Date toured: December 2006
I want to start out by saying that I’m not writing this because I want to stand apart from the crowd.
So much has been written about the Maltese Falcon, the 289-foot sailing yacht delivered by vaunted builder Perini Navi in 2006, that you might think I’m overstating my opinions just to make them different. So many people have called the Falcon magnificent, eye-popping, staggering, exceptional—the glowing adjectives never cease. My fellow marine journalist Roger Lean Vercoe—one of the most respected voices in the megayacht world—wrote in Boat International that the Falcon is designed “in a totally unique style that might be described as a marriage of industrial chic and Star Wars—an appealingly luxurious step into the future in the form of an elegant, comfortable machine.” He called the Falcon groundbreaking, a technological work of art.
I agree, this yacht’s technological advances and innovative Dyna Rig system have vaulted sailboat construction forward more than perhaps any other boat in recent decades. But the thing is—and I say this with all due respect to every other expert out there—my first impression is that I do not like this boat for charter.
Not even a little bit.
The word that fills my notebook based on my firsthand tour is “imposing.” The Falcon, to me, and to several other female charter brokers with whom I conferred, was imposing not just in size, but also in style and tone. And when I’m choosing a charter yacht, I don’t want to feel imposed upon. I want to feel welcomed and at home, a feeling that this yacht, in my opinion, is not capable of nurturing.
Quite frankly, the Falcon is a dark boat filled with dark fabrics. The windows are smaller where they could be larger, much larger. The décor is what I would call masculine modern, with lots of contemporary and abstract art that the owner fancies, but that will leave many guests, like me, not just scratching their heads but holding their tongues and perhaps their stomachs. One piece that hangs in the master cabin, the crew has nicknamed “Silas”—after the Albino murderer in The Da Vinci Code who beats himself bloody more than once onscreen. The stewardesses, in the short span of their daily cleaning duties in that cabin, find the painting that disturbing.
There are some good design elements for charter, including the way the guest cabins are organized. Four of them are in the same area, and they can be used either as four separate cabins or as two combined suites. This, I like for charter, as it gives you options depending on who’s in your party.
I also liked the VIP guest cabin, which is up top and opens onto its own private deck. In fact, I liked it better than the dark master cabin with the creepy painting.
But I’m afraid that’s where my praise for the Falcon’s layout ends, at least as the layout can be described for charter. The gym is located behind the master cabin, which means anyone who wants to work out has to wait until the primary charter guest is awake and out of her cabin. Plus, a good deal of the main deck is consumed by the owner’s office, which is an impressive office if you want to do business onboard, but is a waste of valuable gathering space if you’re interested in enjoying a vacation at sea. “Meet me for cocktails at the fax machine” just doesn’t sound as good as “Champagne by the bar, anyone?”
Like I said, I appreciate what the Maltese Falcon offers in terms of technological advancement, and I’d be lying if I said I didn’t stand with my mouth agape when I first stepped onboard and realized the staggering size of her sail masts. She is an impressive yacht, to be sure, the ultimate expression of what one man’s vision and money can achieve.
I’m also not opposed to yachts having their owners’ personalities mixed into the décor. I’m not a one-beige-wall-fits-all kind of gal, and I certainly appreciate the fact that this yacht’s owner wanted a lot of himself in his décor.
But by the time I took in all this yacht had to offer and stepped back onto the dock, I felt almost disturbed, as if I’d seen just a few brain cells too deeply into the dark recesses of that one yacht owner’s mind. This yacht is his taste, and I wish him all the best in enjoying it. I’m sure many people will book through their reputable charter brokers just so they can say they’ve been onboard what will no doubt go down in history as one of the world’s most famous sailing yachts. And I’m certain that when the boat is under sail with that fabulous new rig, those people will feel exhilarated.
Still, for my 335,000 euros a week (about $440,000, plus expenses, for 12 guests with 16 crew), I’ll take a less-impressive, more comfortably elegant, more guest-friendly designed sailing yacht any day of the week.
My goal on charter is to enjoy the ride, not to be overwhelmed by it.—Kim Kavin