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We received this from our TA.


We want to address the public statement that Genting Hong Kong (parent company of Crystal Cruises) has announced that it is making no further payments to creditors (which potentially includes refunds and unpaid commissions) other than to maintain what it describes as “critical services” for its business operations. Virtuoso is also aware of some delinquent payments that Crystal Cruises has to Virtuoso member agencies, member agency clients, and Virtuoso.
At the current time, we recommend that each member carefully consider whether or not it is advisable to book any Crystal Cruise on behalf of any client or make any payments to Crystal Cruises, in light of the statement issued by Genting Hong Kong and the other publicly available information.
Virtuoso has initiated discussions with Crystal Cruises’ owners to attempt to resolve this financial situation for the benefit of the Virtuoso network. We will inform you of developments concerning that initiative.

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Virtuoso agents are the single largest suppliers of bookings to Crystal.  I believe Signature is next.   My TA is already advising potential clients for 2021 and beyond to sign a waiver that they have been advised by her that they have been advised of Genting’s financial situation.  Not one decided to book and are looking at alternatives or waiting it out.
 

Negative stuff like this just builds on itself and becomes a self fullfilling prophecy.

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1 hour ago, almostretired said:

Virtuoso has initiated discussions with Crystal Cruises’ owners to attempt to resolve this financial situation for the benefit of the Virtuoso network. We will inform you of developments concerning that initiative.

 

Give that line a careful read.

 

Doesn't say "for the benefit of the clients".  Doesn't talk about refunds to clients.  Doesn't have a damned thing to do with you, the passenger.

 

It's for the benefit of....drum roll...the agencies that booked cruises with Crystal.

 

For all those who complain that Crystal should make some kind of statement about refunds, how about if Virtuoso would be advocating for their client's monies as well, not just for their own cash?

 

Further food for thought:  Is it repayment to clients or repayment to agents that is driving the Virtuoso discussions?  And the Virtuoso "warning".

 

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Virtuoso is a business, plain and simple.  “For the benefit of the Virtuoso network” means for their member agencies and their travel clients. They are an extremely successful marketing company marketing the luxury travel market and they exist on membership fees from travel agents AND suppliers.  Both pay a good deal of money to participate with suppliers paying a lot more.  All travel industry consortiums are suffering now as most of their member suppliers have cut back on the sales and marketing budgets.  Agents are re-evaluating how much they want to spend for memberships.  
 

Virtuoso is concerned about their members and suppliers paying because if they don't pay. Virtuoso there is no Virtuoso, or any other consortium.

 

They want happy consumers.  Happy consumers use their travel agents when the travel agents give good advice.  If a travel agent books Crystal and Crystal goes bust the client will blame the agent for not warning them.  Virtuoso is being cautious and other consortiums will most likely follow.

Edited by cruisr
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30 minutes ago, FlyerTalker said:

 

Give that line a careful read.

 

Doesn't say "for the benefit of the clients".  Doesn't talk about refunds to clients.  Doesn't have a damned thing to do with you, the passenger.

 

It's for the benefit of....drum roll...the agencies that booked cruises with Crystal.

 

For all those who complain that Crystal should make some kind of statement about refunds, how about if Virtuoso would be advocating for their client's monies as well, not just for their own cash?

 

Further food for thought:  Is it repayment to clients or repayment to agents that is driving the Virtuoso discussions?  And the Virtuoso "warning".

 

I don’t think it makes any difference what Virtuoso is trying to say in this memo, when it says “benefit of the Virtuoso Network.”  The fact is that Genting Hong Kong is currently very short on cash, and regardless of exactly that the term “creditors” mean in those intentionally vague press releases, it does not require a Nobel Prize in Economics to realize that the situation has to affect the ability of Crystal Cruises to process these refunds.  But for me, refund issue is not the only issue at hand here.

 

I think the biggest concern of many of us is not just the status of our refunds, but whether Crystal Cruises will continue in the future, and if it does, in what form.  The fact that Virtuoso is strongly advising their agents and their customers to think twice before booking another Crystal cruise is also very concerning for the future of Crystal Cruises.

