ABU DHABI // It is a dilemma for the mega-rich. In this global recession, where does one go for the ultimate luxury holiday away from prying eyes if you do not want to flash your wealth around? A solution sailed into Abu Dhabi this week in all its gleaming white, 85.3-metre glory. The Alysia, a so-called gigayacht, is the perfect retreat for the reclusive royal, the discreet duchess or the modest superstar. For a mere Dh466,000 (US$127,000) a day it could be your very own floating palace, an ocean-going boutique hotel where a 34-strong crew is on hand 24 hours a day to pander to your every wish.
Cocktails at sunset on the upper deck, a massage at midnight in the spa, a banquet for 36 guests whipped up by a five-star chef or a quiet evening in the private cinema watching the latest movies - all are just a phone call away and can be summoned from your private suite. Five years ago when the spectacular yacht was commissioned, there was not even a shadow of the worldwide financial downturn on the sun-kissed horizon. This year, its owners predict it is going to be more in demand than ever. The kind of people who charter it do not have to worry too much about recession. As the yacht makes its gilt-edged way from the Genoa Boat Show to the Cannes Film Festival via the Monaco Grand Prix and on through the Mediterranean to the Caribbean, dropping in on Corsica, Sardinia or Ibiza along the way, the greatest concerns of its passengers are privacy and discretion.
Alysia, which has just sailed in from the Maldives, is the centrepiece of next month's Abu Dhabi Yacht Show, where a collection of the world's most exclusive and luxurious super-yachts will compete for attention. It is one of several luxury vessels owned by Liveras Yachts, now run by Dion Liveras, son of the company's British Cypriot founder, Andreas Liveras, 73, who was killed in the Taj Mahal Palace hotel attacks in November.
"My father decided that this was an area of the market that was ready to be opened up. Despite the recession our clients are still there, although maybe we won't get so many new ones. They range from royalty to other high-profile individuals. We used to get more movie stars before 9/11; many of them have their own yachts now. There are still a lot of people in this world who do have money and are willing to spend it. Alysia was built before the recession and she will be here long after it is over."
The presence of the gigayacht, along with the 20 or so other super-yachts making their way towards the capital from exotic locations around the world, is designed to underline the UAE's credentials as a yachting destination for the super-rich. With 3,500 new berths in 14 marinas under construction by Aldar Marinas, along with the forthcoming cultural attractions of Saadiyat Island including the Guggenheim, Louvre and Maritime museums and a performing arts centre, the aim is to make Abu Dhabi somewhere new to go for people who are often described as "high net worth individuals".
Franck Dailles, group director of the Abu Dhabi Yacht Show, said: "To have this yacht here is in line with what Abu Dhabi is trying to achieve. The show is the first of its kind in the region and will feature the largest gathering of super-yachts ever. The aim is to attract owners to come here and enjoy the maritime world and also to invest, to build up businesses and to live here. The event will put the spotlight on Abu Dhabi and is clearly targeted towards the very high-end network."
Visitors invited on to Alysia are asked to remove their shoes and given soft white bath slippers to wear before stepping into the yacht's vast main saloon with its hand-woven Iranian carpets and light gold silk furnishings. A massive television screen, a present from a wealthy client, dominates one wall and a grand piano looks positively dwarfed amid the splendour. In the adjoining dining room, two 18-seater dining tables groan under Villeroy & Boch crystal and elegant Wedgewood bone china. More than 80 tons of marble from five countries were used in the en suite bathrooms and all the furniture is carved from fine oak.
The five spotless teak decks are connected by a guest lift and a separate lift whisks staff from one level to another so as to be practically invisible. The yacht has four jacuzzis, including one on deck and another in the spa with its fibre-optic star ceiling and glass panels that subtly change colour. There is also a gym, a hairdressing salon and a small medical centre with a full-time nurse. For the person who pays the bills, the master suite is suitably grand. More than 122 square metres, it has a king-size bed and 180 degree panoramic windows controlled by a bedside console that also works the retractable 42-inch television and DVD equipment. The suite also has a guest bedroom and a study.
Naturally the yacht is equipped with a selection of "boy toys", including five jet skis and three fast tenders. It also has two lifeboats and four life rafts. And if all that luxury becomes tiresome there is a helicopter pad on the top deck ready for a quick getaway. firstname.lastname@example.org Read about the UAE's luxury yacht market in tomorrow's M magazine