Here's what it's like to attend the Monaco Yacht Show - in a country where the poverty rate is 0 - when you are not a millionaire
Katie Warren/Business Insider
- Monaco is a tiny yet lavishly wealthy city-state on the French Riviera.
- It has a zero poverty rate, and an estimated one-third of the population are millionaires.
- Monaco has been called a playground for millionaires. I am not a millionaire.
- At this year's Monaco Yacht Show, an estimated 30,000 people came to see the more than $4.3 billion worth of yachts displayed in the port.
- Guests included yachting-industry insiders - including superyacht builders, designers, and brokers - as well as wealthy private clients looking to charter or purchase yachts.
- I spent two days at this year's yacht show. It's safe to say that my experience was very different from the experience for millionaires.
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Allow me to start out by saying this: I am not a millionaire. I am a journalist. And I live in New York City, which means overpriced drinks and food are pretty par for the course.
But I did spend one fabulously ritzy week in a country that has no poverty and where 32% of the inhabitants are millionaires: Monaco.
This year's Monaco Yacht Show brought an estimated 30,000 people from around the world to the tiny city-state on the French Riviera. These attendees are yachting-industry insiders - including superyacht builders, designers, and brokers - as well as wealthy private clients looking to tour, charter, or purchase yachts.
Monaco may be smaller than New York City's Central Park, but it's one of the wealthiest countries in the world, with a per capita GDP of $165,420 - the second highest in the world after Liechtenstein. An estimated 32% - or about one-third - of the country's residents are millionaires.
And according to the CIA World Factbook, no portion of Monaco's population lives below the poverty line.
This wealth was evident from the moment I arrived in Monaco - and even while I was booking my trip.
Here's what it's like to attend the glamorous Monaco Yacht Show when you're not a millionaire.
The glamorous Monaco Yacht Show is one of the world's premier yachting events.
And this is me. As I said before, but as it bodes saying again, I am not a millionaire. I am a journalist. I've got inside looks at a variety of luxury hotels across NYC, toured penthouses in Miami and Moscow, and attended exclusive parties for the tennis elite. But at the Monaco Yacht Show, I found myself in a whole different game.
This year's yacht show displayed its largest fleet of yachts ever, both by volume — there were about 125 yachts — and value, according to Johan Pizzardini, the communications and media manager for the Monaco Yacht Show.
Monaco is tiny: It stretches across less than one square mile. It is also one of the world's wealthiest countries.
I got my first hint of just how expensive Monaco would be while I was booking accommodations for my trip. The prices of Airbnbs in the area were nothing short of shocking.
But the pricey Monaco Airbnbs were still a bargain compared to Monaco's luxury hotels, where many guests stay during the yacht show. One of those options is Hotel Metropole, where rates range from about $417 a night to upwards of $8,500 a night for its signature suites.
Hotel Metropole is in Monte Carlo, the city-state's glitziest neighborhood. The area is known for its iconic casino, as well as luxury shopping and hotels.
From my small balcony, I had a stunning view of Monte Carlo, which seemed to sparkle at night. That, or maybe I was just a bit blinded by the sports car headlights and the complete lack of trash on the city streets.
The 1% have their choice of accommodations in Monaco: Right next to the casino is the Hotel de Paris Monte-Carlo, which just underwent a four-year, $280 million renovation.
I toured the Hotel de Paris' Princess Grace suite (named after American actress-turned-princess Grace Kelly), which books for 40,000 euros per night — more than $43,000.
And then there is the Hotel Hermitage, the other major luxury hotel in Monte Carlo, which includes a Michelin-starred restaurant and an opulent ballroom.
The cheapest meal I could find in Monte Carlo was at a little Italian joint called Tip Top, about a three-minute walk from the casino. My plate of grilled fish and vegetables was 20 euros, or about $22.
At the Café de Paris, a great place to watch the luxury cars circle through the roundabout in front of the casino, a mediocre cappuccino cost me 6 euros, or about $7.
The night before the yacht show, about 350 VIP guests and yachting industry elite were invited to an exclusive gala at the Monaco Yacht Club to kick off the show. I got an invite to the exclusive gathering.
But the real difference between me and the average attendee came at the end of the night, when most guests hopped into private cars and courtesy cars to get back to their luxury hotels five minutes away.
The 2019 yacht show kicked off the next day, on Wednesday, September 25th.
At each entrance of the show, security guards check badges and search bags.
Monaco Yacht Show attendees can buy a daily pass for about $330 or a professional pass for all four days of the show for about $1,100.
Then there are the VIP guests of the yacht show, who must fill out an application and pay about $2,700 for the "Sapphire Experience," which gives them special privileges such as private yacht tours, cocktail hours, and access to private VIP lounges.
VIP guests also have access to special courtesy cars provided by the Monaco Yacht Show to drive them around the city during their stay.
The quais of Port Hercules were hectic and crowded during the yacht show.
Yachting industry insiders talked business in the exhibitor booths ...
... VIP guests relaxed in private lounges protected from ordinary people by metal fences ...
... and of course, everybody who could, went on board the yachts.
But not everyone at the show can simply walk onboard a superyacht. The show arranges private tours for VIP guests, and some yachts offer press tours (which is how I was able to get on board a few).
I was invited to a press tour aboard Tis, the largest yacht exhibited at this year's Monaco Yacht Show.
Before going on board a yacht, everyone — VIP and ordinary guests alike — have to take off their shoes.
In the evenings, some of the yachts turn into party boats.
And then there were the golf carts — the great equalizer of my time at the MYS. All attendees, not just VIPs, had access to the fleet of golf carts and could use them to get rides from one section of the show to another.
There was also complimentary water transport to take guests from one quai to another. This was often faster than walking all the way around the port.
Across the port from the Monte Carlo side is Quai Antoine I, which is lined with restaurants and bars with outdoor seating areas.
I stopped for lunch one day at Stars 'n' Bars, a sports bar and eatery where a DJ was blasting tunes on the first day of the yacht show.
I ordered a cheeseburger and fries, which tasted perfectly fine.
Attending the Monaco Yacht Show for the first time was an unforgettable experience, largely because of the contrast it revealed between the wealthy attendees and everyone else.
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