By Don George
While sailing on the annual President’s Cruise, I was able to spend some time chatting with President and CEO Edie Rodriguez, during which she shared some of her personal insights about the company’s recent announcement of its major expansion. Below is the second installment of my enlightening discussion with her.
Riverboats and yachts are very different kinds of vessels and offer very different kinds of water experiences from ocean-going cruise ships. How are you going to manage the training aspect of this expansion?
Indeed. I’ve had the privilege of experiencing all of these, and they’re all different, and they’re all great. For us, it all boils down to giving that luxury global traveler options: Sometimes you want a quiet stroll right into town on a walking tour on a riverboat; sometimes you want to go down in a submarine; and sometimes you just want the fabulous ocean-going experience that we’ve been delivering for 25 years. First of all, you’ve got to understand the Crystal Cruise six-star experience as a foundation and how to deliver that as part of a team. Certainly, the nucleus of all of it is what we say: We hire for the personality and train for the skill. So first, we have to hire the right personalities; and then we train them on the skills; and then they have to be experienced in the six-star Crystal brand experience.
Thinking of all these new options, what would you say are the characteristics that define the Crystal traveler now and in the future?
I think it’s the same. They are world explorers. They want to go to new, creative, innovative destinations and they want to see them in their own way. It might be a couple going alone or a large group on a Crystal family vacation with three or four generations of family travelers. But in all cases, it comes down to exclusivity, customization, and options. Those are the three words that define the wishes and expectations of current and future Crystal guests.
After your truly electrifying announcement, what has been the reaction from guests, staff members, and the larger world?
We want to promise a lot and deliver more. People were expecting a lot, but we delivered even more with this announcement. The reaction has blown me away. Really, it’s beyond overwhelming and it has just been so incredibly positive. The two expressions that I’ve been hearing nonstop — and I really mean nonstop: my cell phone, my text, my email, and crew and guests have been stopping me on the ship — are “game-changing” and “wow!”
Our new owner and new chairman only want what’s best for this brand, and I think the proof is in these announcements. They bought us for a reason and they’re willing to spend for Crystal to grow. We’ve put it upon ourselves to raise the bar in luxury travel and that’s what we’re doing. As phenomenal as Crystal is already, we want to go even higher.
What do you think is Genting’s and your larger vision for the Crystal suite of hospitality and travel offerings?
To offer the best of the best and to implement the mantra that the detail is in the service and the small things. And again, it goes back to ECO — exclusivity, customization, and options. Those three things are paramount in our guests’ minds.
What are the lessons you’ve learned in the past that you’re finding most useful now as you navigate the waters of the future?
No matter how many things get put on your plate as a brand and as a company, never take your eyes off the core genesis of what allowed all this growth to happen. In this case, that means delivering the excellent six-star service on Crystal Serenity and Crystal Symphony, and then developing the right team. I have an extremely participatory style of management and I am beyond ecstatic about the executive management team that I’ve put together. This is the best of the best to deliver all this phenomenal, game-changing growth and just delivering great experiences.
The biggest thing that I learned early on in my career is that for a company to be successful, you have to be marketing driven; and the way that happens best is when you listen with two keen ears to your existing guests, to your potential guests, and to your team members who are doing the job day in and day out. Who am I to tell a stateroom attendant how to clean that room? Who am I tell a butler how to deliver Crystal service? They do it every day. I want to hear all their input on how we, as a collective team, can make their lives easier and make the brand better, and I want to harness all of that energy growing together to catapult us to the next level.