When the first of three Ritz-Carlton yachts sets sail in February 2020, it will be the first time a luxury hotel brand has ventured into the world of cruising. Two more yachts are expected to launch the following year; all three are being built at the Barreras Shipyard in Vigo, Spain in collaboration with Tillberg Design of Sweden, a leading design firm.
“Our goal is to introduce the legendary Ritz-Carlton service to luxury yachting, while also redefining curated travel at sea,” says Lisa Holladay, Global Brand Leader for The Ritz-Carlton. “An increased demand in the luxury cruise space inspired us to capitalize on the niche market of small ship cruising, which we are excited to bring to our guests.”
As travelers search for more authentic, bespoke experiences, small ship cruising offers many appeals. With fewer than 300 passengers, the Ritz-Carlton yachts will feel intimate and offer a highly personalized experience. The size of the yachts will allow them to enter remote ports that can’t be reached by larger ships.
To find out more details about this foray, Forbes.com interviewed Douglas Prothero, Managing Director of the Ritz-Carlton Yacht Collection, by email:
Can you describe the ships? Why are they called yachts?
The ships were created to offer an onboard experience that reflects the exceptional comfort and unparalleled level of individualized service to guests for which the Ritz-Carlton brand is celebrated, and to deliver excursions that feel similar to that of a private yacht.
The Ritz-Carlton Yacht Collection will have the highest staff to guest service ratio in the cruise industry. Extending 190 meters, the yacht will have 149 suites, each with a private terrace, and will accommodate up to 298 passengers.
The ships will also offer a signature Ritz-Carlton Spa, and a restaurant by three Michelin-starred chef Sven Elverfeld of The Ritz-Carlton, Wolfsburg. One of my favorite elements of the yachts is the marina style platform that will allow guests direct ocean access, whether they want to enjoy watersports or just take a swim.
What types of itineraries are planned?
Itineraries have been carefully designed with a yachting lifestyle in mind. Stopping at both intimate and signature destinations, most voyages range from 7-10 nights and no two itinerary routes will be alike. We also have developed a special Escapes of Discovery offer, which invites guests to choose either a 4- or 5-night voyage, for those who do not have time for longer journeys, or who are new to cruising and would like to dip their toes into luxury yachting with a shorter trip.
The Ritz-Carlton Yacht Collection experience will be completely unique, setting it apart from larger cruise ships and expedition cruises. Our first yacht will visit destinations including the Caribbean, the Mediterranean and Northern Europe, Latin America, Canada and the Northeastern United States. The relaxed pace of the itineraries allows both daytime and overnight ports of call, giving guests more flexibility at these destinations.
Complementing our unique itineraries, shore excursion tracks will be thematically crafted—under the categories of Iconic Sights, Stirring the Senses, Cultural Connections, Active Explorations, and Epicurean Experiences—so guests can easily choose a category that fits their interests and activity levels. Our guests will enjoy everything from visits to a winery in Bordeaux with the yacht’s sommelier to learning to grow baby oysters in France, and much more.
For any guests seeking an even more personalized way to explore a city, we will have a dedicated concierge available to help create bespoke experiences on land.
What niche in the cruising market have you identified to be filled?
Consumers seeking this level of service and personalization have been underserved.
I believe The Ritz-Carlton Yacht Collection is ready to fill that void. Our target market includes adventure seekers, culture aficionados and travel enthusiasts looking for a yachting experience that is singular by design. Our itineraries can truly accommodate every age and preference.
Since gastronomy and wellness have become so integral to luxury cruising, describe the ship’s culinary orientation and spa/wellness program?
There will be five dining venues onboard, including an Asian Fusion restaurant, a main restaurant featuring a variety of international cuisine, a poolside grill centered on fish and steak, a casual lounge area with international offerings and Aqua, our signature restaurant by Chef Elverfeld, which will be one of many highlights of the yacht. We will also offer 24-hour in-suite dining options.
The spa will be designed and operated by Ritz-Carlton with both indoor and outdoor treatment rooms, relaxation areas, and state-of-the-art fitness equipment.
How will service and pricing compare to the competition?
Intimate, highly personalized and ultra-luxury experience will put The Ritz-Carlton Yacht Collection in a league of its own. Our yachts will be one of the smallest, most luxurious products in the market, and the size of our yachts will allow greater opportunities for exploration at more intimate ports, such as Monte Carlo, Portofino, the island towns of Corsica and the Balearics.
In addition to offering a higher percentage of larger suites than any competitor, we will offer several innovative duplex suites suitable for in-suite entertaining. We’ll be able to combine certain suites into larger spaces by removing soundproof, blind wall sections, affording guests more flexibility in their accommodations. The legendary service provided by the Ladies and Gentlemen of The Ritz-Carlton will also set us apart. We have almost one crew member for every guest.
Pricing for the 2020 inaugural season falls in line with the all-inclusive luxury cruise market. For example, 7-night cruises in the Caribbean start at $4,600 per person, while 7-night cruises in the Mediterranean start at $5,800 per person. The yachts are also available for private charter.
The Ritz-Carlton Yacht Collection is operated under license from The Ritz-Carlton Hotel Company, L.L.C. Reservations for the February 2020 sailing opened about one month ago. For more information, including itineraries, stateroom categories and pricing, see: The Ritz-Carlton Yacht Collection.
By: Irene S. Levine/ Forbes