With the appointment of Tom Wolber as president and CEO, Crystal Cruises is getting a European-born, Disney-trained executive with an ability to get things done and a high regard for quality, according to people who have worked with him.

Tom Wolber
Tom Wolber

Crystal announced Wolber's hiring on Sept. 15, along with the simultaneous departure of Edie Rodriguez, who had been president and enthusiast-in-chief at Crystal since her appointment in 2013. Rodriguez said she resigned to pursue a new opportunity, soon to be announced.

While Rodriguez was well regarded for her marketing and public relations efforts on behalf of Crystal, Wolber brings a different skill set, one honed in operations at various Disney properties for 28 years.

"Tom's really smart from a business perspective. He's very practical and gets things done," said Virgin Voyages CEO Tom McAlpin. "He manages the time constraints very well. He's a big budget manager and tough negotiator. Very strategic but frugal as hell. But still a great guy, and I love him."

When McAlpin became president of Disney Cruise Line in 2004, he recruited Wolber from a hotel job at Disney to be his vice president of operations.

Although he was born in 1959 in Essen, Germany, Wolber grew up in the Netherlands and was educated at the Leeuwarden Institute of Technology, Architecture and Construction, according to a biographical blurb from Disney. 

He worked for Dutch attractions operator Libema before joining Disney in 1989. He was part of the team that opened Euro Disney (now Disneyland Paris) in 1992.

Wolber came to Disney Cruise Line at a key point when the company had gained approval to build two larger ships, the Disney Fantasy and Disney Dream, and was instrumental in getting them built.

He faces a similar task at Crystal, which has a new generation of larger ocean ships on the drawing board. Delivery of the ships has been pushed back several times.

Erin Wallace, another former Disney executive who is now the COO at Great Wolf Resorts, recalled getting a phone call from Wolber from the bridge of the Disney Fantasy as it left the shipyard in Germany.

"It was the most animated I've ever heard Tom," said Wallace, adding that she could sense the pride in his voice.

Wallace said that Wolber's skills include fluency in four languages -- German, French, Dutch and English -- that opened doors for him to take international assignments, including the presidency of Euro Disney SCA (the parent company of Disneyland Paris) from 2014 to 2016.

"Tom can master practically anything," Wallace said. "He enjoys a challenge, is decisive and action-oriented. Beyond that, Tom knows quality, seeks every opportunity to bring quality experiences to guests and can rally a team. That attention to detail will serve him well in the luxury market."

Wolber, who was unavailable to be interviewed, is spending the next couple of weeks learning about Crystal, according to Michael Levoff, senior vice president for public affairs at Crystal's parent company, Genting Hong Kong. Last week, he participated in the delivery of the Crystal Mahler.

"Tom has a very intensive travel schedule ahead of him and a lot to get fully immersed in," he said.


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