Ex-Crystal Cruises GSA in talks with line’s new owner A&K Group

The former owner of Crystal Cruises’ GSA has confirmed discussions with A&K Travel Group over potential partnerships following the company’s acquisition of two of the line’s ships.

Edwina Lonsdale, managing director of Mundy Cruising, which closed its GSA arm The Cruise Portfolio in May, said she felt “very positive” about Crystal after the brand was bought alongside Crystal Serenity and Crystal Symphony last week.

A&K Travel Group said the ships would resume service in 2023 after an extensive refit and operate under the Crystal Cruises brand.

Manfredi Lefebvre d’Ovidio, former owner of Silversea Cruises and chairman of private equity business Heritage Group, which owns A&K alongside Geoffrey Kent, said he “did not think twice” when the opportunity came up to buy Crystal Cruises.

Lonsdale, who owns Crystal Cruises’ UK customer database, said: “We have been in touch with Manfredi. We go back a long way. He is very excited as this is something he has wanted for some time.

“I feel very positive that Manfredi and the A&K Group will be able to regenerate a brand that we have known and loved for years.”

Asked what relationship the two businesses could have in the future, Lonsdale added: “We’ll have to see what they are planning and what they are proposing. It’s early days.

“Although we hold the database, 99% of Crystal business in the UK came through travel agents.”

She insisted that retaining Crystal’s crew was critical to the brand’s future.

“[The ships] are lovely, but they are not of the standard of other luxury ships. Their secret is the crew,” she said.

Lonsdale also revealed Mundy Cruising had refunded about 1,000 Crystal bookings, worth more than £3 million, since the line collapsed earlier this year. To help refund customers for cancelled Crystal sailings, Mundy Cruising sold its offices in London’s Fitzrovia and moved to Russell Square.

Lonsdale said affected customers were transferred to other lines, including Seabourn, Silversea Cruises and Regent Seven Seas Cruises.

The Cruise Portfolio was Crystal’s GSA for 31 years. Lonsdale expects “many” customers who received refunds to “give the new A&K incarnation of Crystal a go”.

Silversea has continued to decline to comment about reports that it is set to acquire Crystal’s expedition vessel Crystal Endeavor.

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