Crystal Cruises President and CEO Edie Rodriguez reveals why Europe holds such a special place in her heart.
Crystal Mozart’s Christmas Markets cruise on the River Danube brought back fond family memories for Edie Rodriguez.
Edie’s paternal Austrian grandmother and maternal Italian grandmother both emigrated to America in the early 20th century, and Edie said: “My grandfathers both died before I was born but my grandmothers brought their special festive traditions to the US.
“While I was walking in Vienna, it brought back wonderful Christmas memories from my childhood. The city looked so beautiful with all the lights, decorations and dressed shop windows.
“At Belvedere Palace, just as we were leaving, snow started to fall and is was magical.”
Crystal Mozart was christened in Vienna, and Edie now has a renewed connection with Austria. She called into Vienna’s iconic Hotel Sacher “for some Christmas bites” and to catch up with Elizabeth Gurtler, Crystal Mozart’s godmother. Edie said: “Elizabeth is an incredible woman; she is also chairman of the Spanish Riding school in Vienna. I just adore the Lipizzaner horses. I actually love horse riding and would love to be able to ride in the English style – but I need something to hold onto!
Crystal Mozart was a decked out like a Christmas grotto for the festive season, with glistening decorations, Santas and gingerbread houses at every turn.
The 10-night sailing also coincided with Thanksgiving Day, so Edie, her son Max, 26, and her husband Tom, joined celebrations on board and tucked into traditional turkey with all the trimmings.
She said: “There were quite a few Americans on Crystal Mozart and it was lovely to share this time with them – to give thanks for so many blessings.”
Edie says she is “always working” but managed to wind down for Thanksgiving Day. “This was my first President’s river cruise so I made myself accessible to our guests and had coffee morning chats. “I was so pleased to learn that three generations of one family were on board. They were together celebrating a 35th wedding anniversary.
“I had spoken about Crystal Mozart at a travel conference in New York and one of the delegates went home and suggested to his family that they should do this cruise. From the 15-month-old grandson to the grandparents, who were celebrating their anniversary, they were all having a great time.
“It warmed my heart to see this joy of multi-generational travel.”
Under blue skies, the cruise from Vienna started in warm weather of 61F, making it “very pleasant” for Christmas market calls at almost every stop.
Edie said she loved strolling in Melk and seeing the abbey and castle. From Linz, she opted for an excursion to Munich.
As for shopping, she says she never misses an opportunity for retail therapy. “The Christmas markets were the perfect excuse to buy presents. Handmade goods such as glass, wooden crafts and knitted scarves and blankets, were all on my radar,” she said.
Edie, who had flown from Amsterdam to Vienna to meet Crystal Mozart, had been in the Netherlands to open Crystal’s new river cruise head office near Amsterdam Cruise Port and attend the CLIA River Conference.
As a speaker at the conference she had created a stir by suggesting Crystal Mozart was the “only ultra-luxury river cruise ship” on European rivers.
Several travel agents had already jumped on board and Edwina Lonsdale, of Mundy Cruising, said: “With Crystal Mozart there is so much to say – you enjoy fantastic service with a crew-to-passenger ratio far higher than any other European river vessel; open seating dining where you are welcomed to the beautiful Riverside restaurant whenever you show up; Michelin standard food presentation; a leisurely pace but with a comprehensive excursion programme should you wish – and much much more!”
So did Edie manage to rest?
She said: “I love to grab a coffee and to read a book – that’s how I relaxed. My husband Tom is a videographer so he was always filming along the Danube, while Max loved the e-bikes. He could jump ashore and explore.
“What really delighted me was seeing genuine crystals of falling snow. It made my first President’s river cruise complete; I wanted a wonderland of snow to top the magic of the sailing, so it was just perfect.”