Ari Onassis was a business partner but above all a very good friend of mine for many years until his death in 1975. It was great to know him and fantastic to be involved in his odyssey and contributes to build his empire. There are so many things that are said about Ari and by creating this blog I want to reflect the reality about him to make sure his memory is not stained by gossiping people that don't know anything about him. You can also view my website:

Thursday, March 22, 2012

CHRISTINA O – the greatest yacht of them all.

His hospitality was legendary, his charm mythical, his prowess unstoppable, his power formidable, his fortune unsurpassed.
In 1954 Aristotle Socrates Onassis created the greatest yacht of all, Christina.
Named after his beloved daughter, she was a sleek, 325-foot, shimmering-white masterpiece proudly displaying the Onassis signature, the yellow funnel.

 While the ship had begun life in 1943 as the Canadian naval frigate Stormont, a convoy escort, Onassis purchased her in 1948 for just $34,000 and converted her during the early 1950’s into the most sumptuous private yacht that the world had ever seen, at the cost of more than $4 million.

 When Onassis bought the yacht in 1954, he converted the yacht at an expense of over $4 million, into the largest, most modern and most exalted yacht of her era. CHRISTINA O became his floating mansion and headquarters for over two decades until his death in 1975. Onassis’ guests on board the yacht were some of the most famous and influential people of the time. At night, CHRISTINA O served as the stage for Onassis’ celebrated social life, as he played host to Presidents and Prime Ministers, royalty and film stars.

 CHRISTINA O’s fame owes itself to names such as Maria Callas, The Begum of Aga Kahn, John Paul Getty, John D Rockefeller, Eva Peron, Richard Burton, Elizabeth Taylor, Marilyn Monroe, Frank Sinatra, Rudolf Nureyev, John Wayne, Greta Garbo and Dame Margot Fonteyn.
John F Kennedy and Sir Winston Churchill first met as guests of Aristotle Onassis on board CHRISTINA O and two of the century’s most celebrated wedding receptions were held on CHRISTINA O; Prince Rainier to Princess Grace, and Onassis to Jackie Kennedy.

 Churchill was a frequent guest and he didn’t care for the diva Maria Callas.

Whether he was in Monaco or at Skorpios, his private Greek island, Onassis’ real home was Christina. His first wife, shipping heiress Tina Livanos, said, “The yacht is his real passion. He is like a housewife fussing over it, constantly looking to see that everything is impeccable.” Impeccable indeed—a crew member once explained, “You could smash up a $20,000 speedboat into pieces and not a word would be said, but spit on the Christina’s deck, and you were out of a job.”
At the time of Onassis’ death in 1975, the ship was turned over to his daughter and only heir, Christina. She donated the vessel to the Greek government for use as the presidential yacht in 1978. Sadly, the Argo (as the Greek government renamed her) was little used and eventually fell into despair.

In keeping with all good Greek tragedies, a new administration tried to sell the yacht in the early 1990’s, for upwards of $16 million. Interested parties emerged, but it seemed no one was willing to pay that sum for what would obviously end up costing much more during the refit stage. The Greek administration gradually lowered the price throughout the decade, and it finally appeared that all was well for Christina in 1996 when she was sold to an American, Alexander Blastos, for $2.2 million. But the Greek government revoked his ownership a few months later—although the government wouldn’t elaborate, the Associated Press reported that Blastos’ $220,000 deposit check bounced—and the yacht continued to languish. (Blastos was later imprisoned for wire fraud relating to his attempts to purchase the yacht.)
All was not lost, however. In 1998 John Paul Papanicolaou, a Greek national in the shipping business and an old friend of the Onassis family who had cruised aboard the yacht as a child, secured the yacht at a new government-sponsored auction. He made it his goal to rebuild Christina in a way that would have awed Onassis himself, renaming her Christina O as a tribute.

 Proudly embarking on the most extensive refit project ever launched, and using his considerable knowledge and shipping background, Papanicolaou assembled a gifted team of experts. Naval architect Costas Carabelas spearheaded the group. Interior architecture and construction were done by Apostolos Molindris and Decon, respectively. The refit work was executed by Viktor Lenac, a Croatian shipyard.
A major priority was enhancing the physical integrity of the yacht and re-powering her. Upgrading systems and reconfiguring her interior were also key. The initial survey showed that 65 tons of steel in the hull needed to be replaced. When she was put in dry dock, it actually turned out to be 560 tons. Fifty-six miles of new wiring and 140 tons of pipe work were replaced. This large task, along with the refurbishment and redecoration of gathering spaces, was stunningly accomplished in only 16 months, with more than 1.2 million man-hours and at a cost of more than $50 million. Now she was ready for charter and cruises for an exclusive worldwide clientele.

On the technical front, to improve her efficiency, the original 1943 steam engines and boilers were removed. Two new MAN diesel engines and three MAN gensets were installed. She now has a cruising speed of 18 knots and a top speed of 22—not bad, considering Onassis cruised at 14 knots and could rev her up to 24.
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…

Wednesday, March 21, 2012

Jacqueline Kennedy and Aristotle Onassis Wedding

How they met
As the glamorous wife of President John F Kennedy, Jacqueline Lee Bouvier – as she was known before her wedding to JFK – remains one of America's most beloved First Ladies. Having established her credentials as a style icon while in the White House, Jackie's courage and dignity following the public assassination of her husband on November 22, 1963, won her admiration and respect across the world.

