Whilst this is not the first time that a hotel company has kicked at the door of the cruise industry (Regent Seven Seas Cruises, formerly Radisson, being a prime example), this time it is rather different, as the company will launch initially to its loyal band of hotel customers, rather than going first to the traditional cruise market.
So what does the company see as its competitive set? Is it Seabourn, Silversea, Crystal or Regent? Is it positioning itself as a bargain alternative to chartering a super-yacht? Or actually, is it a moving hotel for people who love the Ritz-Carlton brand?
At the beginning of May, I met with the company's senior management in Fort Lauderdale, during the build-up to their 'on sale' date later this month. Doug Prothero, CEO, explained that this is a worldwide extension of the Ritz-Carlton brand, enabling them to extend the flag to places where there will never be a Ritz-Carlton hotel, and open up a yacht product to their hotel guests who might not normally consider a cruise.
It is less than a year since they got their financing in place for the project, and in that time, huge progress has been made. They selected a yard in western Spain, to build their fleet of three vessels - the chosen yard has expertise in yacht custom build, but not in luxury outfitting. As a result, part of the deal was that the yard should bring that specific expertise into their company. They brought in a superyacht luxury interior builder, and outsourced the design of the suites to a company working closely with a range of luxury brands such as Louis Vuitton and Prada.
Deck plans, artists' impressions, itineraries and fares have just been released, and there is a digital brochure which you can download for more information (see below).
The ships will be resort style with all-inclusive pricing, including five dining venues (one of which is a Concept Restaurant by 3 Michelin-starred Sven Elverfeld), 24-hour in-suite dining, all drinks (except premium list), onboard activities, gratuities and WiFi: so just like its cruise line competitors.
There will be 149 suites with private terraces, ranging from the huge Owners Suite to View Suites with French balcony and full terrace, and duplex suites on the lower decks. The décor will be a low-key, timeless Scandi style, with lots of outdoor space including the marina - called The Beach - with a retractable swimming platform, power boats for transfer to shore, direct access to water, and extensions at the sides to create more space for socialising whilst at anchor or in port.
As for the itineraries, the focus will be on overnights in port and relatively short 7-10 day voyages with back-to-back opportunities, so everything is at a slower pace and all about the destination.
Yacht 1 - to be named towards the end of this year - will enter service in February 2020, with a Superbowl cruise on 5th February and a christening in Miami. Itineraries in this initial year will cover the Caribbean, Western Mediterranean, Adriatic, Northern Europe/Baltic, Iceland, Southern Greenland, Canada/New England and back to the Caribbean for the winter season. In 2021, yacht 2's itineraries will include the Great Lakes, whilst yacht 3 - also due for 2021 - will probably be based in the Pacific.
A concierge team is already working on immersive experiences ashore, creating customised shore excursions for first time visitors, returning guests, or regulars.
The management team believe that their guests will be:
- Regular cruisers looking for something new
- New cruisers with a younger demographic
- Cruise deniers who would never consider taking a cruise
- Loyal Ritz-Carlton guests
That seems to cover everyone really!
So, now to the fares, which are available in sterling I am pleased to say. The theory is that a fly-cruise programme will be offered once the flights come into range, but failing that, we at Mundy are happy to take care of these arrangements for you. Entry level fares start around £500 per person per day in the Caribbean, rising to around £700 per person per day in the Baltic, and obviously larger suites will command much higher rates. Expensive, but not significantly more pricey than the competition, and of course a huge bargain by hotel standards, given the all-inclusive nature of the pricing.
The product is on sale first for 'priority access' (loyalty members) who will have exclusive access from 21st May to 10th June, after which it will open up to all. Here at Mundy we are standing by to assist in all cases, so call us to register your interest on 020 7399 7670.