Ritz-Carlton Yacht Collection is the first cruise operator to launch as an extension of a hotel brand. But this isn’t the only factor to stand out about it. Its chief executive explains
Ritz-Carlton Yacht Collection (RCYC) stands out for a number of reasons – from the size of its ships to having a famous hotel brand behind it.
Indeed, its chief executive Douglas Prothero told a press conference at Seatrade Cruise Global 2018 “What differentiates us is the Ritz-Carlton brand.” Indeed, the backing of this brand was essential for RCYC to launch itself in the cruise industry. “From a business perspective, the entry to cruise is very difficult to break through.” He speaks from experience – he spent part of his career in maritime finance specialising in cruise ships and “without a brand it is virtually impossible”.
In July last year, Ritz-Carlton Hotel Company announced it was entering the cruise sector with its Yacht Collection. It has struck a contract with Spanish shipyard Hijos de J Barreras to construct three luxury cruise ships. The first will be launched in 2020, with the further two expected to be delivered in 2021.
The cruise yacht – designed by Ritz-Carlton Yacht Collection, Tillberg Design and Barreras – will have an overall length of 190 m, a 23.8 m beam and will accommodate 544 people, including 298 passengers in 149 suites and 246 crew members.
This contract also marks the Spanish shipbuilder’s entry into the cruise market.
Mr Prothero explained why the company chose Spanish shipyard Hijos de J Barreras. “We had a bidding process – we wanted a shipyard to give us a customised experience, a yard that had a lot of experience in great steelwork and had experience in highly technical ships.”
He said the area the yard was lacking in experience was outfitting – but this was overcome by outsourcing the outfitting to the ‘best’ company in this field. Interior Proman, an Austrian company with expertise in outfitting superyachts, has been awarded a contract with the shipyard to outfit the vessels.
Speaking about the Ritz-Carlton hotel brand, Mr Prothero said “It has been heavily invested in the project. We work together on every single element of design, the guest experience, culinary sales and marketing.”
Indeed, he emphasised “Our focus is on the Ritz-Carlton guest experience – this takes up all days and nights figuring out how on day one to deliver that in every respect, from reservations to pre-guest arrival processes and what happens after guests leave us after their first cruise. Our internal mission is to be the highest standard in the brand and we think we will make that.”
As well as its backing, RCYC will be able to draw on hotel customers as potential passengers on its yachts. Mr Prothero said “Our research tells us guests will include Ritz-Carlton customers.” There are 400,000 cruisers within Marriott luxury brands’ database. “There are those who will come that have never thought of taking a cruise but will look at our yacht and think: ‘that feels like more my style’.”
Indeed, Mr Prothero feels that the size and design of the company’s cruise yachts make the company stand out. “What makes us different? Our size, no one is building in this size any more, no one has for quite a long time; the higher percentage of larger suites.” He said in luxury cruise ships, generally 80-85% of suites are in the smallest category. But RCYC’ smaller suites make up about 60% with the rest being larger suites.
And he added “We have a couple of unique things for a ship this size. We have all-terraced suites. On the lower deck, where we are not allowed to have terraces, we have solved this by having a two-level suite.” This comprises of a bedroom below and a living room above with a terrace.
Flexibility in design
Furthermore, flexibility of space is an important feature of the cruise yachts. A wall panel used in the smallest suites can be opened up to merge two separate suites into one larger suite. This means the yacht can adapt from 149 suites to 107.
Mr Prothero commented “If we charter the vessel we can give more larger suites or on a voyage where larger suites sell first we can generate more larger suites as we go along.”
Flexibility can be seen elsewhere in the structure – hydraulic stairs lower to the sea so guests can walk straight into the sea on anchor; the same set of stairs goes up to a diving board. This is “a great flexible option for us,” said Mr Prothero.
The cruise yacht can also tender on three sides, so can tender in any weather, which is “unique”.
At the back, like on a superyacht, a garage door opens up for sea kayaks and sail boats.
RCYC is also focused on the digital side. Mr Prothero said “We have gone to great lengths to be a digital company, so that folks have done all their pre-arrival information online or on an app and when they arrive there is a low-key process confirming it is the right guest and they can go straight to their suite or living room area.”
Indeed, the cruise operator has implemented Resco’s Central Reservations and CRM modules.
RCYC vice president of information technology Benny Lago said “Resco’s experienced team of professionals have proven an invaluable resource to us in making sure the systems are designed and tailored to our very specific needs. We had a tight timeline with the project schedules being met throughout the project; our whole team are very pleased in the flexibility and capabilities of the Resco products”.
Key suppliers include MAN Diesel for the engines and ABB for the Azipods. The cruise yacht will run on marine diesel only. The classification society is DNV GL and the registry is Malta.
ABB’s solutions for the cruise ship will optimise energy efficiency and allow the vessel to be remotely monitored from shore. Two Azipod D propulsors will enable the ship to manoeuvre efficiently and effectively while the remote diagnostics service will empower a smarter approach to maintenance.
Mr Prothero summed up “We think the superyacht concept is creating a lot of buzz, this type of product is mirroring the yachting lifestyle and is appealing in some respects to a new audience to cruising. We are focused on the smallest destinations for a highly immersive experience.”
Douglas Prothero (Ritz-Carlton Yacht Collection)
Douglas Prothero serves as chief executive of The Ritz-Carlton Yacht Collection. In this role, Mr Prothero oversees all operations and the strategic growth of the company. As a founding partner of the venture, Mr Prothero is also responsible for relations to and with Marriott International and The Ritz-Carlton Hotel Company.
Mr Prothero was educated in maritime studies and has been a ship master since 1989. He has over 35 years of professional experience in the hospitality and maritime industry, including running all facets of maritime businesses involving both commercial vessels and private yachts. As a seasoned entrepreneur, Prothero has founded numerous enterprises with lead responsibility for product development, sales, ship design, ship construction and marine operations. While partner of a boutique investment bank, Mr Prothero established an extensive professional network through his work advising shipowners on finance sourcing.
Mr Prothero serves as past chairman of the Nobel Peace Prize-nominated charity Sail Training International and the organisation’s for-profit trading companies. Activities included significant industry relations with the International Maritime Organisation, Nautical Institute, the International Chamber of Shipping and ports worldwide.