Top 10 world’s largest explorer yachts

“A villa on the water with a high level of autonomy”, “a marine SUV” or “a floating laboratory” – all kinds of explorer and expedition yachts are getting more and more popular year after year
June 19 2024 • by Katya Khmelinskaya 17 minutes to read
Explorer yacht Octopus

The key specialization of expedition yachts and true explorers is to give their owners and their guests an opportunity to reach the most remote corners of the globe 

To leave all the fuss behind and go on an adventure somewhere you have never been before. To go on without thinking about the climate or the need to restock the supplies or refuel too much. To wade through the ice, explore the depths of the ocean on a submarine or go deeper inland on an ATV, SUV or a helicopter – these vessels are capable of giving you this kind of freedom.

At present there are a few expedition yacht projects at different construction stages in various parts of the world, which are very likely to make a real splash and “oust” some of our top 10 participants. Take the 195-metre REV Ocean alone, the construction of which has resumed after a pause in 2021. But these boats still have to go through their paces, while our nominees are already on the water.

#1 | Nord

Length: 141.63 m
Shipyard: Lürssen (Germany)
Year built: 2021

“A beautiful behemoth”, “a warship wearing a tuxedo”, “a gentleman’s explorer” – what epithets and international prizes have not been awarded to the Nord superyacht (ex. Project Opus), allegedly built by German Lürssen for Alexey Mordashov (Severstal). 

According to the creators of her exterior and interior, Italian Nuvolari Lenard studio, she was created with one idea in mind: to cause strong emotions in every observer of this champagne-tinted hull with turquoise LEDs. And it looks like they succeeded: she became the yacht of the year in the category of yachts over 82 metres once she appeared (World Yacht Trophies 2021). The six-decker equipped with two elevators can accommodate up to 36 guests and a crew of 50. The top speed of 20 knots is ensured by the diesel-electric propulsion system with two diesel MTU 20V 4000 M73L engines of 4963 hp each. Besides, the Nord features a unique exhaust after treatment system, combining a silencer with a selective catalytic reduction, which can achieve a cleaning rate of up to 97 % of nitrogen and reduces the noise considerably. 


In addition to two full-fledged helipads (an enourmous one on the foredeck and another one on the brigdedeck), the contents of her garage definitely cause strong emotions, too, as in addition to her own AgustaWestland AW139 helicopter, the Nord carries at least four tenders (up to 15 metres long), Toyota Land Cruisers, four ATVs, a deep-diving submarine and a hovercraft, capable of travelling on the water, land and ice. On board the Nord there is also a full-size grand piano, a gym, a spa, a huge swimming pool with a waterfall, a cinema, a barbecue area and all other possible kinds of entertainment for the guests. 

#2 | Solaris

Length: 139.7 m
Shipyard: Lloyd Werft (Germany)
Year built: 2021

The flagship of German Lloyd Werft of steel and aluminium was built for Roman Abramovish and launched in Germany in February 2021. The exterior and interior of this incredible eight-decker were created by Australian Marc Newson, also known as a designer behind Apple Watch and lots of other amazing watches, jewelry, shoes, furniture, bicycles, cars and jets.

Solaris was a highly secretive project, and based on the information that is available, this gigantic explorer is a real fortress on the water, equipped with a radar-based anti-missile and anti-drone system, bullet-proof windows, a submarine and a helicopter. 

The vessel with an internal volume of 11247 GT can accommodate up to 36 guests in 18 cabins, and there are 30 more cabins for a crew of 60. On top of all the rest, the guests’ privacy is guarded from paparazzi with the help of a laser shield, which can disrupt photo and video images. 

Solaris is powered by two powerful electric Azipods of 4500 kW each and can reach a top speed of 34 km/h (18.3 knots). A robust hull, a bow bulb and Ice Class 1D provide this explorer with an ice-breaking capability, too. 

#3 | Octopus

Length: 126.18 m
Shipyard: Lürssen (Germany)
Year built: 2003

At the time of her launch in 2003, Octopus was the largest, the most pumped-up and the most secretive explorer in the world. What else could you expect from a vessel built for the late Paul Allen? It was Allen who persuaded Bill Gates to drop out of Harvard and start a joint business together. He even came up with a name for it – Microsoft. 

Back in 1998 when the work on Octopus just started, nobody equipped their yachts with touch-screen control panels, let alone a hyperbaric chamber, a fully equipped medical centre, a storm cabin, two helipads, a basketball court and… a recording studio.  

