The Ritz at Sea: How Luxury Hotels Make Cruising Profitable | Travel
An The Hermès Birkin bag just sold in the store for £29,840. There’s a bottle of Chateau Mouton Rothschild on the menu for £8,694 and Moët & Chandon champagne on tap. A seven-course tasting menu designed by a chef from a Michelin-starred restaurant will set you back £250. Still, it’s not a bling-bling Middle Eastern hotel. It’s the world’s newest cruise ship – sorry – superyacht: the Evrima from the Ritz-Carlton Yacht Collection.
The 298-passenger yacht, which founder and CEO Douglas Prothero swears is not an (all-too-common) cruise ship launched in October, 30 months behind schedule, having been delayed eight times. The Spanish shipyard’s financial difficulties, Covid and supply chain issues have resulted in the cancellation of cruises for hundreds of passengers. He is the first of a trio of ships from the hotel brand – and part of a wider trend that has upscale hotels branching out to sea.
Evrima will explore the most exclusive parts of the Caribbean
Evrima has just crossed the Atlantic from Lisbon, where she was christened on November 5, to Barbados for a winter season exploring the most exclusive corners of the Caribbean, from the Iles des Saintes to Jost Van Dyke via Saint- Bartholomew.
Embarking on luxury ships takes on its full meaning for the hotel group. Ritz-Carlton not only has its own database of affluent customers to tap into, but also those of all the other high-end brands in the Marriott portfolio, from St Regis to W and Edition.
This means that 90% of bookings to date come from customers who have never sailed before – a figure other luxury lines can only dream of – and Evrima would be sailing at full capacity if supply issues had not delayed the completion of the larger suites.
The ship is beautifully appointed in sparkling marble and natural tones, with accents of blue, yellow and silver. There’s abstract art and curvy sculptures dotted around, much of it for sale, with the entire collection managed by an ‘art concierge’. The staterooms, all called suites, are larger than standard cruise ship rooms, with high ceilings and deep balconies, called terraces.
There’s no buffet — heaven forbid — but instead five restaurants, one of which, SEA, is the first ocean adventure of Sven Elverfeld, chef at the three-Michelin-star restaurant at the Ritz-Carlton in Wolfsburg , in Germany. This is where passengers queue to sample the £250 wine tasting menu.
In a world where cruise ships are being built bigger and more bling-bling, superyachts such as Evrima are finding a new niche among passengers who can’t quite afford to charter – or don’t want to bother. to do so – but want a small ship experience with all the cachet of dropping anchor among the gin palaces off Hvar or St. Tropez.
One of the suites on board the Evrima
Ritz-Carlton is the first hotel group to put its mark on a superyacht but its rivals are already snapping their heels. Four Seasons has announced its own entry into the small ship market with three yachts worth £1bn. The first 190-passenger ship, her lines inspired by Aristotle Onassis’ classic Christina O, will set sail in 2025, appears to be even splashier than Evrima, with the superior suite spanning four decks and a swimming pool with a floor which can be raised to create a dance floor or outdoor cinema. “When we launch in 2025, there will be nothing like it on the high seas,” says CEO Larry Pimentel, a cruise industry veteran. Echoing Prothero, Pimentel insists that Four Seasons Yachts is not a cruise line, but an “unprecedented luxury lifestyle project.”
There is more. The ultra-luxury hotel group Aman, with Saudi financing, is also launching in 2025 with the launch of “Project Sama” (Sanskrit for “tranquility”), a 600-foot megayacht with 50 suites, an Aman Spa with Japanese garden, two helipads and a Beach Club which will provide direct access to the water aft of the yacht. And German hotel group Seaside Collection, whose hotels include Finolhu on the Maldives’ Baa Atoll, has just acquired the luxury riverboat Crystal Mozart, arguably the fanciest ship on the Danube.
The ultra-luxury hotel group Aman will take the water in 2025
ARCHITECTURE AND DESIGN OF SINOT YACHTS
Mozart comes with a spacious spa and four restaurants, one of which will charge £260 for a tasting menu paired with wines. “River cruise ships are much closer to the luxury theme than ocean liners,” says owner Gregor Gerlach, who, like Four Seasons, Ritz-Carlton and Aman, plans to operate his own high-spend database instead. than nipping passengers from other cruise lines.
So who is likely to sail this new flotilla of superyachts? Evrima’s remarkably wealthy crowd at the christening ceremony in Lisbon looked younger than the conventional passengers of a luxury ship, including glamorous couples in their thirties and extremely well-dressed families with angelic children in outfits assorted (the yacht even has a kids’ club). Chilled out Aman attracts one by centers and celebrities – Bill Gates, Leonardo DiCaprio and the Clooneys are all former guests – while Will Smith and Cindy Crawford are both known to favor Four Seasons resorts ashore.
Project Sama has an Aman spa with Japanese garden
ARCHITECTURE AND DESIGN OF SINOT YACHTS
Presumably, any of these A-listers would charter if they wanted to vacation at sea, or in Gates’ case, just sail their own yacht. What we know from the bar that Evrima has set up is that future guests will be happy to pay a minimum of £875 per person per night, book their stay with a few days at a Ritz- Carlton, or presumably an Aman Resort or a Four Seasons, and not wince at a dinner menu costing £250. As Prothero says, they’re not regular cruisers. Rather, they are the types who might rent a posh villa in Tuscany or take the whole family on a luxurious safari. So whatever you do, don’t call it a cruise ship.