An inside look at The Ritz-Carlton Yacht Collection’s first ship

Douglas Prothero tells Susan Parker why partnerships have been pivotal in helping The Ritz-Carlton Yacht Collection to create the interiors of its first luxury cruise yacht

An inside look at The Ritz-Carlton Yacht Collection’s first ship
The ship's interiors have been designed by Tillberg Design of Sweden

This article was first published in the 2019 issue of Cruise & Ferry Interiors. All information was correct at the time of printing, but may since have changed.

When The Ritz-Carlton Collection decided to launch its first cruise ships, it chose Tillberg Design of Sweden (TDoS) as the lead designer, largely because the company already had experience of working on the Ritz-Carlton brand’s hotels. This fact alone marks The Ritz-Carlton Yacht Collection out from the majority of the cruise industry.

“Being the largest hotelier in the world brings a whole lot of resources that you could never afford to have at a big cruise line, never mind when you’re building your first yacht,” says Douglas Prothero, CEO of The Ritz-Carlton Yacht Collection.

The collaboration with TDoS in respect of the 298-guest yachts began six years ago: “We’d worked together before and it’s been a partnership the entire way,” says Prothero. “We did a lot of focus group work with luxury travel agents and luxury travellers so that we could define where we belong in this space. We included our designers in those groups because we think of them as partners in our guest experience. For example, TDoS spent several days with us at the Aqua restaurant at The Ritz-Carlton Wolfsburg hotel in Germany to get inspiration for the ship’s restaurant.”

Cutting corners is not an option when it comes to this level of luxury and the interiors are no exception. TDoS has taken inspiration from the clean lines of Scandinavian design, so there will be no cluttered interiors.

“The art of creating beautiful interiors is in the design, so we’re really talking about spending money on the accents,” says Prothero. “You have to put good quality materials into it, but you really spend the money on the accents.”

To get these accents right, the brand created mock suites and then tweaked them to perfection. “Our mock suites are much better than the renderings,” remarks Prothero.

Noting that no design can be accomplished without a dedicated outfitter, Prothero adds that family-owned Spanish company Martinez Otero is helping with the suites. “Martinez Otero is close to the shipyard, builds Louis Vuitton and Prada stores, and has done a lot of work at Ritz-Carlton hotels, so we know they’re great,” explains Prothero. “The team is so excited and it’s a big deal for the company to have won this contract with the shipyard. We’re yet to reveal the outfitter for the public spaces, but we’ll have different companies handling the spa and the food and beverage areas.”

Making guests feel at home in all of the public spaces and accommodation is an important part of The Ritz-Carlton Yacht Collection product offering. Prothero cites The Ritz-Carlton hotel in Wolfsburg as a source of inspiration.

“The hotel is amazing and while I was there, I noticed that when I was in a public space, I felt like I was in a friend’s living room and when I was in my room, I felt at home,” he says. “That’s the feeling we want to create on the first ship and her sisters.”

Art will play a big role in helping to create the ship’s ‘personality’. Art consultancy and provision agency Enterprise & Art has been engaged in this respect, however the company will be doing something “very different” to what it has done at sea before. “We will do a reveal later this year, but our programme is going to be off the charts and it’s going to be fun to work on,” Prothero says. “We can’t build beautiful suites and then have the art interrupt the flow of them, so we’ve carefully orchestrated our partnership with Enterprise & Art to make sure we get it right.”

The Ritz-Carlton Yacht Collection's first ship is set to debut in February 2020 and Prothero is delighted with the progression of the building project at Hijos de J Barreras in Vigo, Spain, particularly because the first inspection at the shipyard went well. “We got everything together with the yard, the outfitter and the designer and showed the senior brand team,” he says. “I doubt they’ve ever experienced a first inspection like that.”

Despite the ship’s small size, Prothero is confident that his team has included as many luxury venues and amenities as physically possible. “Some people may ask where the casino or show lounge are, but we have a spa, five dining venues, a marina and more, so I think they’ll be happy with what we have to offer,” he comments. “After all, the vessels will be the only all-terrace suite ships of this size.”

Personally, Prothero is looking forward to visiting the first ship’s marina. “It’s designed to take guests very close to the sea,” he says. “There’s also a terrace above the marina and it will be a pretty magic spot in the evenings.”

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Susan Parker
By Susan Parker
Monday, July 29, 2019