Review of Ritz-Carlton Cruises
Ritz-Carlton Cruises (officially "Ritz-Carlton Yacht Collection") is one of the industry's ultra-luxury cruise brands. This new cruise company is owned by Marriott International Inc. On June 22, 2017, the 5-star hotel brand announced its private luxury cruise line starting operations in 2019. The fleet consists of 3 newbuild vessels, with an option to expand to 5 ships.
Beginning in late 2019, the Ritz-Carlton cruise company (based in Miami USA / Coconut Grove) operates a fleet of all three yachts for its Ritz-Carlton Yacht Collection, based in Coconut Grove. The Yacht Collection venture company was created by Douglas Prothero (former CEO and founder of Canadian Maritime Group) and Lars Clasen (former President of AIDA Cruises).
The Ritz-Carlton cruise brand targets wealthy travelers familiar with the Ritz-Carlton hotel brand, as well as Asia's booming luxury cruising market. As fleet size, vessel capacity and onboard amenities, the company is in direct competition with the top-luxury brands Ponant (Artemis), RSSC Regent (NCLH Norwegian), Norwegian Yacht Voyages and Scenic (main competitors), SeaDream, Windstar (Anschutz Corporation). About 5% of the cruise industry's multi-billion dollar business belongs to luxury brands.
The Yacht Collection brand will most probably have its own loyalty program (different from Ritz-Carlton-owned hotels loyalty program where points are linked with Marriott Rewards or Starwood Preferred Guest status).
Ritz-Carlton’s cruise line investment is currently undisclosed. What is known so far is that much of it was financed by the global alternative investment firm Oaktree Capital Management. The firm is experienced in both hospitality and maritime sectors.
In November 2017, The Ritz-Carlton Yacht Collection signed an agreement with Rescompany Systems for implementation of Central Reservations Solution. The booking engine is developed by Rescompany Systems LTD. Its modules provide custom booking solutions for package deals - cruise, tour, hotel, air.
Each of the three yachts (identical sisterships) has passenger capacity 298, crew capacity 246, GT tonnage 24,000 tons and shipbuilding cost USD 225 million (EUR 190 million).
The 623 ft / 190 m long vessels are designed (by Tillberg Design, Sweden) as "mega yacht - small cruise ship" hybrids. Each of these custom-built yachts (dubbed "anti cruise ships") has as staterooms 149 balcony suites (with tall ceilings) includibg two Duplex Suites. The fore-located Owner Suites are the largest cabins, featuring floor-ceiling windows (for 270-degree views) and huge wraparound balcony (with private plunge pool).
The accommodations also include 27 Signature Suites, 18 Grand Suites, 12 Loft Suites and 90 Terrace Suites. The Lofts are duplexes, with bedrooms on their lower level, built so that the vessel could be all-balcony. Terrace Suites are easily combined to reduce the number of accommodations from 149 to 107 for Ritz-Carlton's charters.
The yachts are powered by MAN marine diesel engines, as opposed to the new trend of LNG-powered passenger vessels. The diesel electric propulsion is with common rail fuel injection providing better fuel efficiency at various speeds. The ship's propulsion consists of two Azipods - provided by ABB. Azipod D are azymuth thrusters ideal for smaller sized marine vessels as they require lower installed power.
- The unit's electric drive motor is installed in the pod and submerged outside the hull, thus allowing more space for passenger cabins. The pattended Azipod system also produces less vibration. The thrusters have ability to turn 360 degrees which increases the ship's maneuverability and allows access to ports without the need of tugboat assistance.
- The Azipods are part of ABB's medium voltage power plant. It also includes sensors producing realtime data that can be tracked from land-based facilities operated by by both ABB Operations Centers and the customer.
- The Azipod thruster is approx 10% more fuel-efficient in comparison to shaft line propulsion systems. This results in significant reduction of the vessel's operating costs and emissions. The lack of traditional rudders also allows the hull's hydrodynamics to be optimized.
