The Ritz-Carlton Yacht Collection, a new luxury yachting and cruising brand, launches in 2019 with the first of three 298-passenger ultra-luxury yachts. A second yacht will set sail in the first quarter of 2021, a third in early 2022.
The line — with all-suite, all-balcony vessels — is a creation of The Ritz-Carlton Hotel Company LLC and maritime experts Douglas Prothero and Lars Clasen, in collaboration with funds managed by Oaktree Capital Management, LP.
The Ritz-Carlton will provide luxury hospitality service under a long-term operating agreement. General reservations open in May 2018.
Recent research from The Ritz-Carlton’s database reveals that 405,000 Ritz-Carlton hotel guests have taken a cruise in the past year. Herve Humler, president and COO of Ritz-Carlton, expects the new brand to eventually welcome 36,000 luxury guests annually. So he’s confident the brand can effectively market to clients who already are both loyal to The Ritz-Carlton and are past luxury cruise guests. “That’s a position we want to be in,” he emphasizes.
Why is an iconic luxury hotel brand heading to sea? “Maybe I should have started 20 years ago” given the strong consumer interest, says Humler, but he insists: “It was important to find the right ship and the right partner who totally understands luxury.”
He and Prothero have been working together for more than four years to develop the luxury cruise yacht concept.
“The Ritz-Carlton is known for its legendary service and high standards,” says Prothero, who stresses that the hotel group’s Washington, D.C. staffers and the cruise collection’s veterans in Miami are collaborating as a team on the new brand development. He says several senior management appointments for the new brand — well-respected cruise industry veterans — will be announced soon.
A rendering of the marina bar shows an open layout
Clasen, the other managing director of The Ritz-Carlton Yacht Collection, is a veteran cruise industry executive formerly with AIDA Cruises and A-Rosa Cruises. He says the venture “will give new meaning to curated luxury travel.”
Humler says noted luxury travel advisors provided input about the top features, best design and amenities desired by their upscale clients for any new yachting product.
Look for itineraries that combine the lifestyle of The Ritz-Carlton’s luxury resorts and the casual freedom of a yachting vacation. The first ship’s itineraries are expected to be seven- to 10-day voyages and mostly point-to-point.
While specific itineraries weren’t public at press time, Humler stresses that the 623-foot-long vessels will be able to call at ports that larger ships can’t. The first ship, depending on the season, is expected to cruise the Mediterranean, northern Europe, the Caribbean and Latin America. Itineraries will go at a relaxed pace that includes overnight and day-time ports of call and a uniquely curated destination experience.
The ships will also have an aft marina or watersports platform. Pre- and post-cruise stay options will be available at The Ritz-Carlton’s properties across the globe.
Full-ship charters will also be offered, says Humler, adding that reservations for meeting planners and corporate / charter operators will open a bit earlier than general reservations.
The Suite Spot
Each vessel will have 149 suites. Humler notes that even the lead-in category of accommodations — 90 Veranda Suites on Decks 5 through 8 — will have a minimum of 312 square feet. Many of the luxurious accommodations, though have much more space, including 12 Veranda Duplex Suites on Decks 4 and 5 (700 square feet); 23 Superior Suites on Decks 6 and 8 (nearly 475 square feet); four Special Superior Suites on Deck 7 (570 square feet to 620 square feet); and 18 Signature Suites on Decks 7 and 8 (635 square feet). Balconies for all those add additional square footage as well.
The Ritz-Carlton’s yachts will have 149 suites, with a minimum of 312 square feet. Rendering above
Two 1,000-square-feet-plus duplex Penthouse Suites are aft on Deck 7, with almost 662 square feet of balcony space. Each can accommodate four guests.
Dining-wise, “we will have five food and beverage outlets, some that are small — for example, one with 15 tables, another with 20 tables, but really catering to the luxury market,” says Humler. He absolutely didn’t want fixed dining with set times, and an experience where guests felt rushed, stressing: “Let the guest decide where, and when, and what [they] want to eat.”
One dining stand-out is sure to be the restaurant by Sven Elverfeld of Aqua, the three Michelin-starred restaurant at The Ritz-Carlton, Wolfsburg.
The vessels will also have a signature Ritz-Carlton Spa, as well as a Panorama Lounge and wine bar, offering varied onboard entertainment.
Style-wise, look for an upscale product, a small-ship, high-end experience, but not an expedition product.
That said, the new Ritz-Carlton Yacht Collection won’t simply “transplant” its hotel brand onto a ship and call it a yachting experience. The yachts will offer one-of-a-kind curated destination-focused experiences (both onboard and ashore) through collaborations with local chefs, musicians and artists.