Written by Kevin Koenig
27 July 2023
The Superyacht Dock that marked the southern edge of the harbour at the 2022 Cannes Yachting Festival was lined with all manner of spectacles – it’s where the big boys come to play at one of Europe’s most important boat shows.
From a new flagship from Grand Banks to various and sundry pocket superyachts from near and far, the area was most definitely alive with both innovation and passion – and populated by large boats, moored line abreast and stern-to.
Stern-to is not the best way to show off a boat. All you really see is the hindquarters and, with no profile exposure, it’s very hard for a vessel to make a real impression – hard for most vessels, that is. But the Gulf Craft Majesty 120 has found a way. Imagine a flock of seagulls roosting along a dock. Now imagine a single albatross nestled among them. Very similar looking, but altogether very different as well. This is the Majesty 120.
The size makes sense. The 120 is built in the United Arab Emirates (UAE), and the shipyard has met solid success building for Middle Eastern clients who like to cruise with typically large families.
As anyone who has ever spent any time on a boat will tell you, if you’re travelling with your mother, father-in-law and a gaggle of small children, space on board quickly becomes a commodity more precious than gold.
To that end, the Majesty has a broad, 8.36-metre beam and displaces 234 tonnes – a full 40 tonnes less than the Azimut Grande Trideck, which is a metre longer and more or less matches the 120 for volume.
The 120’s volume is in large part due to her construction material. Gulf Craft chose to use advanced composites like GRP and carbon fibre to maximise space without sacrificing strength or bogging the yacht down with heavier materials.
Turkey’s Soyaslan Design Team – a 30-year-old firm with nautical experience ranging from tugs and pilot boats to catamaran sailing yachts – handled the naval architecture and exterior design for this model.
“To be honest, I shied away from these boats for a long time,” says Miami-based broker Juan Morillo, who had the listing for the boat in Cannes. “I had clients calling me saying, ‘I want you to look into this Gulf Craft I saw because I think I can get a deal on it.’
“But for me, the fit and finish wasn’t there; the engineering wasn’t there. But they’ve really turned the build quality around.
“From the architecture to the engineering, to now having Cristiano Gatto on board to do the interiors, these are really great boats – and they are a lot of boat, especially for the price point.”
What Morillo alludes to is that fully loaded, the 120 sells for between AU$25 and AU$26 million. Comparably sized Italian builds command a price 20 to 30 percent higher, mainly due to labour costs, which are much higher in Europe than in the Middle East. The difference is passed on to the (perhaps oxymoronic) thrifty superyacht buyer.
“You could say this is a value play,” says Morillo, not that you could tell by touring the boat. She’s stocked with features and a level of craftsmanship that punches above her weight.
Perhaps the greatest selling point in the yacht’s interior is that she has six staterooms, which makes her a boon for large parties and also for chartering. (The boat in Cannes charters for AU$330,000 per week.)
A massive master situated forward on the main deck boasts a king-size island berth with a marble headboard befitting a superyacht. A make-up station to port is opposite a gently undulating settee set to starboard, reminiscent of a Victorian-era fainting couch. The forward head takes advantage of the yacht’s beam and height and is cavernous, with his-and-hers sinks and a rainfall shower.
A staircase leading down to the rest of the accommodations had a railing in thatched leather that was intricately woven – proof of Gulf Craft’s improved focus on fit and finish. Amidships, there were four nearly identical guest staterooms, all with ensuite and excellent natural light. The egalitarian layout here is a very clever way to keep bickering among family members to a minimum.
The 120 has a surprise up her sleeve on this deck. When I first saw the passageway leading forward, I assumed it might be a crew space, but it leads to a forepeak VIP that could very easily double as a second master.
The highlight here for me was a walk-in closet with glass doors over the cabinets to find the perfect outfit quickly.
Notable on this boat was that the cookies-and-crème colour scheme chosen by Gatto matched from the accommodations level up to the master; there was a continuity of design on each deck.
The general aura of the boat is relaxed sophistication, punctuated by elegant yet comfortable furniture, which Gulf Craft turned out in-house, as well as the masterful stainless-steel inlays throughout the boat that offset the airy colour scheme with just the right amount of machismo.
Any discussion of the Majesty 120 would be wildly incomplete without mentioning the yacht’s sundeck, which feels like it belongs on a 45-metre vessel.
The space has all the features required of a superyacht that size, including a wet bar, spa pool, dining settee and multiple sunpads, all covered nicely by a low-profile hardtop.
It was on this deck that I met the yacht’s captain, Alfredo de Santis, who was more than happy to sing the boat’s praises. “One of the things I was pleased to discover about this boat is how manoeuvrable she actually is,” he says.
“When I first met the owner, he told me there were no stern thrusters on board, and I thought, okay, that’s something I’ll have to deal with. But then I started driving the boat and realised it wasn’t a problem at all.
“The shape of the hull coupled with the big propellers allows you to move this boat however you like very easily. Though I will say I do like the big bow thruster we have – that helps, too.”
A large portion of de Santis’s chief responsibilities reside in the engine room. Boats built in the Middle East are perhaps not best known for their crew areas, but the 120’s engine room is large and was clearly designed with ease of maintenance in mind. The yacht’s twin 2,400 hp Caterpillar C32s had 360-degree access, and I noted it was the best access I saw at the Cannes show.
Stainless-steel handrails were gleaming, and the space was well-ventilated. Wiring was orderly enough, perhaps not up to Dutch standards, but it would give most Italian designs more than a run for their money – and all this in a package with a good 2 metres of headroom.
The engines are well taken care of and consequently offer admirable performance numbers.
With 20,869 litres of fuel in her tanks, the 120 has a transoceanic range of 2,700 nautical miles at displacement speeds, while also being able to punch it all the way up to 23 knots thanks to a hull design that operates equally well in a semi-displacement capacity.
With the Gulf Craft Majesty 120 you get a lot to like, both in sheer size and in the number of features the yacht offers, particularly if you’re partial to spending longer periods on board. The level of attention to detail outpaces what is effectively the rare value play in the land of superyachts as well.
With this model, Gulf Craft further stakes its claim as a serious competitor in the world of 30-metre-plus vessels. It’s a builder – and a yacht – that other more established brands would do well to look out for because it’s very much nipping at their heels.