Crystal Cruises is on the brink of a truly spectacular expansion with the launch of a river division, plus the construction of three luxurious ocean vessels and an impressive expedition yacht – not to mention growth for Crystal Luxury Air and plans to revive the SS United States. Helen beck, vice president of international sales and marketing, is at the centre of the action in the UK. by John Honeywell
There has never been a more exciting time for Crystal Cruises – repeatedly hailed by its President and CEO, Edie Rodriguez, as the “world’s most awarded luxury cruise line”. Under her energetic leadership, and financed by an investment of billions of dollars, which seems to be just small change to new owners Genting HK, it is being expanded and transformed into the “world’s most luxurious hospitality and lifestyle brand portfolio”.
Casino operator Genting, which owns 40 clubs in the UK as well as resorts and hotels around the world, is involved in Hong-Kong based Star Cruises and new Asian cruise line Dream. Genting also retains a stake in Norwegian Cruise Line Holdings.
But it is Crystal that has attracted most of the attention, the headlines, and the investment since it was bought from Japanese shipping company NYK for $550 million in 2015. Rapid expansion brings with it a requirement for new executives to take charge of new businesses. Helen Beck is one of a raft of high-powered women brought in by Rodriguez.
She arrived at Crystal in February after a 15-year stint at Royal Caribbean, but her life in travel began even before she completed her education at school in York and 6th form college in Scunthorpe. Her first foreign holiday was with her parents – who ran pubs and hotels – and sister to Tunisia, where she remembers an uncomfortable ride on a grumpy camel. Undeterred, she later worked as a holiday rep in Benidorm, and at ski resorts in Austria and Andorra.
“I decided that the best way to improve my language skills was to live and work in those countries rather than study at university, so I spent 12 years in Europe, primarily as a holiday representative. Working directly with guests and local suppliers enabled me to develop strong interpersonal and decision-making skills and formed the foundation for my future career in travel,” she says. Roles with travel agencies later led to a position as International Leisure Sales Manager with Copthorne Hotels, focussing on promoting properties in the Asia-Pacific region. Helen joined Royal Caribbean International in 2000, controlling a $5 million annual sales and marketing budget which she and her team employed to bring in 100,000 guests and $100 million revenue from 45 countries throughout EMEA.
She believes Crystal has “a very clear vision of its future”, and adds: “The expansion of our ocean brand along with the launch of our yacht, river and air brands was very appealing along with the opportunity to be part of this at the start of the growth.
“I have the pleasure of working with our amazing professional partners and team around the world in getting across the message about all things Crystal and how we are growing. There is a clear opportunity to increase our business from international markets [outside the US] and my role is to develop the strategies and support needed to make that happen.
“The UK is a very important market for us. Every partner I have spoken with recognises the opportunities that our brand expansions bring and are very supportive. “As we diversify, it means that we talk to different segments of travellers who may well not have considered Crystal before. However, given the range of our offering now, our partners can approach them with one or more of our brands. We need our travel agent partners to continue to be passionate about all things Crystal and to enjoy introducing our new offerings to their clients.”
CRYSTAL’S GROWTH PLANS
The Crystal Cruises ocean ﬂeet comprises 922-passenger Crystal Symphony and the 1,070-capacity Crystal Serenity. They were joined in December last year by the 62-passenger luxury yacht Crystal Esprit, which sails in The Seychelles during the winter months and spends summer in the Adriatic.River Crystal Exclusive Class: Three 1,000-passenger ships, each carrying 1,000 crew and including a deck of private residences, with the ﬁrst ship launching in 2019.
River Crystal Exclusive Class: Three 1,000-passenger ships, each carrying 1,000 crew and including a deck of private residences, with the ﬁrst ship launching in 2019.
Crystal River Cruises: Crystal Mozart, the largest river cruise ship in Europe, has been reconﬁgured for just 154 guests and was christened in Vienna earlier this month (See pages 30-31). Six newbuild river cruise yachts have been ordered from the Lloyd-Werft shipyard in Germany.
Crystal Endeavor: A 200-passenger expedition vessel with ice-strengthened hull and equipped with helicopters and submarines, arriving in 2018.
Crystal Luxury Air: A Bombardier Global Express XRS aircraft joined the ﬂeet in April. Next year sees the launch of Crystal AirCruises with an 88-seat Boeing 777-200LR that will ﬂy 14 and 28-day round-the-world itineraries.
SS United States In February, Crystal announced plans to restore the SS United States – holder of the Blue Riband for the fastest Transatlantic crossing, and built at huge expense with US Government funding in case it was ever needed as a troopship. A feasibility study is due to be completed by the end of the year.