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Living at sea

Cruise ships and residential yachts are emerging as attractive alternatives for healthy, ambitious and curious travellers seeking more from their post-work years.

The concept of making the high seas your home really kicked off with The World, the first (and only) viable residential yacht for owner-residents. The ship set sail in 2002 with 165 residences spread over 12 decks.

It’s an attractive model that others have sought to emulate but, as yet, has no equal. Utopia, a 190-residence vessel, is expected to set sail in 2017 or 2018, with prices for an apartment starting at US$4 million. The Marquette from River Cities is intending to make the rivers of America its residents’ home, while Crystal Cruises has announced that three of its Exclusive Class vessels will feature 48 Crystal Residence apartments on the upper decks, starting in 2022.

The World’s facilities rival those of a high-end community enclave, including four major restaurants, a 650-square-metre spa and wellness facility (with coaches and therapists), a nightclub, library, theatre, medical centre and even lessons in everything from cooking to languages. Owners buy their residences outright (the last sold in 2006), with current resale prices ranging from US$1.8 to US$15 million for studios, one-, two- and three-bedroom residences, plus annual ownership costs.

The ship’s ports of call are planned two years in advance, with multi-night stays and expert-led expeditions in polar waters and other remote regions. In 2012, The World became the largest passenger ship to navigate the Arctic Northwest Passage, before Crystal Serenity stole the title in 2016.

Crystal Serenity also has the distinction of being home to ‘Mama Lee’ Wachtstetter, a Floridian who has lived aboard the 1070-passenger vessel for almost a decade.

Many cruise-lovers opt for the next best thing: setting sail for months at a time, often on back-to-back itineraries or world cruises. Cunard operates several three-month-plus cruises a year, while Regent Seven Seas Cruises will bring back its ‘Navigate the World’ itinerary in 2018, Seabourn will depart on a 152-day ‘Great Oceans Exploration’ in January 2018, and Silversea is planning ‘La Grande Bellezza’ World Cruise for 2018.

An all-inclusive world cruise can offer surprising value. Seabourn’s 152-day itinerary (the longest offered by a luxury cruise line in 2018) has fares starting from AU$88,999 per person, or $585.52 per day. An Inside Stateroom on Cunard’s Queen Elizabeth 122-day itinerary equates to $292.54 per person per day, or $35,690 overall.

Whether you buy into the lifestyle on a residential yacht or spend most of the year on a luxury ship, retirement at sea could be a smart option. One thing’s for sure: it offers a post-work chapter that’s far from mundane.

This article appeared in volume 26 of Signature Luxury Travel & Style. To subscribe to the latest issue, click here.