October 9, 2018 – On Tuesday, with pennants fluttering in the breeze and long blasts of its horn the sleek un-painted brown hull of the first member of the Ritz-Carlton Yacht Collection effortlessly slipped from its dry dock in the HJ Barreras shipyard into the harbour at Vigo, Spain..
From this splash, the first of three vessels comprising the Ritz-Carlton Yacht Collection (RCYC) goes for a 12-month detailed outfitting process. That will be followed by several shakedown cruises in late 2019-early 2020 with “trusted travelers”. The shakedown process is longer than standard because, as RCYC Chief Executive Officer Doug Prothero says, “We will do more shakedown voyages than most in order to be full on-brand when we accept guests.”
Prothero is the Canadian who conceived and is in command of the Ritz-Carlton yacht experience. The idea is to bring Ritz-Carlton service to a yachting lifestyle on an ocean-going super-yacht.
He says, “Think of the casual luxury of a Ritz Carlton Reserve at sea.”
Prothero, from Port Stanley, Ontario, has had a 35-year career built around the water. Most recently he was Chairman of Sail Training International (STI), the 32-country organization, which trains young people to sail and organizes tall ships gatherings as well as a maritime finance consultant for Capital Canada Limited (CCL), a Toronto-based boutique investment firm. It was at CCL that he met Marriott executives who invited him to put together some sort of cruise product.
The vision is to be unlike big-ship cruising and use the freedom their size provided to focus on overlooked ports. Each seven-to-ten-day itinerary is designed so guests booking back-to-back cruises won’t repeat ports.
“This is a hybrid between yachting and cruising. We aren’t trying to get to seven ports in seven days. We’re more interested in a yachting lifestyle.” To accomplish this the RCYC will have the highest crew-passenger ratio on “the most expensive cruise vessel per berth ever built.”
Each yacht will be 190 metres (624 feet) long, with a crew of 236 attending to 298 passengers in 149 terrace suites. There are five suite styles, ranging in size from 29 to 100 sq. metres.
“We have two owners’ suites at the top. They have a 90-degree view starboard and aft,
and 90-degree view port and aft. They’re each 100 sq. metres with a 50 sq. metre terrace and a plunge pool. These yachts are designed so that most of these smaller suites can be interconnected with the one beside them, so if we’re on charter and somebody doesn’t need all 149 suites we can offer them a selection of larger suites.”
Yacht One will travel the Caribbean, Mediterranean, Northern Europe to Atlantic Canada-New England and Great Lakes. Yacht Two will focus on the Mediterranean for summer of 2021. The rest of the itinerary is yet to be finalized. They are considering whether to do a northern transatlantic crossing which includes Canada-New England or linger in Europe before heading to the Caribbean via the southern route. Yacht Three, which joins the fleet in 2022, will be positioned in the Pacific.
Big news for Halifax is that R-C Yachts will use it for turn-arounds, allowing guests to start or finish their voyage there. Traditionally Halifax is part of an itinerary requiring Boston, Montreal or Quebec City as a start or end point.
On-board amenities include an aft deck marina which acts as a floating beach and five dining venues: an Asian fusion restaurant, an international restaurant that will shift between French and Italian cuisines, poolside grill, seafood grill and Aqua, a concept restaurant by three-Michelin starred chef Sven Elverfeld. Aqua is an a la carte option, while everything else on board, including gratuities and bespoke land-based experiences are covered in the all-inclusive price.
All suites, all dining areas and even the service options – from bars to spa –have their own terraces.
The out-of-the-box thinking for the yachts started with the selection of Spain’s HJ Barreras Shipyard as builders. Prothero shunned the mainstream cruise shipyards for Barreras which typically builds highly complicated research vessels. “They have a lot of experience in specialty ships and we needed a highly customized build.” That customization extends to the technology, which will allow guests to control their suites and experiences from their smart phones.
Another break with tradition was hiring one firm – Tilberg of Sweden – to design the ship. “Most cruise ships have six or seven designers, this has one designer throughout the entire yacht so we’ve been able to get a really cohesive design plan.”