One of the biggest names in luxury travel is starting a cruise line. The Ritz-Carlton Hotel Company, which operates 94 luxury hotels, announced that is entering the cruise industry with a small ship operation catering to the luxury market.
The Ritz-Carlton Yacht Collection will launch in time for the 2019 cruise season with its first ship coming in with capacity for 298 passengers, and two additional ships expected in 2021 and 2022, respectively.
The brand is joining forces with maritime experts Douglas Prothero and Lars Clasen, former president of AIDA, in collaboration with funds managed by Oaktree Capital Management, L.P., The Ritz-Carlton will provide luxury hospitality service under a long-term operating agreement.
“The Ritz-Carlton Yacht Collection will have a distinctive personality and the vessels are sure to be true stand outs in some of the most glamorous ports around the world,” said Herve Humler, President and Chief Operating Officer of The Ritz-Carlton Hotel Company, L.L.C. “This unique combination of yachting and cruising will usher in a new way of luxury travel for guests seeking to discover the world in a relaxed, casually elegant and comfortable atmosphere with the highest level of personalized service.”
"Itineraries are being developed with an intent to combine the lifestyle of The Ritz-Carlton’s luxury resorts and the casual freedom of a yachting vacation," the company said.
The small ships will measure 190 meters, accommodate up to 298 passengers, and feature 149 suites, each with its own private balcony, a statement said.
The yachts will also feature two 138 square-meter duplex penthouse suites, with "modern craftsmanship and interior finishes jointly designed by The Ritz-Carlton and leading cruise ship design firm, Tillberg Design of Sweden."
“The Ritz-Carlton is known for its legendary service and high standards,” said Douglas Prothero, Managing Director, The Ritz-Carlton Yacht Collection.
“We are delighted to collaborate with The Ritz-Carlton as our hospitality operator in offering the most exclusive yachting experience to be found at sea in a venture that will give new meaning to curated luxury travel,” continued Lars Clasen, Managing Director, The Ritz-Carlton Yacht Collection.
The Marriott-owned brand has been in the planning stages for some time, according to a source familiar with the matter. Now, Ritz is combining with another operation that was set up and looking for a branding partner. A shipbuilding contract is all but set with a shipyard new to the cruise industry.
According to the 2017-2018 Cruise Industry News Annual Report, the luxury market is composed of 40 ships in 2017, making up 500,880 cruise passengers annually.
Silversea is the biggest brand by capacity, while Viking Ocean Cruises will become the biggest operator by 2019. By 2027 the market is expected to grow to at least 55 ships and over 800,000 annual passengers based on known ship orders and deployment announcements.
The Ritz brand could carry some 35,000 passengers on an annual basis by 2023.