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Insights: How I Spent My Summer Vacation...

Yachting is access to small ports and serene coves. Yachting is staying longer in the ports of call so you can thoroughly enjoy what is available on land.

There is yachting and there is cruising...and there is a significant difference! We spent our summer vacation talking with travel partners to learn about their itineraries, demographics, boats, and experiences, so we can best advise our clients. It is difficult to not enjoy yachting, but how do you determine if yachting is for you? And if so, which yacht fits your travel style?

The summer of 2020 (the entire year for that matter) was and is a unique one. Americans were virtually grounded from international travel and travel restrictions to cross state borders changed with the daily tide. The cruise industry effectively stopped sailing in March and the thought of jumping on board a mega-ship with 4,000 passengers lacks appeal.

The Difference Between Yachting and Cruising

Many people shiver at the thought of taking a cruise. It conjures images of the Love Boat and Captain Stubing, long all you can eat buffet lines, unlimited frozen (sugary) alcoholic beverages, and tripping over your suitcases in cramped staterooms. Then there is yachting...

Yachting is the luxury travel market's niche water-based experience. Yachting occurs on boats between 280' and 625'. Yachting includes 60 to 300 passengers. Yachting is between 30 to 150 staterooms (which is smaller than many hotels). Yachting is a la carte, made to order dining without set meal times. Yachting is access to small ports and serene coves. Yachting is staying longer in the ports of call so you can thoroughly enjoy what is available on land.

The Best Yachting Experiences

"Best" is a relative term and the partners we highlight are all award-winning and considered best in class. We often liken it to determining the "best" between Mercedes, BMW, and Lexus...all fantastic luxury brands, each one just different and everyone has their favorite.

The Ritz-Carlton Yacht Collection

Ritz-Carlton was established in 1911 and has long stood for luxurious accommodations and an unwavering commitment to service. The Ritz-Carlton Yacht Collection is the brand's entry into the travel at sea market. They spent years on market research with the goal of creating a yacht collection that brings the uncompromising comforts of a luxury hotel to sea, and avoids all the traveler pain points of traditional cruising. Ritz-Carlton Yacht Collection's goal is to share a water experience with the non-cruiser and show them a new way to travel. It is working...70% of their current customers are new to cruising.

The Ritz-Carlton Yacht Collection begins sailing their all-suites yacht in 2021. At 624' feet, their yacht has 149 suites and carries no more than 298 guests from port to port. Never abandoning the brand's commitment to service, there is a 1:1 crew to guest ratio onboard. Rates are fully inclusive of a la carte dining in seven different cafe-sized venues plus 24-hour in-suite dining, beverages (including top shelf alcohol and premium wines), wifi, activities, and gratuities. Ritz-Carlton knows their customer and knows that food and wine is important to them.

The yacht has all the facilities you would expect at a Ritz-Carlton hotel. Arriving on board, you are greeted in what looks like a hotel lobby, where you will meet your personal concierge. There is a swimming pool, an observation lounge with a grand piano, telescopes to check out the stars, a humidor lounge, spa with indoor and outdoor treatment rooms, and a gym loaded with Technogym equipment.

Remember we mentioned Ritz-Carlton created their yacht for non-cruisers? That includes welcoming families and providing adequate services. With kids in tow, yachting means you can visit multiple destinations and only have to unpack and pack once! Just like on land, Ritz-Carlton offers their Ritz Kids program on board. Available to children between ages 4-12, morning, afternoon, and evening sessions are available. This curriculum based option keeps kids entertained, and focuses on hands on marine life experiences, explores the cultures and languages you are visiting, teaches ocean stewardship and sailing, and explains environmental responsibility.

What Makes the Ritz-Carlton Yacht Collection Different

Two main aspects help differentiate Ritz-Carlton Yacht Collection from its peers: space and lack of a home port.

Accommodations on board are simply "Wow!" The smallest accommodation is a Terrace Suite which starts at 300 square feet + an 80 square foot terrace and their Owners Suites span 1,100 square feet with an additional 635 square foot terrace. Additionally there are several connecting suites and 2-story Loft Suites (perfect for families). Suites have full, hotel-sized bathrooms, many with double vanities, so you can take a proper shower and not hit your elbows on the walls while you lather your shampoo. In your spacious accommodations you will also have pampering amenities like a mini-bar provisioned with your favorite beverages, robes and slippers.

Lack of a home port, means the Ritz-Carlton Yacht Collection is free to sail the globe and explore intimate and different ports with each itinerary. You can sail with them year after year and see a new part of the world without repeating. Most voyages are 7-10 nights, with access to smaller ports like Seville, Kotor Montenegro, Halifax Nova Scotia, Bar Harbor Maine and Virgin Gorda. Once in those smaller ports, enjoy your complimentary yachting activities like paddleboarding, windsurfing, kayaks and snorkel gear. Hop right into the local waters from the back marina deck; no tendering to the shore is needed.

Who is Best Suited on the Ritz-Carlton Yacht Collection

Most of Ritz-Carlton Yacht Collection's guests are new to cruising and many never envisioned themselves cruising...which is why they are yachting! These clients have been on safari or have safari on their bucket list, are intrepid travelers, skew about 10-ish years younger than the traditional cruise passenger, and tend to be early adopters of the newest and best.

