A week aboard the mega-yacht Slipstream between monaco and sardinia is too short a stay to enjoy all the pleasures of yacht charters.
By Christopher Caswell
The special charm of a large yacht is that it enables presumably responsible people to combine the milder irresponsibilities of a beachcomber’s existence with all the comforts of a luxury hotel”, said King Edward VIII of England, later the Duke of Windsor and a man who knew his way around luxury yachts.
Few of life’s pleasures compare with a yacht charter because it combines a superb sense of privacy with the freedom and flexibility to do exactly as you please. It’s no wonder that the truly wealthy, such as Donald Trump, choose yachts as their method of escape.
To sample this lifestyle, we set out aboard Slipstream, a magnificent 141-foot mega-yacht offered for charter by the respected Nigel Burgess charter firm. It was a short helicopter hop from the Nice airport to the docks of Monaco, where Capt. Phil Stevens and his crew awaited in crisp whites. In seconds, our luggage had disappeared and we were enjoying chilled flutes of champagne on the upper deck, along with silver trays of amuse bouches from the gourmet chef.
As the yacht slipped from its moorings and eased out of the harbor at dusk, it was hard not to think of the famous who had gone before us: industry magnates and sheiks, movie stars and kings. But the best was yet to come.
Our plan was to harbor-hop the serrated coastline of Corsica, sampling the small harbors and quiet coves before arriving in the jet-set playground of Costa Smeralda on Sardinia. It was also our plan to see what makes a charter yacht so special.
A great yacht charter is, in many ways, like an award-winning Broadway play. As they depart, both charter guests and playgoers have no idea how much goes on behind the scenes. What appears at a glance to be casual and off-hand is, in fact, carefully choreographed, rehearsed and perfected.
The crew of eight knows your name from the moment you step onto the gangway and, after that moment, it is clearly its one goal to satisfy your every wish. Our glasses never reached the point of nearly empty because someone invisible refilled them. Merely think about a snack, and a tray of goodies appears. The staff is always anticipatory but never intrusive. This is because Slipstream has hidden passages for the crew so it never intrudes on the guests’ space.
Food? The owner of a Michelin-starred restaurant would cry with shame if he saw how we dined at every meal. Carefully tailored to individual tastes (a form is prepared beforehand of guest preferences), the meals were leisurely and exceptional. With salads that blended tastes and textures, creamy risottos and filets under a blanket of tangy béarnaise, it was too good. Freshly caught fish, vegetables straight from the farm and impeccable meats were the rule, as were the delightful wines from Slipstream’s “cellar.”
The accommodations are equal to the five-star cuisine, and I drew the owner’s stateroom, which spans the full width of Slipstream on the main deck. Entry is through a study, and the spacious suite has a lounge, dressing room, his-and-hers baths and an immense bed facing a hidden plasma television. Picture windows on each side allowed us to look out over spectacular Corsican scenery every morning.
The sky lounge proved to be a popular gathering place, with club chairs and sofas surrounded by windows. The outside deck with its shaded settee was our favorite spot devour fluffy croissants, delicious omelettes and freshly squeezed juices for breakfast. Sea air makes you hungry!
The top deck, with its sunpads, lounges and deep Jacuzzi spa drew us in the evening. We sipped champagne, “ooh”ed at the millions of stars overhead and stepped into huge fluffy towels.
You can take four other couples ab-oard Slipstream, and, even if you insist on the owner’s suite, no one will feel slighted because each cabin is beautifully decorated and luxuriously appointed with marble, suedes and deep carpeting. Amenities include flat-screen TVs, soft duvet coverlets and private bathrooms with exclusive French toiletries.
Our trip? Oh, yes, we loved Corsica, but it was hard to tear ourselves away from Slipstream for even a moment. We looked down on her from ruined castles, anchored in private coves and prowled winding streets. But we couldn’t wait to get back to see what the chef had prepared for the next meal or simply to lounge on the upper deck in sheer decadence.
We cruised past the cliffs of Bonifacio and stopped in the Maddalena Islands to play with the fleet of water toys aboard Slipstream, such as jet skis, wakeboards, a towed inflatable banana and speedboats.
When our gleaming silver hull slid into Porto Cervo on the Costa Smeralda, we found ourselves stopping traffic ashore and afloat as people paused to watch the stunning mega-yacht. Captain Phil slid her into a difficult slip as easily as you’d park a bicycle, and we had one last flute of champagne on the upper deck, looking over the bougainvillea-covered villas of this jet-set paradise.
Sadly, our week as jet-setters was over, and, though we threatened to handcuff ourselves to the yacht, we walked down the gangplank one last time, vowing that we’d be back aboard Slipstream next year. Would it be in the Seychelles? Or how about St. Barts this winter?
The choices are too many, and the yacht is simply too good to be true.