A couple of months ago, we had the opportunity to sit down with Crystal Cruises’ new president and COO, Edie Bornstein, on the newly redesigned Crystal Serenity, which was docked at Port Miami before departing on a holiday sailing through the Caribbean. During our time on board, we got a peek at the Serenity’s redesign—the penthouse suite is out of this world—and learned what’s in store for the cruise line under the new leadership.
In fact, when we asked Bornstein where she saw Crystal Cruises in five years, Bornstein said without hesitation, “I see us growing with more ships and offering a wider array of itineraries, but I see us keeping all of the traditional great Crystal experiences that have made this brand what it is today.” She added that she also understands two important audiences—the Crystal client, as well as the trade partners. “I’m the perfect demographic for our guests. As a female in her 50s and a luxury consumer—typically females make the buying decision in the family for a vacation—I think I understand our clients and our potential guest base. The other thing I really get and understand, since the genesis of my career as a travel consultant, is our trade partners very well; what they go through and how they have to articulate our brand experience in order to sell it to their client who is going to become our guest.”
Facilitating those Crystal bookings for travel agents is the Serenity’s redesign, as well as the brand’s expansion of shore excursions. In terms of the redesign, Bornstein is very excited about the new dining experiences on board, including Trident Grill and Tastes restaurant. The latter, which offers global cuisine and has a custom-built open kitchen that allows guests to see the food being prepared, is open for a “late risers breakfast” and full lunch menu, and after 6 p.m. is transformed into a cool and casual eatery. “I had the privilege to dine there and this is going to be a homerun,” said Bornstein. “It is something very unique being done at sea, and I really enjoyed the experience.” She added that there are also four “living walls” of plants, a fresh herb garden for Crystal chefs, and live olive trees under-planted with lavender.
Other makeover highlights include the redesign of the aforementioned 1,345-sq.-ft. Crystal Penthouse, whose dining area moved closer to the floor-to-ceiling windows and the private outdoor deck, with the former dining room now holding a den/library/media room with a sleeper sofa and closet. There was also a new shower added to the guest powder room, so the space can function as a second bedroom, making it perfect for families.
Beyond the onboard amenities, Crystal Cruises is not shy about creating unique shore excursions for their well-heeled guests. Says Bornstein, “We are expanding our shore excursions. For people who want to be engaged in volunteering ashore, for example, we have an incredible plethora of voluntourism options for them.” During this year’s 89-day World Cruise on the Crystal Serenity—which departed Jan. 18 from Los Angeles—volunteers will help build structures and clean playgrounds in Ghana, as well as teach, sing, garden and play with orphans in Cambodia. Crystal also offers boutique adventures, such as rare close encounters with the endangered black rhino in South Africa, as well as a gorilla tracking expedition in Uganda. More sedate excursions can be had in Hong Kong, where the Crystal Symphony will be docked Dec. 30, 2014 to Jan. 1, 2015 as part of the 15-day China Sea Holiday Spectacular Asia cruise that begins Dec. 21 and sails to Vietnam’s Ho Chi Minh City, Chan May, through Halong Bay, and on to Hanoi’s port of Hongai, and Hong Kong; all roundtrip from Bangkok’s port of Laem Chebang. All-inclusive fares begin at $7,425 pp, with $600 pp air allowance if booked by Feb. 28. And if you think February is too early to begin thinking about holiday bookings, consider what Bornstein told us during our chat: “Our January 2015, 108-night World Cruise has been completely sold out for three months [speaking in December]. What a testament to how important the World Cruises are to our brand. We have a tremendous loyal following, and we are delighted to deliver them something they find so special that they keep coming back again and again.”
For the complete Q&A with Edie Bornstein, visit recommend.com and search “Edie Bornstein.”