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Billionaire on the high seas

By Judy Martel · Bankrate.com
Wednesday, April 21, 2010
Posted: 2 pm ET

The hides of white stingrays covering custom-made walls? You'd likely only encounter that in one place -- the 394-foot yacht owned by 38-year-old Russian billionaire Andrey Melnichenko.

While not as massive as fellow countryman Roman Abramovich's anticipated 557-foot Eclipse, this floating palace packs a powerful "wow-factor" in its design and cost, and is turning heads all over the Caribbean.

Melnichenko yacht "A"

Andrey Melnichenko's yacht "A"

Named "A," for Andrey and wife Aleksandra, the yacht features bath knobs that cost $40,000 each, according to an article in the Wall Street Journal. Love it or hate it, the Philippe Starck-designed boat's radical, submarine-shaped design ensures it attracts maximum attention wherever it docks. Take a look at this YouTube video of the yacht on its maiden voyage in the Mediterranean and you'll see what I mean.

The 23,600 square feet of living space includes tables of Baccarat crystal, chairs upholstered in alligator and ceiling-mounted televisions. Of course, it also has the latest in security, with fingerprint identification systems to enter rooms, 44 separate security cameras, motion-detection systems and bomb-proof glass.

Lest you think, as I did, that all this luxury craftsmanship trickled down in the form of jobs for the little guy, The Wall Street Journal article points out that in fact several of the companies involved in its construction have gone bankrupt due to the intricate level of customization.

But it seems those who can truly spend on luxury are doing just that. While yacht brokers in the middle market are slowly gaining ground after the recession, orders for yachts longer than 250 feet recovered very nicely, thank you, and were up more than 20 percent in 2009, according to Showboats International magazine.

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