Following the collapse of parent company Genting Group, luxury cruise, expedition and river operator Crystal Cruises has announced it will cease sailings on a temporary basis while its executive team examines options for it to continue operations.
The line becomes the first cruise operator face significant financial and operational difficulties in 2022, and the first since the collapse of several lines in spring and summer 2020 as the COVID-19 pandemic severely restricted travel around the globe.
What happens when a cruise line goes bankrupt? It's a scenario Cruise Critic has explored extensively -- and one that does offer some hope for those passengers who have booked with Crystal Cruises in terms of recouping their money.
Here's what cruisers need to know about the current situation with Crystal Cruises:
Technically, Crystal Cruises' parent company, Malaysia-based Genting Group, is bankrupt. However, that dramatically affects Crystal, as the line is a subsidiary of Genting and, as such, is also out of money.
Coupled with a global pandemic that is still hobbling the financial health of the travel and cruise sectors, the economic situation at Genting Group became unviable in a hurry.
Crystal announced Wednesday that its three vessels currently in operation -- Crystal Symphony, Crystal Serenity and the line's new expedition vessel, Crystal Endeavor -- will cease operations. Passengers will disembark and will be flown home from Miami, Aruba, and Ushuaia, Argentina.
However, Crystal is only temporarily pausing its operations into the spring -- at least for now. Ocean sailings are canceled through April 29, 2022.
All three cruise ships will be laid up at the end of their current cruises. Crystal says the line is still in the process of drawing up exact plans for its ships.
So while itineraries beyond April 29, 2022, remain available, the future of the company is not guaranteed at this point, unless an investor were to financially rescue the line.
Crystal's European river cruise fleet is not operating, as is standard at this time of year. (The 2022 European river cruise season typically begins in March.)
For now, Crystal has announced it will pause its European river cruises through the end of May 2022. It is possible an investment company -- or even another river or ocean cruise operator -- could acquire Crystal's river assets and operate them as scheduled.
Crystal states those passengers with booked cruises who paid in cash (not a future cruise credit) will be offered refunds automatically to the original form of payment.
However, if that cruise was booked with a future cruise credit, that credit will be returned to the guest's Crystal Society account.
Right now, there is no clear way to turn an FCC from a Crystal Society account into a refund. Those with FCCs should call Crystal or work with your preferred travel agent to discuss options. Be aware, this news likely will have customer service representatives handling a massive number of calls, which will make wait times lengthy.
Cruise Critic is also looking into this scenario and will update this article once we have more information.
An increasingly plausible scenario is that another cruise line or investment firm swoops in and buys Crystal Cruises outright or invests the necessary capital needed to keep the line afloat.
Two outcomes are possible under this scenario: A company buys Crystal and elects to keep its operations and assets intact, and business continues as usual.
Another, more disruptive outcome, involves a company purchasing Crystal and parsing it out, selling off assets it doesn't see as critical to the business. The line's river cruise ships were rumored to be up for sale in 2021; now, a sale of the ocean ships, river vessels or both is certainly possible in the short term.
In the short term, Crystal Cruises will cease operations and lay up its fleet of oceangoing ships. Passengers who booked in "cash" (including credit cards) are protected and will be refunded.
Those passengers who booked using an FCC or who have an outstanding credit on file should contact their travel advisor or Crystal Cruises for next steps.
Longer-term, it is possible to see a restart of Crystal provided the line's management team can come up with solutions, which could include anything up to complete acquisition.
Cruise Critic will monitor this developing story and update this article as needed.
Updated January 19, 2022