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He Paid $100K to Live on a Cruise Ship Without Having Cruised Before – Here’s Why (Interview)

Have you ever considered selling up and moving on to a cruise ship full-time?

Over the past few years a few companies have sprung up offering people the opportunity to live at sea. Some of these companies have been more successful than others.

In 2023 the company Life At Sea were offering guests the opportunity of a three-year cruise, with fares starting at an affordable $30K per year – but passengers were let down at the last minute, and are reportedly still waiting for refunds.

Hopefully Villa Vie will be more successful.

In this article, we find out more about what Villa Vie offers, and ask an owner, Gary, questions about how and why he decided to buy a cabin onboard.

Villa Vie Odyssey – Image – Villa Vie Residences

Who Are Villa Vie?

Villa Vie are a company who bought Fred Olsen’s old ship Braemar, refurbished her and renamed her Odyssey.

They plan to set sail in May 2024 from Southampton, and passengers will live onboard while she circumnavigates the world.

She will be sailing to 425 ports in 147 countries – if everything goes to plan.

Fifteen per cent of the 630 cabins are available to buy outright. Monthly charges are also payable on top of the purchase price.

Residences can be leased or sold by buyers later down the line.

The rest of the cabins onboard can be booked on a “Pay As You Go” basis, allowing guests to just experience segments of the world cruise.

Villa Vie isn’t just a journey; it’s a new way of living. Villa Vie breaks free from the ordinary, offering a life where work, leisure, and adventure blend seamlessly.

Villa Vie Residences

This cruise ship sets sail in May 2024,and will let passengers live onboard for three and a half years at a time while she circumnavigates the world

What Facilities Can Be Found Onboard?

Onboard the ship there will be:

  • Live entertainment
  • Swimming pools
  • Multiple dining options
  • Business centre and WiFi for those working from the ship
  • Culinary arts centre

Around 800-900 guests are expected to be on the vessel at any one time

Villa Vie Odyssey previously sailed as Fred Olsen’s Braemar

An Interview With Gary – A Villa Vie Owner

What does it cost to join Villa Vie?

Assuming you mean costs to travel on the ship, there are a few options. 

  • Buying a cabin or just paying for “segments” of travel – so not owning a cabin, and you can also rent direct from an owner who isn’t using their cabin. 
    • I’ve bought a cabin. It starts at $100k for an inside, various prices up to $150k for an outside cabin (guarantee rooms are discounted rather than pick your exact cabin), and balcony rooms at $300k.

I’m sure you could buy a suite, but I’m not sure on the prices. I just wanted a cheap way onto the ship

The monthly fees are based on cabin type and the number of travellers. 

  • Inside cabins are $2500 for solo travellers, or $1750 each for a couple (well under £3k for a couple). 
  • Ocean view cabins are $4k for solo or $2500 each for a couple. 
  • Balcony rates are $7k solo or $4k each for a couple. 

Basically, there is a fare for solo travellers, and any additional people in your room cost $1000 extra per month. That’s how I look at it.

If you don’t want to own a cabin, it becomes more like an ordinary cruise in that you can book segments. Segments vary from a month to three months approximately.

Doing this costs more obviously. I’m not sure of the exact costs for this as I’ve not looked at this option for myself. I think it was a bit cheaper than this when I bought it.

The online example cost for paying by segment would be:

  • Inside cabin – $109 per day each for a couple, or $153 per day for a solo traveller
    • So around $4500 a month for a solo traveller on an inside cabin – $2000 more than if you owned
  • Seaview cabin is $129 each a day, $206 for solo. 
  • Balcony cabin is $299 each, or $538 solo. 

These figures may not be 100% accurate, but will give you an idea of the costs involved.

Image Villa Vie Residences – balcony cabin

How Are The Costs Broken Down?

It’s all-inclusive. As an owner, my ongoing monthly fees cover everything. Wifi, laundry, housekeeping, food, drinks (Including alcohol with meals) gym, basic medical checks, cooking lessons, entertainment, golf simulator, “wellness sessions” and even some volunteering excursions. 

What happens if you want to leave?

I can leave and return as often as I want.

Obviously, I’ll have airfares to pay to get home or catch back up with the ship.

Villa Vie have even set up a system whereby if you love a place so much, you can stay longer. In exchange for allowing them to rent your room out, you can stay in a home in the area you fall in love with.

I’m not sure exactly how that works yet – but it’s possibly a “no money swap” deal. 

When my cabin is empty I can leave it empty, rent it out to whomever I want, or let Villa Vie rent it for me. I just need to continue paying the monthly fee. 

If I want to leave and sell up, I can. I can sell it back to Villa Vie. There is a set figure for the cabin value which starts at 65% value and drops 5% a year. 

