When Your Residential Cruise Launch is Delayed

Residential Cruising lines typically advertise a specific date that they will launch. Is it possible that the promised date slips, even at the last minute?

Not only yes, but it’s unfortunately likely.

And it has happened to us.

“Likely”?!?

Why do I say “likely”? Because every ship that has promised to launch within the past several years has missed their advertised date. Every … single … one.

Example: In early 2019, Storylines said it would launch “mid-next year” — mid-2020. After repeated delays they’re now saying sometime in 2025. No, wait! 2026! Really. For sure.

LAS screenshot as of 12 Nov. 2023.

Example: As of this writing on 12 November 2023, Life At Sea’s site still says it’s sailing November 1, 2023, even though on October 20 — less than two weeks before that promised date — they announced that they didn’t have a ship yet, so they were delaying …to November 11. It’s only going to take them 10 extra days to buy, retrofit, staff, and launch a ship? Hardly seems likely! Especially now.

[15 Nov. Update: Reports indicate that Life At Sea did slip again, to 30 Nov. 2023, but as of today, the front page of their web site still looks like the screenshot above.]

[24 Nov. Update: Not surprisingly, Life At Sea has canceled completely.

[4 Dec. Update: Life At Sea’s web site now promises “Sailing on November, 2024”. A bit odd, grammar-wise, but they are apparently attempting a reset for a year away. We wish them luck.]

And Example: The December 1, 2023 departure of Victoria Cruises’ Majestic (their third promised departure date after two previous slips) was delayed …until July 26, 2024 — almost eight months!

We were signed up for that departure, with a 5-figure deposit paid against a signed contract. We were given two months’ notice of the delay (October 1), but by that time we had sold our house and moved out, with a 2-month road trip set to end at the dock in Ft. Lauderdale, Fla., to sail on December 1.

So much for that plan. We canceled, and are waiting for our deposit to be refunded.

We’re far from the only ones who depended on their promises, or sold our homes and were ready to board. We joke to our friends that we’re new homeless and “living in our car,” but we’re OK: we have plenty of places to stay. Yet there has been silence from Victoria Cruises: there was no explanation, no reasoning, no reassurance …and no apology.

Still a New Travel Sector

We’re not soured on the idea of Residential Cruising: we have put in a deposit for another line, but even they are not sailing for several months. At least we hope they’ll meet their own deadline! We were able to talk to the CEO to tell him how important it is for the viability of Residential Cruising — people interested in this travel sector need to have trust that someone will do what they say.

Carnival Cruise Line’s Mardi Gras under construction at the Meyer Turku shipyard in Finland. The 19-deck, 6,500-passenger (plus up to 1,735 crew) ship launched in 2021 at a cost of $800 million. It is the first cruise ship to be powered by liquified natural gas, considered the most environmentally sound ship fuel. (Carnival Cruise Line)

Right now, it at least looks like this travel sector is “not ready for prime time.”

But let’s be generous: the sector is definitely in its infancy. Of course there are going to be delays as companies figure out the huge logistical challenges. They can’t just launch a half-billion-dollar ship and hope people will buy in. They have to be sure of some level of profit, or they go bankrupt under the weight of their startup costs.

“Even when accounting for inflation, most new cruise ships built in the early 1990s would cost only around $300 million today,” the Royal Caribbean Blog wrote earlier this year. “As cruise ships became even bigger in the 2000s, the average cost exceeded $500 million.” So surely we can expect even a small used ship to cost at least several tens of millions, and then comes refurbishing to the new style of use.

Plenty of Room for Multiple Companies

It’s in part because vacation cruise ships are getting bigger that Residential Cruising is finding a niche. The smaller ships are being mothballed as vacation cruise lines go for bigger and bigger ships. Residential Cruisers are looking for a stable community where they can find friends and get to know their neighbors, while they “Travel the World, Go Home Every Night™.” Buying perfectly good used (and smaller) ships keeps costs down so ordinary — admittedly middle-class — people can afford this exciting option.

It’s perfect for early retirees with a million or two in the bank: they can cruise on such ships indefinitely. Add in digital nomads like us, who can continue to make a living when there’s good Internet included, and there is a potential customer base in the dozens to hundreds of millions. The opportunity is huge, so no wonder multiple companies are jumping in for a piece of that market, which is absolutely still in its infancy.

So while it’s disappointing that the only Residential Cruising ship that has sailed so far, The World, is for multi-millionaires only (they won’t even talk to someone who isn’t a deca-millionaire), we absolutely want to see more companies jump in and prove the viability of this market. We want them all to succeed, to not only prove the viability of the market and to satisfy the ever-growing number of people who want this option, but for us to get going on our own voyage!

