It sounds like every cruiser’s dream: sailing round the world forever on a luxury ship, stopping off for shore excursions and the odd stay on land.
Brisbane mother of five, Rina Cavazza, is one Australian known to have booked a berth on a three-year cruise around the globe.
“I’ll be travelling for over a thousand days on one single boat,” mum-of-five, Rina Cavazza told A Current Affair. “(There are) 140 countries I’ll be visiting 382 ports; 13 out of the 14 wonders of the world.”
Among its global destinations, the cruise was scheduled to visit Thursday Island in Queensland in December 2024 and then mainland Australia in March 2025, stopping by Cairns, Townsville, Brisbane, Sydney, Hobart, Adelaide, Esperance, Perth, Geraldton, Port Hedland, Broome, Darwin and the Tiwi Islands.
Sadly, the dream has proved far from smooth sailing. Residential cruise concepts are now foundering on cost overruns, investor withdrawal and the withdrawal of promised ships.
Guests awaiting an outcome are asking: was it a dream that can never be realised?
While several companies have floated the idea of longer cruises, announcing plans to launch permanent or semi-permanent condominiums-at-sea, launch plans are falling behind schedule.
Miray Cruises, the company behind the Life at Sea three-year world cruise, aimed to launch this December, but has so far failed to even acquire a ship, causing increasing concern among investors.
“Despite our efforts, the Life At Sea project faces challenges due to investor withdrawal,” Miray Cruises CEO Vedat Ugurlu said in a recent statement.
“While we’re in talks to acquire a similar vessel, if the December 1st sail is jeopardised, we offer alternative departure dates or expedited refunds,” Ugurlu said.
What’s gone wrong?
“Although we could use our current vessel, the Gemini, we remain committed to delivering the promised larger, newer vessel,” Ugurlu said.
Onboard the MV Gemini, guests were supposed to travel the world for three years in an all-inclusive trip starting from US$29,000 (AU$44,490) or around AU$121 per night.
Other liveaboard concepts struggling
Companies such as Storylines, Victoria Cruises Line and Villa Vie Residences are also struggling to firm up their onboard-for-life cruise concepts.
Storylines delayed construction of MV Narrative residential ship since launching the concept in 2016. Buyers were promised onboard amenities such as hydroponic farms, an anti-ageing clinic and around 20 dining venues and bars.
The company had pledged to build its own ship, following the decision not to purchase a used ship. Over half of the future ship’s 530 residences, ranging in price from US$875,000 to US$8 million – have already been reserved, Storylines CEO Alister Punton said in July.
While Croatian shipyard Brodosplit was commissioned to build the $900 million vessel, the shipyard had filed for provisional bankruptcy amid Russian sanctions. Although the shipyard is now back in business, Storylines said its launch had now been pushed back from 2024 to December 2026.
Victoria Cruises Line, meantime, secured a former Holland America cruise ship and turned it into Victoria Majestic, a residential ship allowing travellers live at sea for US$8000 a month while it circumnavigates the globe over 27 months. But passengers can not buy individual cabins to cruise the world.
Expenses to be refunded
As for refunds, Miray’s Vedat Ugurlu says it’s all in the contract.
“For refund requests, per contract terms, Miray covers non-refundable travel expenses. Hotel expenses in Istanbul until December 1st are covered, and subsequent travel expenses to your chosen destination will be reimbursed. Refunds will be processed via bank transfer. Your pods will be sent to your chosen destination,” Ugurlu’s statement said.
“As we navigate these challenges, we are actively working on creating alternative plans for the future, ensuring an unforgettable experience for our valued community.”
At present, the only residential ship in operation is The World where each of the residences are considered private homes.
Ros Packer and Gina Rinehart are still reported to have apartments on the cruise ship. The vessel was launched in March 2002 but had to be purchased by residents in October 2003 who had to pool US$71 million to buy the US$280 million ship in 2003. About a dozen of The World’s 547 cabins are resold every year for between US$2 million and US$15 million. Its current location is on the South American West Coast.