Written by Lars Zeppernick
Luxury yachts and boats have quite often been featured in James Bond movies, and one of the most famous examples of them was Adnan Kashoggi’s “Nabila”, named after his daughter, which doubled for the “Flying Saucer” in the Kevin McClory produced Bond movie Never Say Never Again.
The “Nabila” was built in 1980 by Fratelli Benetti shipyard in Viareggio (Italy), being the world’s largest private yacht at that time with a length of 281 ft. (85,65 metres). And even after a quarter century, it is still among the world’s largest yachts’ Top 25. The exterior design was done by Jon Bannenberg of London, while the interiors were done by Italian Luigi Sturchio.
The Bond crew was the first movie crew allowed on board of Kashoggi’s swimming palace, for which producer Jack Schwartzman made “a contribution to The Princess Grace Foundation for charity through the Kashoggi Foundation” and Kashoggi also got a Thanks “A.K.” in the movie’s end credits. This deal scored Schwartzman a few points with his leading actor Sean Connery, which otherwise he mostly failed during the lengthy shooting of Never Say Never Again.
In the movie, the vessel was called “Flying Saucer” (English for “Disco Volante”, as the its equivalent was named in Thunderball) and served as Maximilian Largo’s mobile headquarters, at home on the seven seas. However, the ship’s command central that was shown in the movie was fictional, the work of production designer Stephen Grinds and art director Les Dilley.
The original yacht, at the height of a three storey building, featured five decks. It had three elevators, a 12-seat movie theatre, two saunas, a swimming pool, a discotheque, a jacuzzi, a billard room, eleven guest rooms with hand-carved onyx bathroom fixtures and gold-plated door-knobs and a master suite of 4 rooms, the bathroom of which had a solid gold sink. There also was a sun deck equipped with bullet-proof glass, sleeping quarters for 52 staff members, a three room “hospital”, secret passageways, push-button doors and windows and no less than 296 telephones. The steel hull ship made 18 – 20 knots and was powered by two 3000 hp Nohab Polar V 16 turbocharged diesel engines.
Several figures are known about the original price of the “Nabila”: while some sources speak of $70 million, others say that the boat itself was about $30 million plus $55 million for the luxury extras, which makes a total of $85 million. However, the building of the ship eventually led to bankrupcy of the manufacturer. The Benetti managers were very traditional and used to unwritten business rules among gentlemen—which Kashoggi wasn’t and didn’t care for. He was a tough bargainer and apart from keeping the price as low as possible, he had also insisted on several penalty clauses. After he had demanded a lot of changes during the build, Benetti had to ask for a necessary extension of the production timeframe, but he wouldn’t allow it and instead insist on the contract’s clauses—which were void after his many changing demands, but Benetti were unaware of this. The company never recovered from the losses and was sold to boat dealer Azimut in 1984, who then started to build their own boats on the shipyard, still using the traditional name Benetti.
When arms dealer Kashoggi was bankrupt himself in 1987 the “Nabila” was used to pay off a loan to the Sultan of Brunei, who sold the ship to billionaire Donald Trump at a bargain price of $29 million. Trump renamed her “Trump Princess” and had her refitted for $8 million at Amels in Holland. The boat—now with a white hull instead of the original grey painting—was brought to New York and was later partly used as a casino ship in Atlantic City.
“The Donald” himself never really had a thing for boats and he is said to never have spent a night on board. He more considered it a prize, a masterpiece “beyond a boat” and when he toured visitors, he boasted about the luxury features, such as the heliport on which he had painted a big “T” instead of the usual “H”.
In the early 1990s when Trump went bankrupt himself, he was forced to sell his beloved yacht—among other things—and thought that his name alone attached to the boat would justify to ask a price of $115 million for it. But he was dead wrong, as he didn’t even match the price for which he bought it himself. The new and current owner, Prince Alwaleed bin Talal bin Abdul Aziz al Saud, a wealthy Saudi businessman with ties to the Royal family, claims that he only paid $19 million for it.
The boat got another refitting at Amels, where the hull was painted beige in order to reflect the colour of sand, more gold decoration was used on the interiors and arms systems were installed. Renamed “Kingdom 5KR” (after the Prince’s company’s name, his lucky number and his childrens’ initials), the ship is permanently anchored at the IYCA in the port of Antibes (South France) with frequent visits to Cannes.