Ideas for residential cruise ships have been around for a long time.

The first proposed mega-city ship was the PHOENIX and the concept was developed by Norwegian Cruise Line Knut Kloster.  It was NCL that really pioneered the modern concept of cruising with three sister ships built in the ’60s, SUNWARD, STARWARD and SKYWARD.  These were the first ships built just for cruising.

First presented in the mid-1980s, the first megaship by today’s standards was the PHOENIX at 255,000 tons and able to accommodate 5,600 passengers. It featured a number of ideas and concepts that are still unique today and all of its designs were approved by the class society and the U.S. Coast Guard.

Originally intended to be part of Norwegian Cruise Line, the board rejected the giant ship as too risky, according to Gallagher, and Kloster took on the project on his own and established World City Corporation as the parent company. The book traces the efforts that were made to build the ship (first in Germany and Japan) in the U.S., even creating the concept of a virtual shipyard. But the investment of $1.5 billion was considered too much for its time. Other cruise lines also lobbied against the project, and when MARAD loan guarantees were pursued, those were instead given to American Classic Voyages, which turned into a fiasco and basically shut the door for the PHOENIX. [Cruise Industry News]

Residencesea’s THE WORLD is the only true live-aboard condo ship that has become a reality.  According to their promo piece . . .

Since our launch in 2002, THE WORLD has continuously circumnavigated the globe, spending extensive time in the most exotic and well-traveled ports, allowing us – the Residents – to wake up in a new destination every few days, exploring with depth we had never before thought possible. It’s a lifestyle we are truly grateful to live each day.

At 644 feet, THE WORLD is the largest privately owned yacht on the planet. Each of us owns one or more of the 165 private onboard Residences, and collectively, we own the ship, ensuring that our experiences – both onboard and off – are far beyond current luxury travel standards.

But what we share with one another goes far beyond ownership. Each of us has an endless thirst for knowledge, adventure and of course, travel.

This thirst is not only satisfied by our itineraries, which each of us has a voice in creating each year, but by our special, in-depth expeditions and unique Enrichment Program. The Program brings onboard experts in all different fields – diving, wine tasting, world cultures – to prepare us for each port we visit, and beyond.

As time passes, neighbors become travel companions and travel companions become good friends. We offer one another new ways to experience the many destinations we sail to. But above all, we offer each other comfort, good company, and lots of laughter.

All this doesn’t come cheap! “The price of the cabins starts at around US $90,000 and extends to around six million US $. Along with this, patrons who are residents in the elite home need to pay a yearly maintenance fee of US $16,000.” No Pensionado discounts here!

This sounds good, but . . . it’s not for the feint of heart. There are restaurants on board where you pay to eat just like eating out on land. And there is a store on board where you can buy provisions if you choose to cook. However one store, so you’d better like what they carry and not expect to shop around. But if you can pay $16,000 a year maintenance on a $90,000 cabin – and forget what the maintenance fee is on that six million dollar residence – you sure don’t mind paying a premium for provisions.

But there are bigger problems I’d have with “living” on THE WORLD.

First, most people don’t actually live on the ship, but visit it from time to time. Every time we’ve been docked next to THE WORLD it has almost looked like a ghost ship with few cabins occupied and only a few staff members or non-resident guests coming and going.

Second, since many of the suites have been bought by corporations and are used as employee incentives, and you can book a week or so on THE WORLD just as a paying tourist, there is a big social gulf on board between “residents” and “visitors.”

Third, the ship may follow the sun and make the scene for the big world events like Olympics, Carnivals, etc., but the ship is usually docked where the rest of us are docked . . . at big commercial ports with views of piles of shipping containers. Not exactly the image you may have in mind.

The same folks had another ship THE MAGELLAN on the drawing boards for launch in 2010, but that apparently has been tabled. Residences were to start at $1.8 million and go up to $8 million for full ownership and time-share residences for a few weeks to a month for as little at $140K. Building was to start when 60 percent of the units were sold and since it has dropped off the radar one can assume sales weren’t that brisk.

There are a number of other proposed residential ship projects out there, but I fail to see how they will escape the same challenges as are faced by THE WORLD.  Cruise Resort Clubs is promoting no less than SEVEN giant live-aboard cruise ships

Cruise Ownership ™ is our private brand of product that encompasses all of these types of ownerships, only aboard our ultra luxury liners. Not available on land or from any other resort or company in the world.

A mixture of vacations, cruises, shared owner ships, and fractionals in our exclusive luxury resorts, that are the most distinctive programs available. Resort residences owned by clients preferring a more luxurious atmosphere, with the finest in services, quality amenities, and convenient facilities.

An exclusive ocean residence club aboard an ultra luxurious Ocean Liner, built with the finest in available components. Not a conventional ship, as these types of passenger ships are not designed for living onboard full time or extended travel, and are generally like timeshare, are for one week cruises or vacations.

Our resorts and unique forms of perpetual owner ship are comparable with all of the higher class qualities found in the finest of condominium developments, condo hotels or residence clubs on land, but better. You could buy a condo or hotel property in the Caribbean, Hawaii, South Pacific, or anywhere in the United States from California to Florida, but this type of real estate is not the same. When you buy a place onboard, you have a place to live in all these places and more.

