Let’s say one of your clients is a semi-retired couple living in Los Angeles. They’ve told you they think they’re in a rut now that their kids have left their home and they’ve lost contact with many former friends due to their moving away in the last few years. They eagerly await their annual cruises, but you know they are now seeking something more.
Ask them if they want to spend the next three years cruising worldwide. They reply, “We can’t afford it. We’re not millionaires.”
You say, “Would you consider packing up your mortgage-free house and renting it for the next few years? In today’s tight rental market, your 1800 sq. ft. Craftsman bungalow in West Los Angeles can bring in $8,000 a month as a rental, even if it’s nearly as old as you. Then you can set sail on the MV Gemini.” Click on the cruise line’s website, Life at Sea Cruises and view the following offer:
Come onboard for a first of its kind 3-Year World Cruise aboard the beautifully revitalized MV Gemini. The first reasonably priced, all-inclusive world cruise starting from only $29,999 per year that will cover over 130,000 miles across all 7 continents and 135 countries.
That $29,000 annual payment is for one berth in an interior cabin that many experienced cruisers won’t touch. But for $36,999 a year, they can have a berth in a newly furnished outside cabin, all meals, wines at dinner, internet, gym, and most other cruise ship free perks included on an “all-inclusive” cruise. For a couple, this costs about $72,000 a year ($6,000 a month). Add 15 percent to this total to pay for air transportation, shore excursions, health insurance, and incidentals. You can enjoy a wonderful life at sea for about $7,000 a month without ever cooking a meal, touching a vacuum cleaner, or buying food or gas.
Considering that many senior couples collect $3,000 a month from social security, they have only another $4,000 to be offset pensions, inheritances, savings, part-time work, rentals, and avoiding food or automobile payments. After the three years in which the couple has seen thousands of places worldwide, they can decide where they can live best, get a rental stateroom on a ship for another three years, or reclaim their home, which is likely appreciated in value by another 10 percent.
Is this a fantasy, scam, or an easily fulfilled vision? Let’s go beyond the advertising copy and photos to see what a longtime respected source of cruise line information has to say. If you click on CruiseMapper.com, this is what you can learn about MV Gemini.
The MV Gemini went into service in 1992, 31 years ago, and it sailed under several names and cruise lines, including as the Cunard Crown Jewel. Celestyal Cruise Lines last refurbished it in 2016. Its latest owner, Miray International, added a business center and made other improvements in 2022.
It is flagged in the Bahamas and has 400 staterooms. It has been used as a “hotel ship” several times, including during the Barcelona 1992 Olympic Games and the 2012 Summer Paralympics. Now it is docked off Turkey and serving as a temporary home for 2023 earthquake victims. As for its plans, Cruise Mapper says:
Departing from Istanbul (Turkey) on November 1st (2023), the 3-year cruise (“Ultimate Adventure” itinerary) visits 375 destinations (ports and islands) in 135 countries and features a total of 112965 NM (130,000 mi / 209214 km) of cruising, 288x overnight port stays, visits to 13x UNESCO-listed wonders, 6x Equator crossings, all 7 continents. Embarkation is also offered in Barcelona (Spain) and Miami (Florida USA).
Thanks to its two recent refurbishings, size, and age, the MV Gemini is comparable to the Azamara Journey and Quest and to the Oceania Nautica and Insignia. All four vessels were built within ten years of each other and have about 340 vs. 400 staterooms. Despite their age, they are beloved by small-ship enthusiasts for taking guests through some of the world’s most remote locations including Western Australia, South Africa, and the Seychelle Islands in comfort and safety.
I used an Azamara Journey 15-night cruise to India and Sri Lanka for comparison. The Journey should be slightly more expensive than the Gemini since the Oceanview cabins are about 150 vs. 140 sq. ft. on the Gemini. The Journey has more restaurants and is a bit roomier. Otherwise, the shipboard experience on both ships should be about the same.
Sure enough, the 15-night price for the Journey for an Oceanview stateroom is $2,459/15 = $161 a night. The price for the MV Gemini is $36,999/364 = $102 a night. The Journey passenger to crew ratio is 680/400 = 1.7 passengers for every crew member; the Gemini is 800/340 = 2.4 passengers for every crew member.
This 50 percent difference in staffing ratios, combined with the Gemini being older and having smaller staterooms, explains much of the differences in pricing. Marketing costs can explain the rest. Journey cabins must be sold every few weeks. Gemini cabins can (ideally) be sold every three years. Also, nothing has yet been said about whether Gemini cabins will be commissionable. If they’re not, the cruise line probably can readily benefit from the price difference.
Still, Miray is an unknown entity. This, together with having to make a three-year commitment to book a stateroom for six figures is a problem that many cruisers will consider to be unmanageable. Consideration should be given to permitting a 6-month rental before committing to the next 30 months so potential renters can better understand the obligation (and pleasures) they are undertaking for the next three years.
Some cabins should be set aside for journalists and travel advisors permitted to sail free for six weeks, in return for honest assessments of the viability of these cruises. This is long enough to allow them to get the “feel” of a multiyear commitment and short enough to share a small number of staterooms among various critics. If this suggestion is accepted, I hereby volunteer to be part of the first group.
Dr. Steve Frankel and his wife have cruised on most of the Seabourn, Silversea, Crystal, Azamara, Oceania, Regent, and Windstar ships. 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 firstname.lastname@example.org.