In a growing trend, retired cruise ships are being turned into non-stop homes at sea for well-heeled travelers. The latest is even more absurd than the last.
Sail Forever, I Guess
Victoria Cruise Lines announced the use of a retired Holland America vessel for use as a never-ending cruise. The principal, I think, is for global wanderers to sail around the world constantly with the comfort of a large cruise ship. However, execution and costs may be lacking.
Before proceeding further, I implore you to see this Yahoo! article with a ton of images. Without seeing the images, it’s hard to really get a picture of the state of this ship. If you’re picturing something like the Seabourn Antarctica product you’re sorely mistaken.
Entry-level 226 sq ft interior rooms consisting of a small sitting area, two twin beds (can be pushed together to make a queen bed, yay), and a bathroom starting at $8,000/month with a 37-month commitment and a deposit of $30,000. Larger 1700 sq ft penthouse suites are sold out at the moment and run $35,000/month plus an $80,000 deposit.
The vessel will vary its ports of call to continually offer “residents” a new experience, stopping in port for 1-7 days each.
The first sailing is to depart from Fort Lauderdale in May and all services like laundry, turn down, maid, food and drink are included.
Victoria Cruises is marketing this as affordable which is questionable for a number of reasons. It is affordable if pairing major long-haul voyages and considering the time involved, but comparable long-term sailings use modern amenities and equipment. Is it affordable or is it cheap? And is any trip cheap at a minimum of $296,000?
Floating Retirement Home
The product is being branded by some as a floating retirement home, and the term suits. The vessel, built in 1996, is showing its age. The oldest confirmed resident is 90 years old.
The elderly would appear to be the core demographic. The vessel is a way for those who aren’t finished wandering to continue their expeditions around the globe while maintaining creature comforts from their floating residence. When compared to other retirement home products, double occupancy at $8,000/month doesn’t seem wildly expensive, especially considering the extras that are included.
What Could Go Wrong?
If a vessel is out at sea in ports around the world continuously for more than three years per term, and the core market is elderly residents, what capabilities would the vessel have to treat health concerns onboard? Heaven forbid one should perish at sea, what would become of their remains and its transport home? If a hospital stay is required while in port in Morocco, would one then presumably fly to rejoin their vessel in its next port? Are there legitimate safety concerns about a vessel that’s been out of service?
What seems to be even more vexing to me is the lack of escapability. What if you despise your neighbor in the next cabin? How many nights can you go to dinner with the same people?
It seems like a recipe for disaster. Unlike Storylines, which doesn’t yet have a launch vessel built or date set, the product is not luxurious. Interior rooms for the voyage start at just under $300,000 for the minimum commitment period, while Storylines luxury studios which are actually sold not leased start at $1 million. Victoria’s Majestic 37-month lease is substantially less money but comparatively, very expensive for the product. The vessel screams destitute, and I can only imagine the quality of catering when everything is included for $133/night. This model was intriguing at first but has quickly moved to absurd.
What do you think? Would you spend 37 months at sea? Would you spend 37 months at sea in an interior stateroom?