Edie Rodriguez | 10 Mavericks and Rebels Who Have Forever Changed the Way We Look at Luxury

Edie Rodriguez’s wanderlust blossomed at an early age. “When I was 6, my great-aunt brought me a small geisha doll from Japan,” recalls Rodriguez, now the CEO and president of Crystal Cruises. “I loved that doll and learned all that I could about Japan. It made me realize I wanted to travel—not only to Japan, but to every country in the world.” Travel she does, spending roughly 285 days on the road—and at sea—in her role at Crystal, where she has successfully turned the luxury cruising industry on its head.

Fresh Perspective
I am the only woman CEO in a male-dominated business, for sure, but my success doesn’t specifically have to do with my gender. I was chosen because I was the best person for the job. I don’t think I do this job differently because I’m a woman; I do it differently because I love what I do. I often say you have to find your passion and make it your job, because in this industry, work becomes life and life becomes work. We do it 24/7/365. It is a requirement of our job.

I am a mother, a wife, and a CEO. I am also the epitome of a Crystal guest—a woman in her 50s and a global luxury consumer who expects outstanding service. Market research tells us that the female typically makes the buying decisions. I understand what our customers are looking for because I am Crystal’s quintessential customer.

Sea Change
In the past 35 years, I’ve seen quantum changes in the cruise industry. Forty years ago, the typical passenger would be older and taking that once-in-a-lifetime trip. Today we have younger, repeat customers who cruise every year, often with their families. Cruising has become a multibillion-dollar industry, and ships have become floating resorts, not just places to sleep and eat. In the past, if you were looking for a gym, you were lucky to find a small room with a stationary bike and, perhaps, a rowing machine. Back in the day, ships offered Las Vegas–style all-you-can-eat buffets. Crystal Cruises offers top-tier health-club amenities, spa-type meals, and numerous restaurant choices [such as] Silk Road, a restaurant that Nobu Matsuhisa created just for us. We’re offering high-energy itineraries and more overnights in spectacular destinations like Ibiza.

Smooth Sailing
Crystal is evolving from a cruise line to a luxury lifestyle brand. We are in the process of expanding dramatically, not only [with] oceangoing ships but also river-cruising vessels, luxury yachts, and all-first-class airplanes. We know that the top 2 percent of the world’s wealthiest people already have their own planes and yachts, but [they] also want experiences that are one of a kind.

Last December, we launched Crystal Esprit and entered the world of yachting, and Crystal Mozart is the first of seven all-suite river vessels. We are also building three new Polar Class ocean liners, the first of which will launch in a few years. What will make them unique? Our new Crystal Residences at Sea, which will range from 600 to 10,000 square feet and start at $10 million. And Polar Class means there is virtually no corner of the earth where these ships cannot go.

Sky’s the Limit
Our 777 will be configured for just 84 guests to fly 14-, 21-, and 28-day itineraries to remote and exotic destinations. It is an ideal option for guests who like the idea of an around-the-world vacation but don’t have the time to take our 128-day world cruise. Each itinerary will be different. One month, it might be UNESCO World Heritage Sites. Another, it could be the world’s greatest Michelin-starred restaurants from New York to Sydney. Or the world’s greatest golf courses, beginning in Scotland and ending in New Zealand. Anything is possible.

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