Ritz-Carlton Yacht Collection fleet
Review of Ritz-Carlton Yacht Collection
The Ritz-Carlton cruise brand (officially "The Ritz-Carlton Yacht Collection") is one of cruising industry's ultra-luxury new cruise companies (and travel brand) owned by Marriott International Inc. On June 22, 2017, the 5-star hotel brand Ritz-Carlton 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.
In March 2020, due to shipbuilding delays, Ritz-Carlton postponed cruise company's launch to April 22, 2021 (instead of February 1, 2020), when the ship Evrima will start its maiden voyage from Lisbon to Palma de Mallorca (Balearic Spain). All affected bookings received a full monetary refund (100% reimbursement of the fare paid). Independently booked flights and hotels were also fully reimbursed (for date changes or cancellation fees) and travel agents' commissions protected (cruise-only commissions for all cancelled voyages).
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 is led by Douglas Prothero (CEO, founder of Canadian Maritime Group) and Lars Clasen (Managing Director, former President of AIDA Cruises). Company's other senior executives include:
- Jethro Beck (Senior Director of Marine Operations, a former employee of Holland America Line and Seabourn)
- Matthieu Godard (Culinary Director, former Executive Corporate Chef for Bistrot Bagatelle / French restaurant chain)
- Matthew Kiner (Senior Manager of Food and Beverage Department (working for Ritz-Carlton Hotels since 2010)
- Soren Krogsgaard (VP of Newbuilding and Marine Operations, former Senior Project Manager for Costa Asia)
- Mario Martinez (Manager of Purchasing, former Silversea employee), Laura McCauley (Manager of Quality and Training, former Assistant Director of Human Resources for Ritz-Carlton Grand Cayman)
- Celine Moore (Manager of Enrichment)
- Reena Vadher (Senior Manager of Procurement, former sales manager with MSC and RCI-Royal Caribbean).
Ritz-Carlton's cruise brand targets travelers familiar with The Ritz-Carlton hotel brand, as well as Asia's booming luxury cruising market. As fleet size, vessel capacity and shipboard amenities, the cruise line is in direct competition with the top-luxury brands Ponant (Artemis), RSSC Regent (NCLH-Norwegian), NYV-Norwegian Yacht Voyages and Scenic (main competitors), SeaDream, Windstar (Anschutz Corporation). About 5% of cruise industry's multi-billion dollar business (USD 126 billion total economic impact in 2018) 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 Bonvoy status). Ritz-Carlton's cruise shipping 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, Ritz-Carlton signed an agreement with Rescompany Systems for implementation of Central Reservations Solution. The cruise booking engine is developed by Rescompany Systems LTD. Its modules provide custom booking solutions for package deals - cruise, tour, hotel, air.
In March 2019, Ritz-Carlton signed a deal with SES Networks (Luxembourg-based company specializing in satellite communications and network services) to provide fleetwide fully-managed hybrid broadband connectivity for network-enabled enrichment and entertainment media. SES Networks' maritime package combines the low latency of O3b MEO satellites ("medium earth orbit") with the coverage of geostationary SES satellites.
In December 2019, Ritz-Carlton Cruises and Oaktree Capital Management (part of Oaktree Capital Group Holdings) signed a deal to finance the Spanish shipbuilder Astilleros Barreras in order to ensure the delivery of Ritz-Carlton's first ship (Evrima). The cruise company also signed with CESCE (Spanish ECA-Export Credit Agency) to cover newbuild's cost overruns and to secure the 2nd yacht's construction (TBN). This way, the shipyard was also saved from bankruptcy. Due to shipyard's financial difficulties, Evrima's delivery was ~6 months delayed (from November 2019 to June 2020).
Each of the three yachts (identical sisterships) has passenger capacity 298, crew capacity 246 and GT tonnage 26,500 tons.
The 623 ft / 190 m long vessels are designed (by Tillberg Design, Sweden) as superyachts hybrids. Each of these custom-built yachts (dubbed "anti-cruise ships") has as staterooms 149 balcony suites (with tall ceilings) including two Duplex Suites. The fore-located Owner Suites are the largest cabins, featuring floor-to-ceiling windows (for 270-degree views) and huge wraparound balcony (with private whirlpool).
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 charters.
The vessels 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. Ship's propulsion consists of two Azipods (by ABB). Azipod D are azimuth thrusters ideal for smaller sized vessels as they require lower installed power.
- Unit's electric drive motor is installed in the pod and submerged outside the hull, thus allowing more space for passenger cabins. The patented Azipod system also produces less vibration. The thrusters have the ability to turn 360 degrees which increases 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 real-time data that can be tracked from land-based facilities operated 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 vessel's operating costs and emissions. The lack of traditional rudders also allows the hull's hydrodynamics to be optimized.
- "ABB Ability" is a remote diagnostic system using Microsoft Azure (cloud computing). It monitors the vessel's electrical systems and is connected 24-7 to ABB's infrastructure ashore. The system monitors all linked devices and sends real-time data analytics for maintenance (predictive and planned) and online support.
