How does an operator create a fusion of something new – a private yacht design and a hotel brand – in the interior design of a cruise ship? The Ritz-Carlton Yacht Collection chief executive and Tillberg Design explain
The interior design of new brand Ritz-Carlton Yacht Collection’s (RCYC) vessels will be a mix of creating something new and an extension of its namesake hotel’s brand, drawing heavily on the private yacht concept as inspiration.
RCYC chief executive Douglas 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.”
In July 2017 it was announced that Ritz-Carlton Hotel Company was entering the cruise sector with its Yacht Collection. It has struck a contract with Spanish shipyard Hijos de J Barreras (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 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. The interior of the yachts, all suites and the exterior of the yachts are being designed by Tillberg Design of Sweden in close collaboration with RCYC and the Barreras shipyard in Vigo, Spain. Interior Proman – an Austrian company with expertise in outfitting superyachts – has a contract with the shipyard to outfit the vessels.
Talking about using Tillberg Design, Mr Prothero told Passenger Ship Interiors “A lot of consideration went into identifying our design collaborator, and we are thrilled with the outcome. Tillberg Design has an unparalleled history in designing interiors from yachts to some of the largest cruise ships. They also have experience in luxury hotels, high street boutiques and top end restaurants and demonstrated a keen understanding of how best to translate the look and feel of a Ritz-Carlton hotel experience to sea.”
He explained that usually cruise ships work with “six, seven or eight” designers – but “we have one designer for the whole inside and outside of the yacht.”
He said the “vison” of Tillberg Design owner Fredrik Johansson “has been a very easy exercise for us to stay together”.
Private yacht design
Mr Johansson opened up to Passenger Ship Interiors about his vision for the interiors of the cruise yachts. “This is an all-new generation of cruising yachts, and our vision has been to emulate the experience of being on a private yacht as an invited guest. We have therefore worked through the whole master planning with exclusivity and privacy driving the design process.”
He added “the challenge to ourselves here has been to create the most serene ambiance possible at sea. It has been an incredibly exciting opportunity to design The Ritz-Carlton Yacht Collection, not least because we were able to start from a blank piece of paper and design everything from scratch. There has also been enough time to methodically design a concept that optimises both exterior and interiors as one very harmonic entity.”
He said the design concepts are all about “intimacy, personal comfort and generous private space”, creating some “very casual but ultra-luxurious” surroundings. The interior spaces are designed to offer guests the opportunity to either be active and socialising, or “simply to disappear privately for a while”.
He emphasised “I think the guests will find accommodations and a cruising style that really are unparalleled in the niche of the ultra-luxury cruise yachting sector, regardless if travelling as a private charter group, or on one of the scheduled itineraries.”
Overcoming terrace challenges
Both Mr Johansson and Mr Prothero singled out how having terraces with all suites was crucial to the design. But this was a challenge the cruise yacht operator managed to overcome. Mr Prothero explained how. “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.
Mr Tillberg added “Each suite has been designed to really optimise the use of space and to maximise the contact with the sea. To intimately experience being at sea, we have therefore designed the yachts to offer everyone their own generous, private terrace, something that not even the most luxurious yachts have.”
Another stand-out feature is the size of the suites. Mr Prothero said “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 that in luxury cruise ships generally 80-85% of suites are in the smallest category. But RCYC’s smaller suites only make up about 60% with the rest being larger suites.
Even the smallest suites are 29 m2, which Mr Prothero described as being “very unique in this size of cruise vessel”.
Facing aft are two owner suites, each at 102 m2 with 46 m2 terraces and private plunge pools.
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 go 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 interior layout – hydraulic stairs lower to the sea so guests can walk straight into 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.
Furthermore, glass panels open up the restaurants to allow as much dining outside as possible.
Extending hotel brand
Another important facet of the interior design was producing a new design that also incorporates the Ritz-Carlton brand. As Mr Johansson explained “With these yachts, we are not only producing some fresh and new design, but we are creating a completely new brand from scratch. It will of course be an extension of The Ritz-Carlton brand, but with its very own strong identity.”
For the interiors, he said Tillberg Design took inspiration from The Ritz-Carlton land-based properties, especially the “crisp and contemporary look” of The Ritz-Carlton Residences Sunny Isles, Miami Beach and Los Angeles.
He said “In a way, you can say the yachts will be hotels at sea, though uniquely adapted to suit the yacht lifestyle. Existing top-tier Ritz-Carlton customers that are familiar with the brand and its service will recognise some of the experiences they will find at Ritz-Carlton properties on land. Design-wise, the onboard experience will reflect elements of the casual luxury of a Ritz-Carlton resort.” For example, he said that all suites on board will have a far greater ceiling height that any other cruise ship suite, “resulting in the most spacious suites in the luxury cruise category.”
Some elements of the hotel brand are being included within the interiors of the RCYC ships. These include the three-Michelin starred a la carte restaurant named Aqua, which is established at the Ritz-Carlton, Wolfsburg. Another example is the Ritz-Carlton Spa.
Other yacht elements include a plunge pool on every deck for people to “cool off quickly”, which is “very much a yacht feeling,” said Mr Prothero. The main pool is situated above the marina.
Mr Johannson emphasised that the mix of the hotel brand and personal yacht was important. “We have fused the spacious and casual elegance of those spaces with the marine and innovative design qualities of some of the most stylish yacht interiors in the world. The exterior styling is the result of an extensive design process, inspired by world-famous private yachts like Azzam, Eclipse, and Nauta.”
Another crucial consideration is the movement of people and logistics on the vessel.
Mr Tillberg said “The concept of privacy and generous personal space is essential to the design of The Ritz-Carlton Yacht Collection. We really had to look at how to create the best flows and spatial qualities for the guests, especially on the open decks and in the social spaces.” He said it was important to offer guests “both the opportunity to be together socialising or relaxing in private”.
The interiors and the service concept have been designed together and each space “has to allow the crew to move around the ship and serve the ladies and gentlemen on board very easily and discreetly”.
Looking ahead to the second and third vessels, Mr Prothero told Passenger Ship Interiors & Refurbishment “The design and layout of the first two yachts will be identical. The third vessel will follow the same design, but with some planned modifications to reflect additional cruising ground conditions in the Pacific Rim.”
He summed up: “Initial sales of Ritz-Carlton Yacht Collection voyages have exceeded our expectations and we are thrilled with the strong consumer response.”
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 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.
Fredrik Johansson (Tillberg Design)
Fredrik Johansson is part-owner of Tillberg Design of Sweden. During his 25 years in the company, he has managed some of world’s most creative and prestigious marine projects, including private yachts, explorer ships and ocean liners including Queen Mary 2.
Mr Johansson has been involved in the development of the Ritz-Carlton Yacht Collection since day one and worked closely with Douglas Prothero and his team through the whole conceptual, contractural and design phases of the projects.