Sky’s the Limit

Re­branded lux­ury cruise line Crys­tal of­fers new ways to ex­plore the world in­clud­ing river­boats, ex­pe­di­tion yachts with he­li­copters and sub­marines, and pri­vate planes

Hong Kong Tatler - - | Tatler Focus Crystal Cruises -

Lux­ury travel op­er­a­tor Crys­tal Cruises is ex­plor­ing un­charted ter­ri­tory. River­boats, yachts, con­dos at sea—even planes— are all part of the cruise line’s re­brand­ing as Crys­tal af­ter it was ac­quired by hos­pi­tal­ity and leisure firm Gent­ing Hong Kong in May last year.

The trans­for­ma­tion be­gan with the ad­di­tion of Crys­tal River Cruises. Its first pur­pose-built river­boat, Bach, will be ready in June 2017. But the com­pany has al­ready be­gun to make waves on Euro­pean wa­ter­ways.

“We had an op­por­tu­nity to pur­chase a ves­sel called the Mozart. She’s called the ‘Queen of the River’ be­cause she is the widest ves­sel on the rivers,” says Edie Ro­driguez, chief ex­ec­u­tive of Crys­tal. Cur­rently sail­ing on the Danube, the river­boat un­der­went six months of re­fit­ting. “She is mag­nif­i­cently de­signed and dec­o­rated. She has four din­ing venues—she is the only farm-to-ta­ble din­ing on the rivers. All of our food is cooked à la minute.”

In fact, the river­boat’s ac­com­mo­da­tion ri­vals that of the top ho­tels on land. Each suite has an ipad for guests to con­trol in-room ameni­ties, make re­quests to the but­ler and use as a portable TV. On the deck, there is a pop-up bar that Ro­driguez de­scribes as “very James Bondish” and a “se­cret gar­den” of herbs and other green­ery.

River pack­ages in­clude on­shore trips such as vis­its to Miche­lin-starred restaurants and pri­vate tours in the grand­est of set­tings—for ex­am­ple, an ex­clu­sive con­cert and cham­pagne re­cep­tion at the Belvedere Palace in Vi­enna. The com­pany plans to have a to­tal of seven river­boats in op­er­a­tion in the com­ing years.

At sea, it is also adding to the line-up. In ad­di­tion to cruise lin­ers Sym­phony and Seren­ity, Crys­tal launched an ex­pe­di­tion yacht, Esprit, in the Sey­chelles in De­cem­ber. As well as a speed­boat and zo­diac in­flat­able, the yacht has a sub­ma­rine that is used for mem­o­rable 30-minute tours.

“Two peo­ple can sit there with a glass of cham­pagne or what­ever they’d like to drink. It’s Blue­tooth-en­abled, so if you have your iphone with you, you can lis­ten to your own mu­sic while see­ing this mag­nif­i­cent sea life,” says Ro­driguez.

A pur­pose-built yacht de­signed for po­lar and trop­i­cal ex­pe­di­tions is also on the way. En­deavor will have 100 suites for 200 guests and not one, but two he­li­copters, and a cou­ple of sub­marines, when it is launched in 2018.

Crys­tal is also hop­ing to make a splash with its float­ing con­dos. There will be up to 48 Crys­tal Res­i­dences on of­fer on the top deck of three Ex­clu­sive Class ships cur­rently be­ing built. Avail­able on a 30-year lease­hold, these lux­ury units—ac­cessed via a pri­vate lift—can also be com­bined for a big­ger space.

Pri­vate planes are also part of the new di­rec­tion, with a 12-seat Bom­bardier Global Ex­press jet al­ready in op­er­a­tion. Air­cruises will also of­fer a Boe­ing 777 from next year, with 84 flatbed seats and a din­ing lounge, and itin­er­ar­ies of 14, 21 and 28 days. Guests will be ac­com­pa­nied by a chef, but­ler, lec­turer and per­sonal as­sis­tant to ar­range ac­tiv­i­ties on land.

It’s all part of the lux­ury travel com­pany’s mis­sion to cre­ate unique ex­pe­ri­ences, and ser­vices can be com­bined to cre­ate the per­fect jour­ney for ev­ery guest. “It’s like a puz­zle,” says Ro­driguez. “When all the pieces are put to­gether it paints the pic­ture of what you are look­ing for in a va­ca­tion.”

Smooth Sail­ing Clock­wise from top: Mozart, part of Crys­tal River Cruises’ col­lec­tion of ves­sels; Edie Ro­driguez, chief ex­ec­u­tive of Crys­tal; guests on the Mozart can grab a drink at the spa­cious Palm Court

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