Have You Ever Dreamed of Running Away to Sea? | Travel Research Online

Image
Image

Have You Ever Dreamed of Running Away to Sea?

If you want to spend much of your life cruising on small ships (less than 1500 passengers), it helps to be very old or wealthy. At least, this is common wisdom, but some investment syndicates are trying to level the playing field by making frequent cruises available to many of us.

Right now, the residential cruise ship called The World seems to be the only proven model for people making their homes at sea on a small ship. The World was commissioned about 20 years ago by Canadian hotel investors. The original idea was to combine high-end condos and luxurious hotel suites onboard a vessel that would circle the globe. The hotel revenues would offset the ship’s operating costs, making the residences more affordable.

According to stories written at the time, the project failed. Some say it was because the expectations of the condo owners weren’t shared by the “tourists” checking into the hotel staterooms. The project was revived when the condo’s owners converted the entire ship to condos. In 2017 CNN described what has become of the vessel in its article, “The World, a Floating City of Millionaires.”

 

 

When CNN published this article 4 years ago, The World’s 165 “luxury apartments” were selling for $3-15 million. Buyers were required to have a net worth of $10 million. By then, the ship had visited 1,213 ports and journeyed 641,00 nautical miles. It was also the largest ship to complete the fabled “Northwest Passage” from Alaska to Nova Scotia, via the Hudson Bay. But The World isn’t a viable model for residential cruising. Besides the net worth requirements and purchase costs, the annual assessments for running the ship are prohibitive since they can only be shared among the 165 owners.

Syndicates are now selling shares in several more residential small ships that were scheduled to be completed during the pandemic. Some use the condos-only model, and some are giving the condo-hotel model another try.

One of these attempts stands out because of all the demographic trends they’re addressing. It’s the Storylines MV Narrative, a small residential ship scheduled to launch in late 2024. Storylines co-founder, Alister Punton, is quoted in the April 2022 issue of International Living:

We are not a cruise ship. The fundamental difference is that we’re community-led…Keep in mind that a traditional cruise ship this size would house 2,500+ passengers…Our maximum is 1,400, but we expect to have only 1,000 residents onboard at any given time.”

The “community-led” claim is more than just hype. The minimum rental period for all but friends and family is 90 days. This is a brilliant idea, 90-days onboard makes everyone a de facto resident.

When the ship launches in 2024, the initial plan is to have it circle the globe in the first 1,000 days. While some port stops will be designated in advance as places where passengers could embark and disembark the ship, many ports will be selected by those onboard and scheduled much closer to arrival dates.

Also, the vessel will have an accredited school that will accommodate 70 young guests of any grade level. By using computer-adaptive tests, onboard tutors and shore-based teachers can quickly determine each student’s academic strengths and deficits. This can make instruction effective from the very first day. Video and written journals can keep adults aware of what the students are learning on field trips or while engaged with crew members or guests in individual projects. The 3-month minimum stay on the ship will motivate many students to complete an entire semester of school while they’re onboard.

For those parents or grandparents who want to provide more instruction aboard the ship, the school could adopt the curriculum of, for instance, the International Baccalaureate Program (IB), headquartered in Geneva, Switzerland. This program was set up for preparing diplomats’ children to enter top universities, regardless of where their families had been posted. American high schoolers who earn an IB diploma often start college as a sophomore or junior. While it’s too soon to determine whether the shipboard program should seek to affiliate with a program such as IB, it’s an exciting possibility that could benefit everyone.

Another problem of cruisers who want to adopt the long-term cruising lifestyle, is what to do with the family pet. Pets are permitted to stay in the owners’ cabin aboard the Narrative, and both an exercise area and veterinary services are part of the plan. Health services for humans will also be provided with a full-time medical staff including a doctor, nurse, and pharmacist.

Costs will be relatively reasonable—especially for people who have seen the value of their homes skyrocket in the past few years. The website suggest that many folks may be able to break even by renting out their homes when they’re onboard the ship and offering their onboard suites as rental units when they’re ashore.

The Narrative offers all the usual services luxury-brand cruisers have come to expect. It has 20 restaurants and bars, sports and water toys in a water-level “garage,” a gym, shore activities, and nightly entertainment. The units are available to be sold outright or with 12 or 24-year leases.

I got interested in one of the “RU3 Indulge” staterooms, Suite 1133, on Deck 11 midship. It is 538 sq ft, which is larger than typical Seabourn or Silversea balcony staterooms in which we’ve happily stayed for several weeks at a time. It has a veranda, a glassed-in bedroom with privacy curtains, a 2-sided walk-in closet, two baths, and a lounge area with a table, bar, and desk. The desk can be converted to a murphy bed that drops down from the wall. When my grandson visits, or maybe does a semester at sea with us, he can have his bed and bathroom. On the Seabourn Ovation, a very similar Penthouse Suite (PH) costs a couple $28,600 for a 14-day Med cruise.

Suite 1133 doesn’t come cheap. It goes for $115,470 a year with a 12-year lease. This includes food and drink in any 20 restaurants and bars, plus use of all the ship’s facilities. Ironically this is just about the cost of a high-quality senior living unit in the Los Angeles area. (Where would you rather be?)

I plugged those numbers into the Storylines website cost-estimator for Suite 1133. If we can rent our home in our beachfront community in West Los Angeles for $5,500 a month and permit the ship to lease our unit for the six months we won’t be using it; our monthly cash flow should be $39 a month.

Do I believe this estimate? I’m not sure. But if the software’s assumptions are even close to accurate, it means the idea of living on the ship for six months a year and then spending six months “on the hard” (sailor-speak for ashore) is worth exploring further.

If you have clients who want to explore this opportunity, urge them to involve their financial advisor and an attorney specializing in condo sales contracts. Also, the MV Narrative website suggests that Storylines would like travel advisors get involved in their marketing. It is probably worth giving them a call to find out the financial details if selling “seagoing condos” is a business opportunity that interests you.

 


Dr. Steve Frankel and his wife have cruised on most of the Seabourn, Silversea, Crystal, Azamara, Oceania, Regent, and Windstar ships. He writes a weekly column, Point-to-Point, for Travel Research Online (TRO) that’s read by more than 80,000 travel advisors and industry leaders. Steve is the founder of Cruises & Cameras Travel Services, LLC. He has been recognized as a “2021 Top Travel Specialist” by Conde Nast Traveler magazine and a “Travel Expert Select “by the Signature Travel Network. His specialties are luxury small-ship cruises and COVID-19 safety measures, and has a doctorate in Educational Research with minors in Marketing and Quantitative Business Analysis. He’s also earned a Certificate in Epidemiology from Johns Hopkins University. Previously, he managed qualitative and quantitative research in the private & public sectors. He’s a member of the Los Angeles Press Club, and has written 13 books and hundreds of articles. His email address is steve@cruisesandcameras.com.

Share your thoughts on “Have You Ever Dreamed of Running Away to Sea?”

You must be logged in to post a comment.