Travel Story "Luxury on steroids": Travelling the world, Crystal style

Photo of Angie Tomlinson

With charter flights, river cruises, yacht voyages and expedition cruising, Crystal offers exclusive luxury travel experiences with a difference.

Disembark Crystal Mozart for the baroque grandeur of Vienna’s 18th century Belvedere Palace. The museum is closed but a cocktail reception awaits before you join a group of four for a private tour that includes the world’s biggest collection of Gustav Klimt’s paintings. 

Next a marble rotunda provides perfect acoustics for a private classical music concert, before you make a grand staircase entrance to dance the Viennese waltz.

Welcome to the world of Crystal Cruises. 

Every experience is exclusive, customised and with options. It’s luxury but not the mainstream kind.

The company’s definition of luxury is its own Boeing 777 — an aircraft designed for 350 passengers refitted to provide 84 flat-bed “Crystal exclusive” seats, dining venue and lounge.

 Its maiden flight will fly you to Peninsula hotels around the world, New York to New York, over 29 days. On that flight you can choose from 93 options.

Crystal has enjoyed extraordinary growth in the last 18 months and there’s more to come. 

Once a luxury cruise company, it is now a multi-layered “luxurious hospitality and lifestyle brand” with charter air, river, yacht and expedition cruising.

At the helm is New York-raised president and chief executive of Crystal Cruises, Edie Rodriguez, who spends much of her time on the road, opening new offices, experiencing Crystal itineraries and talking about the Crystal way. In Perth she’s playing tourist, first in the city before heading to Margaret River to “see what our guests can view and experience”.

The relatively recent opening of Crystal’s Sydney office has been met with enthusiasm by Australians receptive to the new level of luxury. And Australia is a good market for Crystal, too.

“Australian guests are used to going away for a long time. By long time I mean, from an American perspective we go away for one to two weeks. Our Australian guests go away for four weeks like it’s nothing,” Mrs Rodriguez says.

That’s where Crystal’s multi-layered brands come into play, where travel by air, river, ocean, yacht — whatever takes the guest’s fancy — is combined.

Mrs Rodriguez says two itineraries stand out to her for the Australian market. In August, Crystal Serenity will sail the Northwest Passage for the second (and last) time. 

The 32-night itinerary departs Anchorage in Alaska for the Arctic Circle and over to Greenland, before heading down and around New England and ending in New York.

In 2018, Crystal will embark on a “1 Year, 2 Ships, 4 World Cruises” campaign. Guests can choose to stay on Crystal Symphony for 114 days from Cape Town to Fort Lauderdale, or on Crystal Serenity for a 112-day voyage from Los Angeles to Rome encompassing North America, Australia, Asia and Africa.

Or, in a ship exchange to take place to much fanfare in Sydney Harbour in February next year, guests can “flip flop”, beginning their journey on one ship, and returning home on another.

Determined not to stagnate, Mrs Rodriguez sees Crystal in a “perpetual state of evolution”.

The company spends millions refreshing its ships every two years — Crystal Serenity and Symphony are both due for a refit within the year. In 2022 it has the first of three new ocean ships due, all will boast Crystal’s water-toy bling of on-board submarine, speedboats and helicopter pads. The ships will have Crystal residences, privately owned apartments from 55sqm to 930sqm-plus.

Crystal’s launch of luxury yacht Esprit (pictured at top) is opening up a younger, non-traditional cruise market. The luxury expedition vessel is more casual than your typical cruise, is watersport intensive and a smaller vessel. Esprit has 31 suites and the average age of its guests is 35.

More Endeavour-class yachts are in the works, with the first 100-suite vessel due in mid-2019. It will be capable of cold and warm-water expeditions.

Crystal Mozart was launched in July, the first of seven river ships that will sail European waterways including two this year.

Mrs Rodriguez says the company has “done its homework” on river sailing, endeavouring to offer a truly luxurious and, of course, exclusive experience. Mozart has all-butler service, 24-hour room service and a la carte dining with open seating. “It’s luxury on steroids,” she says.

Crystal’s expansion and opening of new markets and destinations is sure to keep Mrs Rodriguez on the road for the foreseeable future, but there’s nothing else she would rather be doing.

“As a child I was given great advice and that was to get a good education, find your passion, and follow it. Even at six, my passion was travelling,” she says. 

“I have always set a goal for myself from a young age that I wanted to travel the world — ideally in luxury. I became a travel agent and the rest is history.” 

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