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More scoop on Four Seasons Yachts, from Larry Pimentel and Philip Levine

From left, Four Seasons Yachts' Nadim Ashi, Philip Levine and Larry Pimentel
The incredibly spacious Four Seasons Yacht is inspired by Aristotle Onassis's iconic Christina O, and the experience will be much more like a private yacht than a passenger ship, Larry Pimentel and Philip Levine told Seatrade Cruise News.

The resemblance to Christina O is clear, even down to the canoe-shaped aft with its expansive pool deck where — as on that classic yacht — the push of a button can raise the bottom of the pool to create a dance platform, outdoor movie theater or space for a wedding or other private event.


The push of a button can raise the bottom of the pool to create a dance platform, outdoor movie theater or space for a wedding or other private event

A little Dolce Vita

'It will have a beautiful, old-world charm with modern technology and a little Dolce Vita,' said Levine of Marc-Henry Cruise Holdings, the company partnering with Four Seasons Hotels and Resorts to create Four Seasons Yachts.

'This is a legend at inception,' said Pimentel, the new brand's CEO. 'It's about the art of the impossible becoming possible.'

And it's built on Four Seasons founder Isadore Sharp's guest-centric approach and reputation for unmatched service and quality.

'While we cruise, we are not a cruise line,' continued Pimentel, who considers this a 'new, exclusive niche' that has 'the best of everything standard shipping has plus attributes of the finest yachts in the world.'

Insights from EY, Bain, the Luxury Institute

Four Seasons Yachts used EY, Bain and the Luxury Institute for deep insights into the market of ultra-high net worth individuals.

This guided them to a 'winning formula that's different with so many things that are unique' to appeal to a rarified customer.

It starts with the people, Pimentel said, who have the vision for an 'extraordinary product.'

The creatives

The creatives were given a design brief specifying the vessel 'can't look like a cruise ship and can't look like contemporary yachts.'

Prosper Assouline, the publisher who 'revolutionized the coffee table book' and a luxury lifestyle guru, is the creative designer. London-based Martin Brudnizki Design Studio, the brainchild behind world-famous hotels, restaurants and private clubs, is responsible for many of the guest areas. This is the first seagoing project for both.

Bringing the maritime expertise is Tillberg Design of Sweden as lead architect responsible for designing the exterior and the suites. Fredrik Johansson, partner and executive director, is 'one of the designers I worked with on Queen Mary 2,' said Pimentel, referring to the time he led Cunard.

Also bringing their vision are Levine, who had the eye for Christina O, and his partner in Marc-Henry Cruise Holdings, Nadim Ashi, who Pimentel called 'one of the most successful Four Seasons owners.' His Four Seasons Hotel at The Surf Club, Surfside, Florida is another inspiration for the yacht.

Ashi speaks of sophisticated design, understated elegance and impeccable, unparalleled service.

'Now, more than ever, small is the new big. People desire exclusivity, privacy and space — that's what we're delivering,' Levine said.

95 suites on a 33,000gt vessel

The spaciousness is jaw-dropping: just 95 suites on an approximately 33,000gt vessel. And the suites can be reduced to 65 by connecting units.

Even The Ritz-Carlton Yacht Collection can't compare, according to Pimentel, who asserted: 'Our vessel has 50% more space per passenger.'

'The suites are so big. The balconies are huge,' Levine said, adding that 11 suites have dedicated rooms for staff such as security, an administrative assistant or caregiver.

Vertical and horizontal suite connectivity

Thanks to both vertical and horizontal connectivity, groups of four or five suites can be connected — not by doors but entire walls that open — into one unit. It's even possible to transform one entire deck into a private villa.

Suite accommodations start at an average of 54 square meters/581 square feet of indoor/outdoor living space. Sixty percent of the vessel’s inventory is in excess of 76 square meters/818 square feet of indoor/outdoor space.

The suites' ceiling heights of more than 2.4 meters/7.9 feet, as Pimentel put it, are 'not normal on a cruise ship.'


The four-deck Funnel Suite can be enlarged by vertically connecting with units below

'Our Eiffel Tower'

The Four Season Yacht's Funnel Suite, rising four decks, and spanning nearly 9,600 square feet, with all-glass walls, will be 'the most stunning space on any ship, anywhere, full stop,' Pimentel said. 'It's our Eiffel Tower, our Taj Mahal.'

With 892 square meters/9,601 square feet of combined indoor/outdoor living space, it, too, can be expanded to 10,000 or 11,000 square feet by vertically connecting with units below.

