Another cruise line has stepped in to offer a three-and-half-year world cruise just weeks after the cancellation of a previous three year cruise.
Start-up company Villa Vie Residences, born out of the old management team of Life at Sea, has just acquired a 30-year-old ship from UK-based Fred. Olsen Cruise Lines.
Villa Vie Residences will offer ownership of apartments or rentals for extended voyages for a departure date of May 2024.
But it comes at a time when multiple companies failed to launch their voyages, sending hundreds of people homeless. Including, a Melbourne woman Fran Paroissien.
Paroissien, 75 took out a reverse mortgage and rented her Hawthorn apartment on a 12-month lease intent on spending her retirement on the world cruise.
The Life at Sea voyage run by Miray Cruises was supposed to have set sail from Istanbul in Turkey on November 1.
But as the dates kept on getting pushed back, Miray Cruises announced a week before the final November 30 departure that they were unable to secure a ship.
Who are Villa Vie?
Villa Vie was started by former members of the Life at Sea executive team, who quit when the original team split in May 2022.
CEO Mikael Petterson, the former managing director of Life at Sea, told CNN the concept was informed by what customers interested in another cruise were telling him.
“I spoke with thousands of people and we created Villa Vie based on what we learned from Life at Sea,” he said.
“People want the flexibility of paying as they go, coming and going, instead of paying upfront for three years. Many wanted to own a cabin and have a say in the business.”
He calls it “quite different” from his previous colleagues’ offering, with a smaller ship and “pay as you go” shorter stays allowed onboard.
Prices are not too far off the introductory offers of Life at Sea, but there are more options.
How much will the three-and-a-half-year world cruise cost?
Those renting – essentially paying for the voyage, as on a normal cruise – will pay US$89 per person per day for an inside cabin.
That works out as US$32,485 per person per year, or US$97,455 for three years. Outside cabins start at US$119 per person per day, and balconies at US$199.
Buying a cabin outright starts at around US$99,000 for an interior, US$149,000 for an outdoor and US$249,000 for a balcony.
Owners must then pay monthly fees of US$1,750 per person, US$2,500 per person, or US$4,000 per person respectively.
The owners can then rent out their villa to other people themselves (at no extra charge). Or, through Villa Vie for a fee.
Those buying a cabin will be guaranteed it for 15 years, which is the estimated life expectancy for the ship.
Petterson says the goal is to buy more ships. The owners will then get a 50% credit to move onto another ship after 15 years.
Prices are based on double occupancy. Solo travellers get discounts of 30% for an internal cabin, 20% for an outside one and 10% for a balcony.
“If you stay for less than three years, it pays to rent. If you’re going for longer than three years, it’s better to buy,” says Petterson.
All food and soft drinks are included, along with alcohol at dinner. WiFi and medical visits (but not procedures or medicines) will also be included for American customers. But it’s not clear whether included medical visits will be available for international guests.
There’ll be weekly housekeeping and bi-weekly laundry service at no extra cost.
The ship will have the capacity for 924 people across 485 cabins and the ship will have an enlarged pool, four Jacuzzis, three restaurants, eight bars, four lounges, a spa, a fitness, centre, a library and a medical centre.
Peterson said Villa Vie will depart as planned and passengers must make a 10% deposit to secure their place.
All deposits are being kept in escrow until February 15, at which point, they will take payment for the first 90 days of the cruise. Payments will then be taken for each segment 90 days before its start date.
The CEO of Villa Vie is confident the cruise will launch as he said private investment has paid for the ship. Petterson says not a cent of people’s deposits will be spent any earlier than February 15.
Now that the vessel has been purchased, the ship will undergo a 10-week refurbishment including a two-week stint in drydock.
Without a doubt, those looking to retire at sea are sceptical. So why would punters trust Villa Vie?
“We are quite different,” Petterson told CNN.
“We’re not asking people for hundreds of thousands of dollars upfront. We’re asking for a small percentage to see who’s serious, and coming.”
And as a bit of goodwill, he’s offering former Life at Sea signups just a 5% deposit.