Researching Our Residential Cruise Ship Options

We’re still early in our research on exactly what line we will choose to make our home. Let me share the results of that research so far.

Making the decision to sell everything you own and move to a Residential Cruise ship is one big hurdle, and that’s what we’re doing. Deciding on exactly what kind of ship you want to live on, and who is operating it, is another hurdle.

Getting Started

Do you want a fully Residential Cruise ship, or to live long-term on a vacation-oriented cruise ship? Within vacation-oriented cruising there are several choices for long-term (3–6 months) world-wide cruises. Understanding your style, wants and needs — and budget — will help you with that decision.

Our style is casual, no muss-no fuss. While I love to dress up sometimes, I don’t want to have to do that very often, and my husband thinks a coat and slacks is fancy enough. While I appreciate good hospitality, I usually like to tend to my own needs more than be waited on all the time. We love going to plays, concerts, and lectures. We want to work out daily and have massages weekly. We like good food but healthy fare is more important to us.

We want a full-time Residential Cruise ship because we want a stable population, not several thousand new faces every week. We want to build community and connections, and don’t want to keep changing ships and cabins. We feel a Residential Cruise ship will facilitate those needs.

There are several Residential Cruise ships to choose from; there are also ships that do months-long world cruises of 90 days and more, and if you string enough world cruises together you can create a Residential Cruise-like situation. If we can’t find the right Residential Cruise ship, we’ll consider a world cruise on a traditional cruise ship, and at the end of that we’ll again research what the options are since there are more Residential Cruise lines launching over the next several years.

Looking at Both Options

I have researched eight different cruising companies so far. I made a spreadsheet and a list of questions so I could talk to a representative from each company to fine-tune our selection. Let’s walk through the experience of my research.

The cruising companies we initially considered include Storylines, The World, Holland America, Victoria Cruises, Fred. Olsen, Crystal Cruises, Regent 7 Seas, and Life at Sea.

Our search criteria include: world wide cruising, a cabin with veranda, strong and reliable WiFi, monthly price of about what we pay to live where we do now, the ability to decorate the cabin to feel like home, flexible eating options, and education and entertainment options.

The Residential Cruise Companies

Storylines was the first company we talked with. They have been getting quite a bit of press over the last few years, but they unfortunately quickly fell out of the running.

There were two issues. First, the company’s rule is that you can’t lease a cabin with veranda, you have to buy it — and the starting purchase price for that is $1.5 million [gulp] — plus, of course, monthly fees. It felt too much like buying a timeshare: no thanks!

Second, since the company is new and the ship won’t be ready to launch until 2025 (perhaps later: they’ve already slipped their schedule at least twice), we were concerned that if they failed as a business, we could lose our purchase money, which would put us in a terrible position. Even “just” losing a 20 percent down payment would hurt us a lot.

UPDATE: Embarkation is now delayed until 2026.

The World was the next company I called. It was a short call.

I was quickly told that prospective residents have to have a minimum $10 million net worth — a deal breaker for us. And, when I mentioned I was looking for a “Residential Cruise ship,” she snapped that they “aren’t a cruise line,” with a “looking down her nose” tone of voice.

Yes, we know: I had already made it clear we are looking for a residence! They sell residences on a ship that cruises around the world, right? So they choose to slam potential customers for what reason, now? I’m sorry if she doesn’t like the common language around this idea. They need to get the concept of Residential Cruising into their vernacular.

Life at Sea was up next. They have a very intriguing offering which includes them sending you a “pod” with your closets in it that you pack up and send back to them. That way you only have to have your travel suitcase when you go onboard, with your other belongings already waiting in your cabin. Intriguing, and very service-oriented!

They seemed to meet all of our criteria. It really seems like a great fit. But, they haven’t responded to any of my messages. You would think that getting a prospect for a six-figure sale walking in their door would be a dream come true, but apparently not. They fell off the list of possibilities.

UPDATE: LAS has canceled their plans to cruise as of late November, 2023. One less exciting option.

Victoria Cruising was quite happy to have a full conversation with me. However, there are some interesting marketing issues with this company.

The Veendam during its Holland America days. (CC3.0 Fletcher6 via Wikimedia)

They claimed they bought two Holland America ships to refurbish and turn into Residential Cruising ships. Yet the videos they direct you to are for the Veendam — the name of the ship before they bought it — on Holland America’s YouTube channel! Huh?

The problem with that is you get all the comments about the Holland America operation, some of which are very negative and may not apply to the Victoria ships at all. They really need to create their own videos. If the ship isn’t ready for a videographer to visit, then they can “render” concept videos, which is what Storylines has done.

The Victoria ship hasn’t set sail yet. They offer all that we want, except limiting us to four Internet connections if we have the “Concierge” level, which I’ll learn more about later. Also, they won’t offer pricing until we are ready to book.

UPDATE: Victoria Cruises’ third delay postponed embarkation to July 26, 2024.

