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|Std. Power||2 x 600-hp Cummins QSC 8.3|
|Tested Power||2 x 600-hp Cummins QSC 8.3|
Captain's Report by Capt. Steve--
All Prestige Yachts share a family resemblance with large windows in the topsides and an overall timeless profile. The 550 Flybridge looks poised to leap ahead, thanks to her raked stem and transom. Standard power is twin 600-hp Cummins diesels with Zeus pods.
The mission statement for the Prestige 550 Flybridge is basically the same as the rest of the Prestige line. Build the best boat possible, and make her affordable by focusing on form and function and leave out the fluff. You will find solid composite countertops, wall-to-wall carpeting, and fiberglass overheads maximize interior room and utility. Prestige designers stay away from “flavor of the month” styling.
In 2011 Prestige earned praise in Europe for four new boats introduced: the 350, 400, 500 and 500S. Success breeds success – in the boating world just like anywhere else. The company has designed for two versions on a 58' 10" (17.92 m) LOA hull: The 550 express and 550 Flybridge motoryachts. All four of the new 2011 models were innovative in one sense or another, and we think the new intros are equally interesting.
This is becoming the layout we expect for pod-powered yachts: A full-beam master stateroom amidships, guest quarters forward of that and a crew's cabin aft, atop the pods. We like that Prestige includes a mix of doubles and single berths in the 550 layout, making her suitable for a range of guests. Each cabin benefits from large windows in the topsides; the master has essentially picture windows on either side.
• Engines mounted forward. Instead of putting the Cummins diesels directly in front of the pods, they are moved farther forward to more evenly distribute the weight around the boat's longitudinal center of gravity. This keeps the 550 from having excessive bow rise and allows for the ride at a more sedate 5-degree bow high attitude. The Zeus pods are located well aft, under the crew quarters berth, and a jackshaft connects the engines to the pods.
• Low draft. Because her pod drives are in tunnels and she is of a moderate displacement her draft is only 3’ 8’’ (1.17 m), which is shoal for this size boat.
• Two control stations standard. Typically we see a standard flybridge helm station and an optional control station below. Many builders will use this plan to create a roomier salon. Prestige feels, and we agree in this case, that the salon is roomy enough and chooses to put in a lower helm station as standard. In addition, an optional third station in the cockpit is available.
• Versatile VIP sleeping. Virtually every boat on the market in this class has a queen bed in the forward cabin. This is fine for a couple, but what if you are have two gents or ladies, or teenage children to accommodate? Prestige has thought of that and had built its queen bed so that it can be split into twins with each berth being moved to the hill sides. We think this is a super design.
• Private entrance to a huge master. Most yachts in class have one access to all accommodations. One problem with this design is that much valuable space is wasted on a long passageway. By creating a separate staircase to the master stateroom Prestige provides not only more privacy, but also more usable space for a walk-in closet and larger head.
• Price. At just a little over one million dollars this is a lot of yacht for the money. Just look around and you’ll see what I mean.
The Prestige 550 motoryacht is able to go most anywhere, and should be easy to handle by most owner/operators.
• Three stateroom layout. The VIP guest stateroom is located forward. The port side guest stateroom has twin berths that can easily be converted to a queen.
• Cockpit access to the flybridge. This is the only access to the flybridge, which eliminates a salon staircase that only takes up space, in our opinion.
Performance and Handling
With a pair of 600-hp Cummins QSC8.3 diesel engines powering our test boat we reached a top speed at 3080 rpm up 30.2 kts. At that speed we had a fuel burn of 62.85 gph for a range of 251 nautical miles. Best cruise came in at 2500 rpm and 22.4 kts. Now the fuel consumption to dropped to the 41.2 gph giving us a range of 284 nautical miles. We reached planing speed in 8.5 seconds and accelerated to 30 mph in 21.7 seconds.
The Prestige 550 hull was designed specifically for the Zeus 3800 pod drives. You can also see a flat keel at the stern which acts as a lifting pad giving the 550 a quick 8.5 sec time to plane. Note the tunnels which permit a draft of just 3'8" (1.17 m). The hydraulic platform is optional.