In the meantime, as we wait, we just rented a short-term apartment on land — furnished, since we don’t own much anymore, having “sold everything” when we moved.

Last Updated December 4, 2023
Originally Published November 12, 2023

22 thoughts on “When Your Residential Cruise Launch is Delayed”

  1. I’m sorry to hear you and Kit are in limbo right now. 🙁

    I think this trend towards bigger and bigger ships has another upside for small(er) ship cruising. The list of ports that can accommodate these mega-ships is getting smaller and smaller. A single mega-ship entering one of these ports brings a giant crowd and destroys travel enjoyment. Here’s hoping both of you will get to see many beautiful uncrowded ports in the future.

    That’s our take too. Small ships can get into MANY more ports, and don’t overwhelm the locals as much. -rc

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    • And, we’re hearing stories of ships that are being “kicked out” of ports for running their engines and belching pollution into the water and air, and for being too noisy. Yeah, this bigger-is-better with ships could well backfire on cruisers.

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  2. Sorry to hear this, Randy. I guess this is one of the hazards of being an early-adopter. Still, damned frustrating, I imagine. So what area are you bunking in?

    Thanks Doc. I’m reserving details about exactly where we are and what ship we’re aiming for since I want everyone to do their own research without being influenced by our choices. Everyone’s situation is unique, and want to ensure we never give the impression that one size fits all. -rc

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  3. Ouch, Since I’d read of this a lot of years ago, I thought residential cruising was out of the crib. These articles are very interesting.

    Thanks. “The World” (referenced toward the bottom of this article) has been running for awhile now, but out of reach for the vast majority of people, including us. So far, they’re the only one in the sector already sailing, thanks to having so many multi-millionaire customers and (presumably) backers. The only other option is what several folks are doing: just buying in on regular vacation cruise lines again and again and again. Not our idea of a residence! -rc

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  4. Shame that the industry is stumbling along and rudderless much of the time. I hope you get to complete the journey of living on a ship, but always have a plan B in reserve. Maybe even a plan C.

    You wrote “Add in digital nomads like us, who can continue to make a living when there’s good Internet included”…..LOL…Good internet on a ship? Good luck with that! They always note internet available, but connections vary greatly due to being satellite-provided. We have done two cruises this year and have a third coming up soon, but good internet is not a consistent feature at all.

    I personally have plenty of experience with both old geo-sync satellite Internet (awful!) and newer LEO satellite Internet (Starlink, excellent). I’m quite confident in success in that realm since Residential Cruise lines know that they must have enough low-latency bandwidth to attract digital nomads, which they are specifically counting on to fill out their ships. More about this later. -rc

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    • I completely agree with Randy — I just got off the Carnival Celebration that uses STARLINK and I was able to do all of my work, including 5 zoom calls as well as stream a college football game on Saturday night. Is it as solid as land based — no, but it is head over heels better than the previous options.

      Even passengers on vacation ships demand much better connectivity than in “the olden days” (read: a couple-few years ago), and balk at paying exorbitant prices for it when they know there are reasonably priced options available to the lines. -rc

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    • I haven’t experienced Starlink internet on a ship, but yes, that should make a big difference.

      And that’s not the only technology that will help. More on this later. -rc

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  5. Sorry to hear this. But if “every ship that has promised to launch within the past several years has missed their advertised date” and the companies are not giving good explanations — let alone apologies or compensation — I fear they will not be very good at keeping their promises once the ship has launched and you are all aboard and they are perhaps off the hook for giving refunds.

    I wouldn’t apply our experience with one line to the whole industry, but you did put your finger right on one of several reasons why we bailed from that one rather than give them another chance. -rc

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  6. Residential cruising presents a difficult funding problem. One might think that it would just be the cross-product of a cruise ship and a retirement village, but it’s not that simple.

    A traditional cruise ship is entering a mature market. The line can look at the existing business and predict their ROI with reasonable accuracy.

    Not so with a residential ship. Will they sell enough cabins to break even? Hard to tell. They can’t just drop prices during the last month to sell off empty cabins, because people aren’t just committing money; they’re committing to a lifestyle.

    A retirement village can be built incrementally. The developer might want to buy up a bunch of land, or just buy options on a bunch of land, but they don’t have to start out with a thousand houses and two golf courses. They can start out with a dozen houses, and when those are sold build another dozen and a community center, and when they’ve sold a couple of hundred build a golf course. Residents can move in at the beginning, because while it’s not yet a self-contained community it’s still connected to the rest of the world.

    Not so with a residential ship. Even if the line doesn’t refurb all of the cabins at the start, even if they start with only one or two restaurants, they still have to pay for the whole ship. (And can they refurb additional cabins and build additional restaurants while cruising? Maybe, maybe not.) Their startup costs are larger and their critical mass of customers is much larger.

