Yachts with champagne showers tempt the world's super-rich to Germany

Tony Paterson
Thursday 03 February 2011 01:00 GMT

Fancy an ocean-going super yacht fitted with showers that spray champagne? Or perhaps a giant room-sized freezer so that guests can have snowball fights in the Bahamas? Germany now claims to be the best place to go shopping for such craft.

Forget the recession, the global super-yacht business is booming. According to evidence gleaned by Der Spiegel magazine, Germany has become the world's top provider of luxury motor vessels for the ultra-rich, outstripping rival concerns in the Netherlands and Italy.

With a handful of specialist shipyards in the port cities of Hamburg and Bremen, it caters to a variety of exclusive customers such as Microsoft co-founder Paul Allen, Muammar Gaddafi's son, and the Russian owner of Chelsea FC, Roman Abramovich.

"We have an unusual situation," said Michael Breman, the head of sales at the super-yacht builders Lürssen in Bremen whose luxury vessels start at €50m (£43m). "Never has there been so much money available to spend on yachts."

Yacht builders say the demands of their super-rich customers are becoming increasingly eccentric. Clients demanded two helipads on one yacht, giant room-sized freezer compartments and even recording studios and operating theatres on others. "Nothing is unusual any more," Mr Breman said. "We see ourselves as part of the entertainment business. We will do anything so long as it is not illegal or nautically questionable," he added.

One of the latest luxury yacht fads is for "RainSky" shower units. They have shower heads the size of a car bonnet, consume 10 gallons of water a minute and cost €18,000. "Our clients finished with whirlpool baths a while back," said Matthias Voit whose company, Dornbach makes the units, "they now want special showers in which you can control the droplet size and the speed at which they fall."

Mr Voit said his latest order was from an unnamed Russian client who wanted a RainSky shower on his yacht capable of squirting either water or champagne on demand. "We'll manage that," Mr Voit said. "The only unresolved question is whether the champagne should be warm or cold," he added.

However the German industry has mixed feelings about its most outstanding product to date – the 536ft motor yacht, Eclipse, which was completed by the Hamburg yard, Blohm + Voss last year for Roman Abramovich.

The yacht has nine decks, a crew of 70, a cinema, discotheque and its own miniature submarine which enables the owner to leave the ship undetected. Maintenance costs are estimated to run at some €20,000 a day. Mr Abramovich insisted on having RainSky shower rooms and 3D televisions.

Blohm + Voss landed the contract for the Eclipse six years ago. The yard agreed to build the yacht for €340m and have it ready for the 2010 World Cup in South Africa. But they fell behind on the order as building costs spiralled. When the yacht finally set sail from Hamburg last December the total cost was estimated at €800m. Mr Abramovich is believed to have paid something between the two figures leaving the shipyard to write off the remainder as a loss.

One of the Russian's main goals was to be the owner of the world's longest luxury yacht. At 536ft, the Eclipse beat the previous record holder by 1ft 8in. But it won't be long before it's eclipsed. The Lürssen yard is building a 590ft yacht for an Arab customer, with another 656ft craft on the books.

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