When accelerating, the bow comes up roughly 8-degrees which means the horizon remains in clear view from the lower helm. Once on plane she'll settle into a 5-degree bow high attitude. Because of the maneuvering characteristics of pods, you won't find any break-neck turns on the 550. The throw of the pods is limited at speed so you will only get a 5-degree bank angle which allows for very slow turns. In fact, it took 70 seconds for the 550 to come around a full 360-degrees. Of course this is perfectly adequate for the short maneuvers, such as dodging the occasional trap buoy that seems to pop up all over the world. When you take power off, the 550 will settle back into the water and a level attitude, again producing no loss of visibility to the horizon.
While on the subject of visibility, the 550 Flybridge has outstanding sightlines. From the lower helm you'll find yourself looking through the bow rails, but the bow itself remains well below the horizon line. Naturally, from the flybridge you have a nearly unobstructed 360-degree view. More importantly, you have a clear view of the port quarter through the companionway hatch.
The helm of the 550 Fly has a double wide seat for more eyes looking forward. The leather wrapped grab handle is a nice touch. Side windows are electrically actuated and open from a button to the left side of the helm.
One interesting feature to note is that the upper and lower helms are on opposing sides so you can choose which helm to operate from based on which side of the boat you will be tying up to. Of course for backing into a slip or med-mooring you can't beat the optional cockpit control station.
The 550 Fly had a very solid feel to her. While we were saddled with a relatively calm day I was able to pass through some sizable wakes which showed that she throws spray well off to the sides and down low producing a very dry ride. Her hard chines give her excellent stability and she shoulders beam seas off quite nicely with little effect to be felt from the flybridge helm.
The rails continue all the way back to the cockpit making transitions to the bow a safe affair, even when underway. The unique geometry to the hullside windows really serves to identify the brand.
In my opinion, the combination of Cummins diesels and Zeus pods is outstanding, and nowhere can this be felt to its maximum benefit than when maneuvering in close quarters. I easily brought the 550 in between two other yachts in the very close confines of a med-moor while controlling from the cockpit station.
Even while standing in close proximity to the engines and pods, there was no "clunking" into gear and the operation was silky smooth. So smooth in fact, that the only indication that things were working normally was the gentle response that the 550 Flybridge had to my slight movement of the joystick. More to the point, when you make a control movement on the joystick the 550 follows precisely as opposed to you making a control input, seeing where the boat goes, and then correcting that movement to what you want it to be.
The 550 Flybridge motoryacht is set up to sleep six guests in three cabins, plus a crew cabin aft that we predict will serve as added guest accommodations in this boat that can and should be an owner/operator vessel. With pods making handling easier, yachts this size are should be owner-operated in most cases. No crew means the aft cabin will surely be taken over by one of the owner's kids who want to sleep as far from the adults as possible (and wash down the boat at night.)
The master stateroom is full beam and in the most comfortable place in the boat. The table for two and the large hull-side windows will make this a wonderfully scenic cabin.
In keeping with Prestige's practice of building master stateroom's as comfortable as possible given the length of hull available, the midships cabin on the 550 has a large centerline bed, a small booth-type seating for two to port and a walk-in closet. Of course, there is a large en suite head with separate shower stall. We especially like the private access via a curved companionway leading from the salon. The forward two cabins share a head.
This is a huge master stateroom and 80' motoryachts usually don't have one much bigger. Everyone loves walk-in closets and this one is good-sized with plenty of creative space for storage. Notice the separate shower stall that separates the head from the walk-in closet. It has glass door access from both sides. We would eliminate the door from the closet and put in another clothing rack. We'd also get rid of the bidet, move the toilet over and put in a second sink.
In the VIP forward stateroom look closely and you will see dotted lines indicating how the queen bed can be split in two and swung outboard, making twins. We very much prefer this arrangement as it accommodates a variety of guests better. The head is shared with the guest stateroom and has a separate shower stall.