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8 minutes ago, cruisr said:

Virtuoso is a business, plain and simple.  “For the benefit of the Virtuoso network” means for their member agencies and their travel clients. They are an extremely successful marketing company marketing the luxury travel market and they exist on membership fees from travel agents AND suppliers.  Both pay a good deal of money to participate with suppliers paying a lot more.  All travel industry consortiums are suffering now as most of their member suppliers have cut back on the sales and marketing budgets.  Agents are re-evaluating how much they want to spend for memberships.  
 

Virtuoso is concerned about their members and suppliers paying because if they don't pay. Virtuoso there is no Virtuoso, or any other consortium.

 

They want happy consumers.  Happy consumers use their travel agents when the travel agents give good advice.  If a travel agent books Crystal and Crystal goes bust the client will blame the agent for not warning them.  Virtuoso is being cautious and other consortiums will most likely follow.

Virtuoso central has no business if we abandon their services. Certainly they are in business, and certainly they should protect those who pay fees to be members but why not emphasize the bottom of the pyramid, those who actually pay all the bills.  I do not think they dismiss us but we are not the focus --- and BTW Virtuoso waited five months to put this message out to their agents.  Where have they been?  Why did they no bring their collective power to work the issue?

 

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5 minutes ago, almostretired said:

Virtuoso central has no business if we abandon their services. Certainly they are in business, and certainly they should protect those who pay fees to be members but why not emphasize the bottom of the pyramid, those who actually pay all the bills.  I do not think they dismiss us but we are not the focus --- and BTW Virtuoso waited five months to put this message out to their agents.  Where have they been?  Why did they no bring their collective power to work the issue?

 

Not sure what you mean when you think “Virtuoso waited five months to put this message out to their agents.”  Unless I am living under the rock, we did not know how long this outbreak will continue when the new cases in the US started to build in March of this year.  

Edited by Psoque
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1 hour ago, FlyerTalker said:

 

Give that line a careful read.

 

Doesn't say "for the benefit of the clients".  Doesn't talk about refunds to clients.  Doesn't have a damned thing to do with you, the passenger.

 

It's for the benefit of....drum roll...the agencies that booked cruises with Crystal.

 

For all those who complain that Crystal should make some kind of statement about refunds, how about if Virtuoso would be advocating for their client's monies as well, not just for their own cash?

 

Further food for thought:  Is it repayment to clients or repayment to agents that is driving the Virtuoso discussions?  And the Virtuoso "warning".

 

 

FWIW, the consortium that the agency I work at is part of (not Virtuoso), sent a similar notice. In fact the first sentence is identical, right down to the awkward wording and the run-on sentence! Makes me wonder if this is a coordinated initiative to perhaps put pressure on Crystal/Genting to get the refunds up to date. 

Edited by Roland4
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Well, the Virtuoso statement seems pretty extortionate to me.  Sounds like a line from a 50s gangster movie: "nice book of business you got there, shame if anything were to happen to it." 

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2 hours ago, Psoque said:

Not sure what you mean when you think “Virtuoso waited five months to put this message out to their agents.”  Unless I am living under the rock, we did not know how long this outbreak will continue when the new cases in the US started to build in March of this year.  

Well let's see - would four months make you feel better - or three.    Or maybe when Crystal started canceling cruises in late March, did I miss the email that said - We at Virtuoso are doing everything in our power to insure that those who booked with us receive their refunds timely?  

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On 8/24/2020 at 2:42 PM, almostretired said:

Well let's see - would four months make you feel better - or three.    Or maybe when Crystal started canceling cruises in late March, did I miss the email that said - We at Virtuoso are doing everything in our power to insure that those who booked with us receive their refunds timely?  

I don’t think anyone, including Crystal, Genting Hong Kong, or Virtuoso knew for sure in March of this year how this outbreak would unfold, especially in the US.  Also, this e-mail is not just about Crystal’s inability/unwillingness to make timely refunds.  This e-mail is Virtuoso’s response to the current financial crisis Genting Hong Kong is experiencing, and the direct effect of that crisis to Crystal.

