It used to be a luxury hotel company ran luxury hotels and a luxury cruise company operated luxury cruise ships. Not so anymore, and in an interesting turn of events, the two companies that are leading the change are not some millennial-led start-ups disrupting a market, but two of the most established players in their respective categories.
Turn the clock back two years ago and Crystal Cruises was an award-winning, two-ship luxury cruise line. Enter a new owner, Genting Hong Kong, and a new CEO, Edie Rodriguez, and today it is now Crystal, or more formally, Crystal Luxury Corporation, Ltd., with all things luxury from traditional cruise ships to a luxury yacht with personal submarine, a Bombardier Global Express private jet, a luxury river cruise boat and a tricked out VIP Boeing 777-200LR months away from taking passengers on a series of global luxury experiences.
At the same time, Four Seasons for several years has been offering private jet tours aboard a luxury Boeing 757, and for even longer has been selling residences to well-heeled consumers. Today, when one sits down with its general managers, discussions aren’t about marble and thread count. Having the best hard product is a given. Like Crystal, it’s now about experiences.
Crystal today announced a partnership with multi-Tony Award-winning Broadway producer Kevin McCollum under the banner “Crystal on Broadway.” Unlike the stereotypical cruise ship variety shows, the relationship will bring aboard top cast members who will both perform and mix socially with guests. It will also bring other off-stage talents, including writers and producers who will talk in both formal and informal discussion groups with passengers. “Without Rent, would there be Hamilton? It’s the story behind the story,” McCollum said. He added he hopes, for example, to bring aboard a working group of playwriting talent, sharing their progress with interested passengers and testing out various ideas. Crystal already has a partnership with the USC School of Film where guests can learn how to make their own movies using software already on their laptops and mobile phones while they cruise.
For luxury hotels, the old adage used to be the best restaurant is our restaurant. In other words, the idea was to as best possible channel as much of the guest’s spending as possible to that dark morgue-like dining room. When Four Seasons Megeve opens this coming December in the French Alps about an hour from Geneva, it will offer a series of ski safaris enabling guests to helicopter for the day to over a half dozen other mountains within a 15-minute flight range. For ski buffs, it ensures whatever the local snow conditions, they can reach some awesome powder. It also enables family members who ski at different levels to head off to different mountain challenges, easy or hard, before meeting back at the hotel at the end of the day.
Crystal’s Rodriguez gives a similar example in describing the type of excursions the company will offer on its Crystal AirCruises. “The husband wants to play golf at The Old Course at St. Andrews. His wife wants to go shopping in Paris. We will offer them excursions so they can do both at the same time,” she says.
Crystal is following the trend of offering guests the ability to do what they want when they want by moving to open seating on its Crystal Symphony and Crystal Serenity. It’s adding a series of new restaurant concepts when the two ships undergo refurbishments in the next year, adding more suites. It already offers open seating on its yacht Crystal Esprit and river vessel Crystal Mozart moving away from the traditional early or late seating options. Four Seasons George V in Paris starting in June will enable guests to dine al fresco and choose from the menu of any of its three Michelin starred restaurants that carry five stars in total. For private events, it will even offer menus that include dishes from each of the restaurants.
Four Seasons Hotel New York, which has just completed a $120 million renovation, has 23 suites and junior suites with private terraces. While it was always possible to have room service and have it served on your terrace, the hotel is now offering a more extravagant al fresco dining experience in which the hotel will customize a five-course dinner for you and serve it restaurant style course by course. Meals in the Sky menus are priced from $250, per person, plus tax and service charges and require 24 hours notice. For the newly opened Four Seasons at the Surf Club in North Miami the option of offering a private barefoot dinner on the beach was mandatory and at Four Seasons Mexico City, which also went through a complete renovation, you can actually rent out the entire courtyard for a private event. You have to buy at least 80 rooms and it’s limited to certain dates, but it gives you pretty much a blank canvas. Keith Richards even had the hotel create a “secret garden” for his wife as the evening coincided with her birthday. Formula One race cars were brought in for another event to create a race track feel.
For Crystal, full ship takeovers of its yacht and river vessel are increasingly popular. Of course, you don’t have to take over the entire ship to have a unique experience. Its private submarine is available to all guests on Esprit and even has blue tooth so you can listen to your own soundtrack as you cruise around under the sea.
Coming in December you won’t even have to splurge for a cruise or private flight to experience Crystal. Rodriguez is opening a dining club in a historic building in Miami that company is currently renovating. Menus and décor will represent what diners can expect if they venture with the company onto the high seas or into the air. And if you can’t make it to Miami for dinner, you can also get a touch of Crystal via its own line of luxury leather goods and accessories being sold on its website.