Ritz-Carl­ton adds lux­ury cruise lin­ers to its ho­tel chain

Lodi News-Sentinel - - Panorama: Weekender - By Cha­beli Her­rera

Who says ho­tel com­pa­nies can’t dab­ble in cruis­ing, too?

In a hos­pi­tal­ity in­dus­try cross­over, the Ritz-Carl­ton Ho­tel Com­pany is launch­ing a lux­ury cruis­ing yacht line sched­uled to hit the wa­ter in the fourth quar­ter of 2019, the com­pany an­nounced last week. Ritz-Carl­ton will en­ter a crowded field of lux­ury cruise lines. In do­ing so, it fol­lows a path sim­i­lar to Dis­ney when it founded Dis­ney Cruise Line in 1996.

Ritz-Carl­ton, part of Mar­riott In­ter­na­tional, is plan­ning to build three 298-pas­sen­ger yachts for its new Ritz-Carl­ton Yacht Col­lec­tion, to be based in Co­conut Grove, Fla. (Home ports for the ships have not yet been an­nounced).

The Yacht Col­lec­tion is a ven­ture cre­ated by mar­itime ex­perts Dou­glas Prothero, who was the CEO and founder of the Cana­dian Mar­itime Group, and Lars Clasen, former pres­i­dent of Aida Cruises. Each ship will fea­ture 149 bal­cony suites and two du­plex pent­house suites.

The yacht line isn’t as much a de­par­ture as it might seem. The ho­tel com­pany’s property on South Beach, de­signed by Mor­ris Lapidus in the 1950s, al­ready re­sem­bles an ocean liner with bal­conies that echo those found on cruise ships.

The yacht-board ex­pe­ri­ence will also re­flect its cur­rent ho­tel of­fer­ings, Ritz-Carl­ton said. The yachts will fea­ture a res­tau­rant by Sven Elver­feld, the chef who pre­sides over Ritz-Carl­ton’s three-Miche­lin­starred res­tau­rant, Aqua, in Wolfs­burg, Ger­many. The ships will also have a RitzCarl­ton Spa, a panorama lounge and wine bar and on­board en­ter­tain­ment.

Off the ship, the new cruise line is work­ing on cre­at­ing cu­rated tours in col­lab­o­ra­tion with lo­cal chefs, mu­si­cians and artists from the lo­ca­tions its ships visit. Itin­er­ar­ies will range from seven to 10 days with sea­sonal stops in the Mediter­ranean, north­ern Europe, the Caribbean and Latin Amer­ica.

The ships will also stop in lo­ca­tions not accessible to mass mar­ket cruise ships, such as Capri and Portofino in Italy and St. Barths in the Caribbean.

“The Ritz-Carl­ton Yacht Col­lec­tion will have a dis­tinc­tive per­son­al­ity and the ves­sels are sure to be true stand­outs in some of the most glam­orous ports around the world,” said Herve Hum­ler, pres­i­dent and COO of The Ritz-Carl­ton Ho­tel Com­pany, in a state­ment.

The cruise line is tar­get­ing lux­ury trav­el­ers who are fa­mil­iar with the Ritz-Carl­ton brand on land, as well as new cruis­ers and guests in the grow­ing lux­ury and cruise mar­kets in Asia.

Ritz-Carl­ton will have plenty of com­pe­ti­tion though, said cruise ex­pert Ste­wart Ch­i­ron. Yacht-like ships that visit small ports, and fea­ture fives­tar din­ing and suites have grown in pop­u­lar­ity in re­cent years.

“Sounds very fa­mil­iar,” Ch­i­ron said via email. “They don’t seem to know about Wind­star, (Car­ni­val Corp.’s) Se­abourn, Sil­versea, Re­gent (Seven Seas, from Nor­we­gian Cruise Line Hold­ings), SeaDream or Crys­tal (Cruise’s) Esprit. Pretty crowded field.”

French line Po­nant is among other com­pa­nies also of­fer­ing small, lux­ury cruises.

Reser­va­tions for the RitzCarl­ton Yacht Col­lec­tion open in May 2018.

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