The latest news in luxury cruising


Until now ultra-luxury has been a cruise niche, but with a new owner Crystal Cruises is looking at world domination with yachts, new ships and private jets.

When Crystal Cruises chief executive and president Edie Rodriguez met with new owner Genting CEO Tan Sri Lim Kok Thay, he offered her Star Cruises’ Megastar Taurus to debut as Crystal’s first luxury boutique yacht. “He didn’t have to offer twice, I said, yes right away,’’ Ms Rodriguez said. Megastar Taurus is now undergoing a Crystal makeover that will transform her into the 62-passenger, luxury Crystal Esprit. Esprit will kick off Crystal Yacht Cruises with a seven-night cruise through the Seychelles from December 23.

Esprit will have all the expensive toys wealthy sailors like, including a private submarine for two, where Ms Rodriguez plans to offer underwater wedding ceremonies. On the surface, there will be water skis, jet skis, wake boards, kayaks, snorkelling and scuba equipment, four 10-passenger Zodiacs and a 10-metre super tender. If Esprit is a success, Genting owned Star Cruises will assign sister ship The Taipan to the Crystal yacht fleet. The Taipan currently operates as a charter vessel for Star.

Multi-award winning Crystal Cruises has announced a raft of expansion plans that will catapult it into river cruising, boutique yachts and even private jet tours. There are three new Crystal oceangoing ships under construction. And, in an innovative move, the line is planning to sell multi-million dollar apartments aboard them. At a stroke, the new owners have transformed the two-ship luxury ocean line and turned the once-cosy luxury cruise sector into a highly competitive battleground. “It’s all about quality,’’ said Ms Rodriguez, an industry veteran with 34 years experience in the cruise industry. “We want to have a premier hospitality and lifestyle portfolio. We do not want to be the largest – it’s about quality, not quantity.”

When Genting Hong Kong bought Crystal Cruises for US$550 million in May, Ms Rodriguez knew she was on a winner. Genting Group is a global conglomerate with holdings in casinos, palm-oil plantations, real estate and themed resorts, as well as Star Cruises and Norwegian Cruise Line. It also has a major stake in Regent Seven Seas – the other big player in luxury. Star Cruises is the third largest cruise line in the world after Carnival Corporation and Royal Caribbean Cruises. The line dominates the Asia Pacific cruise region. The takeover of Crystal by Genting was a marriage made in heaven. Crystal needed fresh injection of funds to grow the brand and Genting has the firepower, financial clout and vision to execute it.

Now Crystal will debut in sectors where it has never been before. In 2017, it will launch on European waterways with two river ships, a sector some say may be overcrowded. “I don’t think European rivers are overcrowded,” Ms Rodriguez said. “Nobody is delivering a river cruise the Crystal way. Our guests have been telling us that they want something different. So we will deliver the Crystal experience on our river cruises.’’

Three new Crystal ocean vessels are being built in Germany, with the first to arrive in 2018. Each ship will accommodate 1,000 guests with 500 suites on each vessel, all with a 400 square foot balcony, walk-in wardrobe, separate bathtubs and shower room and, at one-to-one, the highest guest-to-crew ratio. The new ships will introduce open-seating dining options, which many Crystal guests have been lobbying for. They have also been designed for expedition cruises with the ability to cut through heavy ice. Each ship will have 48 private residences for sale with a starting price point of several millions. Apartment size will vary from 600 square feet to 4,000 square feet and if buyers place a deposit early enough, they can even customise their residence.

Ms Rodriguez intends to handle sales directly. “I have been in talks with several purchasers, including some Americans and others from all over the world, who are very keen to buy an apartment,” she said. “Those who purchase a Crystal residence will have a 50-year lease, which is the lifetime of a ship, and they can pass ownership to the next of kin.’’

In 2017, Crystal plans to introduce Crystal Luxury Air with its own Boeing 787 Dreamliner equipped with 60 flatbeds to fly passengers to 12 or 15 exotic destinations for bespoke holidays with private dinners cooked by Michelin-star chefs. The fully escorted holidays will last 28 days with the option of joining a Crystal cruise at the end.

Crystal’s expansive plans have reinvigorated Ms Rodriguez’ vision to eventually have seven ships for seven continents. Over the next three years, she will have five ocean-going ships and a yacht. She upped the ante recently by announcing they would fly two jets, not one, on private charters. “The world is our oyster. We will be expanding to various parts of the world, though we are not in any rush,’’ she said. You wouldn’t know it by the speed with which the line is transforming itself.


Regent Seven Seas Cruises says its new 750-passenger, all-suite ship, due to launch in July 2016, will be the most luxurious on the seas. The piece de resistance will be the 4,000 square foot, two-bedroom Regent Suite, priced from a cool $6,000 per person per night.

Ponant launched its newest small ship earlier this year, the 244-passenger Le Lyrial. The line also upped its luxury pedigree in July when it was purchased by French billionaire Francois Pinault’s Groupe Artemis, joining posh stablemates including Gucci and Yves Saint Laurent.

Launching in 2016 and 2018 respectively, these new ships will raise the bar for Seabourn. Every suite will have a private verandah and interiors will be designed by renowned interior designer Adam Tihany. In recent years, Seabourn has had a major transformation, selling its three oldest ships in favour of building new, ultra-luxurious vessels.

Silversea’s ninth ship will launch in 2017 and be the first new-build ship for the line in five years. Carrying just fewer than 600 passengers, it will be an enhanced and enlarged version of sister ship Silver Spirit, and is currently being built at the Fincantieri shipyard in Italy.