I could even trade it in for a cabin on any future ship that Villa Vie buys.

Do you have to sign up for a minimum time?

As an owner, there is no minimum time. You own the cabin for the life of the ship – with a 15-year guaranteed minimum. 

If you want to just book a segment, then I believe that as long as you buy one complete segment (the shortest is 35 days I think), that’s the minimum.

If you book for 6 months or more, you get to choose your cabin. Any less, Villa Vie will allocate you a cabin. 

If you rent a cabin from an owner privately, then you can be on board for whatever time period you like. 

Are guests able to come to cruise with you/stay In your cabin?

Yes. There are dedicated “friends and family” cabins. These are limited officially to 2-week stays to avoid owners overwhelming the facility and allowing everyone fair use. However, if the cabins are not fully booked up, you can stay longer. 

Any friend can stay in your cabin with you for any amount of time. 

The cost for either option, is a rather amazingly cheap $33 a day. ($1000 a month). This gets them all the same inclusive package as you get as an owner. 

Image – Villa Vie Residences – Inside cabins have virtual windows

Why did you decide to book this trip?

I’ve always loved travel. I actually nearly bought on Cunard over 20 years ago, but found the fees too much. I settled down, had kids, and it moved to the back burner.

Twenty years later, now split from the kid’s mum, the kids going off to uni/college, and having gap years, I decided to switch things up and spend some time and effort on myself.

My kids can come and visit me anytime, and we are already making plans for just that. I might even see more of them while I’m away than when I’m at home!!! 

How did you first hear about Villa Vie?

I’ll be honest, I don’t remember exactly. I had been looking at long-term cruising for a while, but it was all too expensive or too risky a financial outlay.

I’d considered a few companies on the cheaper end of the scale.

You know – the Italian one – the new British one – and the one starting with M. But all the add ons were quite pricey and off-putting, (I do wish all cruise lines made the full costs more obvious rather than hidden away pages into booking them).

 It must have been online somewhere that I saw Villa Vie, but I don’t remember how I stumbled onto it. I’d already kinda given up on the idea being feasible for me. 

How long are you planning to be on the ship for – and where are you going?

I’ve bought a cabin. I’m going to be on it as much as possible. I want to see parts of the world I’ve never been to before. I’m looking forward to so much of it, but Antarctica and Bora Bora would have to be my current favourites. 

Have you cruised a lot on other cruise lines and do you expect it to be a similar experience?

Honestly, no. I’ve never really cruised more than a day or 2 (more of a long ferry trip.) I know – I’m crazy for jumping in like this. 

Have Villa Vie offered any reassurance about the trip? In the past other companies have failed at this type of business model…

The money I spent on my cabin has been held in an Escrow Bank account, not straight into Villa Vie pockets – so should anything go wrong, the money can be refunded (unlike on other attempted startups that people in some cases are still waiting for refunds from.).

Plus, the cabins we buy are guaranteed for 15 years minimum. We can swap onto other ships (as and when Villa Vie expand) or we can rent a cabin out or sell it on. 

The other few startups that attempted this never even got a ship. We have the ship. I have a cabin number. It just needs a few weeks in the dry dock to refurbish and refresh, and we’ll be on it. 

What made you book this type of trip instead of back-to-back normal cruises?

The cost is one factor, but also that this cruise will be stopping for extended periods in each port.

Generally 2-5 days for most stops, so there is no rush. We can relax, stay out for a long evening, even go on extended excursions.

Most normal cruises only stay a day in each port. It’s a constant rush to do things and get back. I want to relax in each place, not clock-watch. 

As for the cost, as a solo traveller, and with the way cruise lines charge for every separate thing, the cost is the main hurdle for me. Villa Vie is a very reasonable ongoing cost. Plus it’s All-inclusive. 

Monthly fees start at $2500 (less than £2000) a month for a solo traveller. $3500 for a couple.

That’s all your food, drinks (including some alcoholic) WiFi, laundry, gym, housekeeping, gratuities etc – Plus, I won’t have all my land based bills – utilities, car tax/insurance etc – so I’ll be saving several hundred every month on that. It just seemed like a great deal. 

Thank you Gary for taking the time to answer all of my questions. I can’t wait to see how everything goes!

crown dynasty

Before You Go

Odyssey was previously Fred Olsens Braemar, Norwegian Dynasty sailing for Norwegian Cruise Line, and Crown Dynasty sailing for Cunard. Find out why you shouldn’t discount sailing on older, smaller cruise ships here:

9 Reasons You Shouldn’t Avoid Cruising on Older, Smaller Cruise Ships

Find out about the eight annoying mistakes I have made when cruising in the article below:

8 Annoying Mistakes I’ve Made on Cruises (Some Expensive and Some Just Frustrating)

Free Insiders Cruise Line Guide

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