Ritz-Carlton's shipbuilder is Barreras Shipyard (Vigo Spain). The keel-laying ceremony for the first vessel was held on January 11, 2018. The special ceremony was attended by Jose Garcia Costas (shipyard's Chairman), Fredrik Johannson (Tillberg Design's owner), Timthoy Grisius (Virgin's global real estate officer), Douglas Prothero (Ritz-Carlton Cruises' managing director).
The first ship was scheduled for delivery in late 2019. Cruise bookings opened in May 2018.
Onboard Experience - shipboard facilities and amenities
Ritz-Carlton's yacht cruising experiences include:
- Unique cruise itineraries around the world
- Modern, thoughtfully designed interiors
- Ultra-premium dining (5 venues), including: Aqua Restaurant by celebrity chef Sven Elverfeld (3 Michelin stars) who presides over Ritz-Carlton's "Aqua" restaurant in Wolfsburg, Germany; a main dining room (seating 140, designed with plenty of nooks, to look like ten small restaurants); Asian fusion restaurant; poolside grill; seafood grill. Intimate dining and drinking venues are with small seating capacity and opened around the clock (no assigned seats or fixed dining times). Passengers can eat whenever they want, rather than the traditional set meal times which are customary on other cruises.
- Other social spaces include the Living Room (the arrival space onboard), serving as a cafe and library. No show lounge or casino are available onboard.
- The Champagne Bar is an intimate cocktail lounge serving top labels from around the world along with premium Champagnes with caviar pairings.The
- The Humidor is an intimate lounge with fine, hand-rolled cigars and premium cognacs.
- Destination-based activities (onboard performances by local artists, musicians), itinerary-based gourmet cuisine (including dishes prepared by local chefs). Onboard entertainment includes live performances (jazz and classical) and professional (expert-led) lectures and media presentations. During each voyage, local talent (artists, guest lecturers or chefs) join for various entertainment throughout the trip. Wi-Fi is free.
- Premium amenities (such as Ritz-Carlton Spa). The spa is operated by Ritz-Carlton and has indoor/outdoor treatment rooms, each of them with its own private balcony. Guests are able to pick if they wish a treatment inside or out. There is also a medical wellness center, full-service Beauty Lounge, and a Gentleman’s Grooming Salon. The fitness is an indoor/outdoor spot with equipment inside, yoga and relaxation spaces outside.
- The ships have whirlpools, as well as deep and shallow pools. An infinity-style pool is located aft, with a current within for exercise.
- The Ritz-Carlton ships feature a marina-style watersports platform (aft-location), providing direct access to the water. It is also used for open-air parties and events. A selection of water toys are available for guests to use.
- Glass doors open to the sweeping staircase leading to the Lido / pool deck (located aft / on the ship's stern). At the marina are launched the yacht's seakayaks and paddleboards. The connection to the outdoors continues with an indoor/outdoor solarium which looks more like a cosy lounge than the usual ship solarium.
- There is an open-air deck space (Marina Bar) with 270-degree panoramic views and covered by a retractable glass roof. It is operated as al fresco dining lounge by day and as a disco nightclub in the evening.
- Due to fire and safety regulations, most of the onboard spaces are sectioned off and subdivided, with walls dividing restaurants from lounges and bars. Ritz-Carlton ships pioneer an open floorplan concept (“fluid and transparent”) designed to “break down the traditional boundaries between dining and drinking areas".
- Above the Sun Deck there is a helipad. The ship also carries its own helicopter and a speedboat.
Itinerary of Ritz-Carlton Cruises
Ritz-Carlton cruise itineraries range from 7- to 10-days and also include overnight ports of call. According to Doug Prothero (company's managing director), the first ship will be seasonally deployed in Europe, Canada New England, Caribbean and Latin America, with Transatlantic repositioning crossings. The second ship will be deployed in Canada (St Lawrence River and Great Lakes. The third ship will be based in the South Pacific.
