Odyssey: the First Residential Cruising Ship

Villa Vie Residences has done something that Virtual Cruises Line (what refugees call VCL) has not. It succeeded where Lost At Sea (what refugees call LAS) failed. Did what? Secured a ship and will welcome residents aboard on May 30.

Finally! There she is. (All photos by Randy Cassingham unless noted.)

You might ask “What about ‘The World’?” and that would be a fair question. When Kit called them when we started research, she told them she was interested in exploring Residential Cruising. Their snotty reply: they’re not a “Residential Cruising” company.

Perhaps not: you can’t discuss anything with them if you don’t have a net worth of at least $10 million, and their cabin owners generally don’t live there. It sails around mostly empty, with sudden surges of passengers when they go somewhere interesting, such as Antarctica or the Galapagos islands.

Hence: Villa Vie Residences’ Odyssey will indeed be the first Residential Cruising ship.

Welcome Aboard

The group mingles with staff in the Observatory.

On Sunday (May 19), Villa Vie Residences invited a small group of journalists, investors, and a few residents to come tour the ship in drydock in Belfast, Ireland. I was honored to be one of those invitees.

(Kit was also invited, but she was behind me in recovering from a terrible cough, which had turned to pneumonia for me and perhaps for her, and opted to stay in bed at our hotel.)

This is less than half of the workout space available on Deck 7. More equipment coming.

Odyssey is at the Harland & Wolff shipyard in Belfast, Northern Ireland. H&W, founded in April 1861, is famous for having built the majority of the ocean liners for the White Star Line, including the Olympic-class trio — the RMS Olympic, HMHS Britannic, and the most famous of them all, the RMS Titanic. They of course have built many other ships before and since, as well as done repair and refurbishment work. Cruise ships must go into drydock for inspection and maintenance every three years at minimum.

Dining space, not quite set up yet.

VVR CEO Mikael Petterson met us at the gate and escorted us to the ship for the scheduled one-hour tour. As we approached we could see that repainting of the hull was well underway, taking it from dark blue below and white on top to all-white above the water line, red below, with a small accent “stripe” in the company color. At least, once it’s completed!

Once checked in and given Visitor badges, we were led to the Observatory Lounge at the front of Deck 8, right above the Bridge, which is open for people working onboard — and visitors. We were offered cold drinks and got a quick briefing.


First, the details on the ship itself, as compared to the newest, largest, in-service cruise ship, Royal Caribbean’s Icon of the Seas — a monstrosity in my eyes:

Odyssey Icon otS
Length 642.5ft (196m) 1,197ft (365m)
Beam 74ft (22.5m) 159ft (48.5m)
Draft 17.75ft (5.4m) 30.3ft (9.25m)
G. Tonnage 24,344 248,663
Max Speed 17kn (20 mph/31 kph) 22kn (25 mph/41 kph)
Decks 8 20
Passenger max 929 7,600
Crew max 371 2,350

Perhaps numbers are hard to grasp, so let’s try a side-by-side comparison of what they would look like from the same distance:

We got to see a couple of cabins, this a “Superior Balcony Suite” on Deck 8.

More to the point, perhaps, is sales so far. As I recall, Odyssey has 490 passenger cabins (er, “villas”), but some will be used for passenger storage, and some will be used for guest quarters — residents will be allowed to host guests on board for the cost of food and port fees.

Mike said that the average age of residents signed up so far is 58. A bit surprising to me: around half the cabins have been rented by (or sold to) singles. On the other hand, we have met more singles than couples! A majority of the under-40-year-olds are men; a majority of “retirement age” residents are women.

Brand new “Smart” TVs have arrived and are being installed.

That said, quite a few cabins have been set aside. Villa Vie COO Kathy Villaba says the existing crew quarters on Deck 1 are “awful,” so the crew is being moved temporarily to Decks 2 & 3 so those cabins can be completely refreshed after departure. Residents who reserved or bought on those decks are being moved up to Deck 4 (a “temporary upgrade”).