The best, or one of the best features of our program is the ability to own one of our club residences that will travel to the Caribbean, Hawaii, South Pacific, or anywhere accessible by sea in the United States, from Florida to California, the Mediterranean, plus many other destinations. You have the ability to live aboard for the full length of time you own, or select various times for living aboard, and in different places around the World.

The prices of our programs start at $8,013.32 for two weeks that You own for the lifetime of the liner. Brand new properties are available in one to five bedrooms, from suites & staterooms to vacation homes, vacationing estates, and estate quarters. Our liners which will be new, have an estimated life cycle of 90 – 100 years, and then carry on into our contingency program, giving owners great value in their purchase.

There are no monthly maintenance fees, as they are included in the cost of purchasing. With the advancement in technology and increased use of renewable energy sources like solar power, hybrid, and other alternative energy sources onboard wherever possible, we can maintain costs.

Like a catamaran, our luxurious liners have twin parallel hulls to provide you and your family the most comfort available. Twin parallel hulls, for more than double the comfort and value.

Cruising or vacationing on board will be the ultimate in a traveling and life experience, beginning 2009.

Of course 2009 has long come and gone! And, if you’re interested, here’s an interesting expose-type article about this scheme Resort Cruise Club Review: Cash gifting and travel.

UTOPIA is another residential ship project scheduled for launch in 2014.  We shall see.UTOPIA is going at it from the standpoint of a luxury hotel, not a “cruise ship”, that happens to float around the world, avoiding maybe a perception that a “cruise ship” is not for the truly filthy rich. And, keeping that image alive, their Web site and Rodeo Drive showroom in Beverly Hills, are oriented to the luxury hotel concept. UTOPIA is scheduled to have 190 luxury homes available ranging in price from a mere $4 million to $25 million for a permanent residence. The ship, I mean hotel that floats is also scheduled to have 206-room hotel on board for those who just want a taster of UTOPIA, thus, unfortunately, setting up the same “resident”/”visitor” conflict of THE WORLD.


This idea has received a lot of press including this, from TIME magazine’s Sam Gustin:

“As the U.S. continues to grapple with high unemployment, there is one place in the country where the jobless rate remains low: Silicon Valley. In fact, big U.S. tech companies like Google, Apple and Facebook are currently waging a war for top talent. Tech executives often talk about a shortage of highly-skilled workers, and the need to make it easier for immigrants with such skills to come to the U.S. But this year, the cap on H-1B visas — which allow educated foreign workers to get a job in the U.S. — has already been reached. The disconnect between our immigration system and the needs of Silicon Valley has become so acute that plans are being developed to anchor a giant ship off the coast of San Francisco, where immigrant entrepreneurs can live and work without needing to obtain a visa. This ambitious project, called Blueseed, highlights the lengths to which some are willing to go in the face of America’s flawed immigration system.

Silicon Valley has always relied heavily on immigrants — take Intel’s Andy Grove or Google’s Sergey Brin. Writing in an op-ed for The Wall Street Journal last year, Marc Andreessen, the billionaire co-founder of Netscape who now runs his own venture capital firm, described the need for tech talent in the Valley.

Many people in the U.S. and around the world lack the education and skills required to participate in the great new companies coming out of the software revolution. This is a tragedy since every company I work with is absolutely starved for talent. Qualified software engineers, managers, marketers and salespeople in Silicon Valley can rack up dozens of high-paying, high-upside job offers any time they want, while national unemployment and underemployment is sky high.

And yet as Jordan Weissmann wrote recently in The Atlantic, we’re telling skilled workers to get lost thanks to the H1-B visa cap: “Here’s how this ridiculous system works: Starting each April, the federal government distributes a limited supply of 85,000 of H1-B visas. Companies go on a mad charge to snap up as many as they need, and those who come up short are left to scheme up other, roundabout ways of getting their workers into the country. It’s a silly dance we do each year, when instead we could just welcome more smart, skilled professionals to come and work here.”

. . . It is utterly baffling that the U.S. would deprive itself of the skills of thousands of immigrants — any one of which could be the next Grove or Brin — because an arbitrary number has been reached six months early. There has been legislation proposed to help address this problem, but these efforts invariably get drowned out by the din over illegal immigration, border security, and the fate of America’s 12 million undocumented workers.

One of the consequences of the current U.S. immigration system is that we literally tell highly-skilled immigrant workers to leave the country after a certain period of time. What’s more, there is no “entrepreneurs visa” designed specifically for immigrants aiming to build startups — the lifeblood of Silicon Valley innovation. This is what Blueseed has been designed to address. As the initiative states: “Google and Yahoo! and Intel and other famous companies that were co-founded by immigrant entrepreneurs have created tens of thousands of jobs, and have built products and services that we all use every day. But who knows how many other companies we don’t have, because their immigrant co-founders were not allowed to remain in Silicon Valley?”

Blueseed, which aims to launch next year, will be anchored 12 nautical miles off the coast of San Fransisco, and will be able to accommodate up to 1,800 foreign entrepreneurs. A visa is not required, just a passport. Blueseed has skeptics, and faces a number of challenges, not least of all raising the tens of millions of dollars needed to make the venture a reality. If nothing else, the project is useful because it spotlights the need for immigration reform — and the need for a new type of entrepreneurs visa.”

Here’s what the founders have to say . . .