In Fall 2017 Crystal Cruises will take to the skies with its world-first, fully bespoke luxury Boeing 777. We caught up with the man in charge of the vision – Marc Cavaliere, SVP, Crystal AirCruises and Crystal Luxury Air – to get an exclusive behind-the-scenes insight into the aircraft. We quizzed Marc on the innovation and planning that went into the design, and delved deeper into what guests can expect from the groundbreaking facilities and itineraries.
Customizing a luxury airliner: where do you start?
Marc’s first challenge on the AirCruises project was choosing the right aircraft: “If we just wanted to move passengers from A to B, we could have bought a smaller, cheaper narrow-bodied aircraft, but we wanted bigger and better,” he said.
The wide-body 777-200LR provided the best space ratio, allowing the most options for customization and the greatest level of comfort for its 84 passengers (this aircraft usually accommodates over 300). The model is also the world’s longest-range airliner – essential for the unique round-the-world air cruise itineraries that it will provide.
Crystal searched for over a year to find a plane in the best possible condition before beginning a complete remodel of the interior.
Realizing the vision
Before starting work, finding the right team was essential. “We start with vision,” said Marc. “Vision drives the plans, and the plans drive the core team.”
“Long before we took delivery of the aircraft, we had to make sure a core team was in place. That team had to have the plans and resources they needed ready ahead of time.”
There aren’t too many providers with the skills or resources to fulfil work of this level, so Crystal partnered with a highly specialized firm based near Seattle that fits VVIP aircraft interiors – often for heads of state and royalty. This team has even worked on Air Force One.
The commercial luxury air experience: tackling a world-first
The approach for the interior was to completely tear it down and rebuild from scratch. This wasn’t easy, but it also meant that Crystal could factor comfort and luxury into every detail of the interior, from the extra-large bathrooms to the impressive wine cellar (the most extensive in the sky).
Marc’s take on the project’s biggest challenge sums up the huge range of facilities onboard: “Initially [the challenge] was designing an aircraft with such a VVIP interior that was actually practical for commercial use. Now, it’s keeping to a budget. We find ourselves constantly tempted to add more and more features as we discover them!”
Beyond engineering: innovative itineraries
It isn’t just the systems and fittings that are entirely new. The AirCruises experience is also a first. Crystal’s curated itineraries are inspired by real conversations with guests, and will use exclusive air connections that aren’t available through commercial airlines.
Even the airport experience is customized. Marc said: “To give guests the best service possible, as much as we can we try to keep away from the main terminals at our airports and use private terminals, which can sometimes be a challenge with a wide-body aircraft.”
And the unique range of far-flung destinations in the itineraries means having to coordinate with airports of different sizes, from LAX to Mataveri International on Easter Island – the world’s remotest airport.
Taking the Crystal Experience to the skies
Marc claims the onboard team is the most innovative thing about the Boeing 777. “Our crews are butlers, not flight attendants,” he said. “They are expertly trained and it helps us keep consistency with our cruise experience,”
“Many of our air cruise butlers come from the ships themselves. Furthermore, every AirCruises butler will have spent time serving our guests on our ships. It’s so important that our DNA translates perfectly from the sea to air experience.”
That goes for food as well as service. AirCruise menus are being developed by master chefs from Crystal’s cruise line, in collaboration with a team of aviation master chefs.
“We are creating a distinctive and individual menu for each AirCruise,” said Marc. “The destinations we visit will subtly influence the food on board, and gently introduce our guests to the local cuisine. Every single meal on board will be served under the supervision of the onboard chef.”
Find out more about Crystal AirCruises
Marc’s final words on this extraordinary airliner put into perspective how exclusive the AirCruises itineraries are: “The aircraft is one small part – the real blow-you-away is the experience at the destination and journey from start to finish.”
If you’re looking for a once-in-a-lifetime trip that combines the ultimate in luxury and unique destinations then a Crystal Cruises AirCruise could be for you. Speak to a Tully Luxury Travel Designer to find out more today.
About the Author
Tully Luxury Travel is dedicated to sharing the world's most inspiring, life-enriching travel experiences with our discerning global clientele. Our expertise comes from first-hand knowledge of the destinations that we sell. Established in 1987, we have long-standing relationships with the finest travel and tourism suppliers, and offer world-class customer service through our three divisions: Cruise Professionals, African Dreams, and Private Travel Designers.Follow on Twitter More Content by Tully Luxury Travel