(5:05 p.m. EST) – Ritz Carlton Yacht Collection revealed a host of details about its new small-ship cruises, which debut in 2019 with the line's first 298-passenger luxury vessel.
At a press conference at Seatrade, Managing Director Douglas Prothero outlined a sailing experience meant to be more like a superyacht than a cruise, with itineraries built around small, out-of-the-way destinations where the luxury vessel is as appealing as the places it goes.
"You need to learn about the pace (of a yacht)," he said. "How many islands do you really want to cover? On a yacht, you want to take your time, slow down and get into the destination."
Ritz Carlton currently plans a fleet of three identical ships; the first will be named in December at a luxury travel conference. Here are some of the features Prothero outlined about the new brand:
The ships will be all-inclusive in nature, with alcoholic and non-alcoholic drinks available in the passengers' suites and throughout the yacht. Onboard gratuities and Wi-Fi will also be included in the fare.
Costwise, Ritz will be in line with other luxury cruises. A seven-day Mediterranean cruise will be $5,600 per person. There will be no waiver of the single supplement.
The ships will have five dining venues, and some of those spaces will feel truly intimate. The main restaurant has been designed with lots of nooks, so it feels like 10 small restaurants, Prothero said. In addition, there will be an Asian fusion restaurant, a poolside grill, casual dining and an a la carte restaurant called Aqua from celebrity chef Sven Elverfeld. In addition, in-suite dining will be available around the clock.
All suites on the ship will have balconies (or terraces, as Prothero described them). Even suites that are at the water level will have balconies, thanks to a duplex-style loft suite where the bedroom is on the ground floor with a window and stairs leading up to a sitting area with the terrace. Two Owners Suites will have whirlpools on their terraces.
To accommodate different traveler needs, the line specifically designed the suites so they can be combined with others to make larger or smaller cabins when needed -- for example, for a charter, Prothero said. All in all, the ship can go from 149 suites to 170 suites, which gives the vessel a lot of flexibility.
The Ritz ships will have a marina-style platform that can be used for open-air events and parties, as well as give passengers direct access to the water. A selection of water toys will be available for passengers to use.
The ship will have deep and shallow pools, as well as whirlpools; renderings show an infinity-style pool located aft. There will be a current within that pool for exercise, Prothero said.
The connection to the outdoors will continue with an indoor-outdoor solarium space that looks more like a cool lounge than the usual cruise ship solarium. The top-deck outdoor space will transform into a nightclub-style space at night.
Lounges and Spa
Other social spaces onboard will include the Living Room, which serves as a library and cafe. This will be the arrival space on the yacht, Prothero said; he expects that most booking and check-in will take place online before the cruise. There will be a lounge and wine bar with a variety of entertainment experiences, some of which will focus on local entertainers, lecturers, chefs and artists. There will be no show lounge and no casino.
The spa will be operated by the Ritz Carlton and have indoor/outdoor treatment rooms, each with its own balcony. Passengers will be able to pick if they want their treatment inside or out, Prothero said. There will also be a medical wellness center. The fitness center will be an indoor/outdoor space with equipment inside and a yoga and relaxation space outside.
The first yacht will debut in the Caribbean in November 2019 and sail there until March 2020. A typical Southern Caribbean cruise will focus on small islands that are current favorites on the yachting circuit; a sailing out of St. Lucia might stop in Bequia, Mustique, Canouan and Tobago Cays, Prothero said. The itineraries will also be set up so passengers can do back-to-back trips without repeating ports.
After the Caribbean, the ship will move to the Mediterranean from April 2020 to June 2020 before moving to northern Europe from July 2020 to September 2020. The ship will then move to Canada and New England for September and October 2020 before returning to the Caribbean for November 2020 and December 2020.
"It sounds 'cruisey' but the difference is the way we do it," Prothero said. "There will be fewer ports and more focus on the onboard experience."
Future Yachts and Outlook
The line is already thinking about its second and third vessels and where they will be deployed. The second one will likely spend summers on the St. Lawrence River and the Great Lakes, essentially taking passengers from the Ritz Carlton in Montreal to the Ritz Carlton in Chicago, Prothero said. The third ship will likely be deployed in the Pacific.
All in all, Ritz Carlton is extremely confident in its new sailing brand; signs show that the vessels will attract luxury cruisers who are ready for something different, as well as a younger demographic -- including many first-time cruisers, Prothero said.
"They look at this yacht and say, 'that's something that feels more like my style,'" he said.
--By Chris Gray Faust, Managing Editor