Qatar 2022: A $480,000-a-week yacht welcomes the super-rich
It’s been dubbed the ‘Arabian Riviera’, where the streets are immaculate and are interspersed with luxury hotels offering glistening marina views. Welcome to “The Pearl”.
Work on this man-made island – now one of Doha’s most exclusive areas – began in 2004 and was named after the traditional practice of pearl fishing which was a dominant industry in the area before the discovery of oil.
People dressed in designer clothes walk their chi-chi dogs along the promenade while others relax on man-made beaches near a resplendent harbor of shiny yachts.
Many boats have permanent mooring in the area, but some have arrived to provide luxurious accommodation for football fans looking for the ultimate World Cup experience.
The Saluzi, notable for the striking graffiti-style design adorning her side, is one such superyacht.
He arrived in Doha on November 24 and his army of 35 staff were busy preparing for their first confidential tournament booking as CNN was invited aboard for a tour.
A stay on the Saluzi costs almost $500,000 a week and from the moment you step aboard you are enveloped in luxury.
Customers are invited to swap their shoes for fluffy white slippers and are greeted with a drink by the immaculately dressed staff who are there to look after customers and make sure they are happy.
From hot tubs to automatic pianos, it’s a three-story floating space for sleeping, playing and working.
Many outdoor areas have hot tubs, and guests can even play golf off the back of the boat – there’s a golf course for avid golfers, which comes complete with rotting balls that turn into food for fish when they hit the water.
There are also diving instructors, swimming pools and poker tables – you will never be bored on the Saluzi.
“We can accommodate 32 guests but we are rarely full,” Saluzi captain Asparuh Chorbadzhiev told CNN.
“When people like privacy, they may only use one or two cabins, but they may also bring a lot of support staff with them.”
Chorbadzhiev, who has worked and lived at sea for almost 40 years, would not reveal who will be staying on the boat during Qatar 2022, but said his guests are often celebrities or very wealthy businessmen.
The captain is clearly proud of the ‘Saluzi’ and was keen to show its many hidden secrets; from its fancy lamps that guests turn on and off with a remote control device, which is shaped like a gun, to the artwork that adorns the entryway walls.
The distinctive paintings inside the yacht match the images on the outside. All designs are inspired by the yacht’s name, derived from the legendary Chinese war horse.
A fully equipped gym sits across from a luxury spa, complete with a massage bed that has the ability to run wine over your body as you relax. This yacht even has a hair salon.
A total of 16 cabins are available on the Saluzi, with its VIP rooms equipped with a balcony. There is also an office, a cinema room and a gourmet dining area. The boat is also known for hosting karaoke parties, according to Chorbadzhiev.
All meals are prepared by the crew. The yacht is also spotlessly clean. You leave a room and a team of people suddenly appear to restore it to its original state.
“It’s a global yacht. It’s usually in the Mediterranean every summer,” Chorbadzhiev said.
“Then in winter we can go to the Far East or places like Seychelles, Maldives, Thailand, Singapore, Hong Kong or the Gulf region like here.”
The yacht had recently traveled to Abu Dhabi for the Formula 1 Grand Prix, but was delayed on its way to Qatar due to the reams of documents needed to obtain a visa to enter the country, according to Chorbadzhiev.
While docked in Abu Dhabi for the grand prix, the yacht welcomed people watching the race from her decks which overlooked part of the track.
Now in Doha, customers can arrange limos to transport them to World Cup stadiums for tournament matches. Guests can also request to take the yacht out of the marina to see the city from afar.
According to BOAT Pro’s Global Fleet Tracker, more than 20 superyachts have entered Qatari waters since the tournament began, including vessels such as Al Lusail and Alaiya, which are moored around Doha.
A superyacht World Cup holiday offers something quite different from some of the other accommodations available to guests in town during the tournament.
From tents in the desert to portacabins on the outskirts of Doha, World Cup organizers have had to be innovative in providing accommodation options for fans with the influx of around 1.5 million people staying in a country smaller than Connecticut.
CNN visited one of the fan villages as fans started arriving ahead of the tournament.