In fall 2017, Tom Wolber joined the Crystal Cruises team as its president and CEO. After 28 years of working for the Walt Disney Company in various executive roles including 10 years as senior v.p. of operations for Disney Cruise Line, Wolber came to the Crystal team with plenty of experience and a new perspective.
With nearly a year of service under his belt, Recommend reached out to Wolber to learn about why he joined the Crystal Cruises team, what changes travelers can expect to see from the cruise line, and more. He even shares a few tips on how travel agents can work with Crystal Cruises.
Jessica Poitevien (JP): What made you decide to join the team at Crystal Cruises?
Tom Wolber (TW): Before joining the team, I had always admired Crystal Cruises for its constant drive to innovate not just within the luxury market, but within the travel industry as a whole. Coming from Disney, I found some important similarities between the two companies, most notably their loyal audiences who love each brand and feel personally invested in the experiences, the dedicated crew, and the fact that each is an undisputed leader in its respective sector of the market.
Knowing that Crystal enjoys such an extremely loyal fan base and has established itself as a preeminent leader in the luxury industry—and was also expanding its options to reach new audiences and create new experiences—made this a compelling opportunity to be part of something special.
(JP): What has been the most challenging aspect of your new role so far? What has been the most rewarding?
(TW): We are leaders in luxury within a growing industry with more of a demand for unique experiences and products than ever. Like all challenges this is an opportunity for us to continually tell the Crystal story and communicate the Crystal difference to global travelers.
The most rewarding aspect of my role at Crystal has been working alongside a team of inspiring industry leaders, officers and crew, and witnessing firsthand the care and energy each of our team members puts into creating the most extraordinary experiences for our guests. It is truly because of them that we are the World’s Most Awarded Luxury Cruise Line.
(JP): What was behind the decision to downsize the new generation of Crystal’s ocean-going ships?
(TW): Our ocean vessels are what put Crystal on the map 28 years ago, defining luxury for the market and for our brand. This is largely because of the genuine service and attention to detail that our crew provides, as well as the generous space, destination offerings and our Michelin-style cuisine.
We consider our new plans for the Diamond Class to be ‘right-sizing,’ more in line with Crystal Symphony and Crystal Serenity, in order to maintain that standard of excellence rather than focusing on something larger. Our priority will always be quality over quantity.
(JP): Do you foresee any other new changes that you will implement in your new role as president of Crystal Cruises?
(TW): We have pursued a great deal of change and growth over the past few years and will stay the course toward our current expansion plans. Besides those plans, now is the time for us to continue to focus on maintaining and always enhancing the quality of our core experiences, which now include ships on the oceans and rivers.
(JP): What new things can we expect to see from Crystal Cruises in 2018 and beyond? What are you most excited for?
(TW): This summer, we christened two new Crystal river cruise ships—Crystal Debussy and Crystal Ravel—which join our three existing ships offering journeys along Europe’s most majestic waterways. Also in October 2018, the Crystal Serenity will enter drydock to undergo her most significant transformation including new Penthouses, new restaurants and new Open Seating Dining.
In August 2020, the Crystal Endeavor will debut, truly expanding Crystal’s reach farther, both in terms of remote and innovative itineraries and luxury expedition offerings.
(JP): What trends do you see rising in the cruise industry? How does Crystal Cruises keep up with these trends and changes?
(TW): In the luxury travel space, choices are always on trend. We find that luxury travelers are continually seeking travel experiences that they can tailor to their preferences, so we are continuing to push toward personalization to create meaningful and transformative travel experiences.
Also to this end, we have started offering a number of shorter getaway voyages and journeys allowing for more flexibility, and carefully crafting journeys that not only can stand on their own, but seamlessly pair with others to create longer trips for those with the time to truly indulge. We will continue crafting new options and possibilities for our guests and maintain a laser focus on not only meeting but exceeding their expectations.
(JP): How best can agents work with Crystal Cruises? Any advice for them?
(TW): We place immense value and priority on our relationships with travel partners who are key to our overall success. We have a seasoned team of Strategic Business Development Managers around the country who are always available for our travel partners.
Crystal offers our travel agent partners a comprehensive Partner Resource Center and Travel Agent University to equip them to expand their Crystal business. The platforms cater exclusively to agents and provide all the necessary tools and information about the most current Crystal products and experiences. Agents can access training videos and webinars, sales and marketing kits, Crystal’s Cruise Guidebook, CruiseBuilder 2.0, and take advantage of personalized URLs and marketing materials, as well as special offers.