As the former vessel of billionaire shipping tycoon Aristotle Onassis, the legendary 99m/325ft superyacht ‘Christina O’ set the scene for the original jetsetters of the late-1950s and, today, continues to be among the most world’s most famous yachts.
Starting life in 1943 as a surplus Canadian war frigate, Christina O was bought in 1954 by Onassis who, as one of the richest and most famous men in the world, spent a huge sum of money transforming her into a pleasure palace for him, his family and an array of illustrious guests.
During the late 1950s, Onassis effectively established the jetset lifestyle. Under the gaze of the world’s media, the self-made magnate received a VIP list of guests aboard superyacht ‘Christina O’, ranging from politicians, businessmen and bankers to Hollywood movie stars such as Marilyn Monroe and Elizabeth Taylor.
Thus, the setting for many an iconic moment in history, this motor yacht was where Winston Churchill first met John F. Kennedy, where the tumultuous affair between Onassis and opera star Maria Callas began, and where Onassis married former first lady Jackie Kennedy.
But, after Onassis' death in 1975, the yacht sadly entered a period of slow deterioration. Help was eventually at hand, however, and in 1999 a friend of the family, John Paul Papanicolaou, who remembered the yacht's former glory, undertook the extensive, two-year project of faithfully restoring the superyacht.
In 2001, she emerged from the shipyard as the yacht she is today. Available for charter, she now offers the unique chance to experience the opulence of the Onassis era with the amenities expected from a modern-day superyacht.
What's more, she is one of the rare charter yachts capable of sleeping up to 36 guests while cruising on a luxury yacht charter and she can also host up to 157 guests at harbour-side events and celebrations.
Much care and effort went into restoring the important artefacts within her interior, and one such example can be seen in the Lapis Lounge.
Welcoming guests aboard on the main deck aft, the salon is named after its original, dazzling blue lapis lazuli fireplace which has been faithfully reconstructed.
With oak and iroko panelling, book-lined shelves and sumptuous pale-coloured settees, the overall look of the salon is reminiscent of an old English country manor.
Yet teak floorboards serve as a reminder of being at sea, and artworks by Renoir, Le Corbusier and de Chirico add to the grandeur of the setting.
Ari’s Bar is christened in tribute to Aristotle himself as this was one of his favourite places in which to enjoy a drink
A door to starboard opens forward, from the Lapis Lounge into the teak-lined Ari’s bar, christened in tribute to Aristotle himself as this was one of his favourite places on board in which to enjoy a drink and socialise with his guests.
A small and cosy place to relax, the room focuses on the original rope-covered bar, which is reputedly made from the timbers of an old Spanish galleon. A huge map of the wall lines the wall, while housed in the glass-topped bar are models depicting Christina O through the ages.
Whale’s teeth form handles around the bar’s edge, acting as a grip to keep one’s seat on the bar stools in rough weather. Historically famous, these original stools are made from the leather of a whale’s foreskin and continue to be a conversation starter on today's charters.
During her recent transformation, Christina O’s old central steam engines, which extended upwards through three decks, were replaced with smaller diesels. This change means space once taken up by one of these regions now serves as a large dining salon.
Located forward of Ari’s bar, the salon centres on a long, 24-seater table reflected in a backlit glass panel on the ceiling. To port, a raised plinth hosts four smaller tables for a more intimate dining experience, while pillars and a shiny marble floor further enhance the splendour.
To starboard, glazed panelling partially divides the salon from a music lounge. Fitted out with a grand piano and a collection of Maria Callas memorabilia, the room is one of four guest lounges on board and is a light and airy escape thanks to large windows and a light colour palette.
Exiting the salon forward, the corridor opens out into a breathtaking atrium, with a majestic staircase and brass and onyx handrail that spirals upwards. Best taken in from above, there is a spectacular mosaic on the floor depicting Onassis' Omega emblem.
