Between now and 2025, the ideas of what constitutes a hotel, a superyacht and a cruise ship will grow increasingly murky thanks to new vessels setting sail under the flags of such well-known hospitality brands as the Ritz Carlton, Belmond, Aman and, most recently, Four Seasons. The goal: to commandeer business from conventional charter superyachts by convincing brand loyalists that their vessels will be better kitted out than traditional charters while remaining small enough to feel exclusive.
“They’re creating elaborate spas and restaurants, larger stateroom suites,” says cruise specialist Carolyn Spencer Brown, who adds that “the requirement to succeed in the ultra-luxury cruise space is offering not just quality, but choice.”
Despite the hotels’ distinctive imprints on life at sea, though, the teams operating these vessels are cruise-world veterans—good thing, too, since the logistics of maritime hospitality differ wildly from those of a land-based five-star resort. Perhaps most noticeable (aside from all the water) is the intimate dynamic aboard a superyacht charter, which typically finds a handful of guests being looked after by a small crew—an indulgent experience that many devoted charter customers may be hard-pressed to abandon. Here’s how the following hotels plan to persuade them.
For the Ritz-Carlton, the long-delayed launch of its 149-suite Evrima was a public-relations nightmare. Despite the initial kerfuffle, the vessel welcomed its first guests in October, ahead of its competitors. The waterborne Ritz experience, which starts from $5,100 per person for a Caribbean cruise, is anchored by innovative duplex-style loft suites intended to encourage in-room entertaining and an emphasis on private shore excursions in lieu of bus-ferried day trips. The 623-footer is also nimble enough to dock in smaller ports that conventional cruise lines struggle to service—think Mykonos, Saint-Tropez and St. Barths. Larger sister ships, the 228-suite Ilma and Luminara, will round out the Ritz-Carlton fleet.
Adaptable design is the secret to the 679-foot Four Seasons yacht. Ninety-five suites, starting at 581 square feet, can be resized to much larger apartments, while guests can book entire decks as family suites. Four Seasons intends to replicate its white-glove experience on the water, with five original concept restaurants, a swimming pool on the stern and vast, wing-like platforms that deploy from the yacht’s flanks to create beach clubs and a base for watersports.
“When you’re on a superyacht, you’re at the mercy of a crew with multiple jobs, so the experience can be wide-ranging,” says Christian Clerc, president of Four Seasons Hotels and Resorts. “What you get with us are consistency and excellence—just on the water.” The yacht is scheduled for a 2025 launch, with pricing yet to be announced, and operations will be overseen by Marc-Henry Cruise Holdings.
Setting sail in 2025, Aman’s Project Sama will have just 50 suites, a focus on health and well-being and possibly the first Japanese garden at sea. The boutique hotel brand partnered with all-star superyacht design firm Sinot Yacht Architecture & Design to create the 600-foot vessel, with features such as an expansive beach club, two helipads and a comprehensive Zen vibe. (Operational expertise will come from partner Cruise Saudi.) While pricing has not been released, the experience will include multiple dining venues showcasing a variety of cross-cultural cuisines, as well as the Aman Spa, with proprietary treatments.
While others pursue the superyacht segment, the LVMH-owned luxury fleet of small, tony canal boats operates on France’s hidden and charming waterways. Belmond was the early adopter, having launched its river-focused péniche-hôtels in 2004. These intimate charter craft, with two to six cabins, allow exploration of France’s most scenic canals. Next summer, the three-suite Coquelicot, a complete refit of the 1928-built Hirondelle, will join the fleet and focus on the Champagne region. Prices start from $81,500 per week for up to six guests, and the itinerary will include a private vineyard tour and exclusive cuvée tasting at Maison Ruinart, complemented by onboard catering from Ruinart’s head chef.