Bearing the simplest of names, Russian millionaire Andrey Melnichenko’s 390-foot megayacht “A” sets the standard for over-the-top luxury and sheer opulence. The Philippe Starck-designed vessel, completed in mid-2008 for more than $300 million, has become the most discussed yacht on the water, capturing imaginations with its radical sleek design reminiscent of a submarine. While “A” cuts through the water at the impressive speed of 24 knots, roughly a third faster than most boats its size thanks to twin, high-speed diesel engines delivering 24,000 horsepower, its interior truly dazzles.
A spiral staircase adorned with scalloped silver leaf walls and a hand-carved handrail leads to the sumptuous all-white, 2,583-square-foot master suite/apartment that runs the length of the top deck, opening onto a balcony at the rear. The king-sized bed, which rotates at the touch of a button, rests on a giant platter that also rotates, giving panoramic views of the sea through a semi-circle of full-height windows. A 60-inch plasma TV retracts into the ceiling so as not to disturb the vista. A door leads to a private lift and stairwell; the lift descends to a gym behind the wheelhouse and bridge, while the stairs lead up to a splash pool complete with massage chairs for two located on a secluded mini-deck beneath the radio and radar masts.
The central living space is below, with a large 10-person sofa and a dining table that seats 16. Baccarat crystal abounds, and many rooms have floor-to-ceiling mirrors, reflecting what Mr. Starck calls a built-in “mathematic beauty”. Others boast exotic wall coverings, including one room covered in white stingray hides, and another decked out in hand-stitched calf’s leather. Accommodations include six luxury apartments for 14 guests, each with its own bathroom and Jacuzzi. Guests are treated to breathtaking sea views through enormous oval windows, tinted to protect them from prying outsiders.
The main room opens onto a giant “shade” covering the main swimming pool, complete with built-in countercurrent for exercising. A third pool, located on the aft deck, features a glass bottom; the cavernous garage underneath easily transforms into a discothèque with the removal of the speedboats and toys housed within. The vessel travels with a 35-37 person crew, including surfing, jet skiing, water skiing, and cycling specialists, all of whom are understandably required to sign confidentiality agreements. The crew is outfitted in Starck-designed uniforms consisting of crisp white dress shirts and white pants for daytime and form-fitting black T-shirts and slacks for evening.
41-year-old owner Andrey Melnichenko and his wife, Serbian supermodel Aleksandra Nikolic, rarely entertain on board and guard their privacy fiercely. In furtherance of that goal, the shipyard Blohm + Voss, best known for its World War II battleship Bismarck, endowed megayacht “A”
with security protections more familiarly seen in military vessels. Bombproof glass, 44 security cameras, over a dozen exterior cameras complete with motion-detection systems, and a night-vision infrared system deter any would-be intruders while a fingerprint security system controls access to the Melnichenkos’ retreat below decks. Rumors regularly surface that the ship is equipped with a pod-like escape vessel, but staff has declined to comment.
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