Ritz-Carlton is planning to set sail with its own fleet of custom-built luxury yachts offering bespoke cruises with 7- and 10-day itineraries.
Each of the 190m custom-built modern-decor yachts will be able to accommodate up to 298 passengers with 149 balcony suites, and provide activities with local chefs – one of the restaurants is being developed by three-star Michelin chef Sven Elverfeld, from the Aqua Restaurant in the Ritz-Carlton Hotel in Wolfsburg, Germany – artists and musicians, and will include a Ritz-Carlton Spa.
Doug Prothero, managing director of the Ritz-Carlton Yacht Collection, told CNN, “It’s a hybrid between luxury cruising and yachting.”
“As one of the smallest, ultra-luxury cruise ships in the market, we will have a ‘marina-style’ platform that will offer direct access to the water, similar to those found on superyachts,” Herve Humler, the Ritz-Carlton’s President and Chief Operating Officer, said in an interview with Forbes.
The first cruise is scheduled to launch at the end of 2019 (reservations open May 2018 although fares and itineraries have not yet been determined) and will travel the Mediterranean, Northern Europe, Canada, Latin America and the Caribbean, and the New England area. The second ship will sail the St Lawrence River and the Great Lakes while the third ship will likely be based in the Pacific.
“The size of our yachts will give us the ability to access and explore smaller ports that larger cruise ships can’t access, such as Portofino, Nice, the Lipari Islands, and St Barts,” said Mr Humler.
Although the Ritz-Carlton’s last encounter with “ocean-going travel” was early in the twentieth century, when master chef and founder of the César Ritz, Auguste Escoffier, opened Ritz-Carlton restaurants on ocean liners, the company has been contemplating its entry into the cruise industry for some 12 years, and claims that “405,000 of its guests said in 2016 that they had taken a cruise”.
The company is “hoping to attract those that are new to cruising, guests who would not consider a mainstream cruise but would entertain a highly-curated yacht style experience with Ritz-Carlton”.
“We anticipate interest from the US and European markets right away, and will also focus on attracting guests from China and Japan.”
This will add some waves to the luxury yacht cruise segment, which includes Monaco’s Silversea Cruises, France’s Ponant, Seadream Yacht Club, Windstar Cruises and Crystal’s Esprit.
The Ritz-Carlton Yacht Collection team has been set up in Miami to take charge of this “brand extension”. Mr Humler said that “we are excited to have recruited some of the best in the cruising business who truly understand this industry. The Ritz-Carlton will run the hospitality experience on board the yachts. Our finance partner in this is Oaktree Capital. (We do) not have equity in this venture.”
In addition to penthouse suites on Ritz-Carlton vessels, there will be four different categories and sizes: 14 Signature Suites (550 sqft, balcony 161 sqft), 12 Veranda duplex suites (602 sqft, balcony 64 sqft), 32 Superior Suites (344 sqft, balcony 118 sqft) and 88 Veranda Suites (301 sqft, balcony at 64 sq ft).