The gap between hotel and cruise is bridging. These two markets often share designers, suppliers, and even take inspiration from one another. In more recent years, we have also begun to see some of the world’s biggest hotel brands entering the cruise market. A common theme among these launches is that none of them are using the word “cruise” in their name. Some brands are even actively distancing themselves from the concept, with Virgin Voyages naming its passengers “sailors”. These brands are redefining the way we see cruises, bringing younger passengers, new design styles and an increased focus on crew to guest ratios. Read on to see the hotel brands venturing into the cruise industry.

Virgin Voyages

The first non-cruise brand to enter the market was Virgin back in 2019. Since its first vessel, Scarlet Lady, debuted in 2021, Virgin Voyages launched a second ship, Valiant Lady, in 2022. In 2023, this game-changing cruise line will be launching her third and fourth vessels, Resilient Lady and Brilliant Lady. Virgin Voyages revolutionised the cruise industry with its adults-only cruises providing a fun and flexible alternative to cruising for millennials. Ditching the buffet, its ships instead provide 20+ eateries. These offer a range of around the world cuisine and unique dining experiences inside instagrammable spaces. Virgin Voyages also promised to provide its sailors with a luxury experience like no other.

The vessel’s interiors are adorned with Virgin’s brand colour, particularly in the vegetarian restaurant Razzle Dazzle. Its interiors boast red and white ‘dazzle’ camouflage décor and a scarlet bar area. These stunning spaces were designed by a powerhouse team including Dee Cooper, previously Senior Vice President of Design at Virgin Voyages, and Callie Tedder-Hares of Volume Creative.

Glamorous suites

Whilst her spaces encompass the brand’s flexible and leisurely attitude, they also exude luxury. Glamour can be found in the brand’s VIP suites, which boast brass accents, stunning marble bathrooms, spacious stargazing terraces, champagne tables and exclusive sailor treatment. Sailors can also find the perfect mix of sophistication, nostalgia and style in The Wake – a steak and seafood restaurant. The centrepiece of this design is the restaurant’s grand staircase at the entrance. This is complemented by the venue’s opulent gold accents.

Virgin Voyages showed the cruise industry that they can do it all, marrying sophistication with cool and fun. The brand brought a new generation of cruisers with its innovative designs, including the first tattoo parlour at sea! The brand also revolutionised cruise dining with the erasure of a cruise classic, the buffet and dining hall.

Ritz Carlton

The first hotel group to launch a superyacht, Ritz Carlton entered the cruise industry in 2022 with the launch of its first luxury ship, Evrima, in October. A luxury brand rooted in service excellence, Ritz Carlton’s new superyachts offer an opulent cruise experience and this is reflected in the vessel’s interiors. At 623 feet, Evrima’s smaller size works to her advantage, offering a luxurious experience with some of the largest guest to space and crew to guest ratios on sea. For added splendour, Evrima’s interiors are decorated with exquisite marble and neutral colour palettes, with occasional splashes of calming blues.

First-rate dining spaces

Transforming the traditional cruise experience, no buffet can be found on board Evrima. Instead, the vessel offers five restaurants, one of which, SEA, is a specialty dining experience offering an inspired European tasting menu in a sophisticated setting with a contemporary feel. To allow passengers to enjoy the vessel’s stunning destinations, two of its restaurants offer open air dining with a view. The ship’s 149 suites are also built to enjoy the stunning views, all boasting private terraces and floor-to-ceiling windows.

Last year, Ritz Carlton announced the expansion of its fleet with the addition of two newbuild superyachts: Ilma and Luminara. These will be designed by cruise architect AD Associates, in collaboration with award-winning lighting designer D.P.A. In addition, Finland-based yacht stylist Aivan developed the exterior design of the newbuilds, taking inspiration from the elegant aesthetics of private yacht design. The specially designed superyachts will feature the highest space ratios at sea, with 228 suites, each with its own private terrace. They will also offer a high percentage of larger suites, with two new, spacious upper suite categories measuring up to 1,076 square feet in size.

Aman

In 2021, Aman announced “Project Sama,” a 600-foot luxury yacht developed in partnership with Cruise Saudi. Cruise Saudi is owned by Saudi Arabia’s Public Investment Fund. Designed in partnership with Sinot Yacht Architecture & Design, Project Sama will bring the spirit of Aman to sea in 2026. The vessels’ designs will pay homage to Aman’s eastern heritage and feature a design philosophy familiar to the hotel’s sense of style.

