christina o iconic superyacht

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Fact file: five things you didn't know about legendary superyacht Christina O

7 September 2023 • Written by Dea Jusufi

Styled in the early fifties by Caesar Pinnau, Christina O’s iconic visage has been splashed across the pages of magazines and yachting journals for more than half a century. Countless designers have been inspired by her golden-age, Jackie O-influenced interiors, while her colourful Hollywood history makes her one of the most coveted charter yachts on the market. BOAT International takes a look at the life of this 99.1-metre legend... 

1. She was rescued by a Greek billionaire (and then again by his friend)

Owner of Christina O, Aristotle Onassis
Credit: Bettmann via Getty Images

Built by Canadian Vickers as a wartime, anti-submarine vessel, Christina O was salvaged post-WWII by Greek shipping magnate and second husband of Jackie Kennedy, Aristotle Onassis. He bought her at scrap value ($34,000) and spent $4 million – approximately $50 million in today’s terms – on her transformation, an eye-watering investment that set an aspirational standard of post-war luxury.

Christina O was named after Onassis' first child (the yacht was formerly just Christina) and inherited by her muse after Aristotle's death in 1975 – only to be donated to the Greek government three years later. Suffering from a decade of slow decline, she was finally rescued by Onassis family friend John Paul Papanicolaou, who set about the three-year restoration needed to return Christina O to her former glory (and glamour). This second, comprehensive refit was completed in 2001 and cost yet another $50 million!

2. She's hosted Hollywood stars (and been on the silver screen herself)

Actors Elizabeth Debicki and Dominic West aboard Christina O as Princess Diana and Prince Charles
Credit: Splash / Backgrid

Christina O's guestlist reads like a Hollywood casting sheet, with the likes of Marilyn Monroe, John Wayne, Elizabeth Taylor, Grace Kelly, and Frank Sinatra all having graced her decks. She's also lived a fairly illustrious political life – in fact, the yacht's bar (known as Ari's Bar) served as the first meeting place for John F. Kennedy and Winston Churchill.

But Christina O is a celebrity in her own right, too, starring on screens both big and small. She most recently had 122-metre shoes to fill playing Alexander – the converted cruise ship where Princess Diana and Charles celebrated their 10th wedding anniversary – in Netflix drama The Crown. The yacht was also featured prominently in Ruben Östlund’s glossy satire Triangle of Sadness (2022), starring Woody Harrelson as captain and set on a luxury cruise ship in the midst of a storm. 

Read More/The most spectacular yachts in film and TV

3. She still has plenty of original features

Sir Winston Churchill was the only guest for whom Onassis gave up his own suite
Credit: Stef Bravin

Walking through the halls and cabins of Christina O reveals a wealth of golden-era artefacts. In the Callas Lounge, named after renowned opera singer and Onassis' lover Maria Callas, remains the original Steinway piano where Sinatra and Callas used to entertain. The Onassis Suite still has the same onyx fireplace and twinkling Baccarat crystal lighting as it did when the Greek magnate used to sleep among its Venetian linen. The circular staircase, with its onyx and silver handrail, is also a vintage piece.

Read More/Valentine's Day special: history's greatest love stories at sea

4. And some carefully restored features too

Christina O's main deck aft very much resembles the setup of Onassis’ day. This includes the 16-person dining table, inlaid with Melinda Patten marquetry depicting the tales of Ulysses and of course, the iconic saltwater pool. Meticulously restored, the fantail number is emblazoned with a Greek mythological minotaur mosaic and is capable of rising to form a dance floor at the push of a button. The technology is still replicated on superyachts today (see Lürssen's Octopus or Blohm + Voss' Eclipse), which is testament to just how influential Christina O was at the time of her launch. 

Other dutiful recreations include a working Lapis Lazuli fireplace (from which Christina O's Lapis Lounge gets its name) and the 16 guest cabins, which have been refurbished with a similar pastel colour scheme and décor as originally selected by Jackie Onassis. 

Read More/The coolest superyacht pools in the world

5. She's made with an unexpected material

The illustrated map pictured is an antique Philips
Credit: Stef Bravin

Ari’s Bar is one of the most historical parts of Christina O. This original rope-covered bar is reportedly made from the timbers of a sunken Spanish Galleon. Engraved orca whale teeth offer footrests on the stools and, lining the circumference of the bar, a convenient place to hang a handbag. The stools themselves are upholstered with whale penis skin – a piece of trivia that Aristotle took great joy in sharing with his guests. “Madame, you are now sitting on the largest penis in the world,” he once told film star Greta Garbo.

Read More/The real story behind the Triangle of Sadness superyacht

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