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
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