Tourism & Cruises

Ritz-Carlton isn’t all about hotels anymore. Now it’s launching a cruise line

Rendering of a Ritz-Carlton Yacht Collection yacht. The cruise line is building three, 298-passenger yachts set to launch in late 2019.
Rendering of a Ritz-Carlton Yacht Collection yacht. The cruise line is building three, 298-passenger yachts set to launch in late 2019. Ritz-Carlton Yacht Collection

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 Thursday. 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. (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 Michelin-starred restaurant, Aqua, in Wolfsburg, Germany. The ships will also have a Ritz-Carlton Spa, a panorama lounge and wine bar and on-board 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 stand outs 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 five-star 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 Ritz-Carlton Yacht Collection open in May 2018.

Chabeli Herrera: 305-376-3730, @ChabeliH