Clearly, entry into the Luxury Cruise business requries thought, planning, money, facilities and travelers. The first ship plans to have 12,000 guests to reach 90% of capacity. The ships will carry 298 passengers, which is about half the number of guests that Vidanta Alegria could accommodate.
By Jeff Weinstein on 6/22/2017
More than four and a half years in the making, The Ritz-Carlton Hotel Co. has announced its entry into the luxury yachting and cruise arena with plans to sail three cruisers under the The Ritz-Carlton Yacht Collection starting in Q4 2019.
Ritz-Carlton, which just opened an office in Coconut Grove, Florida, for the new endeavor, is providing key money, according to brand President and COO Herve Humler, and will provide long-term management services and staffing for its fees. Its partners are maritime experts Douglas Prothero and Lars Clasen, in collaboration with funds managed by Oaktree Capital Management.
The second boat is scheduled to set sail in Q1 2021 and the third in Q1 2022. Humler told HOTELS they have an option to develop two more yachts but, of course, he said he wants to get the first three underway before considering more. Humler added that he wants to take The Ritz-Carlton brand to the air next, but only preliminary conversations have taken place.
The Ritz-Carlton will also provide sales and marketing expertise to the cruise venture, along with revenue management and reservations. “We provide support with who we know – the travel agent, meeting planners, etc.,” Humler added. “And we will do 100% of the hospitality side… All I needed to is fill up the ship with 12,000 guests per year to run 90% occupancy. I can market to Ritz-Carlton guests who have cruised. We think it is a natural and as we all focus on experiences, what a great opportunity to offer this brand extension to our customers.”
The specially designed small capacity vessel will measure 190-meters, accommodate up to 298 passengers, and feature 149 suites, each with its own private balcony. The yacht will also feature two 138 square-meter duplex penthouse jointly designed by The Ritz-Carlton and cruise ship design firm Tillberg Design of Sweden. With the largest cabins in the cruise business and Michelin-starred chefs leading the F&B offerings, Humler said The Ritz-Carlton Yacht Collection will be the highest priced ticket in the cruise business.
Voyages will range from seven to 10 days with the first ship cruising a variety of destinations depending on the season, including the Mediterranean, Northern Europe, the Caribbean and Latin America. Due to the intimate size of the vessel, the yacht will call at locations typically not accessible to large cruise ships, from Capri and Portofino to St. Barths and the old town of Cartagena. Guests will be offered curated destination experiences with local chefs, musicians and artists.
The first yacht will feature a restaurant by Sven Elverfeld of Aqua, the three Michelin-starred restaurant at The Ritz-Carlton, Wolfsburg, Germany; a Ritz-Carlton Spa; and a Panorama Lounge and wine bar for entertainment. There are other dining venues all-inclusive to guests, including an Asian fusion restaurant; a main restaurant, which will feature international cuisine; a poolside grill that is centered on fish and steak; and 24-hour in room dining service.
Reservations will open in May 2018.
Our takeaway is the following:
- Based upon Ritz Carlson's experience, it seems reasonable that it will be at least two years before Grupo Vidanta is ready to set sail.
- Planning, staffing and training will require effort and good timing.
- Facilities will have to be superior to compete.