Ritz-Carlton: Mega-yachting venture carves out new industry niche

Ritz-Carlton: Mega-yachting venture carves out new industry niche

Opulent hotel giant Ritz-Carlton has glided into the water, making waves with clean, innovative design and nice-to-have features, writes Sara Macefield

Luxury hotel company Ritz-Carlton has been making waves in more ways than one with the unveiling of its first 298-guest mega-yacht under the new Ritz-Carlton Yacht Collection brand.

The 26,000-tonne vessel was launched in traditional style in October, when it rolled down the slipway of the Barreras Shipyard in Vigo, northern Spain, where it is being built, and splashed into the Atlantic ocean.

Between now and its debut in February 2020, the 149-suite super-yacht is being fitted out under the direction of Swedish ship architect and interiors specialist Tillberg Design to reflect the opulence and style of the upscale chain’s properties, but with a nautical twist to resemble an exclusive club.

Ritz-Carlton Yacht Collection chief executive Doug Prothero described the new venture as a yachting lifestyle product, adding: “We wanted to build something true to the Ritz-Carlton brand and we have a game-changing design.The quality of what we have put in the water is as good as you can get anywhere.”

The launch of the ship also coincided with the unveiling of mock-ups of the Grand Suite and entry-level Terrace Suite, which can be combined to form expansive accommodation containing two bedrooms or one bedroom and
a large living area.

Clean lines and contemporary furnishings in a palate of neutral shades of taupe, chocolate and fawn, interspersed with splashes of colour, give a definite Scandi no-frills feel to the decor, although there’s no doubting the quality finish.

A more innovative feature of the interconnecting suites is a moveable wall panel separating them, instead
of a door, which Prothero claimed to be a more substantial sound and privacy barrier when each suite was sold separately.

In the suites, there’s an emphasis on avoiding clutter and keeping controls simple, so light switches are contained on an intuitive panel; espresso machines are hidden on a sliding shelf within a cupboard; and additional furniture is stored in a hidden space in the wardrobe.

In keeping with the no-clutter theme, coffee tables are small and compact, although tabletops can be slotted on top for guests wishing to dine in their suite. En suite facilities are suitably opulent in ivory with wood effect and double vanity units.

There are six suite categories, which all come with private terraces and benefit from 24-hour in-suite dining. However, the super-yacht lays claim to the highest percentage of larger suites in luxury cruise – 106 in total when interconnecting suites are joined together – and more space per passenger than other ships, plus a crew-to-guest ratio of one to 1.21.

Public areas come with flowing spaces and neutral colours. There is no grand atrium – befitting its style as a private yacht – but it does come with a water-sports marina equipped with water toys and classic teak decks with spacious lounging areas, hot tubs and an aft deck infinity pool.

Prothero added: “There will be five dining venues, a spa and a fitness centre, but there is no show lounge and no casino, because we did not want them.

“Our guests are not interested in big shows; they want local, customised service. We will have performances and small groups, perhaps bring local culinary celebrities or authors on board.”

Excursions are similarly styled, described as “curated immersive destination experiences”, and tapping into the expertise of concierge teams at Marriott hotels in ports to offer more personalised and unusual options for passengers.

The ship’s first season will start in the Caribbean. It moves to the Mediterranean in April 2020 and Northern Europe from July that year, when it will call at Greenwich and Edinburgh.

Sailings generally range from seven to 10 nights, with Mediterranean prices starting at around £4,500pp.

This super-yacht is the first of up to eight for the new brand, with the second and third vessels due to debut in 2021. Its name is due to be revealed at the International Luxury Travel Market in Cannes in December.

“We think the limit is not how many we can sell, but how long this market is still a niche,” said Prothero.

“The luxury space is now building ships in the range of 800 to 1,000 berths. Ours is under 300, so barely touching it.”

Company bosses say they have been blown away by the public response since bookings opened in May, with demand claimed to be triple what was expected.

Cruise newcomers have accounted for at least half the total, with more than 30 per cent of bookings from existing Ritz-Carlton customers.

“We know there are more than 400,000 cruisers on the Ritz-Carlton database,” said Prothero.

“However, the response from new cruisers is bigger than we thought. Between the brand and the design, it is bringing people into cruise, which is great for the business, great for the industry and great for us.”

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