What do the insanely rich demand? Service to the same level.
Thirty-two crew. Four guests. A 100 metre super-yacht. Over the top? Maybe, but in this case, the owner doesn’t much like guests. He doesn’t have to. Welcome to the international super-yacht industry, the ultimate status symbol for the worlds’ uber wealthy.
So who owns and charters these yachts? Some are so rich you know who they are – others are wealthy enough to ensure nobody does. They are the high net worth individuals, major industry tycoons and business giants: moguls, magnates, oil barons, sheiks and heads of state. Whether you charter or own it, it comes with an astronomic price tag. Last year billionaire Ernest Roper bought a €120m plaything, Vava 11 for his wife. Then there’s the just over €300 000 you lash out to ‘fill ‘er up.’ Most floating palaces are motor yachts, aka fuel guzzlers.
If owning one will give your investment advisor cause to purse his lips a little tightly, even chartering a boat is not for the cash-strapped either. Charter rates range from €250 000 to €900 000 a week and don’t expect your ‘vittles’ to be included: Fuel, catering and docking fees are add-on’s. And if you know your port from your starboard and Bulgari from Piaget, you should know that a 30% tip at the end of the charter is standard.
Guests with their Louis Vuitton luggage, Van Cleef & Arpels jewellery, Prada pumps and Mont Blanc pens are not ones for standard luxury. For the super- rich, these seven star floating hotels must offer an escape that comes with very facilities and services way off the average man’s chart.
From a simple helipad to a portable, fold down beach club – with a flip of a switch the aft sides of the hull descend, to create a unique living space at the water level. a pool which can be varied in depth to cater for preferences, a submarine, a gym and a squash court For those who are all at sea without some cultural upliftment, some yachts have mini concert halls. And yes, they fly in the talent.
If you’re a bit paranoid or ‘family’ in your lexicon doesn’t necessarily mean blood relative, you can opt for some serious protection such as a missile detection system, a submarine that doubles as an escape pod and an armour-plated master suite. And we dare call the Bond releases, a little ‘out there’.
On a housekeeping note, customised ipods lie like scatter cushions around the various levels of the yacht operating everything from doors to light, aircon and music. They are also a modern day ‘servant’s bell’ in case you need something urgently – like a chilled glass of Cristal.
Modcons, artillery and big boy toys aside, what sets being a guest on a super-yacht apart from the rest is something that money can buy and does. Service. If you are paying €900 000 a week, you will expect the crew to cater to your every whim. Even if it means the stewardess adjusting her body’s thermostat by pure will.
“We are not allowed to perspire when serving guests,” says one stewardess – even if it’s 40 degrees Celsius and we’re serving on the outside deck.” Nor is a grain of salt welcome. Whether it’s been brought on board by diamond encrusted Nikes or just blown in by an off-shore wind, salt is taboo. “It’s a house on water” says one crew member, “and you don’t have salt in your house.” To this end, the deck and hull is rinsed 24/7 and the stainless steel chamoised to military spec.
Guests are accustomed to having the cushions plumped before the indentation has had a chance to self- restore. If they ask for sushi for 17 three hours before dinner when the meal has already been prepped and prepared or for Crayfish Thermidor at 3 am after a night on the town, they expect to get it.
A discreet little black book of idiosyncrasies is the crew’s ‘crystal ball’ and ensures that the owner and his guests’ preferences are pre-empted while charter guests, slightly lower in the marine hierarchy, fill in preference sheets. Attention to detail is forensic. A stewardess explains how she photographs the owner’s cabin like a crime scene when he leaves, packs things away only to recreate it – precisely – upon his return.
The regimented attention to detail does not always apply to the guests. Apparently one guest stopped rather unsteadily in front of a map of the Mediterranean after a long night on deck and in a nautical version of pin the tail on the donkey, put her finger on St Tropez and said, “I want croissants there in the morning.” And so she had them. Instead of a much needed sleep the crew had to lift anchor and sail through the night. Although when she stumbled up for ‘breakfast’ the sun was long over the yardarm…
What would a crew member be expected to do then? Absolutely everything. Wrap a present for the Pope (white paper, embossed card), have a supply of sea sand bucket and spade available when a sibling dispute sends the original overboard; know the protocol for serving presidents, film stars and celebrities; be alert to body language and any sign of movement; prepare the beach prior (hand-picked by the captain) to the guests arriving with deckchairs tables, umbrellas, a gourmet picnic and toys.
It’s also all about being vigilant … including following swimming guests in a tender until they are safely back on board. Keeping a binocular’d eye on jetski activities, providing a hose with warm water to rinse off the dreaded salt and having a warm or chilled drink at hand upon return. Stewardesses are expected to make sure babies don’t fall overboard, provide cots, bumbo seats, nappies, baby toiletries and a new toy for the slightly bigger darlings on board every day. “I make little arrows so when the child wakes up he/she follows them to find the present,” says one stew “These range from crayons to walkie-talkies and real telescopes. The value escalates daily.”
Even though the crew will happily walk the plank for guests, some things are just not possible. Not many requests go unanswered but there are some … like guilelessly requesting a Big Mac while anchored in the middle of the Med or asking for the anchored 100m yacht to be ‘moved’ to block off the breeze when sunbathing. That said, when a picky Russian guest declared he could not do without soured buttermilk from the goats of his home village, a plane was dispatched from Turkey to Russia to ensure his needs were met.
Nautical platinum service still exceeds all others. Exactly what you would expect when crew outnumber passengers by at least three to one and you are paying the equivalent of a middle class home for a week’s pampering.
And of course you could just call all this, ‘pleasure as usual’ for the seriously rich if their demands didn’t skirt the definition of ‘playing with a full deck’.