John Crupi On How To Create A Travel Experience That Keeps People Coming Back For More

An Interview With Savio P. Clemente

Savio P. Clemente
Authority Magazine

--

Optimal planning and preparation — This is critical in the maritime industry as vessels change locations with the seasons and weather dictates safe passages. Organizing shipyard and refit work based on this timing will facilitate the owners and guests using their vessels at the desired locations. Weather is a critical element of any vacation and more so when the accommodation is on board a vessel. When assisting in itinerary planning I always factor in the timing of transits and relocating the vessel as to not encroach on the timing of the owner/guest trips.

As part of my series about “How To Create A Travel Experience That Keeps People Coming Back For More”, I had the pleasure of interviewing John Crupi.

John Crupi is the founder of Rubicon Maritime Group. With over 30 years of experience as a professional captain, John’s knowledge and experience have guided expedition programs throughout the world, covering hundreds of thousands of miles, 70 countries and six continents. He has traveled and fished some of the most remote regions of the world including Central America, South Pacific, Asia, Alaska, Patagonia and most recently completed a circumnavigation of the Atlantic with stops in Bermuda, Azores, Madeira, Canary Islands, Ascension and Brazil. His expertise includes worldwide travel logistics, tandem mothership operations, large tender towing, and refit project management.

Thank you so much for joining us! Can you tell us a story about what brought you to this specific career path?

I grew up on the water in Florida and at an early age had the desire to explore so I built a small skiff to allow me to navigate the river and waterways close to my home on my own. This eventually led to me walking the marina docks and asking for work on bigger boats. My hardwork and desire to learn helped me gain experience and led to my first opportunity to captain various vessels in the area. As my experience and knowledge grew my cruising areas expanded to cover the world. I am now utilizing my expertise as a maritime consultant to help others prepare for cruising near and far through refit management, vessel purchase guidance, itinerary planning and more.

Can you share the most interesting story that happened to you since you started your career?

Well I’m not sure which is the most interesting… I have traveled to over 70 countries, crossed the Atlantic Ocean 4 times, the Pacific Ocean 5 times and transited the Panama Canal over 20 times. I have hiked in both Alaska and Patagonia, chased blue marlin around the world fishing almost every major big game destination, swam with sharks, whales and dolphins, visited remote villages and watched indigenous dances, hiked up active volcanoes, floated down rivers deep in the jungle, and experienced mechanical issues and fire at sea. Traveling the world by boat has extreme rewards and extreme challenges on a daily basis. I now employ my experience and expertise to help others make their vessels and dreams ready for the reality of what exploration cruising can entail.

Can you share a story about the funniest mistake you made when you were first starting? Can you tell us what lesson you learned from that?

None of us are able to achieve success without some help along the way. Is there a particular person who you are grateful towards who helped get you to where you are? Can you share a story?

I grew up in an era where you were expected to work hard without excuses regardless of the situation. In the world of sportfishing this was especially true. There were no easy roads from the cockpit to the bridge. You put in your time, kept your head down and only spoke when spoken to. These were the rules — seems old school and probably is, but those captains that I grew up under taught me a work ethic that still remains today — and for me has made a significant difference in my life every day since. I can’t say there’s any one person in particular — it was the captains, vessel owners and management teams that extended me responsibility and I took as much as much as they would give in an effort to prove myself. As a result of this, I too have paid my knowledge forward to other crew members over the years… It’s such a good feeling watching others learn, grow, and excel knowing you helped play a part in their current and future success.

Thank you for that. Let’s jump to the core of our discussion. Can you share with our readers about the innovations that you are bringing to the travel and hospitality industries?

The yachting industry allows adventurous travelers to explore off the beaten path destinations with all the comforts of a luxury hotel and includes many activities that they would participate in through tour operators. Explorer and charter yachts offer fine dining, luxury accommodations, tenders, jet skis, hot tubs, helicopters and more. If you can dream it we can source it, build it or retrofit a vessel to meet those specific needs and wants as our clients travel the world. The limitations are becoming fewer and farther as technology and the desire for unique and genuine experiences grow within the industry. Customized itineraries are the norm and with a few quick searches on Google or Instagram you can find everything from hidden beaches to heart pumping hikes, secluded villages, interactive cultural experiences and more. We are using the technology at our fingertips to broaden the experiences of yacht owners and guests wherever they choose to travel.