- In late-September 2018, ABB contracted Raytheon Anschutz (Singapore-based manufacturer) to provide ship's Integrated Navigation System "Synapsis NX" (bridge and navigation equipment). Synapsis NX includes autopilot, track control, radars, navigation sensors, communications, multifunctional navigation workstations (with software).
The shipbuilder is Astilleros Barreras Shipyard (Vigo Spain). The keel-laying ceremony for the first vessel (Yacht 1) was held on January 11, 2018. The special ceremony was attended by Jose Garcia Costas (shipyard's Chairman), Fredrik Johannson (Tillberg Design's owner), Timothy Grisius (Marriott International global real estate officer), Douglas Prothero (cruise company's managing director).
The first ship (Evrima) was initially scheduled for delivery in November 2019, then re-scheduled for 2020 (June 13). Cruise bookings were opened in May 2018. On May 30, 2019, Ritz-Carlton officially announced the start of the construction of its second ship (TBN).
Onboard Experience - shipboard facilities and amenities
The yacht cruising experiences include:
- Unique cruise itineraries around the world
- Modern, thoughtfully designed interiors
- Ultra-premium dining (5 venues), including specialty dining by celebrity chef Sven Elverfeld (3 Michelin stars) who presides over Ritz-Carlton's "Aqua" restaurant in Wolfsburg Germany, MDR (140-seat main dining room designed with nooks to look like 10 small-sized 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 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 ship has whirlpools, as well as deep and shallow pools. An infinity-style pool is located aft, with a current within for exercising (resistance swimming). The ship also features 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 is available for guests to use.
- Glass doors open to the sweeping staircase leading to the pool deck (located at the aft / on the ship's stern). At the marina are the yacht's sea kayaks and paddleboards. The connection to the outdoors continues with an indoor/outdoor solarium which looks more like a cozy lounge than the usual ship solarium.
- An aft-located 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.
- Above Sun Deck is the Helideck with a helipad (helicopter landing area used in case of emergency). The initial ship design included an onboard helicopter (to be used for private tours).
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".
Ritz-Carlton cruise prices include staterooms, multiple onboard dining venues, activities and live entertainment, tips (onboard gratuities), Wi-Fi. Fares vary by season and itinerary.
Marriott International (shipowner via Ritz-Carlton)
Founded in 1927, Marriott International is a US multinational corporation headquartered in Bethesda, Maryland (Washington DC metro area). The company specializes in managing and franchising hotels, resorts and leisure lodging facilities. Its managing team is led by Bill Marriott (Executive Chairman) and Arne Sorenson (President and CEO). Marriott International is currently ranked world's largest hotel chain, with 30 brands, 7000+ properties (1,333+ million rooms) worldwide (in 131 different countries).
(FY2018 statistics) Marriott International has revenue ~USD 20,75 billion, total assets USD 23,69 billion, ~177,000 employees. The main shareholder (25%) is the Marriott family. Company's biggest brands are Marriott (Marriott Hotels and Resorts LLC), Starwood (Starwood Hotels and Resorts Worldwide LLC, 1969-founded), Ritz-Carlton (The Ritz-Carlton Hotel Company LLC, 1983-founded, 101 hotels) and Le Meridien (1972-founded, 107 hotels). Starwood additionally owns the brands St Regis Hotels, The Luxury Collection Hotels and Resorts, W Hotels, Sheraton Hotels (also Four Points by Sheraton), Westin Hotels and Resorts (also Element by Westin), Le Meridien Luxury Hotels and Resorts, Tribute Portfolio (independent hotels), Design Hotels, Aloft Hotels. Other large luxury hotel brands owned by Marriott include Autograph Collection, Bulgari Hotels and Resorts, Fairfield Inn, JW Marriott, Gaylord Hotels, Renaissance Hotels, SpringHill Suites, TownePlace Suites.
In 1993, Marriott Corporation was split into the companies "Marriott International" and "Host Hotels and Resorts Inc" (acquired by Marriott Corporation in 1982). In 1995, Marriott pioneered the online hotel booking via the MARSHA platform (Marriott's Automatic Reservation System for Hotel Accommodations). In 1997, Marriott inaugurated world's first hotel loyalty program (Marriott Rewards / renamed "Marriott Bonvoy" in 2019) allowing customers to earn points at limited-service hotels and redeem them at full-service hotels.
In April 1995, Marriott acquired a 49% stake in Ritz-Carlton Hotel Company LLC for USD 200 million (cash and assumed debt). In January 2015, Marriott acquired Delta Hotels (Canada). In September 2016, Marriott merged with Starwood. The acquisition cost USD 13 billion and resulted in 5700+ hotel properties with 1,1+ million rooms and 30 brands worldwide. Approx 2/3 of Starwood's revenues are from non-US markets.
