Crystal president Bornstein eyes '7 ships, 7 continents'

By Tom Stieghorst
Edie BornsteinCORAL GABLES, Fla. -- Crystal Cruises expects to more than triple its fleet in the coming years from the two 1,000-passenger ships it currently sails, according to the line's new president, Edie Bornstein.

In a lunch conversation that followed a meeting in Palm Beach with a group of Virtuoso agents, Bornstein said her vision for the luxury line calls for "seven ships, seven seas and seven continents."

"We're at a point with a 24-year-old brand with two vessels that we really have to grow," she said.

Among other things, travel agents are interested in having more inventory to sell, she said, pointing to a 108-day world cruise in 2015 that is already sold out.

Bornstein said additions to Crystal's fleet could come either through acquisitions or new ship orders, but she expected the vessels would likely be smaller than the current Crystal Serenity (1,070 passengers) and Crystal Symphony (922 passengers).

They would likely include a mix of expedition-sized ships and vessels carrying 600 to 800 passengers, she said.

The objective would be to broaden the selection of itineraries that can be offered to Crystal guests, and smaller ships would enable visits to more off-the-beaten-path destinations.

At the same time, they would provide Crystal with an adequate return on investment, Bornstein said.

But the growth will not take place overnight: "Obviously this is a long-term strategy," she added.

Bornstein has been busy since she left her job as sales and marketing vice president at Azamara Club Cruises in October to become Crystal's president.

In addition to getting to know the staff at the Los Angeles headquarters, she has been crisscrossing the country to meet with vendors and attend travel agent conferences. She spent three days aboard the Crystal Serenity last fall getting to know the crew and guests.

In two weeks, Crystal is moving to new offices, and in February Bornstein is getting married.

The hectic pace comes with the territory. Bornstein said she was hired in part to be the public face of Crystal, a brand ambassador of sorts.

"I believe you have to be passionate and extroverted to do that," she said.

But Bornstein also wants to be recognized for her grasp of the cruise industry's financial side and her understanding of the technical and operational complexities of running a cruise line.

Her visit to Miami included time for a presentation by Starboard Cruises Services, which will be taking over the contract to run all the shops on Crystal ships from Harding Brothers, starting in May.

While ever cognizant of providing past guests with reasons to keep sailing on Crystal, Bornstein said she was also on the hunt for new passengers to try the brand.

The line has broadened its offering of youth-friendly services to get more families and multigenerational groups onboard. The average age of a Crystal passenger has been trending downward, dropping to 55 from the low- to mid-60s a few years ago, Bornstein said.

A greater selection of short voyages also encourages luxury travelers who haven't tried Crystal to sample the product, she said.

Crystal Celebrations, which offers pre-packaged event planning for weddings, reunions and other milestones is another tool to appeal to first-time Crystal passengers.

While it lines up its expansion strategy, Crystal is also keeping its ships refreshed, having just completed a $17 million renovation of the Crystal Serenity that included a makeover of the penthouse suites and the removal of one swimming pool.

The Serenity was scheduled to begin Crystal's 89-day world cruise on Jan 18. Bornstein was back in Los Angeles, hosting a gala for full-world cruise passengers at the Beverly Wilshire hotel the night before, and she was to spend the following day on the ship wishing guests bon voyage.

Follow Tom Stieghorst on Twitter @tstravelweekly. 
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