Dropped into the Mediterranean, around 90km south of Sicily, Malta is one of the smallest and most-densely populated countries on the planet – in fact, it features in the top ten. When I say ‘Malta’, I actually mean the Maltese archipelago of Malta, Gozo and Comino which between them cover 316 square kilometres and share a dainty population of around 423,000. By way of comparison, for those with a Balearic bent, Mediterranean bedfellow Mallorca covers more than ten times the area (3,640 square kilometres) yet barely twice the population (860,000) – Malta is indeed a fun-size powerhouse.
In previous years it was perhaps best known as a summer ‘bucket and spade’ destination, but now global travel search site Skyscanner has placed Malta at number one in its top holiday destinations for 2017 saying, “Malta’s reinventing itself as a seriously hip weekend break contender, with new boutique hotels and cool bars down at the Valletta waterfront complementing an emerging dance scene…” – it also has a rapidly-emerging beach club scene. The Island certainly gets its fair share of hot sunshine and is surrounded by sparkling waters to entice even the most reluctant swimmer – almost all year round – but it’s almost 7,000 years of history that makes Malta both charming and unforgettable.
Prehistoric temples, Roman catacombs, medieval towns, and an architectural legacy left by the Knights of Malta – not least the baroque Saint John’s Co-Cathedral in Valletta – contribute to a rich cultural tapestry. You’ll also see red letter and phone boxes and hear English spoken as a joint official language – testament to the fact that Malta once formed part of the British Empire before gaining independence in 1964. The Island went on to join the EU in 2004 and currently holds the Presidency of the Council of the EU (from January to June 2017). As recently as Friday 3 February, Malta hosted an informal summit for 28 EU leaders including May, Merkel, Hollande and Rajoy. They discussed the migration crisis, Trump and Brexit – ironically debating the latter without May as she decided to head home early. But that’s another story.
Valletta, the smallest national capital in the EU at 0.8 square kilometres, is entirely UNESCO-protected and elegantly dressed with colonnaded squares, verdant gardens and imposing palazzi. Earmarked as European Capital of Culture for 2018, it boasts a cosmopolitan atmosphere with designer fashion, fusion cuisine and chic nightspots encircled by a picturesque waterfront backed by preserved city walls. It’s here you’ll find Camper & Nicholsons Grand Harbour Marina – officially opened in 2005 by Her Majesty Queen Elizabeth II.
Located in a deep natural port, Grand Harbour Marina is not only one of the most spectacular marinas in Malta, but it also claims some of the finest views and the most incredible historical backdrop in the world. Guarded at the mouth by imposing and iconic bastioned Fort St Angelo, the facility provides 270 berths for superyachts up to 140 metres in length and is within walking distance of high-end eateries. Malta’s International Airport is just 15 minutes away and well connected to the rest of Europe. The South of France, Balearics, Greek Islands, Croatia and Turkey are all within two-days sailing – the ideal base for summer charter activities.
As you would expect from a Camper & Nicholsons destination (incidentally, the Company now manages and operates St Katherine Docks in London) a stay at Grand Harbour Marina is designed to be as comfortable, relaxing and inspirational as possible. They provide 24-hour berthing assistance, 24-hour security and CCTV, fresh water, electricity, complimentary wifi, luxurious washrooms, a laundry service and black and grey water and waste disposal. Fuel bunkering, provisioning, several chandleries and technical services are all on hand, while a nearby superyacht shipyard offers electrical, hydraulic, engine and refit specialists aided by a travel lift and covered hard standing for vessels up to 140 metres.
In a nutshell, Grand Harbour Marina is the perfect well-serviced, sheltered and secure base in the Mediterranean with 2017 prices starting from 190 euros a day for a 28 metre (low season) rising to 920 euros a day for a 100 metre (high season) – plus 18% VAT. Of course weekly, monthly, seasonal and annual rates are available.
