After eight delays spanning almost three years, The Ritz-Carlton Yacht Collection’s Evrima is finally here. The 298-passenger ship was named on November 5 in Lisbon before setting out across the Atlantic, bound for Barbados for a winter season in the Caribbean.

The Ritz-Carlton Yacht Collection is a collaboration between The Ritz-Carlton Hotel Company, part of Marriott International, Oaktree Capital Management, and The Yacht Portfolio, an investment group owned by entrepreneur Douglas Prothero, founder and CEO. It’s the first in a string of moves by luxury hotel groups into small-ship cruising. Four Seasons enters the fray in 2024, and Aman is due to follow in 2025 with the 50-suite Project Sama. Meanwhile, German-owned hotel group Seaside Collection has just acquired Crystal Mozart, with plans to relaunch the luxury vessel as Riverside Mozart in April.

Making the move into luxury shipping makes complete sense; Ritz-Carlton not only has its own vast database of wealthy customers to tap but those of all the other upscale brands of the Marriott portfolio, from St. Regis to Edition and W. As such, 90 percent of the bookings so far are from customers who have never cruised before – a figure other luxury lines can only dream of – and Evrima is sailing almost full. In the suites that are ready, that is; supply chain issues continue to dog the line and the Owner’s Suites and View Suites, the two top categories, are still not ready.

Needless to say, all of these hotel groups are distancing themselves from the word “cruising”. Ritz-Carlton’s mission is “to blend the lifestyle of the Ritz-Carlton resorts with the casual freedom of a yachting vacation”. Prothero insists: “It’s the biggest superyacht in the world, not a cruise ship.”

Evrima certainly has the spacious, sleek feel of a superyacht, with two infinity pools, oversized clamshell loungers, high-ceilinged suites with deep balconies, and the superb Marina Terrace, a beautiful space for sunbathing, snacking, and launching water toys when the ship is at anchor in yachtie hotspots like Bequia and St Tropez. Half the crew is from luxury hotels and the rest from luxury cruise lines, and service feels both intuitive and confident. Rather than a butler, each guest has a Personal Assistant to act as a fixer and arrange activities ashore.

There’s no buffet; not even a glimmer. Instead, five restaurants offer anything from Asian fusion to the Mediterranean. For an eye-watering US$285 per person, guests can sample the wares of Sven Elverfeld, chef at the three Michelin-starred restaurants at The Ritz-Carlton, Wolfsburg, in Germany, in the exclusive S.E.A. room.

Will Evrima work? It’s more expensive than lines like Silversea and Seabourn, at upwards of US$1,000 per person per day, but Prothero insists that his competition is “a villa in Tuscany or a luxury safari, not cruise lines”. At this stage, the operation is very small, although two bigger superyachts are on order. Regardless of whether you see it as a superyacht or an upscale cruise ship, this bold, stylish project is bound to make other lines sit up and take a look.