Will Ritz-Carlton Succeed as a Luxury Hotel at Sea?
PHOTO: A vessel that is part of The Ritz-Carlton Yacht Collection. (photo courtesy of The Ritz-Carlton Yacht Collection)
Considering cruise ships are essentially floating hotels, there actually have been very few hotel chains successfully venturing into the cruise market.
Ritz-Carlton is looking to change that with its newly announced Yacht Collection brand.
This is actually not the first time parent company Marriott International has been involved in cruising. Cruise Industry News briefly reminded that the enterprise had a hand in Sun Line back during the 1980s and 1990s.
The little known Greek cruise line was owned by both the Keusseoglou family and the hotelier. Marriott helped establish the brand prior to the Keusseoglous buying the company out of its stake and then merging into Epirotki Cruise Line by 1995.
In a more mainstream example, Radisson Hotels International—under corporate umbrella Carlson—started Radisson Diamond Cruises with the namesake Radisson Diamond back in 1992. That brand later merged with Seven Seas Cruise Line to become Radisson Seven Seas Cruises. Still under Carlson, the cruise line eventually was renamed to Regent Seven Seas Cruises to line up with its Regent Hotels brand.
However, by 2008, Carlson had sold off the cruise business independent of the hotel operation.
To a certain extent, one could argue that leaves Disney Cruise Line as the only land-based hotel company to currently sail a fleet of ships. Disney as an entertainment conglomerate is so much more than just a hotel chain, but its resorts do count the company as a shoreside operator that successfully translated its expertise into cruising.
It actually is surprising that larger traditional hotel chains like Hyatt, Hilton and Marriott have not attempted to ever launch, say, Hyatt Cruises, Hilton Cruises or Marriott Cruises, respectively. It stands to reason that each brand’s loyal base would consider a cruise with reciprocal perks to readily apply.
Even lucrative vacation club programs could have their place onboard a cruise ship thanks to point redemptions or some sort of residential model.
Perhaps they believe it too great a risk when the industry is well established with other mainstream players, however.
On the other hand, Ritz-Carlton sees an opportunity to try, and maybe its smaller scale is a test for a larger Marriott presence at sea in the future.
The Ritz-Carlton Yacht Collection will not be a direct competitor to the Disney Cruise Line, so it can engage with a market free of any other hotelier influence.
In fact, with ships only set to accommodate up to 298 guests, its trio of new ships are aiming for a luxury niche smaller than that serviced by Seabourn, Silversea Cruises and aforementioned Regent Seven Seas Cruises. It’s going more after the existing small ships of Crystal Cruises and Ponant, along with those new coming from the latter two companies and Scenic. So, Ritz-Carlton is entering what is becoming a busier market full of other new-builds, except it already has its luxury hotel guests eager to board.
Still, it couldn’t hurt if the new entrant had an ace up its sleeve to differentiate itself.
Ponant has the astounding Blue Eye underwater observation lounge coming to its next new ships, while the Crystal Endeavor and Scenic Eclipse will have onboard submarines and helicopters.
Beyond palatial sounding duplex suites, Ritz-Carlton’s list of features includes the utmost in luxury such as a three Michelin-starred restaurant. But how will it uniquely innovate in hardware? Surely, the company has until the first yacht’s 2019 launch to wow us with more detailed announcements.
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