Ritz-Carlton begins construction on what could be the most spacious cruise ship ever

24 March 2023

A second cruise ship for The Ritz-Carlton Yacht Collection is officially on the way.

The giant Chantiers de l’Atlantique shipyard in Saint-Nazaire, France, this week held a keel-laying ceremony to officially kick off the construction of Ilma, a new vessel The Ritz-Carlton Yacht Collection ordered in 2022. It’s scheduled to join The Ritz-Carlton Yacht Collection fleet in 2024.

Soaring 10 decks high, Ilma is a new model of ship for The Ritz-Carlton Yacht Collection that will be nearly twice as big as the line’s first vessel, the recently unveiled Evrima.

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It’ll also carry far more passengers — 456 instead of 298.

Perhaps most notably, it’ll be the most spacious cruise ship ever built. The ship’s gross tonnage — a measure of interior space on a ship, not weight — will be 46,750. That’ll give it a “space ratio” of space per passenger of nearly 103.

Most of the cruise world’s most luxurious vessels, such as Regent Seven Seas Cruises’ recently unveiled Seven Seas Splendor — billed as the most expensive luxury ship ever built — have space ratios in the 70-80 range. Mass-market ships such as those operated by Royal Caribbean and Norwegian Cruise Line often have space ratios in the 35-45 range.

The first vessel in The Ritz-Carlton Yacht Collection, Evrima, has a space ratio of about 82.

Related: Why a quick visit to Evrima left me wanting more

The huge amount of space that The Ritz-Carlton Yacht Collection is building into Ilma will allow for both larger cabins and a wide range of public areas for passengers.

As is often the case with luxury ships, every cabin on Ilma will be a suite, and the biggest suites on the ship will measure 1,076 square feet.

Among public areas, the vessel will have five restaurants, six bars, a wine vault, a marina and a spa.

In a press release announcing the keel-laying ceremony this week, The Ritz-Carlton Yacht Collection also said Ilma would have the highest staff-to-passenger ratio in the cruise business — a superlative picked up by a number of media outlets. However, the statement isn’t true.

Asked to clarify, a spokesperson for the company told TPG the ship would operate with a staff of 374 people. That would give it a staff-to-passenger ratio of about 8 to 10. There are existing luxury cruise vessels, such as Silversea Cruises’ super-swanky Silver Endeavour, that operate at a staff-to-passenger ratio of 10 to 10 .

When TPG pointed this out to the spokesperson, she said the company would be updating the language it used to describe the vessel’s staff-to-passenger ratio.

Construction of Ilma begins

As part of the keel-laying ceremony this week, the first modular block of Ilma was lowered into the building dock where the vessel will be built over the next 18 months. Ilma’s first voyage is currently scheduled for Sept. 19, 2024.

“We are thrilled to celebrate this important milestone and to partner with Chantiers de l’Atlantique on the construction of Ilma,” Douglas Prothero, the cruise company’s CEO, said in a statement following the ceremony. “As we expand our fleet, we look forward to continuing to create unique experiences that celebrate the yachting lifestyle and are transforming the luxury cruising category.”

The Ritz-Carlton Yacht Collection has said the onboard experience on Ilma will “reflect the sublime comfort and legendary service for which The Ritz-Carlton brand is recognized.”

The ship’s first voyage will be a seven-night trip from Piraeus, Greece (the port for Athens), to Haifa, Israel, that brings stops in Greece, Turkey and Cyprus. Fares for the sailing currently start at $7,400 per person, based on double occupancy, for the smallest rooms.

Executives celebrate at a keel-laying ceremony for The Ritz-Carlton Yacht Collection’s newest ship, Ilma. BERNARD BIGER/CHANTIERS DE L’ATLANTIQUE

Fares for the ship’s biggest suites on the first voyage start at $50,100 per person, based on double occupancy.

For a couple, that works out to a range of about $2,100 to $14,300 a night for a stay on board.

Still to be seen is whether Ilma arrives on time. The development of The Ritz-Carlton Yacht Collection’s first vessel, Evrima, was plagued by construction problems that contributed to eight delays for its maiden voyage. It ended up debuting 33 months behind schedule.

The delays were the result, in part, of the line contracting for the ship with a shipyard in Spain that had little experience building luxury vessels.

This time around, The Ritz-Carlton Yacht Collection is using a shipyard — Chantiers de l’Atlantique — that has far more experience building cruise vessels of all types. In fact, Chantiers de l’Atlantique is one of the world’s best-known cruise ship builders.

Chantiers de l’Atlantique has manufactured a long list of vessels for Royal Caribbean, Celebrity Cruises, MSC Cruises and other major cruise lines.

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