It is difficult to define it as a cruise ship, equally difficult to classify it as a gigayacht. The flagship that will come (for now called Project Neptune / Sama) is rather the junction point between these two worlds: she is a cruise ship, because she will take on board passengers, even if in limited numbers; she is a gigayacht, because she will have the hyper-luxury standards of large, privately owned, Scrooge-rigged yachts.
The good news is that Aman at Sea, this is the name of the new company, will launch its “flagship” – 183 meters long, 23 thousand tons of tonnage, capable of a cruising speed of 14 knots and costing over 400 million euros, interiors designed by the Sinot architecture studio – in Italy. In Genoa. The order was, in fact, won by T. Mariotti, the shipyard belonging to the Genova Industrie Navali group, already on the market for the construction and refitting of ships for industry giants such as Carnival or Seabourn.
The official signing of the contract took place yesterday, in the Ligurian capital, in the presence of the top management of the construction site, of the relevant holding company, and of the clients, as well as authorities (including the governor Giovanni Toti and the mayor Marco Bucci) and protagonists from the world of shipping, such as Luigi Negri. As well as technicians and suppliers from the Mariotti airports. «We have been talking to Neptune for 2 years», says the CEO of the shipyard, Marco Ghiglione. «The clients looked around Europe, then chose Italian quality and style. And, let me tell you, also about our construction site.”
The ship will be delivered in May 2027. The hull and part of the superstructures will be built by Cimolai, in S. Giorgio di Nogaro in Friuli, then the unit will be transferred to Genoa for fitting out. Other ship options? «There are discussions underway, but nothing written», says Marco Bisagno, president of GIN and T. Mariotti.
Of course there is hope. The client is Neptune Co, a joint venture company which owns the new Aman at Sea brand. Behind Neptune is Aman Group, now led by the Russian Vladislav Doronin, which has in its portfolio a range of high-end hotels and resorts ranging from Bora Bora to Courchevel (in the past it had been participated by Tom Barrack’s Colony Capital, the American entrepreneur of Lebanese origins who bought and then resold the Costa Smeralda), together with Cruise Saudi, a company based in Jeddah, Saudi Arabia, which has the task of developing the infrastructure and services necessary to scale the cruise market, with particular attention to its development along the Saudi coast. Again, the latter company is owned by the Saudi sovereign fund Pif, one of the largest treasure chests in the world.
The signing of the ship’s construction contract: in the foreground on the left Marco Bisagno, president of Gin and the Mariotti shipyards, on the right Karl Holz, president of the Project Neptune jv
A giant, therefore, that will try to carve out a market share in hyper-luxury cruises. A sector that many multi-starred hospitality brands are looking at. In fact, Ritz Carlton, Belmond and Four Seasons will also land in the segment, with the aim not so much of competing with mass cruises, but with the superyacht target. Is there a market? Obviously yes. The segment of consumers with extensive availability, up to the sidereal Ultra High Net Worth Individuals, individuals with a personal net worth exceeding 50 million US dollars, is clearly growing. Hence, the rush to offer them cruise ships with exaggerated luxury, floating resorts for a few – on this ship 50 suites, all with their own balcony -, exclusive services (the ratio is two staff members to look after each passenger), Spa with Japanese garden, two heliports, beach club, lounges, starred food and wine.
Good for them, but also for employment and for the Italian shipbuilding industry, in this case Ligurian. Which enjoys high regard in the world, for its style, its quality, its know-how (Toti spoke yesterday of genius loci), its technological capacity. Extended to its related industries (among the supplier companies, also De Wave, which will be responsible for the furnishings, catering, air conditioning, windows; and Ortec Santamaria, for the electrical systems). Because there is a lot of technology on board. «The ship will be able to be powered not only by diesel but also by green methanol. It will have a cold ironing socket, to be powered in port via the electrified docks and will be equipped with a 5 megaWatt battery, to be used to power on-board services, for example if it stops at anchor, for manoeuvres” explains Ruggero Rizzo, project manager of T Mariotti. «We have made new hires, we count on our workers and our suppliers – says Ghiglione -. This is the challenge for the next four years —© ALL RIGHTS RESERVED