I just loved this article about Edie Rodriguez, the President and COO of Crystal Cruises, so I asked for permission to reprint it from the author Debbi Kickham, and she graciously agreed. You can visit the website for Debbi’s best-selling travel book at www.GorgeousGlobetrotter.com.
Cruising her way to the top: Edie Rodriguez
Edie Rodriguez is a type-A born-and-bred New Yorker and last year was made president and chief operating officer at Crystal Cruises. We checked in with her to see if her business life is all smooth sailing.
Q. You were very recently named the president and COO of Crystal Cruises — congratulations. How did that new position come about? Were you surprised to discover you were in the running?
A. First, it’s not so new — it’s been 10 months and it’s been a lot of fun. It came about because they actually pursued me. I was happy in my former position [at Azamara Club Cruises] but Crystal made me an offer I couldn’t refuse. I was not surprised. I have had a 32-year career in the cruise industry, with a great track record. I’m a confident individual. I’m also the epitome of the Crystal Cruise guest: a lady in her 50s who is a luxury consumer. I’m certainly someone who could relate to that, and I love luxury. I’m ideally suited to a brand such as Crystal.
Q. What are the top two things that set Crystal Cruises apart from the competition?
A. Bar none, first and foremost is the service level. This is a nebulous term like “beauty,” but I am a world traveler and it takes a lot to impress me. I had sailed on Crystal incognito and I was blown away by the service level. I have to be passionate about brands that I represent. I was floored. In my humble opinion, it’s the service that sets Crystal apart. And the people, crew members, and family members of the crew on board and how they deliver the service. They really give Crystal Cruises a personality. Other cruises are generic. I have sailed on luxury cruise competitors. But their service did not have the flair and personality that Crystal Cruises embodies.
Q. What are some of the strategic initiatives that you hope to introduce to Crystal Cruises under your direction as its president?
A. We really want take this 24-year-old brand to the next level. Our strategy is one for growth so our brand can evolve on its 25th anniversary. That is what we are working toward. We’ve implemented a number of strategic initiatives: to have our sailings have more times in port and to have new and innovative itineraries such as our new 32-day Northwest Passage in August 2015, Anchorage to New York, my hometown. It sold out in less than three days with just our existing Crystal Society passengers.
Q. How many cruises have you taken in your lifetime?
A. Well over 100, and I have sailed on just about every brand out there. I stopped counting a long time ago.
Q. You are very young-looking. What’s your secret, in a business that certainly must involve long hours, endless travel, lack of sleep, and a lot of stress?
A. I have good DNA. I sleep four hours per night; it’s just the way I am. I’m out of bed by 5:30. I don’t fall asleep until 1:30. Unfortunately that’s how I am. I can work all day, take a red-eye, go to meetings, and then fly the red-eye back. And I handle stress well, pray, and meditate. You can’t let anything get to you.
Q. How did you initially get into the cruise business?
A. I got into the travel business 32 years ago because I was a young girl who wanted to travel and follow my passion. My personal goal was to see every country in the world in a luxurious manner. How was I going to do this? So I thought I would get into the travel business. I started as a travel consultant and worked my way up.
Q. When you worked at Azamara Club Cruises, you were known to many people in the cruise industry as “Speedy Edie.” How and why did you get that nickname?
A. I have had that nickname my whole life. I was always the first student to finish all the tests. It plays very well to my New York personality, and I just go, go, go. I have a lot of energy and I like to do things quickly. I like having things on my plate to do, otherwise I get bored quickly.
Q. What are your top three “must-have products” that you must always travel with?
A. Dr. Fredric Brandt’s skin-care line [a cult brand based in Miami], my Dior makeup, and perfume.
Q. What is the one special place you want to visit, where you haven’t traveled yet?
A. There are two. For my birthday my husband and I want to go somewhere we’ve both never been: We’re going to Prague and Budapest.
Q. What’s your favorite city in the world and why?
A. That’s like asking a mother of 10 kids to name her favorite! But it’s New York — it’s always home in my heart. You can take the girl out of New York, but you can’t take New York out of the girl. I’m always in love with my New York.
Q. What’s your favorite port of call?
A. Porto Venere. It’s absolutely beautiful and magical yet it’s close enough to go to all the places in Tuscany that I love. Or you can go to Cinque Terre [on the Italian Riviera] from there.
Q. What’s your preferred luggage?
Q. What do you think is one thing that most people don’t realize about cruising?
A. Just how safe and healthy it really is on board.
Q. What is your favorite souvenir that you have, based on all of your years of traveling?
A. I bought it more than 30 years ago in Israel — it’s marble — a simple little piece with the 10 commandments on it. I keep it on my kitchen counter, and it’s 10 simple rules to live your life by. I see it there every morning.
Q. I understand that you recently got married. Where did you go on your honeymoon? Did you take a cruise?
A. Our honeymoon? We call it four weddings and no funeral. The first one was at Mar-a-Lago in Palm Beach [owned by Donald Trump] and winter in Italy, a land-based romantic honeymoon. In May we had a ceremony at sea on Crystal and went with 18 of our friends around the world, Venice to Barcelona, and had a beautiful ceremony and reception on Crystal Serenity. And we have two more receptions coming up. We have global event planners who can plan anything on or off the ship.
Q. Does your husband like the water?
A. My husband loves the water — he’s as big a cruise fan as I am.