(Photo: Getty Images)
The story of the Christina O – originally christened the HMCS Stormont in 1943 – is as long and varied as the list of famous faces that have graced her decks. The boat began as a river-class anti-submarine frigate commissioned by the Canadian navy, as part of North-Atlantic convoys during the Second World War, before going on to serve in various historic battles, including the battle of the Atlantic and the D-day landings in 1944. She remained a military vessel up until 1954, before going on to began her rise to becoming yachting royalty.
She was purchased by shipping magnate Aristotle Onassis for her scrap value of $34,000, who began a complete new refit to transform it into the mega-yacht it is today. The refit ended up costing $4,000,000. A relatively small figure by today’s standards, especially in regard to a super-yacht, but in a world firmly in the grips of austerity after World War Two, this figure and indeed the boat itself was the stuff that dreams were made of. Right then, Onassis set a new standard of luxury for people to aspire to.
This was a floating pleasure palace, complete with a lavish master suite- known as the Onassis suite, eighteen state rooms, enough to comfortably accommodate 36 guests, the pastel colour scheme of each of the cabins was apparently the decision of Jackie Onassis. Several spacious living areas, both outdoor and indoor, all connected by a spiral staircase; a swimming pool with a mosaic floor that at the push of a button could be transformed into a dance floor and a helicopter pad.
Once the refit was complete, she was rechristened Christina after Onassis’ first born daughter and she became a symbol of the glamorous jet-set lifestyle many dreamt of living and when on to host several lavish parties with guestlists full of some of the most well-known people of the time including, Frank Sinatra, Marilyn Monroe, Richard Burton and Elizabeth Taylor, to name but a few. The yacht was also where Onassis would spend time with his mistress, the world famous opera singer Maria Callas ,before he began his courtship of Jackie Kennedy. The yacht was also the setting for their wedding ,as well as the reception for the wedding of Rainier lll of Monaco to Grace Kelly. Onassis, and by definition the Christina, epitomised the roguish glamour of the mega-rich.
The yacht also played a pivotal role in Onassis’ business endeavours; John F Kennedy was originally introduced to Winston Churchill on board the yacht. In direct contradiction to many of the other super yacht owners of the time, who preferred discretion and privacy while on board their yachts, the Christina was much more open. After Onassis’ death in 1975, he willed the yacht to his daughter, Christina, who later bestowed the vessel to the Greek government as use as the presidential yacht.
The yacht was then rechristened the Argo. The Greek government was in the control of a left wing regime and as a consequence was seen afloat the plaything of a capitalist millionaire. This was an embarrassment that could undermine their authority, so the yacht was left to decay. In 1999, the shewas eventually bought and rescued by a family friend of Onassis’, John Paul Papanicolaou, who set about returning her to her former glory. He also renamed the yacht Christina O in remembrance of his friend and his daughter.
In 2011, the yacht underwent a vast restoration, with a view to maintain much of its original history. The most heavily persevered areas include the Onassis suite, as well as the concert room and the famous Ari’s bar named its original owned. Christina O is currently available for private charter for those who want to bask in the glory of her golden age.
(Main Image: Yacht Charter Fleet Featured Image: Edmiston Yachts)