John O'Ceallaigh, The Daily Telegraph, February 27, 2014
British travellers not yet ready to commit upwards of £150,000-a-week to charter a superyacht will soon be able to trial the experience for a significantly smaller sum – and it won’t even be necessary to leave the country.
With its soft opening commencing on April 7, Sunborn London is a 394ft (120m) superyacht that has been converted into a luxury hotel. Set to be moored permanently in the capital’s Royal Victoria Dock, by the ExCel London exhibition centre, London City Airport and Canary Wharf, the gleaming vessel will unsurprisingly cater primarily to business travellers but its owners plan to lure the leisure market to east London on weekends with a range of special events and “best of London” packages.
The five-storey, 138-room property will feature a spa, fine-dining restaurant, terraces with views over the towers of Canary Wharf and a number of signature suites including two royal suites. The latter will be 210sq ft (65sq metres) and will both feature a bathroom with sauna, sunken Jacuzzi bath and spacious lounge with a curved glazed wall that faces a private 100sq ft (30m) terrace. Prices for the best rooms remain unconfirmed but a number of entry level rooms will be available from £180 a night.
Although Sunborn London will be a new addition to the city, the vessel and the concept may seem familiar. An unmodernised version of the same superyacht “popped up” in London in 2005, temporarily welcoming overnight guests before moving on. The expectation is that this yacht-hotel hybrid will remain in London permanently but Sunborn states that one of the unique strengths of its fleet of mobile hotels is that the ships can simply depart destinations suffering economic hardship or political strife – should the capital’s wealth disappear one day, expect this superyacht to set sail too.
Based in Turku, Finland, Sunborn is a property development and investment company that owns and operates hotels in mainland Europe. Its London “yacht hotel” will launch at the same time as Sunborn Gibraltar, a newly built €150 million (£123 million) superyacht that will serve the leisure market. The seven-storey, 465ft (142m) vessel will feature 189 rooms including 22 suites. The company is also able to develop customised superyacht hotels and has plans to launch in Barcelona in future.
But there are other unique options for travellers who wish to stay beside, or within, the water, either in London or abroad. Seemingly washed up atop the Southbank Centre’s Queen Elizabeth Hall, A Room for London is a boat-shaped hotel that accommodates just two guests for a maximum stay of one night. The views over the Thames are unsurpassed and demand is exceptional – couples apply to stay via ballot; a night’s accommodation costs £300.
Off Pemba Island in Zanzibar, the recently opened Manta Underwater Room stands 13ft (four metres) beneath the surface of the Indian Ocean and allows guests to sleep in a glass-walled underwater chamber as shoals of reef fish drift past. Lovers Deep is a luxury submarine available for private use for couples, with hire costing from £175,000 a night.
Explorers will be able to delve further when SeaOrbiter commences operation from 2016. Financed by crowd-funding, this oceanic exploratory vessel will take adventurous travellers to the deepest sections of the world’s seas . From there, satellite vessels will plumb the depths of the oceans in an attempt to better mankind’s understanding of Earth’s final frontier. The experience may not rival the traditional comforts enjoyed by those who routinely holiday on superyachts, but being among the first to uncover uncharted territory is a luxury that will excite intrepid travellers aplenty.