The Ritz-Carlton Yacht Collection could build up to five more yachts, while parent Marriott is likely to launch other cruise brands across its hotel portfolio.
Douglas Prothero, chief executive of The Ritz-Carlton Yacht Collection, told Travel Weekly of his intentions to expand his brand and expectations of the Marriott group’s developing cruise proposition, believing it to have “enough brands to diversify (into cruise) for quite a long time”.
Currently Ritz-Carlton has three 298-passenger and 149-suite vessels on order, the first launching in 2020 followed by two in 2021.
Prothero said that while expansion was on the cards for the Ritz-Carlton yacht brand, it was also important it remains a niche and specialised product.
“We’re going to build more yachts,” he said. “We don’t know exactly how many more but the intent to build is there.
“We have one in 2020, two in 2021 and then we expect one or two in 2022.
“We want to maintain a niche designation; we could easily build 20 of them but we won’t. I think six, seven, eight ships won’t be a problem for us.”
The cruise veteran said he was aware other cruise lines were “unhappy” with their new entry into the market.
He attributed that to being because of Ritz Carlton’s brand awareness international and that Marriott’s group of brand would likely follow suit in launch “on the sea”.
“We’ll do other cruise ventures under Marriott,” he said. “And that’s part of the reason why other cruise lines aren’t happy with our arrival in the market because they know we won’t stop with Ritz-Carlton.
“Any number of our hotel brands would work as a cruise brand. We won’t go head to head with ourselves within the group. We’re doing luxury with Ritz-Carlton and we could do upper premium and premium. We have enough brands to diversify for quite a long time.”
The brand began taking bookings for the inaugural four weeks ago, and according to Prothero two out of three bookings have come from clients who have never taken a cruise.
While the cruise industry reports that on average 75% and 80% of all bookings come through a travel agent, Prothero expects Ritz-Carlton to have slightly more direct business “due to the nature of the brand”.
However he was quick to insist that agent bookings will outweigh those that come direct.
Between 400 and 600 agents have tuned in to listen to each of the four webinars from Ritz-Carlton Yachts, while nearly 3,000 agents internationally have registered to receive more information from the brand.
He said interest from UK agents was growing, adding: “We certainly have plenty of interest here in the UK”.