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The Ritz-Carlton Yacht Collection Joins Marriott Bonvoy

A new form of champagne-soaked extravagant luxury will be upon us not too long from now: The Ritz-Carlton Yacht Collection.

The three custom-built Ritz-Carlton yachts will be setting sail on their maiden voyages in May 2022, and if you’re anything like me, you might be looking to see if there’s any way to get a ticket through Marriott Bonvoy without breaking the bank.

What to Expect Aboard The Ritz-Carlton Yacht Collection

The Ritz-Carlton Yacht Collection, as its name would imply, is meant to be the pinnacle of luxury and elegance. Unlike most cruise lines, which have huge ships meant to accommodate throngs of passengers, Marriott has instead opted to have ships with guest capacity of only 298.

This will allow for more hands-on time from the staff, which one would expect from a brand this iconic. Better yet, the yachts have all-suite accommodations with private terraces overlooking the sea, plenty of living space, and premium interior design.

As a foodie, I’m happy to announce that each ship will have no fewer than six cafes, restaurants, and dining rooms, as well as classic room service. Marriott advertises the onboard cuisine as being Michelin-star quality, which I hope it is, as a $3,500+ cruise should be able to beat the US$2.50 per plate offerings of Singapore’s Hawker Chan.

When it comes to entertainment, expect the works: luxurious spas, entertainment (though only live music has been announced thus far), and a fitness centre are all part of the plan.

You won’t be stuck at sea either – each cruise will have multiple ports of call, with several ship excursions available for purchase and perusal. Can’t decide what to do? Everyone gets a concierge available to assist 24/7.

The Ritz-Carlton Yacht Collection is presently advertised as all-inclusive on board, which includes all restaurants, beverages, in-room dining, gratuities, and wifi. That’s a welcome change from the brand’s “no free breakfast” policy available on land!

It does look like Marriott will try and make some additional revenue off of truly optional extras. This includes spa treatments, onshore excursions, and most annoyingly the laundry! I guess it makes sense to charge for something that not everyone will need. but I can see the bill on this last one racking up over a long voyage.

I can’t claim to be a “cruise convert” like some members of my extended family, but the ability to sail into several ports of call does sound like a fascinating and unique experience.

Unlike a round-the-world flight booking, you won’t have the hassle of getting to and from the airport, but rather a cruise port that tends to be much more centrally located.

It also appears that the five- to 13-night itineraries sailed by the Ritz-Carlton Yachts are all truly splendorous, boasting ports of call all around Canada and New England, the Caribbean, the Mediterranean, Northern Europe and the Baltics, and even a transatlantic crossing from Lisbon to Barbados!

At present, we only have the Ritz Carlton Yacht Collection’s press release and promotional images to trust in. As a new cruise offering, it’s likely there will be some growing pains as the crews learn to acclimatize to their new routes.

Still, I hope that the cruises are just as fun and extravagant as the advertising makes them look. After all, if you’re going to splurge, it’s best done in style.

Where Does Marriott Bonvoy Fit In?

The Ritz-Carlton Yacht Collection is launching on May 6, 2022, and it’s going to be more fully-loaded with luxury accoutrements than the entirety of Yorkdale Mall. But can you earn Marriott Bonvoy points from these cruises? And will elite benefits be honoured, or have they been “Bonvoyed”?!

The good news is that if you are looking to book that once-in-a-lifetime cruise, then you can look forward to the following:

  • Earn 5 Marriott Bonvoy points per USD spent on the cruise fare.
  • Earn one elite qualifying night per night spent onboard.
  • The cruise fare contributes in its entirety towards the US$20,000 spending requirement for Ambassador Elite status.
  • Ritz-Carlton Yacht Collection cruises code as Marriott hotels for the purposes of earning points on Marriott co-branded credit cards.

The earning rates of 5x Bonvoy points are on the same level as TownePlace Suites, but hey, at least your cruise can contribute to maintaining your status within the Bonvoy program.

To answer the question you’re all asking: yes, you can use your Marriott Bonvoy points to book the Ritz-Carlton Yacht Collection.

You must redeem a minimum of 180,000 Bonvoy points for a flat credit of US$1,000 against the cruise fare, with increments of 90,000 points thereafter further lowering your bill by $500 per unit. This works out to about 0.56 cents per point (USD).

For example, a five-night cruise on the cheapest Bridgetown–Philipsburg route would cost US$3,900 per person, based on double occupancy. That means that the total retail cost for a couple would be US$7,800.

In other words, you’d need to redeem a whopping 1,440,000 Bonvoy points to cover the cost of this journey across Barbados, St. Lucia, Dominica, St. Kitts, and St. Maarten in full! 

One has to wonder: will this be the price point of all Marriott Bonvoy redemptions when the program goes fully dynamic between 2022 and 2023? I certainly hope not!

If you can get better value per point elsewhere, then your Bonvoy points will certainly be best saved. However, if this becomes the new “market average” rate for redemptions, then the Ritz-Carlton Yacht Collection may come to be an aspirational checklist item, much like the Maldives are right now.

Last off, we come to the question of elite status. Marriott Bonvoy elite members will enjoy the following benefits while sailing with Ritz-Carlton:

The Ritz-Carlton Yacht Collection’s benefits are unique, because it’s one of the only times I’ve seen any kind of welcome party for the oft-forgotten Silver Elite tier. They’ll be invited to the same reception as Ambassador Elites upon boarding!

As we can see from the chart above, there will also be in-suite welcome gifts, which are awarded by status tier, beginning with Gold Elites and going up from there. I’m curious to find out what these will be.

Also ponderous is the fact that free laundry is available only to Platinum Elites and above. This makes one wonder what the cost of laundry will be for the entire voyage, if only the lofty Ambassadors receive it free throughout.

Speaking of which, Ambassador Elites out there should feel a bit happy that they’re getting a few new exclusive benefits, given the extent that Marriott’s top-tier status level has been watered down in recent years. 

Conclusion

The Ritz-Carlton Yacht Collection is a product like no other in the Marriott portfolio. It’s interesting to see the company rebound from the pandemic with such gusto and choose to carry forward with their plans to break into the luxury cruise industry.

For my part, I feel that a lot of points are required to get aboard right now, and I’m hoping that the redemption rate of 0.56 US cents per point won’t become the norm. I’d take a pass, but if you’re sitting on a hoard of points, the all-inclusive oceanic atmosphere may make the redemption worthwhile. 

If you do choose to sail, I wish you fair winds and calm seas.

Kirin Tsang

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