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On 8/24/2020 at 10:10 AM, Roland4 said:

Makes me wonder if this is a coordinated initiative to perhaps put pressure on Crystal/Genting to get the refunds up to date. 

 

Concur on the coordination.  However:

 

I stick with my original hypothesis.  This isn't to get the refunds to the clients; it's to get the agencies the commissions.  And Kenz has the right idea, IMO, about the arm twisting.

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2 hours ago, Psoque said:

I don’t think anyone, including Crystal, Genting Hong Kong, or Virtuoso knew for sure in March of this year how this outbreak would unfold, especially in the US.  Also, this e-mail is not just about Crystal’s inability/unwillingness to make timely refunds.  This e-mail is Virtuoso’s response to the current financial crisis Genting Hong Kong is experiencing, and the direct effect of that crisis to Crystal.

By March numerous Crystal cruises were canceled -- and then each succeeding month more cruises were canceled.  Everyone knew Crystal was having problems refunding money well before 21 August, yet that was when they decided to get invested in working the issue. And I do understand the purpose of the letter.

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My TA is a high volume Virutoso agent and was very diligent on our behalf trying to get our refund.  She made numerous phone calls but to no avail.  She was also trying to get refunds for herself, and for the group, for a cruise she had organized.  Not sure how she made on those refunds but I did let her know we filed a credit card dispute at 121 days for one cruise and, I think, it was 90 days on the second one.

 

None of what's going on at Crystal surprises me which is why we cancelled before Crystal did.  Seems to me the handwriting was on the wall even before they fell into default.

Edited by caroak
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On 8/24/2020 at 11:49 AM, FlyerTalker said:

 

Give that line a careful read.

 

Doesn't say "for the benefit of the clients".  Doesn't talk about refunds to clients.  Doesn't have a damned thing to do with you, the passenger.

 

It's for the benefit of....drum roll...the agencies that booked cruises with Crystal.

 

For all those who complain that Crystal should make some kind of statement about refunds, how about if Virtuoso would be advocating for their client's monies as well, not just for their own cash?

 

Further food for thought:  Is it repayment to clients or repayment to agents that is driving the Virtuoso discussions?  And the Virtuoso "warning".

 


BINGO.  
 

Full disclosure, my company generates a sizable amount of its revenue from sourcing contracts with travel suppliers like cruise lines, and has preferred supplier agreements just like consortiums do, so I look at this different than a customer would.

 

What I think many people are missing is that Virtuoso has its own contracts with Crystal that now need renegotiation.  Any leverage that Virtuoso (and every consortium) can leverage in those renegotiations, benefit that consortium financially.

 

This has nothing to do do with existing bookings or customer’s money, it’s about the consortium’s future position and terms.

 

Vince

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I have to disagree with the negative reactions to Vitruosos's memo. While your agent is pressing for your ticket money there is nothing wrong with them pressing for their paycheck money too. You're looking for a return of money to your discretionary spending, they're looking for money for their basic living expenses, you both care.

 

My agent is a major seller for Crystal. Despite all the extra work of cancellations and refunds she is only getting paid for 4 days a week. Even worse, if Crystal goes down her job of 30 years goes away. You can bet she is plenty motivated for all of this to recover successfully.

 

The slow refunds are nothing more than not enough cash to go round, quit looking for conspiracy theories. The passengers are unsecured creditors which is ahead of the owners but behind the secured creditors. Consumers rarely experience being in this position but a creditor they are and the ride is familiar to those with exposure to business. The best prospect is patience and hope, the worst prospect is for people to run, that will guarantee that everybody loses.

 

Bill
 

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Just to be clear, my message was not meant to be any kind of attack on Virtuoso.  We are ALL renegotiating our preferred supplier agreements because none of the old metrics work anymore (along with many of the benefits not working either), and we're all leveraging what we can in order to get it done.  That's just where the travel industry is at right now.

 

In the end, those agreements are win-win-win -- the customer wins, the member agency wins, and the consortium wins from those agreements.  But when the consortium says some action is in the "benefit of the consortium", BELIEVE THEM.  The benefit to the customer is downstream, not the actual action being taken here.

 

Vince

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