Itinerary of Ritz-Carlton Yacht Collection
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 (Evrima / fka Azora) 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 the industry's first "cruise and land vacation" deals provided by a single operator. The deals include pre- and post-voyage stays in Ritz-Carlton 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's cruise fleet deployment as inaugural itineraries and shore excursions (in 5 categories) include (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 the 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 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, with planned inaugural cruise from PortMiami Florida to Key West FL and Bimini Bahamas, thus starting a Caribbean program (through March 28), ending with a 12-day Transatlantic crossing (Barbados to Lisbon).
The inaugural Mediterranean cruise is an 8-day roundtrip from Lisbon to Gibraltar, Valencia, Malaga, Ibiza, Palma de Mallorca. The Evrima ship then spends time in the Mediterranean through late-June. For July 5 is scheduled a 9-day voyage from Bordeaux to the French ports Belle-Ile, St Malo, Honfleur and Guernsey Island (St Peter Port, Channel Islands) that ends in London UK. From there, the mega-yacht cruises in Northern Europe prior to transiting via Iceland to Halifax NS Canada. Starting September 12, it sails on Canada-New England itineraries, with an inaugural 7-day roundtrip from Halifax. On October 27, the ship repositions to Caribbean via 9-day voyage from Boston to Nassau.
The itineraries of Ritz-Carlton's inaugural season 2020 include (by destination):
- Caribbean: the inaugural season starts with a 5-night roundtrip from Fort Lauderdale FL (February 1, 2020), follow 10-night Fort Lauderdale to Barbados (February 5), 7-night Barbados to Cartagena (February 15), 7-night Cartagena to Barbados (February 22). During the season, Ritz-Carlton cruises to St Lucia, San Juan, St Maarten, Cozumel.
- Mediterranean seasons starts with 12-night Transatlantic crossing (Barbados to Lisbon) and continues with 8-night Lisbon to Palma de Mallorca (April 9, 2020). Then are offered 7-night Valletta to Athens (April 26), 7-night Athens to Venice (May 3), 11-night Venice to Civitavecchia-Rome (May 10), 8-night Rome roundtrip (May 21), follow departures from Barcelona to Palma de Mallorca/Lisbon, and from Lisbon to Bordeaux.
- Northern Europe: On July 5, 2020, starts the inaugural Northern Europe season with 9-night Bordeaux to London, followed by 9-night London to Hamburg (July 14), 7-night Hamburg to Copenhagen (July 23), 10-night Copenhagen to Stockholm (August 9), then Transatlantic (Europe to Canada) from Copenhagen to Edinburgh, Reykjavik, Halifax.
- Canada and New England inaugural season starts from Halifax with a 7-night itinerary to Boston (September 26), 12-night to Montreal (October 3), 12-night back to Boston (October 15) and 9-night Boston to Nassau Bahamas (October 27).
Ritz-Carlton cruise season 2021 itineraries visit 50+ new for the company seaports, iconic yacht marinas, charming port towns. Most voyages are 7-nights in duration and specially designed to not repeat the same ports on B2Bs (back-to-back cruises). An extended 2021 Mediterranean season includes ports in the Greek Isles and Cote d'Azur (French Riviera), while the Caribbean 2021 season visits Martinique, Cartagena (Colombia), Puerto Rico, Barbados, Aruba, BVI-British Virgin Islands, and again ends with Eastern Canada and New England.
Ritz-Carlton's tour program ("Caribbean Shore Collection") is grouped into 5 categories - Active Explorations, Cultural Connections (wildlife), Iconic Sights (art and culture), Stirring the Senses (wellness), and Epicurean Experiences. Passengers enjoy dedicated Concierge Ashore service and extended port stays. These 5 shore excursion categories are created for various activity levels and interests of ship travellers. All excursions are highly personalized, with a relaxed pace and led by experienced local guides.
- Active Explorations tours are themed on outdoor adventures, like private sea kayaking off Reykjavik's coast or swimming with turtles in Tobago Cays.
- Cultural Connections tours are eco-themed - like spending a day helping to protect the natural environment or wildlife.
- Iconic Sights tours are culture-themed (history, architecture, music, etc) by destination.
- Stirring the Senses tours are wellness-themed and include sunrise/sunset yoga classes.
- Epicurean Experiences tours are culinary-themed - like learning to grow baby oysters in a private Sete France farm or visiting a winery in Bordeaux.
Concierge Ashore services include insider access to local attractions and exploring local communities with private guides.
Highlights of the Caribbean Shore Collection include a tour of Aruba Aloe (one of the first companies in the world to manufacture skin and hair products with the plant) in Oranjestad Aruba, paired with an aloe-based treatment at Ritz-Carlton Spa Aruba. In Colombia is offered overland Bogota touring ((overnight) with visits to mansions, museums, Monserrate (hilltop church), gourmet dining experiences (cooking class with local chef follows a trip to Plaza de Paloquemao / city's fruits and flowers market). In Belize, Ritz-Carlton sells a charter flight tour (out of Belize City) offering flightseeing over Lighthouse Reef (atoll part of the Belize Barrier Reef), Mountain Pine Ridge Forest Reserve (Cayo District), Great Blue Hole (giant marine sinkhole). The plane then lands in the jungle at an exclusive resort for food and wine pairing (4-course lunch).
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