Taking a long luxury cruise or renting a home on the water represents rest, recreation and escape for the well-heeled. Still, when the massive vessel returns to port or the seaside home rental expires, the realities of home life return. Now, those with an affinity for the sea can unite the concepts of salt water escapes with daily life by residing within a new floating hometown.
Competing community yacht designers build the equivalent of cruise ships for a group of private owners. Meanwhile, floating home community developers create aquatic home bases of the more stationary variety. Either way, living on the sea offers city-weary real estate shoppers a chance to buy a home without buying the dirt.
Rather than offering cabins for temporary guests looking to get away for a couple weeks, residential vessels provide condominium suites as permanent residences—offering buyers an opportunity to live at sea and never call any port home.
Exploring the world before settling down
Set to launch in 2023, the Storylines’ MV Narrative will be a 741-foot-long and 98-foot-wide community yacht with 547 residences onboard, ranging from 237 to 1,970 square feet. The average starting price to buy an interior studio is $1 million. The $8 million residences are 1,970-square-foot penthouse suites with access to a private deck. Those penthouse units have two to four bedrooms over two levels able to accommodate up to 10 guests.
Homes ranging from 909 to 1,417 square feet offer purchasing options starting from $2.45 million.
Alister Punton, CEO of Miami-based Storyline Cruises, describes life aboard the Narrative as endless exploration shared with like-minded shipmates.
“A resident of the Narrative is someone looking for adventure, but within a sense of community,” Mr. Punton said. “We give those people a chance to make this adventure their own with our amenities and opportunities to explore the world.”
The Narrative’s course takes it across six continents over a 1,000-day maiden voyage to circumnavigate the globe. Residents will receive multiple days to explore most ports of call and have the opportunity to vote on whether to stay or sail for the next destination.
The vessel will include 20 restaurants and bars; a microbrewery; marina landing; three pools; a sundeck; pet exercise area; business center; beauty salon; a 10,000-book library; movie theater; art studio; bowling alley; outdoor running track; gym; yoga studio; golf simulators; and youth education programs. Storyline offers assistance with questions regarding citizenship, medical needs, communication resources and other practical elements.
“If you want to go on a cruise, you can go on a cruise,” Punton says. “But, after maybe a month of that, you’ll want to come back to your own bed and comforts of home. We offer those same comforts so people can take home with them.”
The Fort Lauderdale-headquartered Residences at Sea owns The World–the only “residential mega yacht” currently at sea. The World’s units originally sold out in 2006, but brokers maintain a small selection of residences available for resale.At 644-feet long and 97-feet wide, the 12-deck World takes its 150 to 200 homeowners on a sail around the world every two-to-three years with an itinerary chosen by residents themselves in a community vote.
Resale prices aboard range from $2 million for studios to $15 million for three-bedroom homes, not including annual ownership costs. There remains a waiting list for some specific sizes.
Pamela Conover, Residences at Sea CEO, stressed the sense of friendship aboard The World as a prime attraction.
“The World is an international community of 150 families from 20 different countries,” Ms. Conover explains. “On board, there is a deep sense of community. It’s a welcoming and friendly environment, and I think residents truly look forward to spending time with one another.”
The yacht’s amenities include a spa and fitness center; a Nobel Laureate Lecture Series; custom destination experiences with exclusive private tours; six restaurants and cafes; five cocktail lounges; a gourmet deli stocked with regional fare procured by the ship’s executive chef; and a wine cellar with a capacity for 16,000 bottles.
According to Ms. Conover, The World runs two or three special expeditions each year. Recent courses trekked through Canada’s Northwest Passage, the Russian Arctic National Park and the 80 islands of Melanesia.
“Homes aboard The World are secondary residences,” she adds. “Many of our residents are former or existing yacht or superyacht owners who are attracted by the hassle-free lifestyle of owning a home that travels the world where they are pampered and live in luxury. It’s a perfect alternative to individual yacht ownership, offering services and facilities that would be challenging to achieve on one’s own.”
Ms. Conover adds that many of The World’s residents are entrepreneurs who are retired or still running their businesses with the flexibility to travel. Satellite communication allows those onboard to conduct affairs from their homes.
“I would say our residents like being active and enjoy the varied fitness and wellness programs onboard,” she said.. “Many are keen divers, golfers and photographers.”
A unique and tight-knit community on the sea
Beyond the community yachts, the construction of interconnected residential marinas and other floating home communities is gaining momentum as those with the means to escape metropolitan existence look for a non-suburban alternative. British Columbia-based International Marine Floatation Systems designs everything from individual floating homes to the marinas joining them.
Mathias Tobias, IMFS Director, insists most people seek out life in floating homes because they want to be close to nature and the feeling of escaping to that other world while living near agreeable folk.
“The floating home communities are a very tight-knit group who really take care of one another,” Mr. Tobias says. “If you travel and leave your floating home, you know that your neighbors will keep an eye on it. In a floating community, personal relationships are nurtured, and people have a sense of personal responsibility toward one another.”
Tobias believes floating home developments are no different than conventional land-based homes in terms of investment.
“It still always has to do with “location, location, location,” he says. “But because this is waterfront living, if you have a desirable location, pricing is comparable to other local waterfront homes. In North America, there is such a shortage of floating home water space available that residences that come on the market tend to attract a lot of attention.”
Of course, in the shadow of Covid-19, the concept of pandemic both adds to and subtracts from the appeal of living at sea—especially aboard the community yachts. A condo aboard ship takes the owner as far away from big city hotspots as possible, while settling him or her down in close proximity with neighbors on a potentially endless journey. With that, the life-aboard-ship experience comes with medical facilities and constant cleaning of air, water and surfaces.
“During Covid, people discovered they could work from home,” Mr. Punton, of Storyline, adds. “Once they realize home can be anywhere, living aboard the Narrative with full connectivity becomes an option. Since this is not a cruise, but a home, our medical staff is designing Narrative’s wellness center and hospital, while deciding what ship cleaning procedures need to be so everyone is safe.”