IT WAS the floating palace where John F Kennedy first met Winston Churchill, where Frank Sinatra danced with Ava Gardner and where the swimming pool was used to store live lobsters.
Now the Christina O, the former super-yacht of Aristotle Onassis, the late shipping tycoon, has been put up for sale.
JP Morgan once said: “If you have to ask the cost of owning a yacht, you can’t afford it.”
The cost of owning the Christina O is £21 million.
For almost 25 years, the former military frigate was the most famous yacht in the world with a guest list to match.
Built in 1943 by the Canadian navy, in its former life it dodged German U-boats to ferry supplies into Murmansk and took part in the D-Day landings.
After the Second World War, Onassis bought it for $34,000 (£22,400) then spent a further $4m on renovations that included onyx pillars, a swimming pool that could be raised into a dancefloor, a helipad and a bar panelled with wood from a Spanish galleon.
Named after his daughter, born in 1950, the Christina O became the world’s most exclusive society venue where Elizabeth Taylor and Richard Burton played out their tempestuous romance and where a suite, second only to the owner’s in opulence, was permanently set aside for Churchill.
The catering was provided by Don Alfonso 1890, then one of the world’s most famous restaurants.
The bar was named “Ari’s” after the owner and it was here that Onassis liked to play tricks on his female guests such as Marilyn Monroe by helping them up on to one of the bar stools, which were upholstered with the skin from a whale’s penis, before explaining exactly on what they were perched.
In 1956, Princess Grace and Prince Rainier held their wedding reception on the yacht.
Onassis’s love affair with opera singer Maria Callas was also played out on board. When the opera singer practised each morning, Onassis would rush around the vessel turning on radios to drown out the noise.
However, in 1968 the relationship ended abruptly when Onassis courted president Kennedy’s widow, Jackie. The couple married on the Christina O near Onassis’s private island of Scorpios. After the wedding, the vessel became a retreat from the world’s press.
When Onassis died in 1975, the ship was bequeathed to his daughter, who eventually passed it on to the Greek government in lieu of taxes. The ship was allowed to fall into a state of disrepair and was used as a training centre for cadets.
More than 20 years later, Christina O was substantially renovated and finally restored to its former glory in 2001 by the late Greek businessman Pavlos Papanikolaou.
The 325ft (99 metres) vessel has a 35-strong crew and can accommodate 36 guests in 18 staterooms and the Onassis Suite.
Onboard facilities include a library, sports lounge, children’s playroom, fitness centre, beauty salon, massage room and jacuzzi.
An attempt was made to attract tourists to the vessel by offering guided tours, as well as luxury overnight trips from Monte Carlo to Cannes. However, the current owners – an Irish consortium Total Ship Services – recently decided to put it up for sale.
The yacht has been put on the market via Edmiston, a specialist agent in the yacht sector.
Chairman Nicholas Edmiston said: “Christina O really was the last word in opulence and many personalities were attracted by its ability to offer them some privacy, not just by its magnificence.”
Price: £21 million
Top speed: 19 knots
Length: 325 ft (99m)
Accommodate: 36 guests
Rooms: 18 state rooms and
the Onassis Suite
Facilities: Library, fitness centre, beauty salon, massage room, swimming pool, helipad