My first view of the new Ritz-Carlton yacht, Evrima, was startling. As I stood on the wharf in Lisbon, I saw a crisp white superstructure. The sleek, sharp bow profile looked fast, lethal and ready to slice through anything in its path. Evrima would make an oligarch jealous.
It was christened by a Balthazar of Moet & Chandon, which was smashed on to the sixth deck, before sailing to Funchal, Tenerife and Barbados, on a 13-day Champagne-fuelled experience (which saw some guests sipping from breakfast to bedtime).
Rushing up the gangplank into the panelled clublike reception area I was greeted by a small corps of crew members who already knew me by name. They weren’t lined up Downton Abbey-style, but one after the other let me know they were my personal concierge, room attendant, guest attendant, shore excursion manager. Suddenly I had a staff.
For the next 13 days all I heard was “certainly,” “of course,” “let me do that …” Normally as a ship’s guest you expect polite service, but on Evrima there was a warmth that went beyond corporate rote. And the crew quickly learned my foibles, like whether this was a light lunch day because of my big breakfast or where I could find one of my new cocktail and dining friends.
For Doug Prothero, the CEO of the luxury hotel’s Yacht Collection, the experience is true to his vision. “This is a hybrid between yachting and cruising,” he says. “We aren’t trying to get to seven ports in seven days. It’s casual luxury at a comfortable pace. We’re more interested in lifestyle.”
Growing up next to the Great Lakes in Port Stanley, Ont., instilled a love of the water and sailing in Prothero. He’s one of those lucky people who converted his passion into a 35-year career built around the water. In addition to sailing his own schooners, he was chairman of Sail Training International, the 32-country organization, which trains young people to sail and hosts tall ships gatherings. For work, he specialized in maritime finance and cruise ventures with Capital Canada Limited, a Toronto-based boutique investment firm.
Enter the Ritz-Carlton Yacht Collection, which is the first time a hotel brand has gone to sea. Every morning Evrima’s hotel manager meets with staff to review the Ritz-Carlton culture, service standards and values and discuss how to enable RC “ladies and gentlemen” – as staff are known – to go outside their department to solve a guest’s problem. “This is like the Ritz-Carlton Reserve at sea,” Prothero said, referring to the brand’s most luxurious properties.
The project got off to a good start in 2017 but was beset by external issues. First was the financial failure of the 125-year-old HJ Barreras Shipyard of Vigo, Spain. Prothero had to employ his financial skills to temporarily take over the shipyard to complete the vessel. That pushed back operations to 2020, which were further delayed by COVID-19. Evrima was able to launch last fall and bookings show the yacht appeals particularly to non-cruisers. Since launching in October, 75 per cent of guests are first-time cruisers and are also trending slightly younger than traditional passengers.
Beyond the bubbly, fine dining and outstanding service, it’s the ship’s technical innovations that ensure a comfortable transatlantic crossing. Evrima is a technically complex vessel. The most notable difference for the non-sailor is the propulsion system, which uses four bottom-mounted rotating propellers rather than traditional rear-mounted fixed propellers. The captain illustrated Evrima’s manoeuvrability the evening before we arrived in Barbados by conducting a 360-degree turn in the length of the yacht, leaving a circular white wake in the ocean.
At maximum capacity, Evrima has a crew complement of 250 for 298 guests. This is one of the highest crew-guest ratios at sea. The 187 hotel staff include a sommelier (for the 15,000-bottle wine cellar), 41-member culinary team, 40 servers, 15 bartenders, 36 housekeepers, 11 entertainers (musicians, DJ and artists, plus art concierge, who curated the yacht’s 400-piece art collection, conducts tours of it and co-ordinates the visiting artists’ program), 14 guest services specialists, 10 spa staff, and on and on. There is also a medical centre with a doctor and registered nurse.
Suites feature walnut, ash and leather-clad interiors, with marble baths. I stayed in a two-storey, 57-square-metre loft suite, which had a powder room, living and dining room and terrace on Deck 5, with bedroom, suite-wide window, dressing area and full marble bath with heated floors on Deck 4.
But Evrima’s real luxury is freedom from regime. Unlike the assigned times, tables and dinner companions on larger cruise ships, on Evrima you eat where, when and with whom you want. There are six bars, five restaurants, in-suite dining and no buffets. When at anchor additional food and beverage service is available at the ocean-level Marina Terrace.
Each meal is specifically prepared for that plate. One restaurant, S.E.A., by Sven Elverfeld, the three-star Michelin chef at the Ritz-Carlton Wolfsburg, Germany, requires reservations and is the only one where men wear jackets, otherwise, there is no dressing for dinner or formal nights. In 13 nights on board only once – at Mistral, the seafood restaurant – was I asked to wait 30 minutes for a table. Mostly, there are no lineups on the yacht.
One of the things I appreciated is the subtle Canadianness of Evrima. Several canvases are by a Nova Scotian artist. One of the visiting artists was Claire Desjardins of Montreal. A member of the guest services team is from Vancouver. It’s nice to be recognized outside the country as a Canadian and not have to clarify my citizenship.
The 190-metre-long, 149-suite Evrima is the first of three yachts in the collection. Two more will be launched in 2024 and 2025. Each subsequent yacht will have 228 suites. This size is the sweet spot for ocean travel. It’s sufficient to justify the bespoke service, whilst ensuring guests aren’t lost in the crowd of a floating city.
“Our competition isn’t another ship,” Prothero says, “it’s a villa in Tuscany.”
If you go:
Evrima is positioned to serve the Mediterranean and Caribbean for 2023-24. However, looking ahead its dimensions allow it to fit into the Great Lakes.
A 13-night transatlantic voyage in April from San Juan to Lisbon, with stops in Bermuda and the Azores, starts at US$7,800 per person, double occupancy. A five-night Greek cruise in June starts at US$7,900 per person, double occupancy. www.ritzcarltonyachtcollection.com
The writer was a guest of the Ritz-Carlton Yacht Collection. It did not review or approve the story before publication.
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