisband, travel agent response to Crystal's announcement has been "overwhelmingly positive." We'll keep you posted should other luxury lines follow suit with their own amended deposit and cancellation policies.
--by Erica Silverstein, Associate Editor