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Crystal Cruises has no shortage of ambitious plans for growth, but those plans have occasionally changed. Its new CEO will need to reassure fans of the luxury brand that the company will steer a consistent course under new leadership.

Edie Rodriguez, who oversaw a massive and occasionally too-ambitious expansion at Crystal Cruises, has left the company.

Parent company Genting Hong Kong announced her departure — and replacement — in a press release Friday afternoon. The changes were effective immediately.

The new president and CEO is Tom Wolber, who worked at the Walt Disney Co. for 28 years, including 10 at Disney Cruise Line.

In a brief interview, Rodriguez said she had resigned from Crystal, where she has worked since 2013, to pursue “an exciting new opportunity” that would be announced in a couple of weeks. Her departure had been in the works for some time, she said.

“I wish Crystal continued success and I’m very proud of what I was able to, under my leadership, accomplish for that brand for the last four years,” she said.

She joined as president and chief operating officer in late 2013 and served in that role until 2015, when Genting Hong Kong bought Crystal for $550 million and named her CEO.

Since then, Rodriguez has served as a relentless advocate for the brand and spearheaded rapid growth that included the addition of yacht, river cruises, and luxury charter air travel. There were other plans, too, that didn’t come to fruition.

In one head-scratcher of an idea, Crystal announced it wanted to bring back the historic SS United States in a restoration the company said could amount to $700 million. A feasibility study last year showed that plan was not possible, and Crystal pledged to donate $350,000 to help preservation efforts.

As USA Today laid out late last year, Crystal has frequently made adjustments to its expansion plans, which included pushing back dates for oceangoing ships and cancelling the order of a Boeing Dreamliner.

“Over the past 16 months, Crystal has been making a habit of announcing major new ventures only to later change, delay or cancel them,” the story said.

Still, leaders of Genting Hong Kong praised the addition of two river ships with a third on the way, an expedition yacht, and a Boeing 777, and lauded Rodriguez for leading the launch of Crystal Yachts, Crystal River Cruises, and Crystal Air.

“I’m very proud of what we did,” Rodriguez said. “I changed the game there, and it was a very successful game.”

Wolber was not granting interviews on Friday, his first day on the job, but the company highlighted his decades of experience in management, operations, new-build construction, and business development.

He spent 10 years as senior vice president of operations at Disney Cruise Line during a time when the operator launched two new ships. Other roles included president of Euro Disney S.A.S.; senior vice president of resort operations and transportation operations at Walt Disney World Resort, and vice president of Disney’s Hollywood Studios.

“Tom’s proven leadership skills will be invaluable to Crystal,” Tan Sri Lim Kok Thay, chairman of Genting Hong Kong and Crystal Cruises, said in a statement. “Tom has our full confidence and we look forward to working closely with him to ensuring Crystal remains unmatched in the luxury travel segment.”

He said the line will take delivery of four river ships this year and next, and the first of the “Endeavor Class” of expedition yachts in 2019. Wolber will also finalize specific and design for new ocean vessels in the “Exclusive Class.”

“Crystal has developed a venerable reputation across the travel industry and my first responsibility will be continuing to deliver the world-class service and itineraries Crystal is renowned for,” Wolber said. “I look forward to spearheading some of the most innovative new-builds and experiences the cruise and hospitality industry has ever seen in the years ahead.”

Mike Driscoll, editor-in-chief of industry publication Cruise Week, published a special edition with the news Friday and said word of the change had spread rapidly at an event for Signature Travel Network owners in Arizona.

“Several agents noted that Rodriguez worked tirelessly to promote Crystal’s expansion, but at the same time some said that they were not surprised by the news given recent developments at Crystal involving changes to the expansion,” Driscoll wrote.


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Tags: crystal cruises, luxury

Photo credit: Edie Rodriguez, who just resigned as CEO of Crystal Cruises, is seen here on November 17, 2016, in front of the Crystal Mozart. Crystal Cruises

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