Coral Ocean is one of those names that has a special place in the hearts of superyacht aficionados. Launched from the Lürssen yard in 1994, the 240-footer achieved instant pedigree because it was designed by Jon Bannenberg, considered the godfather of modern yacht design. His yacht-design career started with the interior of Queen Elizabeth II, and then progressed through a succession of 200 yachts that included The Highlander, Limitless, Thunder and finally Larry Ellison’s Rising Sun.
Coral Island, as it was originally named, was also noteworthy because it was one of the largest superyachts of its day, with what was considered a highly adventurous interior. The “Polynesian beach-house” included tribal cloth from Africa, bronze taps with conch shells and repurposed driftwood furniture.
It was purposely designed as an anti-bling alternative to the gold, marble and platinum used on superyachts of the late 80s and early 90s.
Eclectic is a polite way to describe Coral Ocean‘s interior, but like it or not, successive owners largely kept everything intact, even during its 2015 refit that modernized its audio-visual and other systems to make it legal for charter. While some cosmetic changes were made, the owners seemingly felt that tampering with the master’s work was like drawing a mustache on the Mona Lisa.
Fast forward to 2019 and the boat’s new owner Ian Malouf, decided to not only give Coral Ocean a refresh, but invest in a $5 million refit. “It had a fantastic original structure but was due for a generational change,” says Malouf, an Australian entrepreneur who also owns Ahoy Club, described as the Airbnb of the charter world.
Over the next two years at the Astilleros de Mallorca yard, that figure ballooned to $35 million as the refit turned into a wholesale renovation across the yacht. “We didn’t spare the horses and spent money everywhere,” says Malouf. “We took a very reactive approach, pivoting whenever we needed to improve the design.”
That sounds dangerous coming from an owner whose other yachts’ names are Mischief, Rascal, Double Trouble and Chaos. But Malouf, whose wife Loressa led the design changes, focused on taming the tribal art and other novelties, and in the main salon and other common areas, she mandated a more open feel. The couple decided to move into even bigger modifications on the top deck, which previously featured a split-level, dark-blue tiled pool with the boat’s red coral-reef logo. That pool added drama to the design, but little to the onboard experience.
“The pool took up a lot of space,” says Malouf. So, the team decided to delete it, along with other cluttered areas, to create a seamless, open upper deck. The front portion of the sundeck has a redesigned spa pool with a glass bottom (that shows up as a ceiling in the corridor below) paired to an enclosed area with a bar and dining area under a large, carbon-fiber hardtop.
The main suite on the deck below also involved major renovations. “That bedroom also felt cluttered,” says Malouf, “so we basically doubled its size.”
The suite also has new his-and-hers en suites, sauna, a hair salon and private lounge with treatment room. Two skylights were built into the ceilings. The team also added a 180-degree bank of taller windows to the area in front of the bed, providing clear views and natural light. A red-coral logo below the forward window is the only reminder that this is a nearly 30-year-old classic yacht.
“Once we got started, we couldn’t stop,” says Malouf. “There wasn’t one part of the boat we didn’t touch.”
The VIP suite also received a makeover. It has its own lounge at the entryway that Malouf says can be used an office space or cinema.
The design also called for a greater focus on outdoor living. The team rethought the dining space on the aft deck, using sliding glass and a heated ceiling to preserve the al-fresco experience even during cold, blustery days. The new design also includes two bars, a pizza oven and a teppanyaki grill. Inside is a formal dining room with a table for 14, situated between a glass wine cellar on one side and floor-to-ceiling windows for water views on the other.
On the lower deck is an indoor-outdoor gym, and a steam room with mosaic tiles with a jellyfish mural—another nod to Bannenberg’s original design. While purists may lament the changes away from Bannenberg’s vision to a far less confrontational interior, the space is much more contemporary and usable.
While Coral Reef is the flagship of Ahoy Club’s charter fleet, Malouf said the design was aimed mostly for his family’s enjoyment, rather than anonymous charter guests hiring out the yacht for a week or two.
“We built it for ourselves,” says Malouf. “We didn’t cut any corners, using white carpet and curtains instead of neutral colors like beige, and brought on fine crystal and china, details that the boat deserves. Charterers expect the best at this level.”
Malouf called the two-year refit was a “diamond-in-the-rough” transition, noting that most of his yachts have been refits. The new Coral Ocean may serve as a template for future additions to his fleet, he notes, especially since a new custom yacht takes four years to complete.
After spending the summer in charter in the Med, Coral Ocean made its public debut earlier this month at the Cannes Yachting Festival. It will be at the Monaco Yacht Show next week.
Here are other views of the yacht.