By Maya Kachroo-Levine
Nov 4, 2022
“THE GREAT THING ABOUT YACHTING is you’re in complete control — whether you’re at anchor or at a dock,” says Doug Prothero, CEO and founder of The Ritz-Carlton Yacht Collection. “We have the ability to make something up as we go along — and that is the yachting lifestyle.”
We’re drinking iced tea at the Marina, an indoor-outdoor venue hovering 10 feet above the water on the brand-new Evrima’s third deck. The yacht, named for the Greek word for “discovery,” is anchored in Alcúdia Bay, off the northeastern coast of Mallorca, Spain. There are stairs down to a platform, from which guests can dive directly into the sea; Prothero calls the area, lined with sun loungers, “the beach.”
He’s explaining how The Ritz-Carlton Yacht Collection — a new co-managed venture between Marriott International, which owns Ritz-Carlton, and Prothero’s maritime investment company, The Yacht Portfolio — structures itineraries on Evrima. Each all-inclusive sailing (with five-, seven-, 10-, and 12-night journeys) spends at least two days at anchor, affording guests the choice to stay lounging at sea or take a small tender boat to the nearest port (in this case, Alcúdia, Spain, where some visited the Old Town and one group of golfers even went ashore for a 7 a.m. tee time).
“We’re moving this resort,” Prothero says. “There’s never going to be a Ritz-Carlton in this place.” But there is right now.
We’d left Barcelona Cruise Port the night before, on Oct. 15, for Evrima’s long-anticipated inaugural journey. We sailed from Barcelona with 220 guests, a handful of The Ritz-Carlton Yacht Collection corporate team members, 245 Ritz-Carlton ladies and gentlemen (as the brand calls those working on board), 1,800 bottles of Moët & Chandon, and one Travel + Leisure editor (me). Some guests had been waiting three years for this moment, having booked the original inaugural sailing, set for Feb. 5, 2020. It was rescheduled eight times — the results of a shipyard bankruptcy, a pandemic, and myriad supply chain delays. And yes, I did meet travelers who had rescheduled every time, one of whom showed me eight confirmation emails over martinis at the Observation Lounge on deck 10.
On the other hand, many passengers I met had no idea there were delays — including honeymooners who had booked this trip in January 2022 because it departed exactly a week after their wedding; a solo traveler in her 30s who I joined on a four-hour shore excursion filled with tapas and insights into the Gothic architecture of Palma, Mallorca; and a woman whose husband had surprised her with a 50th-birthday celebration aboard the Ritz-Carlton yacht she kept sending him articles about.
And once the ship sailed from Barcelona, no one was thinking about the ups and downs that preceded our voyage and how we got there. We were focused on where we were going. And it was Saturday night on Evrima.
I was off to the Evrima Room, the fourth-deck main dining room serving three meals a day, with Jacqueline Barney, The Ritz-Carlton Yacht Collection’s vice president of global marketing. I ordered the charred octopus (all the fish and seafood on board are sourced locally from ports every three days), heirloom tomato risotto, and a lemon tart decked out with mini meringues and sugar-spun ornamentation. There are five other dining venues (plus 24/7 in-room dining) on the 623-foot-long Evrima: The Pool Lounge, on the fifth deck, next to the infinity-edge pool; S.E.A., which stands for Sven Elverfeld Afloat, modeled after the chef’s Michelin three-starred restaurant at The Ritz-Carlton, Wolfsburg, Germany, on deck six; Talaat Nam, an indoor-outdoor southeast Asian spot designed to physically wrap around S.E.A.; and open-air Mediterranean restaurant Mistral on deck eight. I polled about 20 ladies and gentlemen on their favorite restaurant, and Mistral was the overwhelming favorite. The focal point of Mistral is the pool in the middle of the venue — one of six pools on board (“plus the sea,” Prothero quips, “that’s the biggest pool”). All food and drink are included in the sail price, save the curated 120-bottle reserve wine list, a collection of high-end spirits, and the seven-course tasting menu at S.E.A., which starts at $285 with wine pairings.
We left Evrima Room by 10:30 p.m. to see where people were congregating, first dropping by the fourth-deck Living Room, where a jazz trio was warming up. There are six musicians on board, including a DJ, and there will be local artists who continually rotate in. Currently they play in different configurations, including as a pop group and a jazz trio. Guitarist Craig Stuart told me most had never met before coming together in July in Santander, Spain, where the ship was being finished, to spend the month rehearsing together.
With six restaurants and six bars on board, nearly every space felt lively, but none too crowded. From the Living Room, we migrated to deck 10 where the cozy, 404-square-foot Humidor, outfitted with a The Macallan cart, Davidoff cigars, and an array of reserve-list whiskies, was — sorry, there’s no other way to say it — poppin’ off.
The Observation Lounge had similar energy, and folks gathered around as the bartender, OJ, who garnered a band of loyal followers during our time on Evrima, strained my Negroni into a coupe, enclosed it in a glass covering, and pumped in smoke, purely for the spectacle — and to add a smoky je ne sais quoi to my nightcap. Even the ninth-deck Spa Terrace (one of Prothero’s favorite spots because “when we’re moving, you can see the front of the ship, so the view is amazing”) had a small crowd in the whirlpool. I didn’t linger on the Spa Terrace, but came back the next morning for a deep-tissue massage in one of the five treatment rooms and a sumptuous nap in the indoor-outdoor relaxation area.
