Crystal Cruises, one of the modern pioneers in luxury cruise travel, will survive its bankruptcy and liquidation that resulted from the financial collapse of its parent company Genting Hong Kong. Crystal was forced to suspend operations at the end of January 2022 and earlier this month the Bahamas auctioned off the line’s two large cruise ships to settle debts.
Heritage Group, a private equity group with investments in the travel and tourism sector led by billionaire Manfredi Lefebvre d’Ovidio, confirmed today that it has purchased Crystal Cruises and the two cruise ships through A&K Travel Group, a luxury travel company. Lefebvre d’Ovidio acquired 80 percent of A&K in May 2019 along with 20 percent which is owned by Geoffrey Kent, son of the founders of the company.
The two ships will resume service in 2023 after undergoing extensive refurbishment and will operate under the revived Crystal Cruises brand that has also been acquired by A&K Travel Group. The cruise ships were reported sold last week by the Supreme Court in the Bahamas with the Crystal Symphony going for $25 million and the newer Crystal Serenity sold for $103 million. The brand name and other assets of the cruise line were acquired separately from the U.S.-based liquidators of the company.
“I am thrilled to start this new chapter and to be back in an industry that has always had, and always will have a special place in my heart,” said Lefebvre d’Ovidio in a press release announcing the acquisition. “When the opportunity arose to acquire Crystal Cruises, I did not think about it twice.”
Lefebvre d’Ovidio’s father a maritime lawyer, university professor, and entrepreneur had owned cargo ships and ferries in the Adriatic and in 1988 acquired a controlling interest in another pioneering cruise line, Sitmar, after the death of its founder Boris Vlasov. Sitmar was sold later that year to P&O to merge into Princess Cruises, but in the early 1990s working with industry veteran Mauro Terrevazzi at V.Ships, the family launched Silversea Cruises and built the company by offering luxury cruises. Lefebvre d’Ovidio agreed to sell Silversea to Royal Caribbean Group in 2018 and completed the sale in 2020.
Crystal Cruises was launched by Japan’s NYK in 1991 as a prestige product that would for 20 years be the leader in luxury cruising. The cruise line was sold to Genting Hong Kong in 2015 with elaborate plans to expand in the luxury niche with river and expedition cruises, private residences, and custom-built aircraft for air tours. The execution of the plan failed and by late 2021 Lefebvre d’Ovidio had already approached Genting Hong Kong about acquiring Crystal.
“The idea of combining the unparalleled onboard service that Crystal Cruises is known for, with the extraordinary tailor-made experiences Abercrombie & Kent has been successfully providing for our guests for the past 60 years, fills me with excitement, enthusiasm, and pride,” said Geoffrey Kent, who becomes Co-Chairman of Crystal Cruises along with Lefebvre d’Ovidio, in addition to his role as A&K Travel Group Co-Chairman and, and Founder, Co-Chairman and CEO of Abercrombie & Kent.
They announced that they would also be partnering with V.Ships Leisure for the operation of the cruise ships. Silversea Cruises had also partnered with V.Ships.
Other segments of Crystal Cruises’ former operation are yet to be resolved. Rumors have linked Royal Caribbean Group and Silversea to Crystal’s luxury expedition cruise ship Crystal Endeavor which was completed last year by MV Werften. Crystal’s five river cruise ships also continue to be for sale. Industry observers are saying that they expect A&K and Heritage Group to continue to make travel-related investments.