The crew will have 8-hour shifts, not what is typical of regular passenger ships, where 12-hour shifts (not necessarily in a row!) are common, and days off rare. Our crew will be part of the community.

I’m very glad our villa does NOT have a bathtub.

Once the crew moves into their refreshed quarters, Decks 2 & 3 will be refurbished, and existing residents who reserved cabins on those decks will moved back, and there will be more cabins available for rent and sale. It works out nicely since some of the residents aren’t quite ready to board yet.

About the Residents

A pickleball court is being laid out on the pool deck.

Americans account for 80 percent of the residents. So far, in addition to Americans, we’ve met Canadians, Scots, New Zealanders, Australians, and at least one Filipino. Mike says that 90 percent of residents plan to stay on for the full first circuit (3.5 years to go around the world), though a few aren’t joining on May 30 as noted above. For example, a few are jumping on when the ship gets to the U.S. in September, coming down the east coast.

All told, when we depart Belfast it’s expected the population will be only 300, plus crew. Both the resident and crew numbers will climb over time. The maximum number of passengers will likely remain under 600 — much more like it for us: it’s smaller than our small town in Colorado.

With numbers like that, we will have a chance to actually know other residents from casually to intimately, just like in a small town. This is what we are truly looking for: a feeling of community that just isn’t possible on a giant ship like the “Icon” where the vast majority of the passengers change every couple of weeks.

That is the major difference between Residential Cruising and “living on a cruise ship” for some period of time. Plus, of course, we don’t go back and forth in the Caribbean for months, then swoop through the Panama Canal to go back and forth in Alaska for months, Repeat. *Shudder*!

Instead we will “Travel the World, Go Home Every Night.™”

And a Personal Touch

While aboard, Mike (the CEO) said as the first to rent office space, I was welcome to choose which office I wanted. The (probably glass) walls aren’t up yet, but we could see where they would be set since there are grooves for them cut into the floor.

A window, too! (Photo: Melody Hennessee)

I chose the corner office not because it’s ever-so-slightly larger, but because it’s a bit off to the side, rather than in the middle of the bustle. Writers need a little solitude, yaknow!

Outside of the closed offices will be some cubicle desks available on a first-come, first-served basis, as well as office amenities like printers.

In these photos in general, I know it “looks like” there’s no way we could possibly board the ship in just 8 days (11 days from when they were taken). But in a call last night, Mike said the pool deck is nearly completed, and I know that interior spaces like this are very quick to go up.

Just being in drydock is quite expensive, so the work is done with a massive number of workers. The day we were there, Mike estimated there were about 200 workers — and that’s a Sunday! The next day, a ship that is in “wetdock” was supposed to leave, freeing up even more workers to come onto Odyssey.

Pool area on Deck 8.

As noted above, work can and will continue even after we sail. More crew can come aboard as needed, flown into the next port of call. We certainly don’t expect everything will be perfect as we depart: we know that maybe we won’t be able to get a haircut or massage on Day 1, and that’s fine with us. We want to get going, and food service, for instance, is already up and running for the staff and the workers.

Perhaps that is also why some residents have chosen to jump aboard a little bit later. But we definitely want to be there on Day 1 — perhaps the most important day in the “history” of Residential Cruising.

P.S.: The “one-hour tour” ended up being three hours. That’s right, “A threeeee hourrrrr toooour!” 🙂

[Note there is already a “Minnow” joke in the comments. Matt used up the quota, so no more will be accepted.]

Last Updated May 22, 2024
Originally Published May 22, 2024

37 thoughts on “Odyssey: the First Residential Cruising Ship”

  1. Ahoy! I realize I may be a little late for this offering but here goes. Might either of you be prone to seasickness? If so, don’t bother with dramamine or bonine — they simply make you drowsy and eventually you will become ill. Try Triptone if you can find it. My wife swears (yes she does) by the ginger sea products that are also available.

    Neither of us are prone, and cruise ships tend to be quite stable due to (yes!) stabilizers. My wife loves ginger anyway, so she always has some available. -rc

    • Triptone contains the same active ingredient (dimenhydrinate) as Dramamine Original Formula. (Bonine and Dramamine Less Drowsy contain Meclizine. I have personally purchased a generic Meclizine and found it effective and non-drowsy).

