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Does this float your boat?

By Jonathan van Bilsen

Under the expansive blue sky, at the historic Harland & Wolff shipyard, in Northern Ireland, where the Titanic was once constructed, the unassuming Villa Vie Odyssey lies in dry dock. Despite its modest size, after extensive refurbishment, this 31-year-old ship is poised to become one of the cruise industry's hottest innovations, when it sets sail this week. The Villa Vie Odyssey is one of only two residential cruise ships in the world.

The ship will carry approximately 300 passengers, or ‘residents.’ They will start their journey from Belfast and visit 425 ports across 147 countries, on all seven continents. Thus completing a circumnavigation every three-and-a-half years. This unique cruise offers flexible living arrangements, where passengers can choose between pay-as-you-go and ownership options, ranging from 35 days to a lifetime aboard, with the ship itself being replaced every 15 years.

With a capacity of 924, the ship can dock in the heart of destinations, offering port stays from two to seven days. Its 1,301-day global itinerary is divided into 16 segments, designed to follow spring-summer seasons across both hemispheres, allowing residents to potentially avoid winter entirely.

There is no requirement to stay for the entire three and a half years; residents can select specific segments according to their preferences. South America is particularly popular, while the transatlantic section is less so, according to Villa Vie Residences CEO Mikael Petterson. Prior to launch, 270 of the 295 cabins available at launch, have already been sold, with the remainder expecting to be sold by August of this year.

At $25 million in total, Villa Vie Odyssey 's costs are significantly lower than other attempts at floating condominiums. The Odyssey boasts eight decks, a promenade and an enlarged pool. Amenities include: three restaurants, five bars and lounges, a spa, a fitness centre, a library, a medical centre, a business centre with sea views and an interactive culinary centre. A golf simulator and global golfing outings are also available.

Surprisingly affordable, Villa Vie Odyssey offers annual rentals starting at $32,485, with inside cabins at $89 per person per day. Ownership options start at $250,000 for an external cabin, with additional monthly fees of $4,000 per person.

The ship attracts a diverse group, with 50 percent of initial residents being solo travellers. The average age is 58, with 80 percent from the United States. Residents can customize their cabins, making this a true floating community where personal milestones and celebrations will unfold. As the Villa Vie Odyssey sets sail, it promises endless adventures and a unique lifestyle, where the sun will mostly shine and the horizon will always beckon.

Jonathan van Bilsen is a television host, award winning photographer, published author, columnist and keynote speaker. Watch his show, ‘Jonathan van Bilsen’s photosNtravel’, on RogersTV, the Standard Website and YouTube.

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