A life of luxury on the high seas
Onboard swimming pools, six restaurants, a tennis court, a putting green and more – find out how the elite spend their time on the world’s only residential cruise ship
IT’S the jewel of the high seas, a huge floating paradise in which the richest of the rich cross the waters of the world while living in unimaginable luxury. And the glistening white vessel is so exclusive even the crème de la crème of Hollywood are not welcome. In fact, the 165 lavish apartments on the 12-deck beauty aren’t even available for rent. Instead, potential passengers have to buy the plush pads on The World outright – but only if they pass a series of checks first.
A studio flat on what’s been called a “condo cruise liner” will set you back a cool $3 million (R45 million) and if you’re looking for a more spacious option, there’s a three-bedroom apartment for a hefty $15 million (R225 million).
Which would be a drop in the ocean for Tinseltown’s rich and famous – but there’s a catch. To get your hands on a slice of The World you need to be invited. And it seems the less famous you are, the better.
In fact, getting your hands on an apartment is pretty tricky. First, potential buyers are required to have a net worth of at least $10 million (R150 million).
They also have to get two existing residents to vouch for them and pass a series of background checks as well as fork out $900 000 (R13,5 million) a year in maintenance fees for the larger units.
“I don’t think even Oprah Winfrey would be allowed to buy here,” Lillian Veri said matter-of-factly.
The Canadian IT billionaire, who’s owned one of the three-bedroom residences on The World for nearly 10 years, said, “There’s a code of confidentiality and privacy. We don’t want paparazzi here. This boat is a refuge, a sanctuary.
“You’ll never find out who else lives here.”
THE World was the brainchild of Knut Utstein Kloster Jnr, a Norwegian shipping magnate whose family has extensive history in the marine industry. The ship’s exterior was constructed in Sweden before it was towed to Norway for completion.
The 196m-long vessel was launched in March 2002 when it sailed the seas of Oslo for the first time and was available for purchase by residents the following year.
But it was anything but smooth-sailing for the young vessel.
Initially the ship was partially owned by a hotel company, Lillian explained. The sixth floor was reserved for hotel rooms and the money made from renting these apartments would be used to subsidise the residential side of The World.
But the rentals just weren’t bringing in enough money and The World was forced to change its structure.
So from 2003 tourists were no longer allowed on board – only filthy rich residents. The new business plan worked and by 2006 all of the accommodation had sold out. To date it’s the only residential cruise ship in the world.
Today representatives of the 142 families who live on board serve as shareholders and vote on everything from the fuel used to the Christmas decorations.
“The people who buy here are successful in one way or another,” Lillian said.
“Lawyers, doctors, architects, entrepreneurs . . . They have opinions on how things should be run.”
Most residents spend about six months a year on board, Sandra Mooney, the general manager, says. Occupancy peaks at Christmas but even so, the ship – built for a maximum of 600 people – never exceeds 330 people on board.
Of the 142 families, half are North Americans and about 45 European, with the average age of residents being 64. There are even 20 South Africans who own a slice of The World.
By the beginning of 2017 The World had visited a total of 1 213 ports and glided more than a million kilometres across the oceans of the world.
In 2018 residents set off from Miami and soaked up the sun in the Caribbean. From there it was on to the eastern coast of South America before crossing the Atlantic to the islands of Cape Verde. They spent spring in the Mediterranean, and summer in Western and Northern Europe.
Last month saw them exploring the British Isles, before returning to the Mediterranean and heading to the Canary Islands.
The last leg of this year’s adventures will include the volcanic islands of Ascension and St Helena, before ringing in 2019 in Cape Town. What a life!
THERE’S plenty for residents to do on the ship. There are two pools, the first full-size at-sea tennis court, outdoor putting greens and a state-of-the-art golf simulator, a spa and a full-size movie theatre showing the latest blockbusters.
There’s also a boutique clothing store and a kids’ area packed with a variety of gaming consoles, iMacs and a foosball table.
When it comes to culinary delights, residents are spoilt for choice. There are six restaurants on board, including a steakhouse, a poolside café, a deli and a Michelin-level fine-dining eatery that serves “some of the finest haute cuisine, not just at sea, but anywhere across the globe”, according to The World’s website.
But for those on board it’s about more than just living in the lap of luxury and floating to the most beautiful parts of the world. “We feel this is our family,” Sandra said. “We have our family at home and we have our family on board. It’s lovely.”
‘I don’t think even Oprah Winfrey would be allowed to buy here’
The World cruise ship has two luxurious onboard swimming pools. 2 Although it has a capacity of 600 there are rarely more than 330 people on board. 3, 4 & 5 Suites are spacious and equipped with their own kitchens although residents have several onboard dining establishments to choose from – including a Michelin-level eatery.