MV Savarona: Largest Non-Royal Yacht

The Savarona is the largest non-royal yacht ever built. Her length overall is 446′ (136m), her beam 52.6′ (16m), her draft 20′ (6.1m) and her maximum speed is 18 knots, cruising speed 16 knots. Her 17 luxurious suites, in addition to the master suite, average 538 square feet (50m²) in area.

MV Savarona was built by Blohm & Voss in Hamburg, Germany. Named for an African swan living in the Indian Ocean, the ship was designed by Gibbs & Cox in 1931 for American heiress Emily Roebling Cadwallader, granddaughter of John A. Roebling, engineer of the Brooklyn Bridge. She cost about $4 million ($57 million in 2010 dollars). Equipped with Sperry gyro-stabilizers, she was described in 1949 by Jane’s Fighting Ships as “probably the most sumptuously fitted yacht afloat.”

In 1933, the ship was used as a film set while on the North Sea off the German coast. It appeared prominently in the German science-fiction film Gold, starring Hans Albers and Brigitte Helm. The movie premiered in 1934.

In 1938, the Turkish government acquired the yacht and gifted to ailing leader Mustafa Kemal Atatürk, who spent only six weeks aboard before dying a few months later.

Throughout World War II, the ship lay idle in Kanlıca Bay on the Bosporus. In 1951, she was converted to the training ship Güneş Dil (English: Sun Language) and during the next years sailed to many countries. In October 1979, the ship was gutted by fire at the Turkish Naval Academy off Heybeliada Island in the Sea of Marmara. She lay virtually abandoned for ten years.

In 1989, she was chartered for 49 years by a Turkish businessman. Over three years, the firm completely refurbished her for about $45 million, removing the original steam turbine engines and installing modern Caterpillar diesel engines. The ship was rebuilt at Tuzla Shipyards in Tuzla, a suburb of Istanbul, for the purpose of serving famous and important guests and helping to keep the memory of Atatürk alive.

Sadıkoğlu rented her out as a luxury cruise ship to private clients. In fall 2010, many Turkish media published news about the alleged presence of underage prostitutes in some of those cruises, causing a scandal. Sadıkoğlu, who was not present at the cruise, put in doubt the allegations later. Regardless, the lease contract was rescinded and the Turkish government took the ship back.

After a new restoration period of 10 months, the Savarona was ready for official use in August 2014 However, it was not until March 4, 2015 that President Recep Tayyip Erdogan had the first official reception on board, including a short cruise along the Bosporus, with his guest the Bosnian politician Bakir Izetbegović.

The MV Savarona (also sometimes M/Y, for motor yacht) is the Presidential yacht of the Republic of Turkey reserved for the use of the President of Turkey.

Savarona features a swimming pool, a Turkish bath, a 282-foot (86 m) gold-trimmed grand staircase that survived from her original construction, a movie theater, and a library suite dedicated to Atatürk, which is furnished with many of his personal artifacts. Under its charter operator the yacht was available for charter including the crew but not provisions.