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Arabian Knights and Their Floating Palaces
Lady Maura is docked in Monaco at the space normally reserved for cruise ships
Jul. 25, 2008 12:00 PM
Arab royalty and oil sheiks, like most Western elite with a taste for a lavish lifestyle, are fond of adding a megayacht or two as part of their big ticket possessions since they constitute the ultimate status symbol.
A mega or super yacht is defined as a private luxury cruising vessel that is at least 85 feet in length. Some currently being built are surpassing 450ft! At one time a 75ft boat was considered large. Now even 150ft is seen as modest. The cost can run in the tens of millions of dollars, and annual running expenses can add an average of 10-12% of the yacht's value.
In the megayacht segment, in which quality, reliability, and above all discretion are called for, German and Dutch boatyards and suppliers are usually the most sought after by the most discerning customers. Prominent names in this sector are Feadship, Oceanco, Lurssen, Abeking & Rasmussen, and Blohm & Voss.
Arab clients normally require speed and luxury at the lowest possible price, since they are known to be tough hagglers despite their wealth. They also seek the facilities equivalent to those of a five-star hotel in a vessel that can move from place to place at very high speeds. For them the yacht serves various functions including prestige, family/personal use, and corporate use.
It would probably not be much of a surprise if we told you that along with the Greeks, Arab rulers and princes own a significant number of the top 100 largest and most luxurious of today's yachts. These include a 223 footer for the ruler of Bahrain, built in Italy; a 462ft German model built for a senior Saudi royal; and the modest 150ft Sea Jewel built in Holland for Prince Talal's brother, Prince Nawaf. These floating villas are styled by renowned naval architects and yacht designers - the best money can hire. On average, it takes at least 23 months or so from design concept to launching.
Since Arabs prefer privacy and confidentiality and do not care much for sunbathing, their custom-built yachts lack much open deck space; instead, they spend most of their time inside their larger interiors. Except for the largest motor sailing vessel in the world, Phocea (see sidebar), don't expect these owners to place their yachts on the charter market any time soon as they keep their yachts strictly for private use.
Their desired cruising grounds are the French Riviera and Balearics in the Spanish region where many of them also own homes. This is where you will usually spot their yachts, especially during the summer months.
On the following pages is a list of some of the largest yachts owned by Arabs, placed in descending order of length.
Prince Abdul Aziz, 482ft
Al Salamah, 460ft
Lady Moura, 344ft
Al Said, 340ft
Al Mirqab, 311ft
Kingdom 5KR, 281ft
Golden Odyssey, 265ft
Lady Sarya, 250ft
Al Menwar, 209ft
A Taste of Arab Luxe: Chartering PHOCEA
Itinerary suggestion: Monaco - Portofino - Corsica - Sardinia
Monaco is the ideal place to start a cruise on board a vessel as striking as Phocea. A real "head-turner," the spectacle of Phocea moored in the harbor among the famous sights of Monaco perfectly complements the glamour of the principality. On the first day, a short hop over to Villefranche for the night, taking dinner on the aft deck, is a great way to begin. The combination of superb wines and the chef's finest cuisine on a tranquil evening will provide the perfect way to celebrate this unforgettable experience.
An early start the next day heading east towards Italy provides the ideal opportunity to enjoy the exhilaration of one of the world's best sailing yachts in ultimate comfort. Settle onto Phocea's vast deck spaces to be waited on by her attentive and professional crew as the sails are raised and trimmed by the hydraulic rigging system operated from the bridge. With the chance to stop off at Allassio for lunch and a swim, you will arrive in Portofino just in time to indulge in a sundowner after a thrilling day of sailing. After this, make the most of the evening by kicking back and relaxing in one of the great restaurants in this charming town, or try Santa Margarita, located around the bay from Portofino. Before leaving, it is well worth taking a short trip 'round the headland to visit the small monastery at San Fruttuoso. This stretch of the Tuscany coast is littered with secluded inlets and picturesque ports, such as those of the beautiful Cinque Terre (see article on this region in this issue), which are worth a look.
From here you can cruise down to the historic island of Elba, where Napoleon was exiled following his defeat. The walled Porto Ferrario is the largest port on the island but for those who seek a more tranquil evening, the island abounds in sheltered bays in which Phocea could stop for a quiet evening offshore. After the long cruise of the previous day, you may wish to spend an extra day in the area, exploring the scenery ashore or taking advantage of Phocea's WaveRunners and water-ski gear. The yacht has an hydraulically operated stern platform allowing for easy access to and from the water after a long snorkel or swim.
From Elba, an overnight cruise around Cap Corse will bring you into the bay of St Florent in time for breakfast while the onward cruise to Calvi passes by a number of small coves that are ideal for Phocea to anchor off while you enjoy a lazy lunch on the upper deck and a dip in the clear Mediterranean waters.
The cruise down from Calvi to Girolata features more excellent bays and beaches, especially those of Nichiareto and Galeria, which are ideal for diving (for certified divers) or snorkeling and exploring the local caves by tender.
Heading south from here you arrive at the port of Ajaccio but you may prefer the more inviting Cacao, a superb little bay on the south side of the gulf, which is frequented by local fishermen who are always game to barter the day's catch with the chef.
The town of Propriano in the Gulf of Valinco may be of interest to those wishing to soak up some local culture while the bay of Compo Moro on the southwestern side is a great location to use Phocea's watersports equipment.
After Propriano, head on to the dramatic natural rock entrance to the port of Bonifacio, overlooked by a hilltop castle, an ever-popular destination on the island of Corsica. Across the strait to Sardinia lie the Isole Maddalena, some of the most beautiful islands in the Western Mediterranean and one of Italy's best-kept secrets.
Leaving the Maddalena and sailing southbound down the stunning coastline, you enter the enchanting splendor of the Costa Smeralda and the world-renowned Porto Cervo, where Phocea will stand out as one of the finest of yachts in this playground of the international jet set. The final choice is yours: to go ashore to soak up the cosmopolitan scene along the portside and in the chic boutiques, or to indulge in a final evening on board, watching the glamorous world go by from the privileged comfort of your own private superyacht.
Information: Popular for hosting corporate and private events, Phocea commands 192,500 euros ($230,000) a week. Contact: Nigel Burgess at firstname.lastname@example.org
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