Cruise ships are often referred to as ‘floating hotels’. Strange then that the market is dominated by companies whose only job is to focus on cruise ships, and that the major multi-billion dollar hotel chains like Hilton and Marriott haven’t ever really got in on the idea.
Well that’s about to change as Marriott-owned Ritz-Carlton, one of the world’s top luxury hotel brands, launches a dedicated cruise line – the Yacht Collection. We took a look at what this exclusive 149-suite ship has to offer, apart from a hefty price tag, when it sets sail in early 2020.
For us, there are lots of reasons to avoid going on a cruise. Having never actually been on one, they are purely presuppositions on our part, but they go along the lines of:
- Assigned seating at set mealtimes, leading to awkward dinner conversations with your fellow cruise companions.
- Tight living quarters, often with no windows.
- Overpriced shore excursions.
- Expensive extras.
- Living your holiday to a fixed schedule.
- Paranoia over Norovirus outbreaks.
We are certainly no experts in this field. First and Business Class seats in the sky are our thing. Suites in hotels? Sure. Combine the whole experience on sea and for some reason, it just doesn’t “float our boat”.
If you’ve ever been on a cruise, or done any research into doing so, you’ll know there’s a wide variety of quality, perks and price points on offer in this US$35bn per year industry. In the next decade the sector is forecast to grow to annual worldwide revenues of US$57bn, a staggering increase.
The Ritz-Carlton Yacht Collection
If you’re more accustomed to the luxury offered in Ritz-Carlton’s range of hotels and upscale resorts around the world, your opinion of cruising (and ours) might be about to change.
Unlike the mega cruises, which can easily accommodate 3,000 passengers including many in those windowless ‘interior rooms’ we spoke of, capacity on the Ritz-Carlton cruise will top out at 298 passengers in 149 suites, each with a private terrace.
The design is taken care of by renowned luxury cruise ship interiors firm Tillberg Design of Sweden.
Furnishings are based on the style found in Ritz-Carlton’s hotels, and you won’t find a big show lounge or casino on this ship. Instead small-scale performances are planned in fancy cocktail lounges.
Shore excursions are also set to differ from the cruise ship norm, tapping into the expertise of concierge teams at Marriott hotels in port, to provide a more personalised experience.
The yacht’s size will also allow it to access smaller ports directly, many of which are generally off limits to the larger cruise lines.
The cabins on cruise ships are traditionally called ‘staterooms’. Here again Ritz-Carlton is bucking the trend, referring to all the rooms on this ship as ‘suites’.
It’s a worthy description too – even the entry-level room features a 312 ft2 floorspace, around the size of an average ‘landed’ hotel room, with an additional 67 ft2 private ocean-view terrace.
The Terrace Suites
- Number on ship: 90
- Floorspace: 312 ft2
- Terrace space: 67 ft2
If 312 ft2 still sounds a bit on the small side, remember an entry-level inside room (with no windows) on your average cruise ship like Carnival or Royal Caribbean typically measures half that – just 130 to 180 ft2.
The Signature Suites
- Number on ship: 27
- Floorspace: 474 ft2
- Terrace space: 101 ft2
Here’s where significant space starts to come in – 50% more internal square footage than the Terrace Suite means a bathtub and separate toilet area now features, as well as a four-seat dining table and a 50% larger outdoor sea view terrace.
The Loft Suites
- Number on ship: 12
- Floorspace: 700 ft2
- Terrace space: 76 ft2
A two-storey option, the Loft Suites feature a bathroom and bedroom downstairs then a living and dining area on the upper floor with a private terrace.
The Grand Suites
- Number on ship: 14
- Floorspace: 635 ft2
- Terrace space: 108 ft2
Even bigger than the Signature Suites, these benefit from a larger terrace and dining area, and dual walk-in wardrobes in the bedroom.
The View Suites
- Number on ship: 4
- Floorspace: 571 – 624 ft2
- Terrace space: 86 – 97 ft2
While all the suites on board guarantee a sea view, these four take the concept one step further with floor to ceiling glass windows throughout.
The Owners Suites
- Number on ship: 2
- Floorspace: 1,098 ft2
- Terrace space: 592 ft2
Finally the top pair of suites on board, The Owners Suites are by far the largest and have a huge terrace with a private whirlpool.
Several suite pairs on the ship can be set up as adjoining units with retractable walls. These are promised to still provide excellent soundproofing when set up as separate suites, but with the wall retracted offer a far more open experience than the traditional lock-off arrangement with a single door.
