Doug Prothero, managing director of The Ritz-Carlton Yacht Collection

“This is slightly different from a traditional cruise start up,” said Doug Prothero, managing director of The Ritz-Carlton Yacht Collection, which announced last week it will build at least three 298-passenger luxury cruise ships.

“A big part of this is tying it into the sales and marketing of Ritz-Carlton. It’s essentially a co-managed venture.”

Prothero told Cruise Industry News that Ritz-Carlton has been looking at starting a luxury cruise line for the last 12 years.

What was different this time?

“Unbranded partners,” Prothero answered. “We’re not trying to put a brand next to their brand.

“We started working with them about four years ago as a developer,” he said. “We spent the first year on the process side, looking at how we would do this together before getting into the detail and fundraising.”

Ritz-Carlton Yacht Rendering

Executive Team

Prothero, who is based out of an office in Coconut Grove, Florida, shares managing director duties with Lars Clasen, former president of AIDA Cruises and CEO of A-ROSA, who will be based in Europe.

Among other key executives are Erik Bredhe, heading up marine operations, who was captain of The World; and Victor Cai, former CFO at Silversea. More team members are being recruited.

A marine operations office is being established at the shipyard in Europe, where the group has been onsite since 2016, and construction is on target for a delivery in the fourth quarter of 2019.

“People often make announcements before they are ready to roll. We’ve had a team at the shipyard for a year,” Prothero said. “From a technical standpoint this is a developed ship.”

“People often make announcements before they are ready to roll. We’ve had a team at the shipyard for a year,” Prothero said. “From a technical standpoint this is a developed ship.”

As for Prothero, a career in tall ships and yacht chartering led to a post at a boutique investment firm in Toronto, where he ultimately became the lead in developing the Ritz-Carlton relationship.

Yacht Experience

Cruise bookings will open next May and the first ship is set to be delivered in late 2019, followed by sister ships in the first quarters of 2021 and 2022, respectively.

Oaktree Capital Management provided the lead on fundraising. The ships will cost $225 million each, according to a Cruise Industry News estimate.

Observation Lounge Aboard

The start up is targeting a seven- to 10-day yacht-like itinerary offering.

“That is more in keeping with what you would do on a chartered yacht versus a traditional cruise,” Prothero added.

He estimated four ports on seven-day sailings and six or seven port calls on a 10-day cruise, targeting the top 1 percent of global travelers.

“We are working on itineraries now for the end of 2019,” continued Prothero.

Among the early plans are the Mediterranean, Northern Europe, the Saint Lawrence and Great Lakes.

Ritz-Carlton Yacht Rendering

“We worked with the (Saint Lawrence Seaway) to make sure the ship makes it through,” Prothero added.

Other destinations for the first two ships include the Caribbean and Latin America, while the third ship will be based in the Pacific.

The brand has no plans to enter the expedition market.

“We may be adventure style, with our interpretation of destinations, but we are not going polar."

“We may be adventure style, with our interpretation of destinations, but we are not going polar,” said Prothero.

Ship Design

Aft Marina

Tillberg Design of Sweden purposely designed a different looking ship, in line with a super yacht, Prothero continued. 

With room for 298 guests, Ritz-Carlton will occupy a unique small-ship space at the top end of the luxury market. There will be a super yacht like aft marina and five restaurants for 298 guests, who will be pampered by 236 crew members.

“We believe we can go beyond three ships,” Prothero added.