Senior Vice President Sales & Marketing
Crystal Cruises was launched 18 years ago by Japanese shipping company Nippon Yusen Kaisha with the goal to be the best. It launched with the largest luxury cruise ships at the time and its two ships – Crystal Symphony and Crystal Serenity – have garnered shelves of awards from consumer travel magazines around the world including the likes of Conde Nast Traveler and Travel + Leisure. It was among the first ships to innovate with separate celebrity chef restaurants. After a long career as a top marketer at Carnival Corporation (whose brands include Holland America, Princess and Seabourn, Jack Anderson moved to Crystal in 2011 as Senior Vice President Sales & Marketing. He recently had breakfast with Elite Traveler Editor-in-Chief Douglas Gollan near the company’s headquarters in Century City, California.
ET: Can you give us an overview of Crystal’s philosophy?
Jack Anderson: From the beginning, Crystal’s foremost principal was they were going to be the world’s best cruise line. The primary pillars included service, space and choices. Progressively it’s been itineraries. Their awards from consumer and trade magazines and groups for the past 18 years have been unsurpassed. At all cost there is no compromise, and the goal continues to be the best. I say that competing against several outstanding companies.
ET: Can you give us some examples?
Jack Anderson: When our guests come back (from their cruise) they put at the top of the list our crew. The key is less about training, but hiring the right people originally who have genuine graciousness and want to charm and please. It was the company’s vision and their philosophy even in the most difficult times there has been a rigorous commitment to quality and service. There has never been a compromise.
ET: You were an early leader in expanding dining experiences onboard?
Jack Anderson: We have two specialty restaurants. One is Prego, an Italian restaurant. Everyone who has dined there says, ‘you have to have the mushroom soup.’ Silk Road is with the inspiration of Chef Nobu Matsuhisa. He comes on several times a year.
ET: Are there any new twists since you joined?
Jack Anderson: Starting with the Summer season in Europe we went to all-inclusive including wines, champagne, liquor and gratuities throughout the ship. The ambiance really changed. There is more socializing and it lasts later into the evenings. Bistro Café used to be just during the day, but now we are keeping it open at night with early even appetizers, a dinner menu and then deserts so we in essence have a third dining alternative.
ET: What are you key markets for customers?
Jack Anderson: Our make up in 75 percent North American and 25 percent international. UK, Germany, Brazil, Australia and Japan are the top markets and growing.
At Carnival, you led Seabourn for awhile. Can you contrast the larger luxury ships of Crystal with the segment of smaller luxury ships?
Jack Anderson: Each has its pros and cons. However at 900 passengers our ships hardly qualify as large ships when you see what is out there today. The advantages we have (over smaller luxury ships) is a full size theatre, larger disco, larger casino, full show lounge and the ability to offer a variety of entertainment throughout the day. We have everything from Berlitz language classes, computer at sea classes to speakers on every cruise from authors to artists, politicians and even astronauts. We have Mark Kelly and Gabby Giffords coming up. As soon as we announced it we saw new bookings.
ET: Is this something that you are expanding?
Jack Anderson: Now, each cruise at least at one port we have a local dignitary come aboard. It isn’t a speech but a free wheeling discussion that really is a deep dive on everything from politics to art to religion. An example would be the Mayor of Portofino. It is something people really enjoy.
ET: Tell us why you launched a new ad campaign?
Jack Anderson: What we saw in brochures and cruise magazine ads was look alike models with their elbows on the railing, a nice plate of food on the table and offers – 2–for-1, free air, free this. The invite was like ‘Let’s Make a Deal.’ At the same time when we spoke to our customers they talked about new experiences and interesting stories. It was clear they weren’t looking backwards, they were looking ahead and wanted to do new things. Hence our new tagline, “Begin a new story.”
ET: How does this apply to the actual cruise experience?
Jack Anderson: We are all about personalization, so starting your new story. Whether it’s two or 10 of you just go to the Concierge and they will create something specific to what you want. We’ve had people who wanted to drive Formula One cars and fly MiG fighters.
ET: Any other changes?
Jack Anderson: One of our most significant changes is itinerary design. Cruise itineraries begin and end in some of the World’s top cities – Barcelona, Venice, Hong Kong. But it was typically the day you get on the ship you sail, so you were worried that your flights were not late and you could make the ship. Or if you wanted to see the city, you had to fly in a day early, go to a hotel, unpack, figure out your sightseeing, then back the next day and get on the ship. It wasn’t a good experience. Starting two years ago we started to build in embarkation overnights in ports where our guests would want to see. We now have this for over half our sailings and the response has been very, very strong.