Back in the 1970s, yachting was basically a form of camping, and now it's all about floating palaces. People have different reasons for buying - primarily for pleasure, but size matters when it comes to pulling into port and mooring alongside a best friend's yacht. With modern day communications and the facilities that the largest private yachts offer these days, they are used more like summer homes/villas than as yachts. They are very much a second home and owners have found it practical and convenient to 'move onboard' for the summer rather than just going for the odd- one or two-week cruise here and there. Facilities such conference calling, video conferencing, email via high-speed data links, helipads and the like also make it easy to conduct business from the yacht.
Known variously as "yachts," "megayachts," "superyachts," "gigayachts" and just "mine is the big one in the harbor with the helicopters," the largest private yachts are the new must-have playthings of the extraordinarily wealthy, not to mention a great way to stand out among the droves of tourists at summer hot spots such as Cannes, St. Tropez and Nantucket.
Nearly 6,000 yachts sized 80-feet or longer currently roam the seas, more than double the number of a decade ago, according to Power & Motoryacht magazine. But these days you are considered practically an object of sympathy if your new vessel is anything under 200 feet. Corporate big shots such as Oracle's Larry Ellison and Microsoft co-founder Paul Allen make waves with 400-plus footers. (Ellison owns Rising Sun, a German-made Lürssen that was launched last year, which stretches almost 453 feet; Allen's, also a Lürssen called Octopus, is 414 feet.)
Not surprisingly, although one does not have to be a billionaire to own a yacht, it certainly helps. Other yacht-owning billionaires include Russian tycoon Roman Abramovich, the Limited's Leslie Wexner, Revlon chairman Ronald O. Perelman, and Saudi Arabian deal-maker Prince Alwaleed Bin Talal Alsaud.
The most expensive yacht on our list has a price tag of $103 million. While the prices of these top ten largest private yachts average $64.37 million, one should figure that to buy a new 200-foot yacht with all the trimmings will cost at least that much. The least expensive on the list, a 157-footer, is asking $24 million.
There are yachts, there are luxury yachts, there are super-luxury yachts, and then there is the Al Salamah, a private motor yacht beside which most similar boats look like little more than glorified pedalos. Owned by Prince Sultan bin Abdul Aziz, the Saudi Defence Minister and son of the late King Fahd of Saudi Arabia, the Al Salamah is not a yacht in the true sense of the word. She has no mast, no sails, no complicated bits of rope that you have to pull to make her move or turn. Rather, she is the most exclusive member of an exclusive club of largest private yachts, giant motorized vessels that have more in common with ocean liners than with traditional yachts.
Even by the rarified standards of this multi-million dollar world, the Al Salamah still stands out for its extraordinary opulence and high-spec engineering. Powered by two 8770 hp MTU diesel engines, and with a top speed of 21.5 knots (39.8 kms/hour), she boasts, according to Xavier Penez of specialist Web site yachtandcrew.com, eight decks, 82 rooms, 8,000 square meters of living space, 3,300 square meters of teak decking and an estimated crew of 96.
As well as all the expected mega-yacht accessories such a helipad, Jacuzzis, cinema, motor-launches and interior design by a famous stylist -- in this case Britain's Terence Disdale -- she also possesses a number of unique extras, notably an indoor swimming pool covered by a glass roof.
Despite her impressive dimensions, she is not officially the largest motor yacht in the world, a record held by the 160-meter (525ft) Dubai.
Whereas the latter is a state owned vessel, however (it belongs to Sheikh Mohammed bin Rashid al-Maktoum, the Crown Prince of Dubai), the Al Salamah is in private hands, and although she is smaller -- a mere 140 meters (457ft) long and 23.5 meters (77ft) wide -- she remains the largest, and most luxuriously appointed non-state vessel currently cruising the high seas.
Based on the value of the world's second largest private yacht, however -- the 138-meter (452ft) Rising Sun, owned by Oracle's Larry Ellison -- she is worth at least $200 million, and probably more.