Ritz-Carlton Goes To Sea
An Insider’s Perspective

by Vanessa Lee

Douglas Prothero, Managing Director,
The Ritz-Carlton Yacht Collection

Lars Clasen, Managing Director,
The Ritz-Carlton Yacht Collection

RCYC Exterior

RCYC Exterior

RCYC Aft Marina

RCYC Duplex Suite

RCYC Grand Suite

RCYC Living Room

RCYC Marina Bar

RCYC Observation Lounge

For me, the recent announcement from Ritz-Carlton about its entry into the luxury cruise space with three beautiful 298-guest yachts was not a surprise. I have been lucky enough to be involved in focus groups – participating and facilitating – over a 3-plus year period as the design, concepts and onboard experience for the Ritz-Carlton Yacht Collection were being created.

Being in on the ground floor when discussing the style and sense of the yachts has been extraordinarily rewarding. Sworn to secrecy of course along with some industry colleagues from the retail side, we have been discussing what life on board will be like. How will guests perceive and enjoy the brand? How many restaurants and the types of cuisine (great choices for sure), the size of the suites (bigger all the time) and how to ensure they all have balconies – and they will.

It’s been very exciting to see how the yachts changed and what was kept, what was discarded and how challenges in yacht-building were overcome. The expert travel professionals with whom the focus groups were held really know their stuff and it was a privilege to engage with them and bounce ideas around. Certainly at times there were spirited and robust discussions, because as you know, we all have our opinions on what will make the difference in this yacht concept. I promise to unveil more as I am able and won’t be shot at dawn for doing so!

Fortuitously, I was also in New York City the day of the launch announcement and was delighted to share in a celebratory bottle of champagne with Doug Prothero, a lovely Canadian chap with deep roots in the biz who is one of the Managing Directors for The Ritz-Carlton Yacht Collection.

Doug and his colleagues, including fellow MD Lars Clasen, will run the company in conjunction with Ritz management. They bring years of experience in various sectors of the cruise business and their pedigrees are impeccable. 

The first yacht will be welcomed in late 2019 in Europe after being crafted at a Spanish ship yard. Sales for FIT guests will open in May 2018 for the inaugural season and I expect there will be a mad dash for your clients to be some of the first to experience this new ship concept. And with just 298 guests and suites similar in style and design across the yacht, the Ritz Yacht Collection will be an ideal brand for full- and half-ship charters.

How will these yachts offer something unique? It starts with the renowned Ritz-Carlton service ethic– “Ladies and Gentlemen being served by Ladies and Gentlemen.” A curated onboard and shore experience will be shaped to guest preferences and the ship ambience will be wonderfully relaxed yet elegant. 

There will be exceptional dining with a wide choice of options, details of which will be rolled out over the next months. What I can tell you is that the dining will be superb with a variety of styles and tastes from casual to exquisite. Highly regarded Chef Sven Elverfeld of Aqua, the three Michelin-starred restaurant at the Ritz-Carlton in Wolfsburg, Germany, will have a signature restaurant on board as an example. 

The yachts will offer an all-inclusive onboard experience with fine wines, liquors and champagne included, as well as gratuities. If guests wish to purchase even higher premium wines they will be able to do so. A Ritz-Carlton Spa will provide pampering services and there will be sexy bars, lounges, pools and hot-tubs. A marina and loads of outdoor space will add to the aesthetic. Add port calls at tony, intimate ports around the world and, well, you get the picture. 

Suites – all with balconies and in several categories including two fab duplex-suites -- will be designed with every guest amenity and need in mind. Lavish yacht-club décor will be designed by famed Tillberg Design of Sweden, which brings outstanding credentials in the luxury cruise ship design. At the heart of the concept is a glamorous, yet very yacht-like feel. A casual sensibility, but a stand-above-the-crowd feel as well. The Ritz-Carlton Yacht Collection is not going to be a pretentious brand – it is simply one of the world’s finest hotel and hospitality companies venturing seaward with some absolutely gorgeous yachts.

RCYC will focus on destination enrichment and immersion with overnights in port and eclectic and delightful shore experiences designed to ensure total guest satisfaction and a high repeat factor. The company will be very travel advisor friendly of course, as Ritz-Carlton is now, but it naturally has a deep pool of potential guests to draw from with the Ritz, Marriott and now Starwood hotel programs all connected.  

This is a winner. As one who has been privy to the development of the brand and the careful, thoughtful development process I am captivated by the concept. Ritz-Carlton Yacht Collection will be a welcome addition to this level of cruising – indeed yachting -- and will no doubt be a wonderful success.

 




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