Air, River, and Sea: Crystal Cruises Plans Major Brand Expansion
To call it a growth spurt would be an understatement. Travel + Leisure World's Best winner Crystal Cruises—which currently has just two ocean-going ships, Crystal Symphony and Crystal Serenity—just announced these major additions to the brand: the 62-passenger Esprit, a yacht which will sail seven-day warm-weather itineraries beginning in December 2015; two river cruise vessels launching in 2017; a 60-passenger Boeing 787 Dreamliner, to fly guests on 28-day round-the-world trips, also launching in 2017; and three ocean-going vessels equipped with expedition capabilities, to debut in 2018. "You either grow as a brand, or you die," president and CEO Edie Rodriguez told Travel + Leisure. "This is a game-changer for the global luxury market. Our customers have told us over the years that they wanted to try a yacht or a river cruise, but they want to vacation in Crystal style."
The expansion begins this December 23 with the launch of Crystal Yacht Cruises. The first ship will be the redesigned 62-passenger Crystal Esprit, a yacht currently owned by Crystal Cruises' new parent company, Genting Hong Kong, a major shareholder of Norwegian Cruise Line Holdings. The all-suite vessel will have amenities including jet skis, four Zodiacs, a water trampoline, and even a two passenger submarine. "Guests can do a wedding under the water," says Rodriguez. The ship will sail regional, seven-day itineraries, beginning in the Seychelles, and eventually moving to the Persian Gulf and the Adriatic Coast. Bookings are exclusively open to Crystal Society members through August 31.
Both river cruising and private jet travel have seen significant growth in recent years: in 2017, Crystal will enter both of these markets, with Crystal River Cruises and Crystal Luxury Air. Two new river cruise ships are currently being built, to sail in the spring 2017. Also, a custom Boeing 787 Dreamliner will accommodate 60 guests in fully reclining business-class seats on 28 day trips around the world, visiting 10-12 destinations that typically do not have non-stop service. (Overnights will be in hotels.) "It's all about exclusivity and customization: our guests can bring unlimited luggage," explained Rodriguez.
And in late 2018, the brand expands at its core with the first of three new 1,000-passenger ocean-going vessels, part of the Crystal Exclusive Class. All will feature Michelin-starred and celebrity chefs, as well as amenities like submarines, helicopters, and Zodiacs—the latter key for excursions in the Arctic and Antarctica. "The demand for luxury expedition-style cruising is there," says Rodriguez. "The ships will be a quantum leap in terms of spaciousness: 400-square-feet per cabin, at a minimum. Plus, there will be a crew to guest ratio of 1:1."
For the first time ever, fans of the brand can purchase a residence at sea: on the top floors of the Exclusive class, 48 homes, ranging from 600-4,000 square-feet, will be for purchase. "This is all a game-changing strategy based on real time data," said Rodriguez. "We will create the world's premier luxury and lifestyle brand portfolio."
Crystal is not the only luxury cruise brand expanding. Silversea recently announced a new ship, the Silver Muse; next summer, Regent.
More images of the Crystal Esprit, below: