Crystal Serenity (photo: Sergio Ferreira)“Our focus is on constantly refining our product,” said Gregg Michel, president of Crystal Cruises. “We never stand still; we continue to innovate – to provide the best food and beverage experience, service, onboard entertainment and enrichment programs.”

He pointed to the drydocking of the Crystal Symphony last year which completed a five-year, $65 million program to redesign every room aboard the 1995-built, 922-passenger ship.

The 2003-built, 1,070-passenger Serenity is slated for drydock in November.

“One of our differentiators is the design and style of our ships,” he continued. “The contemporary design sets us apart, as do all the choices we offer.”

For Thomas Mazloum, senior vice president of operations, the art of hospitality is all about leadership, attitude and a culture of discipline. He said the process of building a great service culture requires leadership that hire and retain employees that have the right attitude; leaders that train employees in their way of thinking and feeling about the purpose of the organization and how attitude will help accomplish anything, and most importantly, how the leaders’ own behavior functions as role models for the crew.

“Budgets and costs are managed with total fiscal discipline. Even during the best year in our company’s history (2007/2008), everyone was expected to decrease costs, increase revenue and show how individual productivity has increased,” Mazloum said. Specific projects were initiated that allowed for more creativity, innovation and productivity.

One example of innovation is the modernizing of menus. Said Toni Neumeister, vice president of food and beverage: “We are taking a seasonal, regional and even global approach to creating new menus – what today’s top chefs are cooking. We will still have the traditional dishes, but create cuisine for our new and younger guests.”

Desserts are also being reinvented, and while serving fine wines and spirits complimentary, the ships have not only a connoisseur’s menu for rare wines, but will introduce a connoisseur’s menu for special beers this spring.

Neumeister’s results speak for themselves, when Crystal does not repeat menus in the main restaurant even on a three-month world cruise.

But none of this would work, if it were not for well-maintained ships, which are also key to Crystal’s formula, according to Greg MacGarva, vice president of marine operations. “One does not necessarily need the newest hardware,” he said, “but it is essential to have the absolutely best-maintained and upgraded ships, and we do.”

Safety is paramount, as is environmental stewardship – not only because of regulations, but because it is the right thing to do, MacGarva said.

The stated company mission is to be the best in the luxury service business, not just in the luxury cruise industry.

>> Also in this section: In-depth company profiles of Silversea, Seabourn, Ponant, Hapag-Lloyd and SeaDream.

Excerpt from Cruise Industry News Quarterly Magazine: Spring 2013