Bars and restaurants
There will be five restaurants on the ship, including an outdoor grill, an Asian fusion restaurant including a sushi bar, and specialty dining, designed by Chef Sven Elverfeld of Aqua, the three Michelin-starred restaurant at The Ritz-Carlton, Wolfsburg.
Unlike some cruise ships, which have set meal times, guests on the Yacht Collection will be able to dine at a time to suit them.
There is no shortage of drinks venues either, with the Living Room Cafe for your coffee and pastry fix, a Champagne Bar also offering caviar parings and the open-air Marina Lounge & Bar.
The Living Room also transforms into a cocktail lounge and piano bar in the evening, with nightly live entertainment found in the observation lounge on the top deck.
Spa and gym
In case you were worried about your wellness routine amongst all this indulgence, Deck 9 of the ship will host The Ritz-Carlton Spa, including a barber and outside treatment area with sea views, and the gym which will also feature sunrise yoga sessions.
The ship revealed
In mid-October 2018 the first of these ships was floated on the water for the first time in Vigo, Spain.
The ship is expected to be named at the International Luxury Travel Market in Cannes next month.
The inaugural voyage is scheduled to set sail on 5th February 2020 from Fort Lauderdale to Barbados, a 10-day journey stopping off at several islands along the way including Puerto Rico, Nevis and Martinique.
The ship remains in the Caribbean offering four to seven-night voyages until late March 2020, and then heads transatlantic for a 12-night journey to Lisbon, Portugal via the Canary Islands.
Between April and June it then sails the Mediterranean sea with voyages of seven to 11 nights taking in ports including Monaco (for the Grand Prix, of course), Venice, Barcelona, Sorrento, Dubrovnik and Palma de Mallorca, not to mention several Greek islands like Santorini.
After that the ship heads back to Lisbon then takes on an itinerary up the Atlantic to Bordeaux, onto London, Hamburg, Copenhagen, Stockholm and Edinburgh before setting course back to Canada and New England via Iceland, finally winding up in the Bahamas by early November 2020.
Then it’s back to Florida, the Caribbean and Mexico through the end of the year, with the 2021 schedule yet to be announced.
Alas, the not so good news. Prices start at US$3,223 per person for a four-night Caribbean cruise in March 2020, but expect to spend upwards of US$5,000+ per head for a week-long voyage.
That includes suite accommodation, a dedicated Personal Assistant in all suite categories, onboard gratuities for all restaurant, bar and housekeeping services, multiple dining venues, 24-hour in-suite dining, beverages such as beer, select spirits and wines, soft drinks, coffee, tea and bottled water in-suite and throughout the yacht, onboard entertainment, use of the marina-style platform with access to water sports, and Wi-Fi.
Specialty dining at Aqua is charged additionally, as are spa treatments and premium Champagnes and caviar pairings at the Champagne bar, though a chilled bottle of Champagne is thrown in on arrival for all guests.
How many points?
Currently you can’t use your Marriott Rewards or Ritz-Carlton Rewards points to secure a booking on one of these cruises.
That’s not to say the project is totally detached from the rewards program however. Back in May this year the very first luxury Yacht Collection cruises went on sale not to the general public, but exclusively to Marriott Rewards and Ritz-Carlton loyalty members. Only 3 weeks later did everyone else get a look in.
In an interview the CEO of The Ritz-Carlton Yacht Collection, Doug Prothero, said in future Marriott members in the new integrated loyalty scheme will be able to redeem points for these cruises, while on the earning side the upcoming Ritz-Carlton Yacht Collection Rewards program will allow members to collect points from their trips.
That will be “a cruise only program” however, said Prothero, so it appears the points earned sadly won’t be valid for future hotel stays.
Will it come to Singapore?
Currently there are no plans for any Asia itineraries for the first ship in the Yacht Collection, however there are two more vessels in the works bringing the fleet to three by 2022.
We would anticipate at least one of those to take in an Asia-Pacific itinerary for part of the year, so we may well see the Ritz-Carlton Yacht Collection in this region or even docking in Singapore itself in the years ahead.
When’s the Mainly Miles review?
We are happily accepting donations. We won’t be doing sunrise yoga though!
Note that presented renderings are artistic concepts, and are subject to change. Full details including trip itineraries, fares and full terms and conditions are available at ritzcarltonyachtcollection.com.
(Cover Image: The Ritz-Carlton Yacht Collection)