Ritz-Carlton offers industry's first "cruise and land vacation" deals provided by a single operator. The deals include pre- and post-voyage stays in Ritz-Carltons hotels in port cities. The new brand's mega-yacht voyages combine Ritz-Carlton’s resort experience with casual yachting vacation. The itineraries visit many unique locations not accessible to larger cruise vessels.
The yachts can also be privately chartered.
Inaugural cruise 2020 itineraries
Ritz-Carlton Cruises fleet deployment as inaugural itineraries and shore excursions (in 5 categories) includes (departure dates are not announced yet):
- "Christmas Cruise" (Caribbean) - ports St Barths, St Maarten, Martinique, Union Island
- "New Year Cruise" (Caribbean) - ports Jost van Dyke Island, Tortola Island, Antigua, Monserrat Island
- Caribbean Yachtman's Voyage - ports Scarborough, St Georges Grenada, Union Island, Canouan Island, Bequia
- "Christening Voyage" (Caribbean) - ports Dominican Republic (Samana, Santo Domingo), Puerto Rico (San Juan , Vieques), Nevis Island, Guadeloupe, Martinique (Fort-de-France)
- "Caribbean Yachtman's Voyage" (Caribbean) - ports Monserrat Island, Nevis Island, Norman Island, Tortola Island, St Barth Island
- "Caribbean Yachtman's Voyage" - ports Grenada (St Georges), Trinidad (Scarborough, Tobago Cays), Grenadines (Canouan Island, Union Island)
- "Transatlantic Repositioning Cruise" - from Caribbean to Canary Islands (Las Palmas, Arrecife)
- "Greek Isles Cruise" - to the islands Kythira, Santorini, Mykonos, Nafplion
- "Monaco F1 Race" (Mediterranean - French Riviera) - ports Monte Carlo, Cannes, Calvi, Marseilles, Cassis
- "French Riviera Highlights" (Mediterranean) - ports Villefranche-Nice, Antibes, St Tropez, Roses
- "Balearic Islands Yachtman's Voyage" (Mediterranean) - ports Ibiza, Formentera, Mahon, Soller, Palma de Mallorca
- "Return Home" (Mediterranean) Vigo, Bilbao, Biarritz, Bordeaux
- "Baltic Highlights" (Baltic) - Copenhagen, Tallinn, St Petersburg (Russia), Mariehamn (Aland Islands), Stockholm
In April 2018, Ritz-Carlton Yacht Collection pushed back its debut until February 1, 2020, when the vessel departs on a 4-day cruise from Fort Lauderdale FL. Previously, the company announced starting operations in November 2019. It still plans to take delivery of its first boat in 2019-Q4, but set the new date to coincide with "Super Bowl LIV" at Dolphins Stadium (Miami FL).
The debut cruise, that visits Key West and Bimini, kicks off a Caribbean program which extends through March 28, when the company has scheduled a 12-day transatlantic crossing out of Barbados to Lisbon.
The first Mediterranean cruise of Ritz-Carlton is an 8-day trip from Lisbon visiting Gibraltar, Valencia, Malaga, Ibiza, Palma de Mallorca. The still unnamed 298-guest ship then spends time in the Mediterranean through the end of June. On July 5 it's scheduled for a 9-day voyage from Bordeaux and visiting the French ports Belle Ile, St Malo, Honfleur; St. Peter Port in Channel Islands; and finishing in London UK.
From there, the cruise ship sails northern Europe prior to transiting from Iceland to Halifax, starting September 12. It sails Canada-New England itineraries, starting with a 7-day trip from Halifax. On October 27, the ship repositions to Caribbean again with a 9-day voyage from Boston to Nassau.
The new itineraries for Ritz-Carlton's inaugural season 2020 include voyages in:
- Caribbean: inaugural Caribbean season with a 5-night, roundtrip from Fort Lauderdale FL (February 1, 2020); a 10-night Fort Lauderdale to Barbados (February 5); a 7-night Barbados to Cartagena (February 15); and a 7-night Cartagena to Barbados (February 22). During the rest of the season, the company sails to St Lucia, San Juan, St Maarten, Cozumel.