Huge float-in garage of Octopus
Octopus's huge float-in garage

Even Lürssen’s most experienced professionals and Espen Øino, who was in charge of Octopus’s exterior, had to rack his brain to deal with some of the owner’s requests. Like how to store a whole armada of tenders, a hydroplane, a remotely controlled submarine and helicopters onboard. Octopus’s hybrid propulsion system of eight diesel MTU engines (a total of almost 20 000 hp) and two electric ABB motors is nothing less than revolutionary for the time either. And Allen made good use of all this equipment: Octopus circled the globe more than once and made a lot of historical and scientific discoveries, while such stars as U2 and Mic Jagger made records in its music studio. We have told you more about the expeditions of the iconic explorer here

Library onboard of Octopus
Library on board Octopus

During the refit in 2018 the new owner tried to preserve the original vibe of the vessel and make it a “special offer” on the charter market. And it looks like it really is: according to Camper & Nicholsons, who are managing the yacht now, the demand for this unique boat is comparable to her fame. 

#4 |J7 Explorer

Length: 120 m
Shipyard: Bahtera Bahari (Indonesia)
Year built: 2022
J7 Explorer
J7 Explorer

The J7 Explorer is one of the largest explorers built outside Europe, namely – in Indonesia. The all-steel vessel with an internal volume of 8076 GT was built by Bahtera Bahari shipyard for “a prominent Indonesian businessman”. She became a flagship and the first superyacht for the shipyard, which has built over 300 vessels (mainly commercial tankers, landing craft, dive boats) and done refit and repairs to 200 more boats since it was founded in 2005. 

The J7 is meant for 50 guests (25 cabins) and a crew of 102. The interiors of the vessel are allegedly owed to an Indonesian studio Grain and Green, and she is powered by two Japanese diesel Yanmar engines of 2596 kW each, delivering a top speed of 16 knots and a cruising speed of 12 knots.

Just like most of the participants of this top 10, the J7 Explorer was built in highest secrecy and there are not many details known about her. But there is video of an absolutely epic launch of this 120-metre boat rolling over the inflatable tubes, which reminds one of a historical method of launching ships on logs.

#5 | Multiverse (ex. Ulysses)

Lenght: 116.15 m
Shipyard: Kleven (Norway)
Year built: 2018
Multiverse (ex. Ulysses)
Multiverse (ex. Ulysses)

One of the three famous explorers built for New Zealand’s richest man, Graeme Hart. It’s interesting to note that all the three originally had a name of Ulysses  (the Roman name for Odysseus, a legendary Greek king). 

In 2016 this vessel with a hull of steel and a superstrycture of aluminium was “put together” at Kleven shipyard in Norway and then headed for Dörries Maritime (Bremerhaven, Germany) for the completion of internal and external works. The exterior design and naval architecture were developed by Norwegians – Oscar Mike Limited and Marin Teknikk respectively, while the interior is owed to the British RWD studio. The beam of 18 metres and the internal volume of 6862 GT provide enough space for comfortable accommodation of up to 30 guests in 15 cabins and a crew of 48 in 15 cabins. 

Ulysses is equipped with a helicopter hangar for Bell 429 and a whole flotillia of tenders, including a 21-metre Princess 68. The vessel is powered by twin diesel Caterpillar 3516C, delivering a top speed of 12 knots and a cruising speed of 10.

In 2018 Graeme Hart sold the yacht to Yuri Milner, owner of DST Global and former owner of Mail.Ru Group. The new owner gave the explorer a new name, Multiverse, sending his regards to his rather a serious scientific background (after getting his degree in physics he worked for the Lebedev Physical Institute of the Russian Academy of Sciences). Among the “nice extras” the new owner got in addition to the impressive range of 8000 nautical miles and all the gear mentioned above,  there is also a gym, a sauna, a cinema, a pool and a wine bar.

#6 | Luna

Length: 115 m
Shipyard: Lloyd Werft (Germany)
Year built: 2010

Just like Solaris, this explorer was built by German Lloyd Werft for Roman Abramovich. The exterior design was developed by a German yacht-couture maestro, Frank Neubelt, while the interiors come from the winner of a few dozen most prestigious international awards in design, Donald Starkey. 

At the time of her launch in 2010 Luna also made headlines due to her largest ever pool on a superyacht (20.11 metres long). Let alone two tender garages, two helipads, a gym, a steam bath, a plunge pool, a sauna and a huge beach club.

Luna's beach club
Luna's beach club

The yacht is meant for up to 50 guests, while the entire lower deck is dedicated to the crew of 18. With an ice class and a diesel-electric propulsion system Luna is capable of reaching the furthest corners of the globe: with all her seven generators running at full revs, she is capable of powering a whole town of 25,000 residents. 


But alas! First all this power and beauty were held hostage for a few years by the complicated divorce process of the yacht's new owner, Farhad Akhmedov, who bought her in 2014. And in 2021, when the process was finally settled and she headed for Germany for maintenance, she got laid up again in 2022 – this time because of the sanctions. 

