Luxury hotel brands say they’re creating a whole new cruise category: Travel Weekly
DeeAna Archer, owner of Sugar Land, Texas-based Archer Luxury Travel, is thrilled to sail on the first ship in the Ritz-Carlton Yacht Collection.
She’s booked the Owners Suite on the sleek 298-passenger Evrima for a Bahamas cruise in February and is looking forward to posting photos on Facebook.
These posts, she said, will undoubtedly lead to an increase in the number of her luxury customers booking the hotel brand’s cruise line. His proof? She booked two cabins on the Evrima after only announcing she was sailing on it. And so far, most of its customers who book these yacht experiences have never been on a cruise.
“They want a more personalized luxury experience, and currently the Ritz-Carlton Yacht is delivering that,” Archer said, adding that those customers also want a cruise experience without “everyone else.”
The Ritz-Carlton Yacht Collection, which just put its first ship into service on October 15 after nearly two years of delay, is part of a group of luxury hotel companies that are looking to the sea.
Four Seasons became the latest, announcing late last month that it was launching a line of yachts starting with a 190-passenger vessel. Aman will also enter the cruise industry; he is building a 100-passenger yacht in a joint venture with Cruise Saudi called Project Sama. The two hotel brands plan to launch these ships in 2025.
A common thread among attendees is that none use the word “cruise” in their name, and at least two actively distance themselves from the concept.
Aman Group CEO Vlad Doronin said the Sama project is “ultimately creating a whole new category in on-water discovery”. Is this a cruise? “No,” he said, instead calling the product “similar to a private superyacht.” He said he expected the yacht product to appeal to those who want to “see the world from this new perspective”, including those who know Aman.
Four Seasons Yachts was announced at the Monte Carlo Yacht Show on September 27, deliberately at a yacht event, not a cruise conference, said Larry Pimentel, CEO of the new venture and longtime executive of the l cruise industry that was last at the helm of Azamara. .
“We may be on a cruise, but we’re not a cruise line,” he said. “There are so many differences, whether it’s the design or how we’re going to go to market. It’s a hybrid design. It takes the best of passenger transport and the best of yachting and combines both elements in something that has created, really, a genre, maybe even a niche, that… has no equal.”
Four Seasons Yachts’ first ship will cost $4.2 million per stateroom, Pimentel said. For comparison, the expedition ship Crystal Endeavor (soon to sail for Silversea as Silver Endeavour), considered one of the most expensive expedition cruise ships, is said to have cost just under $2 million. dollars per berth.
One thing that sets the Four Seasons product apart from even luxury cruise ships, he said, is its space per passenger. Compared to similarly sized luxury vessels, such as the 32,000 gross ton, 458 passenger Seabourn Quest, the Four Seasons Yachts vessels will weigh approximately 33,000 gross tons and accommodate 190 passengers.
The Ritz-Carlton Yacht Collection is not opposed to using the C-word in its marketing, but it has made it clear that this is not a traditional cruise, with its brand statement proclaiming that she “opens the way to a new era of yacht styling”. cruise.”
Reinvent the wheel? Not enough
Not everyone thinks that these hotel brands should distance themselves from the products that are already successful there.
Eric Goldring, luxury specialist and owner of Goldring Travel, based in Truckee, Calif., said the biggest problem he sees with these brands is that they are hotels venturing into a business whom they do not know and whom it would be wise to bring. seasoned cruise executives who are not trying to create a “floating hotel”.
“It has to be a cruise line first and operate with those who can do it,” he said. “In other words, it’s fine to say, ‘That’ll be cool,’ but you have to know that it can be built and has legs to last over time.”
Goldring said its customers have been asking about these crossings, including the Evrima, which has just made its debut on a crossing from Barcelona to Rome. “I have told all my clients that there is no advantage in being the first [the hotel cruise lines] figure things out,” he said. “My job is to make sure my clients’ desires are exceeded, not frustrated.
Steve Orens, president of Plaza Travel in Woodland Hills, Calif., has booked a cruise on the Evrima four times, all but the last canceled due to construction delays or Covid. He sails the ship in December and is eager to experience the Ritz-Carlton’s product and service at sea. But like a new restaurant, he wants to give the line time to show how a hotel company runs a cruise ship before to give it a review.
“They do a great job of hotel management, and [cruise lines] always have a hotel manager on cruise ships,” Orens said. “We’ll see how they can replicate or deliver that experience at sea.”
Christian Sauleau, the retired former executive vice president of operations for luxury brands including Silversea Cruises, Crystal and Regent Seven Seas, said running a ship is different from running a hotel. For example, the crew lives on a ship, which requires different team effort and attention for employees.
Although these brands have the clout of a household name, they will still have to work out the issues with their new products, he said.
“The thing is, waiting [from guests] will be higher. They expect the Four Seasons,” he said. “If it’s a new brand, you can have excuses. If you’re the Four Seasons, we expect you to deliver right away.”