Specifically as a maritime consultant I follow the latest innovations within the industry and utilize them to fulfill the wants and needs of my clients through project management, itinerary planning, global support, and I am constantly thinking “what if” to attempt to resolve issues in remote destinations before they occur. My goal is to provide my clients more time on board their vessels and less time in shipyards — preplanning and forethought into their travel desires is key to making this happen.

Which “pain point” are you trying to address by introducing this innovation and how do you envision that this might disrupt the status quo?

The “pain point” within the yachting industry is a hesitation to utilize the latest innovations — change is hard. Shipyards and contractors are not always eager to test and try new concepts — from management ideas to basic technology such as computerizing parts logging and purchasing — why does a yacht crew member need to call to order standard supplies rather than just log in, order and ship online? Yachts are in different time zones and need items “yesterday” so streamlining the acquisition of standard vessel items seems reasonable to me. One day I envision a “Marine Amazon” that caters to the marine industry specifically ( I actually researched this as a business model, but the feedback from vendors and companies was they were not willing to spend the time and money to catalog their inventories), but until then I will keep pushing for people to “think outside of the box” when it comes to my services and what is possible with proper planning, organization and execution.

As you know, COVID19 changed the world as we know it. Can you share a few examples of how travel and hospitality companies will be adjusting over the next five years to the new ways that consumers will prefer to travel?

The yachting industry was hit hard as vessels were no longer able to travel freely between destinations and countries. But as travel restrictions were lifted there was a surge in boat sales and charter bookings as people realized they could have privacy and distance themselves while traveling aboard a boat. This was true from small run around vessels to megayachts — boating offers a freedom like no other activity and people wanted to be outside and moving again whether that was close to home or heading to far off destinations (within Covid guidelines). Our industry will continue to adapt to cater to more people who want this freedom and safety of traveling with friends, and family. In my business specifically I expect more clients to prepare their current vessels for extended travel, purchase new vessels to meet their needs or refit existing vessels with the desired wish list of items. I also believe that remote destinations away from the crowds will be more appealing. We will need to research and adapt to make these destinations a safe place for guests to explore and enjoy.

You are a “travel insider”. How would you describe your “perfect vacation experience”?

When you have traveled as extensively as I have, I think you will agree that the “perfect” experience is always evolving based on the destination and what it offers as a whole. I prefer vacations that provide variety in all aspects from both physical and mental challenges to distinctive cultural immersions, varied topography and wildlife, and the opportunity to experience the local way of life in some way. Most recently when someone asked for my “bucket list” recommendation I chose Vanuatu because it definitely checks all the boxes on my “perfect” list at the moment. People always ask “What is my favorite place?”, and my response is, “Favorite place for what?”. Favorite beach, favorite diving spot, favorite fishing destination, favorite cultural experience, favorite food? Each of these answers is most likely a different place so it’s a difficult question to answer. When I plan a trip I take into account all that the destination has to offer and plan my itinerary accordingly — how much can I see, do, experience in the amount of time I have available and will that fulfill my needs and wants to make the trip feel complete. One of the great things about owning a vessel or chartering a vessel is that the Captain and crew will have your itinerary all mapped out with the best options to create your “perfect” vacation.

Travel is not always about escaping, but about connecting. Have you made efforts to cultivate a more wellness driven experience? We’d love to hear about it.

Health and wellness now drive a significant segment of the travel industry and that is absolutely true in the yachting industry as well. Owners and charter clients want gyms, personal trainers, yoga instructors, masseuses, etc on board during their vacations. When clients want to connect to nature and/or be physically active we seek out those special activities and design around those desires. In the past in an effort to connect with local communities we have arranged fundraisers, school visits, and donation drives for owners and guests — the great thing about having your own vessel and/or chartering a vessel is that you can decide your level of involvement and design your “perfect” vacation each time you are on board. Activities and experiences will be chosen based on who and what you want to connect with during the trip whether that is your inner yogi, nature, or community involvement. When purchasing or refitting a vessel it is important to discuss these issues and bring these elements into the design for long term enjoyment of owners and guests while on board. There are instances where families with young children want to travel the world and they have created a classroom on board to immerse their children as they travel and learn through experience. Connections can be made in so many ways that will ultimately define an experience or trip.

