Gary Buchanan is in port as the luxury hotel brand sets out to make a splash at the top end of the market.
The much anticipated keel-laying of Ritz-Carlton Yacht Collection’s inaugural ship took place in January at the Hijos De J Barreras shipyard in Vigo, marking the first venture into cruise for the luxury hotel operator.
Witnessing the initial 118-tonne module being lowered into place in the building dock were José García Costas, chairman of the shipyard; Tim Grisius, global real estate officer for Marriott International; Fredrik Johansson, owner and executive project director at Tillberg Design; and Doug Prothero, managing director of the Ritz-Carlton Yacht Collection.
Speaking to Cruise Adviser at the event, Prothero said: “The keel-laying marks the realisation of a long- standing dream for the Ritz-Carlton brand. This is the first cruise ship built at HJ Barreras – the largest privately-owned shipyard in Spain.
We decided on this shipyard because of their quality of work, delivery time and their transparent approach to the build process.”
This liner, the first of three all-inclusive, 190m-long luxury yachts, is scheduled to enter service late next year. Each ship will have 149 suites accommodating a total of 298 guests who will be looked after by a crew of 246.
As one of the most prestigious names in hospitality, it’s no surprise that Ritz-Carlton turned to Tillberg Design, among the world’s leading marine architecture and interior design companies, to draw up the plans for its yachts.
“This is a new breed of ship,” Johansson said. “The opportunity to design The Ritz-Carlton Yacht Collection has been extremely exciting as we have been able to create a whole new brand from scratch. With their long, sleek and elegant exterior, Ritz-Carlton yachts are designed to turn heads and will look like no other cruisers in port.”
The new venture certainly seems to have caused a stir in the industry. “Since we issued a single-page press release in June it has garnered three billion media impressions and been the leading cruise story globally,” declared Prothero. He puts this phenomenal interest down to three factors: the power of the Ritz-Carlton brand, the unique hybrid design of the yachts and the growth in the cruise market itself.
“The Ritz-Carlton Yacht Collection has significant brand equity and can bring new customers into cruise,” he said. “Based on our current market- penetration trends, we anticipate the number of cruise passengers globally to grow by four per cent annually through to 2020.”
Accommodation on the yachts will range from 28.9 sq m suites to a pair of penthouse suites at 100 sq m (plus a 50 sq m veranda). There will also be 12 duplex suites. To increase the sense of space, most suites will have a ceiling height of almost 2.6m. Interiors will take their cues from contemporary properties such as the Ritz-Carlton residences in Sunny Isles, Florida, and on Olympic Boulevard, Los Angeles.
There will be five dining venues, the largest of which will be divided into smaller spaces resembling a fine-dining venue on shore. These include a 30-seat concept by Sven Elverfeld, an extension of Aqua, the three Michelin-star restaurant that he runs at the Ritz-Carlton in Wolfsburg. In addition there will be the Marina Grill: a casual, Asian-fusion venue specialising in seafood. All of the restaurants with the exception of Aqua will offer the choice of inside
or alfresco dining.
Bucking the trend found on other small cruise ships there will be no show-lounge or casino; however the ship will have a number of intimate entertaining areas such as the panorama lounge and wine bar. There will also be a spa where each treatment room benefits from its own private veranda.
Like any oligarch’s super-yacht there will be a beach club at the stern of the Ritz-Carlton ships. The platform will stay in a permanent lowered position offering access to the ocean by a few steps whenever the vessel is at anchor.
Reservations for the first of three yachts in the collection open in
May. The first ship will cruise to a variety of destinations including the Mediterranean, northern Europe, the Caribbean and Latin America. The second yacht will also offer a Great Lakes itinerary between Montreal and Chicago, while it is expected that the third yacht will be deployed in the Asia-Pacific region.
Targeting the top one per cent of global travellers and offering one-of-a-kind onboard amenities and experiences, Prothero is convinced the company is on course to redefine luxury at sea.