Is the “endless cruise” back on track?

Startup company Villa Vie Residences, which has been promoting the concept of living aboard a cruise ship for a multi-year world cruise, has claimed that it has reached an agreement to acquire its first ship, the Braemar (IMO 9000699), a 30-year-old cruise ship that has been retired from the UK market.

Villa Vie Residences offers a combination of the concept of owning and renting for a long-term voyage that, for some travellers, would have obvious tax advantages. It follows several others that have presented similar ideas, but only one of them, and that about 20 years ago, has yet succeeded in getting going.

Villa Vie Residences said in December 13th that it had purchased the Braemar from UK-based Fred. Olsen Cruise Lines. The cruise line confirmed to CNN that it has an agreement and that delivery of the ship was due at the end of February 2024.

Fred. Olsen acquired the ship in 2001 and it had been up for sale since late 2022. It is the smallest ship in the company’s fleet and it had been laid up in Scotland since the beginning of the pandemic in 2020.

The ship’s modest gt of just under 25,000 meant that it could undertake journeys impossible for larger vessels. As presently designed only a relatively small number of its cabins have private balconies. Villa Vie Residences writes on its website that on the ship “residence features a queen-size bed, an en-suite bathroom, and dedicated workspaces.”

After taking delivery the ship will be renamed the Villa Vie Odyssey. The future owner said that it would transform the vessel into a residential cruise ship.

The world cruise is scheduled to start from England on May 15th 2024 and to last 1,301 days, stopping at 425 ports in 147 countries. The itinerary calls for extended port stays from two to seven days. The itinerary posted on the website shows the trip ending in December 2027 in West Palm Beach, Florida.

There does exist a residential cruise ship — The World — where passengers will have the option of becoming owners with a say in the routing and operation of the ship.

Buyers, CNN reports, will be guaranteed for 15 years, the estimated life of the 30-year-old cruise ship. CNN reported that there would be a monthly fee for owners ranging between $1,750 and $4,000 per person.

The company is offering the trip in segments, ranging from 35 to 120 days, with the option of taking multiple segments during the 3.5 years. Owners can also rent out their cabins when they are not aboard.

A much-publicized three-year cruise to be offered by another startup called Life at Sea failed to launch on time in November 2023. The company reported having entered into a contract for a cruise ship. However, it failed to take delivery. The current status of the project is uncertain.

Villa Vie was started by former members of the Life at Sea executive team. They left the prior company in May 2022.

If at the end of 15 years, the company has not acquired other ships, they are reporting that owners will get 15 percent of their payment returned from a portion of the scrap value of the Odyssey.

1993-built, Bahamas-flagged, 24,344 gt Braemar is listed on Equasis as owned and ISM-managed by Fred Olsen Cruise Lines of Ipswich, UK. Commercial manager is Fred Olsen Windcarrier AS of Oslo, Norway. It is entered with Skuld (Skuld Nordics and Eastern Europe) on behalf of Fred Olsen Cruise Lines.