CHEVY CHASE, MD—The Ritz-Carlton Hotel Company LLC is entering a new hospitality space: luxury yachting and cruises.
The Ritz-Carlton Yacht Collection was created by Ritz-Carlton and maritime experts Douglas Prothero and Lars Clasen, in collaboration with funds managed by Oaktree Capital Management L.P. The first of three yachts in this series is scheduled to take to the sea in the fourth quarter of 2019.
“The Ritz-Carlton has been considering entering the cruise industry for many years, so it is exciting to see that dream becomes a reality. We also saw real opportunity within the luxury cruise market, with the number of global cruise passengers growing by an average of 8.5% annually since 1981. And in the past year alone, 405,000 Ritz-Carlton guests told us they had taken a cruise, which means that there is huge opportunity within our current customer base,” said Herve Humler, president and COO, The Ritz-Carlton Hotel Company LLC. “Meanwhile, there are currently only four small (less than 300 passengers) luxury ships that remain in operation and those ships are each 20-plus years old. So, we saw a void in the luxury cruise market and feel we are uniquely positioned to stand out in the ultra-luxury cruise space with top of the line service, intimate and modern ship design, and unique yacht-style itineraries.”
As the brand prepares to set sail into new territory, Humler anticipates being able to attract not only existing cruise customers, but also those that are new to cruising—guests who wouldn’t consider a mainstream cruise, but would entertain a highly curated yacht-style experience.
“We also believe that the intimate size of our yachts, compelling itineraries, and the ability to explore unexpected destinations will strongly appeal to millennial travelers, who are increasingly seeking travel experiences that allow them to immerse themselves in their destination without sacrificing comfort,” he said. “What is particularly exciting about this is that unlike a Ritz-Carlton hotel property, cruise ships are essentially floating, re-deployable resorts and there are not the typical constraints on growth that exist with hotel development such as limited site options, existing competitor locations, market saturation, etc. so we see an exciting future ahead for this endeavor.”
The first ship will cruise destinations depending on the season, including the Mediterranean, Northern Europe, the Caribbean and Latin America. The yacht will call at distinctive locations typically not accessible to large cruise ships, from Capri and Portofino, Italy to St. Barths and the old town of Cartagena, Colombia. Voyages will range from seven to 10 days. The Ritz-Carlton will also look for synergies to help integrate the yacht and on land experiences for guests.
“The Ritz-Carlton Yacht Collection opens up a whole new world of opportunities for The Ritz-Carlton such as pre-and post-voyage opportunities to link the sea with shore side properties and the chance to offer guests a new, and complete brand experience,” he said.
The small capacity vessel will measure 623 ft., accommodate up to 298 passengers and feature 149 suites, each with its own private balcony. The yacht will also have two duplex penthouse suites with interior finishes jointly designed by The Ritz-Carlton and cruise ship design firm, Tillberg Design of Sweden.
The Ritz-Carlton yacht will have a restaurant by Sven Elverfeld of Aqua, the three Michelin-starred restaurant at The Ritz-Carlton, Wolfsburg; a signature Ritz-Carlton Spa; and a Panorama lounge and wine bar.
“Additionally, the yacht will offer one-of-a-kind curated destination journeys through collaborations with local chefs, musicians and artists, allowing guests to experience the locations in unique and experiential ways, both on-board and ashore,” he said. “Itineraries will include renowned expert lecturers and dignitaries on topics of regional interest.”
Reservations will open May 2018. Private charter is available.