The forward VIP has split berths that pivot together, and latch, making a queen berth. This is a great use of space and adds to the versatility of the types of guests you can accommodate, whether kids or a couple.
While the lower deck is given over completely to accommodations, the main deck is where the real living takes place. There's a large galley aft with an L-shaped countertop and an island for more counter and storage space. It's at the aft bulkhead, so will be bright and well-ventilated. Forward there's a large dinette and a lounge opposite. The lower helm is to starboard.
The main deck houses the galley and dining areas, making preparing and serving food less of a trial for the cook. The tri-doors open onto a large aft deck almost completely covered by the flying bridge overhang – maybe not good for the sun tanning crowd, but overall more functional in a variety of weather. And -- it can be buttoned up with isinglass to prove for three-season living.
The aft galley is handy to serve both dinner in the main salon or lunch on the aft deck. The chef will like it because the galley is close to conversations in both venues.
There is a sunpad forward, big enough for several to bake together. And, of course, there is the flying bridge.
Even the most ardent sun worshipers will agree that too much sun is a bad thing, but that doesn’t mean you have to go inside. This pop-up shade is a great feature to have, and at the forward end of the pad is an innovative bench seat that deploys easily.
The 15'6" (475 cm) wide stern platform will be hydraulically adjustable as an option, making it fine for carrying a tender.
This area is the heart of the boat. The table can be set low as a coffee table when in conversation and socializing mode, or raised with leafs that pull out for a dinner.
The aft deck is large and Prestige has correctly not placed a standard table in front of the bench seat as each owner has his own ideas as to how this space will be used. Many people will add folding director’s chairs or something of the like. Because the overhead extends so far aft, the aft deck can be fully enclosed. The crack in the lower part of the bench seat marks the hatch to the crew's quarters below.
The aft deck will surely be one of the most popular gathering area on the 550. It’s also right next to the aft galley. Notice the optional retractable sunscreen allowing you to extend your time outside. What a place for al fresco dining.
The Prestige 550 has a huge swim platform, which we like. It becomes a "teak beach" or mini marina when friends come by tender to visit. The passerelle is an option that those Med mooring will want to order. Note that there is only one stairway to the aft deck, thus saving space, and the crew's cabin has a large window in the transom to allow natural light to enter. This detail makes what would otherwise be a dank lazerette become a useable cabin.
On the Flying Bridge
Access to the flying bridge is a stairway from the forward port corner of the aft deck. The bridge is mostly seating and sunning space, with its after section taken by a shallow U-lounge, a big sunpad adjacent to the helm and room for chairs and a table.
The lower helm is to starboard, but the upper helm is to port. If we were docking portside-to, we'd run the boat from the bridge; starboard-side to, from the saloon. With the maneuverability of pods, either way would work fine, we believe. We'd prefer more forward-facing seats at the helm instead of such a large sunpad.
There are several important things that we like about this new motoryacht. First is her size. She is not so large that she needs professional crew, but on the other hand she is big enough to take most anywhere and be able to handle snotty conditions without much fuss or concern.
Secondly, her design is not the flavor of the month. It is not "Euro," nor "American," nor "Downeast," nor "Expedition" nor whatever. Rather, the 550 is a modern design based on classic lines that will stand the test of time and be as much in style 40 years from now as today; sort of like a pin-striped business suit or a herringbone sport jacket -- they are always in style anywhere in the world.
She is a big motoryacht and people looking at larger yachts should ask themselved is they really need that much room. Conversely, people looking at smaller express cruisers should ask themselves if they might not be happier in the long run by spending a little more money now and get a boat that will probably last a lifetime.
While the 550 Flybridge has a top speed of 30 knots we would probably cruise her at 2250 rpm, going almost 18 knots and burning 33 gal. (126 L) per hour. That is about as efficient as a boat this size can be operated. Drop her down to displacement speeds and she has a range of 1,000 nautical miles.
We've been aboard several Prestige yachts over the past year and have been impressed with each one.
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