Super and megayachts have become the symbol for the ultra-rich, and showcasing their playthings in chic destinations is part of the allure. Unlike art and property, a craft is a unique prestige asset that depreciates in value. What makes a yacht desirable is that it allows the well-heeled to perform their rite of plenitude passage amongst their peers. You might have a $1 million home (or two) and even a private jet — but that only gets you placement in the middle rank of affluence. But if you have a seafaring engineering marvel (and you’ve baptized it with a kitschy name and have it moored in the French Riviera or Croatia), then you’ve got loot to spare and you’ve truly arrived.
In author Emma Spence’s book, Beyond The City: Exploring The Maritime Geographies Of The Super-Rich, she touches on this nautical phenomenon. “Simply possessing these yachts is not enough to enhance the profile of the super-rich,” she says. “This is why most owners and charters of luxury vessels prefer prominent ports where they can guarantee an audience.” It comes with the lifestyle, but it also ensures them something else. The ultra-rich are spending more money on intangible things like privacy. According to Business Insider, yachts take up 88% of the luxury market, while private jets take up 82.1% of the share. These yachts afford the affluent the irresistible combination of prestige and privacy. The only question left to ponder is where to show them off. Insofar as the world’s most recognize harbors, Monaco, St. Tropez, Capri and Cannes will always remain at the forefront, but a new assemblage of destinations are usurping the old guard to bask in the opulent spotlight.
The first stop is a former British Colony, the Caribbean island of Barbados. With sunshine in winter, beautiful coral beaches, and acres of tropical flowers, the locals don’t pay much attention to the famous that come to bask in the sun. Once the wintertime retreat for the Astors, the Rothschilds and Aristotle Onassis, today it’s a favorite spot for Gwyneth Paltrow and Barbados native Rihanna. The second largest yacht in the world, the 548-foot Eclipse is often anchored in Carlisle Bay. Purchased by Russian billionaire Roman Abramovich for $475 million, it boasts two helipads, several hot tubs, two swimming pools, a disco hall and 24 guest cabins.
Next up is Porto Cervo, Sardinia, in the Mediterranean. Prince Karim Aga Khan carved out this seaside retreat for his wealthy friends in the ‘60s. It should come as no surprise that ritzy boutiques line the small village and massive yachts adorn the stunning coastline. It would be difficult to miss the 189-foot Lady Sheridan, the 325-foot Madame Gu, or the 473-foot Al Mirqab owned by the ruler of Qatar. This coastal hamlet manages to combine glamour and laid-back cool; it’s where you come to rub shoulders with Arabian princesses and Russian oligarchs.
Next up are the Balearic Islands, an archipelago in the eastern part of Spain. Here, Ibiza Magna is one of the most expensive marinas in the world, a serene enclave for the young and rich. Located at the foot of Dalt Vila, it’s right on the pulse of the city. This is the place where old money mingles with trendsetting stars. It’s also only minutes from the island’s casino strip where you’ll find beach clubs with exclusive bars hosting all-night parties. Many a tycoon has dropped anchor here to dance the night away at famed Pacha nightclub. The Indian steel billionaire Lakshmi Mittal docks his $150 million yacht Amevi here. In short, Ibiza Magna is luxury and glitz unparalleled.
Moving on, there’s Abu Dhabi’s marina situated on Yas Island. It has firmly established itself as the foremost Middle Eastern destination for megayachts. With a vibrant dining and entertainment area, the 227-berth marina caters to yachts up to 492 feet. A leading attraction is the Marina Circuit, home to the annual Formula 1 Abu Dhabi Grand Prix. For sports enthusiasts that like fancy fast-moving toys, this is a billionaire’s paradise.
A bit lesser known but quickly claiming its stake on the map is Port Montenegro, set in the charming UNESCO preserved Bay of Kotor. In recent years, it has turned into one of Europe’s most attractive wharfs. With a stretch of beautiful coastline, mountainous peaks and now an extensive upgrade to the facilities that offer the ability to berth up to 820-ft. vessels, the large-scale renovations have ushered in a more prestigious clientele keen to sample the lavish lifestyle Montenegro offers year-round. Complemented by a designer retail area, an entertainment village, swanky waterside residences, elegant restaurants, and bars, this gorgeous tiny country with its serpentine coast, royal blue Adriatic Sea, primeval forest and glacial lakes is quickly catching on as the honeypot in the global travel community.
As a bonus option, any yachtsman worth his salt is enamored with one of the most premier marinas on Earth due to its exotic location and year-round wonderful climate, Port De Gustavia in Saint Barts is the crème de la crème. The elite particularly favor this harbor during Christmas and New Year’s when they flock here to see the firework-lit skies with the Caribbean as a backdrop, as they toast with the finest champagne this side of France. It offers great berthing opportunities within modern facilities and scenic landscapes. Awaiting you are white-sand beaches, restaurants, numerous high-end boutiques and a festive nightlife — all ensuring that Saint Barts is one of the leading marinas in the world, proving that investing in the yacht of your dreams means nothing if you don’t know where to dock it.