Defining a whole new category in water exploration, the 600 foot luxury yacht will feature 50 opulent suites, an informal all-day restaurant, plus international dining options and a relaxed club and lounge. To unwind in, Project Sama will boast a serene and spacious Aman Spa, complete with a Japanese garden. The vessel will also provide opportunities to explore the water, with two helipads, plus the expansive Beach Club. This will offer guests direct access to the water at the stern of the yacht.

When it debuts, Project Sama will offer a pioneering superyacht travel experience with Aman’s core values of privacy, peace, generosity of space and unparalleled service at its heart. Its official name will be announced closer to the vessel’s launch in 2026.

Four Seasons

Following the launch of these brands, Four Seasons announced its new business venture, Four Seasons Yachts, in 2022. This venture is the result of a collaboration with Nadim Ashi and Philippe Levine. These luxury entrepreneurs and bold visionaries will be at the helm of the project, joined by Larry Pimental, a veteran of luxury cruising. The first vessel is slated to be built by Fincantieri with an expected delivery date of 2025.

Award-winning design firm Tillberg Design of Sweden (TDoS) will be at the helm of this vessels designs, under the creative direction of Prosper Assouline. TDoS will be responsible for the design of the exterior and suites, while London-based Martin Brudnizki Design Studio will be the visionary behind the ship’s spectacular guest areas.

An innovative new suite design

The Four Seasons Yacht will offer 95 suites, with a build cost of $4.2 million per suite. Their designs will provide the comforts of a luxury hotel, boasting floor-to-ceiling windows, high ceilings over eight feet in height, and access to spacious terraces. At the top of the yacht, guests can stay in the funnel. This will contain an astonishing four decks of suites of combined indoor and outdoor living space. In total, these equal 9,600 square feet. These villas on the sea offer a luxurious experience, providing a private plunge pool and spa area.

Offering an experience far from traditional cruising, veteran luxury travel industry expert Larry Pimentel describes Four Seasons Yachts as not a cruise line, but an “unprecedented luxury lifestyle project”. The vessel’s interiors and many amenities reflect this.

The vessel’s restaurants, lounges and bar concepts will celebrate the excellence and creativity that have been the hallmark of Four Seasons’ history of culinary innovation and attention to guest preferences. The yacht will also be equipped with a spa, lounge and wellness program as well as a swimming pool. This transformative space becomes an outdoor movie theatre in the evenings, with the sunset serving as the perfect backdrop.

Orient Express – Accor

140 years after the launch of its first luxury trains, the Orient Express legend will continue with the unveiling of the world’s largest passenger yacht, Orient Express Silenseas. This was announced at the start of 2023. Setting sail in 2026, Orient Express Silenseas is the result of a partnership between world hospitality leader Accor and global shipbuilding leader Chantiers de l’Atlantique.

Orient Express Silenseas brings together the best of French talents. Renowned architect Maxime d’Angeac will design the cruise interior layout and decor. The exterior architecture of the vessel will be designed by the Nantes-based design agency Stirling Design International.

Inspired by the golden age of the French Riviera, Orient Express Silenseas will pay homage to the glorious era when writers, artists, painters, sovereigns and movie stars spent time travelling between the Monte-Carlo, Saint-Tropez, Cap d’Antibes, Cannes and its Croisette. Her dreamy designs will be the quintessence of luxury and absolute comfort.

Orient Express Silenseas will feature 54 suites, including a monumental, 15,230 square foot Presidential Suite (including 5,700 square feet of private terrace). Guests will also be treated to two swimming pools including a lap pool, two restaurants and a speakeasy bar.

Seaside Collection

But it’s not just ocean cruising, hotel brands are also expanding into river cruising. Last year, German hotel group Seaside Collection entered the luxury river cruise market as Riverside Luxury Cruises after acquiring Crystal Mozart. The vessel will carry up to 150 guests in all-suite accommodations across Europe’s most breathtaking rivers. Striving to attract younger passengers, she will offer a luxurious wellness space, Fehi Spa, vibrant pops of colour in her designs, several bars, an indoor pool, plenty of culinary options in her four restaurants. Unsurprisingly, the vessel will offer no buffet. Launching as Riverside Mozart, this exciting new vessel will be launching in Spring 2023.

Meet these hotel brands and more at CSI’s co-located show dedicated to the South and LATAM hotel markets, Hotel & Resort Design South (HRDS). Catering exclusively to those involved in the design of world-class hotels, resorts and private island destinations, HRDS provides two days of educational content, relationship building, and product exploration.