On Monday, Las Vegas-based advisor Jay Shapiro found himself in Miami, waiting to pick up a rental SUV to transport some of his Crystal Cruises clients to an airport hotel before they fly to meet the Seven Seas Mariner in Barbados.
That is, after he stops at Target to fulfill a request of picking up an extra suitcase for the clients, who had been aboard Crystal’s canceled world cruise on the Crystal Serenity.
Travel advisors are no strangers to scrambling to readjust clients’ plans, especially these days, but Shapiro, the owner of Five Star Travel, has gone above and beyond in the wake of Crystal’s operational hold.
His focus is the clients who are on the Serenity’s cruise, which was halted just days into the itinerary after the line’s parent company, Genting Hong Kong, filed to wind up its operations and Crystal suspended its cruise operations through April.
Initially, the Serenity planned to disembark passengers in Aruba and fly them home — unless they planned to accept an offer from Regent Seven Seas Cruises to join the Mariner, which was arriving in Aruba the next day.
Shapiro has eight clients — three doubles and two singles — aboard the Serenity’s cruise. When news of its cancellation hit, he decided to fly to meet them in Aruba and meet them for dinner at the Ritz Carlton. He would then escort them to the Mariner.
“I believe a good customer is well worth it,” Shapiro said.
Shapiro took a red-eye flight from Las Vegas on Friday and landed in Miami at 7 a.m. Saturday. Half an hour later, he got a call from his friend and former Crystal vice president, Bruce Setloff, who told him the Serenity wasn’t being permitted to dock in Aruba.
The ship would instead be ending its cruise in the Bahamas and returning passengers to the U.S. by ferry.
So rather than connecting on to Aruba, Shapiro got on the phone with his daughter, Dawn, to redo his schedule and help with changes for his clients.
He booked himself a hotel in Fort Lauderdale and spent the day communicating with clients and Regent. That line had amended its offer for Crystal passengers: It offered to let guests embark the Mariner in Barbados or the Seven Seas Splendor or Explorer in Miami. A handful of Five Star’s clients decided to continue with Regent, while others opted to head home; some were still deciding on their final plans.
Shapiro is no stranger to helping clients in a pinch. He started his agency in 1985 in Fort Lauderdale (it has since moved to Las Vegas) and has faced a number of challenges, including evacuating a group of 49 clients from Beijing during the Tiananmen Square crisis in 1989.
“We’ve dealt with these crisis situations in the past,” Shapiro said. “Those were pretty cut and dry compared to Crystal, where one minute you think you have it solved and the next minute you don’t. The last two weeks have been pretty much crazy.”
On Monday morning, Shapiro was planning on picking up one set of clients after Crystal ferried them into Miami. From there, they would head to an airport hotel to stay and get Covid tests at the airport. Then, they planned to fly to Barbados, where they could join the Seven Seas Mariner Feb. 3.
“These people, they’re all clients of mine for a while, but even if they weren’t I’d still do the same,” Shapiro said.