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Edie Rodriguez, CEO of Crystal Cruises, will speak at the Skift Global Forum on October 14 and 15 in Brooklyn on the desires and needs of today’s luxury travelers. See the complete list of speakers and topics for this year’s event.
Rodriguez, who took on her new role in May when Genting Hong Kong completed its acquisition of the two-ship brand, has plans to transform the cruise line with the introduction of three new ships on order, super-luxury residences on board, the debut of yacht cruising, and the purchase of a Boeing 787 Dreamliner with lie-flat seats and 28-day excursions.
Rodriguez’s idea is to turn Crystal Cruises from a luxury cruise line into a “prestigious luxury hospitality and lifestyle brand portfolio.”
Skift sat down with Rodriguez several weeks ago to discuss trends at the cruise line and for luxury travel.
Skift: What are some of the most important things for today’s luxury traveler?
Edie Rodriguez: It’s all about three things with the global luxury consumer. The 3-character acronym I give it is ECO: Exclusivity, customization and options. In that genre and theme and strategy, now you’ve got the opportunity to develop in a customized manner, your Crystal exclusive-class vacation experience. If you’re an Australian and you can take eight weeks away, you can come on Crystal Luxury Air for 28 days. When it ends, you can fly commercially to one of our great Crystal Cruises departures around the world. From there, fly to the Seychelles to pick up the yacht, and from there fly to Europe to pick up a river experience if you so desire.
Skift: Can you tell me about the residences you are building on your new ships?
Rodriguez: The first ones are coming in 2018. We’ll have up to 48 residences. It will be having an apartment at sea, but not like another venture that tried to do that out there. This will be like the Baccarat Hotel or like a Four Seasons or a Ritz Carlton residence, where you can have the privacy you want in your home. In this case, your home at is at sea, or concurrently you can go down your private elevator and be with the other guests on board.
Skift: How much time will people spend in these residences?
Rodriguez: As much time as they want. They own them year-round. They are theirs to live on board year-round if they so desire, or come and go as they please.
Skift: Do you expect people to do that?
Rodriguez: Oh, absolutely. Demand is incredible already. We don’t think we’ll have 48. We think we’ll have less because in the buying cycle, which is now in the embryonic stages, they’re at liberty if they get in quickly enough to combine. These 48 residences range from 600 square feet to 4,000 square feet. Maybe you want an 8,000-square foot one. Now you can combine it.
Skift: Have cruise lines done this before?
Rodriguez: No. This has not been done. This is game-changing. It has not been done at sea before to have the combination of residences and a scheduled cruise operation, with the two mixing together. Meaning the condo owners can be with our cruise guests.
Skift: How much do these residences cost?
Rodriguez: They’re a couple of million dollars and up. We’re not disclosing that in great detail unless you’re on the list and we’ve been talking to you one-on-one at this time. So there are many configurations, and the prices vary.
Skift: Are luxury travelers these days becoming more attracted to extended travel and the itineraries as much as the ships?
Rodriguez: A couple of things. As an example, Crystal today has voyages from five nights to 128 nights and combineable in between. By having more vessels, we’ll be able to offer a plethora of different, newer itineraries.
Now we move on to Crystal Luxury Air. We are literally taking the Crystal cruising experience to new heights, excuse the pun. We’ve bought a Dreamliner that instead of seating 300, will host just 60 guests with flat beds. So you’ll have 30 couples on 28-day voyages in the sky around the world. As an example, the 1st of every month it will depart for 28 days. There will be different themes. There will be different itineraries each month.
We will take you around the world with 12-15 destinations that will have the most luxurious experience on land. With private access to incredible world events. The best hotels. The best restaurants. The best Michelin Star chefs. They will be really unique itineraries. When you think of everything being built and designed under the Crystal exclusive class, a vessel, a Dreamliner … Now we want to deliver.