Speaking of VAT, Malta has made it very favourable for superyachts to fly a Maltese flag of registry. Its VAT Department set the VAT rate for superyachts at 5.4% instead of 18% and, to be registered here, stipulated the yacht must visit the Island at least twice. The country is now home to the largest ship register in the EU, the sixth largest in the world, and has attracted almost 600 superyachts bringing in 171.5 million euros in tax revenue in the last ten years. The yachts are worth a collective total of 3.2 billion euros with the average value going up from around 2.5 million euros in 2010 to over 9.5 million last year (Times of Malta, January 2017).
Grand Harbour Marina is also doing its bit to encourage repeat business to this unique Island by keeping a varied calendar of events. Perhaps most popular are its Feel Good Fridays (barbecues hosted by Bradbury Yacht Concierge) and monthly regional wine tastings (at the Nº12 Fine Wines & Provisions cellars in Valletta). Crew and captains are known for their love of good food and equally good drink, and Grand Harbour Marina’s Sales & Marketing Manager, Caroline Navarro, hosts them with aplomb – often resulting in a longer stay than initially intended.
The team also supports key industry events, such as the Pantaenius insurance workshop for superyacht captains held at the Marina last November and sponsoring the drinks reception at the Royal Malta Yacht Club for the annual Opportunities in Superyachts Conference in February just gone. It also masterminds slightly less cerebral activities, such as a Pirates Treasure Hunt by electric buggy, a homemade Wobbly Boat Competition, golf tournaments and weekly yoga or circuit training classes. Grand Harbour Marina’s Christmas Party certainly promoted a festive spirit attended by crew from 95 metre Indian Empress, 78 metre Titan, 80 metre Amevi, and many others.
Naturally there are many sailing spectacles to get excited about including the Rolex Middle Sea Race which set out from Grand Harbour Marina last October. This 37th edition was won by enigmatic Italian skipper Giovanni Soldini’s MOD70 Maserati in a record-breaking time of 2 days 1 hour 25 minutes and 1 second thanks to a “catastrophic error in navigation” by closest rivals and former record holders Phaedo3.
In November a ten-boat fleet took to the Grand Harbour for the high-performance one-design RC44 Valletta Cup, immediately followed by the prestigious Yacht Racing Forum held for the first time in Malta.
Grand Harbour Marina also inaugurated its very own Summer Kick-Off Yacht Rally in June – specifically targeted at the pontoon berth holders designed for yachts between 8 and 25 metres. The 12 participating boats enjoyed a healthy mix of sailing, drinks, canapés and a three-course lunch, and it’s hoped that this ‘meet your neighbour’ Yacht Rally will become a Grand Harbour Marina trademark event in years to come.
So, what do the yacht captains and crew think of Grand Harbour Marina – does it match up to its hype? Jay Deakin, ex First Officer of MY Fusion, certainly agrees citing Grand Harbour Marina as ‘his favourite’ in a recent The Crew Report interview. “The first impressions of Grand Harbour Marina, and Valletta in general, were extremely impressive – an imposing ancient fort, and the city of Valletta itself welcomes mariners to an island with a rich history and a welcoming, friendly culture. Once we had arrived, the helpfulness of all the marina staff, as well as locals, was the enduring first impression. I feel totally like part of the family at Grand Harbour Marina. They make each yacht feel important, and like there’s not enough they can do for you, regardless of LOA – a rare quality in my experience!”
Captain Bob Corcoran of 77 metre MY Samar has spent a few winters at Grand Harbour Marina and is on the same page as Jay. In an interview with The Superyacht Owner he said, “The Marina itself is well maintained and very accommodating” and stressed that the Island is “much safer than anywhere else” meaning crew and guests can be confident touring or exploring away from the yacht. He added, “There were at least two things a month for the crew to do,” which helps to keep crew active and productive. “At Grand Harbour Marina, they are eager for boats to come down,” concluded the Captain. “They want to do a good job, they want to build up a repeat business, and they know the only way to do that is word of mouth, so the service reflects this.”
Sarah Drane, email@example.com