  2. Thanks for the great write up! I was amazed at all the information you provided in such a small amount of writing. As always, I enjoy reading your missives.

  3. The Icon sounds like more of a Monstrosity! Happy to hear you chose a smaller ship — that should be a much better experience (at least unless she ever goes around the Horn).

    Bon voyage!

  4. You sure you didn’t choose that office because the big “C” on the wall stands for Cassingham?

    Thanks for the virtual behind the scenes tour.

    I did notice that. -rc

  5. You told us about the near-theft Internet charges on your “regular” cruise ship. Since Digital Nomads are part of the target customers of the Odyssey, I would expect something better.

    Please Tell us about how Odyssey is handling internet.

    NCL was indeed charging near theft levels, but worse, it was for terrible service (way oversubscribed). Internet is included in the monthly fees on Villa Vie, and their intention is to have enough bandwidth that we can all stream TV shows! Also, the business center (where my office will be) will either have its own bandwidth, or a priority on some portion of it. -rc

    • Many cruise ships use the older Inmarsat technology for internet service: low bandwidth and staggeringly high latency. It’s likely that Odyssey will be using Starlink, decades newer technology and dramatically better bandwidth and latency.

      They are indeed in the process of installing multiple Starlink terminals during this work period. On the other hand, NCL has been furiously converting to Starlink themselves, and the ship I was on had already converted. That said, any connection method, including pure fiber, can be swamped with too much demand by too many devices, which is what led to NCL being so terrible. 5,000 passengers plus crew on too-few terminals (but I wasn’t able to discover how many). Odyssey will have 300 residents (at first) plus a much smaller crew on four or five terminals (I’m not sure if it’s four total, or four in addition to the one already working there), with more on order to be installed as the passenger and crew count increases. -rc

  6. Looks like you are both now on the ‘winning side’ ready to start the next chapter in your new Life Adventure. Wishing you all the best, and look forward to reading about your next reports/insights etc.

    I suspect a lot of people will be following your progress — hesitant about whether they can/should fully commit to joining you in this new life-style.

    All the very best, both to you and the Odyssey.

  7. Thanks for the update and photos. Be sure to send more once you are actually under way. Love your office space, it is much bigger and better than I thought it would be.

    I’ll be doing articles when I have something substantive to report, blog posts when it’s of lesser import. I am also already posting photos on this site’s Facebook and Instagram pages: click the icons in the header for either or both of those. I won’t be posting photos here other than to illustrate articles and posts. -rc

    • I’m wondering about the level of medical care on board. Also, please keep your eyes open for difficulties to or accommodations to those with mobility issues.

      My writing about such particulars is going to have to wait until after the ship sails. There are a LOT more articles coming. -rc

  8. Things are moving so fast now for you! Glad to hear you are recovering from your initial setback and hope it will be the last. Looking forward to the next instalment.

    Love to both of you.💗

  9. You got me with “cubical”! I’ve never heard of that word before. So will it be a cubical cubicle desk, then? 😉

    Living vicariously through yooz guys.

    I’m still pretty sick: spelling not guaranteed! -rc

  10. Thanks to your very informative posts about your journey to becoming digital nomads on a floating city, I have made arrangements to join the Odyssey in December for the 127 day South American segment. Also looking forward to seeing the ship when it visits my home location on Martha’s Vineyard on September 11th. I’ve been a True subscriber for so long I really don’t know how long. Looking forward to meeting both you and Kit.

    Please do mention that you were referred by Randy and Kit. We’ll get some sort of credit for it. Looking forward to meeting you! -rc

  11. As frequent world tourists, and permanent residents in an RV for 6 years, we understand the attraction of this new adventure you’re embarking on. But we are definitely not early adopters, so I’m delighted we can learn how it goes from someone who’s living it.