- Mediterranean: Caribbean to Europe Transatlantic crossing, 12-night Barbados to Lisbon prior to the European season with an 8-night Lisbon to Palma de Mallorca cruise on April 9, 2020. From here, the ship starts 7-nights Valletta to Athens on April 26; 7-nights Athens to Venice May 3; 11-nights Venice to Rome May 10; and an 8-night roundtrip to Rome May 21. The rest of the season rounds out with cruises from Barcelona to Palma de Mallorca/Lisbon, and Lisbon to Bordeaux.
- Northern Europe: On July 5, 2020 starts the inaugural Northern Europe season with a 9-night Bordeaux to London itinerary. From here it sails a 9-night cruise from London to Hamburg July 14; a 7-night Hamburg to Copenhagen July 23; and a 10-night Copenhagen to Stockholm August 9. Then, it heads back to Copenhagen and sails to Edinburgh, Reykjavik, Halifax.
- Canada and New England: The inaugural year ends with voyages in Canada New England, starting in Halifax prior to the 7-night itinerary to Boston September 26, then a 12-night itinerary to Montreal (October 3), 12-night itinerary back to Boston (October 15) and 9-night Boston to Nassau (October 27).
Company's shore tour program ("Caribbean Shore Collection") is grouped into 5 categories - Active Explorations; Cultural Connections (wildlife); Iconic Sights (art and culture); Stirring the Senses (wellness); Epicurean Experiences. Passengers on each Ritz-Carlton cruise are able to work with dedicated Concierge Ashore. Overland Programs allow extended port destinations.
The 5 shore excursion categories are each created to track with the interests and activity levels of guests. All excursions take advantage of local guides and aim for a relaxed and highly personalized feel. The relaxed pace also extends to both daytime and overnight ports of call.
- Active Explorations category caters to those looking for outdoor adventure, like private sea kayak tour off Reykjavik's coast or swimming with turtles in Tobago Cays.
- Cultural Connections category provides opportunities to give back, like via spending a day helping to protect the natural environment or wildlife.
- The Iconic Sights includes chances to explore the historical, architectural and cultural elements of a destination.
- Stirring the Senses is focused on wellbeing and wellness, and may include sunrise/sunset yoga in the Grenadines.
- Epicurean Experiences is focused on culinary travel, like learning to grow baby oysters in private Sete farm or a winery visit in Bordeaux.
Concierge Ashore is also available to help craft "bespoke experience on land", which includes insider access to popular attractions or exploring local communities with private guides.
Cruise fares include accommodations, multiple dining venues, onboard activities and entertainment, gratuities and Wi-Fi. Cruise prices vary upon the season and itinerary.
- Ritz-Carlton's Shore Collection tours are in intimate group sizes, and most of them can be personalized. A Concierge Ashore is available to create custom-made experiences for passengers.
- Highlights of line's Caribbean Shore Collection include a tour of Aruba Aloe (one of the first companies in the world to formulate and manufacture skin & hair products with the plant) in Oranjestad, paired with aloe-based treatment at Ritz-Carlton Spa, Aruba.
- In Colombia, the brand offers Bogota overland itinerary. The overnight trip allows passengers to experience the colonial district of the city, including the presidential mansions, museums dedicated to gold and Botero, and an evening outing to Monserrate, hilltop church offering views over the city. A number of dining experiences are also offered, like a cooking class with local chef following a trip to Plaza de Paloquemao fruit & flower market.
- An Active Explorations itinerary in Belize includes a chartered aircraft take off out of Belize City, offering flightseeing over Lighthouse Reef, Mountain Pine Ridge Forest Reserve and Great Blue Hole. The airplane will then land in the jungle at an exclusive resort for wine & food pairing 4-course lunch.
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