Riva 88 Florida
With twin 2,638 hp MTU diesels, the 88 Florida has a top end around 40.5 knots.Courtesy Riva Yachts

WORTH THE WAIT

About a year ago, Riva gathered marine-industry journalists in Miami and showed a video of an elegant-looking open yacht with a hardtop that rose from the foredeck. Jaws dropped, and “wow ” was heard in all directions. That vision is now reality.

Riva 88 Florida
The 88 Florida is one of the largest open-class yachts. A teak deck equals happy feet, and this layout lends itself to being a true party platform.Courtesy Riva Yachts

THE WORLD'S BIGGEST 'OPEN'

When it comes to open yachts, this Riva 88 Florida takes the crown, offering sun, speed and style scaled up to the max. What constitutes an open yacht as opposed to an open cruiser? To me, an open yacht has an open cockpit and not only proper staterooms, but also dedicated crew berths. The next-biggest available on the market is at least 8 feet shorter, which might not sound like a lot, but it translates to a huge amount of extra volume. And, in this case, that extra volume is filled with Riva's one-of-a-kind styling.

WHAT'S IN A NAME?

Quite a lot. This model was initially announced as the Domino 88 Open because she is effectively based on Riva’s Domino Super hull. Instead of sporting a flybridge, though, she provides an open-cockpit layout. Next, she was billed pre-launch as the 88 Miami before finally appearing at her Cannes Yachting Festival 2015 world premiere as the 88 Florida. Riva has not used the names Florida and Super Florida since the 1950s and early ’60s.

A 'SHORE' THING

Riva is a short word, and the sweeping type style is as beautiful as it is iconic. Translating to “shore” in Italian, it communicates a key brand message: the vital connection to the water. Surprisingly, the appropriateness of the name was just luck: It’s the family name of the yard’s founders. Carlo Riva, who recently celebrated his 90th birthday, rocketed the yard to fame and glory during the 1950s on the back of legendary designs like the Aquarama. He was the last in a line of fathers’ sons to manage the family firm since the middle of the 19th century. Legend has it that founder Pietro Riva began repairing storm-damaged fishing boats on Lago Iseo, some 25 miles east of Bergamo in Northern Italy. Indeed, the company claims to have been building boats uninterrupted for longer than any other yard in Italy.

RIVA TODAY

Three plants build the Riva range, from the smallest — the 27-foot Iseo — up to 164-foot custom projects and beyond. The smaller ones are built in Sarnico in northern Italy, while the bigger ones are built in La Spezia on the west coast. The biggest are built by the Ferretti Group’s subsidiary CRN in Ancona, a small city on the east coast.

Riva 88 Florida
The 88 Florida is billed as a spiritual successor to the open 60 Bahamas, which was built from 1991 to 1998.Courtesy Riva Yachts

OUTSIDE PERSPECTIVES

Timeless. Elegant. Racy. Luxurious. These words come to mind when you see the Riva 88 Florida in profile. She’s designed for those who enjoy the salt air, onboard entertaining and an eye-catching design.

Riva 88 Florida
The 88's layout accommodates up to eight guests on the lower decks.Courtesy Riva Yachts

CREATIVE HERITAGE

The 88 Florida is billed as the spiritual successor to the open 60 Bahamas, which was built from 1991 to 1998. It was the first Riva to be designed entirely by the hugely talented Mauro Micheli and Sergio Beretta’s Officina Italiana Design, the studio responsible for the whole modern Riva portfolio. Some of the other, bigger open Rivas include the current 63 Virtus and 52-foot Rivale. Other opens of yesteryear include the 59 Mercurius and 54 Aquarius.

DEFINING FEATURE

The convertible roof system is impossible to miss. Its patented mechanism is ingenious, but it’s not the most discreet piece of engineering. When the cockpit is completely open, the roof stows on the foredeck, where it serves as a cover for a seating area and sun pad. The arms stow cleverly in the superstructure and are out of sight when not needed.

RIVA LA DIFFERENCE ...