The staircase gently ascends to the promenade deck above, where an oval-shaped, oak-panelled library is located forward off the lobby. Features include green upholstered seating, an extensive collection of books and double doors that open into the spacious Maria Callas Lounge.
The oak panelling continues and Giorgetti sofas create three sumptuous seating areas, but the main focus is on a raised plinth forward, which can be used as a stage for live music. A drop-down screen and state-of-the-art surround sound system means movie nights can also take place here.
Aft of the central lobby, meanwhile, is the Sports Lounge. Cards and backgammon can be played around three games tables, while a curved glass walls divides the lounge from a children’s play room decorated in a colourful mural.
There is also space here, on the port-side, for a fully-equipped gymnasium. Work out while taking in glorious ocean vistas before indulging in a massage or spa treatment from the on-board therapist in the adjoining beauty salon and treatment room.
Purely the domain of the principal charterer is the expansive and luxurious Onassis Suite
The bridge deck is also accessed from the central staircase, but this is purely the domain of the principal charterer and the captain as sitting behind the bridge itself is the expansive and luxurious Onassis Suite.
An oak-panelled study, which also serves as a cosy lounge, with the original onyx fireplace provides entry into the sleeping quarters forward. Fine Venetian linen drapes the large bed, the original Baccarat crystal lights line the walls and white Penteli marble glistens in the bathroom.
Ten guest staterooms, meanwhile, span off a long central corridor on the main deck forward, with the remaining eight cabins situated towards the aft end of the lower deck. Those nearer the centre of Christina O are bigger in size, with writing desks and larger walk-in wardrobes.
However, all cabins can serve as either doubles or twins, ensuring an extremely flexible accommodation setup on board, and all boast wall panels, a tranquil pastel colour palette, prints of the Greek islands and marble-lined shower rooms.
Opportunities for entertainment and relaxation continue onto Christina O’s generous decks. Referred to as the compass deck, her top tier features a line-up of sun loungers, a bar and, of course, fabulous ocean views.
On the deck below, a clear expanse of teak deck forms a versatile space aft of the funnel. Extremely flexible, this space perfectly adapts to whatever occassion charterers have on the agenda.
Staircases to port and starboard sweep down to the promenade deck, so called as yacht-goers can circulate the whole level.
Well-equipped for hosting large numbers, the deck features a helipad aft, which is looked over by an inviting Jacuzzi. After guests have taken a dip, they can sip cocktails at the large, circular bar before dinner is served at one of the six circular tables.
There is also space for sun loungers, and the whole setup enables the charter party to unwind and make the most of Christina O's alfresco offerings without interfering with one another.
The outdoor offering on the main deck aft, meanwhile, very much resembles the setup of Onassis’ day. Here, the famous swimming pool with its mosaic of the Minoan bull and vaulter from the palace at Knossos has been painstakingly recreated.
Another highlight of the pool is that its floor can raise, draining the water to form a dance floor or other area in which to socialise - an innovative asset which the original boasted. The two pictures (above-right) indicate the floor in both positions.
Such a feature was extremely revolutionary in the 1950s and one which is still replicated on superyachts today, reflecting just how groundbreaking Christina O was at the time of her launch.
The area forward of the swimming pool is home to a long, rectangular dining table, lounging options, and bollards and windlasses that appear in iconic images as posing stools for many of Onassis' famous guests.
Christina O offers the unparalleled opportunity to walk in the footsteps of some of the greatest names of the twentieth century
There can be no doubt that M/Y Christina O is in a league of her own. Not only does she offer the unparalleled opportunity to walk in the footsteps of some of the greatest names of the twentieth century, she is resplendent in modern facilities and surpasses most other superyachts in terms of accommodating large numbers of guests.
For further information, please speak to your preferred charter broker.
Apostolos Molindris & Associates
|Gross Tonnage1802 GT|
|Built| Refit1943 | 2001|
|Max Speed19 knots|
|Crusing Speed14 knots|
|Fuel Consumption650 LPH|
|Range 6000 nm|
|Range at 10 Knots|