What to Know When Buying a Condo on Residential Cruise Ships

Posted July 21, 2023 by in Home

When most people think about cruising, they think of a fun getaway with their family or friends. But what if you could always cruise and never leave your home? Believe it or not, there are residential cruise ships that allow you to do just that! This blog post will discuss everything you need to know about these unique vessels. We’ll answer questions like how many residential cruise ships are there, who owns them, and how much an apartment costs. We’ll also talk about the ongoing costs of living on a residential cruise ship so you can decide if this is the right option.

What is a residential cruise ship?

Photo courtesy of Storylines

A residential cruise ship is a vessel designed for people to live on permanently. These ships are usually smaller than traditional cruise ships. They have all the amenities you need to live comfortably, including restaurants, grocery stores, gyms, and pools. Most residential cruise ships are owned by companies or private individuals. The ship continuously travels worldwide, stopping from port to port or anchoring in bays off tropical islands.

The residences on board are not like your vacation cruise cabins but more like a condo on the mainland. They are self-contained with kitchenettes, bathrooms, bedrooms, and living areas. Some come with balconies. Many of the newer ships are equipped with reliable wifi to allow remote working and e-Learning. This is changing the demographic from exclusively wealthy retirees to younger location independent entrepreneurs, business owners, and even families.

How much does a condo on a cruise ship cost?

Photo courtesy of Storylines

The average price for a condo on a cruise ship is significantly higher than on land. This is because you are paying for the privilege of a unique home that can cruise around the world. It is hard to say the exact average cost as they are not a part of any condo association. Additionally, there are so few residential cruise ships to measure from or a real estate agent specializing with them.

In fact, the first and only one to be operating at the time of speaking is MS The World, whose residences range from roughly US 1M to 10M. So, yeah, not exactly a bargain. However, it’s important to note that this was the first ship of its kind, so, like any new technology, it’s bound to be expensive. Others followed in the wake of MS The World but failed to get off the ground. Or on the water, so to speak.

One such outfit planned for the crypto wealthy, a ship aptly named The Satoshi, seemed to disappear much like the inventor of Bitcoin of the same name. Another group, Utopia Residences, has been in the works since as far back as 2009, with expected delivery in 2021. However, there appears to be no progress update, including a building contract signed, to this date. Wikipedia reports that Utopia has stalled due to financial difficulties, including insufficient funding.

Do your homework

Photo courtesy of Storylines

As you can see, the residential cruise business appears to be a complex model to execute. As such, it’s vital to do your due diligence if considering purchasing a home on a cruise ship. Research, the company behind the ship. Make sure they have sufficient funding and investors.

Do not be afraid to reach out and ask questions. Ask if the ship’s build has begun or if at least a build contract has been signed. If nothing has been signed yet, consider waiting until one has before purchasing.

The other vital thing to establish is the cost of the ongoing fees. Just like a land-based condo, there will be some kind of condo association fee, contributing to the continuing exterior property maintenance of the apartment buildings. But we are talking about a massive ship here, which is costly to maintain, so there will most likely be a relatively hefty ongoing annual fee. Find out what this is and factor it into your budget, even for a single-family home.

On the plus side, some of the newer players include all-inclusive fees, which means your daily costs-of-living requirements are included in your cost. This includes food and drinks, as well as access to all facilities and amenities on board the ship.

Other things to ask:

  • Do they offer a conventional loan?
  • Condo loans or condo mortgage?
  • If so, how much is the down payment?
  • If so, what is the monthly mortgage payment?
  • Who are the mortgage lenders?
  • What is the minimum credit score?
  • Do they offer single-family homes?
  • Are they FHA-approved condos?
  • Is it a warrantable condo?

Consider it a red flag if they can’t or won’t answer your inquiries.

Another thing to consider is the condo community you are buying into. Remember, these are not your standard fellow single-serving cruise vacationers but your long-term neighbors and condo owners. Research the on-board society and culture, and find out what they stand for. One thing is for sure, you will share a common thirst for travel and adventure.

The final thing to consider when buying a condo on a cruise ship is what it will be like as an investment property. Can you rent it out when not in use? Also, is the value of the condo project anticipated to rise over time?

Sustainable cruise ships

Photo courtesy of Storylines

The residential cruise ship industry is still in its infancy, but things are moving fast. The technology and engineering ability to make these massive ships have been around for a long time.

As we see more of these ships on the water, it’s essential to consider sustainability. These massive ships have a large carbon footprint and pollute the oceans. But, they can be much more sustainable with the right technology and design. Look for residential cruise ships powered by renewable energy, and use desalination plants to provide fresh water.

One such outfit that looks promising is Storylines MV Narrative, an environmentally-conscious, high-tech, luxury residential ship. They have recently secured a building contract with a shipyard in Croatia, with delivery expected in 2025. Moreover, its residences start at the US $750,000 up to $8M+. They also claim that the all-inclusive prices are comparable to the daily living costs in cities such as London, Paris, and New York.

Still, tread carefully and do your research when becoming a condo owner in this emerging yet highly-desirable real estate market.