    We’re glad to share our experiences. -rc

  12. Shipyard departure woes … in my time in the Navy, every time we departed a shipyard we had stuff all over the place that was broken, which wasn’t broken when we went in. Machines like that just don’t want to be switched off for weeks (or months). Plus, we inevitably had some shipyard work “not quite done” despite the (always) delayed departure from the yard. So, I was glad to see your comments about being fully aware that not everything is going to be done upon sailing from Belfast.

    Recently I enjoyed riding a Carnival Line ship on a westbound transatlantic crossing. This was my first since retiring from the Navy. I knew the ship had just completed yard time and was looking forward to seeing the civilian counterpart. Yep: Lottsa stuffed needed to be worked on. In particular, the elevators, of which there are very many, had more outages than I ever recall from previous cruises. But the ship’s engineering team did a fantastic job getting elevators, and other things, running again after the yard period. At first with so many passengers aboard the out-of-service elevators were a real nuisance, but it just kept getting better throughout the trip. I know folks probably complained so I made a point of stopping at Guest Services and asking they pass along my positive compliments on the hard working engineers to the team. (I don’t know if they did.)

    I suspect so: they were probably astonished at the comment! But yes, from NASA on down, I know how big projects go. You either take years of planning, or you get it started and fix it as you go. -rc

  13. We are wishing so much for you and Kit to finally get on with your adventure! We are headed on our own adventure — taking George up to the ranch on Friday for the summer! We will follow your posts! Hugs to you both!

    Say hello to George (and the ranch!) for us. It was perhaps the hardest part of the Front Range to give up way back when. (I read your note to Kit and she got The Feels.) -rc

  14. So glad it is so close for you both. The “Odyssey” was the many and mega troubles thrown your way to get here. May it be smooth sailing for you both from here. Woo Hoo!

  15. So pleased for you all. It looks as if it’s all coming together.

    May I suggest an idea here that I floated with VCL once upon a time?

    Those residents aboard for the inaugural sail should be given a special pin to commemorate the occasion.

    I like it. -rc

  16. Been a This is True subscriber for decades. Reading all the updates to your life’s newest chapter. Good luck!

  17. What do you know about Villa Vie’s Endless Horizons offering?

    From a guy with an IT background, it sounds like vaporware at this point in time.

    No, it’s real, but it’s for “you” only; you can’t swap in anyone else, can’t rent your cabin out if you leave for awhile (e.g., for medical care), and no choice of specific cabin. (On the positives, it’s an “Ocean View” cabin which means a view to outside). It’s $300,000 one-time for a solo, $500,000 one time for a couple. (A “couple” means any two people who are willing to live together in the small space.)

    Of course the deal is very limited (20 cabins max). I frankly think it’s a great publicity ploy: get some up-front cash and HUGE press coverage, which is of course making the phones ring off the hook in the sales dept, and “only” takes 20 cabins out of circulation for some finite amount of time. Freaking brilliant. -rc

    • If I’m reading this right, instead of the “ownership” plan Randy and Kit have, this is a permanent “come and go as you like” plan where they guarantee a room of a certain level (probably “or above”) with 30 days notice any time you want to join the itinerary for a bit? Considering how many people pay $10,000 for a week-long cruise, this sounds like a spectacular deal.

      I haven’t read the details: I’m putting my limited energies into other things, such as keeping up with these comments. I’ll say in case of thinking about buying but are in any sort of confusion, call and ask! -rc

  18. It’s nice things are getting close for this change in lifestyle. I assume you’ll be posting where you are / where you’re doing in This is True as you sail around, as well as the lifestyle. Who knows; as I cruise frequently (and I favor more exotic destinations than the usual Caribbean ports), I might see your vessel in port at some point. I was once in port with “The World” (and I suppose I shouldn’t be surprised it mostly sails empty).

    I read the ship is going into endless summer. Very wise. I didn’t see the routes it was taking, though if it circles the globe, I hope it’s traveling west.