After moving with her children from 1600 Pennsylvania Avenue into an apartment on New York's Fifth Avenue, the widow spent a year in mourning before returning to the public eye. During that time she was seen with a number of escorts, including Truman Capote. Then, following the death of Robert F Kennedy in June 1968, Jackie, Edward Kennedy and her children were invited as guests onboard the palatial yacht Christina by its millionaire owner Aristotle Onassis.

The engagement
In October 1968 – five years after the death of her first husband – it was revealed that Jackie was engaged to marry wealthy Greek shipping magnate Aristotle. The bride's mother Mrs Hugh Auchincloss announced the news in New York with a brief statement that read: "My daughter, Mrs John F Kennedy, is planning to marry Mr Aristotle Onassis."

The betrothal came as a shock to many; the groom was 23 years older than his future wife and both had been married before. Hours after the announcement, Jackie, her children – Caroline, ten, and seven-year-old John Jr – and a party of eight took a plane from New York's Kennedy airport to Greece.

To celebrate his pending nuptials, Aristotle bought his bride-to-be an astonishing 40-carat Marquise Lesotho III diamond ring – sold at auction for $2.59 million in 1996.

The wedding
On October 20, 1968, Jackie married 'Ari' in an intimate Greek Orthodox ceremony on Skorpios in the Ionian Sea – the island was owned by the billionaire shipping magnate. Among the guests were the bride's mother and her husband, two of President Kennedy's sisters and Jackie's children.

As a result of the marriage, the former First Lady lost the Secret Service protection entitled to her as a widow of an American president. She was also given a new name in the media – one by which she is arguably now best known – Jackie O.

The dress
Since the bride was already an established fashion icon, there was a great deal of interest in her dress. For her second nuptials, Jackie wore a lace-covered beige dress by Italian couturier Valentino. It became the fashion house's most successful couture piece ever.

After they were announced as husband and wife, the newlyweds made their way to Aristotle's famous yacht, where they celebrated with their friends and family.

As Mrs Onassis, Jacqueline divided her time between Skorpios Island and her husband's home in Paris with her children until Aristotle's death on March 15, 1975. Now just 46 years old and a widow for the second time, she returned to New York where she began to work as a book editor.

In 1993, Jackie was diagnosed with non-Hodgkin's lymphoma, and just two months before her 65th birthday, she sadly passed away in her sleep at home. Speaking of Jacqueline's death, John Kennedy Jr said: "My mother died surrounded by her friends and her family and her books, and the people and things she loved. She did it in her own way, and on her own terms, and we all feel lucky for that."

Your chance to visit Onassis's Yacht Christina O

The Christina O - named after the daughter of Greek shipping magnate Aristotle Onassis - has moored near Canary Wharf (London) and can be exceptionally visited. You can book your ticket on Tickemaster, don't miss this unique opportunity to see Ari's favourite home. The owner representative told me that the Yacht will stay in London during the Olympics to allow visitors to enjoy the hurry you still have time to come to visit it. Ticket can be bought in advance see below:

The legendary Yacht can also be booked  for dinners and cocktail parties for the next few months.
Diners will pay about £500 per head, making it by far the costliest venue in the capital.
The opulent dining room is decorated with Baccarat crystal wall lamps and features a painting by Renoir.
The 325ft yacht gained a reputation as the premier society party location during the Fifties and Sixties by attracting many of the world's biggest names.
It was bought by Onassis in 1954 and hosted a glittering wedding reception for Prince Rainier and Grace Kelly two years later.
It went on to become a magnet for film stars, business tycoons and world leaders.
John F Kennedy was introduced to Winston Churchill on it and Marilyn Monroe was known to have attended the parties Onassis hosted. The music lounge contains a Steinway piano once played by Frank Sinatra.
The romance between Onassis and opera diva Maria Callas was conducted on the yacht. It is also where he courted Kennedy's widow Jackie, whom he married in 1968. The vessel was one of their five homes. The Christina O was renovated a decade ago to become one of Europe's most expensive charter yachts.
For most of the year it sails the Mediterranean and Caribbean, where it can be chartered for £65,000 a day, but it is now at South Quay in the West India Docks, near Canary Wharf where it is, unusually, taking bookings. Its general manager David Jeanjean said it offered "a unique experience" for Londoners.
He said dinner in the 35-seat dining room costs "approximately £500 per person" and the yacht can also be hired for 150-guest cocktail parties. The owners expect it to be booked for corporate entertaining.
Mr Jeanjean - a former sommelier at Raymond Blanc's Le Manoir aux Quat'Saisons near Oxford - is promising Michelin-quality food in the yacht's restaurant, which has a partnership with chef Alfonso Iaccarino.
The Christina O will remain in London until after the Olympics and Mr Jeanjean said he hoped it would offer the capital's most exclusive evening entertainment during the Games.
An on-board public exhibition will chronicle the yacht's history.