Ritz-Carl­ton to put its brand on cruise ships

The lux­ury ho­tel chain will launch a yacht­ing and cruis­ing ven­ture aimed at up­scale va­ca­tion­ers that will take to the seas in 2019

Los Angeles Times - - BUSINESS BEAT - By Hugo Martin hugo.martin@la­times.com

Ritz-Carl­ton is a brand that de­fined lux­ury in the lodg­ing in­dus­try. Now that name will be em­bla­zoned on a new cruis­ing and yacht­ing ven­ture aimed at up­scale va­ca­tion­ers.

The Ritz-Carl­ton Ho­tel Co., a sub­sidiary of hos­pi­tal­ity gi­ant Mar­riott In­ter­na­tional Inc., an­nounced Thurs­day that it is launch­ing the Ritz-Carl­ton Yacht Col­lec­tion, a high-end yacht­ing and cruis­ing en­deavor that will take to the seas in 2019.

Cruis­ing ex­perts, how­ever, note that other new­com­ers to cruis­ing have tried to break into the in­dus­try with lit­tle suc­cess.

“They are not rein­vent­ing the wheel by at­tempt­ing to get into the six-star cruis­ing mar­ket,” said Stewart Ch­i­ron, a long­time cruise re­viewer and au­thor of Cruiseguy.com.

The ven­ture, es­tab­lished in part­ner­ship with Los Angeles in­vest­ment firm Oak­tree Cap­i­tal, will start small with three cus­tom-built yachts, de­signed to hold no more than 298 pas­sen­gers each. Each ship will fea­ture 149 suites, each with its own pri­vate bal­cony, and will drop an­chor in smaller ports not ac­ces­si­ble to large cruise ships.

Dou­glas Prothero, man­ag­ing di­rec­tor of the Ritz-Carl­ton Yacht Col­lec­tion, said guests will be able to hire the yachts for cus­tom char­ter tours or re­serve a cabin on sched­uled cruises.

He said the busi­ness hopes to fill a niche left va­cant by tra­di­tional cruise com­pa­nies that are fo­cused pri­mar­ily on fill­ing mas­sive ships with hun­dreds of pas­sen­gers.

“That has left an op­por­tu­nity in the mar­ket,” Prothero said, adding that the Ritz-Carl­ton yachts will not in­clude casi­nos or large show lounges. “Think of it as a ca­sual lux­ury re­sort at sea.”

Still, Mar­riott will face com­pe­ti­tion from lux­ury cruise com­pa­nies such as Seabourn, Crys­tal and Re­gent Seven Seas cruises, among others. Such cruise com­pa­nies sail ships that carry 400 to 600 pas­sen­gers, with seven­night cruises to Europe rang­ing in price from $7,400 to $14,000.

The first two Ritz-Carl­ton ships will launch in 2019 and 2021 and will cruise ports in the Mediter­ranean Sea, north­ern Europe, Canada and the Great Lakes dur­ing the sum­mer months while sail­ing to des­ti­na­tions in Latin Amer­ica and the Caribbean Sea in the win­ter.

The third ship, ex­pected to put to sea in 2022, will fo­cus on tour­ing the Pa­cific Rim.

Porthero said the com­pany has yet to es­tab­lish prices and fares, but reser­va­tions will open in May 2018.

Ch­i­ron cited sev­eral un­suc­cess­ful at­tempts to break into the $117-bil­lion cruise in­dus­try with unique mon­ey­mak­ing ideas.

In 2002, Ocean Devel­op­ment Group teamed up with Four Sea­sons Ho­tels and Re­sorts to pro­pose a 720foot lux­ury res­i­den­tial cruise ship to set sail in 2007. But be­cause of fi­nanc­ing prob­lems, the plan fell through.

Australian min­ing bil­lion­aire Clive Palmer an­nounced plans in 2012 to launch a cruise ship that would repli­cate the ill-fated Ti­tanic that sank in the North At­lantic in 1912 af­ter strik­ing an ice­berg. Palmer orig­i­nally said the ship would set sail by 2016 and has since promised to put the ship to sea by 2018.

Ritz-Carl­ton Ho­tel Co.

A REN­DER­ING shows the aft ma­rina on one of the three cus­tom-built yachts in the Ritz-Carl­ton Yacht Col­lec­tion. Each ship is de­signed to hold no more than 298 pas­sen­gers and will fea­ture 149 suites.

Ritz-Carl­ton Ho­tel Co.

RITZ-CARL­TON guests will be able to hire the yachts for cus­tom char­ter tours or re­serve a cabin on sched­uled cruises.

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