The hottest ticket at the 2016 Cannes Film Festival proved to be an invitation aboard Russian businessman Roman Abramovich’s 533-foot yacht — the second-largest in the world and worth an estimated $500 million. Equipped with two helicopter pads, multiple swimming pools, 24 guest cabins and even a missile defense system (to help against pirates), the Eclipse is just one example of how “a yacht offers an environment no hotel can rival,” says Katya Jaimes, a charter broker with International Yacht Corporation based in Fort Lauderdale, Fla.
Katy Perry and Orlando Bloom as well as Kendall Jenner could be spotted taking advantage of the amenities, but they’re hardly the only stars drawn to ships that double as the ultimate symbol of power. In 2015, sales of boats longer than 78 feet climbed 40 percent and, according to yacht brokers Camper & Nicholsons International, more than 450 mega-yachts were sold, worth a combined value of more than $3 billion. While in Cannes, Mick Jagger hung out on Microsoft mogul Paul Allen’s palatial 414-foot Lurssen yacht, which was built for a reported $250 million and has its own recording studio. David Geffen posted a photo of Bruce Springsteen aboard his 454-foot yacht, Rising Sun.
But according to experts, there’s a reason aside from luxury and bragging rights that yachting appeals to music’s high earners. “Musicians who are on tour most of the year rely on others to do things for them,” says Rebecca Riley, a charter broker with Anything on the Water in Fort Lauderdale. “The yachting industry is used to that — taking even the most outlandish request in stride and doing everything in its power to make it happen.”
Cost generally isn’t an issue: According to brokers, stars prefer 200-foot boats with modern lines that charter for $250,000 to $1 million per week, not including additional fees. Must-have features like those aboard the Italian-made Suerte — one of this season’s hottest new yachts that costs $600,000 per week — include multiple sun decks and swim platforms so grand they are called “beach clubs.” There also are custom control systems that allow guests to tweak everything from the music, lighting and temperature to the blinds on the windows through a tablet device.
But if Suerte’s price tag causes pause, those looking for a chic getaway to the Mediterranean could charter the more modest Rockstar — a 161-foot motor yacht available for $275,000 a week that offers indoor/outdoor bars and a full-size gym. Or, there’s the option of chartering from an actual rock star. The 160-foot Cyan, owned by U2‘s The Edge and Bono, is available for $200,000 per week and includes an outdoor movie theater and a baby grand piano, while Eric Clapton‘s 157-foot motor yacht Va Bene, which sleeps 12 guests in six cabins, charters for $170,000 per week.
Yachts of this caliber often require a crew of 10 to 15 members who run the boat, launch the tenders and toys (yacht-speak for amenities like three-story inflatable water slides and two-person submarines) and ensure every detail both inside and out is meticulously maintained. “The number one thing celebrities want is a first-rate, can-do crew,” says Riley.
When yachts are no longer docked and go out to sea, for example, the cost of coordinating and shipping makes sourcing even the most mundane items an ordeal. “We once spent $25,000 to charter a plane for four cases of seedless grapes to go to Grenada,” says Tim McMillan of Yacht Chandlers, which has outposts in the Caribbean and France. “We had a client who wanted Wonder Bread and Campbell’s tomato soup in Tahiti. It cost over $1,000 to ship less than $50 worth of groceries.”
Above all, though, anonymity is perhaps the greatest selling point. When Jay Z and Beyoncé took a yacht from Cannes to Nice to Cap Ferrat in September 2015, they were able to do so with maximum privacy from paparazzi. In addition to signing a nondisclosure agreement, crew members who board a celebrity charter on Captain Marc Wellnitz’s 130-foot yacht to the Caribbean or Mediterranean must adhere to a strict list of rules. For example: “If you need to call home during the charter, you may not mention who you have on the boat. (You can’t even tell Mom and Dad.)” Adds Jaimes: “Celebrites can give the paparazzi all the flash and glamour of appearing on a spectacular boat, but once aboard, they have complete control. At their whim, they can choose to entertain; they can close themselves off and have total privacy; or they can leave the harbor and get out on the water.”
This article originally appeared in the June 4 issue of Billboard.