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The Ritz-Carlton Takes on the Seven Seas

A first look at the hotel brand’s new venture in luxury cruising

Images courtesy of The Ritz-Carlton

One of the foremost names in luxury hotels is taking to sea. The Ritz-Carlton today announced its plans to launch a niche cruise product called the Ritz-Carlton Yacht Collection—the first hotel company to create such an offering on a major scale, with three custom-built superyachts.

Set to debut its first ship in November 2019, the Ritz-Carlton Yacht Collection hopes to attract luxury travelers by offering larger suites to fewer passengers and having more specialized itineraries and experiences than traditional cruise companies. “We are opening up a whole new world of opportunities for the Ritz-Carlton,” says Hervé Humler, the brand’s president and COO.

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The project is the first of its kind, but it’s by no means a prototype. Humler says the brand has explored creating a yacht product for more than 10 years, but cites the surge in luxury travel in recent years, the increase in the number of high net worth individuals and the cruise industry’s steady growth as reasons for launching the collection now. “We also believe that the intimate, yacht-style nature of our offering will attract guests who wouldn’t have considered a cruise vacation before,” he says.

To steer its entrance into this sector of hospitality, Ritz-Carlton partnered with cruise industry veterans Lars Clasen, owner of the German river cruise company A-Rosa, and Douglas Prothero, a longtime consultant in shipping and maritime industries. “We’re maritime specialists with over 90 years of combined experience,” Prothero says.

There’s no question that the cruise industry is one of the hottest sectors in travel. According to research by Cruise Lines International Association, a trade group, demand for cruising increased by more than 62 percent from 2005 to 2015, and this year nearly 26 million passengers are expected worldwide.

“There is currently only a handful of small [less than 300-passenger] luxury ships in operation,” says Humler, “and those ships are each more than 20 years old. We saw a void in the luxury cruise market.”

Designed by Swedish cruise specialist firm Tillberg Design, each Ritz-Carlton yacht is 623 feet long and features 149 suites ranging from 312 to over 1,000 square feet, all with private balconies. That size not only guarantees fewer passengers—a maximum of 298—and more comfort, but it also makes the ships suitable for cruising to smaller ports not accessible by larger boats, such as Portofino, Capri and St. Barths, or in North America the towns along the St. Lawrence River, Toronto and even Chicago. The ships will feature five restaurants, including one by three Michelin-starred German chef Sven Elverfeld. Other amenities include a full Ritz-Carlton spa, swimming pools and a marina-style platform with direct access to the water.

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Another point of difference is the experience, which Prothero says will be slower paced and with more personalized shore experiences. Though itineraries are still in the works—Ritz-Carlton will begin making reservations in May 2018—passengers will have the opportunity to explore their ports of call with renowned lecturers, local musicians, artists and chefs. “It’s really about taking guests into the destination rather than to the destination,” he says.

For more information, visit ritzcarlton.com

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