Residential Cruise Ship to Launch in 2023 With Opportunities for Travel Advisors

Living on a cruise ship is a dream for many, and Alister Punton wants to make that dream come true. Punton, an Australian, is co-CEO and founder of Storylines, a cruise company that is building a ship in China that will be designed for full-time living. It will be launched in 2023 and start selling cabins in 2021. While cabins will be owned, there will be opportunities for travel advisors to sell commissionable three-month excursions on the vessel, which is called The Narrative.

This is not a new idea. The World was launched about 20 years ago and continues to sail. And there have been other efforts, but Punton thinks he has come up with a unique product. With a background in real estate, he said he has brought in people from outside the cruise industry to create a product for people looking for a different lifestyle.

Not a Typical Cruise Ship

“This will not be a typical cruise ship,” he asserted. For one thing, there will be 45 resident lounges where passengers can relax, meet or share activities. The 627-unit vessel (with a maximum capacity of about 1000) will allow travelers, said Punton “to do anything they do on land, whether that be cook, garden, work out or whatever.” The ship will have 17 decks and be 741 feet long.

Punton is focusing on the U.S. market for clients, but is also looking at Australia, the United Kingdom and Europe. A sample itinerary has been unveiled which has the ship going from Rome to Istanbul with stops in Malta and Italy—a three-month segment. The ship will circle the world every three-and-a-half years with extended stays in ports of three to five days. And there will be flexibility. If owners want to stay in port an extra day they can vote to do that.

The Narrative, said Punton, will be like a super-yacht sailing to off-the-beaten-path places—like a volcanic island off the northern coast of Sicily. Storylines has already dispatched a “test group” to the Philippines to scout out places for possible shore excursions and these scouting missions will be repeated around the world.

While there will be on-board entertainment, said Punton, there will not be Broadway shows but diversions of a more low-key nature. The ship will house a movie theater, a microbrewery and a library with more than 10,000 books. And local experts will come onboard to conduct lectures

There will be lots of onshore opportunities for hiking, biking, kayaking and more—with extensive onboard storage for equipment. Adventure will be easily available for those who want it. And there will be a casino.

This will be an upscale ship with furnishings and design from Europe. The food will be fresh and local whenever possible. Rather than large dining rooms, there will be 20 small restaurants, each with a different theme and ranging from an oyster bar to an ice creamery.

Community a Priority

An important emphasis for the ship will be establishing community among owners and guests. While those who live aboard will form a close-knit association, he said, there will always be between 10 and 30 “new” people getting on at each port—whether returning owners, friends and family or three-month ticket holders. Those “three-monthers” will be encouraged to be part of the community. At any point, said Punton, 20 percent of cabins will be available.

The emphasis on community, said Punton, will be all about creating stories. For instance, there will probably be a wine club, a garden club (there will be a large garden onboard) and much more—and those groups will be sharing their passions with fellow passengers.

Fitness and wellness will be key elements of the experience as a large health club will offer wraparound windows. And there will be a full-service spa.

The Cost of Living at Sea

And what does all of this cost? Punton said it will be the first “affordable” product of its kind—with buy-in starting at about $350,000 for a 237-square foot internal cabin, and going up to more than $8 million for a two-level penthouse suite for up to six residents. The majority of cabins will have balconies.

The all-inclusive annual fee for owners begins at $55,000 for two passengers in a unit. There might be extra charges for specific shore excursions and perhaps other extraordinary activities. When not in residence, owners have the option to make their unit available through the Storylines rental management program.

Who’s the market? Punton said the early findings are that it’s wildly diverse with most in their 50s and 60s (empty nesters) but also “digital nomads” in their 20s who will be able to work onboard. Punton thinks about 70 percent of buyers will stay onboard nine months a year or more and they will be considered full time. There will be a “homeowners association” making decisions on itineraries, etc.

There will be medical personal onboard, including doctors, nurses and physical therapists. To attract the best possible crew (which will number more than 450), said Punto, they will have living quarters far more comfortable than is standard in the industry—small but private cabins with many amenities and more communal space than is typical. They will also have some access to onboard facilities. In addition, they will have more flexible schedules and might even on occasion be able to bring family onboard.

Looking ahead, said Punton, Storylines is ramping up its sales and marketing initiatives and looking for partners among travel advisors, yachting interests and real estate groups.

As for the ship itself, he said, “With 1,000 people, who knows what will happen and where this thing will go?”

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