What do a former French President, a Japanese shipyard, and a billionaire yacht owner have in common? A striking, all-white superyacht was the thing that got them all in the center of attention once upon a time. Today, the classic Paloma remains a discrete presence and a unique vessel among the shiny new luxury toys turning heads on the Mediterranean.
Back in 2007, soon after he had officially become France’s new President, Nicolas Sarkozy embarked on a family cruising vacation. Unfortunately for him, the vessel he chose happened to be an enormous superyacht owned by a French billionaire (also his close friend). Images of the glamorous vacation yacht sparked harsh criticism from Sarkozy’s political opponents, and a media scandal ensued.
It certainly wasn’t the only time when a President got heat for spending time onboard a super wealthy friend’s pleasure craft. Vladimir Putin is infamous for that, in addition to allegedly owning a few luxury yachts himself. It’s ok when celebrities do that, but frowned upon in the case of public officials.
Despite the allegations in the Sarkozy scandal, the yacht in question did not need taxpayers’ money. Vincent Bollore, the owner at the time, who apparently continues to own Paloma to this day, is a reputable billionaire. Back then, Forbes had listed him as the 13th-richest man in France.
Bollore seems to be one of the few billionaires who can stay faithful to just one pleasure craft for a long period of time. It’s been more than 15 years since he bought the Paloma classic yacht, and he cared enough to have it rebuilt, and then refitted years later.
This stunning bright-white vessel hides an interesting origin. It was born in Japan, in 1965, and delivered to its original owner. It remains the largest of the custom yachts built by the Ishikawajima-Harima shipyard. The roots of this Japanese shipyard go back to the 19th century, and it has an interesting connection to Isuzu Motors. That’s because there were numerous mergers and splits throughout the yard’s history, including an automobile spinoff in 1927. Initially named Ishikawajima Automotive Works Co., Ltd, it would eventually become Isuzu Motors, through other mergers.
The classic Japanese vessel started a new life approximately two decades ago, when it was completely rebuilt in Malta, apparently in accordance to its new owner’s (Bollore) input. This is how Paloma got its modern superyacht appeal, without losing its special elegance.
This is still reflected in the yacht’s majestic, elongated silhouette with a distinctive canoe-like stern. Its classic charm also extends to the lavish interiors, boasting plenty of wood. Like most classic motor yachts, Paloma was supposed to feel more like a cozy mansion than a floating resort.
Its warm interiors reveal the original wood paneling, carefully integrated within a contemporary English-style design. At nearly 200 feet (60 meters) Paloma has enough room for generous interiors and outdoor areas.
The main deck is where you’d find the large salon and formal dining area. The table that’s big enough for 14 people marks the transition from the salon to the U-shaped seating area at the end of the main deck. Due to the rounded design of the canoe-like stern, this type of seating was the perfect choice.
Walking forward, you’d find both an office area (in true classic style) and a cinema room (a must-have for all modern yachts). The Owner’s suite is also located on this deck. The other staterooms (two double cabins, two twins, and two single staterooms) are all on the lower deck.
Another modern touch is that each stateroom comes with its own color scheme. Plus, for a touch of glam, the en-suite bathrooms were finished with precious marble in shades of cream. Speaking of modern, the old vessel can surprise its guests with a freshly-upgraded entertainment system, including large Plasma TVs.
Paloma’s impressive size allows for lavish outdoor spaces to be sprawled across its three decks. The sun deck looks like the perfect spot to admire the breathtaking 360-degree views, while also enjoying the generous jacuzzi.
The aft deck isn’t very large, but versatile enough to fit in sunbeds and lounge furniture, as well as another dining table, for meals in the open air. With an electric bimini at hand, this becomes a great spot to connect with the surroundings without worrying about the sun.
The sky lounge on the upper deck is another attractive area on board, with a bar and a Karaoke system. Here, you can admire some of the ship’s beautiful wood panels, matched by elegant parquet floors.
Considering that it underwent both a rebuild (in 2004) and a refit (in 2018 and 2020) it’s no surprise that Paloma is as efficient as it is glamorous. It suffices to say that, since its rebuild, this classic yacht has crossed the Atlantic more than 20 times. In addition to the remarkable 4,000-mile (6,400 km) range, its twin Caterpillar engines enable it to hit 16 knots (18 mph/30 kph).
A few years ago, Paloma’s worth was estimated at almost $15 million. Luckily, its admirers don’t need to buy it in order to travel on board. This classic yacht built in Japan can also be chartered, with weekly rates starting at €160,000 ($171,000).