Converted cruise ship Alexander has hosted many a royal in her fifty years at sea and is rumoured to be a favourite of King Charles III. Risa Merl uncovers the history of "the love boat"...
When The Crown returned to Netflix last year for season five, a depiction of the iconic yacht Alexander sailed onto the screen. Looking more like an ocean liner than a luxury superyacht, the 121.95-metre could be easily overlooked, but the classic is said to be one of King Charles III’s favourite vessels and it’s one that he’s enjoyed cruising on multiple times as Prince.
In the Netflix series, Alexander was actually portrayed by another iconic yacht, Christina O, during filming. The real Alexander was launched in Germany in 1965 by Lubecker Flender-Werke. The vessel was purchased by Greek shipping magnate John Latsis in 1983 and is said to have been named after Alexander the Great. She underwent a conversion, in which no expense was spared, from cruise ship to private yacht, to become Latsis’s floating pleasure palace. The newly refitted Alexander heralded a new age of yachting in the form of Greek shipping magnates, such as Latsis, taking part in the pursuit of superyachting.
“As a piece of superyachting iconography, that comes entirely from what Alexander represents as opposed to her design per se. In the years immediately following the Second World War, yachting had become unassuming until the arrival of the Greek shipping magnates. They redefined large superyachting for a new generation,” says John Leonida, PhD superyacht researcher and former superyacht lawyer. “John Latsis was one of those men and Alexander was one of those yachts. In terms of cultural and political importance, this yacht filled the hole that yachts like Sir Thomas Lipton’s steam yacht Erin created. Both Lipton and Latsis could go toe to toe with their respective impressive guest lists.”
In addition to King Charles and his family, it is said that Marlon Brando, King Constantine of Greece, and President George Bush senior were all guests on board Alexander. King Charles was close to John Latsis and his son Spryros, and John Latsis contributed to Charles’ charities. Alexander was often put at the disposal of the then-Prince Charles and the Princess of Wales, most famously in the August of 1991 in what was reported as the cruise to rescue their marriage. “The yacht was at the time christened by some of the British tabloids as ‘the Love Boat’. She probably failed as such for Charles and Diana, but in subsequent years, Prince Charles and Camilla Parker-Bowles, now Queen Consort, have holidayed on the yacht and continued to do so after John Latsis passed away in 2003,” says Leonida. Alexander was reportedly owned by the Latsis family until 2015.
At the time that she was oft-visited by royals and celebrities, Alexander stood out for her size – as she was converted from a cruise ship, Regina Maris, to become a private yacht, so she was quite sizable indeed. She boasts a sizable interior of 5,933GT in which she accommodates 54 guests and 60-plus crew. Superyacht amenities on board include swimming pool and spa tub, a certified helipad and a private cinema, as well as multiple dining areas inside and out. The iconic yacht Alexander has a steel hull and steel superstructure. Currently sailing under a Malta flag, Alexander is known to be an active superyacht and was recently spotted cruising near Egypt.
From cruise ship to a yacht befitting royals, Alexander is undoubtedly an icon. It might be said she was at the forefront of noteworthy yacht conversions as well. “Converting ships into yachts or using commercial platforms for yachts is not a new thing. From the first British royal yacht, Charles II’s Mary to the second Duke of Westminster’s First World War battleship conversion Cutty Sark and most recently the Ulstein-built Olivia O, one does not have to start with a blank sheet to be iconic,” says Leonida. “Alexander remains proof of that.”