    Assuming that there really is a market, it will need to achieve a critical mass to stabilize. Lines won’t dedicate ships unless they are confident that they will have residents, and people won’t commit (and pay deposits) unless they are confident that there will be a ship. It’s something of a chicken-and-egg problem. Perversely, having multiple lines and multiple ships in development may hurt this process — if there are a couple of thousand residents ready to go, one ship might be viable, but split those people among three ships and none of them are viable.

    I do see one possible incremental approach. Existing vacation cruise lines could offer long-term deals on existing ships. Passengers who are willing to take back-to-back Alaska cruises in the summer and Bahamas cruises in the winter could, in return for a commitment and less-frequent housekeeping, get a discount, and would stay in the same cabins while the ship reloads. Perhaps there would be an option to switch ships every six months or so to get variety. The lines could take on as many long-term passengers as they like, and adjust that number over time. Eventually, when the long-term community gets large enough, the line might dedicate a ship to it, and that ship could then run on longer and more varied routes. (One might think that this could start with world-cruise ships, but a world cruise already represents a three-to-six month commitment; the line would have to require long-term passengers to make still longer commitments.) A handful of people probably couldn’t get this started, but I think that if two thousand people went to Norwegian and offered to buy out, say, Norwegian Spirit for a couple of years, Norwegian might jump at the deal. Could a couple of hundred people buy out a cabin block? Maybe. The result would not initially be a great residential experience. There would be few long-termers and lots of noisy vacationers. The shows would be the same every week, and the ports would be the same every week. But you could get to know ship staff and the people in the ports, and there would still be scenery, and somebody else would cook and do the dishes.

    A good extension of the thoughts in the article. Yes, they can refurb cabins and other onboard amenities while underway; indeed that’s how it’s normally done. But no, it’s virtually impossible to get several hundred, let alone several thousand, would-be passengers to gather together to make an offer to a line, especially since the whole point is to have a more varied experience with a stable set of passengers, rather than suffer through a new rush of noisy vacationers every week or two. -rc

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  7. I thought about doing this in the future… am impressed at your “early adopter” enthusiasm. Not surprising about the delays; no construction project ever finishes on time and this is about a hundred million times more complex than your average project. Looking forward to learning how you like the lifestyle after a couple of years!

    Having worked on space projects, which can easily take a decade due to complexity, this is child’s play. 🙂 But yes, in general I’m well versed in early adopter pitfalls. Pretty much every “wait for it” scenario is cheaper than being at sea, so this isn’t a terrible development by any stretch of the imagination. We know we are very fortunate to have options at this stage of our lives. -rc

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  8. “Life At Sea’s site still says it’s sailing November 1, 2023, even though on October 20 … they announced that they didn’t have a ship yet” — Yeah, I’d definitely bail on them. It sounds to me that they’re using a variation on the “Kickstarter” methodology. They had a goal of what it would take to buy a ship but needed a bunch of folks to commit a 5-figure deposit to demonstrate to venture capital that their idea would work. So either they didn’t get enough reservations, it didn’t attract enough angel investors, or they ultimately couldn’t locate a suitable vessel at their goal price. And they didn’t want to tell anyone until the last minute lest they cause a panic. With a sense of how you think, I’m sure your contract had a cancellation clause with refund. Here’s to hoping they’re able to honor that contract without going bankrupt. Sorry you’re in this situation.

    Sorry if I didn’t make it clear in the article, but that was just another example of a delay; we weren’t booked with Life at Sea. I don’t know if your supposition is correct or not, but we didn’t seriously consider going with them anyway. -rc

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  9. Sorry to hear of these troubles. Perhaps an MV True is a viable option, Cap’n C? Converted trawlers seem to be a popular option with nomads who leave the land-yacht life for the sea. Best wishes for your next steps.

    Nah, not a big deal. We’ll wait — hopefully not longer than May, when we have to move out of our new short-term apartment! -rc

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  10. My husband and I are coming to the end of a 53-day cruise (actually, four back-to-back cruises), and I highly recommend that you do something like this while you’re waiting. We began in Vancouver, BC, then Hawaii, French Polynesia, New Zealand, Australia, Bali, Singapore, Thailand, Vietnam, and we will end on November 16th in Hong Kong. Although it’s not the same, it could help you try out a longer than normal cruise. Many ships will be repositioning in the spring. Good luck on your quest.

    We have looked at some long cruises to spend the time, but there are two problems: most only run in the summer months, and most are prohibitively expensive. So we decided to hole up on land for the winter, and then re-evaluate when we are kicked out of our temporary place in May. -rc

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  11. I’m glad you found a medium-term place to stay in during this period of uncertainty.

