CEO Edie Rodriguez’s speech at the Clia River Convention made some waves, but there’s no denying that Crystal’s luxury innovations are leading the way
When Edie Rodriguez speaks people tend to listen, even if they don’t like what she’s saying. The boss of Crystal Cruises has seen her company come on leaps and bounds during her tenure. At the Clia River Convention in November she told delegates – travel agents as well as most of her competitor cruise lines – that Crystal River Cruises was the only luxury river operator in the world. While that might have ruffled a few feathers, it certainly got people’s attention.
Having been at the helm of Crystal since 2013, Rodriguez is now overseeing a period of rapid growth, after the company was bought by Genting Hong Kong in 2015 for $550 million.
Announcements about air, river and expedition followed the firm buying
up a raft of shipyards. Residences for the well-heeled are also on the cards. However, can the company sustain such growth as it goes forward?
“In terms of how we are going to maintain the quality of Crystal Serenity and Crystal Symphony across our new fleet, the answer lies in our staff,” Rodriguez explains. “Many people have left us over the years, simply because, in the past, they didn’t think they could grow within our company. Now, with all of the investment, they are coming back. Half of all the people we have hired for Crystal Mozart [Crystal’s first river ship] have actually worked for
the company before.”
The investment that has led to so many staff members returning to the fold is unlike anything the industry has ever seen.
Seven river ships, three expedition yachts, a fleet of aircraft, enhancements to their current ocean ships and the launch of an “exclusive class”, slated for delivery in 2022, along with their much feted multi-million pound residences, mean that Rodriguez’s life is not going to quieten down any time soon. Little wonder that the CEO is known as “speedy Edie” and reportedly sleeps for just four hours a day.
“We are no longer just Crystal Cruises,” she says. “We obviously have been for 26 years, but a year-and-a-half ago, when we got our new owners, and they invested heavily in our brand we became simply ‘Crystal’ – the world’s most luxurious lifestyle and hospitality brand portfolio. We are now being spoken about in a myriad of different ways and so market ourselves to a myriad of different guests.
“Through that growth we are attracting the new to cruise market. With Crystal Mozart, which was launched in the summer, about 50 per cent of our customers are not only new to Crystal, or new to river cruise, but completely new to cruise. With Crystal Esprit, our first expedition yacht, we are not only attracting new to cruise guests but, interestingly, a far younger demographic. The average age of guests on board Crystal Esprit is only 35 years old.”
The various touchpoints that Crystal is now able to disrupt the luxury holiday market is astonishing. With expedition and aircraft sure to attract a younger – while still phenomenally wealthy – client, the idea is that they will become a Crystal guest for life. Eventually they will graduate to the ocean and river product, thus the company will successfully populate the whole of its portfolio.
The only entry requirement is that passengers must be able to afford it.