The first of the highly anticipated Ritz-Carlton Yacht Collection may be departing on its inaugural sailing this year, but the luxury hotel and resort brand is far from the first to realise the value add of bringing its silver service to sea – and in nothing less than with the opulence of hotel and yacht experiences.
At a time when hotel buyouts, villas with private swimming pools and other socially distanced holiday modes surge in popularity, a hotel with its own yacht (or yachts) presents a particularly enticing proposition.
From hotels with sleek motor yachts equipped with all the latest mod cons to traditional vessels that evoke a sense of bygone adventure, there is a hotel and yacht combination to suit most preferences.
Bequia Beach Hotel, St Vincent and the Grenadines
Long gone are the days when it consisted of little more than 10 rooms and a rum shack on the island’s Friendship Bay Beach, yet the Bequia Beach Hotel has lost none of its laid-back Caribbean charm as it has grown into a luxurious four-hectare resort with beachfront suites and private villas with plunge pools.
The property’s charismatic Swedish owner, Bengt Morstedt, stumbled across the island on a sailing yacht in the early 90s but, more recently, has swapped a ketch for a motor yacht with the acquisition of Star of the Sea.
The classic 35-metre yacht has a full Mediterranean pedigree: built by Italian shipyard Benetti, it was a popular charter vessel in Europe before crossing the pond to its new home. Accommodating up to 12 guests in six cabins, it offers year-round cruising options that include sunset cruises to nearby Mustique, golf on the ultra-exclusive Canouan or overnight in the Tobago Cays. Star of the Sea also charters from Marigot Bay Resort and Marina, Saint Lucia.
Principe Forte dei Marmi, Italy
In the Tuscan seaside resort of Forte dei Marmi, a favourite destination of the superyacht crowd at the foot of the Apuan Alps is the Principe Forte dei Marmi – a five-star boutique hotel, complete with a 400-square-metre spa, private beach club and a Michelin-starred executive chef, Valentino Cassanelli.
From May to October, the hotel's sporty 24-metre Marina di Principe Mazarine yacht hits the water for day trips to jet-set hotspots such as Cinque Terre, Porto Venere and Portofino, or for weekly charters.
Every detail on board has been carefully curated to reflect the hotel's smart, contemporary design, although the prize ingredient is the chance to have Cassanelli – considered one of Italy’s brightest culinary talents – as your personal chef for the duration of your charter experience.
Cary Arms & Spa, UK
With a guestbook that includes the likes of Queen Victoria and Sir Winston Churchill, the five-star Cary Arms & Spa in Torquay, Devon has long been a favourite British seaside escape – even the great British leader was known to enjoy the hotel’s signature lobster, a tradition that is offered to this day.
Postcard pretty and surrounded by fishing cottages at the water’s edge on Babbacombe Beach, the charm and sense of history here is only enhanced by the recent purchase of an elegant wooden sailing yacht originally built in Norway in 1937.
Christened Escape, the 13-metre classic gaff yawl can welcome up to eight guests on day cruises and up to four guests on overnight sailings along the hidden coves of the unspoilt South Devon coastline.
One&Only Reethi Rah, Maldives
With little more than the vast expanse of turquoise Indian Ocean for company, One&Only Reethi Rah is the very definition of a luxury escape.
However, when there’s a need for an extra layer of privacy and seclusion, the all-villa resort on its own island in North Malé Atoll offers a number of day sailings.
While there’s plenty of choice when it comes to the vessel – from sleek Azimut cruisers to luxury catamarans and sports fishing yachts – to really soak up the country’s seafaring heritage, take a tour on a dhoni, a traditional Maldivian fishing boat, for a spot of island hopping, dolphin spotting or snorkelling.
The Wellesley Knightsbridge, UK
There are hotels with yachts and then there are hotels with superyachts, and there’s no doubt that London’s The Wellesley Knightsbridge falls into the latter category.
In a building that was once the Hyde Park Corner tube station, the luxury hotel is a step back into an era of Roaring Twenties glamour. The Art Deco feel is matched on board the property’s superyacht, which goes by the same name.
You’re unlikely to see The Wellesley along the Thames, however: built in 1993 at leading Dutch shipyard Oceanco, the 56-metre yacht is a popular charter vessel in its own right and with a capacity of 12 guests in six ensuite staterooms, it’s a familiar sight in ports in both the Mediterranean and Caribbean.
Soneva in Aqua, Maldives
Husband and wife duo Sonu and Eva Shivdasani are the pioneers of sustainable Maldivian luxury with their two Soneva all-villa resorts: Soneva Fushi and Soneva Jani.
Departing from Soneva Fushi, the couple’s original desert island escape, Soneva in Aqua is a 23-metre long sailing and motor yacht that has been nicknamed a ‘boat villa’ for combining all the services and amenities the Soneva name is famous for with the freedom and privacy of a yacht charter — it even comes with a glass-bottomed spa tub.
From a surfing safari to a four-day, three-night cruise between the two resorts, the vessel offers a selection of customisable itineraries and a crew that, along with a captain and chef, includes a barefoot butler and wellness therapist (plus an expert astronomer and dive master on request). When using the motor, the cruising speed is a gentle eight knots, although the sails are hoisted as much as possible, keeping in line with the founders’ sustainable ethos.