SeaDream Yacht Club

In 2001, the founder of Seabourn Cruise Line decided to create a new company, and SeaDream Yacht Club was his vision. This family-owned company now has twin mega-yachts SeaDream I and SeaDream II, which sail in and out of small ports around the world each year.

SeaDream's yachts are intimate, each with 56 rooms and catering to 112 guests onboard these 345-foot mega-yachts. To compare, SeaDream yacht's total guest capacity can be less than the lifeboat capacity of an ocean cruise! SeaDream prides itself on personalized service and has a 1:1 guest to crew ratio to support their high standards of service. Their rates are fully inclusive of high end gourmet dining, 24 hour in-room dining, open bar with premium brands, gratuities, and a number of water sports and activities.

Accommodations on SeaDream's yachts are a mix of traditional staterooms and suites. All accommodations offer an ocean view, and staterooms are 195 square feet, while suites measure up to 450 square feet. Bedding is configured as 2 twins or 1 queen bed in most rooms, and many have marble-lined bathrooms.

What Makes SeaDream Yacht Club Different

SeaDream Yacht Club offers some very unique experiences for guests to enjoy while sailing with them. SeaDream has a number of signature Balinese Dream Beds located in cozy corners of their decks. At night guests can opt to sleep under the stars and fall asleep to the sounds of the sea. These thick, comfy beds are fitted with warm bedding and pillows for an unforgettable overnight experience.

In addition to fine dining like lobster tails and filet mignon, poolside sandwiches and salads, and small batch cookies, SeaDream's culinary team excels at servicing dietary preferences and restrictions. The chef sources items from local markets while in visiting ports. SeaDream offers guests a raw, vegan and organic menu which was created in collaboration with the Hippocrates Health Institute, whereby no foods are heated above 118 degrees Fahrenheit. In addition to SeaDream's diverse Raw Food menu, they include a daily selection of vegetarian, gluten-free, and sugar-free items. SeaDream takes dietary priorities seriously; their owner follows this diet, so this is not an afterthought!

Most of SeaDream's dining occurs alfresco so guests can enjoy fresh air and ocean breezes. Their yachts are spacious enough to accommodate everyone dining simultaneously, if needed, so there is no need for seating times. In the event of inclement weather, SeaDream's yachts have ample indoor dining options.

Who is Best Suited on SeaDream Yacht Club

SeaDream Yacht tends to skew toward active guests and a slightly younger cruise demographic closer to 60 than 70. With SeaDream's casual elegance vibe, their guests like to have fun. SeaDream hosts deck parties, champagne and caviar "splash parties", and has a marine platform loaded with yachting toys. Active adventurers enjoy SeaDream's wave runners, water trampoline, paddle boards, and bikes to explore your local port.

Crystal Yacht Cruises

Crystal Cruises has long been an award winning cruise luxury line and in 2015 they decided to step in the yachting world with the launch of Crystal Esprit. Crystal Esprit is clearly executing well and in 2019 they were recipients of the coveted Conde Nast Traveler Readers' Choice Award and Departure magazine's Best Luxury Yacht Line.

With a casually elegant onboard vibe, the Esprit is a fully inclusive experience. There are five dining areas offering open-seating, from the casual Patio Cafe serving made-to-order items to Michelin inspired dining at the Yacht Club Restaurant. Unlimited fine wines, premium spirits, and non-alcoholic beverages are included. And you can always pop into the self service Pantry for a grab and go snack, wine, or coffee.

The Esprit's demographic lives well and likes to be active. They have a fitness center filled with Technogym equipment and offer outdoor yoga. After anchoring, out come Esprit's water toys, which include kayaks, paddle boards, jet skis, and snorkeling equipment. And the Esprit's spa has now partnered with French skincare company Caudalie, offering many organic and paraben-free products.

What Makes Crystal Esprit Different

Exclusively small yachting and included shore excursions are two strong differentiators for Crystal Esprit. The Crystal Esprit is a 280 foot all-suite yacht that will rival most 5-star hotels. Each of their 31 suites come with butler service and Esprit's maximum guest capacity is 62. Suites are spacious at just under 300 square feet and Esprit offers the greatest onboard space per guest ratio in the luxury yachting community. King beds are standard (there are a few queens) and complimentary garment pressing is available, with self-service laundry facilities also provided.

Unlike some of their competitors, Esprit includes many shore excursions in their fares. As a member of their crew, Esprit employs a Destination Leader who is an expert dedicated to overseeing shore excursions. In nearly every port, guests have a choice of two complimentary shore excursions. Typical shore excursions average $100-$500 per person, so Esprit's value is noteworthy.

Who is Best Suited on Crystal Esprit

Crystal Esprit guests are typically American couples, well-educated and in their mid-50s to mid-60s. Because Esprit's itineraries average 7 days, they tend to appeal to luxury yachting enthusiasts who are physically fit and active.

Tips for Booking a Luxury Yacht Experience

Elli Travel's fares are always the same as published fares and we often receive extra onboard credits or perks for our clients. The biggest tip: book far in advance! Most reservations require a partial deposit, but that is typically refundable until several months prior to sailing. With such a small number of rooms on these megayachts, and offering such unique itineraries, sailings sell out quickly. Some 2021 itineraries are already sold out and they are currently publishing itineraries into 2023. Contact your Elli Travel Advisor to secure a reservation, or email to request your preferred advisor. We know it is difficult to plan months (or years!) in advance...and you can always revise your travel plans as the dates approach.

And Then There is Expedition Yachting...stay tuned!

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