Interview: Crystal CEO Edie Rodriguez
By Greg Trauthwein
Edie Rodriguez is Chairman, CEO and president of Crystal Luxury Corporation, Ltd., a broad travel brand that includes Crystal Cruises, Crystal Yacht Expedition Cruises, Crystal River Cruises, Crystal Luxury Air, Crystal AirCruises and Crystal Exclusive Class ships with Crystal Residences. She met with Maritime Reporter in NYC to discuss the evolution of the cruising brand, as well as the benefits of owning your own shipyards in today’s torrid cruise market.
You’ve been at the helm of the Crystal brand for about three years now. Briefly characterize the evolution you’ve seen in cruising in general, and specifically at Crystal.
The evolution has been incredible. If you look back 30 years ago when the North American cruise market was going through a resurgence, they really didn’t have dining options, they really didn’t have gyms, and they didn’t have the diversity of activities. Even if you look at the evolution of Crystal Cruises. We are a 26-year-old brand, and when Crystal started we only had 12- to 14-night voyages; we had black tie required; we were not an all-inclusive brand. If you look at Crystal Cruises today to see how we have evolved: we have black-tie optional/country club casual style of dress; we have voyages ranging from five nights to 128 nights; we are all-inclusive; and we offer a myriad of ways to experience land-based destinations.
I know your brand is extensive, but let’s talk about the physical assets, specifically the ships.
The ships have evolved incredibly as well. First of all, our parent company – Genting Hong Kong – went out and bought five shipyards in Germany so that we could control our own destiny long-term in the shipbuilding process. That is a critical process, starting with the GA and evolving through design and construction. At the end of the day there are basically two major yards, arguably three (that dominate cruise ship building). Now that we own our own shipyards, we will be in a stronger position, primarily because brands that want to build new have to wait for open shipbuilding slots. We are fortunate, as the shipbuilding process is amazing, and I enjoy going to the yards and being involved in the process from the embryonic stages through delivery. To that point, there are so many things that we can take advantage of in this Eco-friendly, technological age, specifically harnessing all of the new technologies and incorporating them into the newbuilds.
Discuss if you will the advantages of the new ownership – Genting Hong Kong – of the Crystal brand.
Brands either grow or die. Our founding owners were phenomenal but they did not want to make the investment in the growth to harness the power of that the brand developed over a quarter of a century. Genting Hong Kong has been a phenomenal owner. They quickly realized the power of the brand, and that’s why they bought us.
The cruise market, as you know, is “hot” and growing fast. Given that, what challenges do you see ahead?
The challenge starts in the shipbuilding process because it takes years (to design, build and deliver a new ship).
I wish that we could just snap our fingers like a 3D printer and have everything done quickly. It doesn’t happen like that, as we all know, (but we still) want to be in the market (as quickly as possible). On the flip side, sadly in the shipbuilding world a new ship is only new for about one year.
Where do you see opportunity?
The world is truly our oyster for growth as such a small part of the population has gone on a cruise. (Our brands have grown and strengthened), and we’ve lowered the age demographic, bring in people new to cruising. On our (Esprit) yacht cruising it’s a young and active (demographic), 35 year olds; on our river cruise experiences “it’s not your grandfather’s river experience” with a 32-ft. wide boat and an average age of 45. On our new experiences roughly 50 percent of our guests have never cruised before. So we are attracting new people to the all things Crystal experience.
Technology: If you could name the one technology that has most significantly transformed the cruising experience, what would it be?
WiFi, because people cannot not be connected at sea. We had a couple that went on a four-month around the world cruise for their honeymoon. The only reason that they could do that was because of WiFi; the husband was able to take his business on the road.
Fast Facts: Edie Rodriguez
- Title: CEO and President, Crystal
- Chairman, Crystal Luxury Corporation, Ltd.
- Twitter: @EdieRodriguez
- October 2013: Joined Crystal as president and COO
- May 2015: Crystal acquired by Genting Hong Kong, Rodriguez is promoted to Chairman, CEO and president.
- Native: New York
- Countries Visited: 100+
- Favorite Destination: Tuscany