|The Rebirth of Christina O|
Part 2: “Ari’s Bar,” undoubtedly the most famous spot on the yacht, has been retained.
By John Lassiter — August 2002
This change opened up a cavernous space in the middle of the yacht the size of a three-story New York brownstone. New accommodations were added. The middle deck now houses a banquet-size, split-level, formal dining room that seats up to 40 guests. Its Baccarat wall lamps are original. As with Onassis, only the best is available: The porcelain service is by Bernardaud of Limoges, Waterford crystal by Rochas, and silverware by Ercuis and St. Hilaire of Paris.
Alongside the dining hall is a raised music room with grand piano and a pair of conversation areas. It contains a collection of Maria Callas memorabilia, including the only Gold Record that was ever awarded to her. On the main deck there is a new gym, and for guests in need of a bit more pampering, there is a new massage room and beauty salon. The Italian master Renzo Romagnoli created the new Sports Lounge, featuring Onassis' original sextant wall lamps and gaming tables with large, comfortable seating. New guest and service elevators were installed for efficient circulation onboard.
Much of the splendor Onassis created has been retained. Spanning her massive stern is the open pool deck where opera diva Maria Callas loved to relax during her tumultuous relationship with Onassis. Its centerpiece is the bronze-bordered pool inlaid with mosaic frescos of ancient Crete. To the delight of the guests, at the push of a button, the bottom raises to the deck level, becoming an instant dance floor. The area has been freshened with glistening varnished handrails and treatments over rich teak decks.
"Ari's Bar," undoubtedly the most famous spot on the yacht, has been retained. This is where Onassis presented the young John F. Kennedy to Sir Winston Churchill, who was a frequent guest throughout his retirement. Covered by a glass top over a lighted replica of the sea, it has tiny models that display the development of ships and shipping throughout history. On the wall is the original map that showed the daily position of the Onassis fleet. The circular bar was adorned with footrests and handholds of ornately carved and polished whales' teeth collected by Onassis' whalers. The stools were covered with the foreskin of a whale, which led to Onassis' favorite ditty, "Excuse me, Madame, did you know you are sitting on the world's largest....!" The stools have been recovered in fine leather.
Aft, the Lapis Lounge remains a central gathering point. Elizabeth Taylor and Richard Burton loved to relax in the sitting room in front of the fireplace, whose mantle was covered in deep-blue lapis lazuli. Its oak and iroko paneling is living with original works of Renoir, Le Corbusier, and de Chirico. Forward on the same deck, past the central atrium and spiral staircase, the original guest staterooms, which Marilyn Monroe, Eva Peron, Greta Garbo, and John Wayne once occupied, have been reconfigured. With Jesurum of Venice, America's JR Scott, and the UK's house of Mulberry, the renowned Italian house of Imart oversaw the redesign. Each air-conditioned and soundproofed suite now has a large seating area, bureau, walk-in closet, twin or double beds, and large portholes. The original bathing salons have been replaced with luxurious en-suite marble bathrooms with showers. Each suite is equipped with a full entertainment system with TV, DVD, and CD players. In addition, on the lower aft deck, eight elegant new staterooms have been fitted out, offering the same style and elegance of the original suites.
Up on the main deck, a new central gathering point was created. Forward of the atrium and concierge office, the original semicircular dining room, where Onassis once brokered blockbuster deals with industrial titans such as J. Paul Getty, King Faud, and the Saudi Royals has been converted into an elegant library. Forward, the reception hall that hosted some of the the 20th century's most famed wedding receptions--Princess Grace and Prince Rainer of Monaco in 1954 and Onassis' 1968 marriage to Jacqueline Kennedy--has been elegantly updated with sofas, armchairs, cocktail tables, and accent pieces by Giorgettio. It also converts into a state-of-the-art cinema.
Outside and aft, the original boat deck has been converted into a spacious "Jacuzzi deck," complete with alfresco dining facilities, a large circular bar, and a raised sun terrace with spa pool and teak chaise lounges. Farther aft, the plane deck, where Onassis kept his seaplane, is now a helipad.
On the upper deck, Onassis' private apartment has been refurbished. The sitting room, with its original onyx fireplace, has library shelves, beamed ceiling, and classic armchairs and sofas. It opens to the master bedroom, fitted with a king-size bed, original Baccarat crystal fixtures, brass-framed windows, and delicate linens from Venice. There is also a new en suite Penteli marble bathroom. Forward, there are new captain's quarters behind the bridge.
Topping the yacht, the huge sundeck is now fitted out with teak sun lounges and a wet bar. On the bow are two specially designed RIBs and PWC, plus a service crane. Aft on the bridge deck are two glistening Hacker tenders and two lifeboats.
Christina O lives up to her legendary past in modern splendor. Somehow, one can't help but wonder if there is a smile in the heavens from "an old Greek sailor," satisfied that his legend lives...
John Lassiter is the author of a book about Aristotle Onassis and runs a real estate and maritime agency.
This article originally appeared in the January 2003 issue of Power & Motoryacht magazine.