Cruise Visionaries Creating Exciting Times

by Vanessa Lee

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

Crystal's Private Jet

Vanessa with MSC’s Ian Patterson & Rick Sasso

Certain people have a vision and a “larger than life” concept which some may think is not attainable. Others, like Edie Rodriguez, head of Crystal Cruises and all their affiliate brands, have a vision so big it is almost unsettling to some. An idea whose time seems to have come perhaps. And for naysayers or those who can’t believe some of this is happening in the cruise biz, one of my favourite quotes comes to mind. It’s from Robert Browning, “Ah, but a  man’s reach should exceed his grasp, Or what’s a heaven for.”  It seems to fit in this circumstance, don’t you think?

Like many, I have been somewhat mind-boggled at all that is going on at Crystal Cruises these days. It seems to be a never-ending round of press releases, new announcements, naming of new brands, purchasing of airplanes and river ships, small sexy yachts, and of course, a massive ship-building project being undertaken for a variety of vessels. And now there are going to be Crystal residences as well. As described by Crystal execs – the company will consist of and be a “premier hospitality brand portfolio” and the “world’s most luxurious lifestyle brand”.

I have known Edie for some years and we had great fun when she was helping launch the venerable Queen Mary 2 back in the early OO’s and my company, Encore Cruises was selling millions of dollars of bookings on this fabulous ship. (I am about to sail again on my beloved QM2 in a week or so and will report back on her latest remastering). So, when I was at Cruise360 in Vancouver, I took the opportunity to catch up with Edie and find out more about Crystal’s expansion plans.

From Cunard and Carnival Corp., Edie  went on to her role as V.P. Sales at Azamara and everything AzaAmazing and of course, a few years ago, was tapped to head up Crystal Cruises in LA when the line had just 2 ships, Symphony and Serenity. Well my how times have changed in the ensuing years. Edie and her team truly seem to be enjoying all of the growth and considerable changes and they are creating a management group that is full of some of the best minds and talent in the industry.

And, Crystal’s new executives are leaving other, truly outstanding cruise lines, many in the luxury sector. A veritable wave of departures and a massive pool of excellence is walking through the door – ready to drink the Crystal Kool-aid – aka Champagne.  And to quote Edie,Let me be Crystal Clear”and “I’m very bullish on all things Crystal.” Yes indeed.

So at Crystal much is changing. More than we can even imagine is coming - apparently they are only at 50% of what they plan to bring out in the coming years! Quite the task but it seems to me that the company has it in hand, is hiring accordingly and will continue to grow exponentially. All the while ensuring their existing fleet, here to stay and  described as the ethos, hallmarks and core of Crystal will be cared for, refreshed and redesigned as they celebrate their 26th anniversary on July 16th.

It’s time to get on the Crystal bandwagon, learn more about their various brands within a brand (or within an experience) and start to sell yachts, river ships, air tours and more. I will keep a close eye on all that is going on with this impressive organization and report back in the months to come.

I also had meetings in YVR with my great pals at MSC Cruises, most notably Ian Patterson, Director of Business Development and his boss Rick Sasso, long-standing President of MSC USA. There is also a great deal going on with MSC and their growth plans are staggering too. We don’t hear as much because many of the ships being built are destined to remain in Europe but the investment this private company is making in new ships over the next number of years is also mind-boggling.

MSC have 11 ships under contract, on option or indeed under construction. These are all world-class vessels leading us in to 2020 and beyond. Amazing!

And their presence will continue to increase in North America with the arrival in about 18 months of their fabulous new ship, the Seaside. I have written about her before and will continue to gather more info in the months to come as we count down to her arrival. I truly believe she will be a beautiful and game-changing ship for MSC in this market as well. MSC deserves more attention and this will help increase brand awareness – along with their catchy TV commercials and other key things they are doing in this very important market which Rick sees as “anchoring” the brand here.

MSC is also working on several private islands now with one in the Bahamas named Ocean Cay Marine Reserve - which is more than a private island – as many of them are now moving that way. More in touch with the land, the wildlife and the water. As the Caribbean is still the primary cruise market, it is imperative that cruise companies develop a better and more in-touch, “private” experience for their guests. Millions are being spent and I have no doubt, this spot will be fabulous and a wonderful addition to warm-weather cruising.

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