There's no doubt that Monaco is a special place, and even more so during the fall yacht show. Prince Albert's palace sits high atop the cape to the west, the baroque presence of the Monte-Carlo casino overlooks the port full of yachts large and small, and the Yacht Club du Monaco hosts exclusive parties from casual luncheons to black-tie galas.
For me, though, one of the real treats during my annual pilgrimage to the sun-drenched Mediterranean principality is the chance to admire what I suspect is the largest fleet of pristine Riva tenders outside of Italy's northern lakes. These are primarily classic mahogany Aquarama runabouts, but with the occasional newer composite model such as the Rivarama, that serve as VIP shuttles during the show. Other Rivas on display at nearby Monaco Marine often include vintage Florida, Tritone, or Junior models, just adding to the experience.
It was in this context that I had a chance to review the latest addition to the Riva fleet, the 92-foot Duchessa. The model name is appropriate, as she is not the queen of the fleet-that honor goes to the flagship 115-foot Athena, introduced last year-but her royal lineage is apparent as she takes her place in the current Riva line. Regally floating between the Athena and the 85-foot Opera Super, Duchessa is joined by nine other models now in production at yards in Sarnico and La Spezia, Italy.
Though the Duchessa is a formidable motoryacht rather than a runabout, her styling yields nothing to her size. She carries a lot of interior volume for her length, but her dark hull, paired with an upswept window line in her superstructure, keeps her looking sleek and masks the three large windows that punctuate her topsides. The bimini that shades her flying bridge angles slightly down towards the bow, lending a look of speed, even at rest.
Inside, the cool, understated chic that is Riva tradition is immediately evident. The white is carried out in a variety of materials: leather for the sofa, blinds, and dining room table, high-gloss lacquer for the overhead, bleached oak for the salon deck, and pressed marble dust for the dining room sole. The joinery is primarily walnut, finished in a medium caramel hue with darker finished panels as accents. The day-head features a sparkling crystal cylinder as the sink base, and the galley adds polished and brushed stainless steel to the mix. The detailing is pure Riva, with such gems as stitched leather handles and fronts on the drawers, creating a resemblance to fine designer luggage from another, more genteel era.
As striking as the interior is, it is also practical for a semi-production yacht of this size and type. The neutral tones allow an owner to personalize the yacht with a few boldly colored pillows and selected objets d'art, and subsequent owners can redecorate just as easily without an excessive investment.
While this lady is a beauty, she is not without substance, too. As I delved into her construction and less-obvious features, it was apparent that considerable thought and planning had gone into her design and building. In the accommodations, the berths are ventilated from below, to keep them dry and comfortable. In the pilothouse, the lower helm position affords a great view forward and to the sides, and the Besenzoni helm seat is adjustable in all directions for optimum comfort and utility underway. A small table at the companion seat rotates to make entry and exit from the settee easier. On deck, the side decks run the full length of the Duchessa. They are just wide enough to be comfortable without taking unnecessary space away from the house, and the bulwarks are high enough to offer safety in rough weather.
The Duchessa is nominally a raised-pilothouse arrangement, but the pilothouse is well forward, so to keep her profile low, the galley and crew accommodations are recessed into a sloping trunk. The trunk carries a large sunpad with a folding convertible-style awning and a dinette/settee at the bow. Guest accommodations are below the pilothouse and dining room, and include a full-beam master stateroom aft with his-and-hers bath with both tub and shower, a VIP stateroom forward that mirrors the master except for a smaller bath, and guest staterooms port and starboard with twin berths.
Abaft the master stateroom is the engineroom, another area where Riva's attention to detail is on display. At 92 feet and with three crew cabins forward, it's likely the Duchessa will be professionally crewed, but the engineroom is an area where the owner of a family-operated yacht would be comfortable doing some of the routine chores. At the stern is a fold-down transom that can be outfitted to carry a small tender or a sunpad, owner's choice.
The area under the pilothouse is a utility, electrical equipment, and stowage space that also houses a washer and dryer. The aft end of the house is a single large space that carries both the dining room with a table seating eight, and the salon, which can accommodate ten or more, depending on furniture choices. The yacht I was aboard had three settees around a cocktail table, but additional loose chairs could easily be situated to port without crowding the space. Both forward and aft on the main deck are outside seating areas with tables, with the aft area fully shaded by the deck above.
The flying bridge has a central helm station forward with comfortable seating for four. Eight more can sit at two settees forward and aft of a central folding table under the bimini, which has a retractable panel to let the sun shine through on temperate days. Additionally, this particular boat was outfitted with a bar and a sunlounge with an adjustable headrest, but a whirlpool spa is an option available at the owner's behest. At the stern of the bridge deck is a davit and space for a tender.
While my own heart, not to mention my bank account, tends more to the classic Aquarama than the new Duchessa, there is no question-from the styling, the construction, the detailing, and the performance-that these two are sisters. They share a proud Riva pedigree that the Aquarama helped to build and that the Duchessa is helping to maintain.
Riva; +39 035 910202; www.riva-yacht.com