    Hopefully things improve.

    It is not a terrible burden: we’ll have fun where we landed, and move again in May when we need to leave this temporary apartment — hopefully to a ship. -rc

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  12. I’m not sold on cruising for a holiday, got dragged along on a couple Disney cruises and the kids clubs are so good that it is a fight getting the kids to spend any time with me and if I’m on holiday I want to be spending time with my kids. Residential cruising though I’m coming around to the idea of. My other half is already looking at how she can transition to work from anywhere. While I can do my job from anywhere, my current employer doesn’t allow it so I’m hoping that’ll change at some point in the future. No rush though as the youngest is still at high school so we are waiting for him to hit university. I’m also not convinced residential cruising is going to stay as affordable as it currently looks, I’m betting prices are going to jump or the companies are going to go broke.

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  13. So annoying. I’m really not happy you’re dealing with this stuff. I send hugz; wish I could do more than that.

    Thanks, but it’s not all that much of a burden: we landed in a good spot for the winter where we can try all sorts of good restaurants, do some day trips, and then hopefully jump aboard and sail in late spring. -rc

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    • Tom, I see this as something that’s happening *for* us, not *to* us.

      We are making the most of the delay, including signing up on an even better ship.

      It took a couple of days to shake it off, even anticipating that it would happen. Then we regrouped, and are loving the results. I think Randy will be recuperated and even a bit energized by the time we actually sail. That’s a huge win!

      Thanks for the hugz.

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      • Speaking of which, how are the allergies in the desert setting and without pets?

        I’m slowly improving. I quickly stopped taking most of my antihistamines, and almost never use my inhaler anymore. But it’s taking longer than anticipated to recover, in part thanks to getting an infection along the way. But I feel stronger every day, and am quite sure that by the time we sail, I’ll be feeling much better! Thanks for asking. -rc

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  14. Sorry to hear about your delayed departure, hope you manage to set sail in May.

    If not, have you considered land cruising for the next interim period? We have just come back from 8 weeks in Greece (and then only because Brexit made it difficult for us to stay longer) touring in our 6 metre camper. Enough space for us and our dog as we spent a lot of time outdoors. I don’t know about the US, but RVs hold their price well over here.

    Good luck with your adventures wherever they take you.

    Thanks, Martin, but after our long road trip, we don’t have interest in RVing. -rc

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  15. What is interesting is that the ships should have been available — nearly 30, including some that were not that old, were sent to the breakers due to COVID.

    Apparently there are a dozen or so others that are “hanging fire” waiting for a final determination.

    This residential cruising thing sounds a bit scammy.

    You sure do jump to weird conclusions with little to no evidence. “Nearly 30” ships might be available? What kind of ships? Are they suitable for the task? Is the seller trying to squeeze out every cent to make up for losses? That’s just the start. -rc

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    • Did you go to the link? I said, “should” have been available — many have been scrapped over the past couple of years.

      Some of the ships that have been scrapped, or scheduled to be scrapped, are definitely in the same size category. It looks like Miray simply couldn’t afford what was needed. Particularly in a timely manner.

      Regardless — did they expect to be able to turn a ship around in new ownership and to a new task in a week or two? When they didn’t have ownership of the ship by October they should have known they were in a deep hole — and it appears they just kept digging, not even admitting they couldn’t buy the ship until 2 weeks after the cruise was originally supposed to start.

      Hopefully the whoever polices financial matters and financial crime in Turkey have their eyes on this — I notice the Life at Sea website is still up, with no sign whatsoever that it has been cancelled. It’s still touting the MV Lara (I assume that was what they were going to rename AIDAaura) even….

      Although apparently it was originally supposed to have the MS Gemini, which might have been unsuitable anyway… although it is owned by Miray, and the agreement between Life at Sea and Miray broke down last May….

      I think a lot of people got in over their heads here.

      I hope you do get your money back in the monthly installments that are being discussed.

      You ask if I’ve read things, but you are still jumping to conclusions. The page here makes it abundantly clear that we are not affected by LAS’s collapse as we were not booked with them: they don’t have any deposit to refund to us. Also, Miray and LAS didn’t “part ways,” the LAS management team walked away due to the way things were going; my guess is they couldn’t get Miray execs to take their concerns seriously, and Miray’s apparent foolish dismissal of the management team’s concerns seems to have led them directly to the current crisis. All that said, I do generally agree with your analysis: it is obviously absurd that they represented they could turn a ship around from purchase to sailing with a new crew and passengers in just 10 days. Ridiculous! And their continuing to advertise people can buy bookings on a ship they admit won’t sail does seem criminal. -rc

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