When you write about the cruise industry, you tend to see a lot of ship launches. You see keel-laying ceremonies, shipyard tours where the skeleton of the vessel is barely recognizable, and christening events that take place, as they have for hundreds of years, before a vessel sets out on its maiden voyage.
Rarely do we get invited to see the unveiling of an airplane – but that’s exactly what luxury line Crystal Cruises had in store for us this evening on the first day of the 2016 Seatrade Global Cruise Conference in sunny Fort Lauderdale, Florida. And ironically enough, the physical airplane became a footnote once Crystal unveiled details of its first ultra-luxury mega-yacht expedition cruise ship, Crystal Endeavor.
First, to the airplane in the hangar: Crystal had previously announced it would begin offering air service with two Boeing aircraft: a Boeing 777 and a Boeing 787 Dreamliner. But the plane sitting in the hangar at the private aviation terminal at Fort Lauderdale-Hollywood International Airport was a small Bombardier Global Express BD-700 Business Jet. And it’s just another prong in Crystal’s aggressive expansion plans.
With the Bombardier Business Jet, Crystal is offering guests the ability to charter their very own business jet to one of Crystal’s ocean or river cruises. Pricing starts at US$8,000 per hour, but if you’re splitting that between the plane’s occupancy of six, that’s just over $1,000 per hour, per person – and that could be worth it for couples looking to splurge on airfare to Europe.
And you can fly to Europe. Seating just six guests in an all-luxury layout that includes a dining area and sleeping areas, Crystal’s Bombardier BD-700 Business Jet has a range of 5,200 nautical miles, or 9,360 kilometers – more than enough to reach Europe from most North American hubs. Powered by two Rolls-Royce BD700 Turbofan jet engines, she flies at a speed of 513 knots and has a service ceiling of 51,000 feet. Montreal, Canada-based Bombardier uses the same basic fuselage and wing arrangement for its commercial aircraft, the CRJ-200 and CRJ-700/900.
“The Jet”, as we’ve been referring to it all evening, enters service on April 3, 2016 for Crystal Cruises. To keep things a secret, Crystal shuttled the plane into Fort Lauderdale last night under darkness, landing just after 7:30 p.m.
Of course, in what is becoming typical Crystal fashion, the line didn’t just announce an airplane. No. Crystal President and CEO Edie Rodriguez announced the introduction of Crystal’s first luxury expedition megayacht, the Crystal Endeavor.
Debuting in August 2018, Crystal Endeavor was named after Captain James Cook’s HMS Endeavor, which discovered Australia and New Zealand over 250 years ago. It’s an appropriate designation, given that Crystal Endeavor will sail to some of the world’s most remote and unexplored places, including Antarctica and the Far Arctic.
“With Crystal Esprit, we discovered there are many guests, young and young at heart, who enjoy sports at sea and discovering remote islands, and as the interests and age of luxury travelers increasingly vary, we will continue to expand our collection of luxury travel options,” says Crystal president and CEO, Edie Rodriguez. “Luxury means something different to virtually everyone, and we strive to meet and exceed the wishes of the discerning modern luxury traveler. Crystal Endeavor will cater to a particularly daring audience, one who values luxurious comfort and amenities as much as life-changing adventures.”
Crystal says the megayacht will be the first purpose-built Polar Code compliant yacht with a PC6 Polar Class designation. Because of this, Crystal Endeavor will be able to cruise in the world’s Polar Regions during the summer and autumn in medium “first year” ice which may include old ice inclusions that other vessels typically can’t negotiate because of the risk it poses. Crystal Endeavor will also be fitted with the state-of-the-art offshore dynamic positioning technology, with computer-controlled systems to automatically maintain the ship’s position with its own propellers and thrusters. This will enable the megayacht to float atop coral reefs and other underwater wonders without using anchors, which can damage the terrain or other underwater wonders in waters too deep for anchors.
In addition, Crystal Endeavor will also have a Remote Operated Vehicle – or ROV – which Crystal says it will send down to explore sunken wrecks, specifically mentioning the RMS Titanic, which lies on the floor of the Atlantic in 12,500 feet of water. Titanic sank on April 15, 1912 after striking an iceberg on her maiden voyage.
The 200-guest capacity Crystal Endeavor will offer extreme adventures by air, sea and land with a complete range of gadgets that includes two helicopters and two landing pads for flightseeing expeditions, as well as two, 7-person submarines, eight electric amphibious zodiacs, jet skis, wave runners, kayaks, fishing facilities, paddle boards, snorkeling and scuba equipment, recompression chamber, dive support tender and a multi-person ATV.
To further deliver guest experiences distinct from any other expedition vessels, Crystal Endeavor will be equipped with SEABOBs – the world’s most technically advanced and powerful underwater scooter – that allows you to move gracefully underwater.
“Crystal Endeavor will absolutely set a new bar for expedition luxury travel,” says Rodriguez. “We have proven time and again that Crystal is the pioneer in luxury, and this megayacht will change the game entirely – the possibilities for expedition travelers will be virtually limitless.”