Vanessa with Elie Sassine, Director, Sales & Marketing, Ritz Carlton Hotel YYZ, Kris Endreson & Gerry Koolhof, New Wave Travel
On Tuesday at the Ritz-Carlton in Toronto (naturally), the new Ritz-Carlton Yacht Collection was unveiled to a small group of travel partners – many from the MICE side of the business.
The company’s first foray into Canada was timely as Kris Endreson, Senior Director, Sales for RCYC (my acronym) unveiled a great deal of information about the first yacht and the business proposition for travel professionals. When this unique brand was revealed mid-2017 it soon became the number one global travel story in 2017 – so clearly there is huge interest across the spectrum.
Here are what I feel are the most important points about this exciting new cruise offering and what you need to know. Point one: RCYC is agent-friendly but is not giving away the farm – by any means. The expectation, rightly so, is that demand will far outpace the number of suites available during the first year of sailing, at the least.
The first yacht will now arrive in February 2020 with a second to follow a year later, and bookings will open this June. In the meantime, the company is working on charter requests and yacht buy-outs, but once individual bookings open up no more charter requests will be confirmed if there are guests already booked on a specific date. That is a promise and a good one at that.
Prior to the general booking kick-off in June, priority access will be given to Ritz-Carlton Reward members, beginning 21MAY for a three-week period. Interested clients have to register in APR for this access period. When they book, providing they give RCYC the name of their agent/agency, the booking will be confirmed back to the agency and commission eventually paid two weeks post-sailing. Commissions will start at 10% with opportunities to obtain up to 15% plus a 1% override for sales in an 18-month period that exceed US$700K.
For more information, you can check out the RCYC agent portal, and sign up for business terms and conditions and further travel partner information. You can also get your clients registered for the access period. The portal also features FAQs and recorded webinars.
Looking ahead, there will be at least three Ritz-Carlton yachts and there is already chatter of two more down the road. At 26,500 tonnes, the sister yachts will offer 149 suites for a maximum of 298 privileged and pampered guests. There will be a staff of 246 which means the service will undoubtedly be superb. As it should be.
Consider those of your clients/Ritz guests who may not have considered cruising (or yachting this way) before. Research shows that there are 400,000 Ritz/Marriott guests who have cruised and likely will be very keen to try yachting while putting on the Ritz.
But what I believe is even more interesting are all those high-end clients you have who are Ritz and Marriott, the Residences and high-end Starwood hotel guests – the Luxury Collection and St Regis etc., who have not yet cruised and who will be intrigued by this option on the water. That could be a real opportunity for you. The opening price range appears to start at US$5600 per person for a seven-day cruise, which is in line with other luxury ships/yachts. Also, many itineraries will provide back-to-back opportunities with a 5% discount for taking two or more sailings in succession.
More on the yachts: there will be five dining venues, one of which will be à la carte and named Aqua, led by three-star Michelin Chef Sven Elverfeld from the Ritz Wolfsburg property. A main restaurant, one more casual, an outdoor and an Asian fusion dining spot cover the rest and three will have al fresco options. Like the yacht, none have yet been named. Naturally there will be 24-hour in-suite room service and the yacht will be all-inclusive with all beverages of fine quality included as well as gratuities and Wi-Fi.
All suites offer a terrace, although some are called Duplex Suites with a bedroom on the lower level and the living space on the upper deck with a terrace from the second level.
Ritz-Carlton Yacht Collection is justifiably proud of a few things on this yacht, one of which is that they have more “Master Suites” (larger and more impressive suites) than other similar, competitive ships. Forty percent of accommodations fall into these grand onboard spaces, which all come with an expansive residential feel. Owner’s Suites are 1100 sq. ft. while Signature Suites are at 400 sq. ft. and entry level Terrace Suites will come in at 316 sq. ft. plus the terrace. Many of the suites can also be combined with removable walls (and beds) so the actual guest count could be a lot lower than 298 if some choose that option.
Other key differentiating factors which will intrigue future guests: a full-fledged marina with steps going down into the water and which can then be flipped to create a diving platform; non-motorized watersport toys such as paddle boards, sail boats and snorkeling equipment on port days. This is also one of three onboard spaces that can accommodate all guests at once for cocktails and such – noteworthy for the charter market.
Another point – a lovely spa and with an option for outside services on private terraces. A massage outside on a sea day – how super is that?
There are pools, whirlpools, a Champagne Bar, lots of other bars and lounges, a wonderful outdoorsy yacht feel and great design by noted Tilberg of Sweden – the best of the best.
The essence of these yachts is to deliver a wonderful experience to guests who expect the best, delivered in a certain style. There will be showcase events on shore too – dubbed The Shore Collection -- and myriad ways to ensure guests are more than happy with onboard service and sensibility.
The RCYC vessels will cruise to coveted yachting destinations and smaller ports and harbours. They kick off in the Caribbean, then to the Med, the Baltic and Canada, New England and back to the Caribbean (think St. Barts, the BVI and the Grenadines) and the second yacht will come into the Great Lakes via Montreal and Toronto too with similar itineraries to the first but a more expanded port selection. The third yacht is destined for an Asian launch by 2022.
Like its famed hotel properties on land, the Ritz-Carlton Yacht Collection will aim to deliver a singular experience at sea – stirring the senses, offering iconic sights and delivering epicurean and cultural delights. Who wouldn’t want those experiences!
Vanessa Lee Columnist
An internationally-known luxury cruise expert, Vanessa is publisher and editor of Cruise and Travel Lifestyles magazine. She contributes a column every other Friday for OJ’s Splash News and appears with Nina on the bi-monthly video Cruise Factor.