Residential cruise ship startups are facing delays in launching their ships in 2023. Companies like Storylines and Life at Sea Cruises have not yet acquired their respective ships, facing difficulties in either acquiring old ships or building new ones. These startups, aiming to meet the growing demand for longer cruises, have struggled to stick to their timelines. The only residential ship currently in operation is The World, which was launched in 2002. However, even The World faced challenges as residents had to buy the ship themselves for $280 million in 2003. Only a few successes have been seen in this industry, as companies like Storylines, Victoria Cruises Line, and Villa Vie Residences struggle to launch their condo-at-sea concepts.
A prime example is Storylines, which has delayed the construction of its residential ship, MV Narrative, multiple times. Since its launch in 2016, Storylines has promised onboard amenities and has secured reservations for over half of its 530 condos. However, building a residential vessel from scratch is a monumental task that requires funding, design, shipbuilding, and execution. Storylines announced that it had selected Croatian shipyard Brodosplit to build the ship, but industry experts questioned this decision. Brodosplit later filed for provisional bankruptcy, causing further delays for Storylines. The company now plans to launch its ship in December 2026, but doubts have been raised by former employees and investors about its feasibility.
Acquiring old ships also poses challenges, as seen with Victoria Cruises Line and Life at Sea Cruises. Victoria Cruises Line chartered the Victoria Majestic, formerly known as Holland America Line’s MS Veendam, but its launch has been delayed to late July 2024. Life at Sea Cruises, a subsidiary of Miray Cruises, has faced delays in launching its three-year around-the-world trip due to a lack of a ship for residents to live on. The company has now announced a never-ending cruise but has yet to acquire the MV Lara ship as planned.
Another newcomer, Villa Vie Residences, plans to set sail in May 2024 but has not yet acquired a vessel. The founder and CEO, Mikael Petterson, expects to close on a ship by the end of 2023 but remains optimistic about the timeline.
Overall, residential cruise ship startups are struggling to fulfill their promises and meet their timelines, causing frustration among potential buyers, especially retirees who have limited time to fulfill their dreams of living at sea. The challenges of building or acquiring ships, coupled with funding and expertise concerns, have further complicated the launch of these condo-at-sea concepts.