#7 | Le Grand Bleu

Length: 112.8 m
Shipyard: Bremer Vulkan (Germany)
Year built: 2000
Le Grand Bleu
Le Grand Bleu

The first owner of this yacht of steel and aluminium was an American telecommunications tycoon, John McCaw.  A truly international star cast worked on the project: the exterior comes from Pastrovich Studio (Monaco), naval architecture is from German Kusch Yachts, and the interiors are owed to British Bannenberg & Rowell Design and Italian Luciano Di Pilla Design. 

The yacht is powered by twin German Deutz engines, delivering a top speed of 17 knots.

In 2002, John McCaw allegedly sold the explorer to Roman Abramovich, who is said to have added a 5-metre bathing platform to her at German HDW shipyard in Kiel.

Le Grand Bleu is a dream explorer. A huge garage for two Buzzi sports boats, a landing craft capable of carrying a 4x4 Land Rover to go on travelling on land, two yachts (a 22-metre sailing Bellatrix and a 21-metre Sirius A motor yacht from Sunseeker). 

It is rumoured that in 2006 Roman Abramovich lost Le Grand Bleu in a bet to his friend and partner Eugeny Shvidler (Millhouse investment company). However, there’s no reliable data on that. 

#8 | Renaissance

Length: 111.85 m
Shipyard: Freire (Spain)
Year built: 2023

Renaissance, also known as Project NB724, is the flagship of Freire shipyard and the largest boat ever built in Spain. The naval architecture of the vessel of steel and aluminium with an internal volume of 7,200 GT was developed by Norwegians from Marin Teknikk AS, which became their first-time collaboration with London-based Bannenberg & Rowell Design (exterior and interior design). 

Master-cabin on board of Renaissance
Master cabin on board Renaissance

The six-decker with five Caterpillar engines of 2468 hp and a range of 8,000 nautical miles, a helipad, a flotilla of four tenders and all kinds of water toys was built for A. Gary Klesch, a successful Anglo-American entrepreneur with a reputation of a vulture capitalist (an investor acquiring distressed firms).

Renaissance' SPA
Renaissance' SPA

Since the spring of 2024 Renaissance has been available for charter with Burgess, offering 19 cabins for 36 guests and a whole deck dedicated to SPA only, a cinema and abundance of alfresco dining areas. There is a private owner’s deck, too, featuring palatial interiors. The charter rate for Renaissance in summer starts from 3 mln. dollars per week. 

#9 | Andromeda

Length: 107.4 m
Shipyard: Kleven (Norway)
Year built: 2016 

The twin sister of the Multiverse explorer mentioned above was built for the same billionaire from New Zealand, Graeme Hart at Norwegian Kleven, and then went on to Bremerhaven (Germany). “Surprise” – she was initially called Ulysses, too.

Main salon of Andromeda
Andromeda's main saloon

With an internal volume of 5937 GT, Andromeda can accommodate up to 36 guests in 15 cabins with the interiors from London-based H2 Yacht Design studio. And though the “twin” boat is 9 meters shorter than her elder Multiverse, the six-decker is just a “dream come true” of daredevils of all ages, as she carries a helicopter, two ATVs, six motorbikes (Harley, Ducatti, Austrian KTMs), a 21-metre 50-knot multihull support boat, a Sealegs amphibious RIB, capable of travelling both on water and land, two 14-metre RIBs and a full-on landing craft. So it looks like there can be just one problem – what to choose. 

#10 |Project Icecap

Length: 107 m
Shipyard: Lürssen (Germany)
Year built: 2024 
Project Icecap
Project Icecap

The official premiere of this expedition yacht has not yet taken place, and is not really likely to take place at all, but the vessel has already hit the water and passed all her sea trials. As her name suggests, this boat was built to ice class classification and is meant for the boldest adventures and off-the-beaten tracks. The yacht of steel and aluminium with an internal volume of 6,500 GT was built at Peene-Werft shipyard by Lürssen's naval division (NVL Group). The exterior and interior of this "marine SUV" were developed by Norwegian Salt Ship Design, better known for its supply ships and ice-breakers. 

The owner of this five-decker with an inverted bow is Canadian billionaire, John Carter Risley, an avid fisherman and a seafarer, founder of Clearwater Seafoods, which is the largest shellfish producer in North America. As his business is all about the sea, he does care about the impact his vessels make on it: Icecap is powered by a diesel-electric propulsion system with three Finnish Wärtsilä of 2,692 hpo each and a large battery bank. The explorer’s equipment is state-of-the-art, including a helicopter and a sunken hangar for it, as well as huge side garages for tenders. The only exception is a submarine, as John Carter Risley admits that he is claustrophobic and doesn’t feel like going down in a glass tank. 

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Katya Khmelinskaya
Katya Khmelinskaya
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