New Residential Cruise Ship Aims for Much Lower Price Point

The future vessel for Storylines (rendering copyright Tillberg Design / Storylines)

Published Oct 23, 2019 5:03 PM by Paul Benecki

A Florida-based startup is looking to enter the rarified world of residential cruise ships, bringing costs down and making the dream accessible to a broader segment of the public.

The residence-at-sea business model is similar to a condominium, with passenger-owners paying up front to purchase a cabin (plus a monthly carrying charge to cover operating expenses). The only current example of a full-scale residential cruise ship is The World, which has been carrying its owners and their guests since 2002. The price for the 165 residences aboard The World is in the high-six to mid-seven figures (when cabins come available), and prospective owners have to prove that they have a net worth of at least $5 million.  

A recent entrant to the market, Storylines, would like to make the residential cruise ship concept accessible to a larger number of cruisers. Its business plan calls for introductory pricing just below $300,000, well within the range of condominium projects on shore. Monthly passenger assessments would start at $2,150, comparable to onshore living costs in many major cities.

According to the firm, it will build a new hull in China (with European outfitters) and launch operations by 2023. If owners want to start their residential lifestyle before then, the firm says that it expects to charter a vessel for future residents so that they can get under way early. 

Storylines says that it is looking to attract a different blend of cruisers, like professionals who work remotely and families who home-school their children. Itineraries would include longer 3-5 day stays in port, allowing for more exploration of shoreside destinations. 

The Utopia, a 190-unit residential cruise ship with a parallel shipboard "hotel" operation, offers a cautionary tale on development timelines for these unique projects. Utopia's backers - including executives from the same team that built The World - ordered the $1.1 billion ultra-luxury ship from Samsung Heavy Industries in 2009. Last October, the developers told media that the ship is still several years out from delivery.