Andreas Liveras had a problem. The Greek owner of Monaco-based Liveras Yachts had made his name in large charter yachts, having refit some 15 vessels since 1985 (including gutting the 189-foot Princess Tanya) and having built a couple of skyscrapers from scratch (the 280-foot sisterships Annaliesse and Alysia). Next on his to-do list was a pair of 354-foot sisterships that would begin construction in late 2008, destined to join the ranks of the Top 10, if not the Top 5, largest charter yachts in the world.
Liveras Yachts' Lauren L
It was as those sisterships took shape in his mind, back in February 2007, that Liveras realized he was headed for a pinch. They wouldn't launch until 2011 or 2012, and his clients didn't want to wait. They wanted to charter now, more of them than ever, particularly in July and August in the Western Mediterranean—bringing 30 to 40 guests at a time and paying upwards of $1 million per week for the base rates plus expenses onboard and Annaliesse. Liveras was in final negotiations to sell Annaliesse at the time, and his new hulls wouldn't begin construction for another year and a half.
He was about to become short on large yachts at a time of increasing charter demand.
It was a few years before that, in 2003, that he first saw the 290-foot Constellation, Liveras Yachts director Kyri Kyriacou told me. Liveras had followed her progression from commercial to private vessel. She'd been built as a cruise ship in Germany in 2002 and then extensively renovated in 2004 by a private Russian owner. "He did a super job," Kyriacou recalls, "but to his personal requirements. It was like many big boats on the market: not ideal for charter. We decided not to buy her."
The vessel hadn't changed any further by early 2007, but Liveras' situation had. He bought Constellation, put her into charter for a few months to get his clients' opinions, and then sent her to a Greek shipyard for an eight-and-a-half month refit. "She finished and got here Sunday," Kyriacou says as we sit on the Lauren L's aft deck on a bright May afternoon in Genoa, Italy. "She's already booked solid for this August. The rate is 700,000 euro per week, plus expenses."
The idea behind the refit, which stretched the yacht from 290 to 295 feet, was to add the things that charter clients in this stratospheric price range have come to expect, at the level of quality they demand. Liveras' niece, Sophia Liveras Dafnia, was in charge of the interior, working closely with the naval architect—who happens to be her husband. They're the same team Liveras relied upon for his other yachts, and as Dafnia gave me a tour of Lauren L, it was clear the refit had come not just from their own ideas, but from their long history with the company and their understanding of what clients want.
Lauren L's refit had three primary components: moving the helideck from the stern to the bow, reconfiguring most of the guest cabins, and expanding the top deck to add a health and beauty spa. "Overall, it was to make it more like a yacht, but also to give the services that our clients want," Dafnia says. "The outside looked like a cruise ship. You could see the welding. But also, the ladies like to be pampered, and the men like their facials and sauna as well."
The new location for the helideck was in large part a function of styling. As Dafnia chortled, "It was ugly, so we changed it." Moving the helipad forward, though, required creating a new deck section above the existing bow, which is now akin to a covered, walk-in stowage space for deck equipment. The new helideck can handle a Eurocopter EC130 or a twin Ecureuil AS 355N, Kyriacou says. The space aft where the helideck used to be is now stowage for tenders, including a stunning, classic-style, wooden Serenella day boat (reportedly only ten are built each year in Venice, most of them used as water taxis).
Guest-cabin reconfigurations took place on several decks. The existing ten cabins on deck four were left alone because, as Dafnia says, they "looked fine." The ten cabins on deck three, though, "were unsuitable for charter, more for staff and assistants." Those ten cabins were converted to five suites that are similar in size to the cabins on deck four but that have open floor plans as opposed to walled-off sitting areas and bedrooms, making them feel far more spacious. The Liveras team hired the same company that did the vessel's 2004 refit to do this work, so there were no unexpected challenges, and everything down to the slabs of marble in the new baths matches the existing staterooms.
This article originally appeared in the October 2008 issue of Power & Motoryacht magazine.