Isolating in style

As the super-rich continue to rake in the pandemic bucks (billionaires in the U.S. have seen their wealth grow by over 44% during the COVID-19 crisis) they have gone on a buying spree of superyachts. According to a VesselsValue report there were a record 887 superyachts sold last year, which is up 77% from 2020. One of the newest has been built for Jeff Bezos (whose wealth increased by $24 billion just in the past two years) and it’s been in the news recently because it will apparently require the temporary dismantling of a historic bridge in Rotterdam to get it out into open water.

What caught my eye reading one report about the growth of the superyacht industry was a quote from Sam Tucker (of VesselsValue) who said that the spike in sales can be attributed to “the increased need for privacy and private isolation” that superyachts provide.

Really? This is a need? Billionaires can’t safely self-isolate within their gated estates? Small armies of security details can’t ensure privacy anywhere but on a yacht? How much privacy are we talking about? How much isolation?

This sounds like camouflage for what is basically just more conspicuous consumption by the ultra-rich. As long ago as April 2020 CNN ran a story on the practicality of riding the pandemic out on a yacht:

Rumble Romagnoli, CEO of Relevance, a luxury digital marketing company headquartered in iconic yachting destination Monaco, is skeptical of the notion, pointing out that the practicalities involved make it an unfeasible choice for most.

“I think it’s a bit unrealistic to think people are going to swan off, get on board a yacht and just sit in the middle of the sea,” he says.

He also stresses that being stuck in the middle of the sea for weeks on end would prove tedious for most, even if they have lavish amenities at their disposal — “Rising Sun” has a wine cellar and a basketball court onboard.

“These billionaires and multi-millionaires don’t just stay on a yacht for two to three months. It’s not that pleasurable,” he adds.

“They fly over, get on a yacht, go to a restaurant, get off the yacht for lunch, go to a nightclub, get a helicopter somewhere else.

“It’s not like a villa. It can be quite claustrophobic.”

Also, with a full crew on board, as well as passengers, the risk of possible infection cannot be ignored.

The CNN story came out partially as a response to the Instagram post by David Geffen, where the billionaire mogul captioned a picture of his superyacht with the message “Isolated in the Grenadines.” That didn’t go down well (the post was later deleted), and it adds to my suspicion that what the billionaires really want to isolate from is bad press. But how do you quarantine from that? Can a media bubble be blown big enough to go around the world?

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