One thing is certain: Riva knows how to build a good boat. But what makes Riva quality? One thing that impresses me is the way the builder usually paints proprietary equipment to match the hull and deck colors. No jarring hues to distract from exterior-design purity. Minimal visual clutter. No clashing logos. Sat domes, horns, navigation lights, searchlights, antennas — all get taken apart and painted. It’s details like this that set Riva apart. The quality of Riva’s varnishing and lacquering is legendary too, often up to 25 coats. The doorstep of every stateroom has a stainless-steel plate with an engraved Riva logo. It’s a nice touch.

FAVORITE PLACE: OUTSIDE

Sitting on the 88 Florida’s high-low hydraulic platform with your legs in the water. In every way, the experience is a notch up from even the great Otis Redding’s “(Sittin’ On) The Dock of the Bay.”

Riva 88 Florida
The master stateroom feels huge, even for a yacht of this size.Courtesy Riva Yachts

MUST-HAVE EXTRA

Remember that this is a sport yacht. Go for the biggest 2,638 hp MTU 16V 2000 M94 diesels and the 40-plus knots that come with them. The first three Riva 88s had them, and the next three in production will have them as well. Riva claims 40.5 knots as the 88 Florida’s top speed with these power plants, but the builder conservatively quotes top speeds minus a knot or two. When lightly loaded and in the right waters — meaning not too hot — she should deliver a solid 42-plus knots. The optional 2,435 hp MTU diesels provide a quoted 38.5-knot top end, still more than adequate for a yacht with a length overall just short of 90 feet. Either engine choice will give you a maximum 34- to 35-knot cruising speed.

Riva 88 Florida
The 88 Florida has a 340 nautical miles maximum and a fast cruising range that reaches 35 knots.Courtesy Riva Yachts

THE FIRST THREE AFLOAT

HULL NO. 1:
At the 88 Florida's debut during the Cannes Yachting Festival, our test boat was resplendent in a metallic "regal silver" livery.

HULL NO. 2:
This one was pre-sold and delivered last summer. The second 88 Florida sports an unusual pearlescent-white paint job that can look like anything from slightly blue to slightly purple, depending on how the light hits her hull. Her New York-based owner simply loves the brand. In fact, he's reported to have bought six or seven new Rivas in recent years and still owns around half of them.

HULL NO. 3:
Like the second 88 Florida, the third one was delivered to her owner last summer. This one is metallic gold and gorgeous. We hear on the docks that she will spend her time cruising in tandem with her owner's 200-foot megayacht.

Riva 88 Florida
The Riva 88 Florida has a high-low hydraulic platform that's perfect for relaxing.Courtesy Riva Yachts

INSIDE PERSPECTIVES

It’s easy to see and immediately appreciate the striking exterior elements of a yacht like the Riva 88 Florida, but this builder gives equal effort and innovation to the design, layout and features of this vessel’s luxurious interior. When you’re ready to drop the hook and relax, the 88 Florida is ready to cradle you in comfort.

WARM AND SOFT

The first two 88 Floridas had the same general arrangements and veneer choices: oak with what is referred to as an ultra-matte, two-part “rubbery” lacquer. This optional effect is unusual, similar to the soft, velvety skin of a peach. Riva has used it to great effect over the years.

EIGHT GUESTS, FOUR CREW

A layout with four en suite staterooms accommodates up to eight guests on the lower deck. The owner’s stateroom is amidships, just abaft a galley to port and a great lounging area to starboard. The other three guest staterooms are in the forward half of the hull, with the VIP double in the traditional spot up front and the other two abaft it.

OWNER'S PRIVILEGE

The master stateroom feels huge, even for a yacht of this size. The sleeping area doesn’t occupy the full beam, but the en suite is behind sliding doors. With the doors open, you get the full-beam benefit. A shower stall and head have their own flanking doors. Hullside windows enhance the exterior profile, and inside they really wow.

CREW

The crew have their own staircase, which is hidden behind what looks like a cupboard door within the cockpit furniture on the port side. A mini-mess and two bunk cabins for up to four crew are down there, plus the engine-room door.

FAVORITE PLACE: INSIDE

The chaise longue to port of the bench-seat helm is a lounger on steroids. There are comfortable cushions, and a good friend will fit here with ease. An abundance of natural light beams through the hullside windows. Metal accents, wood and carpet blend together for a contemporary yet warm feel.