Villa Vie Residential Cruising is the newest player in this arena. They are in the process of buying a ship, Fred Olson’s MS Braemar, and will take final possession in February 2024. They have a lot of press coverage about their 3.5-year cruise for the first circumnavigation.

The sales staff was easy to talk to and get straight answers to our ever-growing list of questions. They have a strong financial projection, an interesting sailing route, as well as exciting options like office space and hopefully a kitchen facility for cooking classes and use by the residents.

Cabins, called villas, are available in interior, window, and balcony. The sizes vary a bit among the different styles, along with the prices.

This ship gives you several cruising options: as residents for the full itinerary or renters for segments of the itinerary. You can also buy stock in the company in the form of a “Founders Club”, giving you some additional perks above and beyond your other choices.

The Vacation World Wide Cruising Companies

Crystal Cruising’s representative was also great to talk to. This is the way marketing should be done; friendly, informative, careful listening. They offer everything we want. The hitch is they won’t provide pricing until we are ready to book. We can’t book until we have sold our house which has only been on the market for a month as of this writing. I’ll be back to them later, unless I find something else sooner.

Regent 7 Seas was also great to talk to about how we can be at home. However, they were so focused on catering to my needs I felt they weren’t really listening to what my needs are, and that made me uncomfortable.

For example, I have a morning ritual of making myself a cup of tea with special ingredients. I asked if we could have those ingredients in our cabin. He repeatedly told me that they’d be glad to fix my tea and serve it to me. That’s great customer service, but I have exacting requirements for the ingredients, quantities, and order of mixing. And, they are missing the ritual aspect of me making my tea. This isn’t a deal killer, but it slows the education process. Again, there’s no pricing until we are ready to book.

Fred. Olsen is a British cruising company that intrigues me. A week after my first attempt to contact them, responded to my query with a short and polite message that they can’t accommodate our needs. I can’t help but wonder if they are sticking to their game plan with intention, or with blindness to the growing trend for Residential Cruising. Either way, they aren’t a fit for us right now. Who knows, maybe in the future! They do have lovely ships and interesting itineraries.

Holland America’s world wide cruise has a daunting price so I haven’t reached out to them for a conversation. I think they will be out of our price range.

This is an expensive proposition, so doing your homework is critical. Have your list of questions ready when you start having conversations about the different cruise options. Know what you must have and what would be nice if possible, and also have your deal breakers in mind as you gather data.

Enjoy the research and dreaming!

We will be doing longer articles on each of the options as we do more research.

Last Updated August 20, 2023
Originally Published July 7, 2023

3 thoughts on “Researching Our Residential Cruise Ship Options”

  1. The barque Picton Castle sails from Lunenbourg, Nova Scotia, Canada and sails (it has actual sails) around the world. The demands for technology and variety in daily routine may be met by their itinerary. I have old information but I am certain that they have a web page, photos and plenty of useful information. When I sought out their brochure the coast for a year-long excursion was just under $16,000 Canadian. Once more, I have out-dated information (I am sure) but the website should be most helpful.

    I wanted to travel with Picton Castle when I retired from teaching but we ‘acquired’ care of a grandson that scuttled that plan—plus my wife was lukewarm to the whole idea.

    There might be other ships, in other countries, that do similar things.

    I hotlinked your first mention to their site. Interesting, but definitely wouldn’t be the kind of pampering we want to get used to! 🙂

    For others, a barque is “a sailing ship of three or more masts having the foremasts rigged square and the aftermast rigged fore-and-aft.” -rc

  2. You might think that you could string together world cruises, but… it sure seems like you really can’t.

    Cunard, for instance, has two ships that do “world” trips, the Queen Mary 2 and the Queen Victoria. They do them from January through early May. The rest of the year, those two ships do much shorter trips.

    Other lines appear to follow that same pattern. There are few if any “world” trips the rest of the year. There are some 60+ day trips, but they are much more expensive; the cheapest that I find is $230/night ppdo and most are $400+.

    Another pattern emerges, maybe: those ships stay south. The QV itinerary only touches Europe five times (and four of those are the two primary departure/return ports); the QM2 itinerary touches Mediterranean ports but stays away from northern Europe.

    One suspects that the reason for both of these patterns is the same: that’s winter, more or less, in the northern hemisphere. You don’t want to be sailing in nasty winter weather, and people don’t like to go on short vacations in the winter. During the summer when it’s reasonable to visit the northern ports, it’s presumably more profitable to run short-duration trips — and you can charge more.

    Anyhow, I’m not saying it’s impossible, but it’s not as easy as you might think.

    We found the same thing: few choices, costly, and what’s big for us, even if we could book something year-round: complete population turnover. We want a sense of community where we can find people we like to spend time with. There is a big difference between back-to-back vacations and “we live here.” -rc

  3. Just saw a news article about Villa Vie. Balcony cabin $250K plus $8K/month. They don’t have a ship yet and are planning to depart in May.

    It’ll be interesting to see if they can pull that off. They are briefly mentioned here. -rc


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