Travel agents received updates on all of Crystal’s new “experiences” during the opening session of the 2016 Crystal Sales gala. // © 2016 Emma Weissmann
Feature image (above): Edie Rodriguez, president and CEO of Crystal Cruises, boards Crystal Luxury Air, the brand’s high-end private charter jet. // © 2016 Emma Weissmann
It was 7:30 a.m., and I had just boarded my flight from Crotone, Italy, to Bremen, Germany. To my right was a popped bottle of Cristal champagne, and to my left sat Edie Rodriguez, CEO and president of Crystal Cruises.
As someone who regularly flies in economy, I resisted the urge to pinch myself. Just an hour earlier, I had been onboard the 922-passenger Crystal Symphony with nearly 80 of the line’s top-producing agents at the 25th annual sales gala. Now, I was joining Rodriguez onboard Crystal Luxury Air, the line’s private charter jet, and in a few hours, I would be attending a commemorative steel-cutting ceremony for the line’s new fleet of river yachts in Germany.
I couldn’t help but to compare the swift progression of my morning to the company’s almost equally rapid expansion. Just one year ago, parent company Genting Hong Kong purchased Crystal, and shortly thereafter came a slew of announcements for new inventory.
Joining Crystal Luxury Air will be a Boeing 777 used to take passengers on themed “Air Cruises”; expedition megayacht Endeavor; a fleet of river vessels; and, in the ocean-faring category, a new Exclusive Class of ships that will join Crystal Symphony and Crystal Serenity. All are expected to be in service by 2019.
Crystal Esprit, which debuted December 2015, and Luxury Air are currently bookable, and the refurbished Crystal Mozart, the line’s first river vessel, will debut in July.
And, as Rodriguez teased several times throughout the sales gala, there is still more to come.
This year’s gala, which took place May 6-12 onboard Crystal Symphony, was themed, “Exclusively All About You,” and Rodriguez made it clear that agent partnerships — relationships that lead to 96 percent of the line’s bookings — will be a defining factor for the success of these new experiences.
“I happen to be a person who embraces change,” Rodriguez said. “You have to perpetually evolve to stay relevant. We couldn’t have asked for a better new owner. They’ve provided incredible funding, believed in us and are giving us what we need to deliver all this growth.”
To qualify for the gala, travel consultants were required to sell at least $600,000 in Crystal products. For next year, however, Rodriguez and her team are upping the ante — advisors must sell $750,000 in order to qualify.
“At the end of the day, it’s about partnership and that you can sell with confidence,” Rodriguez said. “With your input and your clients’ input, together we will evolve and deliver this great growth.”
In addition to a review of Crystal’s new offerings, the gala served as an opportunity for agents to learn about the brand’s new developments in sales and marketing.
Crystal’s logo was recently refreshed to have a more contemporary design, and the company’s website, originally launched in 2010, will roll out an updated website in July. The responsive, visually appealing new homepage will feature the line’s sexy new “All Exclusive” ad campaign and a thick footer along the bottom of the screen that highlights the brand’s different products. There will also be a cruise calendar that lets agents sort itineraries by year, destination, departure date and more.
Additionally, members of the media were invited to travel by Crystal Luxury Air to both Bremen and Wismar, Germany. While there, they toured Lloyd Werft shipyards, attended the first steel-cutting for the new river cruise ships and participated in the opening ceremony of a refurbished ship design center.
At this time, Rodriguez also made the public announcement that two new vessels will be joining Crystal Mozart, Crystal Debussy, Crystal Bach, Crystal Ravel and Crystal Mahler on the rivers, bringing the river fleet count to seven. The two new vessels have yet to be named.
As we flew over the German countryside, I felt like the sky must be the limit for this luxury brand. As if he read my mind, one of my fellow passengers joked that the next time I found myself at this altitude, it would be on “Crystal Rockets.”
“There’s more to come,” she said.