With sleek modern design, rich materials, plenty of lounge space, personalised service, and a restaurant with menus designed by a Michelin three-star chef - and after a nearly three-year delay - the first ship of the Ritz-Carlton Yacht Collection is ready for its debut. The 298-passenger Evrima will carry its first guests on a seven-night cruise from Barcelona to Nice on October 15.
Stalled construction at Spanish shipyards and pandemic-exacerbated supply chain troubles caused the launch date to be pushed back eight times. While thousands of passengers may have had their early bookings cancelled or delayed, the ship remains one of the most anticipated luxury ships in years, especially among Ritz-Carlton enthusiasts.
"We are moving into a space we believe many of the affluent consumers have wanted to go but have not had the brand to support them," says Chris Gabaldon, senior vice president, luxury brands, for Marriott International Inc. "The millions of Ritz-Carlton customers are ready for the next innovation of the brand, and they are demonstrating, in terms of bookings, that they are willing to come with us." Most reservations, Gabaldon adds, are from people who never have cruised before.
The founder and chief executive officer of the Ritz-Carlton Yacht Collection is Douglas Prothero, a longtime entrepreneur in the maritime industry, while the cruise company is a co-managed venture between the Ritz-Carlton Hotel Company (under Marriott International) and Prothero's Yacht Portfolio, a maritime investment group. Oaktree Capital Management LP is the lead investor, and two additional 456-passenger yachts are on order from the Chantiers de l'Atlantique in France, for delivery in 2024 and 2025. The owners are tight-lipped about construction costs.
The well-regarded maritime architecture and design firm Tillberg of Sweden worked with a team from the hotel company to create a floating Ritz-Carlton hotel. "It's taking Ritz-Carlton casual modern luxury to sea," says Prothero. "It's not trying to be something in cruise."
Room to spread out
Guests stay in suites with ceilings that are higher than the cruise ship norm, with king-size beds, double-vanity bathrooms, and private outdoor "terraces" overlooking the sea. Also on offer are resortlike features such as a supervised Ritz Kids program with its own playroom ($45 per three-hour session) and a Ritz-Carlton-operated spa with indoor and outdoor treatment rooms"-as well as indulgences such as a $395 non-surgical lift facial. The 623-foot ship has more space per passenger than any other luxury cruise ship, according to Prothero. "You can be as quiet as you want or get together in a crowd, and there are a number of ways to do that," he says. At one secluded table for 10, you can host your own dinner party.
Water, water, everywhere
Guests may take in ocean views while sipping complimentary champagne on loungers around the infinity pool or get even closer to water's edge on the Marina Terrace, where handcrafted cocktails and light bites will be served when the ship is at anchor. From the marina, there are paddleboards, windsurf boards, kayaks, sailboats, and snorkeling equipment to borrow. Four plunge pools scattered around Evrima afford more intimate opportunities to take a dip with views.
The large Evrima Room, the yacht's main restaurant, features dishes inspired by the line's destinations. A five-course tasting menu with wine and champagne pairings at S.E.A. (Sven Elverfeld Aboard) was created by Chef Sven Elverfeld of the three-Michelin-starred Aqua at the Ritz-Carlton in Wolfsburg, Germany (and comes with an up-charge of $285 per person). At the Talaat Nam restaurant, dine indoors or out on Southeast Asian dishes"-or head to the sushi bar. Room service is available 24/7.
The ship's Deck 10 indoor and outdoor Observation Terrace is a social hub"-a place to take in views by day and to sip cocktails and enjoy live entertainment by evening. Late at night, the space morphs into a nightclub, with an opportunity to dance under the stars. Evrima has its own resident jazz and classical musicians, and local entertainers will come aboard to perform at select ports of call.
Every suite on Evrima comes with access to a personal concierge for requests from a cup of coffee to help organizing your shore excursions, as well as a separate concierge ashore to handle requests for private experiences and reservations on land. The goal is the kind of personalized service you expect to find at a Ritz-Carlton hotel: The ship has nearly as many crew members as guests, and Prothero says the affiliation with the hotel company helped in recruiting. "People who have been in luxury cruise think, 'OK, in 10 years I want to move ashore and if I work for Ritz-Carlton I can go work at a hotel,'" he says. "We have been oversubscribed in every position."
In its first year, Evrima sails the Mediterranean and Caribbean on 7- to 10-night itineraries"-following the yachting crowd to such hotspots as Ibiza, St. Tropez, Bequia, and St. Barts. Overnights afford time to play on land, and there's a focus on beyond-the-norm shore excursions. For example, a tour of the Aruba Aloe facility is followed by an aloe-based treatment at the Ritz-Carlton, Aruba, while an evening excursion in Tenerife focuses on cocktail culture. Cruise fares are from $1,000 per person, per night"-though you can find some sailings for less.
Leading luxury cruise bands such as Seabourn (Carnival Corp.) and Silversea (Royal Caribbean Cruises Ltd) won't be the only competition. Late last month, Four Seasons Hotels and Resorts announced Four Seasons Yachts, three 190-passenger ships to be built by Italy's Fincantieri, in partnership with Nadim Ashi, owner of Miami-based Fort Partners (Four Seasons Surf Club in Sunrise, Fla.), and Philip Levine, a former Miami Beach mayor. The first is due in late 2025.
Members of the Marriott Bonvoy program can redeem 180,000 points for $1,000 in savings on the cruise fare, with increments of 90,000 points for $500 after that. It's possible to pay for a 10-day cruise with about 2 million points, says Prothero. You'll earn 5 points for each $1 spent on the cruise fare, as well as on the hotel package rate for participating Marriott Bonvoy hotels booked through the Ritz-Carlton Yacht Collection. There are elite credits, too, and those with Elite status will receive perks such as an invite to a special cocktail party and, depending on your member status, free laundry.