Suite categories, itineraries and per diems aren't public yet, but at a cost of $4.2m per suite to build the vessel, fares are going to be eye-watering in the cruise sector. This won't be about 'discounts' but 'what counts,' Pimentel quipped — 'quality, style and service second to none.'

Key markets

Levine said research identified key markets. First: Four Seasons devotees (like him). Second: People who own or charter yachts. Even the biggest yachts may have just six or eight bedrooms at most, and more space may be needed for special celebrations like a 50th birthday bash or a special anniversary. Third: A 'very small sliver of the cruise industry that wants to go higher.'

'One of the most important markets will be charters by yacht brokers,' Pimentel said.


The Mediterranean will be one of the Four Seasons Yacht deployment areas

Mediterranean and Caribbean deployment

As for deployment, 'It's very much following the yachting world, with longer stays in ports, following the sun.'

That means the world's two prime yachting regions: the Mediterranean and the Caribbean.

Onboard lifestyle

Don't expect a cruise director and the usual shipboard activities and entertainment.

'We don't tell you what to do. We want to know what you want to do,' Levine said. 'It's very unprogrammed.'

So far, a full-service spa, salon and wellness programming are announced. And Levine expects to emulate the Four Seasons resorts in having a 'remarkable' children's club. 'Lots of affluent travelers bring their kids, little kids,' he said.


Imagine 'Yacht Moments' to surprise and delight

Dining on the midship marina platforms and 'Yacht Moments'

Fincantieri leads the world in cruise shipbuilding but it's also one of the leading super-yacht builders. According to Pimentel, in planning the Four Seasons Yacht, 'They saw opportunities where others saw problems.'

So Fincantieri's attitude and expertise enabled design features like the transverse marina. Instead of an aft marina, there will be a midship marina that spans from port to starboard — effectively two marinas.

One side could be used for aquatic activities while tenders launch from the other side. At night the marina platforms will transform into dining areas for 24 guests.

Furthermore, special 'Yacht Moments' will be revealed at another time.

Batteries and, possibly, methanol

'Our guests will be conscientious travelers,' Pimentel said, and Four Seasons is committed to operating in a way that it will be welcomed by destinations and communities. So sustainability and environmental responsibility priorities.

The Four Seasons Yacht will have a bevy of environmental features, to be disclosed. Among them are enormous battery packs and shore power capability.

A methanol study is under way to consider a methanol conversion for the diesel engines.

15-year dream

Four Seasons Yachts has been a dream of Levine's and Pimentel's for more than 15 years, but the timing wasn't right for Four Seasons Hotels & Resorts until now.

Levine said: 'There's no one who knows better how to dream and deliver the ultra-luxury experience' than Pimentel. 'It's a passion for him.'

And Four Seasons has long been a passion for Levine, who's an uber-fan.

Not a licensing deal

The privately held Four Seasons isn't licensing its brand; it is partnering with Marc-Henry Cruise Holdings, Levine and Ashi's company, named after their respective sons. Marc-Henry Cruise Holdings will own the yacht. Levine declined to discuss any financial aspects, including if Four Seasons is an investor, but said the newbuild is fully financed. The one plus two deal is valued at 1.2b.

Marc-Henry Cruise Holdings is headquartered in Malta, where the yachts will be registered. Pimentel leads the Miami office, whose location is being decided, and he shared members of the start-up team with Seatrade Cruise News. (See separate story.)

Back to Christina O

It was Levine's admiration for the Christina O that made it an inspiration for Four Seasons. However — coincidentally — Pimentel has an association with Christina O, too. After he left Cunard, he was asked by Arthur Tauck, the deluxe tour operator, to assess the yacht for possible purchase.

Pimentel related how the Greek shipping magnate Onassis had acquired a former Canadian frigate and poured $4m into it, a fortune in 1954, making it into 'the yacht of the world.' It hosted the wedding receptions for Grace Kelly and Prince Rainier, and Onassis and Jackie Kennedy, and carried personalities like Winston Churchill, Marilyn Monroe, Frank Sinatra and John F Kennedy.

Since Wednesday's announcement, timed to the Monaco Yacht Show, Pimentel's been 'stunned' by receiving more than 8,000 messages from people around the world. The reveal was held in the magnificent Prince Albert Room of the Oceanographic Museum of Monaco, and media entered through a hologram of the Four Seasons Yacht that rotated to travel the French Riviera and the Greek Isles.

Pimentel said one reason he chose Monaco is because it had been a frequent berth for Christina O.