Crystal Newbuild RenderingWith new owners aboard, Crystal Cruises is pushing a massive product expansion to the tune of three new ships, a Boeing 787 for land tours, a yacht, and two riverboats.

Three new ocean-going ships will be built at Lloyd Werft in Germany, and be over 100,000 tons and carry 1,000 passengers – an attractive space-to-guest ratio, plus a crew to passenger ratio that will come in at one to one. The first vessel will be delivered late in 2018.

“Everything starts with customer demands,” said Edie Rodriguez, president and CEO. Catering to the world’s wealthiest, Crystal is planning to become the vacation provider of choice with Rodriguez at the helm under new owner Genting, which also owns Star Cruises, as well as a significant stake in Norwegian Cruise Line Holdings, and various other resort/casino properties among other investments.

“We are delivering the world’s most luxurious hospitality and lifestyle brand portfolio. In this day and age it’s all about exclusivity, customization and options,” Rodriguez said.

Rodriguez took the job at Crystal in late 2013, after being wooed by the company for 10 months, she said.

“When I came to them I made it clear I wasn’t coming to keep this brand for two ships, and they said ‘Don’t worry, come and we’ll grow and build.’ I put pressure on them.”

J.P. Morgan was engaged in the summer of 2014, and was hoping for a sale valuing the company at 10 times EBITDA (earnings before interest, tax, depreciation and amortization).

“I said ‘Look, we can do all the financial calculations you gentlemen want, but at the end of the day you’re not including the power of this brand equity, which in my humble opinion is priceless, we’re going to get much more than that,’” Rodriguez recalled. “In fact, we got 14 times EBITDA.”

The 25-year-old brand will now undergo its most dramatic upgrade ever; leading to the simple fact that Crystal will need to find more guests.
The three newbuilds (believed to include options for more) will be polar-ice-class, have large staterooms with high ceilings. The ships will include toys like a small submarine, and bring the Crystal experience full circle.

“We are proud of the guest to space ratio and the one to one crew to guest ratio,” said Rodriguez. “The new luxury requires these types of things.”

In New York for 52 hours, briefly hopping off her own president’s cruise, Rodriguez said she normally sleeps three to four hours a night.

A day before the expansion announcement, Rodriguez and her chairman both delivered the news to passengers on each Crystal ship, and the announcements were received with standing ovations. Then Rodriguez  jetted off to New York for her media tour. She planned to be pierside when passengers disembarked in Dover from the cruise she had just jetted off from.

Rodriguez has homes in Miami and Los Angeles, and recently closed a deal on a vacation home in Tuscany.
Crystal, with Rodriguez’s leadership, may also be quickly becoming the number one threat to other lines looking to do business in the luxury segment.

A stable management environment that understands their customers, few distractions, a solid product and the capital to expand may be a combination of factors the others don’t have or can’t find. Her fast-paced demeanor radiates “get things done.”

Excerpt from Cruise Industry News Quarterly Magazine: Fall 2015