I ended my night on my private balcony wrapped in a Frette robe, transfixed by the waves of the Balearic Sea rhythmically foaming and curling against the ship. There was plenty of space inside my 429-square-foot Signature Suite to sprawl — a full tub and double vanity in the bathroom, a sitting area, a dining table, and a king-size bed. Room options range from the entry-level Terrace Suites to the 1,000-square-foot Owner’s Suite, with a private whirlpool. Each of the 149 guest rooms have private balconies. Six rooms (the Owner’s and the View Suites) are not yet finished, so for the moment, the two-story Lofts are the top-tier offering on board, with 81-square-foot terraces.
A personal concierge is assigned to each suite, though with schedules printed daily (and posted on The Ritz-Carlton Yacht Collection app) detailing yacht happenings, like sunset stretch and meditation on deck nine, and personalized itineraries, I rarely reached out to mine. Nonetheless, in meeting concierges, chefs, the two-person wine team (pro tip: always befriend the somms), and shore excursion pros, their impressive expertise really stuck with me. I talked luxury hotel shop with Theo Lakkas, a food-and-beverage lead who opened Matild Palace, a Luxury Collection, in Budapest. Executive chef John Suley came from Stephen Starr’s team and very seamlessly worked a “Wolf of Wall Street” quote into conversation. I learned about head sommelier Sebastian Pacheco’s vision for the reserve wine list — he wants to pick up a highly sought-after case from every port city to bolster the already-expansive selection. He came from Francis Ford Coppola’s Inglenook in Rutherford, California, and was working there last time I visited the Napa Valley winery in 2019.
Sotheby’s-educated art concierge Rafaella Vitale, from the London art advisory world, gushed about the private tours she’s already planning with guests and the mini-auctions she’ll curate for each sailing. I watched as Pacheco and Vitale ping-ponged ideas off each other for art-and-wine events they could put on during an upcoming transatlantic crossing, while sipping Ruinart sparkling rosé from the bottle the three of us were sharing. (The transatlantic voyage will leave from Lisbon after Evrima’s christening on Nov. 5, sail to Tenerife, Spain, spend seven days at sea, and wind up in Bridgetown, Barbados. Vitale will have the Bahamian artist behind the ship’s upcoming rotating art exhibit, Lynn Parotti, on board for the crossing and Caribbean sailings.)
Over cappuccinos with Mark Lockwood, senior vice president of cruise hotel operations — who, by the way, was there the first time I caught sight of Evrima and bore witness to my supremely composed reaction — I recounted my findings: who came from (now-defunct) Crystal Cruises or Seabourn, who opened Mandarin Oriental’s iconic London property. He told me they reviewed 41,000 applications to find the 245 ladies and gentlemen on board (the math on that: 0.59% of those hopefuls now work on Evrima). Of those 245, about half come from the world of luxury hotels and half from the world of high-end cruising. That’s how you bring a hotel concept to sea.
“The world of hotels is very different than cruise,” Prothero explains. “We spent a better part of a year-and-a-half just figuring out how the formula needed to be different.”
As if it weren’t already apparent that this vessel is, in fact, a luxury hotel at sea by the classic light-blue Ritz-Carlton key cards, Frette robes, Diptyque bath products, and signature oils in the spa used at each of the 103 Ritz-Carlton hotels worldwide, the clearest sign came on our second evening. The ship hosted the “first-ever Marriott Bonvoy member reception at sea,” according to Marriott CEO Anthony Capuano, who Zoomed in for the occasion. The Bonvoy program functions for The Ritz-Carlton Yacht Collection much in the the same way it would on dry land: Guests can earn five points per $1 of their cruise fare; they can redeem points to reduce the cost of their sailing, with some limitations (an initial redemption of 180,000 points saves you $1,000, and you may then continue to redeem at a clip of 90,000 points for each $500 of savings).
Evrima will continue sailing the Mediterranean until the transatlantic crossing, after which the yacht will spend five months in the Caribbean, visiting idyllic ports of call in Puerto Rico, the Dominican Republic, Guadeloupe, Barbados, and Turks and Caicos, among other islands, before heading back across the Atlantic to the Med in mid-April. Most of the 2022 trips are already booked, and 2023 journeys are about 60% full at the time of publishing. High demand is far from a problem, though, as The Ritz-Carlton Yacht Collection has two more vessels in the works: Ilma, coming in 2024, and Luminara, coming in 2025, each with a 456-passenger capacity.
While Ritz-Carlton is now the first luxury hotel brand at sea on this scale, Four Seasons and Aman both have ships of a similar size in the works. Four Seasons just announced a 679-foot, 95-cabin yacht, designed by the same company that worked on Evrima, Tillberg of Sweden, coming in 2025. Like Evrima, it will summer on the Mediterranean and winter in the Caribbean. Aman’s 50-suite yacht, also slated for a 2025 delivery, is in partnership with Cruise Saudi and will explore the Middle East.
I disembarked on Mallorca halfway through the seven-night inaugural sailing, which concluded in Nice, France, on Oct. 22. When Evrima anchored off the coast of St. Tropez, the Marina, open only when the ship is at anchor, unfolded with floating platforms and a bevy of water toys, like paddleboards, sail boats, kayaks, and snorkeling accouterments. From my layover in London, I texted Barney for pictures of Evrima anchored off St. Tropez (it’s called yacht FOMO, OK?). I could just picture what my morning would look like on board: espresso on my balcony, maybe a mimosa at the Marina, a soak in the ninth-deck whirlpool. For the afternoon, I’d move slowly, go ashore when I wanted, if I wanted, probably make it up as I went along. I hear that’s what the yachting lifestyle is all about.