MIAMI – Marc Cavaliere was named to his current position on July 1, 2016. He oversees the operations, sales, and marketing efforts Crystal’s luxury air travel subsidiary, which includes the new Crystal AirCruises and Crystal Luxury Air, operated with an 88-seat Boeing 777-200LR and a 12-seat Bombardier Global Express XRS jet, respectively.
Cavaliere has a strong background in the airline industry, with management positions at South African Airways, Spirit Airlines, American Airlines, TWA, Braniff and Pan Am. He also served as vice president and senior partner with Aviation Management, a consulting firm specializing in South American and Latin American carriers.
Airways: How did Crystal come up with the idea to create the air cruises concept?
Marc Cavaliere: A lot of people are familiar with Crystal Cruises. We’ve been around for 25 years and are recognized as the leader in luxury cruising. The brand is very well known and respected.
As a result of that, it only made sense to make the transition from the ocean vessels to the river. Last July we launched our first river vessel, The Mozart, which is already winning awards.
At the same time, the company realized that individuals who knew us for our focus on service, luxury and really unique experiences also were very interested in not just being bound by water.
We realized that we could provide our guests with experiences in other areas that may not be quite as easy to reach by water and in a constrained period of time.
So it made sense to take the next step, taking that essence of luxury and service and pull that DNA into the next dimension: air. So that’s how we got to Crystal AirCruises.
The really exciting thing about this is it gives us an opportunity to curate places that were otherwise limited by the medium [of] water. And with the very unique airplane that we have, you can pretty much go anywhere in the world.
We could put a lot of exciting experiences together for our guests in a very short period of time. And they can go from place to place in that period of time and have very meaningful experiences where existing scheduled air service couldn’t take them.
Why did you choose the Boeing 777-200ER?
Specifically because of the comfort and the roominess and the features that it offers. There are other jets that are out there, but none of them offer the room, the spaciousness, the comfort and the amount of private space that we can offer with this aircraft.
It was important for us to be able to put in a large lounge area, and I don’t mean just a half table between two seats. A considerable amount of space on this airplane is dedicated to the lounge.
It was also very important for us to put in oversized lavatories and dressing rooms. It was important for us to have big galleys so our chef can have the ability to prepare and present the meals. It also gives us the range that we want.
What company are you working with to do the aircraft’s interior?
The company is Greenpoint Technologies, based in Washington state. They specialize in doing VVIP refurbishments, specifically on widebody jets. They have an excellent track record for the quality of the products that they produce.
We’ve been working with them for over a year now as we’re bringing this newly refitted aircraft to life. We’re very pleased with the quality of work that they are delivering to us and how they are keeping on schedule.
You also have a Bombardier Global Express XRS under the Crystal Luxury Air banner. Why did you create this other experience?
That aircraft actually serves a couple of different missions. We have guests who like the idea of traveling with other couples or their own family. They like the idea of having a private jet that can take them directly to the ship and back or to our river cruise and back.
We also have guests who are not only moving to the ship, but who also want to do something beyond the ship’ss excursion. We can take them around and do pre- and post-cruise tours.
For example, you get off of one of the ships and you want to take a five- or six-day hop around parts of Africa or go to Northern Europe or visit some of the exciting cities in Asia. So we some programs for them as well with the Bombardier jet.
We also use it to cater to individuals who have traveled with Crystal before and are hooked on the level of service that we provide on our ships. When they’re traveling by air, they like to have that same level of comfort and service that they’ve become very attached to.
While they may not necessarily be going on a ship or they may not even be going on a holiday, we have business travelers who were formerly guests with us on Crystal Cruises.
So for their corporate travel they’ll charter our jet. At the moment, we have one Bombardier. And we are looking at acquiring a second, based on demand that we just didn’t expect this quickly
You have seven air cruises planned in 2017 and 2018. How did you choose the destinations?
A lot of it has to do with listening to our guests and doing the market research. We take a look at the global spectrum and look at what time limitations allow us to do.
For example, some of the air cruises are two weeks long, others three-week and some even four weeks. The longer air cruises allow us a greater opportunity to more easily navigate around the globe.
But if the individual only has two weeks to spend, they don’t want to necessarily spend all that time in the air. Some of us who are airplane buffs, we enjoy that. So we have to curate experiences and make sure that we’re doing at least two and a half to three days in each destination.
Then we look to the really exhilarating and aspirational places, places that people say, “You know it’s on my bucket list but that destination by itself, I just can’t see planning a two-week trip or a one-week trip just to go to this one location but I would really like to do this.”
How many passengers can be accommodated on each cruise?
We have a maximum of 84 passengers, but frequently we’ll have less than that. The Boeing 777-200LR is one of the most comfortable and one of the most long-range jets out there.
It is set up where it will have our main first class cabin, where everybody will have their own suite seats with lie-flat beds in a two-by-two-by-two configuration, giving passengers lots of room.
And we have the lounge area that’s forward of the cabin, where we’ll have the bar and wine cellar along with four large tables that people can sit around and relax in a social environment.
On every air cruise, we will also have a master chef, because we want there to be some really exciting culinary experiences on the flight. We have our own doctor, a cruise director and an assistant director, and then a couple of other support people for the group.
Who do you see is your ideal customer for Crystal AirCruise?
There’s a broad spectrum there. There’s not any one age demographic because we have different air cruises that focus not only different geographical regions but also on different types of experiences.
For example, some can be more sports-oriented, some are golf programs and some can be more museum- or historical-focused. Some are more adventurous and we have ones like our savoring the winelands tour that we’re doing in conjunction with Wine Spectator magazine.
So while we can’t necessarily categorize by age, we certainly can categorize by individuals who have higher net worth because these trips are not inexpensive, but are very worth the investment.
These are individuals who have a real appetite for experiencing different things at a very immersed level. It’s different experiences, different cultures, and different cuisines.
They’re individuals who have a bit of a yearning to get out and see the world and connect with different cultures and learn new things. They’re individuals who, in many cases, are limited by the amount of free time that they have available and would like to be able to experience more that’s meaningful.
How much does a typical excursion cost and what does the price include?
The pricing ranges for trips because each one is a little bit different. It’s based upon the content, the length and the contents of the trip. They will range from $75,000 per person to upwards of $130,000 per person, They are all exclusive and all inclusive. We cover everything — the meals, the land portions, the taxes and the gratuities.
Once you’re ready to launch, how will you get the word out to customers who want to have these unique and curated experiences?
We are looking at a really a target market size that’s probably less than one-half of one percent of the U.S. population. So, it’s important that we’re very focused on the different distribution strategies and communication strategies that we use.
We are in some of the more affluent publications that we also advertise in and we’re covered in travel publications. We also work with a certain segment of the travel agency community who are very involved in doing luxury and high-end travel.