Have you ever wanted to live on the sea, hopping from port to port and having at your disposal a full range of services? Getting to see the most exotic and isolated places on earth all while enjoying the comfort of a luxury mega-yacht? So did Knut Kloster Jr. – member of a prominent Norwegian shipping family and father of the modern cruise industry – who had the idea of building a “global village at sea”.
That’s how MS The World came to be, a 196 m (644 ft) ship and the largest privately owned residential yacht in the world, with 165 luxury apartments that sell for up to $11.3 million. Construction started in Rissa, Norway, in 2000 and the ship set sail from Oslo in March 2002, making its maiden voyage from Lisbon the same year. It was purchased by its residents in October 2003. About 49 per cent of them are from North America. Some of the residents live full time while others come periodically onboard throughout the year.
The World is on a non-stop cruise visiting all continents. It stays from 2 to 5 days in most ports, changing ports and destinations after consultations between passengers and captain. In 2012 it became the largest passenger vessel to transit the Northwest Passage, with 481 passengers and crew, following the path of Roald Amundsen, the first to complete the journey in 1906. The Nome, Alaska, to Nuuk, Greenland trip took 26 days and was documented by a National Geographic photographer. The ship regularly makes stops in Antarctica and the remote islands of the Atlantic Ocean. In 2017 it will sail across the Pacific and visit the Polynesia region.
The ship is environmentally friendly, being the first of its size to burn marine diesel, not bunker fuel. The World is also the first ship to feature a unique wastewater cleaning system where wastes are filtered by a flotation system. The 12 decks feature the only full-size tennis court at sea, a spa, swimming pools, a sommelier, six restaurants, multiple bars, a tea room, a golf simulator, library and cinema. There’s also a grocery store and delicatessen shop. Residents are served by about 200 crew members.
If all of the above sounds appealing, you should know that a small number of apartments go for resale every year. To get one, you’ll have to prove your net worth exceeds $5 million. Then add 10 to 15 percent of the purchase price for annual maintenance and other fees based on the apartment’s size. The 165 residences aboard range from studios to three-bedroom units, which can accommodate up to 12 passengers. All residences come with a type of veranda, allowing ample views of the sea and the many destinations along the way. Entertainment generally is in key with the ship’s intimate atmosphere, including comedians, classical jazz and pop artists.
Speaking to The Wall Street Journal, a Las Vegas couple, Robert and Janet Sabes, said they owned one of the two-bedroom, two-bath units for nearly six years. They paid $2.8 million for it and got about the same amount when it was sold. They normally spent six months a year on the ship, and their annual fees came to about $300,000. “As much fun as it was “, said Robert Sabes, “there are only so many places a cruise ship can go. Once you’ve been there, you start repeating.”
So far, The World – that flies the flag of The Bahamas – undertook three special expeditions to remote places like the eastern coast of Greenland, Namibia and the British Overseas Territories St. Helena and Ascension (located in the middle of the Atlantic), Antarctica, South Georgia and the Falkland Islands. The ship has visited more than 900 ports in more than 140 countries while sailing on a continuous worldwide itinerary at a top speed of 18.5 knots. Along the way, there are immersive cultural experiences, lectures and all sorts of classes including dancing, cooking, language, arts and crafts, computers, music and photography.
The 2016 journey started in Antarctica, went up the coast of South America, crossed the Atlantic to explore Western Europe and the Mediterranean before passing through the Suez Canal and on to destinations in the Middle East, India, Maldives and Malaysia, ending in Western Australia to celebrate the New Year in Sydney.
The journey continues in 2017 to Antarctica and New Zealand, then Vanuatu and the Solomon Islands. In the spring, the ship reaches East Asia, Hawaii, and the western United States and Canada and Alaska in summer, then making its way down to Mexico and Central America. In November, the ship arrives in Cuba, then south-eastern United States and an end-of-year celebration in Miami.
Currently there is an even larger residential ship under construction in South Korea by Samsung Heavy Industries, one of the world’s largest shipbuilders. It’s called Utopia and is expected to be completed this year at a reported cost of $1.1 billion. It will be more than twice the size of The World at 296 m (971ft) long and will have 199 residences, a 175-room hotel, spa and night club. The residences will range in price from $3.9 million to $30 million.