A couple hundred people are spending this summer leading the life of Riley. Very rich Rileys. The summer will eventually end. Their life of Riley won’t. Welcome to the world of The World, the largest — and most lavish — “private residential ship on the planet.”
Journalist typically describe The World as a “floating luxury condominium complex.” But that label hardly does the vessel justice. The World offers those who choose to call the boat home nothing less than the prospect of perpetual escape and adventure.
That prospect carries a stiff price tag. The smallest residence on the Bahamas-registered ship currently runs $1.53 million. The largest suites run $16.2 million. Add on to these purchase prices an annual maintenance fee, about $450,000 for a $4.5-million shipboard residence.
What do residents get for all this cash? They get to vote every year on which of the Seven Seas they’re going to explore. The World started this July in Alaska’s Dutch Harbor and will spend the summer months shuffling down the Pacific Coast, ending up in Cabo San Lucas on Mexico’s Baja Peninsula.
The fall will see the ship swing through the Panama Canal, flit around the Caribbean, and float on up to New York. Next year, the journey will continue onto Europe and Africa. On The World, the journey never ends.
Some of The World’s deep-pocketed residents have been on that journey since the ship launched in 2002. They’ve stopped at ports in 114 countries. They’ve experienced the Arctic Circle’s glaciers and the volcanoes of Vanuatu. All in the most exquisitely pampered of surroundings.
The World has 270 staff catering to the needs of the 150 to 200 people living on board at any one time. These residents have plenty of distractions to keep them occupied, everything from the standard luxury cruise ship amenities to a full-size tennis court and an onboard golf simulator that lets onboard duffers “‘play’ 80 of the world’s elite golf courses.”
Residents also have plenty to eat. Their annual “maintenance fee” entitles them to $30,000 they can spend at the ship’s onboard gourmet market or 16,000-bottle wine cellar. Restaurants also abound.
The World’s residents turn out to perfectly reflect — in one respect — the world population of households worth at least $10 million, the minimum fortune expected of anyone who buys into the ship. Half the current owners of units on The World hail from the United States.
Many of these owners will eventually go back to U.S. terra firma. On average, owners spend six years owning on The World. They get “their fill of traveling,” one ship official explains, and then pass the rest of their days on land.
So how does this all sound to you? Has your envy quotient gone through the roof of your landlubber dwelling? Can you think of no goal in life finer than putting yourself in the position to afford a stateroom suite onboard The World?
Or are you shaking your head, disappointed and maybe even disgusted by the thought that our globe has so many people of means self-absorbed enough to cut themselves off from the real world — and its problems — for what could be years at a time?
Disgust or delight? Gallup ought to do a poll. And if that poll found that most of us would give just about anything for an escape onto The World, our world’s wealthiest would know they have won. Their dreams would have become our dreams. And what a nightmare for the world that would be.