Customers want different ways to experience the Crystal Cruises style – and the luxury cruise line is undergoing a major brand expansion to satisfy their desires. That’s what Crystal Cruises CEO and president Edie Rodriguez told members of the travel media during a breakfast overview of key company developments during Cruise360 in Vancouver last week.
New ships are front and centre to the new offerings. Genting Hong Kong, which purchased Crystal in 2015, has bought four shipyards in Germany to build and update Crystal vessels. The line is building new yacht, river, and ocean ships, as well as purchasing a private charter plane (launched in April) and a twin-aisle Boeing 777-200LR redesigned to offer air cruises for 88 guests.
“The world’s most luxurious cruise line is becoming the world’s most luxurious hospitality and lifestyle brand portfolio,” Rodriguez said. “We’re offering lots of options because we live in a world where the luxury consumer wants their vacation customized to their individual needs.”
Service will remain the brand’s key focus as it expands, Rodriguez said. “We hire for the personality and train for the skill,” she said, noting that many previous Crystal employees are returning to the company to take advantage of new opportunities for career growth.
Edie Rodriguez, president and CEO, Crystal Cruises
Highlights of Crystal’s new offerings
Crystal Yacht Cruises: Crystal Esprit, a rebuild of a yacht that belonged to the company’s chairman, sailed its inaugural voyage in the Seychelles and Dubai in December. The 31-cabin vessel will sail the Adriatic Coast and Middle East for the remainder of the year. Crystal Endeavor, a 100-suite luxury mega-yacht designed for expedition cruising, will set sail in August 2018.
Crystal River Cruises: The 158-guest Crystal Mozart, a purchased vessel, will launch July 13 with a sold-out sailing from Vienna, to be followed in the next three years by six new-build sister ships. “It will be done like no one else has ever done on the rivers,” Rodriguez said.
Crystal Air Cruises: The Boeing 777 is currently in Seattle being reconfigured to seat 88 guests rather than the standard 378. The 14- to 28-day itineraries, launching September 2017, will be available for sale in the next few months. The air experience will offer the same level of service guests have come to expect from Crystal Cruises, Rodriguez said: “We’re not hiring flight attendants; we’re hiring Crystal butlers and training them on flight safety.”
Crystal Luxury Air: The Bombardier Global Express charter jet seats up to 12 guests and can be booked for transport to connect with Crystal voyages in the Mediterranean, Indian Ocean and Pacific.
Crystal Exclusive Class: Three new-build polar ocean vessels, launching fall 2019, will sail with 1,000 guests and 1,000 crew. Each ship will offer 48 private residences on the top deck.
SS United States: Crystal is working with the SS United States Conservancy to return this classic ship to oceangoing service. “We will restore her to the grandeur of her heyday of transatlantic cruising,” Rodriguez said, noting the technical feasibility study for the project should be completed within a few months.
“These experiences can be thought of as beautiful puzzle pieces,” Rodriguez said. “You just ask the right questions to put together the right experience.”
The modern luxury cruise guest has evolved, Rodriguez told PAX, noting that many Crystal guests fall into the 25–35 age bracket and are new to cruising.
“Agents are remiss if they don’t put Crystal into their mix,” she said, noting the line’s high satisfaction rating and repeat guest rate.
“Over 50 per cent of our bookings are booked on board,” she told PAX. “For travel agents, that’s like an annuity – the commission comes right back to them.” She noted that Crystal’s all-inclusive price per person is similar to the price of a mass-market cruise suite experience once on-board expenses are added in.
With all the changes to the brand, fans of Crystal Symphony and Serenity can rest assured that the line will continue to invest in these ships as it expands other areas of its business.
“These ships are our hallmark and our ethos and the genesis of what allowed us to reach this growth,” Rodriguez said. “They are here to stay as part of the Crystal Cruises Fleet.”