Ok super. Here is the main question of our interview. Based on your experience and success, what are the five most important things one should know in order to create a travel experience that keeps bringing people back for more? Please share a story or an example for each.

Within the yachting industry we have the opportunity to provide customized and personalized vacations for owners and guests both on board, ashore and in/on the water surrounding a destination.

  1. Client expectations — Every individual within a group may have a different perspective as to what they expect on their vacation and it is important to not only focus on the group, but the individuals within that group as well. Knowing their expectations will allow you to plan and meet those needs and wants ahead of time.
  2. Unique experiences — Based on the clients expectations you can seek out distinctive activities and experiences that will ensure unforgettable memories. While cruising in Patagonia we had both older less active guests as well as younger family members who wanted to participate in adventurous outdoor pursuits. Knowing this in advance allowed us to cater to meet both those needs throughout the trip. For example while the less active group went sightseeing through the “bergy bits” by tender the others were dropped ashore to hike to a view point high above the anchorage site.
  3. A level of comfort and safety — People can become anxious when traveling to new or remote destinations so I feel it is important to provide them with as much information as possible to make them feel comfortable about their choices. From the destination itself to the activities and experiences they choose while there. Very rarely throughout our travels did we ever send guests on excursions that we had not already done prior to their arrival — this allowed us to specifically address any concerns with activity level, safety, comfort, timing, etc. There is an amazing hike, cave, water adventure in Vanuatu called Millenium Cave and they advertise as needing to be moderately fit, but after first hand participation it was clear that it was not an activity for our guests — way to strenuous, heights, darkness, etc — it would have been a disastrous outcome had we sent guests based on tour info and reviews alone.
  4. Personalized services — Every guest is unique and catering to specific requests is vital to creating memorable experiences and ultimately a successful trip. Whether it’s celebrating a birthday, anniversary or holiday during a trip personalizing those occasions to the individual creates lasting memories. We celebrated a guest birthday anchored off the Darien jungle in Panama and created a “wild” theme to match her personality and love of animal prints. It was a huge hit and certainly a birthday she will never forget.
  5. Optimal planning and preparation — This is critical in the maritime industry as vessels change locations with the seasons and weather dictates safe passages. Organizing shipyard and refit work based on this timing will facilitate the owners and guests using their vessels at the desired locations. Weather is a critical element of any vacation and more so when the accommodation is on board a vessel. When assisting in itinerary planning I always factor in the timing of transits and relocating the vessel as to not encroach on the timing of the owner/guest trips.

Can you share with our readers how you have used your success to bring goodness to the world?

Traveling the world on board a yacht brings great freedom and amazing experiences, but over the years I saw that our presence in remote locations was not directly having a positive impact on the locals. My crew and I initiated numerous philanthropic initiatives to attempt to change the way we interacted with the communities — school supply drives, fishing fundraisers, community involvement, hurricane relief, clean water provisions, and scientific research and data collection. In my experience every small gesture was rewarded in some greater way.

You are a person of great influence. If you could start a movement that would bring the most amount of good to the most amount of people, what would that be? You never know what your idea can trigger. :-)

Over the years I have seen firsthand the changes in our world as we traveled and returned to destinations by boat after being away for just a few years or more — I believe there are incredible organizations that already exist which will allow you to find an idea or cause that you feel is important. We have worked with YachtAid Global, The International Seakeepers Society and numerous marinas, agents and local supporters. The trigger is to motivate people to ACT — any action will make a difference.

How can our readers follow you on social media?

Readers can find my yacht consultancy on Instagram at @RubiconMaritime, and they can subscribe to my YouTube channel Rubicon Maritime.

This was very inspiring. Thank you so much for joining us!

--

--

Savio P. Clemente
Authority Magazine

TEDx Speaker, Media Journalist, Board Certified Wellness Coach, Best-Selling Author & Cancer Survivor