The Cruise Industry Is Booming
Reporting from Seatrade Cruise Global with news from every major line

by Vanessa Lee

Edie Rodriguez, Crystal Cruises President & CEO with Vanessa Lee at the hangar with the new Crystal charter jet in the background.

Vanessa boarding the Crystal Air charter jet at the hangar... with a glass of champagne, of course.

Edie Rodriguez, Genting Chairman KT Lim (in baseball cap) and Crystal staff in FLL introducing the Crystal Luxury Air private jet

At the presser - A typically lovely Cunard service. Champagne served by the Cunard Bell Boys.

Norwegian Harvest Caye beach villas

Norwegian Harvest Caye

Andy Stuart and Vanessa Lee

I have spent this week networking, listening and learning at the Seatrade Cruise Global annual conference in FLL. It has been an immersive, intensive, all things cruise, wonderful few days. Between state of the union sessions, press conferences, the trade show, meetings, cocktail parties, launch announcements and so much more, it has been a whirlwind of activity - and I am happily in my element.

And I can assure you, that the cruise industry is more than alive and well, it is exploding. There is literally news from every major cruise line, luxury is booming and expedition cruising has gone wild. Frankly it is hard to keep up but the beauty of it all is that there is so much that is positive, interesting, thoughtful and exciting that I can barely stand it! However I will do my best in this column and likely the next one, to fill you in on some of the key things I saw, learned about and am impressed with.

Crystal Cruises continues its remarkable expansion program which appears, at times, to be far-reaching and never-ending. The inimitable Edie Rodriguez, their dynamic and vibrant President & CEO, is expert at coining phrases to describe and define Crystal and their various brand initiatives. Such as “promise a lot and deliver more”, the ethos of the brand in acronym form – ECO which stands for Exclusivity, Customization and Options which she stipulates that all guests want from any Crystal experience and that the company is now so much more than a cruise line as it is “a new lifestyle and hospitality portfolio”. And this is clearly the case as the portfolio now includes Crystal Luxury Air, Crystal River Cruises, Crystal Yacht Cruises and soon, the Crystal Exclusive Class Ocean Cruises (late 2018). 

I attended the impressive launch of the Crystal Luxury Air program (in an airplane hangar) which will take off in early April of this year with a Bombardier (nod to Canada here) Global Expresss XRS plane. And it’s gorgeous for sure – holding 12 guests maximum and running at a rate of USD 8000/hr. + pilots/overnights/taxes and more. The jet is now available for booking and will fly guests virtually anywhere in the world in true customization fashion as noted above. A Boeing 777 arrives in 2017 and a 787  Dreamliner will come in 2018 thus affording Crystal guests true exclusivity as they fly around the world from river cruise, to ocean cruise to a yacht in the Seychelles and then onboard an expedition ship in Antarctica! Or to their residence on one of the new ships coming down the pipe.

And back to yet another Crystal news moment with the announcement of their plan to build “the world’s largest, purpose-built, polar class mega yacht”. Yes indeed! The Crystal Endeavour is being built now in the parent company’s own shipyard and will debut in August 2018 and is designed for global expedition cruising in the Artic, Antarctic and in tropical waters as well.  She will be 25,000 gross tons and offer 100 guest suites (minimum size of 400 sq ft) with all the toys on board and in the water one could imagine. These include a helicopter, two 7-person submarines, 8 electric zodiacs, paddle boards, kayaks, wave runners and the new SEABOBs – an underwater scooter.  Stay tuned for more on this whole massive expansion in expedition cruising.

I also learned more about Cunard’s remastering of the venerable Queen Mary 2 with marvellous and welcome changes coming to the flagship of the fleet in a 3 week dry dock this Spring. New single staterooms are being added, the Britannia Club will have an additional 30 Balcony staterooms and the beautiful  Queens and Princess Grills are being refreshed and restyled as are the luxury accommodations. The Todd English restaurant will be turned into the new Verandah Restaurant featuring French regional cuisine. One of the things I like most about the refurbishment is that the under-used Winter Garden will be remastered into the Carinthia Lounge (a nod to Cunard’s storied past) which will be an all-day venue featuring light meals and snacks, afternoon tea (of course) and the spot for relaxed entertainment and small plates in the evening.  And for our furry friends there are 10 extra kennels being added. And did you know that Cunard not only has a license to carry cats and dogs but can also take your pet ferret across the Atlantic! There are some wonderful videos you can see at to showcase much of what the company is doing and achieving in their thoughtful redesign of the Queen Mary 2 with special attention being paid to the original art deco Queen Mary, and the rich and impressive history of Cunard’s glorious and unique heritage.

There was more news from Norwegian Cruise Line about their Harvest Caye (pronounced KEY not KAY) experience as they develop a new destination and a resort-style port of call in Belize. Details have been a while in coming and this is purposeful and worth waiting for I can assure you. I was extremely impressed about how Norwegian is working on this new port of call from their concern for conservation by planting more than 15,000 mangrove plants, being thoughtful about the sea life (you can see manatees here) and the bird life as well as the flora and fauna, to ensuring that the local population will receive jobs and be involved in the shopping area by selling their wares and crafts.

This place will be fabulous and spectacular and will be ready in November for their 4 ships sailing on Western Caribbean itineraries. The ship will dock not tender, and there are numerous opportunities for guests to depart to mainland Belize for a variety of shore excursions. Or they may simply want to stay and play here all day – and why not? Instead of a Lighthouse there is a 130 ft tall “Flighthouse” which offers a 3000 ft zip line course with 3 platform stops, suspension bridges, free fall jumps (yikes) and a fun ropes course so popular on the new ships that it is being brought to land.

The pristine beach amidst an authentic Belizean environment offers 7 acres and Norwegian is putting in a massive freshwater pool with a swim-up bar and elegant lounges along with 15 canopied pool cabanas. Along the beach there are 11 villas replete with concierge service, a private shower, hammocks and more which can be rented for the day (pricing to come). Harvest Caye will feature a Landshark Jimmy Buffet dining experience for a charge and numerous bars and other dining options – a typical Norwegian moment. Watersports in the shallow lagoon include kayaks, paddle boarding and canoeing but no jet skis of course – have to protect those manatees.

To quote Andy Stuart, President of Norwegian about this resort development they are undertaking, “Lots of our guests will see the rich beauty of all that Belize has to offer”.

I have a lot more to tell you – news on Ponant, Regent Seven Seas,  Seabourn, Silversea, Scenic, MSC, CLIA and Cruise3Sixty taking place this June in YVR and of course, way more – but, next time.


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