    While I wouldn’t like endless winter, I’d much prefer endless fall! My time of year. And I do want to see “winter” at least sometimes, as I really want to see the aurora (both of them, actually). It’d be fun to meet in a port somewhere! Yes, I do intend to say at least what country we are each week, and have already started that. -rc

  19. Just discovered you and Kit a few weeks ago … I am so relieved that your ship is real, that you’re boarding very soon, and your incredible adventure is really happening. With all the shenanigans in the travel biz, I have been quite worried about you. It was quite wonderful to see ‘Residential Cruising’ in my Inbox. I do hope that both of you are fit as fiddles by the time of boarding and can enjoy every hard-earned minute of your sailing. I can’t wait for regular reports. Bon Voyage … we’ll all raise a glass to you on May 30!

    Thanks, jsn! -rc

  20. I really appreciate your desire to set sail on day 1! You may remember that when I heard Nieuw Statendam was being built, I’d found the two-week maiden voyage appealing, but figured the subsequent four-day Caribbean cruise was more rational to do. Decided rational didn’t matter; I wanted to be on that maiden voyage!

    Much as Bill describes, there were lots of little things that needed finishing and fixing, and there were not only extra HAL teams but a few dozen from Fincantieri aboard. But nearly all of the guest-facing resources were up and running.

    Cool — and it gave you memories that you’re still talking about today! -rc

  21. Visitors, you say?

    How ya doin? 😉

    (I can’t believe we’re 20 comments in, and I am the first to make this joke.)

    This is the 27th comment — catching up now that I’m awake. The line forms in the rear. It’s about a mile long at this point. 🙂 -rc

  22. “… A majority of the under-40-year-olds are men; a majority of “retirement age” residents are women”. I like them odds! Makes me reconsider my retirement in Lisbon and southern Italy — NOT!

    ;-). Let me know when you’ll be in Lisbon or Napoli (which is 3 hours from my house in the medieval village of Biccari). Hopefully we can finally meet face-to-face!

    After all these years, that would be fun! -rc

  23. I’ll never be a Residential Cruiser but I WILL live vicariously through your posts here and on your blog.

    Fair winds and following seas to you and yours.

  24. Scott H here, a fellow VCL castaway. We’d be with you if dogs were allowed, but….

    Great article. Looking forward to living vicariously through the Villa Vie adventures.

    VCL will get their comeuppance at some point. Hopefully it will hurt. -rc

  25. Good to hear you are both on the mend. May I suggest Tylenol 3 for the cough? It’s the only thing that worked for me after external beam radiation on my neck for post-thyroid cancer treatment. As for the residential cruising — I hope your ship is not one of those environmental disasters that, besides the extremely poor fuel efficiency, dumps their waste at sea.

    Many laws have been passed about dumping at sea, and huge fines have been levied against cruise companies (many big names that you likely know) who try to get away with it. I think regulatory agencies have done a good job of convincing cruise companies that it’s more expensive to ignore the laws. As for the cough, we finally got some relief without having to resort to narcotics. -rc

  26. Hi, really enjoyed reading about your adventures. This sounds like heaven to me, but probably not financially viable for us.

    I came across VVR Odyssey when the Scottish press announced its purchase recently. H&W in Belfast are fantastic. I live in the Isle of Man (wee island to the east of Belfast, before you get to England, and where motorbikes are racing this week, ask about the TT) and our ferries drydock there sometimes.

    It’s great to see the progress being made. Enjoy Belfast, and wave at us on your way past. I’ll keep an eye on ship tracker when you set sail.

    I hope Kit feels better soon, and I feel her pain about not having a sewing machine.

    We were supposed to visit you after we launched, but the delay resulted in a few stops being deleted. Hopefully the next time around! -rc

  27. JSC wrote “It was quite wonderful to see ‘Residential Cruising’ in my Inbox.” — how can I get this in my mailbox? Right now it’s only THIS IS TRUE.

    Thanks~long time fan

    I saw that you found it, but for others: you can get an email notification of new articles and posts here. On a computer, you’ll find the subscribe form in the upper right of every page. On a phone, you’ll find the form below the comments. -rc

  28. It looks like the power outlets are European (Schuko). I’m guessing you or VVR have sorted adaptors and/or replacement cords for any of your stuff that can run on 230V.

    There are both 230V and 117V American plugs. -rc


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