July is Italian Month here on autoevolution. You can’t get a better appreciation of Italian taste and design or Italian accomplishments in the marine field than by perusing through the impressive portfolio of the Viareggio-based Benetti. Ironically, the shipyard’s most controversial project, Nabila (the name Kingdom 5KR started out with) is also the one that brought it to the brink of ruin and allowed Azimut Yachts to take over.
Here is a superyacht that was designed specifically to give every other yacht owner an inferiority complex, to overwhelm, and inspire awe through sheer opulence. More importantly, here is a superyacht that set the tone for what is today’s trend in yacht-building and yacht-ownership: the bigger the better.
In 1978, Saudi billionaire arms dealer Adnan Khashoggi commissioned Benetti to build him a new superyacht. He’d owned yachts ever since he was 18 and, right at the moment, had two of them, each impressive in its own right; he wanted something that had never been done before, a vessel that would shame even the owners of bigger yachts.
Designed by Jon Bannenberg Ltd. on naval architecture by Benetti and with interior design by Luigi Sturchio, the vessel was delivered just two years later – an impressive feat on its own, if you consider the size and scale of the project. Khashoggi named it Nabila after his daughter and, in every way, the 85.9-meter (282-foot) superyacht was able to stand out. With over 100 rooms/spaces, 11 lavishly appointed suites, and the most expensive furnishes and luxurious amenities, it is believed it cost Khashoggi in the vicinity of $85 million, which is roughly $289 million in today’s money.
If you think that the likes of Jeff Bezos and Roman Abramovich are now sailing the seven seas on superyachts that cost upwards of $500 million, that might seem… cheap. At the time, though, Nabila was the most sumptuous, incredible, and shamelessly outrageous vessel ever built. It set the tone for all the other billionaires in terms of what to get for “a boat” and, for a while, shamed them for not having thought of it first. To this day, it remains a highly competent vessel, and one of the world’s biggest.
It’s also a movie star, having featured in the 1983 James Bond film Never Say Never with Sean Connery.
With its five decks, Nabila presented a dazzling interior: floors of onyx and marble, real gold trims, a solid silver bar in one of the lounges, and walls covered in chamois leather and precious wood. Amenities included pools, a 12-seat cinema with its own 800-film library, a helipad with storage, a massive owner suite with secret passages and its own elevator, a nightclub, and a hospital with an operating theater. Given Khashoggi’s line of work, that last one shouldn’t come as much of a surprise.